Fly Fishers' Republic


January 19, 2007

by Raif Killips




Gordon Frazer’s original Booby Nymph dates from the early 1980s and has its roots in the patterns of US fly tiers Charles Brookes, Doug Swisher, Carl Richards; and UK fly tiers John Goddard, Bryan Clarke, and Neil Patterson. Regardless of similarities with earlier patterns, Gordon Frazer’s design was pivotal in the establishment of a whole new genre of patterns collectively know as Boobies, and key to the establishment of a new way of fishing. His original aim was to use buoyancy built into the fly to suspend it at a fixed depth below the surface close to the benthic layer and in the feeding zone of fish looking down rather than up for their next meal. Subsequent anglers have developed Frazer’s patterns and extended his methods of presentation – I’ll touch on those later.

Gordon Frazer’s Booby Nymph was an impressionistic nymph pattern having a dubbed fur body and two polystyrene balls secured behind the hook’s eye fine nylon mesh from a pair of women’s stockings. His patterns represented dragonfly larvae, damselfly larvae, alderfly larvae, baitfish, and other food items. Frazer developed the Booby Nymph while bank fishing his favourite venue, Eyebrook Reservoir, in Leicestershire, UK, where he presented the fly on a sinking line. His pattern and method of presentation had several advantages.

Presenting a buoyant pattern on a sinking line meant he could retrieve the fly at almost any rate. Using anything from a super slow figure-of-eight, all the way through to a fast strip retrieve, he rarely snagged up, and was able to accurately represent everything from the slow moving alderfly larva, to fast moving baitfish. Adjusting leader length and pattern buoyancy gave extra control of fishing depth. Over all this method made it easy to target fish feeding in the bottom few feet of the water column. Fishing the Booby Nymph this way also meant that in windy conditions the presentation was unhindered by surface drift and excessive wave action; while in calm conditions when fish are easily spooked, the sunken line avoided presenting a dark silhouette overhead.

As I indicated earlier, in keeping with tradition, anglers the world over have taken Gordon Frazer’s original ideas and extended them. We now have Booby versions of the Viva, Woolly Bugger, Cats Whisker, Fritz, and Minkie to name a few, and the often successful fishing technique, the washing-line.


Both the original Booby Nymph and the modern Boobies are good for freshwater trout, carp, largemouth and smallmouth bass, perch, chub, migratory trout, and sea bass. No doubt plenty other species would fall for a Booby.


There are two ways to tie the eyes for a Booby. Either by the original method, using balls of foam and a patch of nylon mesh, or a more recent method using a plug of foam.

Fishing still water

One method is to fish the Booby on a fast sinking line and a short leader (as short as a couple of feet). This is the original technique, sometimes referred to as the ‘bottom-up’ method. The idea is to cast out and let the line sink to the bottom. The fly suspends directly up from the tip of the fly line. As you retrieve, the fly dips, and then rises with each pause. Fishing the original Booby Nymph this way is effective, but when coupled with attractor style Boobies the method can be extremely deadly. Some anglers have been known to cast out and not retrieve at all, yet still they catch fish! (Warning: Fishing a static fly can give rise to consternation in other fly fishers. More significantly it can lead to deep hooked fish that must be killed!)

Though moving away from its original application, the Booby can also be used on a floating line to fish the ‘top-down’, suspending either a single fly or a team. This can work especially well when fishing buzzers. The method is to tie the Booby to the top dropper of your leader, or fix a trailing leader to the bend of the Booby in the ‘Hopper Dropper’ or ‘New Zealand’ style and fix the smaller sunk nymph pattern to the tippet.

The other method is known as the Washing-line technique, and employs the Booby at the tippet of a long leader with a team of midge pupae or other small patterns fished on droppers. This is presented on either a sinking or floating line. The method is not for the faint hearted as it will soon find out any failures in your casting technique – it’s certainly not my favourite method!


Fishing running water: Fishing the Booby in running water is a sinking line affair working best is slower reaches. I've had a few chub and perch fishing this way but I can't vouch for catching other species in these environments. I'd be interested to hear reports from anyone fishing Boobies in running water, or in saltwater.