At our May meeting Dave Kilhefner passed along some of his fly fishing tips to us. I always pay attention to information coming from Dave and I know I have become a better fisherman because of it. As a fly tyer I was particularly interested in his information on the topic of “Guide Flies”, those flies that guides like to tie up in quantities for their clients because they are effective, fast and easy to tie, and usually have three or fewer different materials in them. Those are criteria that make it possible to tie up some effective flies while you are just taking a break or having lunch and waiting to go back out on the water. Which is exactly what I saw Dave do at Rocky Ridge Ranch this year. After lunch it was fun watching him catch fish, after fish, after fish… The fly he used that day is not this month’s fly. We’ll save that one for later, but this month’s fly, The WD-40, is on Dave’s list of “Guide Flies”.
A long-time Colorado guide and fly tyer, Mark Engler, is credited with creating the WD-40 back in 1982. Mark is apparently one of those quiet, unassuming sorts whose entire life revolves around fly fishing. His friends say the fact that he has three ex-wives could be a testament to his dedication to fishing. Stories of the origin of the WD-40 name come in many versions. Many say that WD stands for “wood duck”, a versatile feather that many tyers use for this pattern. But if you search the internet you can find a video of Engler himself tying his own WD-40, and guess what… he doesn’t use wood duck. He uses mallard. So you can subscribe to other versions of the origin of the name given to Engler’s fly. I didn’t feel entirely comfortable passing on the most likely story in this article, but if you ask me in private I would be glad to share it with you.
The WD-40 was originally designed by Engler as a midge emerger pattern for Colorado’s Frying Pan River and it was an instant success. Anglers soon found that it was also a terrific BWO emerger pattern. Because midges are out all year it is a good fly to often tie on as a dropper behind a dry fly or a nymph. The WD-40 is most often tied on a curved scud-type hook, in small sizes, like 18’s and smaller (like down to 24’s !) But if you are going to be tying small flies, it is good to have them be something that are easy to tie. Favorite colors seem to be olive and black, but they are also tied in brown, gray, and tan. As with the evolution of many fly patterns, there seems to be an endless number of variations of the WD-40. One of the more effective ones even has its own name variation… the WD-50. It is like the WD-40 except it takes the emerging process one step further, as it is tied with short emerging wing buds.
Our next Fly Tying Night will be Wednesday, June 28th. We will be meeting at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn to tie up some WD-40 flies. Although small, this pattern would be suitable for tyers of all levels of experience. Our Royal Treatment friends will have tools to loan to you for the evening. We’ll be starting at 6pm. Hope to see you there!