Sawyer nymphs and expensive yarn

Sawyer nymphs and expensive yarn

Viking Lars | Saturday, 18 April 2020

Frank Sawyer is know to almost all fly fishers - famed as a visionary riverkeeper on the southern English Avon, an exceptional angler and perhaps above all, as the inventor of what is undoubtedly the most famous of famous nymphs, the Pheasant Tail. He invented other flies too, all more of less based on the same tech nique of using coper wire as tying “thread”. On a trip to Sweden, he invented the Swedish Nymph, imitating a largish species of mayflies called Siphlonorus. His Grey Goose is also quite famous and based on the same tying technique.

But in fame, and perhaps in efficiency, next to the Pheasant Tail is his Killer Bug. The simplest of patterns - copper wire and Chadwick’s no. 477 yarn. Sawyer tied them on straight hooks and in a variety of sizers, and he even managed to catch salmon on the in large sizes. In Sawyer’s days there was a run of salmon on the Avon - I’m not sure if that’s still the case, but I think so. It was tied to imitate fresh water shrimp, and Sawyer used it to cull the grayling population. Back then grayling were unwanted (I suppose they were perceived as completion to the ever declining trout population) and Sawyer removed thousands and thousands of grayling from the river system.

I suppose the Killer Bug is also taken for cased caddis and maybe even free roaming caddis larvae in the smaller sizes. It’s a excellent fly and I always have a small selection in the nymph box, primarily in sizes 14-18. And the five in today’s PoD took less than 10 minutes to tie, so there’s really no excuse not to use it.

Well, that is apart from the price of the original material. I have some - maybe a total of 10 yards of the original Chadwick’s no 477 that I got from a friend in the 1990ies. Today, a half full card goes for ridiculous prices, which in itself is a bit ridiculous. because the original yarn went out of production even in Sawyer’s life time and he himself actually switched over to another brand.

I’ll try and order some of the commercially available Chadwick’s 477 substitute that is offered today, and once I get it and compare it, I’ll follow up in case some of you might want a go and tying and fishing this piece of fly fishing history.

Have a great weekend!


PS - should someone have a card (doesn't have to be full) that they are willing to part with, I'm interested. I'll trade or buy.

PPS - for the correct way of tying this fly, check out Oliver Edwards' Essential Skills films, where he shows the correct way of tying it. Sawyer himself most accurately described the tying in the second 1970-edition of "Nymphs abnd The Trout", page 60 in the 2006 reprint of both the 1st and 2nd edition by Sawyer Nymphs Ltd.