Troutbitten Fly Box — The Blue Collar Worker (with VIDEO)

by | Oct 19, 2022 | 19 comments

** NOTE** Video for the Blue Collar Worker appears below.

Show up on time, do your job and have a little fun while you’re at it. Then go home and do it all over again tomorrow. That’s a blue collar worker.

I grew up in western Pennsylvania — it was coal country, mixed in with steel mills and farming. A solid work ethic was dyed deep and woven into the fabric of every family in the region. My father and his father were coal miners and, later in life, federal mine inspectors. Both of these men — my mentors — could build or repair anything. They built their own homes and constructed homes for others. Framing, wiring, plumbing, concrete work — what do you need done? They, or somebody else in the Pittsburgh region, could do it for you.

So to me, the phrase blue collar worker was and still is a compliment. It’s a measure of pride and respect. Because these workers, these people, are the salt of the earth. They are the welded joints that hold everything together. Blue collar workers are simple, reliable and effective . . .

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The Blue Collar Worker Recipe

Hook: Dohiku 302 (or similar) #10-18

Bead: Silver Tungsten

Lead: Touching lead wraps to mid-shank (diameter to match the hook wire)

Thread: Olive/Brown 210 Denier UTC to cover lead, Camel Uni-Thread 8/0 tying the fly, and Doctor Blue Uni-Thread 8/0 for the hot collar

Tail/Body: Pheasant Tail Fibers

Rib: Sulky Tinsel furled with 6X Nylon

Collar: CDC (Dun color)

Hot Collar: Doctor Blue 8/0 Uni-Thread

Watch the following video, and then find more detail in the paragraphs below.

(Please select 4K or 1080p for best video quality)

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Justification, and a Platform

This fly is a Pheasant Tail with a CDC collar. It has a little disco for the rib and a hot spot/collar. It’s nothing special, right?

Yes, that’s right. And that’s the point. None of my flies are over the top. Simplicity wins in these wild trout rivers. And that has proven out, time and again. There are four materials here. Enough attraction to get some attention and stand out, but not too many elements to turn a trout off. This fly catches trout. The Worker gets the job done, day in and day out.

Of course, other color combinations catch fish too. I have them in my own fly box. Change the bead color, the collar color or even the pheasant color. Experiment judiciously. For me, the Worker has become a style. It’s a platform that includes pheasant for the tail and body, Sulky tinsel furled with 6X rib, some wrapped CDC and a colorful collar. There’s plenty of room to play around within that framework. And the Blue Collar Worker has stayed with me because it’s unlike anything else in my box.

READ: Troutbitten | Category | The Troutbitten Fly Box


The Dohiku 302 is strong, sharp and standard length. I won’t tolerate hooks that bend out, as many modern boutique and budget hooks do these days.

I’m out there, ready to catch the biggest fish of my life, so I need something strong. Fulling Mill 5105 is another favorite option.

READ: Troutbitten | These Hooks Bend Out

This fly inverts. Yes, it’s true. Tie any nymph with a bead and some lead wraps, and it rides upside down. You do not need a jig hook or an inverting bead to make this happen. The eye of a jig hook blocks the gap a bit, so a jig hook is not my first choice. This fly is already riding . . . inverted.

READ: Troutbitten | Nymph Hook Inversion and the Myth of the Jig Hook

Pour, then tie. Always.

Bead and Lead

Whether you choose a slotted or countersunk bead, wrap some lead or lead substitute on that hook shank. Then cover it up with 210 denier to form a taper. Keep your proportions.

I also wouldn’t over-bead this fly, but that’s just me. I like natural proportions and do not want the bead taking up the majority of the fly profile. So instead of a bigger bead, use lead wraps on the hook shank for more weight. That’s right, I don’t like to take the thin-to-win thing too far.


This classic material is still widely used, for good reason. Its natural mottled look, along with the micro barbules is deadly. Buy quality pheasant tails, or shoot a couple birds out of the sky for yourself. Don’t use dried out pheasant tail, because the tails will break easily. Quality matters.

These days, I know that your natural tendency will be to substitute CDL for the tail. I love CDL, and I use it on many of my flies. But the Worker is better with pheasant. Part of its superpower is to look like many things that trout encounter under the water. About 5-6 fibers of pheasant for the tail (for a #14) can be just a tail on a mayfly nymph or it can look like the longer body on a caddis or stonefly. It’s thin, but it’s thicker if the trout want to see it that way.

Pheasant tail catches trout like crazy. So why take any of that away?

Blue Collar Workers


The original version did not have this flashy rib, and this is the element I experimented with most. I used wire ribs, pure mono and a few other things.

I’ve loved Sulky ever since Loren Williams created the Sexy Walt’s, and I was looking for somewhere else to employ it.

Wrapping Sulky and then counter wrapping monofilament for strength is the standard approach. But it mats down too many pheasant fibers, taking away too much of the secret sauce of pheasant tail material in the first place. So one evening, I just spun the two materials together. I haven’t looked back since. The furled effect is both strong and attractive. Trout teeth don’t break this rib. And it definitely gets the trout’s attention.


Thankfully, quality CDC is pretty easy to find these days. And as the years pass, I use it more and more, both above and below the surface. As shown in the video above, I simply choose a good feather, clip the tip and wrap it once or twice for a collar — usually. But I also like using a Swiss CDC tool to grab CDC fibers and twist them into a dubbing loop. It’s a couple extra steps but it’s another way to accomplish the same thing — probably a little better.

Pinch off the CDC to achieve a length that crops the CDC just beyond the bend or a little longer.

Don’t overdo the CDC. Get a Worker wet and put it in a glass of water someday. You’ll see that a little CDC goes a long way, and the necessary effect is achieved with not much material.


Here’s where the Blue Collar Worker gets its name. Again, I suggest being careful not to overdo this step. I choose 8/0 Uni-thread and keep the wraps to about a ten overall — less in smaller flies. Most of those wraps are in the two whip finishes that compete the fly.

This blue color is something I have high confidence in from way back, because I’ve been using a Silver Doctor as a go-to wet fly at night for many, many years.

Again, playing with the platform of the Worker can fill up a fly box, and many variations yield results. Choose orange, red, yellow, pink, white, etc, for the collar. Workers are great in many varieties.

It’s a Blue Collar Worker

A couple of years ago, my good friend, Josh Darling, showed me a simple nymph with a blue hot spot. It stood out in his box, and I quickly realized that it would stand out in my own lineup as well.

“What do you call it?” I asked Josh, turning the CDC collared nymph in my fingers.

“It’s a Blue Collar Worker,” Josh said with a grin.

I nodded.

“Of course it is.”

Fish hard, friends.


Fish hard, friends.


Enjoy the day.
Domenick Swentosky



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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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  1. That’s a good looking fly, Dom. And the video doesn’t suck either. I can’t wait to tie up a few and give them a spin. Thanks for sharing what seems to be a great pattern.

  2. Awesome looking fly, definitely going to put some in the box.

  3. Never heard of Dohiku hooks. A while back you said you were all-in on Ahrex because they published their hook specifications. Does Dohiku do that as well?

    • Hi Jake. I think the 571 would be good, although I’ve never tied on it. No, I don’t think Dohiku offers a chart like that. By all-in, I didn’t mean I would use only Ahrex, but I certainly support them. I’ve had nothing but great quality hooks from them.

  4. Hey there
    Is that a NEW TRAIL BROKEN HEELS your poring. I stopped at CHAMPS this week and was hoping to try one however they only had the double at 9.3%. I had to pass it up. Jumped in below the Big SPRING to work on my streamer game. Hope you get some rain soon. I’m tired of clear blue skies and sunshine.

  5. I love this fly. I might try it on a Jig hook as well. Thanks Dom

  6. Nice pattern! But, I hate you. My box has a slew of patterns that have “caught my eye”, and I’m trying to pick my top 20, or so. All I need to pick up is some of the Doc Blue thread, and I’ll add these to my box. Rented a cabin on the McKenzie River in Oregon next week. I’ll see how these do with Coastal Cutties. Would’ve love to try this on the Metolius River yesterday, as I had a tough day there. If I may suggest a bit brighter on the fly lighting, the vid would be a 10.

  7. Dom, great video and nice looking fly. I have picked up many pointers from all your podcasts and articles. I noticed that you use a pill container to organize your beads. I started to use them last summer and really like keeping different sizes organized this way. That occurred following dropping my bead container and having hundreds of beads in different sizes and materials all over the floor when the lid popped open. Rick

  8. Nice looking fly, will tie some up this winter!
    Need to send you a Penguins glass though!

  9. Great pattern Dom! I really enjoy your videos. Just curious, and I have been looking for some blue 8/0 for quite a while, even before just now noticing your Blue Collar fly. I cannot find any 8/0 in Blue. Any suggestions?

    • Hello my friend,

      It’s linked and listed above. I never leave you hanging at these times. All the details are contained. It’s Docotor Blue Uni Thread.


  10. Thanks for the video! I’m relatively new to fly fishing and just started tying flies during my holiday break this year. I took a couple blue collar worker inspired patterns out with me today and tried them in a small stream near me in Saratoga county, NY. Inside 20 minutes I had 3 nice brownies. Best results I’ve ever had on that stream. Thanks again.


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Domenick Swentosky

Central Pennsylvania

Hi. I’m a father of two young boys, a husband, author, fly fishing guide and a musician. I fish for wild brown trout in the cool limestone waters of Central Pennsylvania year round. This is my home, and I love it. Friends. Family. And the river.

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