This week’s post presents Serendipity fly variations, including my favorite, the $3 Dip. If you are a regular here at RiverKeeper Flies, you have seen pictures of the $3 Dip as well as a few pics of the fly in a fish or two. 

Winter Rainbow with $3 Dip |

Last week at our fly club’s Winter Fly Tying class, one of the flies my friend Pete Martin taught was the $3 Dip. Part of his presentation included the many Serendipity fly variations that can be tied. He tied most of them and has allowed me to include them on my RiverKeeper Flies website.

It reminded me of a previous post entitled Serendipity and $3 Dip. That post has been very popular. It was even included in the Orvis News “How to tie the $3 Dip” featuring Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions.

Here is an excerpt from the Serendipity and $3 Dip post:


The original Serendipity was developed by Ross A. Merigold, a famous guide from California who loved and fished the Madison River in Montana. In fact, there is a bronze plaque on a boulder just above Raynold’s Pass Bridge identifying the Ross Merigold Hole.

Ross Merigold Sign on Madison River at Reynolds Pass Bridge |

Ross was the inventor of the RAM Caddis, which imitates a caddis pupa or caddis larva. Word has it someone tried tying the RAM Caddis, didn’t have all the materials and substituted deer hair.

RAM Caddis

RAM Caddis |

Craig Mathews from Blue Ribbon Flies in West Yellowstone, MT describes and ties an original Serendipity in the following video.

I first ran across the original Serendipity in Randall Kaufmann’s Tying Nymphs. I tied many flies from that book in the 1990’s. I’m sure I fished the fly, but don’t recall if I caught fish. Here is one of those flies I tied back then.


Serendipity |

What does it imitate?

It depends. Gotta love that answer!

Most of the time, a fly pattern is developed to imitate a specific insect or stage of insect.

Other times, a fly pattern seems to cover a wide spectrum of insects. It appears the Serendipity falls into this category.

The original Serendipity was tied with brown Zelon, twisted into a rope and wound forward. As Craig said in the video, fish may think it’s a caddis, mayfly nymph, or midge. That narrows it down, doesn’t it?

In Craig’s book Fly Patterns of Yellowstone, Volume Two, he provides a history of the Serendipity and the variations his guides tied. He credits Nick Nicklas, a well known Blue Ribbon Flies guide, as tying it with brown thread to create a slimmer profile.

The profile of a $3 Dip is so slim and the color is similar to a Pheasant Tail Nymph, the fly I’d normally use for a mayfly nymph. The thread body of the $3 Dip forces the fly tyer to create a slim profile. I believe that’s the key to it’s fishing success.

To find out how I fish the $3 Dip, go to the Serendipity and $3 Dip post.

Now back to Pete’s flies.

Here are the Serendipity variations he tied:

Serendipity with Original Zelon – dark brown
Serendipity - Original Brown |
Guides Serendipity – green Zelon
Guides Serendipity - Green Zelon |
Olive Serendipity with 6/0 Danville thread
Serendipity - Olive Danville Thread |
Crystal Dip
Crystal Dip |
Tenkara Wired Dip
Tenkara Wired Dip |
Zebra Dip
Zebra Dip |
Red Dip
Red Dip |
6X Emerger
6X Emerger |
Shop Vac

Shop Vac |
Purple Serendipity
Serendipity - Purple |

I’ll update the $3 Dip fly pattern sheet to include many of the variation listed above in the near future.

And thanks to Pete, I didn’t have to tie them!

Enjoy…go fish!

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