I finished a few small flies for two different customers recently. I’m always amazed how the stars seem to align. Turns out, both orders included some very small flies. I remember several years ago stating “if I need any flies size 20 or smaller, I’ll buy them!” Well, I’m having to eat those words right now.

One order included the Improved F Fly in size 24. The image below contrasts sizes 24 vs.16. Puts the small flies in perspective, doesn’t it?

And another image of a size 24 fly from three years ago.

Improved F Fly - #24 | www.johnkreft.com

My recent journey with small flies began with one of my favorite flies, the Improved Sparkle Dun. I tied PMDs in 16, 18, and 20’s and BWO in sizes 18 and 20. These are 20’s.

Improved Sparkle Dun PMD Size 20 | www.johnkreft.com

From there, I moved to the Black Wing Baetis Cripple in sizes 18, 20, and 22. Here are the 22’s.

Black Wing Baetis Cripple Size 22 | www.johnkreft.com

The flies above imitate Baetis mayflies, otherwise known as Blue Wing Olives. Or they might imitate midges. It’s a lot of material to place on a small hook. Regardless, a size 22 will just look like a speck on the water!

How about a few size 22 Almost There Baetis? At least that’s what the hook package states.

Almost There Baetis Size 22 | www.johnkreft.com

Compare these two flies below. A size 22 In-The-Film CDC Midge Emerger (Daiichi 1110) on the left vs. a size 22 Almost There Baetis (Daiichi 1140) on the right.

In-The Film #22 vs Almost There Baetis #22 | www.johnkreft.com

Comparing a #24 Improved F Fly vs. #22 Almost There Baetis vs. #22 In-The-Film CDC Midge Emerger.

Sure, the 1140 is a shorter hook shank. But look at the difference in the hook. These differences drive me crazy. Even using the same hook manufacturer.

Size 20 - 24 - 22 Flies | www.johnkreft.com

Remember those size 24 Improved F Flies?

Improved F Fly #24 | www.johnkreft.com

I’ve written a couple of posts about small flies, including Small Flies where I highlighted a few size 24 midge fly patterns and Tying Small Flies where these tips are from:

  • Select hooks with oversized eyes like the Daiichi hook model 1100 and 1110 to allow easier threading of tippet. These are great sharp wide-gape hooks I try to use when tying small flies.
  • Use fine diameter thread. There are so many choices now. I use 8/0 or 70 denier thread for most of my fly tying, but select a 14/0 or 16/0 thread and you will be amazed at how many wraps can be applied to a small hook with very little bulk. But try to minimize the thread wraps anyway because you don’t need the extra ones.
  • Many bodies on small flies use thread which is normally about 60% of the total fly. It’s much simpler to create a thread body than trying to dub it.
  • One or two wraps of hackle is all you need for these tiny flies.
  • Use a little flash either with a bead or a short wing. It gets the fishes attention and emulates some aspects of the real bug swimming to the surface to hatch.
  • Start with a larger fly like a size 16, then move to an 18 and 20 after mastering the proportions. You’ll be surprised how this technique helps tying smaller flies.

The last tip is something I really believe. Follow it and you’ll be amazed how it will improve tying small flies.

These “large” flies are size 18 Light Hendrickson’s. I smiled when I noticed these on the order. I’ve never tied this style of wings that small. I was pleased they turned out so well.

#18 Light Hendrickson | www.johnkreft.com

In fact, after tying size 24 flies, I looked at the hook package three times to make sure I was using size 18’s. I thought they were 16’s!

Now you can understand why I am looking forward to fishing size 12 and 14 March Brown mayflies!

Lastly, here is a link to another fly tying video from my RiverKeeper flies YouTube channel I just published:

Be sure to subscribe to my channel and you’ll receive a notification when the next video is published.

Enjoy…go fish, stay safe!

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  1. Great post about small patterns. The consistency shown in your batches of the same pattern is very impressive.

  2. Hi John,
    I hope you two had (are having) a great trip. I see where the fellow on who sent the picture of the fly to us got his inspiration – the Clark’s Lady Stone. Good job on the video and on the small fly’s post. Take care & ….
    Tight Lines – (Gretchen &) Al Beatty

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