“What’s the biggest dry in your box?” -This was usually one of the first questions of the day that I’d ask my anglers while I was guiding in Southern Chile a few years ago. Most anglers would come with their typical selection of large hoppers that we’d fish in the Rockies. We had a guy at the lodge one week that had a couple of these low profile, overly leggy, segmented-profile hoppers. I had no idea what they were at the time but they were foam and were size 4s. That’s about all it took to meet my criteria for fly selection on the rivers that I was guiding. Unfortunately, these mystery hoppers didn’t fish as well as they had looked. Most of them either sank or floated incorrectly and they sat so low in the water they were actually kind of hard to see despite their size. His great looking hopper that had such potential was clipped off and we went back to my Chilean standby, a Cantaria beetle imitation tied on a size 1/0 saltwater hook.
I remembered that original fly style and I began to experiment with different hooks, different foam widths, different wings, and different legs. After dozens of variations I got all of the pieces dialed in. The hook weight is important as well. Not every dry fly should be tied on a light wire hook, the weight of the hook is needed in certain patterns to act as a keel. The Pool Toy is no exception as it’s tied on a 2x heavy hook. I had finally honed in on a hopper that I felt was a great floating, angler friendly fly, tied in a great looking segmented foam style.
I generally like to fish really big flies and really big tippet, during our hopper season on the Gunnison River it’s pretty common for us to use a level, 5 foot long, piece of 15-20 pound Maxima for a leader. Our fish aren’t leader shy. I’ll tie on one fly at the beginning of a three day trip and as long as the fish don’t totally trash the fly we’ll keep fishing the fly all three days. For the most part our fish aren’t fly shy either, I like to fish this pattern as large as a size 2, similar to what I had originally been fishing in Chile when I first started messing around with this fly style.
Why call it the Pool Toy? I named this fly to honor Pinchy, my pool toy lobster that I bought in Chile. I was in Chile for one of the hottest, driest summers that they had ever experienced. When it was in the high 90’s and we had down time we’d float around in the eddy behind the lodge on our pool toys. A photo of Pinchy and I can be seen on the Idylwilde Flies homepage, cycling through on the right side of the page, under the blog link. Pinchy met with an untimely end (he popped) while I was body surfing on him on a standing wave in the river.