Fly Tying: Perfecting the Tailwater Sow Bug

The Tailwater Sow Bug is an extremely effective nymph for the Missouri River that produces year round. I have been tinkering with TW Sow variations and my favorite variation has become an unweighted version with a red thread base. When I started tying these bugs, I struggled with getting them to look like they belong in a shop fly bin. I could never get the wings full, always having gaps in the dubbing. Below are some tips to help you perfect the Tailwater Sow Bug.


Prior to putting the dubbing into the loop, select a small bit (light shade rainbow scud dub in this case) and draw the fibers away from each other by pulling at either end, and restacking. Continue this step until you are left with a neat bit of dubbing with most of the fibers parallel to each other. Give the dubbing clean edges with your best pair of scissors, then cut the dubbing bunch in half. At this point, you should be left with a small, neat bunch of fibers about a half inch long. Shortening the fibers before going into the loop is critical. Load the fibers into a small, waxed dubbing loop and spin until tight.



After you have built the body, the next critical part of this tie is to brush it into shape. With a gun brush, softly pick out any trapped dubbing fibers from your wire wraps. Once you have the majority of the material out, brush the dubbing into wings on either side of the hook shank.



Once you have brushed and manipulated the dubbing to form "wings" of the fly, make the first two cuts on each wing equidistant from the hook shank. Next, trim the top and bottom of the body as close to the hook shank as possible. These cuts give you the thin, clean side profile of the bug.




Take one last look and eliminate any stray dubbing fibers. Apply a small amount of CCG to the top of the hook shank. Don’t cure it immediately. I give it a little time to soak into the body to the fly before zapping it. The Clear Cures purpose isn’t to create a shellback so much as to create a dark centerline on the back of the fly and add durability.

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Joe grew up north of Great Falls in Conrad, MT. A generational fly fisherman, Joe was raised outdoors - hunting, camping, and skiing. Photography is his latest passion as well as his winless fantasy football team. Be sure to swing by the shop and talk fishing and football with Joe.

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2 thoughts on “Fly Tying: Perfecting the Tailwater Sow Bug”

  • Fly of the Week October 15, 2016 at 2:00 am

    I bet you'll catch some fish on it. For all you tiers out there check out this great video and article by North 40 Outfitters. It's time to stop tying other tail-water patterns and tie them like the ones in the bins.

    • Benjamin Colliver
      Benjamin Colliver October 17, 2016 at 3:27 am

      Thanks for the comment. This pattern should be working out there this time of year. I was just on the Missouri and they were already loving the pink bugs but I ended up switching to a darker pattern when the sun was hiding behind the clouds. All in all it was a great time to be on the river. Hope your net is full this fall fishing season.

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