I got the chance to meet and watch Kelly Galloup tie flies this year in Austin and at Troutfest. This experience was a bit surreal because one of the very first fly fishing magazines I ever read (now close to ten years ago) contained an article about his patterns….for all I know he might have written it. I do not have the magazine any more to be absolutely certain. However, I am certain the article detailed two flies I never forgot: The Sex Dungeon (somewhere out there a Google algorithm hates how fly tiers screw with it) and the T & A Bunker. I found the heads of both flies fascinating, and at the time I had no idea how to make either. I certainly did not even know you could spin dear hair at the time, and would not have even considered stacking wool as an option. There were some early tying attempts, but I had few resources to learn techniques from at the time and fell away from articulated patterns.
Fast forward to the fully committed tier I am now, and perhaps it will make sense that I take on new styles of tying as studies in technique. I look at tying styles as I imagine an artist would and work to replicate the techniques of other tiers to improve my own skills. Once the tying is replicated well enough to be fishable, then I fish the flies to see if I recreated the movement as described by the original tier. For example, Galloup ties his sex dungeons with a much wider head then the commercial patterns available. He explained this head achieves is a front hook that brakes faster then the rear hook making the tail kick around the side of the fly as it is stripped. If you have never thrown a sex dungeon in the water and made it move… you should! It will change how you look at streamer action.
When I do a study in any tier’s style I try to focus on their techniques (ie. wool heads and spun deer heads) rather then replicating everyone of their flies. A style usually breaks down into a few techniques applied in only slightly different ways to achieve different effects on a given fly. In the case of Galloup’s flies it broke down into the type of head, the type of tail, and the placement of marabou wings.
I experimented at creating both wool and dear hair heads, even adding in the “sighting dot.” I have to comment on wool for heads because I found the correct wool some years ago and then never could since. The key here, and Galloup confirmed this in his talks, is to avoid the wool patches still on the skin. Supposedly Spirit River is now carrying the correct wool. I actually found wool rovings at Hobby Lobby that are the loose sheared wool (no skin) that works best for these kinds of heads. They also carry a wide variety of colors.
The tails were far less complicated, but new to me. The galloup patterns I had seen so far always had marabou tail (similar to a woolly bugger), but I was fascinated to see the differences in the swimming action of the patterns like the Silk Kitty, which has deceiver style tails instead of marabou. Having now tied them and put them in the water I say that the action is more of a slither then the marabou tails, which seem to make the rear hook kick outward. It’s a bit hard to put in text... go tie some and fish them.
Ultimately as a tier I want to take the new techniques and then apply them to new flies of my own design. This leads to learning ways to add different features to new flies. Take for example, if you need to add a tail that moves more then the rabbit strip you tried on prototype 1 of a fly. Perhaps a palmered marabou tail is the solution….perhaps not, you try it and see.