On the fly: The Wonder Fly
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
ASPEN – If I could only have one fly pattern in my possession, it would be the yellow humpy. To be sure, there would be days I’d be shut out (consider my outing on Monday a prime example), but more often than not – and particularly at this time of year – that fly is gold.
I’m not sure when I first stumbled onto its prowess as an irresistible morsel in many a trout’s eye, but it has long been a mainstay in my flybox. I can’t think of a small stream where the yellow humpy hasn’t worked, and yet, it’s often the right call on free-flowing rivers like the Roaring Fork.
It comes in other colors – green, red, royal (a combination royal Wulff/humpy) – but in my opinion, yellow is the only one worth having. The classic style features a yellow belly with elk hare humped over the backside and fanning out as a tail. The wings, also elk hair, are split into a “V” shape, with some added hackle for good measure. I tried to tie one once and was quickly convinced my time was better spent fishing with store-bought flies (actually, that could be said of fly tying in general).
The humpy floats like a bobber, even in rough water, making it ideal for trailing a dropper, but even when my dropper is hot, the humpy seems to attract its share of fish.
On Saturday, I made my way to a stretch of the Roaring Fork below Aspen that I’d never fished before, found a tremendous pool and, with no better clue, tied on a yellow humpy. Five fish later, a combination of browns and rainbows, I began to ponder the origin of this magic fly.
A Google search for yellow humpy pulled up about 135,000 entries; add the word “origin” to the search and the hits drop to 76,300. I didn’t actually learn much, except the humpy is a much-heralded attractor that doesn’t imitate any particular insect, but looks exceptionally “buggy.” It is “arguably, the greatest surface fly ever devised,” according to the author of one fly-tying book. I’d have to agree.
Apparently, a California fly tier, Jack Horner, came up with the Horner Deer Hair Fly in the 1940s, and it is considered the precursor to the modern-day humpy, also called the “goofus bug” by old-timers in some quarters. Rumor has it the “humpy” moniker originated in Wyoming.
Call it what you will. It is the Wonder Fly.
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