Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Brown and Bright-Green Simplified Deep Sparkle Pupa



Dark brown

One-third olive Sparkle Yarn; two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur

Dark red grouse dressed sparsely, wrapped one turn

Brown marabou strands

With his seminal Caddisflies (1981), Gary LaFontaine changed the way anglers and fly tiers looked at caddisfly representation. His signature Deep Sparkle Pupa introduced anglers to the synthetic Sparkle Yarn for representing the air bubbles trapped between the molting exoskeletal shuck and body of a hatching caddisfly. The dressing itself has a clear soft-hackle heritage, though the body is perhaps better designed to trap air bubbles that enhance the natural sparkle of the synthetic dubbing, and the hackle itself is so sparse as to be almost nonexistent. The head, however, would be at home on any dressing historical angler fished, like dressings of the Winter Brown and Dark Spanish Needle stoneflies or the Light Sedge caddis dressing.

The Brown and Bright-Green Deep Pupa is second on LaFontaine’s list of primary patterns:

"HOOK:   Mustad 94840
WEIGHT:  lead or copper wire
UNDERBODY:  one-third olive Sparkle Yarn and two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur (mixed and dubbed
OVERBODY:  medium olive Sparkle Yarn
HACKLE:  dark grouse fibers (long wisps along the lower half of the sides)
HEAD:  brown marabou strands or brown fur"

LaFontaine chose to designate a more traditional soft hackle style dressing of his Deep Sparkle Pupa as "Simplified" to avoid the confusion among anglers who purchased commercially-tied Deep Sparkle Pupas. He created this version because "fly-fishing friends urged" him to design "an optional recipe minus the overbody, for easier and quicker tying." He notes reservations about the effectiveness of the simplified dressing, questioning "how effective this type is compared to the regular pattern. They are much better than any drab-bodied creations, but they are not quite as bright, nor do they trap air bubbles quite as well, as the overbody style." He prefers the overbody "regular type" for his own angling.

Authors like Bob Wyatt have recently questioned LaFontaine's premise in designing the Deep Sparkle Pupa pattern. In What Trout Want (2013), Wyatt argues that the "gas bubble phenomenon is undocumented in any scientific study because pharate caddisflies don't exude a gas that creates a bubble between their instar cuticles," and he points out that the "lack of evidence in itself is not proof that no such insect or behavior exists" and promises "when that proof is produced, I'll be happy to eat my baseball cap." Nevertheless, LaFontaine's pattern is, as Wyatt notes, "a very successful trout fly," and the fly itself remains, if not a strict imitation, at least "another very good attractor pattern."


  1. Dear Neil,

    First of all, thank you for this wonderful blog. I firmly believe in soft hackle flies and fish with them most of the times. The Simplified Deep Sparkle Pupa pattern that you offer in this post is great in every aspect. Every year I catch a lot of trout and grayling with similar flies (some of them tied also with brass or tungsten beads).

    I very much respect both Gary LaFontaine and Bob Wyatt, and possess their books (not all but most). They both, in their ways, helped me to create my own ideas about fly tying and fly fishing. When it comes to discussion about “gas bubble phenomenon” the problem is that LaFontaine unfortunately is not alive and therefore not able to defend his standpoint. Several authors wrote that it was not documented, but actually it was. In the very useful book by the late John Goddard titled “John Goddard’s Waterside Guide” (Unwin Hyman, First Edition, 1988) on the page 104 there is a photograph number 107 (“Pupa in final stage with case inflated before splitting at thorax”). It clearly shows the inflated pupa and its similarity with LaFontaine’s emergers. I saw few other similar photographs but cannot remember where. It seems that this is not a very common event and very few photographs exist. However, it seems that at least some caddis species during their emergence use gas bubbles trapped between the molting exoskeletal shuck and body. This was an inspiration for LaFontaine to create his Sparkle Pupas. Everyone, even those who don’t believe in “gas bubble phenomenon”, agree that they are very successful trout flies. Probably it is not possible to completely explain why they take such flies. But as long as they do I will use them to catch my share of trout.

    I’m looking forward to see more fine flies on this blog.

    All the best,
    Goran Grubic

  2. Thank you for passing along the information from Goddard, Goran. I have suspicions I could write a book rather than a blog post on the subject, but like I'm content to fish the flies even more. Thanks for following the blog!

  3. Good post. I wonder: If there is gas present, is it so noticeable that it is a keying characteristic of the emerging pupa?... Or, in perspective, gas being invisible but for the slight wink of a shimmer reflected from liquid surrounding it, might not wire ribbing accomplish that?

    I should note that a sparkly green body works well during blizzard spotted sedge hatches on my home water. But funny thing, the naturals have cream/tan/brown abdomens & brown thorax. My take: provided the fly is the right size & profile, the bright body helps it stand out from the bazillion naturals it is competing with -- just enough. Provided the size & profile are right.

    1. Hi Steve,
      I remember reading a citation in Schwiebert's Nymphs (or an old article in Fly Fisherman by LaFontaine) by a historical author who lamented his inability to adequately create the appearance of gas bubbles beneath the shuck and, consequently, settled for wire. Anytime I've seen caddis shucks swirling in an eddy or hung on the moss in a rock, I've notice the irregular, uneven sparkle the bubbles create.

      I suppose the slightly added weight (though wire is incorporated in many traditional British dry flies) and the regularity of the flash across the abdomen must be the main detractions, but those seem like slim criticisms at best.

      I think you're right about the sparkle drawing more attention in a heavy hatch - it might not be as imitative as LaFontaine intended. It also seems that if the water has a slight discoloration, a sparkly body works well, even a size up, but I suppose that's the commonplace wisdom for an dingy water.