The Story of the Titanic Fly


One day, I was fishing the Rio Grande in Terra Del Fuego in Argentina. It was one of those days where the big searun browns were coming up to my Titanic fly but often hitting short, with their mouth closed or just missing. The guide and I started counting the number of fish rose rather than landed. I know you won’t believe me, but by the end of the day, I rose over 50. I hooked and landed fish but couldn’t tell you how many and don’t care – I rose 50!


So what is a Titanic fly? It is a style of fly that uses a foam “boat-type” hull to float and skate without sinking. The Titanic came about around 2004 when I was planning a trip to BC for steelhead. I was talking to Ken Morrish on the phone one day about the trip and he suggested a friendly contest to see who could raise a steelhead to the craziest dryfly. Now Ken is an incredible fly designer and I knew I had to come up with something good, besides I was sick and tired of my steelhead skating flies sinking. One morning I woke up with the thought of bringing the foam from the bottom of the hook around the eye to the top. I tied up the first crude Titanics.

Ken showed up with some beautiful crazy patterns (see the picture). We both

rose fish and while none were landed, the idea of the Titanic had proven itself.

Crude as the early ones were, they skated well. In fact, the harder you pulled,

the better they rode, just like a boat planning. Because they never sank, looked

like a boat hull and because of my sense of humor, I named it the Titanic fly. I

then refined it into a fly that I used extensively in the steelhead waters near my

home in Redmond, Washington. It would skate even through riffles and caught fish.

A Titanic Caddis


One day I was watching caddis skittering around on a lake and thought, “what about a Titanic version”? I basically put a Titanic hull on an elk hair caddis tie (but with deer hair) and took some down with me on my next Argentina trip. I first tried it one day fishing the Limay river out of Bariloche with guide “Packet” Greene. There were a lot of caddis around we kicked butt with the Titanic Caddis. There was some hooting and hollering and I handed over the rod to Packet so he could get in on the fun. A little later in the day, the caddis on the water thinned out, but Packet goes (in his wonderful accent), “Watch deees Meerster Chay!” He went over to a bush, shook it and hundreds of caddis flew off onto the water. Fish started rising and skating a T Caddis through them was money. Maybe it was cheating, but I admit to doing it.

A Titanic seen from below

Some people look at the Titanic Caddis and remark that, “they can’t be taking that for a caddis with all that foam on it!” After many years of success, for both myself and others, I can state emphatically that they do, even dead-drifted. What’s more, this pattern lets you imitate the movement of caddis as they skitter and wake around on the surface. Rocky Ford spring creek fish to 27” and success across the states and the world. Pictured above is an amateur attempt by me to see what the fish are seeing when they look up at one and it’s not as simple as we think.


Packet with a Rio Manso brown

The fun part is the Titanic is an active dry fly to fish. It’s not the dry you cast upstream and worry about a drag-free drift down, pick up and do again. It’s not the dry you cast out on a lake and let sit there. You can do that with a Titanic, but it’s way more fun to twitch it, pull it, strip it, troll it – whatever you can think of. It’s also more effective. Recently I took a woman fishing who had 15 minutes of casting instruction prior to hitting the water. By teaching her to skate the fly around on this small stream, she raised over 30 fish that day, hooking 5 and landing 1. Not bad for her first try when she didn’t really know what she was doing!


A Titanic Horny Damsel

When I began applying the Titanic concept to still other species and aquatic insects with great success. It is simply fun to move a dry fly and get big strikes. A guide in Wyoming that uses the Titanic Horny Damsel on lakes has clients do a two-handed strip for smashing, strikes. Adding a strip to the bottom of the bass titanic allows me to use a very effective double weed guard. A guide from eastern Washington walked up to me a flyfishing show recently and had loads of bass pictures his clients had caught – the previous day. As a fly designer I live for that. Because I live near saltwater beaches in western Washington, I also developed a titanic for searun cutthroat, coho and local blackmouth salmon.

37lb Golden Dorado, big Taimen and a Cape Cod Striper

I’ve been lucky to fish in quite a few countries in the world for lots of fish people don’t normally get to fish for. When I went to Bolivia for Golden Dorado, I scaled the size of the titanic up to 2/0 and it was incredible. I’ve landed goldens on it up to 40 pounds. I took them out to Cape Cod and pulled stripers up from 15 feet down. One day, I sent some of these down to Alejandro Bianchetti, an Argentinean guide friend who was going to be guiding in Mongolia for Taimen. He used them with clients and one landed the second biggest fish of the year for that camp on one.

Titanic hulls can be added to almost any dry fly

Titanic hulls are very scalable. I tie them from 2/0 all the way down to 20. You can add them to just about any dry fly. On my website ( I have step by step instructions on how to make a titanic hull as well as a set of forms you can buy for flies from size 16 to 6.

I’d love to get out and fish with each and every flyfisher in the world to show them how much fun these flies can be, but that’s obviously impossible. I hope at least that this article has given you the urge to look into these a little more and try them out on your local waters.

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Olympia | Washington |


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