How to tie the Big Stick Stillwater Fly


APRIL can be a fickle month; one day it can be calm and warm enough to make fishing a team of nymphs the perfect solution, the next a biting north-easterly wind can have us hunting for a sinker and a lure.

So, before winter finally does decide to release its icy grip, it’s always a good idea to have something big, heavy and with a solid profile ready for when conditions take a turn for the worse.

For those who shun the delights of Fritz and chain-bead, the Big Stick makes a nice compromise, being heavy enough to get down to where the trout are skulking, and meaty enough to tempt them into taking, even when they are not feeding on anything in particular.

In most situations a metal bead at the head provides ample weight. This can be in the form of a gold bead of the standard type, or an extra-heavy tungsten one. Other alternatives include a black bead or, in complete contrast, a fluorescent one in green, red or orange. These fluorescent coloured beads add a further dimension to weighted flies with the ability to add a bright, fish-attracting head that also helps the fly to sink.


When I originally tied this pattern it had a brown or black cock hackle, wound just behind the bead head. Now to add another effective and fashionable touch, I have replaced it with rubber legs. The beauty of rubber legs is that they are even more mobile than hackle fibres, though I’m forced to admit they do lack something of the feather’s aesthetic appeal.


This version of the Big Stick employs the same colours that make the Viva and Montana so deadly. Black and fluorescent green is a combination that has proved its effectiveness over and over again and is especially successful during the early part of the season when the water is cold and clear. That said, the pattern can be tied using a variety of colours for both the head and tail. Olive, orange, pink and black versions also work well, the latter using either a fluorescent bead or a plain black one.

The tail comprises a pinch of marabou, used to not only add colour but also give some action to the fly. When large nymphs or lures are going to be fished slowly it is important that they still have some life to them.

Soft, flexible materials, such as marabou or rubber legs, are just the ticket when it comes to providing this as they move and flicker in the water even when the fly is moving at a snail’s pace. In the Big Stick the tail is tied relatively short, if compared to a Tadpole, but still long enough to impart movement as it is retrieved slowly along the bottom while those rubber legs give it an extra kick.


This pattern is based loosely on the original Stick Fly, a general caddis larva pattern, and the body has strands of peacock herl. Peacock herl has been called “magic on a hook” and if this seems a bit over the top, the natural sparkle of the herl certainly produces an effect the trout like. The success of patterns such as the Diawl Bach and the Big Stick are the proof of this.

On the plus side peacock herl is cheap and easily available, and its texture makes it great for tying chunky bodies.

On the downside the material can be delicate. This potential weakness can be remedied in a number of ways, either by ribbing the herl body or by winding the herls over a bed of wet varnish.

Another very successful method is to twist the herls together with a length of tying thread, monofilament nylon or, as in the case of the fly shown, a length of copper wire.

The latter method considerably increases the robustness of the finished body - and the turns of wire add extra weight.

Ordinary copper wire works well but copper wire is now available in a wide range of finishes and using a colour like black, to key in with that of the body, produces an understated effect.

In the same vein, although ordinary bronze peacock works perfectly well it is also possible to use dyed strands, thereby increasing the range of effects possible with this material.

Dyed peacock herl is available in colours such as green, yellow, orange and black and can be used not only for tying the Big Stick but also to add an extra something to the growing ranks of Diawl Bach variations.

Hook: Size 8-10 longshank Thread: Black 6/0

Head: 3.8mm metal bead, either gold or fluorescent lime green tungsten bead Tail: Fluorescent, lime green marabou

Body: Plain or dyed black peacock herl twisted with black wire

Legs: Black rubber strands Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub or Glister


Slide the bead on before fixing the hook in the vice. Specially slotted beads will fit over most hooks. Run the tying thread on behind the bead.

Carry the tying thread down the shank in touching turns. Take a pinch of fluorescent, lime green marabou and catch it in at the bend.


Secure the waste ends of marabou to the hook shank, returning the thread to the tail base. Catch in six peacock herls and three inches of black wire.

Wind the thread up to the bead, then holding the herls and wire together twist them to form a rope. Wind the rope in close turns along the shank.


Wind the rope until it has covered three-quarters of the hook shank. Secure ends with thread then remove excess, wiggling the wire until it breaks

Take a pinch of Peacock Ice Dub or Glister and apply it to the tying thread. Dub it into a rope and apply two turns in front of the body.


Take two strands of fine, black rubber legs and place them together. Catch them in, at their midpoint, to form four legs.

Repeat the process adding legs to the other side of the hook then cover the gap up to the bead with a pinch of Ice Dub. Complete with a whip finish.