Swedish version


Photos by James Matthews 2005 ©

The Scurr
(Heptagenid / Stoneclinger)

  There is a saying "There's nothing new in flytying", which seems a contradiction as modern flytyers seem to be churning out new and super improved patterns all the time. You just have to look at the range of magazines dedicated to our pastime with the emphasis, more often than not, on the new fly. I'm a sucker for buying these magazines and reading about the authors' insights into tying or flyfishing. I'll try a new approach or wonder fly, give it a swim, then more often than not it will sit in the corner of my fly box just on the off-chance I might need it. In the majority of cases a new approach can be traced to what has gone before and at times we are reinventing the wheel, but sometimes a technique or material inspires me and I find a better way of doing something. I'm not scorning the modern approach because it is what might attract a whole new generation of fly dresser and fishermen and everything needs to evolve, but much of what we do has survived hundreds of years of refinements precisely because it works.

  I'm a great believer in listening to some old-timers and gaining insight and local knowledge from their slant on fly-fishing. One such person is Bill Bryden from Auchinleck, who was a friend and neighbour for many years. Bill's knowledge of the local rivers is second to none, having fished the River Ayr, the Nith and surroundings during the middle of the last century.
Bill's brother in law Sonny was an expert on nymphing. Sonny would wade in, waist deep in all weathers and at the time was known locally for extracting fish, big fish, from places previously overlooked by other anglers. Remember, in the heart of the mining community this wasn't catch and release sport fishing but for the pot, feeding families and neighbours.

  Bill explained in great detail Sonny's approach. This was a variation on the Czech nymph theme; the man was ahead of his time, over sixty years ago. Bill and Sonny would develop patterns mainly on the spider theme. Not the delicate North Country spider but a more robust version, ideally suited to the serious business of catching fish for food. "Speeders", he said, "That's all you need except for the scurr" It was like a foreign language to me, but Bill elaborated for me: the scurr was what I knew as the heptagenid or stoneclinger, and his other fly of preference, the gadger, one of my own favourites, the stonefly. Inspired by his trip down memory lane, Bill appeared with an old handmade vice and proceeded to tie a fly. I was transfixed as, shakily at first, he produced peacock herl and hackle and turned them into a beautiful wee fly. Bill then got out an old rusty Rowntrees chocolate tin and showed me a couple of flies which had been there for over forty years, crude by today's standards but instantly recognisable, capturing the profile of the heptagenid. Here was the famous Scurr.


  Although the family Heptagenidae has gained popularity in fly boxes all over the world, there are still serious river anglers who are devoid of these nymphs in their nymph boxes. This is the equivalent of a still water angler who doesn't own buzzers. Unthinkable! The pattern that really brought the heptagenid to everyone's attention is the one in Oliver Edwards' Fly-tying Master Class. This is a cracking pattern although as time doesn't stand still in the fly-tying world, with new materials created and new techniques employed, the pattern leaves room for updating and improvement. Even Oliver himself has tweaked and refined his original dressing over the years.

  As far as the constant stream of "new improved" techniques showcased in magazines goes, you have only to think of disposable nappy adverts, where each improvement dismisses its predecessor as being inadequate. Just how good can a nappy get? Is there a point when a nappy, or a fly, becomes so perfectly suited to its purpose that it cannot be improved? From Sonny's heptagenid tied with bronze mallard, to Oliver Edwards' with its raffene wing capsule, to mine, using a photographic image for head and wings, all will take fish. And from 1970s Pampers to 2005s Pampers, all will keep a bottom dry. Talking of bottoms, fish the Scurr close to the river bed; an upstream presentation will suffice.


Photos by James Matthews 2005 ©

The Scurr (Heptagenid) Tying Instructions

Hook: Gaelic Supreme nymph hooks up eye; size 16, 18( check out the website)

Underbody: Tungsten stretch lace

Body segmentation: Narrow gauge Flexile; available in various colours - transparent for this dressing

Legs: Narrow gauge Flexile; see note below re leg preparation.

Head and wing buds: Finesse Heptagenid /stoneclinger DV wingbuds or Virtual Nymph stoneclinger wingbuds
Epoxy or Mattlack spray varnish (available from art shops or email
if you are struggling to source it)

Thread: Powersilk and spiderweb

Gills: Organza or micobarbarbed ostrich herl (available from Finesse)

Tails: Synthetic quills, peccary, porcupine or nylon paintbrush bristles

Colouration: Permanent markers in brown, olive, yellow etc. Mark the wingbud's rear arch black for a near to hatching nymph

  Prepare the wingbuds by spraying with Mattlack spray varnish, colouring as required and cutting out. When the fly is tied apply either epoxy or another coat of Mattlack to seal the colour. Legs can also be prepared ahead of time - see notes below.

  Tie on your thread behind the eye and flatten it. Bind down to a position opposite the barb, cut round the wing bud and leave a tag at the front (this is your tying in point). Tie in, making sure the head is central to the hook shank and add a drop of head cement to your tying foundations.

  Wind down to a position just going onto the bend, tie on your preferred tails (three, for the heptagenid) on top of the shank and pull the tails back for length. They should be slightly longer than the nymph itself. Spin your thread and prepare to splay the tails. You should have right, left and central tails. Figure of eight between the two outer tails twice then come from underneath and under the middle one. Voila: three tails nicely splayed.

  Take your prepared flattened Flexile 6 to 7 inches in length (I use my girlfriend's ceramic hair straighteners - the Flexile doesn't damage the straighteners, so you won't get complaints. Experiment with the Flexile and the straighteners for a while to get the best results) and make a small angular cut. Tie this in with a few wraps of thread, just where you tied in the tails. Wind on to a position 2 or 3 mm from the eye.

  Select your tungsten stretch lace and flatten with flat nose pliers. Tie on either side of the hook and bind down, increasing tension toward the rear end (just opposite the barb) of the fly. Cut off the waste and do the same again with your tungsten lace, this time stopping short of the rear arch of the wing buds. This helps with the proportion and shape of the fly.

  Cover the profile of the nymph evenly with your tying thread. Flatten the profile all the way down to your Flexile with flat nose pliers. Leave your thread parked at the end of your Flexile and tails. Stretch the Flexile towards you and apply colour with your permanent marker. With butting turns overlap the hook with the flexile releasing tension as you go.

  Catch on your spider web thread behind the wing capsule and tie off the Flexile strip 2 or 3 mm from the eye. Snip of the waste tag and whip finish.

  You're now ready to gill with organza. Spin your powersilk and colour with the same permanent marker you used for the Flexile. Advance one segment of the body. The thread should be on the opposite side of you. Pick up your organza strands 3 or 4 and come under the thread position on the side facing you. The thread should still be parked opposite you. Do the same on the other side and continue gilling just past the tail end of the heartshaped wing bud. See my rhyacophila for a more indepth description of organza gilling.

  You're now ready to make realistic stone clinger legs. You'll need a candle and steady hand! Take a six inch piece of narrow gauge Flexile and carefully pass it through the candle flame holding both ends of the Flexile. Before your eyes the inner core melts and reduces by half. Again, experiment a bit to get the best results. Take your scissors and cut through the middle of the fine section.

  Heat up your ceramic hair straighteners and prepare to make the femurs. With the very edge of the straighteners press the thicker part of the flexile and then release. One more manoeuvre, this time using a cauterising tool. Slightly melt the junction between the thick and fine parts of the leg to kink it (this is the "knee") I prepare dozens of these legs in advance while watching TV. Aim to get the fine point about 5mm in length and the thicker part of the leg 6 to 7mm, tapering down with each leg then simply colour with a permanent marker.

  At one body segment above the heartshaped wingbud, tie in the back legs, using the fine point of the femur (thicker section). This is a similar technique to organza gilling; flip the leg over with your thread parked the opposite side, then do the same on the other side and whip finish. Advance one or two segments towards the head and tie in your middle set of legs. Whip finish. Advance another couple of segments, depending on size of wingbuds and tie in the front legs. Whip finish.

  Push the wingbuds down and apply a whip finish just behind the eyes of your Scurr.
Seal the wingbud colour with epoxy or Mattlack spray varnish.


I now use the candle / Flexile technique for caddis, stoneflies, heptagenids, baetis, greendrakes, beetles, alders, in fact just about anything you're likely to encounter under the water (bug wise!) Flexile has the advantage of being robust ,giving the illusion of movement with added translucency and authentic silhouette.

The wingbuds and Flexile are available to buy - just contact me at

Text and Photos by James Matthews 2005 ©


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© Mats Sjöstrand 2005

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Mats Sjöstrand, Sweden

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