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.
Holy North Country spider, Jimbo! The Yorkshire influence comes through loud and clear on this American classic. I’ve not yet tried the Black Gnat for the late summer black caddis hatch on the Housatonic (it’s been the very well-received Black Magic) but this pattern would surely be eaten. I like the contrasting head on the Black Gnat, and the use of iridescent feathers. Think a steelhead would eat this fly? One way to find out…
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14-15
Silk: Crimson or claret
Hackle: Purplish black feather from the shoulder of a cock starling
Body: Black silk or two or three fibers from a crow’s secondary wing feather
Wings: Dark starling optional
If you have a starling skin — and you should if you’re serious about soft hackles — you can easily find the kind of metallic feather Leisenring specifies. The body is way sexier with the feather fibers — it creates the effect of silk dusted with a fine fur. I don’t have crow, so I used jackdaw. I see no need to complicate this fly with wings. So there it is. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.
Not to be confused with the classic Leadwing Coachman — this fly is decidedly in the red/orange end of the color wheel. I tend to view the Coachman as an attractor, but in the interest of full disclosure I don’t often fish quill winged wets. On the other hand, it’s hard to go wrong with a peacock herl body.
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-13
Hackle: Bright red cockerel
Body: Bronze-colored peacock herl
Wings: Land rail, primary or secondary
Tying Notes: You’re going to need to dip into your improvisation quiver for some of these materials. No cockerel in my feather bins, so I used a small feather from a red saddle. And land rail? Good luck. I substituted an orange-red dyed starling skin I picked up from Badger Creek a few shows ago. When I tie in a quill wing, I’ll hold it in place between my thumb and middle finger. Three taught wraps, then tighter wraps to finish. Like anything, it takes practice — I hadn’t tied a quill wing in about a year and I needed two tries to get this one right.
I continue to be amazed by the number of people who have nothing better to do on a weekday than fly fish on the Farmington River. Of course, I’m not a part of the solution. But never mind. Just a wee excursion today from 11:30am-2pm, and not all of it was fishing. Hit two spots on the lower river in 90 minutes, which at 800cfs and change was a little high for my liking. (Didn’t get a water temp.) Spot A was a blank, and I wasn’t surprised given the water height. Spot B was a surprising blank, what with a few bugs (midges, grey stones, small un-IDed mayfly) coming off and the water beginning to warm. I spent the last hour exploring a new area, trying to assess its fishiness, and then buying some clear midge rib at UpCountry.
I shall endeavor to get out more and produce a more useful report.
Today’s point fly and midge dropper at lower left.
The best time to go fishing is when you can, and if the tides line up, so be it, north wind and rising barometer be damned. Just a quick sortie to three different spots on the same river. The first two were blanks. At the third, there was mischief afoot. On the dangle at the end of the swing, some quivering taps. A few minutes later, more of the same. Dinks? I thought so. But ten minutes later, when I connected, the fish felt decidedly undinkish. Okay, so a 20″ striper ain’t exactly one to put in the brag book. But when you only need one, and it’s your first of the year, it becomes the perfect fish.
Last night’s fly was a three-feather flatwing/bucktail hybrid of the Herr Blue, about 8″ long.
First cousin to the Old Blue Dun, the Blue Dun Hackle trades buttonhole twist for gold tinsel and muskrat for mole fur. While the North Country spider influence is readily visible, you can see how Leisenring is taking these flies firmly into wingless wet territory with the spikey body and prominent ribbing. Imitator or attractor…or both? You decide, and let the trout kibbitz.
Blue Dun Hackle
Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Light blue dun hen
Tail: 2-3 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
Tying Notes: A mole skin is pretty cheap and will keep you in wet flies and nymphs for years. You want a natural colored fur (kind of a dark blue-grey dun), not a dyed skin. XS tinsel works. I did a better job on this fly of letting the yellow silk show through at the tail.
What a swell time yesterday tying and teaching at Legends. Many thanks to Sal for hosting, and the same shout out to the group for making my job easy. This was an all day event, featuring wet fly theory/tactics/strategies in a classroom setting, and most of all, lots of tying. We managed to bang out a half dozen soft hackles, wingless wets, and winged wets. Always nice to have a full class — not to mention a full glass at the end of the day.
The late afternoon view from the great room at Legends. You can’t tell from the photo, but it was a perfect day for staying inside (windy and cold) and tying wet flies. I was digging the fireplace.