Fly Tying Videos

Welcome to my fly tying videos page. Here you can enjoy all my step by step videos showing how to tie my favorite flies…enjoy!

Wyoming Half Back

This is my ‘Wyoming (West Sussex!) Half Back’
It’s my ‘Avoid a Blank Day’ Fly! Don’t go fishing without it!

The Orange Diving Daddy Fly

The ‘ODD Fly’…The Orange Diving Daddy! This fly just keeps on catching.
Please tie it! You will not be disappointed!

Stuff Appetiser

Enjoy a quick bite of ‘Stuff’. My video magazine that brings you new flies, new products, collectable tackle and a whole menu of tips and tricks. Find out what it’s all about.

The Under Hackle Mayfly

In this little video I explain how I use Bug Bond to balance my ‘Under Hackle Mayfly’ and show you a few clips of the lighter side of my DVD ‘Mayflies and More’

Quick Tie Mayfly

Tie the ‘Quick Tie’ Mayfly now… and be ready!
It’s a simple 3 step Mayfly with just 3 basic materials.

Blue Flash Bugger

When the Blue Flash Damsel met the Wooly Bugger, the Blue Flash Bugger was born! It’s one of my most effective streamer patterns. My number one fly for those big winter Rainbows. Go get ‘em!

The Rubber Bullet

Learn how to tie the Rubber Bullet. It’s a new version of my Bullet fly and it’ll catch you fish ‘off the top’ even in the colder months. Keep a few in your box for year round fishing…and catching!

The Deadly Caddis Larva

I found Ed Berg’s Caddis Larva on a packet of Nymph Head Beads from the Flymen Fishing Company.
It’s a fantastic little pattern. Tie it …try it…and catch a big one. I know you will!

The Supa-Dupa-Pupa!

Learn how to tie and how to fish my brand new ‘Supa-Dupa-Pupa’.
The ‘Low and Slow’ fish catcher!

The New Emerger ‘Bob’!

Learn how to tie and how to fish ‘BOB!’. ‘

BOB!’ features a foam post…a double hackle and a brand new body material from Veniard. Check it out.

The Bee-Bee-Gee-Bee – Bug Bond Glass Bug

Let me show you how to tie the fly that helped ‘The Dream Team’ win the 2013 River Test One Fly Competition. It’s the ‘B-B-G-B’. The Bug-Bond-Glass-Bug!

Mayfly Emerger – The Bullet Reborn

My Bullet has given me my best catches over the last three years, but in our last Mayfly season I tied an emerger version and it worked so well I thought I’d share it with you. When you fish it only put floatant on the Deer hair wing…not on the body. This should hang down in the surface film.

Vee-Wing Emerger

When you are next preparing a trout’s menu for windy conditions, I would highly recommend my Vee-Wing Emerger. It’s a mishmash of several ideas but designed for a specific purpose.

When I fished the River Itchen in 2010, the ‘go to’ fly was a size 16 yellow Klinkhamer. It was a terrific fish catcher in calm weather, but if the wind got up and the water became rough, the fly would often ‘drown’. So I came up with this pattern that I hoped would have the same appeal as a Klinkhamer but with a better survival rate.

I gave it a smooth thread body finished with Bug Bond that would quickly pierce the surface film, and added Deer hair wings to give it better flotation. I’m told these wings are not unlike those seen in Davy Wotton’s series of Hatching Caddis. I’m delighted to be in such illustrious company!

I Love Bug Bond

From the moment I tried Bug-Bond I knew it would revolutionise the the way I finished many of my dry flies and nymphs. Frankly it has been an absolute godsend and I use it on most of my fly designs. I have no commercial interest in the product, but I was so impressed with it that I made this short film for David Edwards and the Bug-Bond Team.

Mayflies & More DVD

In this DVD and booklet Chris has combined his knowledge of fly tying with his film production and presenting expertise to demonstrate the tying of flies that he has developed for fishing the rivers and still waters of southern England. Click here to read more…

My latest effort, words from Medlar Press


Having spent many years of his early career in TV and film, Chris is now better known for his fishing – as a fly fisher, a vintage tackle collector and a fly tyer. Many of his innovative patterns have been featured in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying magazine and on Sky Sports TV show Tight Lines.

In this DVD and booklet Chris has combined his knowledge of fly tying with his film production and presenting expertise to demonstrate the tying of flies that he has developed for fishing the rivers and still waters of southern England. The 70-minute DVD contains 10 films that demonstrate the tying of 10 flies. The accompanying 32-page, full colour booklet gives step by step details for tying the same flies, illustrated with extraordinarily detailed photographs.

‘Chris Sandford is a story-teller and knows how to appear before camera and vice without being boring . . . Critically, he is an accomplished fly-tyer . . . Recommended’ – Trout & Salmon


Mayflies & More DVD £19.80

Click Here to Buy


To see a sample of Mayflies & More – and find out what Geoffrey Palmer thinks of fly tying, watch the video below.

Chris Sandford’s ‘STUFF’ – My Video Magazine

When I appear at fly-fishing and vintage tackle shows, many of the questions I’m asked fall into distinct categories. So I’ve put together this little video magazine that will not only answer many of your queries, but also show you some of the materials, tips and tricks that I’m more than happy to recommend. Welcome to my ‘STUFF’! Click here to watch ‘Stuff’ Episodes 1-10 on video..

Episode 1

When I appear at fly-fishing and vintage tackle shows, many of the questions I’m asked fall into several, distinct categories. So, I’ve put together this ongoing video magazine that will not only answer many of your queries, but also show you some of the materials, tips and tricks that I’m more than happy to recommend. Welcome to my ‘STUFF’! In this first episode, I mess with materials, tempt you with an old tying tool, fashion a two-feather fly, view and review vices, and consider some curious collectables… Enjoy!

Episode 2

Welcome to episode two of my ‘Stuff’, and thankyou for all your kind words about episode one. This time I’ve been folding feathers, diddling with dubbing, plundering paintbrushes and valuing vices. There’s a ‘Buzzy Bug’, an ‘All Purpose Spinner’ and a DIY Feather Folder…Enjoy!


Episode 3

At last! …I hear you cry….. ‘STUFF’ 3! In this enthralling episode we tantalize you with a Taser Bug…Humour you with history…Tie the One Fly winner and reveal my vintage tackle! Enjoy!


Episode 4

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better…Stuff 4! In this four-part extravaganza we bring you ready-made wings and bodies plus a simple Sedge pattern. In the book section we recommend how to Catch’Em and collect ‘em and in the third part I advise on how to dress a Fish Skull! Finally, I’ll show you some old angling gadgets that are making record prices in the auction rooms. Enjoy!


Episode 5

Hello ‘Stuffers’! Here it is…new for 2014…’STUFF 5’! In this cocktail of delights, we start with our film of the British Fly Fair International.  I’ll then recommend some handy aids to fly tying and explain why I called my new fly ‘Bob’. Next I’ll describe how the ‘hair of the dog’ can help your fishing, and finally I’ll introduce you to my ‘Supa-Dupa-Pupa’!… Enjoy…


Episode 6

Hello again ‘Stuffers’… In a constant search to bring you items of superlative quality, this episode begins with that master of the vice and bobbin Ian McKenzie, tying his Parachute Emerger. Next I take you to the world of vintage tackle and introduce you to some early British lures that are making ridiculously high prices in the auction rooms.In part three I’ll recommend two books that I consider essential reading for any keen flytier. I’ll also show you a couple of new fly tying kits.Finally I’ll tie a new Mayfly Emerger pattern based on my signature fly ‘The Bullet’… Enjoy!


Episode 7

To celebrate the end of our second year of ‘Stuff’ we present a positive plethora of fly tying delights! First I will show you how to tie the ‘Rubber Bullet’. It’s a fly the fish were taking ‘off the top’ even on those cold autumn mornings! Then Ian McKenzie returns with a classic Richard Walker pattern and I demonstrate an American Caddis Larva that my cameraman continues to refer to as ‘a maggot’! Cheek! Finally we look at the UK’s most popular fly and make a bigger, bolder version to tempt those big winter Rainbows! Enjoy!


Episode 8

Welcome back Stuffers…here it is…all new Stuff 8 ! I say ‘all new’…what we’ve done is to ‘refresh’ the concept! The music and graphics have been updated and many other delights await your approval. For example, we have some clips from one of the UK’s top TV fishing shows, a magazine and book recommendation, and instructions on how to tie the deadly ‘Quick Tie’ Mayfly. Finally my references to the delights of ‘Beaver’ have caused quite a stir, so I’m proud to present a worldwide first…The Beaver Fly! Enjoy!


Episode 9

Welcome to ‘Stuff 9’! Yet another plethora of delights that begs the question…Where else can you learn to tie one of the trickiest Mayfly patterns on the planet or discover the secrets of the ‘Diving Daddy’? Where will you find the Carp fly that has accounted for nearly 200 Carp including thirty-seven 20lb fish and one at 30lb!? Also, have you got an old lure that could be worth more than £4,000? It’s all in ‘Stuff 9’, including clips from that great, but now sadly missed, TV show ‘Tight Lines’. Check it out!


Episode 10

Hello Stuffers! Brimming with Christmas cheer we bring you:

Episode 10, the final ‘Stuff’ ‘extravaganza!

Be stunned when you see my ‘Flash Bugger’ in action! Intrigue your sense of history with a fly pattern that’s over 200 years old! Watch me tie the fly that will get you out of trouble on a blank day. It’s my ‘Wyoming (West Sussex) Half Back’! Finally, damp with festive merriment, we suggest Christmas presents for the angler in your family.

Yes…it’s our Christmas Special and if you’re wondering if Santa makes an appearance…

You bet he does!

Well I hope you enjoyed the shows. Here are a few contacts for all my favourite ‘Stuff, but please always try your local fly-tying supplier first. If we don’t use ‘em, we’ll lose ‘em! (Check out their stockists) – Site currently under review. Please call 07788 427560 for any enquires.

Finally, if you live in the Surrey/Sussex area please be sure to visit Peter Cockwill at his shop at Albury Game Angling, The Street, Albury, Surrey GU5 9AG. Tel: 01483 205196. He has a vast selection of fly-fishing equipment and fly-tying materials and is always happy to advise customers and share his knowledge.

Carp Off The Top!

Learn how to tie my Square Cut Carp Fly and catch ’em off the top! Click here to read more…

C.S. at tying deskjpgIn the middle of April every year, fly-fishing friends of a certain persuasion are inclined to get a little over excited. Not only is the Mayfly almost with us, but those of us that embrace what is often referred to as, ‘the dark side’, dust off our 8 weight rods and reel lines, and prepare for a little early evening action. After diligent research and countless ‘phone calls, plans are formulated, the weather examined in every detail and finally, we are ready to spend £5 to £10 each and move boldly on to our chosen day ticket Carp lake!

Essentials for this expedition are not only a rod and line, as described, but also a large net. Then, there are two essential items rarely seen in a fly fishers possession. A small bucket of floating dog biscuits or trout pellets and a catapult!

Ah yes…to catch Carp off the top you must ‘chum ‘em up’!

We usually prepare a couple of likely feeding areas and concentrate our efforts on whichever receives interest. Consideration must be given to wind direction, the position of the setting sun and the proximity of static anglers who naturally get a little peeved if one is constantly casting a fly line across their baited area.

This paid dividends earlier this year when one of our local Carp fishers pointed out an area of the lake that had recently shown a great deal of surface activity. This information resulted in my landing a 22lb Grass Carp on my ‘Square Cut Carp Fly. A personal best!

Shot 2. 22lb Grass Carp

As I mentioned in my September 2014 article, I designed my ‘Square Cut Carp Fly’ at the request of local enthusiast Dave Ball. I made it of densely packed deer hair on a Drennan Super Specialist Barbel hook size 6, cut it square to mimic the ‘free offerings’ and built a sight post in the middle, so it could be seen at a distance. We are now at the end of May 2015. Since spring 2014, Dave has caught 190 Carp on this fly including thirty-seven 20lb fish and one at 30lb!

Jim! New Dave Ball Shot!JPG

Feedback on the article was most rewarding, but I have to admit I was not that happy with my shots of the fly, so I asked that fine photographer and absolute ‘Deer Hair Wizard’, Barry Ord Clarke, if he could help. I offered to send him an example but he said ‘Don’t worry…I’ve seen the article, I’ll knock one up and send you a picture’. This is what arrived in my inbox the next day.

Shot3.Barry OC Carp Fly

I was completely bowled over and once he explained how his tying of the fly varied from mine, I took a deep breath and asked him if he would mind photographing a step-by-step. This is the result.

Thank you Barry, it’s an absolute revelation!

Step 2  Step 1: Barry trims the foam booby cord to a point.




Step 2  Step 2: He then impales this on the hook and feeds it round on to the shank




Step3  Step 3: He uses a toothbrush to tease out the duff and soft fibers from the deer   hair

Step 4  Step 4: First he spins a couple of bunches of hair to the rear of the foam




Step 5  Step 5: Now he stacks the foam and deer hair with his finger and thumb




Step 6  Step 6: Another couple of bunches of deer hair are now spun and stacked in front




Step 7  Step 7: Barry now uses the same toothbrush to ‘comb’ the spun deer hair




Step 8  Step 8: Serrated scissors are essential for clipping deer hair to length




Step 9  Step 9: Here he has clipped the deer hair into a cube. Using the blades horizontally

Step 10  Step 10: …he cuts into the gape of the hook and trims the foam.




Step 11  Step 11: Now he uses a razor to tidy up the edges




Step 12  Step 12: The finished Square Cut Carp Fly




If you’re keen to try something a little different on the fly rod, please tie this fly, make some inquiries about your local Carp fishery and I guarantee, you’ll get your string well and truly pulled!







An edited version of this article was first published in Fly-fishing and Fly Tying Magazine




So You Want to Learn to Tie Flies?

So you want to learn to tie flies? Then I’ve got just the website for you. My chum Barry Ord Clarke has recently added to his already stunning website, a course of fly-tying lessons. Beautifully photographed and accompanied by clear and simple instruction, Barry takes the novice tyer through the rudiments of our great hobby. Click here to read more…

Barry & big char

So you want to learn to tie flies? Then I’ve got just the website for you. My chum Barry Ord Clarke has recently added to his already stunning website, a course of fly-tying lessons. Beautifully photographed and accompanied by clear and simple instruction, Barry takes the novice tyer through the rudiments of our great hobby.

Barry explains, “I’ve learned through holding many fly tying courses and through the magazine articles I’ve written over many years, that if tying techniques are not supported by clear instructions and illustrations, a beginner has little chance of succeeding. I’ve put together these classes in the hope that I can encourage a whole new generation of tyers and help established tyers who want to advance their skills.”

Barry’s idea is to keep the beginner engaged in not only traditional, but also new and exiting techniques with new patterns posted on a regular basis. If you wish to start tying flies, visit this great site and browse all the stages of the course at your leisure, and it’s free! Barry is also happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding tying techniques or materials and their uses.

Go to and look for Fly Tying Course….You’ll be glad you did!

The Allcock’s Aquatic Spider Fly Pattern

If I could only fish one type of fly it would have to represent any creature that shows a bit of leg! In fact the more legs the merrier! Daddies, water spiders, floating or sinking, anything with that enticing wiggle that Trout can’t resist. Fortunately angling history proves that my choice is a wise one. Click here to read more…

allcock1If I could only fish one type of fly it would have to represent any creature that shows a bit of leg! In fact the more legs the merrier! Daddies, water spiders, floating or sinking, anything with that enticing wiggle that Trout can’t resist. Fortunately angling history proves that my choice is a wise one.
In 1911 The Fishing Gazette ran this full-page advertisement featuring the ‘Allcocks Aquatic Spider.’

This floating fly soon achieved legendary status and sold in its thousands accounting for an equally staggering number of fish. Attractively packaged in its own tin and mounted on an instruction card, it was keenly priced at 1/3d, making it almost irresistible to the fly angler. Today they fetch anything from £60 to £100 depending on condition.

In October 2011 I made a film for the Sky Sports fishing show ‘Tight Lines’, where I managed to prove that this old stager is still a great fish catcher.
I didn’t use one of the original Aquatic spider flies as losing one or two would have been an expensive exercise! Instead I asked Stuart Bowden of Pendle Fly Dressing to tie me some exact replicas. He did a great job and the fish loved them!




Stuart Bowden’s Spiders




allcock3On advice on how to fish the Spider fly, I can do no better than to quote the instructions on the back its presentation card. The first two directions advise us on a gut cast and line treatment. On rivers we are instructed to cast upstream and simply let the insect float down and on lakes we should ‘…allow the spider to float quietly. Do not jerk it about’ ! Finally we are told ‘When it is taken, strike AT ONCE’! I followed these instructions to the letter and had rather a good day as you will see if you check out:


Since the show was aired I’ve had a great many enquiries asking how to tie the Aquatic Spider fly pattern, so here is my version with the step-by-step instructions. Let me know how you get on!

You will need:
Hook: Kamasan B830 or similar long shank.
Thread: Fine. I use Sheer in black.
Body: Veniard’s Booby Eye Foam. Black.
Body Covering: Peacock Herl.
Legs: Peacock Sword.

Step One.
allcock-step1Place a Kamasan 830 Size 12 (.or similar long shank hook) in the vice and run the thread down to opposite the barb. Now bring the thread two thirds of the way back up the hook and let it hang.
Take a section of 5mm black Booby-Eye foam and clip the front end to a blunt point. Measure the foam against the hook and trim it so its length is slightly shorter than the hook shank. Now trim the tail end of the foam to a gradual point. Take a pair of sharp pointed scissors and cut a shallow slit the length of the foam.

allcock-step2Step Two.
Spread a thin layer of Super Glue along the thread wraps and press the foam down onto the hook so it lodges in the slit. Be sure to leave a small space behind the eye. Wrap the thread around the foam forming the head and body. The body should be twice the length of the head. Whip finish over the wraps, snip the thread and reattach at the rear of the body securing the foam.

Step Three.
allcock-step3With the thread now at the rear of the body tie in 6-8 strands of Peacock Herl on top of the hook and the same below so that all the strands protrude both in front and behind the hook. Whip finish and reattach the thread behind the head.



Step Four
allcock-step4Grasp the herl strands that are facing forward and carefully tie them down behind the head making sure they are spread evenly around the body. Trim the waste. Now take the herls that are facing backwards and bring them forward to the same tie in point filling any gaps in the body. Tie down and trim the waste.


Step Five.
allcock-step5Tie in two pairs of Peacock Sword legs. One pair either side of the body facing backwards.





allcock-step5aStep Five (a)
When snipping pairs of sword herl from the feather it pays to leave them attached to the quill as this will help keep them in position when tying in. Trim the waste.



Step Six
allcock-step6Move the thread to behind the eye and tie in three strands of Peacock herl, move the thread back to behind the head. Twist or plait the herl to form a rope, coat the foam head with varnish and wind the rope back to behind the head. Tie down the herl and trim the waste. Tie in a pair of legs facing forwards either side of the head. Trim the waste; add a little varnish whip finish.



Step Seven.




The Scuba Diver Spider

My love of all flies ‘leggy’ continues and whilst surfing the Internet in the depths of winter 2010 I came across these extraordinary creatures. I’ve christened them, ‘Scuba Diver’ Spiders but their correct name is Argyroneta Aquatica. They’re also known as ‘Diving Bell’ spiders. Click here to read more…

My love of all flies ‘leggy’ continues and whilst surfing the Internet in the depths of winter 2010 I came across these extraordinary creatures. I’ve christened them, ‘Scuba Diver’ Spiders but their correct name is Argyroneta Aquatica. They’re also known as ‘Diving Bell’ spiders.


Gathering air from the surface, they have the ability to make an air bubble nest underwater, where they raise their offspring. They breathe by carrying a bubble of air on the fine hairs of their abdomen. This bubble gives the rear half of their body a silvery appearance. Found in freshwater lakes and ponds, they grow to 10-15mm long and live on Phantom Midge larvae, Mites and Mayfly nymphs. They in turn are eaten by frogs and, I’m delighted to say, fish!
If you are a male water spider you can look forward to a reasonably long life. This is because, unlike some other spiders, the female of your choice will not eat you after mating! What a comforting thought!

Check out the great footage of the ‘Scuba Diver’ Spider on

Here are the tying steps for my pattern; a few tips on how to fish it follow.

You will need:

Hook: Kamasan B160 Size 10.
Thread: Fine. I use black Sheer.
Head: Black glass bead. 3 or 4 mm.
Legs: Veniard Barred Rubber Legs. Brown or Olive.
Body: Peacock Black Ice Dub.
Air Sack: White Poly-Ball wrapped in stocking.

scuba-step1Step One:
Place a 3or4mm black glass bead on the hook and secure the hook in the vice. Leave the bead at the back of the hook and tie in two barred rubber legs facing forward, one either side of the eye. Trim the waste. Build enough thread behind the eye to hold the bead firmly when slid forward. Secure and clip the thread. Add a little Super Glue to the thread wraps and slide the bead forward into position.

scuba-step2Step Two
Restart the thread and wind it to the rear of the hook to above the barb. Tie in two more rubber legs, one either side of the hook shank, facing backwards. Add a little Peacock Black Ice Dub over the wraps. Directly over the dubbing, tie in a Poly ball wrapped in stocking and pointing backwards over the legs. Trim the stocking, dub over the wraps and dub forward halfway towards the bead.


scuba-step3Step Three:
Tie in another pair of legs either side of the hook shank and leave the thread hanging between them. Make a fine rope of dubbing and use this as you wrap forward to secure the legs in the required position.




Step Four:
Finish dubbing behind the bead and whip finish. Add a little glue to the wraps. Now carefully trim the legs. As a rough guide I suggest you leave the legs twice the length of the body.


Fishing the ‘Scuba Diver’ Spider.

The SDS spends very little time on the surface of the water so we want our fly to sink, but as slowly as possible. Make sure your SDS is wet before you test its sink rate. Once calculated, decide on your method of retrieve. There are three ways that I’ve found to be successful. Two fairly straightforward and one that might fall into the ‘radical’ category.

Method One
Let’s assume you know the approximate depth of the water and that the bed of your lake has a covering of weed where our spider is likely to be found. Simply cast out, count your fly down to the appropriate depth and retrieve your fly very slowly across the top of the weed.

Method Two
Cast out and count the fly down to where you feel it has reached the top of the weed then lift the rod slowly to bring the fly to the surface. Once it’s there, let it sink again. Repeat the process until you have brought it back to the bank. It’s a little like the ‘sink and draw’ technique you might use when coarse fishing for Pike with a dead bait. I’ve found the secret is to keep the rise and fall of the fly as slow as possible, and to use the longest leader with which you are most comfortable.

Method Three
First let me say I’ve nothing against using plastic strike indicators in rough fast flowing rivers, but I usually draw the line at tying bubble floats onto the back of my flies! However, a chum of mine who spends a lot of time fishing small reservoirs came up with this idea that he assures me ‘works like a dream’!

scuba-finish1First re-tie the fly but instead of representing the air bubble with a stocking covered Poly Ball, purchase some small, clear ‘Unibobbers’. Cut the small ring attachment in half and lash the remainder to the back of the hook and secure with some Super Glue.
Cover the wraps with Ice Dub and continue with Step 3.
Fish on a fast sinking line with a short leader as you would a Booby!
Retrieve slowly but every now and again give a sharp tug that should pull the fly down into the weed. Pause to let it float up again then continue the slow retrieve.

scuba-finish2Other possibilities for controlling the weight of the fly are an air bubble of Polypropylene yarn or a large silver glass bead wrapped in stocking material. Do we believe the trout look at the fly and think, “Jolly good, Argyroneta Aquatica…just what I fancied!” Or do we think that perhaps eight twitching legs simply wet their appetite? Either way, if you feel like ringing the changes on your local still water, you should definitely put a couple



Why Do They Bite the Bullet?

It’s a good question but no one seems to have the answer. It all started on the night of August 4th 2009 when I dreamt the fly! Sad as this may seem it turned out to be quite an auspicious moment. The evening before I’d been tying a few ‘Comparaduns’ …well actually they’re ‘Compara-Ducks’… More…


It’s a good question but no one seems to have the answer. It all started on the night of August 4th 2009 when I dreamt the fly! Sad as this may seem it turned out to be quite an auspicious moment. The evening before I’d been tying a few ‘Comparaduns’ …well actually they’re ‘Compara-Ducks’ because I tie the bodies with CDC instead of ordinary dubbing.

  The Compara-Duck


They are always part of my dry fly stock and have caught me some good fish, especially in fast water.Anyway…in this dream I considered keeping the CDC body but, instead of making a Comparadun fan shaped wing, I would tie the Deer hair down, up to the eye of the hook so the tips are projecting forward over the eye approximately the same length as the hook. Then make the body of CDC, then tie in a thorax of black Ice Dub, pull the hair over and tie it down behind the thorax to form a bullet shaped head.

I woke at about 2.30am thinking ‘That’s a good idea…bet I don’t remember it in the morning.’ But I did and at about 6am I tied my first ‘Bullet’. I searched all my books and spent time on the Internet trying to identify the pattern.

The First Bullet

I even emailed several experienced tiers and asked them if they had seen it before. The most constructive answer came from my esteemed editor Mark Bowler. He said that the pattern fell somewhere between Hans Weilenmann’s ‘CDC and Elk’ and Roman Moser’s ‘Balloon Caddis’. I was delighted that my inspiration appeared to come from such distinguished sources! The 5th of August was one of my syndicate days on the River Test and I’d invited my good friend Chris Patrick to join me. Chris has been fly-fishing for over 30 years and the only way to stop him catching more than you is to hide his rod! He caught the biggest Permit on the fly at the Palometa Club, Mexico in the 2007 season and is a regular rod on a beautiful stretch of the River Itchen where the Trout regularly throw themselves onto his flies with monotonous regularity.

We had a good morning on the river and just before lunch decided to have a passing cast on one of the two small lakes which nestle in the woodland nearby. They were full of weed and the trout had, what can only be described as, a rather jaundiced attitude towards anything attached to a fly line. After an hour of presenting almost everything in the box I tried the ‘Bullet’, cast to the middle of the lake and started a slow retrieve. A couple of casts later Chris suggested I just ‘leave it out there’. Not really concentrating I watched it wafting about in the breeze. When it came the take was spectacular!

The fish came out of the water like Polaris and provided all the usual clichés from ‘hooped rod’ to ‘heart stopping runs’. It weighed 5lb 3oz and kept a well-earned appointment at the local smokers later that afternoon. ‘The Bullet’ caught fish after fish for the rest of the day and I had to promise Chris that I would tie up a whole bunch of them for our next trip.

A few days later on different stretch of the Test we fished ‘The Bullet’ exclusively and caught 17 fish between us. I asked Chris to try it on the Itchen. He reported that fish came to the ‘Bullet’ all day including many specimen grayling.

 A Nice Test Rainbow

Flushed with success I visited my local syndicate lake that I don’t usually fish during the summer months. At least half of it was weed bound but ‘The Bullet’ caught 8 Rainbows in three hours!

My second ‘Bullet’ tester was my chum John McGill who has a PhD in Fresh Water Biology. I invited him for a day on the river and asked him what he thought ‘The Bullet’ represented to the trout. He looked it over with and without his glasses, examined it’s underside, squeezed it, smelt it and passed it back to me. He then gave me the full benefit of 7 years university education. ‘Food’ he said. We both fished it that day for a total of 10 fish including John’s personal best Brown Trout that weighted in at exactly 6lbs.

John McGill watching ‘The Bullet


When he’s not writing some award winning advertising campaign I’m fortunate enough to occasionally fish with Neil Patterson so I invited him to help put ‘The Bullet’ through its paces. The day did not start well. While Neil was making a cup of coffee he left his rod propped up against the hut and I thought I would examine his tippet in the hope that I might steal a few secrets. At first glance one is convinced that this arrangement of different strength nylon, definitely falls into the ‘buggers muddle’ category. I gave one section a pull to test the knot and it broke!

Neil “Tippet-Man” Patterson

While Neil retied it he explained the technical merits of this strange assembly of nylon. I won’t give any secrets away but suffice it to say it presented ‘The Bullet’ beautifully, quite often at great distances that I had never been able to reach. I forget how many trout we caught but Neil seemed impressed with the fly. If fact a few days later I got an email from him asking me to tie him a few more ‘Bullets’ as he’d put his ‘up a tree’!

I know all three ‘Bullet’ testers well. I also know that they’ll do anything for a half of bitter and a cheese and pickle sandwich. With this in mind, I asked them for their reaction to the success of this fly.

Chris Patrick:
“The Bullet” is indeed a fabulous fly but perhaps raises more questions than answers. Should it be fished with a shooting head? Is a gun license necessary? Will fish continue to bite the bullet? Have fun finding out………….

John Mc Gill:
I am always interested to see the reaction of the fish to different fly patterns. In my experience, there are a very few patterns which trout will take without the slightest hint of suspicion. Chris’ new pattern adds to that short list. Personally, I am intrigued as to what the fish were (mis)taking this pattern for? Could it be sedge, a hatching ‘something’ or even a wind-blown terrestrial? But then I think ‘who cares’? It works! All I can say is …Tie it and try it. You won’t be disappointed!

Neil Patterson:
“So effective, it takes the fun out of fishing.” I can only hope he managed to have ‘fun’ with the ones I sent him! Trying to calculate how many fish have bitten the ‘Bullet’ has not been easy but with Chris Patrick’s help we calculate that between 4th August and the 23rd September 2009 it hooked and landed in excess of 100 Trout and Grayling.

Here’s how to tie it along with a few of the variations that I’ve come up with since that dreamy night last August.

The Bullet… Tying Steps.
Hook. Fulling Mill. ‘All purpose’ light. Sizes 12-16.
Head/wing. Bleached Elk. Thorax. Black Ice Dub.
Body. CDC Black.

Step One.
Apply about 3mm of black thread to the hook. Cut, clean and stack a good pinch of bleached Elk hair. Now ‘pinch and loop’ the hair on top of the hook with the tips facing forward. The tips should protrude beyond the eye slightly more than the length of the hook. Before tying the waste ends down, trim them at an angle to achieve a nice tapered body.

Step Two
Tie in a black CDC feather by the tip at the back end of the hook. You can make a neat job of this by putting two loose wraps over the stalk end of the feather, pull it through away from the hook and tighten the thread at the tip. Move the thread back up the hook to about 3mm behind the eye.


Step Three

Wind the CDC feather forward to form a smooth body. As you approach the thread, hold the loose CDC fibres back, as you wind forward and tie off where the thread is hanging.



Step Four

Wind the thread forward to just behind the eye and then dub with a pinch of black Ice Dub. Wind the Ice Dub back until it meats the CDC securing it with a couple of tight wraps.



Step Five

Leaving the silk hanging in this position pull the Elk hair back over the body and tie it down behind the Ice Dub forming a neat head and thorax. Whip finish with the thread in this position and add Bug-Bond or varnish to the head of the fly and the wraps for durability.




Once you’ve tied a few ‘Bullets’ I’m sure you’ll want to try some alternative materials and hook sizes. Here are three of mine that have proved successful.

The ‘B100’ Bullet

The B100 Bullet is tied as per the original instructions but on a Kamasan B100. (Obviously!) I usually tie them in sizes 14 and 16, but for ‘Baby Bullets’ 18’s and 20’s seem to work well.


The ‘Buzzer’ Bullet is based on my favourite buzzer that I tie once again on a KamasanB 100 with a body of black and red silk. You’ll notice there is still an element of CDC in the fly. This can be tied in as an under wing or spun in, mixed with the Black Ice Dub for the thorax.

The ‘Buzzer’ Bullet



The ‘Leggy’ Bullet is tied in the original way but add two black (one knot) pheasant tail legs either side of the body before you dub the thorax.


The ‘Leggy’ Bullet



Fishing “The Bullet’.
Only apply floatant to the Elk hair. The CDC will dry with a quick squeeze and a couple of false casts. The fly performs best with a fairly slack line. I bet the first take makes you jump! Enjoy!


This article was first published in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine in September 2010


Sandford’s Daddy

A couple of years ago when I first designed this fly a famous fly angler commented “There’s no need for all that”. Meaning that there are simpler versions of the Daddy Long Legs. Of course there are! And many more complicated ones as well. My point is, I really enjoy tying this pattern… More…

A couple of years ago when I first designed this fly a famous fly angler commented “There’s no need for all that”. Meaning that there are simpler versions of the Daddy Long Legs. Of course there are! And many more complicated ones as well. My point is, I really enjoy tying this pattern and it has caught me lots of fish. Surely that’s what it’s all about?

To tie Sandford’s Daddy you will need:

Hook. Kamasan B 100 size 12 or similar.

Detached Body. Brown suede chenille.

Legs. Knotted pheasant tail.

Wings. Grizzle hackle tips.

Thorax cover. Black Micro Thin Foam.

Hackle. Ginger grizzle.


Step One.

Put the hook in the vice. Take a piece of the suede chenille about ¾ on an inch long. Singe one end with a flame and remove ¼ of an inch of the chenille from the other end exposing the core. Tie this in on top of the hook leaving just enough room for the thorax. Tie in the foam thorax cover where the chenille meets the hook.



Step Two.

Tie in the hackle against the thorax cover. Then moving forward towards the eye of the hook tie in the legs (3 each side) Then, moving forward again, tie in the two wings leaving a small gap behind the eye.




Step 3.

Carefully wind the hackle forward between the legs and the wings and tie off behind the eye. This will force the legs and then the wings forward giving the fly a more natural look.





Step 4.

Trim the top of the hackle, then pull the foam thorax cover forward and tie off behind the eye. (This will also help to keep the legs and wings firmly in position.) Remove the excess, whip finish and apply a little varnish.


Job done…Catch a big one!



To see me tie my Daddy check out my DVD Mayflies & More 


Winter Mayflies!

In the bleak ‘cabin-fever’ days of last winter I decided that sooner than go for another soaked to the skin Pike fishing day, I would tidy up the iPhoto file on my Apple Mac. I went back 18 months where my last tidy up had finished and gradually worked my way forward… More…

By Chris Sandford

In the bleak ‘cabin-fever’ days of last winter I decided that sooner than go for another soaked to the skin Pike fishing day, I would tidy up the iPhoto file on my Apple Mac. I went back 18 months where my last tidy up had finished and gradually worked my way forward. Did I really need to keep that shot of me holding yet another small Trout or the first course of a particularly good meal consumed during a long weekend in France? Gradually more and more pictures were dumped in the trash file. Then I found a shot of a fly that not only brightened the winter gloom, but also kept me at my tying vice through those long winter evenings. It also set me on the trail of a technique that I had never seen before, and was finally responsible for me catching my best fish of last season. The fly was ‘Ulf’s Killer’ and I had taken the shot at the 2010 Dutch Fly Fair.

Ulf Hagstrom is a much-respected Swedish tyer and I found him more than happy to share and demonstrate any of his fly designs. His ‘Killer’ fly has a hackle tied between the body and the hook, as opposed to around the hook or the post. Ulf explained he developed the idea from an article in FF&FT by Poul Jorgensen in 2001. Interestingly, Jorgensen gives credit for this method of hackle tying to Catskill tyer Harry Darbee who he also credits with the creation of the ‘Two Feather’ fly.

Darbee first used this ‘under-hackle’ technique when he designed his Crane Fly or Daddy Long Legs.

Darbee Crane Fly

Here are the 5 simple steps for creating that fly using just two feathers.

Step One:
Put a fine wire grub hook size 14 in the vice and wind the thread (I use Veniards brown ‘Sheer’) down the hook until it hangs level with the hook point. Tie in a Red Game hackle facing forward over the eye and 2-3mm back from it. This will allow space for 3 wraps of hackle. Leaving the thread in front of the hackle stem will prevent the thread slipping towards the bend as the body is formed.


Step Two:
To prepare a Mallard or Teal flank feather, stroke back the fibres so that you have roughly the same amount of fibres above and below the split, as in our picture.




Step Three:
Take two loose turns around the centre gap in the feather and pull it through to form the body. When satisfied with the detached body secure with further tight wraps of thread.




Step Four.
Snip out the stem of the feather. Part the remaining fibres equally and make figure of eight wraps to create the wings.





Step Five:
Make three turns of hackle, secure and whip finish at the eye. Darbee left his wings long but clip them at an angle if you prefer them to be more in proportion with the tail.





So, to pass those winter evenings, I tied up a few Crane Flies and then moved on to ‘Ulf’s Killer’. I must have tied at least fifty; I even submitted two in our local FDG tying competition. Did I win? Modesty forbids!

When the season began on our local chalk streams, I was ready with a box full of ‘Killers’ although I’d given the fly a split wing instead of copying Ulf’s ultra thin ‘blade’ wing, as I felt this would give a better profile and help floatation. I also added a small bead of Bug Bond to the underside to secure the hackle and to ensure the fly floated at just the right angle.

My Under Hackle Mayfly

On May 11th at precisely 11o’clock, the May Fly began! One moment the water was calm, interrupted occasionally by a languid rise, the next, the water was ‘dancing’. I was totally spellbound. Beautiful Brown Trout of 3 to 4lbs propelled themselves into the air to catch their prize, or rolled on the surface mopping up those that were spent and trapped in the film. A voice from across the river brought me back to reality. “…You bothering today then?” It was our keeper. “Told you they’d be on…seen the big one? He pointed to a sandy area in the middle of the river and, as if on cue, an enormous fish rose and slurped down three May Flies that were clustered together. Somehow I managed to cast in its general direction but I was short. The second cast was good. The fish rose and turned away with what I can only describe as utter disdain! In the next half hour he must have eaten at least a dozen naturals, but continued to ignore my offering finally sinking to the river bed and for all the world, looking as if he’d nodded off!

It must have been about 4.30 when the rise once again intensified. I had caught half a dozen good fish that day but I thought I’d have a couple more casts at the monster but he’d gone! His sandy bed was deserted. I was about to leave when something like a small submarine broke surface twenty yards ahead. I crept up river and cast but he ignored my offering and took the real thing that fluttered enticingly in his path. I spent at least 15 minutes casting so that my fly preceded, followed, or joined, a small groups of flies as they floated downstream.

Finally I waited until there was a lull in the proceedings and cast a few feet ahead of him. He rose and, in mid swirl, ate and dived out of site. I honestly don’t remember much of the ensuing battle.

9.5lb River Test Brown Trout

I recall I ran a long way upstream and an equal distance back down again and eventually, just when I thought I had him, his huge bulk slipped out of the net. After a moment or two I got him back into the net and onto the bank. My net has never been quite the same nor my pulse quite so high. He weighed 9.5lbs and was without doubt, the most rewarding fish that I have ever caught on an English chalk stream.

There is no doubt that Ulf’s ‘Killer’ is a great fly but it does have one drawback, in rough water it is inclined to sink. So I decided to tie a version with a closed cell foam body. I was quite pleased with it until I showed it to my good friend Ian McKenzie. Before retiring from Fulling Mill he was instrumental in working out economical ways for the Fulling tyers to tie the company’s range of Oliver Edwards patterns. Ian’s method of tying the body and tail is the reverse of my attempt and frankly, balances the fly perfectly.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for the Darbee-Jorgensen-Hagstrom- McKenzie-Sandford-Under Hackle Mayfly! Don’t let the winter months get you down. By the time you’ve tied a few dozen of these for your friends, the Mayfly will be with us!

Step One:
Place a needle in the vice and be extra careful! Cut a strip of cream closed cell foam about 2-3mm wide and 10cm long. (From a large sheet. Hobby Craft 60p!) Find the centre point and push it onto the needle about 25cm back from the point. In open spiral turns tie in 3 paintbrush bristles for the tail returning the thread to the foam.
The tails should approximately the same length as the body.


Step Two:
Grip the foam either side of the needle and bring the thread over in a loose wrap in preparation to make the head of the fly. When happy with the size make two firm wraps and then pass the thread between the foam, toward the point. Now make a small bed 2mm wide for where the wing will be tied in and once again pass the thread between the foam toward the point. Wrap the thread forward towards the point then bring it once over the foam to make the first section of the body. When satisfied with the size of the section add 2-3 further wraps of thread. This will be the largest section. Repeat for each section after this making them a little smaller than the one before. Continue until you have tied 6 graduating sections in all and whip finish. Clip the thread.

Step Three:
Carefully cut away any excess foam and wipe a little varnish into the turns of thread above and below each segmentation. Take a brown or black marker pen and colour in the head and mark each side and underside of the body.
Slide the body off the needle and REMOVE THE NEEDLE!

Split the tails and fix in position with a little Bug Bond or varnish.


Step Four:
Place a Tiemco 2487 size 12, or any equivalent grub hook, in the vice. Tie in a good quality cock hackle along the side of the hook shank protruding over the eye. The hackle will be wound anti-clockwise so remove 4-5mm of fibres from the inner side of the hackle stem. Now tie on the body at the wing tie in point. This should be a little back from the eye, so the head protrudes slightly over the eye.

Step Five:
Tie in a Polypropylene wing with figure of eight wraps plus two wraps around the base of the wings to stand them up. Move the thread to behind the eye. Wind the hackle for three turns between the body and the hook shank and tie off behind the eye. Whip finish. Put a small ‘blob’ of Bug Bond or varnish on the wraps under the body. This will secure the hackle and help to balance the fly.


Trout don’t really know they’re hungry ‘til they’ve seen one of these. Tight lines!

This article first appeared in Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Magazine January 2012