Flash forward to this winter, I wanted to revisit the pattern and see if I could bulk up the floatation while maintaining the profile and appeal of the original. Basically, I swapped out most of the materials that did not aid in floating the fly. I love Exo Skin on a lot of flies, but it didn't float. The egg foam hi-vis post, out. Even the hackle I felt was just not quite as buoyant as it could be. I settled onto this recipe which is really not all that complicated and has proven (before the ponds all iced up) to be significantly more "floaty."
Hook - Firehole 315 size 14
Thread - 8/0
Tail - Laser Dub tag/hot spot
Body - Razor Foam (1mm)
Wing - natural select elk hairIndicator/Backpack - 2mm orange craft foam
Hackle - CDC (in a dubbing loop using Petitjean Magic Tools)
Begin by taking a thin bundle of Laser Dub and doubling it over your thread, then tying it back towards the hook bend. Color options here are up to you. I like hot spots, and with this color combo, I like red. Trim the tag fairly short. One of the good attributes of this pattern for panfish is that there's not a lot of extremities for the fish to grab that avoids the hook point.
Cut a piece of the 1mm Razor Foam into a thin strip, roughly a strong 1/8" wide. Cut an angle on one end (as seen below) to give a small tie in point. On the longest side of the strip, take a black sharpie and color down the edge. This will show like ribbing once the foam body is wrapped. You could also experiment here with other colors like red or orange for a different look.
Tie in the Razor Foam by the angled end near the tag tail of the fly. Now for an important durability step. Put a small bead of super glue (I use gel CA) on the thread underbody before wrapping the foam. This extra adhesive will prolong the life of the bug.
Wrap the Razor Foam over the glue in even wraps to form the body. Tie off the foam so the body ends directly above the hook point and trim away any extra foam.
Clean and stack a small clump of elk hair. You could also sub in deer hair for this, and even do a more vibrantly colored belly hair if you'd like. I stuck to natural elk hair for this one. Tie in the hair so that the wing extends to about the length of the tag and be sure it's locked down well.
Cut a narrow strip of 2mm orange (or other hi-vis color) craft foam roughly 3/16" wide. Tie the strip in on top of the hook and run your thread right up to the base of the wing.
I use two black CDC feathers to form the hackle using a Petitjean Magic Tool. Once the CDC fibers are in the material clamp, trim away the stems and make a dubbing loop with your tying thread.
Insert the CDC fibers into the loop, release the clamp, and spin your dubbing loop to form the CDC hackle. If fibers look trapped at all, a quick/light brushing will typically free them.
Wrap the CDC hackle loop forward in tight, touching turns ending at the hook eye. This will look messy and unruly at this stage, and that's ok. Tie off the dubbing loop and trim away any excess loop material.
Fold the orange craft foam over the CDC to form the backpack and tie it down with two snug turns of thread. I leave a small foam "head" by trimming the foam to leave about 1/8" protruding forward from the hook eye. Any exceptionally long CDC fibers can be shortened by pinching the fibers in your fingers and breaking them off to the desired length. This will produce a more natural look than cutting them with scissors.
Nearly all of the non-floaty materials have been replaced with buoyant versions, and this pattern has been floating really well in early testing. Even in January in Ohio, I had fish swiping at this fly when I was merely float testing it last week. Yes, it will still be a bit more high-maintenance than I prefer, but this profile worked exceptionally well last season. The fly lands softly and is a tough morsel for a hungry panfish to refuse. My panfish box will be well-stocked with this one in preparations for the coming spring.