So simple, so elegant, so effective. The Soft-Hackled Flatwing borrows from many sources, all of them wonderful and good. I love this fly for early season school bass, and it makes a fine generic baitfish year-round. Just tailor the color and length to the bait you’re matching et voila! And remember: eyes on flies catch anglers. Not stripers.
Impressionism rules the day. If you’re interested in learning more about soft hackles for stripers, read “Soft Hackles for Striped Bass” from the Nov/Dec 2015 issue of American Angler.
Here’s the basic template:
Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Wing: 30-45 bucktail hairs, under 10-20 hairs contrasting color, under 2-4 strands Krystal Flash or flashabou
Collar: Blood quill marabou, tied in at tip, 3-4 turns; 1 turn mallard flank (optional)
Congratulations to Ron, Toby, and Michael, our three winners in the Currentseams.com 700 followers contest! Each will be receiving a selection of a dozen wet flies, including classic North Country spiders, Leisenring’s favorites, traditional American wet patterns, and a couple Culton originals. Some of the flies are the actual ones featured in the photos for this winter’s wet fly series.
I had hoped to get these out today, but it will have to wait for the weekend or Monday. I’ll let the winners know when I ship.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone for reading and following currentseams. Without you, I wouldn’t be able to do this. Tight lines to all, and on to 800!
Gentlemen, start your drooling. From left to right, Ron’s, Toby’s, and Michael’s dozen. Get these wet and do us proud, gentlemen — and of course, we want to see photos.
What a deep, dark, buggy design. No wonder Leisenring loved this fly. Although only two medium hook sizes are specified, I can see this translating to a 2x short scud hook in a 16 or 18, and strategically placed as the top dropper in your nymph rig. Not what the creator had in mind, but surely the trout would support the decision. The real beauty of this bug may be in that it does not look like anything in particular, but a lot of things in general. Bravo, Big Jim!
This concludes the series of James Leisenring’s favorite twelve wet fly patterns. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more good wet fly stuff on currentseams.
Iron Blue Nymph
Silk: Crimson or claret
Hackle: Two turns of a very short cock jackdaw throat hackle
Tail: Two or three soft white fibers tied very short
Body: Dark mole fur spun on crimson or claret tying silk with two or three turns of the silk exposed at tail.
As with the Tup’s Nymph, I would suggest a 2x strong hook. I only had jackdaw wings, so I used a short covert for the hackle; you can also substitute California quail throat for the jackdaw, or use a dark charcoal grey hen hackle. White hen for tail. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Here we have Leisenring’s take on the English classic Tups Indispensable. (Bonus points if you know the meaning of “Tups,” and its relevance to the pattern. Hint: it has to do with sheep mating. Really.) The original across-the-pond pattern was intended as an olive spinner imitation. But when I see this fly, I think Yellow Sallies, Suplhurs, and Light Cahills. Or we could just go with “Pale Wateries” and be done with it. Once again, best to leave it to the trout to decide what it is. Leisenring specified a heavy wire hook to help sink the fly: “I have no use for a weighted nymph because they do not swim naturally.” (Take that, future Euro-nymphers!) The Tup’s Nymph was another high confidence pattern for Big Jim, as evidenced by this statement: “This is the best all-around nymph I have found.” Try it on point on your three-fly team, or as the top dropper on your nymph rig.
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Very small light-blue hen hackle or medium-dark honey dun hen hackle
Body: Halved: rear half of primrose-yellow buttonhole twist; thorax or shoulder of yellow and claret seal fur mixed dubbing spun on primrose-yellow silk.
Tail: Two honey done hackle points (Leisenring omits the tail in his listing of twelve favorites; the photo in the book shows a tail. Do as you please.)
I would suggest a 2x strong hook. The dark honey dun hackle might be more suggestive of an olive. We’re back to the DMC embroidery floss (#744) as our buttonhole twist substitute. Although Leisenring says the body is halved, his step-by-step illustrations in the book (and the pattern photo) show more of a 2/3 abdomen to 1/3 thorax ratio. Substitute Angora goat for seal fur. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
We see the North Country influence again in Leisenring’s Pale Watery Dun Wingless. Leisenring chose the noun dun wisely, as this is clearly more adult than emerger — heck, you could even go spinner. It’s a far different pattern than the Pale Watery Wingless (AKA The Magic Fly) I tie; my version is more Usual than Poult Bloa, and I use it almost exclusively for the emerger stage. For Farmington River anglers, the Pale Watery Dun Wingless has Light Cahills written all over it, and I know of a certain pod of trout on a certain stretch of river that will be driven absolutely out of their minds by this fly on an early June evening.
Pale Watery Dun Wingless
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Pale honey dun
Tail: Two or three pale honey dun cock fibers
Body: Natural raffia grass, lacquer optional
A light ginger hen neck makes a lovely pale honey dun. Use it for the hackle and the tailing material. I went all in on authenticity and bought a bundle of raffia grass online; you’ll need to strip or cut a strand so it’s about 1/16th of an inch wide. Treat it like tinsel: attach behind the hackle, wind to the tail, then back, making a nice segmented body. I can’t imagine this fly would last without some kind of lacquer, so I used Sally Hansen’s HAN. If you don’t want to bother with raffia grass, the fish will not object to straw colored silk or thread or even Swiss straw. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Here we have Big Jim’s take on the legendary GRHE. (Sounds like a British title: Sir James Leisenring, GRHE.) Buggy, spikey, flashy, and who doesn’t love a pattern made with wood duck — or “mandarin” as they called it back in the day. I have to confess that I’d just as soon dispense with the wings, but Leisenring thought differently. He wrote, “I use an English woodcock feather for winging this fly because it has a bar lacking in our American woodcock. By taking one of these sepia-colored secondary feathers with the buff bar, I dress my Hare’s Ear with a buff tip to their wings and find it very effective.”
Hook: Wet fly, 13-14 (I used a 1xl)
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: None: a few fibers of dubbing picked out for legs
Tail: Two or three fibers of the fine mottled feather of a wood duck or mandarin duck
Rib: Very narrow flat gold tinsel
Body: Fur from the lobe or base of a hare’s ear spun on primrose-yellow silk
Wings: English woodcock secondaries with buff tips
Tying Notes: The tail on this fly is why you save those precious leftover wood duck scraps from winging Dark Hendricksons and Light Cahills. It’s easy enough to dip into your Hareline Dubbin bag o’ hare’s ear, but go out and buy the actual mask for a more authentic tying experience. (Not to mention you can pick and choose the color and texture of the fur.) I used a tool to pick out fur along the length of the body. Buggy is good!
The Yorkshire influence returns. The name “Iron Blue” (Baetis muticous and Baetis niger) is decidedly English. But here’s where I get confused. I don’t ever recall anglers in the states waxing poetically about Iron Blue hatches. Did Leisenring see them (or something like them) on his home streams in Pennsylvania? And it’s hard for me to reconcile this as a BWO with materials like claret silk and honey dun hackle. Or is Leisenring focusing on the iron blue hues he created with silk and fur? Clearly he had great confidence in the Iron Blue Wingless. Leave it to the trout to solve these mysteries — and simply enjoy the pattern’s incongruous colors with a knowing wink as you admire it in the corner of a wild brown’s mouth.
Iron Blue Wingless
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-15
Silk: Crimson or claret
Hackle: Honey dun hen hackle with red points, or a very dark honey dun
Tail: Two short dark honey dun cock fibers
Rib: Fine gold wire optional
Body: Dark mole fur spun on crimson silk; very thin at tail to expose silk
The “honey dun” hackle can be found in a medium or dark ginger hen neck, although you may have to paw through several in search of the precious red points. I made this body a little blockier than the photos in Leisenring’s book and Sly Nemes’ Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies
. I intend to tie a few that are sparser, and with the gold rib. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.