Beginner's fly tying: Davie McPhail's Sugarlump Emerger

Looking for an emerger fly pattern? Try Davie McPhail's classic Sugarlump Emerger, perfect for when the trout are feeding at the water's surface.

Picture copyright © Davie McPhail
Estimated reading time 2 - 3 minutes

An alternative to the popular CDC emerger, the Sugarlump avoids some of its flaws. Emerger fly patterns aim to imitate pupae as they hatch and emerge from the water's surface and rely on a buoyant wing bud to hold the fly in place in the meniscus.

Wings fashioned from CDC feathers are a common choice as the CDC traps air in its fibres making the feathers very efficient at keeping the fly suspended. However, with time they can get slimed up by the trout and waterlogged and so their buoyancy is compromised.

Instead, Davie McPhail's Sugarlump uses a foam post attached in the wing bud position. Aside from the fact that it won't get waterlogged like feathers, and is a more durable material, the white foam cube is highly visible to the angler, and acts as a useful sight aid as this fly is designed to sit low in the water surface and so would be difficult to see.

This makes it a good fly for the beginner to fly fishing to use, and also means you don't have to resort to using an indicator. Under the water, the contrasting black and white ribbing create a midge-like impression with the squirrel dubbing implying emerging legs.

These are excellent flies to use when dry flies on the surface are being ignored and the fish are taking the insects hanging in the water's surface film. Refraction means the foam post will not be visible to the trout and so spook them, but Davie recommends that on calm days, with particularly flat water, you might want to reduce the length of the foam.

Davie also recommends playing with the positioning of the cube as this will influence how the fly sits in the water. A good tip is to tie up a practice one and see how it floats in a glass of water to get the positioning spot on.

This is quite a straightforward fly to tie and Davie gives some good advice on tapering the foam before attaching it. The foam is attached in a parachute style, a good technique to master as it is often used for emerger patterns.


Hook: B160 size 14
Thread: White UTC 70
Rib: Black sharpie pen to colour white thread to create rib
Wing: White eva foam
Hackle: Natural squirrel dubbing

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