Struck by Lightning

Tying a simple fall favorite. 

If the idea of having a whole stretch of river to yourself appeals to you, Montana in the fall is where it’s at. The summertime tourists are gone, and the locals are furiously chasing elk, deer, and other game. Yellowstone National Park may be the exception, as it’s become a mecca for those chasing large brown trout running up from Hebgen Lake. Many stick to streamers in autumn; others are trying to squeeze out what’s left of dry-fly season; the rest stick to the nymph game or some other combination. Although I enjoy all of the above, being a sucker for the tug I often resort to the nymph as it tends to bring more fish to hand.

The Lightning Bug is no secret. It’s tied in a large variety of styles, colors, and sizes. I have found one combination that has been especially productive for me in the fall. Some of the steps have been simplified from the original, making it a quick box-filler. I think the use of a tungsten bead to get it down quickly and the red thread are what really set it apart from most commercial versions. Feel free to play with colors and do some research of your own. Although I’ve caught fish in many local rivers with this pattern, I’ve found it to be especially effective on the Madisonand the Gallatin.

Hook: 1x short, heavy wire nymph hook, #16-20
Bead: Silver tungsten
Thread: 8/0 or 70-denier red
Tail: Pheasant tail fibers
Body: Silver holographic tinsel
Rib: Blue copper wire
Thorax: Light shade rainbow scud dub

1. Attach thread to hook behind already-installed tungsten bead.
2. Advance thread to rear of hook just above the barb and attach a few pheasant tail fibers that extend about half the hook length to the rear of the fly.
3. Attach holographic tinsel and blue copper wire above the barb and advance thread toward the bead. Clip off any excess materials.
4. Wrap holographic tinsel forward to a point just behind the bead and secure.
5. Counter wrap the blue wire toward the bead with about five full wraps and secure. Cut or break off any excess materials.
6. With the scud dubbing, build a thorax that is 1-2 times the size of the bead. Make sure to dub tightly against the bead, which should help keep the bead secure.
7. Build up a thin collar of red thread directly behind the bead that will be visible to the fish.
8. Tie off your fly and add head cement or superglue as desired.

Jimmy Armijo-Grover is the general manager of Gallatin River Guides in Big Sky and has been obsessed with fly tying and fly fishing since the age of 10.