Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Red Fox Squirrel Nymph

This dressing is an unweighted composite of primarily early directions for dressing the fly with a few of the later modifications, and in keeping with the standard for hook size and representation on the blog, it uses a size 14 dry fly hook rather than the nymph hook Whitlock prescribes. It largely follows Dave Whitlock’s “Standard Red Fox Squirrel-Hair Nymph” recipe from the June 1984 issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, using natural, prepackaged belly fibers for the abdomen and unblended back fur taken from a road-kill fox squirrel as the thorax. It adds the hackling and tailing that Whitlock suggests in the book chapter on nymphing. 



Burnt orange

Red fox squirrel back fur (optional)

Gold twist

Red fox squirrel underbelly fur

Red fox squirrel back fur (dubbed slender)

Dark speckled brown hen hackle

Including the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph as soft hackle might be criticized as taking too much liberty with the blog definition of the style, as in the case of the northeastern Breadcrust, the ubiquitous Greenwell’s Glory, or the Tup’s Nymph (or most other patterns dressed by G. E. M. Skues). Nevertheless, it an impressionistic pattern and lends itself to dressing in many familiar styles. Pinpointing the inception of one of Dave Whitlock’s most iconic flies is a task likely best left to Whitlock himself. Since tracking down every reference to the fly would be even harder, a sample of Whitlock’s own words on the pattern must suffice.

An early publication that includes the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph was The Masters on the Nymph (1979), to which Whitlock contributed a chapter 7, “Nymphing Tackle.” The first of the four “favorite nymph patterns” he includes is the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph,” which he describes as his “favorite all-purpose nymph, as versatile and effective for a nymph as the Adams is for a dry fly. It works as well where mayflies, stone flies, caddis pupae, and scuds of similar colors exist, and where there are no nymphs.

Hook:   Mustad 9671, sizes 4-18
Body weight:   6 to 10 wraps of lead wire at thorax
Thread:   Black
Tail:   Sparse tuft of red-fox squirrel back hair, including both guard and underfur ½ length of hook shank
Rib:   Small oval tinsel
Abdomen: Red-fox squirrel belly fur
Thorax:  Red-fox squirrel back fur (with guard and underfur included)
Wing case:   Dark-brown swiss straw or turkey tail
Legs:   Either guard hairs of red-fox squirrel back or one turn of dark partridge hackle”

He also cited it as the nymph he used in his nymphing system in a pair of articles in Fly Fisherman magazine from 1983, but did not give it an explicit treatment of the fly itself until a June 1984 article entitled “Red Fox-Squirrel-Hair Nymph.”  In this article, he describes how to trim a red squirrel hide to preserve the scarce belly fur—split the skin down the back when dressing the body—and how to sort the fur into like colors. (He also notes that a shaved, tanned red fox squirrel skin can repurposed into buckskin nymphs. Very little of the animal goes to waste for the savvy, creative fly tier.)  More importantly, he discusses the reasons for the fly’s success. Rather than clinging to a narrow representational niche, the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph aims for impressionistic representation and is, as a result, characteristically versatile. By adjusting the length and thickness of the abdomen, and thorax, as well as the sparseness and length of the hackle, the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph could give the impression of a broad array of insects. In this article, he gives a dressing for “Dave Whitlock’s Standard Red Fox Squirrel-Hair Nymph” that looks much more like a soft hackle:

“HOOK:  Mustad 9671 or Tiemco Nymph Hook, #2 to #18.
THREAD: Black or dark brown nylon.
CEMENT: Dave’s Flexament.
WEIGHT: Lead or copper wire.
ABDOMEN: Belly fur from red fox squirrel skin, may be blended with synthetic sparkle dubbing. Abdomen should be ½ to 2/3 of the overall body length.
THORAX: Back fur from red fox squirrel skin, may be blended with synthetic sparkle dubbing. Thorax should be ½ to 1/3 of the overall body length.
RIB Gold wire or oval tinsel.”

In his Guide to Aquatic Trout Foods (1982), Whitlock’s fly boxes illustrate this versatility: it shows up, for instance, in his “Box No. 1: General Utility Box” at the head of the list in sizes 6-16, as well as “Box No. 4: Terrestrials and Summer Midges” in sizes 16 and 18.

Whitlock’s prolific writing has continued to describe the efficacy of the Red Fox Squirrel Nymph. He contributed a short article on the pattern in the September/October 2010 issue of Eastern Fly Fishing that reflects many of the modern, commercial interventions in fly dressing that have risen alongside media popularization of the sport, especially in print but also in film. This version updates the materials that Whitlock originally posted for the do-it-yourself fly tier of the late seventies and early eighties. In their blend of synthetic and natural fibers, these newer, branded materials regularize the color and consistency of the abdomen, thorax, and hackling, and they incorporate colors and sparkle that are more likely to attract a trout’s attention, particularly in off-color water. Both the original and contemporary versions have a place in the angler’s fly box. This Red Fox Squirrel Nymph uses:

Hook: TMC 5262, size 2-20
Thread: Orange Wapsi Ultra Thread 70
Weight: Lead Wire the diameter of the hook wire
Cements: Zap-a-Gap and Dave’s Flexament
Tail: Back hair of red fox squirrel
Rib: Small or medium gold oval tinsel
Abdomen: 50-50 blend of red fox squirrel belly hair and similar colors of Antron and SLF or No. 2 (red fox squirrel abdomen) Wapsi Dave Whitlock Plus SLF dubbing blend
Thorax: 50-50 blend of red fox squirrel back hair blended and hare’s ear Antron and SLF or No. 1 (red fox squirrel thorax) Wapsi Dave Whitlock Plus SLF dubbing blend
Legs: Dark ginger Metz hen back feather for hook sizes 2-12; for smaller hooks, pick out the dubbing guard hairs for legs
Head: Orange thread or gold bead.”

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Carrot Fly; Carrot and Black Nymph; or, Carrot Nymph

This dressing substitutes yellow-green dyed quail undercovert for the green parrot Skues prescribed for the tail and yellow-green dyed covert in place of the poultry hackle.




Olive dyed quail covert fibers

Rear 1/3—pale yellow wool; Middle 1/3—hot orange wool; Front 1/3—green seal fur

Olive dyed quail covert

G. E. M. Skues introduced anglers to the Carrot Fly in the journal of the London Flyfisher’s Club in 1912 as proof of “what asses trout are.”  In 1975 winter issue of Fly Fisherman magazine, T. Donald Overton notes that the response to the fly was mixed. Some anglers questioned whether Skues was having a laugh; others, “perhaps shamefacedly, cast it to the trout, with surprising results.”

Overton notes that the “tying is not difficult,” but advises fly tiers to “aim for a steeply tapered body, as shown in the ‘natural,’” a carrot: “The silk is waxed primrose (1). Tie in two strands of green parrot feather-fiber, or its equivalent, (2) and return the silk up the hook three turns. Tie in a length of pale yellow wool (3), bringing the silk forward to one-third the length of the body. Wind the wool forward and secure (4). Tie in a length of hot-orange wool (5) and take the silk up the hook for another third. Wind the wool up to the silk and secure, (7). Now tie in a length of greenish seal’s fur dubbing (8), and a short, fibred hackle dyed olive-green (9). Wind the dubbing and secure. Take a few turns of the hackle round the hook shank and secure with a whip-finish (10).”

Jay Zimmerman traces the history of the Carrot Fly in The Best Carp Flies: How to Tie and Fish Them (2015). He credits Skues with developing the first, but notes that Skues only casually mentions his Carrot Fly in the The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921), where he called it "the famous Carrot fly." (Presumably, Skues deferred to this short-hand reference because of the fly's popularity following its introduction in the journal of the London Flyfisher's Club nine years earlier.) 

For whatever reason, American fly tiers have exhibited a strong inclination to imitate garden produce in the pursuit freshwater species. Zimmerman notes that "Reuben Cross from Neversink, New York, introduced a nymph in his book Tying American Trout Lures (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1936) he called the Carrot and Black" fifteen years after Skues' Way of the Trout with a Fly (and twenty-four years after Skues' club journal article). Zimmerman cites Cross's directions: "'The Carrot and Black is tied with brown hackle tail, carrot-colored body with black Chenille shoulder and dun hackle wound on the same as with a wet fly. After you have finished off with the tying silk take your scissors and clip out the top and bottom whisks, leaving the side legs." Later a similar dressing, the Carrot Nymph as Elsie Darbee tied and named it, showed up in A. J. McClane's classic McClane's Standard Fishing Encyclopedia (Holt, Rinehart And Winston, 1965).  

Zimmerman also suggests that Randall Kaufmann further confused the dressing in American Nymph Fly Tying Manual (1975) by calling it the Carrot Fly and giving it a dubious lineage. Kaufmann noted that the an "old standby for years in the east" and, incorrectly, only recently in the west, and his dressing emphasized "halloween colors" untrue to Cross's American original that "account for many fat rainbows and brookies from pond and stream alike" More confusing was that Kaufmann's explanation of the dressing "is a slight variation from the original," presumably Cross's. His fly uses black hackle for the tail and unclipped front hackle, and orange tying thread with a black chenille thorax for the body. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Light Sedge; or, Light Dun

This dressing substitutes a mottled quail covert for "light-barred" landrail coverts and uses a red fox squirrel belly fur rather than the "reddish fur from the thigh of a squirrel."



Red fox squirrel belly fur

Quail covert

Cock pheasant tail herl

In their Brook and River Trouting (1916), Harfield Edmonds and Norman Lee included the Light Sedge as a dressing for a June trichoptera that will fish well throughout the rest of the season. They dressed it with

“WINGS.—Hackled with a light-barred reddish feather, from the lesser coverts of a Landrail’s wing.
BODY.—Yellow silk, No. 4, dubbed with reddish fur from the thigh of a Squirrel.
HEAD.—A reddish herl from the tail of a cock Pheasant.”

Michael Theakston’s original dressing is variable enough to allow for a wide range of materials and substitutions. This dressing takes the following liberties: it uses burnt orange thread, Wapsi synthetic blend red fox squirrel belly fur for the body, and an American woodcock rump feather for the hackling.

Michael Theakston includes a dressing for the Light Dun in his List of Natural Flies (1843), which might correlate to the Light Sedge that Brooks and Lee list for June. Theakston’s Light Dun (a dun is a caddis or sedge in Theakston’s nomenclature) “commences hatching this month [April], and are plentiful in May in June, and again in autumn; but are out most in the dusk of evening.” Theakston’s insect is “the produce of the codbait,” a case-building caddis that constructs “artificial cases of some of the codbait tribe” with “small particles of vegetable substances mingled with those of stone, attached to them, which may impart a darker shade or freckle to the flies. The largest codbait creepers, when the case is covered with particles of stone only, produce the largest and lightest colored flies.”

Dressed in classic soft hackle style, rather than the winged pattern Theakstons preferred, the Light Dun is: “imitated with feathers from the landrail, brown owl, dotterel, brown hen, etcetera; with tawny, coppery colored silks, of lighter or darker shades.”

While it certainly was not dressed to match a British hatch, Ernest Schwiebert drew on the “little Scottish pattern called the Corncrake and Yellow” as the “basis for the accompanying pupal imitation for the accompanying pupal imitation of the Little Sand Sedge” he included in Nymphs (1973).The Little Sand Sedge American caddisfly that seems similar to those that historical British angling authors describe:

Hook: Sizes 12-14 Mustad 3906 sproat
Nylon: Tan 6/0 nylon
Body: Pale dirty-yellowish dubbing
Thorax: Light brown dubbing
Wing cases: Light gray duck quill sections tied at sides
Antennae: Lemon woodduck fibers
Head: Tan nylon”

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Exe Fly




Rear third, primrose tying silk; front two-thirds, cock pheasant tail


In the third edition of Modern Fly Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley includes the Exe Fly under the “Devon and West Country Wet Flies” heading. He dresses it:

Body.—One-third at tail end straw-coloured floss, remainder formed of cock pheasant tail fibres.
Hackle.—Furnace cock.”

The fly's name suggests origins with anglers on the River Exe in Devon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Black Louper

This palmered Black Louper uses dark brown thread and assigns raw wool for the body. 




Peacock herl

Red furnace

Raw Black Welsh Mountain wool

In A treatyse of fysshynge wyth an Angle (1496), Dame Juliana Berners recommends the Black Louper for May fly fishing, dressing it with “the body of blacke wull & lappyd abowte wyth the herle of the pecok tayle: & the wynges of the redde capon wt a blewe heed.” Given the vagaries of early modern English syntax, Berners' exact meaning is unclear. While she notes that the peacock herl rib should be “lappyd abowte” the black wool body, the "redde capon's" hackle might  be dressed two ways. The Black Louper might be dressed as a palmer, above, or as a hackle, below. In each instance, the hackling serves to imitate the insect's "wynges."

This hackled dressing follows the same specifications for thread and body materials as the palmer above.

What the Black Louper might represent is even less clear than the dressing she assigns it. John Waller Hills, whose History of Fly Fishing for Trout (1921) shows a particular indebtedness to the historicity of Berners’ twelve dressings, cannot determine what the fly represents: “it is possible to identify clearly eleven out of the twelve. The remaining fly is the Black Louper, appearing in May, which seems to have been a hackle fly, and corresponds to our Black Palmer or Coch-y-Bonddhu, but cannot be identified exactly.”

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the meaning of the word “louper” as “some kind of artificial fly” and cites only one example of the word’s usage in print—Berners’ own in her Treatyse. The OED also cites the word “loup” as an Old Norse verb meaning “to leap,” a word commonly used in the late fifteenth century when Berners was writing. If her intention was to describe the behavior and color of a particular insect, a “black leaper," then she was likely describing a terrestrial, as Hills suggests. The combination of brown-black wool, iridescent bronze peacock herl, and a deep red hackle with a deep black list, however, suggests a cricket rather than a beetle.