Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Upside Down on K3A

The tying of upside down flies (USD) indictates another evolving step for me when it comes to dry fly designs. Yes, I move slowly! So what about USDs and their history? For those that are interested, this is what I gathered from the library. It is unintentionally brief. In the 1970s, Brian Clarke and John Goddard of the UK introduced a series of upside down patterns to deal with selective trout, and called it the USD series. I am unsure how sucecssful these flies were or how popular they remain today. Andrew Herd - the fly fishing historian holds the opinion USD flies did not catch on - partly because they are difficult to tie and partly because few trout are that selective. In 1972, Joe Brooks in the US introduced the Keel fly. Yet, a very similar design was pictured by J H Keen before 1886 (Proper, 1982. p.102). Then, Neil Petterson of the UK invented the Funnel Dun - detailed in his book Chalkstream Chronicile. In 1979, Partridge first made the K3A hook. These hooks were designed in Sweden by Nils Eriksson and Gunnar Johnson who were well known Swedish fly tyers. This helps the fly land upside down or point up out of the water - and less visible to the fish and with the abdomen usally touching the water's surface like the natural. Gary Lafontaine in his "Caddis Flies" recommended them for a number of Sedge dry fly imitations. In fact he has 15 dancing caddis dressings for the K3A.  He writes "an imitation of the USD hook could be effective for all types of adult caddisflies, the fly not only resting on the wing edges and body, but also skating on them. without the hook to interfere, one fly could simulate their important characteristics whether drifting drag free or moving" (page 24).  However, in later times, he revised the pattern to be tied on a standard dry fly hook. He called it the Simplified Dancing Caddis.
               In David Klausmeyer's book 'Unnaturals - a practical guide to tying with synthetics', a nice step-to-step guide is provided for tying a green drake on the K3A - which to my eyes, 'looked the business', as they say! So eager to replicate this beauty, and to know how they fish, I started hunting for these patridge K3A hooks, and hunting I did. As implied, these are not so easy to purchase in the UK. Well, not amongst the big mail order retailers anyhow. I could not see them. I suspect they may be discontinued by Partridge. I eventually found them with 'Taimen', the Polish on-line retailer.
               As you can see these are a big hook, about 2x long shank and disaportionate to the gape. This surprised me.  Thus, if you need a size 14, then an 18 K3A is appropriate. As I acquired mostly Size 12 and 14s, I decided to tie some mayfly imitations and largely worked from Oliver Edwards mayfly dressing on the K3A. The hook's unqiue shape is suitable for mayfly duns. The original dressing of Edwards Mayfly as detailed in John Robert's 'A Guide to River Trout Flies' (page 177) is: Hook: K3A, Tail: four strong moose mae or deer hair, body: equally mixed ivory seals fur and fine ivroy poly dubbing over silver lurex, rib: light brown rayon or nylon floss in two broad bands at the rear, wing: silver mallard breast or flank feather dyed pale yellow or lemon wood duck. Hackles: mixed pale blue dun and a pale lemon yellow dyed grizzle and thorax: ivory and light brown poly dubbing. 

A collection of Upside Down Mayfly Duns  on Partridge K3A hooks

Tying instructions:
1. Tie the silk up the shank of the hook to the eye
2. Tie in three/four pheasant tail fibres.
3. Tie in the silk rib.
4. Tightly dub the body up the end of the straight shank
5. Rib the body to the end of the straight shank.
6. Turn the hook upside down
7. Tie the hackle to the hook at the bottom of the bend in the shank
8. Dub the fur from the base of the hackle to form the thorax of the fly
9. Tie in the wing on the edge of the elevated curved side
10. Wind the hackle up to the wing which moves along the elevated curved side. 
11. Add further dubbing in the frontal region at the hook eye for a thorax.
12. Wipe finish

Note - in some patterns I have give one or two turns on the other side of the wing. Although you will commonly see this in other sources, this may be wrong, preventing the fly from sitting correctly on the water.

Edward's Mayfly (variation 1)
Hook: Patridge K3A, Size 10
Tail: Black Pheasant tail
Body: cream flyrite dubbing
Rib: Brown silk or floss (banded near the tail)
Hackle: Olive dyed grizzly cock
Frontal dubbing:  cream and brown dubbing mixed
Wing: Light green-olive mallard flank

Edwards Mayfly (Variation 2)
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Body: Cream poly dubbing mixed with a small pinch of olie dubbing
Rib: Brown thread
Hackle: Grizzle dyed yellow-olive
Wing: Light yellow-olive mallard flank
Thorax: cream and brown flyrite poly dubbing 

Edwards Mayfly (Variation 3)
Tail: Pheasant tail
Body: creamish poly yarn
Rib: Black tying thread doubled
Wing: Four CDC feathers
Hackle: dyed grizzle olive
Thorax: rusty olive flyrite poly dubbing

Edwards Mayfly (variation 4)
Tail: Pheasant tail fibres
Rib: Black thread
Body: cream poly dubbing
Wing: olive poly yarn looped
Hackle: light blue dun cock

Green Drake
Tail: olive dyed pheasant tail
Body: light/emerald green poly yarn
Rib: Black floss of thread
Wing: Green olive mallard flank
Hackle: olive grizzle cock
Thorax: olive and brown poly dubbing mixed

It appears flies on these hooks have not got a great reputation for catch rates and hook hold. I need to find out for myself. You can possibly compound the problem in the dressing. For some of the flies above, the wing is probably too close to the barb of the hook. You either ensure the wing is tied within the gape or place the wing upright near the frontal region of the hook eye. USD dries are commonly tied on standard dry fly hooks and some tiers use the Timeco TMC200 and TMC 400 for uspside down mayfly imitations. Anyway, 'food for thought', maybe! P.S. Roy Christie has an insightful article on upside down flies in 'sexy loops': Additionally, there is an useful discussion thread about Patridge K3A in this UK fly dressing forum link:


  1. I've been tying a lot of hook-up streamers lately, and will have to try these mayflies as well! Great post!

  2. Erin, thank you. Can you tell me what are hook-up streamers?

  3. Essentially, just like these mayflies where the hook rides through the water facing up, but with a streamer/minnow pattern. I am actually going to post some pictures of some I've been tying tonight!

  4. Ah, right. Interesting. I have never seen anything but sedges and mayflies on USDs. And I suppose floating fry patterns are another use for them. Looking forward to seeing your flies.

  5. Awesome patterns!! How have I never found this blog! I will be trying some of these drakes! You my friend have a new follower

  6. Thanks a lot for the kind comments and for following the site. And I hope the patterns catch you some fish!!

  7. Hey Martin, I did a blog shout out for you on my blog. Check it out at

  8. Wow! Dustin, thanks a lot for this. What a generous and kind act of yours. And that aside, such as a great idea to have a 'blog shout' on your blog. All the best and thanks again, Martin.