I’ll admit that it’s difficult for me to tie the same pattern twice anymore. It’s the curse of a commercial tier. Nowadays, when I tie my regular patterns or even custom ones, it seems that I could have added another feather or a different type of flash. Sometimes I look at a fly and feel I would rather have used an entirely different combination of colors and materials. In addition, for reasons of speed and repeatability, I often look for ways to create a single pattern that can cover multiple situations. If possible, I try to make the fly versatile enough that I can change it radically by simply employing different colors, by changing the size or by adding and removing weight. That’s precisely how I arrived at the Change-Up.
As a commercial tier, I am fortunate enough to have many new kinds of materials come across my desk on a regular basis. It happens so often that it usually looks like a variety of birds and stuffed animals had a gang war on my desk, with only the stuffing, fur and feathers remaining. I just let the various materials float around for a while in hopes that eventually the tying light will go off in my head. Often just looking up and seeing a combination of one material lying next to another will inspire an idea.
The Change-Up is little more than a combination of other patterns, but I tied it using mostly new materials, and I had to adapt a few things as I went. I designed it so that the style would remain simple yet versatile and that changes to the combination of color and size would change the whole look and effect in the water.
I began with the idea of tying a generic Key’s-style tarpon pattern, but decided to add an anodized aluminum cone head for a little weight. I also realized that by tying the fly farther back on a long-shank hook in traditional Key’s style, I could also slide a popper head over the hook eye and instantly make this fly an effective popper. Again, in my eagerness for tying quickly, I used Crystal Mirror Flash, which requires fewer strands than other flash materials because of its twisted and prismatic nature. In addition, I used Cascade Crest Tools Body Fur as a base behind the palmered hackle because it comes in strands and ties on more quickly than traditional craft fur. However, you could easily use Comes Alive or any similar material, including craft fur.
What I like best about this particular fly is that with this one pattern I can chase a variety of fish in a variety of situations – from snook in the mangroves to tarpon on the flats and even jacks and bass in the surf. I tie a handful in a range of colors and sizes and carry a bunch of extra popper heads – it only takes a second to convert one from a popper to a streamer. Tie them in a variety of colors, materials and sizes, and don’t be afraid to change different aspects of the fly to see what happens. I think you will find success without cluttering you fly box.