Perhaps South Africa’s most renowned dragonfly pattern, Herman Botes’s Papa Roach has accounted for a lot of trophy stillwater trout, plus many other species in between. A year or two back at the Fly Fishing and Fly Tying Expo, I shot this Step-By-Step of Herman tying his pattern. For more on Herman, check out ‘The Bullet’ in issue 21 of The Mission.

Herman describes a typical fish reaction to the Papa Roach:

“At one point while fishing I cast to a fish moving close to the bank. I kept the fly in the zone for as long as possible, confident that surely the fish must have spotted my big dragon imitation. As I start to reach the end of my retrieve, I searched for my pattern in the underwater world. I often watch my patterns at the end of the retrieve to see how they react to different retrieves. As I find the pattern, the silhouette of a fish phantoms into view. I give the Papa Roach a small twitch, just to make sure the fish is aware, and let it sit. The fish slowly cruises up to the suspended dragon and simply winks as it inhales the fly. I set the hook as it turns.

The whole scene brings satisfying fulfilment of the visions I had while designing the Papa Roach. It’s a pattern that’s done well in the South African stillwater scene and I include the recipe and a few pointers if you wish to tie the fly yourself.”

Being a big fan of dragonfly nymphs this is the perfect aeshnidae nymph pattern for static and slow retrieves. As Herman has explained to me and from what I have observed myself, the aeshnidae dragonfly nymph swims with a slow jerking motion as it propels itself along by pushing water out its butt. But most of the time it suspends or drifts around when it is not attached to a piece of weed,wood or rock.

Most dragonfly patterns are tied on a long shank hook and I have my own versions, but when not being retrieved they sink or lie suspended with the heavy hook pulling the butt down unnaturally. This is my go-to still water dragonfly nymph as it is for many.


  • Hook – #6 wet fly / 1x short hook
  • Thread – Danville 70
  • Abdomen – Grizzly Zonker
  • Thorax/Heart – long-fibred dubbing blend with UV Ice dub teased out
  • Wingcase – 2 x 2 Mallard flank / partridge feathers
  • Eyes – Large black plastic bead chain
  • Legs – Flexifloss or Spanflex
  • Head – Dubbing to match abdomen

From Herman “My favourite colour schemes are olives and natural mottled hare’s ear. But in KZN the red-eye black Roach is also popular.

Use standard wet or 1x short #6 hook to tie the pattern – the fly is basically an extended body pattern, with the hook acting as a keel. Don’t worry about short takes – the fly is not meant to be stripped.”

Use large black plastic bead chain eyes – the big head is 1/5 of total body length.

Select a Grizzly Zonker strip (containing guard hairs) with short fur fibres – remember this is your abdomen already done and dusted. in the zonker strip on top of the hook shank as shown.

Split the zonker as shown below and tie it in just before the bend of the hook shank.

Tie it in behind the plastic bead chain eyes.

All the material and parts (with the exception of the head’s dubbing) are placed
above the hook shank, so the shank forms the flat base of the fly.

Tie in long-fibred dubbing blend with UV Ice dub on top of the hook shank.

Split your thread to create a dubbing loop.

Wrap around the hook shank.

Using velcro or similar tease out any excess dubbing.

The thorax/wing case feathers must be tied in a tent-like style that sheaths and controls the zonker fur strip – this is the unique style and tying step that sets the pattern apart.

Tie on Mallard flank / partridge feathers two on either side as shown

Tie in Flexifloss or Spanflex legs.

Spin a thin noodle of dubbing onto your thread and wrap it around the head and eyes.

The Papa Roach. Always fish this pattern connected with a loop knot to the tippet and a slow retrieve.

Remember this pattern looks a whole lot better suspended in the water than in your vise.

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