Best of North Country Spiders: Waterhen Bloa

You’ll often find BWOs on the greyest of days, so ’tis fitting that this ancient-and-tradtional Olive pattern sports the same somber hues. It also makes a fine Early Grey Stone.

Waterhen Bloa

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-18
Silk: Yellow
Body: Silk dubbed with water rat (muskrat) or mole fur
Hackle: Waterhen under covert feather
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Tying Notes: Waterhen is difficult to track down. Starling or blue-grey dun hen are suitable replacements. You should be able to see the thread clearly through the dubbing — I call it “dusting the thread.” This fellow is slightly on the heavy side of dubbing. Keep enough thread waxed (I used cobbler’s wax) to avoid having a bright yellow head. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Best of North Country Spiders: Orange Partridge

What’s the difference between a Partridge and Orange and an Orange Partridge? Not much. And everything. Sure, the gold rib provides segmentation and a hint of flash. But for me, it’s the brown speckled hackle that gives the Orange Partridge an entirely different energy. They liked this pattern for olives on the streams of Yorkshire; I’m seeing caddis all the way. Tell you what: let the trout decide what it is. And hold on tight.

Orange Partridge

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-16
Silk: Orange
Rib: Fine gold wire
Hackle: Brown speckled feather from a partridge’s back
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Tying Notes: Another straightforward tie. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Best of North Country Spiders: Snipe Bloa

The Snipe Bloa is one of those flies that has a palpable energy, even when it’s resting in the palm of your hand. I think I prefer James Leisenring’s take on this pattern, the Light Snipe and Yellow, which uses Primrose silk, a fine gold wire rib, and snipe undercovert. This version (you can find many iterations of the Snipe Bloa; Pritt lists two) is taken from Sylvester Lister. It’s also called the Snipe and Yellow. Yellow Sallies, Sulphurs, Dorothea, Summer Stenos — the answer is “yes.”

Snipe Bloa

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 16-20
Silk: Yellow
Hackle: Small darkish feather from under snipe’s wing
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Tying Notes: No snipe? No worries. Starling is your friend. This is a fast, simple tie. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Best of North Country Spiders: Grey Partridge (Grey Watchet)

My interest in North Country Spiders is twofold: that they’re cool (traditional, sparse, elegant, simple), and that so many of them translate well to our streams here in the U.S. Like the Grey Partridge. I first saw this pattern in Syl Nemes’ Two Centuries of Soft-Hackled Flies. Nemes saw it in T.E. Pritt’s North Country Flies. Now I’m sharing it with you. This pattern doesn’t get a lot of juice, but it makes a darned good Light Cahill. Just ask the trout.

Grey Partridge (Grey Watchet)

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-16
Silk: Straw
Hackle: A light feather from a Partridge’s breast
Head: Peacock herl
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Tying Notes: If you’re going for authenticity, tie the head in first and finish the fly behind the hackle. I used two strands of herl spun on thread for this fly; you can see the technique in my Drowned Ant video here. Next, attach and wind the hackle rearward. (It take s little practice.) Wind the silk body and finish. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Housy Trout & Smallies in the March/April issue of Eastern Fly Fishing

Hot off the presses: “Upper Housatonic River, CT — The Smallmouth River That Thinks It’s A Trout Stream.” You can read it in the March/April issue of Eastern Fly Fishing. You’ll find a little river history, a little reconnoiter, some trout and smallie basics, and a couple of my favorite Housy fly patterns. Oh. It’s also a pretty good read (said the author modestly). I believe you can get a copy at matchthehatch.com.

Where we set out to prove the O.W. Holmes quote, “There’s no tonic like the Housatonic.”

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Book Review: “The Hunt for Giant Trout” by Landon Mayer

Well now — who doesn’t want to catch a giant trout? My first encounter with such a creature came in the early 1970s on CT’s Salmon River: twenty-three and one-half inches of malevolent brown beast. Its perfectly formed paddle fins and striking colors indicated that this was a holdover of at least several seasons. I just happened to be the kid who stuck it.

Yes, I’m addicted. Not quite as big as that Salmon River fish, but within trophy range. Farmington River, September 2018.

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Catching a giant trout changes you, and once you decide to pursue them you realize that big fish really are different — one of the many instructive points author Landon Mayer makes in his new book, The Hunt For Giant Trout — 25 Best Places in the United States to Catch a Trophy.

The Hunt For Giant Trout is divided into two sections: Strategies & Techniques, and The Fisheries. Strategies & Techniques is loaded with information on giant trout behavior and how-to (from reading water to fighting tactics). As a seasoned angler, I often judge fly fishing books from the perspective of: tell me stuff I don’t already know. There’s plenty of that in the first section, and I’m always delighted to discover how much I still have to learn.

The Fisheries takes you on a tour of 25 locations where you can fulfill your quest. I like that Mayer involves locals (some big names in there!) in each writeup; who knows the water better than someone who fishes it a hundred days a year? Included are favorite patterns and recipes, from bulky articulated streamers to midge nymphs. (As a fly tying nerd I’m always curious about what other people are tying and throwing.)

Mayer’s style is conversational and easy to read. Everyone learns differently, and there’s a ton of visual reference, from photos to diagrams. Even if there weren’t pictures of Landon holding giant trout, you’d still come away with the notion that this guy knows what he’s talking about. Minor quibbles? Only three of the twenty-five fisheries are within driving distance of New England; the list skews heavily western U.S. Still, there’s more than enough quality information here for me heartily recommend The Hunt For Giant Trout. Now I’ve got to go back and read it again. Summer’s coming, and that two-footer is lurking under a logjam, waiting for the opportunity to strike.

One of the coolest parts of doing presentations at places like the Fly Fishing Show is that you get to meet people who have caught way more big trout than you. Like Landon. He’s also one of the nice guys in our sport. So get this book and read it. The Hunt for Giant Trout by Landon Mayer, Stackpole Books, ISBN 978-0-8117-3719-7.

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Best of North Country Spiders: Smoke Fly

You’ll often hear me say that there ain’t no best — only what’s best for you, or the situation. For this “Best of North Country Spiders” series, I’ve been choosing the flies based on what I like to fish here in the northeastern U.S. Or, in the case of the Smoke Fly, flies that I can’t believe I never fished, but should have. Beetle, anyone? How about a midge in size 18-20 (like a subsurface Griffith’s Gnat)? Even a steelhead fly in 2x short, 2x stout size 12. My mind is whirring…

Smoke Fly

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-20
Silk: Purple
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Snipe undercovert or light blue-grey hen
Head: Peacock herl
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Tying Notes: To tie a more durable body, use two strands of herl spun on a length of thread or silk; you can see the technique in my Drowned Ant video here. I used hen hackle for this tie. The head is three wraps of a single strand of herl. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.