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I am new to Charles Brooks fandom.  I always had known about him as the “tying in the round” guy, and did not think or know much more about him than that. I had never been impressed with that idea, tying in the round, because the thought that nymphs show only the top side of their bodies as they tumble around in fast water seems, well… obviously incorrect. It’s an impression about Brooks – a mis-impression – that I got second-hand, from reading short blips about “tying in the round” over the years and also from Lisa and Ralph Cutter’s “Bugs of the Underworld” DVD. Here’s a short clip from that DVD, showing (at about 1:10 to 1:45) a weightless, giant stonefly tumbling upside-down in the current --


After reading Brooks’ first “big splash” book, Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout (1976), and after reading about him in the Sports Illustrated online archives (1979), I’m now a huge fan.  Admittedly untested on the river (by me), but my mind has now been opened like an old can of beans.

Brooks’ background story is as interesting as they come. I can’t describe it any better than it was written up by Sports Illustrated in 1979, so here’s a link to that well-written piece – a quick and rewarding read: https://vault.si.com/vault/1979/09/03/hes-got-a-very-fishy-look-charles-brooks-figures-the-best-way-to-catch-a-trout-is-to-see-things-through-a-trouts-eyes-which-is-why-you-can-find-him-underwater-breathing-through-a-hose 

What has not stuck in the world well enough, to me anyway, is Brooks’ actual way of a nymph with a trout.  He drew his own inspiration from Swisher & Richards’ Selective Trout (1971) and Schweibert’s Nymphs (1973). These authors had broken ground by aiming artificial fly design and presentation at natural fly behavior during key moments and in key places where the natural fly presents itself in a manner that attracts trout to feed with abandon. The idea, that different natural nymphs behave and present themselves to trout differently in different places and times, fascinated Brooks and drove the substance of his work. That’s what I believe is missing from the discussions I’ve read of Brooks. He’s not just the “tying in the round” guy.  He is to fishing nymphs what “match the hatchers” are to fishing emergers.  He’s LaFontaine without the over-sell. Well, with just the right amount of over-sell. He’s the kind of guy you’d want as your fishing buddy, only he doesn’t really want one.

In fact, Brooks makes perfectly clear that it does not matter whether you tie your flies in the round or not. What primarily mattered to Brooks was presentation and hook quality. The rest was personal preference. “In the use of hooks, I am adamant. . . .  Other materials I do not feel so strongly about. No fly dressing is sacred . . . .  It is the final result that counts, and this, along with the fact that everyone sees that result differently, makes a complete, formal standard of any pattern unlikely, if not impossible. So, if you are a flytier as well as a fly-fisher, by all means tie the fly the way you want it. Exact imitation is never possible, and confidence in the fly being used is a more important factor anyway.”

Brooks studied nymphs, not only in books but also in his home waters. Literally, in. Without scuba gear, just in his jeans and with a breathing hose in his mouth (with his wife presenting artificials toward him from upstream), he observed for himself – in different times, temperatures, and stream conditions – how the various natural nymphs behaved, how his artificial nymphs behaved, and how and when smaller and larger trout responded. (He did this a decade before LaFontaine did roughly the same in scuba gear for Caddisflies (1981), which was published two years after Nymph Fishing for Larger Trout.) In response to his findings, Brooks developed fishing and tying methods designed to target large trout feeding on particular nymphs at particular times, temperatures, and places.  He commented, “Unless you tie your own, getting the artificial nymphs you need can be difficult, or even impossible. . . . Most of the patterns available in the shops are formless and nameless, so general in nature they are little better than the hundreds of old wet-fly patterns we have used for years. . . .” He complained “of the thorough muddle we are in with our nymph patterns at present,” and asked, “How are we going to straighten it out? I wish I knew.” The answer for himself was to study his own streams and tie nymphs to fish the different behaviors he personally saw trout respond to.

Thus, though “tying in the round” is often referred to as a general means to tumble nymphs around as a searching pattern when nothing else seems to be happening, that does not quite explain what Brooks designed them to do. Brooks fished nymphs in a targeted manner, as Schweibert before him had advocated, not by guesswork but by figuring things out. He was using his nymphs as searching patterns,  yes; but he was not searching for trout who might be tricked to feed opportunistically on a singular nymph accidentally caught in the current. He was using his artificials to search for significant underwater nymph events --- such as nymphs undergoing mass migrations and mass foraging, to catch not one isolated trout but a whole grouping of the many large trout that would be selectively feeding during those mass nymph events. 

Take the giant salmon fly as an example. Brooks observed that they would emerge from under the rocks to forage for food, twice a day at predictable times, in the calm currents at the very bottom of otherwise incredibly rough water. First the smaller nymphs would forage, then the larger, at first attracting the smaller trout to feed, until at certain temperatures all sizes of these nymphs would be out foraging in sufficient plentitude to attract the largest trout to feast on them. Brooks observed these twice-daily summer feasts to last 40 minutes to an hour each. 

The stoneflies exhibiting this behavior were not tumbling about in the stream every which way – but that is what Brooks observed the artificials did.  When tied with a wing case, Brooks found the artificial nymphs appeared unnatural. They would tumble about, presenting different views to the trout as they turned over and over, while the naturals, foraging on the bottom and even swimming and drifting purposefully in the relatively calm bottom currents, generally presented only their top side to the trout. Brooks concluded that to catch the largest trout in these circumstances, the artificial ought to be tied in the round and weighted heavily, so that it appeared more natural to the larger trout despite twisting around an around, particularly during those times when trout were feeding intensely on the momentarily foraging salmon fly nymphs. (This was for larger nymphs, size 4 or 6; for smaller nymphs on smooth water, "color, form, and size should be as close as possible to that of the natural.")

The fly I chose for this Step-By-Step is Brooks’ Yellow Stone, which he designed to target golden stonefly nymphs in their environment, foraging and moving about at the very bottom of runs, rapids and cascades with riverbeds of rubble and boulders. According to Brooks, the golden stonefly nymphs in his waters exhibited the same foraging behavior there as did the salmon fly nymphs. He designed this heavily weighted fly to be fished “dead drift on the bottom” using a high-density sinking line, a short leader, and Brooks’ own trademark “five phase” presentation – casting upstream and across at an angle to find and target large trout feeding downstream on the bottom in rough water.

Old can of beans opened?... Let’s make some chile.





Here is a link to the Feather Atlas, showing wild turkey primary feathers – they are barred brown and cream: https://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/feather.php?Bird=WITU_primary_fmle_bluebk

Here is a link to the Feather Atlas, showing wild turkey tail feathers – they are cinnamon: https://www.fws.gov/lab/featheratlas/feather.php?Bird=WITU_tail_fmle






















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Great SBS Chug.  I'll have to read it a few more times to digest all that info.  Very well done.  Love the little roaming signature, I'm still trying to find where you hid it in step 5.

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Great read and awesome tie!  Thanks for the work put into the step by step!  

@niveker- I too enjoy the signature. Spent far too long searching for it in step 7 as well.  

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2 hours ago, chugbug27 said:

😎 Thanks Sandan, liked that humpy too. Not so easy to make it look that good. 


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chug, I finally took the time to read thru the links and was captured by the feather atlas for a period of time. First time I've seen that reference thank you for posting that. I wish I had your computer skills that is awesome work and a nice fly to boot.

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Yes thanks chug, I hit my local Joann fabrics today, got the yarn for the stonefly and also some Dmc olive thread for some other patterns, and some clear beads. I could have myself in some real trouble in there, but I need to go there more often for just for the economics of some materials.


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Thanks cph! I somehow missed that nice comment. 🙄 And yeah the feather atlas is gold. I think I got there via another post on this very forum a ways back. Ftf is a real treasure trove.

And I feel your Joann, partsman. Lately I've been eyeing the Lion brand mottled Fishermen's yarn.

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Looks like I missed this one back in December.  Great tie as always, Chug!  I'm going to have to tie a few before my next trip west.

By the way...I think our new friend, Larry, would love to try this out on the bluegill.



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