The Casual Dress may not be a pretty fly, but its creator Polly Rosborough knew what he was up to when he first tied up this ugly beauty. When I first started to tie flies, about 15 years ago, I was given Randall Kaufmann’s book The Fly Tyers Nymph Manual. Mr. Kaufmann includes tying instructions for this fly in his excellent book. He quotes Polly as saying that the Casual Dress was created to “simulate nothing more than just food”.
I must admit that, at that time, I wasn’t impressed. I think that I wanted to tie flies that looked like something specific. Flies that at least had all the “right” parts. So I overlooked this fly for many years. However, in the intervening years my attitude has changed quite a bit. I have come to understand the appeal of flies like the Casual Dress. But the Casual Dress was off of my radar until recently.
When the SwittersB & Fly Fishing blog featured the Casual Dress a little while back, it made me think “Oh yeah – I should tie some of these”. Well It took me some time to get around to it but I finally did. The Casual Dress is traditionally tied with just two materials; muskrat fur and black ostrich herl. It utilizes the noodle-dubbing technique for the body and a “fur-hackle” collar. In this age of post-modern fly tying where anything goes and nothing is off-limits for consideration as fly tying material, the spare economy of this materials list is refreshing.
The Casual Dress:
Hook: Tiemco 300, size 4-10. This is a heavy wire, 6x long streamer hook. I didn’t tie all of mine on a 6x long hook, but the longer hook makes it easier to create a nicely proportioned fly.
Tail: Bunch of muskrat with both the guard hairs and underfur. This needs to be cut directly from the pelt.
Body: Muskrat fur, tied-in noodle style using a dubbing loop.
Collar: Muskrat fur with both guard hairs and underfur, same as for tail.
Head: Black ostrich herl.
Well, as many of you can probably attest, fly tyers have trouble sticking to the recipe. We feel the urge to add a little bit of this, a little dash of that – it’s part of the fun. So I was bold enough to riff on the theme a little. I wouldn’t dare to make “improvements” on the original, merely variations. In the picture below I present a few of these variations. I stuck pretty closely to the original plan, but changed the body dubbing material and color, and in some cases the fur-hackle.
The possible variations are endless. Are they necessary? Probably not. The original will catch lots of fish for you. But fly-tying is a a lot like the blues, and rock-and-roll. It’s the same three chords, endlessly tinkered with. And every once in a while a classic is born. So get the fingers loosened, practice some scales, learn a couple of chords and create your own classic.