To me, a fly design is the rare occasion when someone comes up with a new tying technique or a new and innovative way of using a material that allows fly tiers to create something that either wasn’t possible “before” or do it better than before.
I probably haven’t thought this through, but I’ve been thinking about it this morning, and I can’t think of anything more ground-breaking than Bob Popovics’ Surf Candy-design, where he used/use epoxy to shape the head of the sand eel imitation, not only creating an excellent imitation, but also an all over better fly.
You can argue that many previous sand eel flies imitated as well, and I agree. But the Surf Candy-design improved fishability many fold as the long epoxy head better prevented fouling, gave the fly excellent aerodynamics, added a little weight, which makes the fly go like a bullet through the air and finally, makes them extremely durable. Using the latest in flexible UV-cured resins, they are even more durable since epoxy will break on a rock.
By “simply” shaping the head of the fly with epoxy, Popovics’ improved almost every aspect of sand eel imitations and that is rare in any type of fly.
The idea of the parachute hackle also had a major impact (who *did* come up with that anyway - and when? I don’t know and it annoys me to no end, must investigate). And then John Goddard and Brian Clarke took the advantages of the parachute hackle up a level when they presented their USD Dun in their 1980-book, “The Trout and the Fly”. The impact of the book in general is clear just looking at the edition-history: 2nd ed. also in 1980, 3rd in ’81. And they learned the lesson and printed enough as the fourth came in ’84 (mine is a 4th ed. and it may have been re-printed since, I don’t know, another investigation to conduct).
Back to the Surf Candy - even that fly went through some developments. First with the addition of silver paint to the belly to imitate the belly sack of the natural, and then Popovics’ developed this idea and made printed silver foil sides. With the latest in printing technology, these silver foil sides are now available with minute details: Eyes, fins. gills etc. from Pro Sportfisher.
To me, the Popovics Surf Candy is one of fly fishings “holy grails”.
Have a great weekend! Lars