Fly ownership questions (a long story)


Soap Lake Posse
WFF Moderator
Recently I posted a fly on the tying page that is a version of what I would consider a "Zonker" variety tied on a jig. I have a long history of my obsession with rabbit strip jigs on this site (since at least 2016) and so one would assume at some point I would play around with advancing the rabbit strip forward zonker style and so in a moment of playing around with design I did. I also posted this fly to my instagram: IMG_20200220_062149_569.jpg

Two days ago at work i recieved a message on my IG. And I quote, "Rad fly but it looks identical to my Graboid which I have also tied on jigs. I’m not sure if you’re calling this your own but it is identical to the Graboid. It just feels like you’re taking something someone else created and subtly claiming it to be your own pattern without any acknowledgement or credit given. If I’m wrong I apologize but this is what it seems like. "

I defended myself with a initial response, "Hmmm I guess they look similar but it also looks like you do a rabbit fur head and I do a sorta composit loop head. They are both varieties of a zonker more or less which is why I have claimed it as a "zonker jig" and not named it my own. "

Now keep in mind I am an RN and was at work. I dont get many breaks. On my next break I had this: Screenshot_20200222-220914.png So we went back and forth. His messages were very passive aggressive as can be seen above. I mainly just argued my points that I have tied and documented this style of jig with legs out the side etc for years and that I wouldn't steal a fly design without giving credit.

It's funny because this particular fly I labeled "Zonker" variety jig. It was the most generic title I could come up with on IG because I am not claiming this design as my own but simply a version of a classic. We reached a point where I thought he was apologizing and I accepted it. I honestly hoped this was over at this point.

At some point a friend commented something on my fly post the next day which was deleted before I saw it. My friend sent me a screen shot of a interaction he had with this guy where again I was being accused of stealing a fly design but now to my friend. So I would say I was being slandered at this point. So i messaged him again, "Let me get this straight you apologize to me then tell my friend I stole your pattern again? As I've already stated the construction and materials are different. I give tags and love on my page to flies I copy or watch videos on and tyers who inspire. I went home and watched the youtube video of this "string leech fly variety" per your own description and again I'm not tying it the same nor with the same materials listed. This is nothing more then a zonker variety and I would hope this issue would be dead as I expected when you apologized. "

His next two messages word for word: "I don’t claim every zonker fly!Not even close.I do claim the Graboid however especially since I make a full time living tying. I tried to apologize and clearly you didn’t accept it given your attitude because when you accept an apology you drop it. Period. My apology was a) to be polite and b) was because you don’t sell them. I ask if you sold your stuff and you ignored the question leading to a poor assumption on my part which I apologized for. I was simply stating the construction is obviously the same steps; based on the bad assumption that you sold them so again.....I’m sorry. You substituted a couple of materials but that’s about it. Honestly I was trying to be polite and civil but I really don’t care if you appreciate it or not at this point. Don’t bite people’s style then call it your own generic“variation” and you won’t run into that issue. That’s all. Have a good day ✌"

Message two: "Your friend was an asshole which seems to be par for the course for you two. You take someone’s construction, sub a couple materials and call it yours. Then get super defensive when someone calls you out. Wrongfully I might add because again, the only thing I was apologizing for was for saying anything and you didn’t actually sell them. I’m not apologizing for you being a style bitter. I feel sorry for the people in your life dude. I hope you don’t have kids!

I did not respond to him between message 1 and 2. After this I was blocked as I was sending him a not as friendly message :D Nowhere did I post to him any sort of attack on him, his personal life, his flies etc as he essentially did to me.

So at what point when you put a spin on a classic be it the Zonker, or Stump Buster, or Strung Leech do you get rights to said fly? Is this how a business should be run if there is a blurry line on two flies that look similar?Another message, "But you clearly don’t care. Do that to fly fish food or someone like that. They’ll send you a cease and desist. Im not going to do that because that’s a little over the top. But seriously man, it takes a lot of work to create patterns. They don’t just come out of thin air and I think you know that."

What would the actual law say? Can a cease and desist exist between a string leech and a jig with different materials?
Curious the forums thoughts on this...

Here is recipe of said fly for reference purposes:
4.5 mm slotted bead and size 4 jig hook
rabbit strip
ice dub belly
rubber legs
peacock and olive simiseal head


WFF Premium
Billy, for God's sake, you've become a social media junky! Ignore the bastard. If the guy was a decent sort he might have messaged you with, "hey, that's just like, or almost like, a pattern I created. How did you come up with your idea?" Then you might have had a conversation about it, or not. BFD. Unless his pattern is patented like the Teeny Nymph and you're selling them, ya' got no worries, other than what's circling in your head.

Tie what you want. Share them with friends. Ignore the f'n critics, unless said criticism is constructive and helps you construct a better fly pattern.


Indi Ira
WFF Premium
This is an important question: Who gets to own a pattern? I’ve wondered for some time now. Is it the first person to market an idea? The first one to tie it with specific materials? How different does it need to be, to actually be a new pattern?

I’ve designed some interesting things through the years, but I’d say it is all copies in a way if something else.


Huge Fly Guy
WFF Premium
his response is such an Insta-Bro thing to do...

That dude is over his skis....

I was just checking out his page and nearly every single fly on there I've seen variations of for years. Honestly, I'd never even heard of the "graboid" until now...come to think of it, I have a few flies from years ago that look similar as well.
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Active Member
I'm pretty sure anyone that has been tying steelhead flies for more than a few years has organically stumbled across putting together a "graboid leech". The only difference is that most weren't pompous or self-important enough to think that adding some rubber legs onto a rabbit strip leech was justification for calling it their own and then harassing everyone else about it. Isn't the steelhead world wonderful! If I were you I wouldn't waste any more brain power or time on him.


Active Member
This guy is a douche. Especially after inquiring about you 'selling' his Pattern. Everything is a variation on a variation. The Teeny Nymph was a deal breaker, damn thing works in lakes, rivers and the salt. Except for Leland's outstanding salt patterns and Swede's Olive Wily, the only thing close is Simi Seal material. It's so good it should be illegal! This guy should be roasted on the net, but he's not worthy of the effort.
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WFF Premium
I’m extremely bad at following tying instructions, and I also lack many commonly called for materials. As a result I have developed many proprietary fly varieties that to an untrained observer may appear to be simply worse versions of existing fly patterns. Please visit the “what’s in your vise” thread for a sampling of my work, and don’t forget to hit that like button!


The Dude Abides
Oh for fucks sakes. There's nothing new in fly tying.

Farmer has a big "following" on the gram and truly ties some great flies. Even donates willingly to a lot of charitable causes, but that sort of bs will find it's way to the surface and will get exposed

Sorry Billy, your fly is the shit. Keep on keeping on.

At the same time, the rules on ownership in fly tying are sparse at best, to the detriment to many developers. If the originator of the hares ear, the PT, or even John Barr with his Copper John had the rights to all the derivatives of their flies, they would be gazillionaires.

God this is stupid. that approach he took is dum without the B


A collector never stops collecting!
WFF Premium
Hilarious! So many flies look similar and it's hard to create something "new"!! I would have just told him to fuck off and mind his own business.. I like your fly and would take a few if you want to sell.. or i'll just tie some up! And call them my own "secret" pattern.... :) :p :cool:

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