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Catskill Tube Flies
The cradle of Amarican fly-fishing in the Catskills and tube flies isn't something normally connected, but fly-tyer Richard Katzman ties tube flies to be fished in these hallowed waters.
During a recent stay in the US I tied flies at The Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum and decided to tie something that I was sure people rarely saw in this part of the US: tube flies.
While I was getting out my vise and my tools and started preparing for the first tube, a man approached and showed interest in my tying. He introduced himself as Richard Katzman, a local angler and sat down and watched in silence for a while.
As we sat there we of course started talking, and to my great surprise Richard was a tube fly tyer.
And not only that, because he didn't tie the tubes for some remote salmon or steelhead river or to fish in the ocean... no, he fished the tubes in the local Catskill streams!
Now, meeting a tube fly tyer was a surprise, but imagine my surprise when I learned that they were used locally - in the crib of American fly fishing and the birthplace of the Adams and many other classic dry flies.
Richard and I kept in contact after the tying session, and Richard sent me a bunch of pictures of his own flies. I asked him how he got into fly tying and into tube fly tying in particular.
Here's Richard's story in his own words:
I started tying tube flies in October of 2012. I was in the process of learning to tie when I fished the very first fly I ever built. It was built on a hook. When I caught the fish, my fly took a little bit of a beating.
That night I went back on YouTube to continue learning by watching more fly tying videos. I saw Davie McPhail tying a fly on a "tube".
This really intrigued me.
Especially after learning that the fly would travel away from the mouth and teeth of the fish and ride up the tippet. I thought that this was the answer to saving my flies.
That's when I started to tie on tubes. Any and every type of tube I could find. I quickly realized that there were large, small and micro tubes. Then I found out that Q-Tips now come on a tube that is a size in between large and small. After awhile I decided that I should build my flies on micro tubes in order to conceal the tube.
Now my tubes look more realistic, and I consider myself a devout tube tier.
That's my story.
As you can imagine, Richard's flies get a bit of attention when people get a closer look, and even though tube flies are common in some parts of the world, they are not exactly widely used in the Catskills - or in most other parts of the US for that matter.
I quickly realized that there aren't very many fly tiers in the Northeast of the US that tie tube flies.
When I go fishing, more and more anglers ask me about my flies. Some think they are strange, some think they are unique. A lot of them want my flies so that they can try them out. I find myself educating old time anglers in what they think is a "new" concept in fly and lure fishing. I tell them that tying flies go way back to the 1800's.
You should see the looks I get.
You should see the looks I get.
Here you see images of a whole bunch of Richard's flies, but further below you will find details about some of the patterns, allowing you to tie them and learn a bit about how to fish them.
Catskill Tube Fly
This is a "Catskill Tube Fly". It measures 5/8" front to back. It is built on HMH Micro tubing. Instead of using hook tubing to fasten the size 12 dry fly hook, I prefer to heat the tip of a scratch awl and widen the tubing so that the hook seats inside the micro tubing. This gives a more sleek design without the bulky hook tubing. The nose of the fly gives the sleek appearance that the Catskill fly is noted for.
I have fished this tube fly all day long last week as a dry fly and also as a wet fly when it got saturated. Even though it was saturated it floated just under the top of the water. I stopped counting the amount of fish I caught at around 40+. The fly worked as a tube fly should. When the fish took the fly, the hook stayed with the fish and the fly scooted up the tippet away from the fish.
It was a great fishing day for the Catskill Tube fly and me. I had a blast! I will never go fishing without a few in my box even though there was very little wear on the fly.
I call this my "Olive Spice" tube fly.
This measures about 1" long or for our metric friends, 25mm. She's got a lot of fluff and moves nicely on the water.
What it's made of:
I call this tube fly the "White Moth".
Built as follows:
The bottom marabou of the hackle feathers really gives this fly a lot of movement. As always concealing the tube is of utmost importance to me. The first photo is what the fish will see.
The "Simply Orange" tube fly measures 1" or 25mm long.
Results: Orange dry fly floater.