Davie McPhail demonstrates how to tie Frank Sawyer’s Killer Bug in this fly tying video tutorial.
Frank Sawyer originally developed the Killer Bug (in the 1930’s) to eradicate grayling from the river Avon where he worked as the river keeper. Reportedly, the Killer Bug, which was tied to imitate a scud, was more effective than even netting or electro-fishing – hence the name Killer Bug. Now that’s a ringing endorsement if I ever heard one!
Hook: Kamasan B170, size 12
Thread: Fine Copper Wire
Body: Chadwick’s 477 Wool Yarn
Ok, so that’s a pretty simple material list, right? The catch is that Chadwick’s 477 hasn’t been manufactured in over 40 years and is damn near impossible to find, save the occasional card that shows up on eBay now and again and usually goes for over a $100 bucks. Ouch!
Veniard’s does sell a Killer Bug Yarn substitute, but some say it lacks the color changing property that Frank Sawyer claimed made Chadwick’s 477 so effective. See, the original Chadwick’s 477 completely changed colour when wet from a greyish brown to a pinkish tan due to red fibers present in the wool, which presumably better matched the scuds he was imitating. All is not lost though, there are other options.
In particular some folks have reported good success with Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift Yarn in either Sand or Oyster which does contain those magical red fibers and changes color when wet. Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift is available in many stores that carry knitting supplies and online.
While the Killer Bug was intended to imitate a scud it bears a striking resemblance to a crane fly larva or visa-versa I suppose. Given the ubiquitous distribution of crane flies throughout the world and that they are a favored food source of trout, particularly in the winter, I wonder if the Killer Bug is actually a better crane fly larva imitation than it is a scud imitation. Either way, the Killer Bug works!
Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and is on a quest to map the best places for fly fishing in America. He created DIY Fly Fishing and the DIY Fly Fishing App to share this information and help you find new places to fish. Have a question? You can get in touch with Ken here.
[Video] How to Dye CDC Feathers
[Video] Davie McPhail’s Caddis Pupa Emerger
[Video] How to Make Knotted Pheasant Tail Legs
[Video] Tying the Transformer Midge (Dry Fly) by Davie McPhail
Tying Flies with Davie McPhail Small Emerger Caddis
Tying a Mink Tailed Damsel Nymph by Davie McPhail
[Video] Davie McPhail Grouse & Gold River Wet Fly
[Video] Davy Wotton Cinnamon & Brown Emerger Caddis (Variant)