The Mop Fly: Junk Fly or Guide Fly or What? By Jack Kearney
My Pine Creek stream notes for the past three years show that a #14 chartreuse Mop Fly caught a lot of fish. I tried over a dozen different colors and chartreuse was the most effective, hands down. The Mop Fly worked year-round and it caught trout, smallmouth bass, and suckers. It also caught steelhead in the Lake Erie tributaries. This is the pattern I use for tying a chartreuse Mop Fly:
Hook: TMC 2457 #14
Bead: Gold 7/64 Tungsten
Thread: 6/0 Chartreuse UNI-Thread
Body : Chartreuse Mop Material
Collar: Peacock Ice Dub
I already had the hooks, beads, thread, and ice dub so it didn’t cost much to get started. I bought a chartreuse car wash mitt at a local auto parts store. There were also trips to Walmart, Target, The Dollar Store, and a lot of other places to find different colors. My wife thought I was obsessed or maybe crazy. That was back in 2014; now you can buy mop chenille online and many fly shops have their own store brand chenille.
A good way to learn how to tie a new pattern is to get some advice from the experts on You Tube. Two of my favorites are Tim Flagler at Tightline Videos and Tim Cammisa at Trout & Feather. There are many others too. A recent You Tube search showed over fifty other Mop Fly videos. I looked at them briefly and stopped counting at fifty. The videos showed the same basic pattern tied in many colors and different styles. Some of the presenters used words like “controversial” and even “junk fly” and said that many anglers are reluctant or embarrassed to use them because it feels like cheating. This is a screenshot of Tim Flagler’s Kinder and Gentler Mop Fly:
He says it’s, “not quite as garish as versions I tied in the past and…it imitates cranefly larva, a favorite food source of trout in many rivers and streams”. You can watch his video at: A Kinder, Gentler Mop Fly.
This screenshot shows Tim Cammisa’s Mop Fly:
It looks a lot like mine but Tim uses a Hanak barbless competition jig hook and a slotted tungsten disco bead. He’s also a far better fly tier than I am. His Mop Fly video was first shown in 2016 and it has over 86,000 views now. He acknowledged that some other tiers put the Mop Fly in the same category as the Green Weenie, Sucker Spawn, San Juan Worm, and maybe the Squirmy Wormy ( in other words junk flies) but goes on to say, “I will definitely call this a two-minute fly, a guide fly; it’s just a fly that’s easy to tie and it catches fish”. You can watch Tim’s video at Fly Tying: The Mop Fly.
I bought barbless jig hooks and slotted tungsten beads a few years ago at Cabin Fever but have to admit that I don’t use them much for Mop Flies. I like the TMC 2457 because it’s 2x heavy for steelhead and it has a small barb that I can mash down if I’m fishing for trout. I do have a few jig style Mop Flies with me when on the water just in case and I’m willing to experiment with new tying styles, materials, and colors. My brother Jim and I are trying a new type of mop material and three new colors this year. So far one of those new colors looks like a winner, but we’ll keep that to ourselves for now.
So is the Mop Fly a junk fly, a guide fly, or what? Maybe they’re a good attractor fly because they look like a cranefly larva or at least a fat buggy looking grub that grabs the attention of the fish. They soak up water and turn jelly-like with great underwater movement that can trigger hits from fish that are opportunistic feeders. We all have our own opinions and I’m aware that some people are reluctant or even embarrassed to use them. One thing for sure though is that Mop Flies are easy to tie and they catch a lot of fish.