How to Tie The Freddy
This ode to foam is called The Freddy and was originated by John Foust way back when. Think of it as the OG of foam flies. Tim Linehan, owner of Linehan Outfitting Company in Libby, Montana, introduced me to the pattern a couple of years ago. Tim uses the Freddy just about everywhere, from the relatively small water of the Yaak River, where it does a remarkable job catching little spanker redband rainbows, to the wide and powerful Kootenai, where the Freddy has been known to pull up some true donkeys. Those of you who have fished with Mr. Linehan will know these terms well.
The Freddy starts with 2mm craft foam. The cheap stuff from big box stores works just fine, although finding good colors can be a bit of a challenge. This particular assortment includes both a light and a dark brown, which together look great on a Freddy. But of course, you can tie them in a wide range of color combinations. If you can find them, smaller-sized sheets are more manageable and easier to store than large ones.
Furry Foam, here in tan, is a material that sets the Freddy apart from other foam-based flies. It’s more of a fly fishing specialty item and can be a bit hard to find. Sheets of Furry Foam are furry on both sides and you can actually pull the sides apart and use both. The non-mesh side tears easily, as I so ably demonstrate here, but the two will come apart cleanly with a little bit of time and care. The Furry Foam is a different size than the craft foam I have and, because it’s more expensive and harder to find, I don’t want to waste any, so will use it as the basis for measurement. Although scissors will work, a paper cutter does an admirable job of cutting the craft foam to the same size as the Furry Foam. So here I trim the light brown sheet and then the dark brown sheet to the same size. You want to glue the two sheets of foam together first, but getting them aligned after spraying the adhesive can be tricky. Masking tape applied to one edge and wrapped around to the second sheet of foam works wonders when it comes to keeping the two pieces of foam aligned.
Although a number of different adhesives can be used to bond the sheets together, I’ve found none better than 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Spray Adhesive. Just make sure it’s shaken really well and the nozzle is aligned with the black dot before trying to use it. I like to place the foam into a shallow cardboard box and unfold it, as shown here. There’s a fair amount of overspray with the adhesive. Simply spray a light even coat onto both sheets of foam then wait at least 30 seconds for the adhesive to partially set. Carefully flip one sheet of foam onto the other, while keeping them aligned. Place the two sheets on a flat surface and weight them down with a heavy book for a couple of minutes. With the adhesive set, remove the book and peel the masking tape from the sheets. Check to make sure they’re completely bound together, all the way out to the edges. It’s kind of remarkable how well this adhesive actually works, and it’s waterproof.
Now, tape one side of the Furry Foam to the sheet foam you just bound together. You want the Furry Foam to end up contacting the lighter brown foam. Once again, go to your high tech spray booth, pull the Furry Foam back, shake the spray adhesive well and give both sheets a nice light, even coat. Well, as even as you can get it. Wait 30 seconds or so, then carefully flip the Furry Foam over onto the craft foam, keeping everything in alignment as you go. Once one touches the other, they’re bound down for good, there’s no pulling up or re-orienting with this adhesive, much like contact cement. Again, remove the assembly and place it on a flat surface and cover it with a heavy book for just a bit. As before, give the edges a real good check to make sure everything’s bonded correctly, then remove the tape. You should be left with dark brown on the top, light brown beneath and Furry Foam on the bottom.
It is possible to trim foam bodies to shape using scissors but foam cutters, like these Chernobyl-shaped ones from River Road Creations, are easy to use and just make the resultant flies that much more professional looking. Here, I’m going to use the medium-sized cutter, which will work well for this size 10 Freddy. Place the foam assembly on one of the specialty mats that come with the cutters. Then press down with the cutter and rock it gently, from front to back and just a little side to side. This should be enough to cut out a beautiful, clean-edged body that’s tapered at one end. If the non-tapered end is a bit wonky, trim it off square. Yeah, you’re not going to get anything this nice with scissors. The cutters allow you to whack out a dozen or so perfect bodies in no time at all.
For a hook, don’t be afraid to go a little heavy, here, a Lightning Strike SN3 in size 10. Begin by getting the hook firmly secured in the jaws of your tying vise then load a bobbin with a spool of heavier thread, like this UTC 140 Denier. I’ve chosen tan because it closely matches the color of the Furry Foam that will be on the underside of the fly. Get your thread started on the hook shank, leaving a small space behind the eye and take a few wraps rearward before snipping off the excess tag.
Although not absolutely essential, I like to use some rabbit fur dubbing to help stabilize the foam on the hook shank. I’ve chosen a color similar to that of the Furry Foam. Pull an ample clump of dubbing free from the packet and create a kind of bulky, 3” long noodle on your tying thread. Take touching wraps with the noodle, down the hook shank all the way to the start of the bend. Leave your tying thread up onto the dubbing just a little bit.
While this dubbed underbody will really help stop the foam from spinning, I like to take it a step further and highly recommend that you do as well. Reach for some super glue, here, Fly Tyer’s Z-Ment and apply a fairly ample drop to the wraps at the location of your tying thread. Then, with about a hook-gap-length of the foam body extending rearward from the hook bend, place the assembly directly on top of the hook shank. While holding it in that position, take a wrap of tying thread. Using slow, constant pressure, pull down on your thread. Without relieving the pressure, take another few wraps. These wraps will not only compress and anchor the foam but set the super glue adhesive we well. Keep wrapping until you feel the foam body is firmly anchored and resists spinning around the hook shank.
For the fly’s legs, snip two strands of your favorite rubber leg material free from the hank. Set one of the strands aside and fold the other in half. Then locate the midpoint of the folded over segment. Place this midpoint on top of the fly, at the location of your tying thread, and take 2 or 3 wraps to lightly anchor it. Separate the material to either side of the fly, leaving the loop in front.
Now, pull the foam back and make open spiral wraps forward, over top of the underbody until your tying thread is located about halfway between the hook point and the back edge of the hook eye. Once again, reach for your superglue and place an ample drop on top of these thread wraps. Pull the foam down and anchor it with tight wraps, just as you did previously. By now, you should really be seeing how much the super glue helps.
Pick up the remaining length of rubber leg material and fold it in half, as before. Place its midpoint on top of the fly and anchor it, as you did with the rear legs. Now that you have all the rubber legs in place, reach in with your tying scissors and snip the midpoints of both loops to form two pairs of legs on either side of the fly. Ideally, the rubber legs should be located right at the intersection of the two foam sheets and should be roughly parallel to your tying bench.
For the fly’s post, which helps to make it more visible, I’m going to snip a length of orange S-Lon free from the hank, but any wing post material will do. Snip the length of whatever material you use in half then double one of those halves over to form a segment about 2” in length. Place the midpoint of the doubled-over segment on top of the fly, above your tying thread, and take a couple of wraps to secure it. Pull the material up and start taking posting wraps. This can be a bit tricky as both the foam and the rubber legs really want to get in the way. Just take your time and you’ll get it. End with a wrap first in back of the post, then pull the rubber legs rearward and take a wrap in front of it. A drop of head cement, here, Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails, applied to the base of the post will really help to increase its durability. Pull the foam back once again and take wraps forward to behind the hook eye. Then take thread wraps to anchor the foam there. I don’t like using super glue at this location because it has a tendency to clog up the hook eye. Just make sure that everything’s bound down really well. Pull the remainder of the foam back and take a few thread turns right at the back edge of the hook eye. You can then pick up your whip finish tool and use it to complete a 5 or 6 turn whip finish, seat the knot well and snip or cut your tying thread free.
Reach in with your tying scissors and trim the wing post off to a little more than a hook gap in height. Trim any extra foam off the front of the fly. I do like to keep this front segment fairly long to help with floatation. If you want to, round the front corners off a bit but it really isn’t necessary. Trim the legs on both sides so they’re about a full hook in length. The underside of the fly should look fuzzy but fairly clean. All the legs should be around the same length and the post material should be fairly short yet still very visible.
And that’s the Freddy. Absolutely ready to rock steady.