Published Nov 27. 2010

Unsinkable flies

David Cowardin's concept for preventing flies from sinking is slightly different, and so are his flies.

October Caddis, ventral view - Tied by David Cowardin
October Caddis  - Tied by David Cowardin
October Caddis, top view - Tied by David Cowardin
Unsikable October Caddis
Martin Joergensen

I was contacted by David Cowardin a while back, and he inquired whether we were interested in reviewing a book of his.
Of course! We're always interested in new titles. He forwarded the book and some flies to accompany it.

When the packet arrived, I looked at the flies first, and man! These were different creatures! Not that I couldn't recognize them. There was a Royal Coachman, a hopper, a couple of stoneflies, a mayfly, a dragonfly and other dries, which most anglers could put a name on. But the way these were tied... or more like built. Different is not quite enough to say that these were not like your average dry fly.
Cowardin uses very few natural materials. You will find feathers and hair in the flies, but the major ingredient in all his patterns is plastic in lack of a more nuanced expression. Synthetics could be a correct term, but that would make you think of traditional synthetic fly tying materials, and these flies are not tied with traditional synthetics.

Skwala - Tied by David Cowardin
A Royal Coachman - Tied by David Cowardin
Wonder Bug - Tied by David Cowardin
Skwala, top view - Tied by David Cowardin
Unsinkable flies
Martin Joergensen

The mainstay in all Cowardin's flies and the key to their being unsinkable is heat shrink tube. this tube constitutes the body and in several cases also other parts of all the flies in the supply sent to me as well as those covered in the book. Add to that wings made from plastic sheets and plenty monofilament antennae and rubber legs, and you have some flies, which won't trigger many allergic reactions with people who are sensitive to feathers or fur.

The flies are not what you would call beautiful. Elegant isn't a term that comes to mind either. Fascinating for sure and effective no doubt. But many more traditional fly tiers will most likely wrinkle their noses at these constructions, but as I said: I'm sure they will work.

A dragonfly - Tied by David Cowardin
Parachute dry fly - Tied by David Cowardin
Martin Joergensen
David writes a blog about his flies where he features more patterns and more tying tips and where you can also buy the book mentioned in the text. The book is available through Amazon where you can also see sample pages.
Book cover - Unsinkable Dry Flies
Book Cover
David Cowardin

Cowardin's book runs a certain risk of the same judgment, because beautiful or elegant aren't the first words you think of when running through its pages. Home made is what I think, and amateur isn't far off either. The layout is colorful to put it in a nice way, the photos aren't exactly large and clear and the print quality leaves a bit to be desired.

But the book does the job: it introduces the concept and clearly demonstrates how to handle the central material: the heat shrink tube, and how to construct flies using this uncommon material. There are patterns of almost all types, and in my eyes, Cowardin's huge salmon flies, funky colorful bugs or even small mayflies aren't significantly different in their philosophy than the endless number of foam based flies we see in magazines, on videos and on web sites all over the place. The foam is just an accepted material, while Cowardin's tube as well as many other of his choices for wings, legs and antennae are more rare to see.

The book covers more than 40 patterns on its 65 pages, and the text is easy to understand, the instructions thorough and at 25 US dollars it's hard to complain.

So if you want some new winds to blow through your tying room or just want to see a different approach to high floating dry flies, David Cowardin's web site and book is definitely a direction to look.

Salmon fly - Tied by David Cowardin
Mayfly - Tied by David Cowardin
Salmon fly, top view - Tied by David Cowardin
Mayfly, top view - Tied by David Cowardin
Golden stone - Tied by David Cowardin
Golden stone, top view - Tied by David Cowardin
Hopper - Tied by David Cowardin
Hopper, dorsal view - Tied by David Cowardin
Flies tied by David Cowardin
Martin Joergensen
If you want to get started with heat shrink tubes, you can buy by the meter or foot in electronics stores like Radio Schack, but there are also boxes like this one for sale out there at very reasonable prices.


Martin Joergensen's picture


You can try contacting Cowardin through his blog and see if he will tie you some...

He mentions $36 a dozen including shipping and handling - email for details.


these flies are so beautiful!!!
where can i buy them??

peter jorgensen

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