Beginner’s Fly Tying: Dirty Bird

View our instructional video for this lesson above or on your YouTube Channel. Chapter markers are available below. These chapter links will take you to the video on our YouTube channel:

PART I: Introduction and Overview
PART II: Tying the Dirty Bird
PART III: How to Fish This Fly

Written instructions are also available below.

Session Overview

The fly pattern chosen for the February 15 Beginner’s Fly Tying class is “The Dirty Bird.” We chose this fly pattern to honor Bob Abraham, long time member of Potomac Valley Fly Fishers.

Whenever Bob was asked to lead one of our PVFF fly tying classes, he would exclaim, “How about I teach the dirty bird?” You might wonder why The Dirty Bird was one of Bob Abraham’s favorite fly patterns. Perhaps it was because Bob found this fly pattern to be a very effective imitation of a hellgrammite, during those years when he guided clients fishing for smallmouth bass on the Potomac River.

Credence to this ‘theory’ can be found in referencing an article in the Maryland Conservationist, written by Truman Doyle of Boonesboro, Maryland, entitled The Dirty Bird. In the article Mr. Doyle reported his success while fishing for trout on Washington County’s Beaver Creek in the 1950s. One evening in May 1955, Mr. Doyle had failed to raise a fish after several hours of fishing worms and small fly rod “lures.” In desperation, “a last search in the lure box turned up a monstrosity Id created the previous winter (1954) in an attempt to simulate a hellgrammite, with which I hoped to interest smallmouth bass, come June.”

The article continues to note that for a period of four years in which he recorded his fishing success, approximately 25 percent of the total fish were caught on his Dirtybird fly pattern.

In his publication, Mr. Doyle best describes his Dirty Bird as “a kind of cross between a palmered trout fly, a nymph and a bass bug type (fly)…”. The Dirty Bird pattern which Mr. Abraham tied, fished, and taught to perhaps hundreds of fly fishers over the years since, is the true representation of the fly developed decades ago by Mr. Truman Doyle.   

By Don Fine