March 02, 2021
By Charlie Craven
I have often said that one of the main reasons fly tying is so compelling is because it’s also so endless. No matter how long you tie or how wide the variety of your skill set, there is always something new to learn and play with.
Emerger patterns by themselves could easily occupy an entire tying career with all their complexities and varieties.
I am often asked to explain just what exactly an emerger is, and the answer is almost always long-winded and more complicated than it needs to be. As evidenced by the glut of emerger patterns available these days, there are a lot of different ways of tying these things, and they can all be effective because an emerger pattern is always just a snapshot of what really ought to be a motion picture.
For our purposes as fly tiers and fly fishers, emergence is a process that takes place between the river bottom and the air throughout the entire water column, with the insect actually changing shape, profile, and often color, as it nears the end of its transformation.
As a mayfly or caddis “emerges” or transitions from its nymphal form (a nymph) to its sub-adult form (the dun) it travels from the stream bottom to the surface. Along this trajectory, it starts to shed its nymphal husk and emerge as the adult form of the insect.
There are many pitfalls that can occur along this path, and many insects become trapped in the surface film, or even in their own shucks. They frequently don’t emerge completely, and sometimes end up near or on top of the surface with a wing or abdomen trapped in the shuck.
They flip-flop endlessly trying to free themselves, and sometimes may even cause themselves to sink back down below the surface, making a bit of a rewind factor come into play.
Technically, these trapped and/or broken versions can also be referred to as cripples (how we still get away with using that term these days is beyond me), although cripples are just one specific type of emerger.
Imagine videotaping this entire process, from the nymph leaving the stream bottom to the full-blown adult version potentially flying off the surface . . . every frame of this film would show some stage of the emergence, something that trout come into contact with every day and is recognizable to them. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have so many different yet effective emerger patterns to choose from. Ah yes, the wonders of nature and the endless opportunities it provides for both the trout and fly tiers!
My Juju Emerger is something I’ve been working on for some time now, and is meant as a generic mayfly emerger. It borrows heavily from my Jujubaetis nymph pattern, as well as the popular RS2 emerger.
Altering the colors and sizes makes it an effective representation of a host of different mayfly families, from Baetis to Pale Morning Duns, Sulphurs, and even Green Drakes.
I most often fish this pattern on a conventional nymph rig with split-shot or putty in riffles and runs where fish stack up to pick off emerging insects on their “trip of a lifetime.” But have also fished it right in the surface at the end of a long leader, either solo or behind a slightly more visible dry fly like a Vis-A-Dun or Parachute Adams.
The Juju Emerger floats fairly well due to its buoyant CDC wing, and the split tails add surface area to keep the fly on the surface—if that’s where you want it.
The shiny Fluoro Fiber in the wing adds visibility to the flush-floating pattern, so this little emerger is not as difficult to see as you might think.
This fly imitates just one frame of the “emergence movie” and the possible variations are endless. Longer or shorter wings, curved-shank hooks, alternate thorax and abdomen colors, and changing the fishing depths, all open up a whole world of options, making the fly both more interesting to tie and more fun to fish—exactly why I love this game!
Craven’s Juju Emerger Recipe, Olive
- HOOK: #18-22 Tiemco 101.
- THREAD: Olive 16/0 Tiemco or 14/0 Veevus.
- TAILS: Brown Microfibetts, split.
- ABDOMEN: Olive and brown Super Hair.
- THORAX: Olive-brown Superfine dubbing.
- LEGS: Mottled brown India hen saddle fibers.
- WING: Natural gray CDC.
- TOPPING: White Fluoro Fibers.
- HEAD: Olive-brown Superfine dubbing.
Juju Emerger Tying Steps
1. Begin by dressing the shank with a layer of thread from about a third of the way back from the hook eye all the way to the bend. Mount two shank-length-long tailing fibers at the bend of the hook and split them with a figure-eight of thread.
2. Return the thread to the starting point and tie in two strands of olive and one strand of brown Super Hair. Wrap over the Super Hair strands back to about two strand widths from the tail. If you wrap all the way back to the base, the first wrap of Super Hair will disrupt the tails, so leave yourself some clearance.
3. Return the thread to the starting point, building a slightly tapered underbody as you go. Begin wrapping all three strands of Super Hair as one unit at the bend of the hook so the wraps line up neatly to create the segmented abdomen. Hold the Super Hair strands close to the hook as you wrap them to keep them from spreading apart.
4. Wrap the Super Hair strands all the way up to the starting point and tie them off. Clip the excess. Build a small ball of Superfine dubbing on the front edge of the abdomen to form the thorax.
5. Tie in a small clump of mottled brown India hen saddle fibers on each side of the thorax. The tips of these fibers should reach to just short of the hook point. Anchor them in place along the sides of the thorax and trim the excess.
6. Tie in a small clump of natural CDC fibers on the top of the shank at the front of the thorax. Trim the clump so it is about a third to half a shank length long. Trim the butt ends flush.
7. Place three long strands of white Fluoro Fiber along the far side of the shank in front of the wing and capture them at the center of their length with a few wraps of thread.
8. Pull the butt ends of the Fluoro Fiber back in a U-turn along the near side of the shank, and anchor those fibers in position as well. You should have three strands on each side. Trim the Fluoro Fibers slightly longer than the CDC. To finish the fly (see recipe photo), dub a small head to complete the thorax. Whip-finish and clip the thread.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie’s Fly Box in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie’s Fly Box (Stackpole Books, 2011).