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, December 14, 2016

Blue Dun Hackle




Small gold tinsel

Mole fur with a little of the silk exposed at the tail

Gray hen hackle

While it might have been intended as a separate dressing for an olive mayfly like the Blue Dun, James Leisenring includes the Blue Dun Hackle separately from the Old Blue Dun in his Art of Tying the Wet Fly & Fishing the Flymph (1941). He dressed is with

“HOOK  12, 13, 14.
SILK  Primrose yellow.
HACKLE  Light-blue-dun hen hackle of good quality.
TAIL Two or three blue-dun fibers optional.
RIB  Very narrow flat gold tinsel.
BODY  Mole fur spun on primrose-yellow silk, a little of the silk exposed at the tail.”

Dave Hughes gives a dressing for similar fly, the Blue Dun Wingless, in his Wet Flies (1995 and 2015) and the updated second edition, which he configures like his Hare’s Ear Flymph, in the flymph style  he takes from Leisenring and James Hidy. He dresses the Blue Dun Wingless with:

“Hook: 1x fine or 2x stout, size 12-18.
Thread: Yellow Pearsall’s Gossamer silk or 6/0 or 8/0 nylon.
Hackle: Medium blue dun hen.
Tails: Medium blue dun hen hackle fibers.
Rib: Narrow Mylar tinsel, silver.
Body: Muskrat belly fur.”

This dressing used yellow thread and a found heron’s herl primary that the dressing prescribes as a body variation. It also leaves off the wings in favor of a hackled dressing comparable to Leisenring’s.

Leisenring’s dressing seems to be based on the Blue Dun that G. E. M. Skues includes in Minor Tactics of the Chalk Stream (1910). Skues’s Blue Dun is dressed with:

Wings: Snipe
Body: Water-rat on primrose or yellow tying silk. Vary body by dressing with undyed heron’s herl from the wing, and ribbing with find gold or medium silver wire.
Legs: Medium blue hen.”

Exclusive of the ever-popular peacock herl, herl-bodied dressings are rather rare in soft hackle literature, although they are common in Skues’ own nymphal dressings. Traditional soft hackles tend to opt for simple silk-bodied or dubbed fur dressings. Notable exceptions include Leisenring’s Black Gnat (dressed without the optional wings), the Old Master and Little Black that T. E. Pritt includes in North-Country Flies (1886), and especially Sylvester Nemes’ Pheasant Tail from his Soft-Hackled Fly (1975).

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Red Ass; or, the Arkansas Red Butt




Silk buttonhole twist - Coats & Clark's 184, red, size D

Peacock herl


L. J. DeCuir lists the Red Ass as the Arkansas Red Butt in his Southeastern Flies (2000), noting that “peacock herl flies have always been good producers on the mountain streams of the Southeast and this one is no exception. This pattern is from Jerry Cobb. He’s had great success with it on the streams in the higher elevations in the Smokies as well as the Northern Arkansas trout streams.” DeCuir dressed it as a heavily hackled wet fly:

“Hook: Mustad 3906, TMC 3976 #8-16
Thread: Red
Tag: Red thread
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Partridge tied as a wet fly collar
Head: Red thread built up fairly heavily”

DeCuir points out that the Arkansas Red Butt works equally well on trout in Southern Appalachian mountains or the tailraces of east Tennessee as it does on panfish and bass in farm ponds and warm water impoundments.

Cobb’s combination of peacock herl, red thread, and a black and white barred hackling recalls dressings like the Gray Hackle Peacock and its precedents; dressed without a tip, the fly bears a strong resemblance to Sylvester Neme's Syl's Nymph.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Black and Blae

This version is dressed with black tying thread and a blue rib to emphasize the attributes of the fly’s name. It substitutes black plastic canvas yarn for dog's fur. The blue thread rib is taken from a spool and not teased or stripped from "some fair damsel's gown.". 




Blue 6/0 thread

Muskrat without the guard hairs and black plastic canvas yarn

Snipe covert

Robert L. Smith includes fly list taken from Thomas Charleton’s poem The Art of Fishing (1819) in his The North Country Fly: The Soft Hackle Tradition (2015). Smith notes that Charleton's poem "offers further evidence of the ubiquitous use of the soft-hackled fly in the northern counties of England during the late 19th century." A rather unique fornat for an angling text, Charleton's poem draws on an earlier precedent that Smith locates in Thomas Scott'smid eighteenth-century poem The Anglers and "entwined the locally used fly patterns of Northumberland into his lengthy poem on the joys of angling in northern rivers."

Charleton recommends fishing the Black and Blae when "March comes in." The dressing is 

Dubb’d with the fur of black dog’s skin,
And water rat’s blae down;
For wings snipe hackles far excel,
Blue silk its rib can mimic well,
From some fair damsel’s gown.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Red Shiner Fly

This dressing substitutes American woodcock covert for British woodcock and the same peacock herl for the rib as the head. 




Peacock herl

Burnt orange Madeira Classic Color rayon embroidery thread, 1021

American woodock covert

Peacock herl

John Turton describes the Red Shiner Fly as no. 31 in his Angler’s Manual (1836). He notes that it is "For April: made with orange silk: wing, red woodcock’s feather from butt end of wing; body, light bright orange silk, ribbed with green peacock’s feather; and peacock's head."  He also notes that the fly is a " good killer after rains." 

Turton also describes variant dressings: "It  changes these colours: -  if there be bright days, the red owl'sfeather, from butt end up wing, is used for wings; if a dark day, the brown owl's feather must be used from outside of wing; if clear low water, the partridge's rump feather is best."

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Light Dun Hackle




Narrow flat gold tinsel

Yellow thread

Starling flank

Slyvester Nemes included the the Light Dun Hackle as an example of Roger Woolley’s dressings in Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies (2003). Woolley included it under the heading of “Yorkshire and North Country Wet Flies” in the third edition (1950) of his Modern Trout Fly Dressing (1932). He dressed it with:

Body.—Waxed yellow tying silk, ribbed fine flat gold.
Hackle.—Small pale dun feather from under starling wing.”

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 Overfield 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.”

Overfield 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, September 21, 2016

Brown and Bright-Green Simplified Deep Sparkle Pupa



Dark brown

One-third olive Sparkle Yarn; two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur

Dark red grouse dressed sparsely, wrapped one turn

Brown marabou strands

With his seminal Caddisflies (1981), Gary LaFontaine changed the way anglers and fly tiers looked at caddisfly representation. His signature Deep Sparkle Pupa introduced anglers to the synthetic Sparkle Yarn for representing the air bubbles trapped between the molting exoskeletal shuck and body of a hatching caddisfly. The dressing itself has a clear soft-hackle heritage, though the body is perhaps better designed to trap air bubbles that enhance the natural sparkle of the synthetic dubbing, and the hackle itself is so sparse as to be almost nonexistent. The head, however, would be at home on any dressing historical angler fished, like dressings of the Winter Brown and Dark Spanish Needle stoneflies or the Light Sedge caddis dressing.

The Brown and Bright-Green Deep Pupa is second on LaFontaine’s list of primary patterns:

"HOOK:   Mustad 94840
WEIGHT:  lead or copper wire
UNDERBODY:  one-third olive Sparkle Yarn and two-thirds bright green acrylic Craft fur (mixed and dubbed
OVERBODY:  medium olive Sparkle Yarn
HACKLE:  dark grouse fibers (long wisps along the lower half of the sides)
HEAD:  brown marabou strands or brown fur"

LaFontaine chose to designate a more traditional soft hackle style dressing of his Deep Sparkle Pupa as "Simplified" to avoid the confusion among anglers who purchased commercially-tied Deep Sparkle Pupas. He created this version because "fly-fishing friends urged" him to design "an optional recipe minus the overbody, for easier and quicker tying." He notes reservations about the effectiveness of the simplified dressing, questioning "how effective this type is compared to the regular pattern. They are much better than any drab-bodied creations, but they are not quite as bright, nor do they trap air bubbles quite as well, as the overbody style." He prefers the overbody "regular type" for his own angling.

Authors like Bob Wyatt have recently questioned LaFontaine's premise in designing the Deep Sparkle Pupa pattern. In What Trout Want (2013), Wyatt argues that the "gas bubble phenomenon is undocumented in any scientific study because pharate caddisflies don't exude a gas that creates a bubble between their instar cuticles," and he points out that the "lack of evidence in itself is not proof that no such insect or behavior exists" and promises "when that proof is produced, I'll be happy to eat my baseball cap." Nevertheless, LaFontaine's pattern is, as Wyatt notes, "a very successful trout fly," and the fly itself remains, if not a strict imitation, at least "another very good attractor pattern."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Maxwell’s Red and Blue

This dressing uses a brownish hare’s fur from a hare’s neck. Taking a cue from the name of the dressing and the hackle, it assigns red tying thread.



Red cock hackle

Small gold wire

Brownish tan hare’s neck

Red cock hackle

In the third edition of Modern Fly Dressing (1950), Roger Woolley includes a pair of flies, Maxwell's Red and Maxwell's Blue, on his list of “Devon and West Country Wet Flies.” He dresses Maxwell’s Red simply, as above:

Body.—Hare’s flax, ribbed gold wire
Hackle and Whisks.—Red cock.”

This dressing uses a brownish hare’s fur from a hare’s neck and blue tying thread, though blue dun thread would create a more impressionistic dressing. However, in the spirit of the fly's namesake, a brighter blue is likely preferable to a more subdued shade. 



blue dun

Dark dun cock hackle

Small silver wire

Brownish tan hare’s neck

Dark dun hackle

Woolley dresses Maxwell’s Blue with:

Body.—Hare’s flax, ribbed silver wire
Hackle and Whisks.— Medium to dark-blue dun cock.”

Although Woolley makes no explicit attribution for the fly, the namesake is Sir Herbert Maxwell, who believed that the color of a lure is less important in catching a fish than size and presentation. In British Fresh-Water Fishes (1904), Maxwell offers a reason why perch might be said to have superb vision and notes that “the colour sense in fish has been the subject of much controversy among anglers, some of whom are anxiously particular about the precise hues acceptable to surface-feeding fish. My own experience goes to convince me that salmon, and even highly-educated chalkstream trout, are singularly indifferent to the colours of the flies offered to them, taking a scarlet or blue fly as readily as one closely assimilated to the natural insect. Probably the position of the floating lure, between the fish’s eye and the light, interferes with any nice discrimination of hue from reflected rays.” He reiterates the point in while discussing salmon fishing in Fishing at Home and Abroad (1913), suggesting that “it matters not one spin of the farthing whether the prevailing hue of a fly be red or blue, yellow or black, or an equal combination of many hues; and the only important consideration is that the lure be of suitable size and be give life-like motion.” Yet for all the polite force of his assertion, Maxwell confesses: “Well, that is the conclusion to which I have been driven malgré moi; but such is the weakness of the human intelligence that I have found it beyond my strength to act upon it,” and “consequently, I suppose I spend as much time as anybody else at the outset of a day’s fishing in hesitating” over which fly to fish first.  

Maxwell’s argument might easily be dressed on a fine wire hook with pale ginger tails and hackling, a pale blue dun wing, and a body of pink silk ribbed with gold tinsel and then be cast across a choppy run on the Beaverkill or Willowemoc, after the fashion of George LaBranche and his Dry Fly and Fast Water (1914). Unlike Maxwell, however, LaBranche felt that presentation was more important than color, shape, and size.

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”