Tying Tom Thumb fly tied by Barry Ord Clarke

Tom Thumb fly


This magical little deer hair pattern seems for the most to have been forgotten! I have looked through a whole range of my ‘go to’ pattern books and have found reference to it only in name, no images and no step by step. Although I have located some info regarding the pattern on the net I felt that it deserved a proper step by step tutorial. As far as I understand the Tom Thumb is said to have originated from England in the 1940s, but I find this a little misleading as deer hair at this time, was little, if not used at all in England!

But Canada where the pattern was popularised is another matter all together, being the birthplace of many deer hair patterns and pioneer of tying with deer hair. Although you can tie the TT with a wide range of deer hair in smaller sizes the optimal sizes 8-12 need a hair of a certain length. So if you are new to the game and intend buying deer hair specifically for this pattern I can recommend Natures Spirit Humpy deer hair. The Tom Thumb primarily being a Humpy without a hackle! Its also difficult to find two materials, deer hair and peacock herl, that trout and grayling are more attracted to!

The Tom Thumb is a skater pattern and the larger the front wing the more water it will push, if you shorten the front wing like an elk hair caddis, you have a diving caddis pattern ‘Borger’s Devil Bug’ if you trim it even shorter you have a ‘Cooper bug’ and if you tie it on a size 18 or smaller you have a ‘Cooper’s bug’ that represent hatching midge fly. Please tie and try this pattern, I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Tom Thumb fly pattern

Step by step how to tie Tom Thumb fly


Secure your hook in the vice with the hook shaft horizontal.


Attach your tying thread and cover the whole hook shank.


Select deer hair that has sufficient length for the size of hook being used.


Cut a small bunch of deer hair for the tail and remove all the under fur and shorter hairs. Stack the deer hair so all the points are level.


Tie in the bunch of prepared deer hair as shown for the tail. If you wish to imitate a hatching mayfly make the tail a little longer and shorter if it caddis and again for midge.


Trim away the excess deer hair and run the tying thread back towards the tail base.


Cut and prepare as before another slightly larger bunch of deer hair for the shell back and wing. This can be measured a little longer than the tail.


Tie this in as before trying to keep the majority of the deer hair on top of the hook shank.


Tie in 3 or 4 long strands of peacock herl at the tail base. Run your tying thread forward towards the hook eye.


Keeping the strands of peacock herl tight and together wrap the whole hook shank and tie off.


Now taking care not to include the tail hairs fold over the last bunch of long deer hair, keeping it on top of the hook shank and tie down behind the hook eye.


Once your hair is secure make a whip finish. Now bring your tying thread forward in front of the wing but behind the hook eye. While holding the wing up, make several wraps of tying thread to hold it in position so the wing stands up!


Make a whip finish and remove your tying thread.

How to tie Tom Thumb fly

The Devil bug variant


The Devil bug variant with a dubbed body and bleached elk wing.

The Cooper bug


The Cooper bug.

The Cooper’s bug midge variant


The Cooper’s bug midge variant # 18.

Spent spinner variants


This is one of my own spent spinner variants.



And one with Klippspringer hair with a little red thread grayling bling!

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3 thoughts on “Tom Thumb fly

    1. Thanks, it is a great material and as far as I know there are a few shops in South Africa and the last I heard was that Toby at Funky Fly Tying was going to stock it.