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Classic Wet Flies

Posted on May 22, 2012 at 2:32 PM Comments comments (6)
I've always wondered, why did the classic winged wet fly fall out of favor?  All of those wonderful patterns in Ray Bergman's classic "Trout" didn't get there by accident, did they?
Soft Hackles have still been fished with consistency to no surprise but I'm talking about the quill or flank feather winged wets.
Right after the casting streamer this is probably my favorite type of fly fishing.  I like to fish them on an old Fenwick fiberglass 6-weight I own with a nice slow action and it's a lot of fun.
Granted, that's a personal preferance perhaps because of my nostalgic bent but they are still damn effective flies, especially for brook trout who feed subsurface the majority of the time.  The British anglers on the other side of the pond have never stopped using them as they remain killing patterns on the Lochs for sea trout.
They do require some degree of skill to fish effectively by imparting some life to the fly and require you're paying attention to set the hook on a take but that's nothing the average guy with a rod can't handle.
Thankfully people like Don Bastian, Davy Wotton, Ralph Graves and Andy Brasco have brought them back into relevance, a new crop as talented or more so than previous luminaries like Helen Shaw or Art Smith.
I love the colorful attractors as much as the next guy but find the drab natural colors like anything else get the most approval and play from the fish.  As in real life, it's not always the prettiest belle at the ball that you'll get the most action with.  (Semi-apologies there but I never said these posts would be PC) 
Besides swinging, lifting or dancing them through the obvious lies in a stream like pockets, glides, riffles and tail-outs, give them a shot the next time you're on a trout pond.  If there's a wind kicking up I will fish them parallel to the windward shore where insects and other trout food are being washed towards and collected.  This has been a very effective tactic for me as fish will cruise there picking off the goodies.  Another obvious one is to fish a cast of multiple wets and mix up the flies to contrasting colors and styles.  The fish will tell you soon enough what it is on the menu they're looking for.
I won't say that I always have them in my fly boxes but more often than not I will, especially patterns like the Leadwing Coachman, March Brown, Brown Turkey, Black Gnat, Quill Gordon and Montreal.  Give some consideration to carrying them yourself and even more to fishing them with an honest effort.  In short order you'll wonder why they ever went away.
In no particular order, the list below are the standards that have done the best for me on Maine waters:
Leadwing Coachman
March Brown
Black Gnat
Hare's Ear
Peter Ross
Grizzly King
Quill Gordon
Dr. Burke
Greenwell's Glory
Green Drake (Try this both during a Hex hatch AND early the morning after)
Parmachenee Belle
Brown Turkey
Dusty Miller
Campbell's Fancy
Tomah Joe
Classic Winged Wet Flies
(Click on the picture to enlarge)
Row 1: Rangeley, Mallard & Claret, Quill Gordon, Campbell's Fancy, Green Drake
Row 2: Alexandra, Tomah Joe, Montreal, March Brown, Leadwing Coachman, Dr. Burke
Row 3: Kineo, Logan, Silver Doctor, Parmachenee Belle, Trout Fin

Attractor Dry Flies

Posted on May 21, 2012 at 10:32 PM Comments comments (100)
So obviously as a Fly Tyer I love the flies of our chosen sport.  I also love lists and get asked my personal favorites quite a lot.  I have decided to post a series of the patterns by catagory I like to fish and that produce for me.
For no better reason than I currently am on a kick to tie and replenish my stocks of them for an upcoming trip in June, I'm going to start out with a list of my favorite attractor dries for Brookies along with some accompanying comments.  The flies I prefer aren't garish and overly colorful although some are.  These guys just have some cool personalities, are buggy looking, and most importantly - work.  I also love to tie more realistic patterns but there's definately fun and production with the attractor styles as well.  Probably about half of my 5 tray Downstream Chest Box system contains attractors while the other half consists of more imitative patterns.  Most of mine are tied up as #14's or #16's with some #12's or #10's occasionally mixed in.  On a wild day I might just even tie up a #8, but not often.
My list is by no means meant to be a be-all, end-all recommendation, just the flies that are near and dear to my heart, that visually speak to me, and have been good to me on the water over the seasons.  There are many, many more excellent patterns to choose from as well.  No slight has been intended by omitting such standards such as the Stimulator, the rest of the excellent Wulffs, Madam X, Turk's Tarantula, Doodle Bugs or Hornbergs to name just a few.
Maybe you'll find a pattern or two in these lists that will inspire you to pluck it out, tie it up, and try it yourself.
H & L Variant - Nice and buggy and easy to track in broken pocket water.
Mr. Rapidan - See above.
Ausable Wulff - A lot of times I tweak mine, using moose body hair for the tail and orange poly/Fly Rite dubbing for the body but I definately still tie, fish, and love the original.  It's usually the first fly I tie on for searching small streams.
Fran Betters Ausable Wulff.  I could do a lot worse if I was limited to just this one pattern as an attractor for prospecting or when nothing else is going on hatch wise.
Royal/Red Humpy - Good to me when I fish it in the afternoon/late in the day.  I do slightly better with this than a Royal Wulff.  Maybe it's because of the beetle-ish hump of the body?
Montreal Wulff - I suppose this could also be a loose Isonychia imitation but like the Ausable Wulff it can drum up fish for me about anytime.  I also tie it as a Trude style with tan calftail for the wing.  Finding claret hackle for tying it can be challenging, however.
Leadwing Coachman - As per above except for the Trude comments.
Rat-Faced McDougall - A fantastic floater and productive fish taker.  I also really like the Adams  and White Irresistibles which are similar.
The Usual - Fish everywhere just jump on this thing, Fran Betters defintately got this one right among other patterns of his such as the Ausable Wulff.  And I've found landlocked salmon really like this sucker, too.
Gray Coughlin - As buggy as an Adams but it imitates caddis better I think.
Renegade - Peacock herl rocks any fly and in smaller sizes it could be either a midge or caddis.
Bi-Visible - Black is my favorite followed closely by Badger.  I personally don't fish it but Brown is also a good color option.
This year I'm going to be trying out the Conover and the Cinberg, two wonderful Catskill patterns that have caught my attention and I've never tried before.  I especially like the Cinberg and can't wait to see how it fares, something tells me it's going to be a pretty good fly!
So there you go, you now have a little peek into my personal fly boxes, what patterns do you lean on?
Stay tuned, more to follow...