by John Evans
(San Antonio, TX)
A Nice Red Breast Sunfish and a Sawyer's Killer Bug Tied with Chadwick's No. 477 Yarn
Several holidays ago, my wife purchased 30 feet of the original Chadwick’s No. 477 yarn, which Frank Sawyer used to tie his Killer Bug. This grayish, pinkish yarn hasn’t been produced since the 1960’s, and remaining supplies have dwindled. I won’t tell you how much Robin paid for the gift; let’s just say that it was substantial for a piece of string! I appreciated the seller sending along an interesting bit of provenance and letter of authenticity with the Chadwick’s.
It’s almost impossible to find the original stuff anymore; and, even if you do, the price is often prohibitive. I’m hoarding the few feet I have left, and every once in a while I’ll tie up a Sawyer’s Killer Bug.
The original pattern is tied without thread. Frank Sawyer, an English riverkeeper (1906-1980), used “red fuse wire” to weight the nymph and tie off the yarn at the back of the hook. His method was simple and effective. I typically use a size 12 Kamasan B175 “heavy traditional trout hook” and small copper wire to tie my version.
The nymph works well, especially on my panfish in South Central Texas. No, there’s nothing magic in the yarn . . . it catches about as many fish as my other good fly-tying yarns. Sawyer’s Killer Bug does have several things going for it. The thin Chadwick’s No. 477 yarn gives the fly a nice segmented look, and the slim profile and added weight help it get down to the fish. Plus, the color, when wet, is natural and wormy-looking. These advantages help me fish Frank Sawyer’s design with confidence.
To me, the real magic is knowing that you can catch fish on a bit of yarn, wire, and hook. Any good style of Killer Bug coupled with a fine Japanese tenkara rod is a recipe for fun.
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“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten” - Benjamin Franklin
"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662
As age slows my pace, I will become more like the heron.
The hooks are sharp.
The coffee's hot.
The fish are slippery when wet.
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