Like clockwork, the first rose bloom in my garden means the Vitreus are popping. Funny thing: I went last night not to the Farmington, but to the Housatonic. (All this warm, humid weather had my smallmouth juices running.) Sure enough, there was a substantial hatch of Light Cahills. When we left the river at 8:30pm, there were clouds of spinners overhead. The fish surely ate well after dark. To the fishing: a little slow, but a few smallmouth were brought to hand on deerhair head topwater flies. My first smallie of the year came on a Countermeasure. That seems right.
My Grenada hybrid tea is usually the first out of the gate, and the Light Cahills were out in force. My Housy spies tell me that the spawning beds have cleared, and that the smallie action is picking up. I think a couple more weeks of warm weather would help. And of course there’s the Farmington…hmmm…decisions, decisions.
Patterned after a classic North Country spider, the Partridge and Light Cahill is another example of a fly that is ridiculously simple and devastatingly effective. The first time I tied this fly, it sat in my box, unused, for the better part of four years. Then came a late May evening on the lower Farmington. Creamy mayfly duns were out in force. Trout were slashing at the flies, their feeding frenzy creating a cauldron effect on the river’s surface. I tied my experiment onto my team of three wets, and the trout overwhelmingly showed their approval. To the vise, good angler, then fish the Light Cahill and Sulphur hatches with confidence. The vote will surely be yes for you, too.
Big Jim loved his Pale Watery nymphs. We know this because he’s got two of them listed in his book. This is the first Pale Watery nymph, and it’s a simple, buggy tie. I’m picturing it as the point fly on a team of three; dropped off the bend of a Usual or Light Cahill dry; or below a dry with the dry on a tag. Speaking of Pale Watery, keen students of Leisenring’s fly patterns will remember the Pale Watery Dun Wingless — one of his “favorite twelve” — from last year’s series here on currentseams.
Leisenring’s Pale Watery Nymph
Hook: 15, 16
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: One or not more than two turns of a darkish-blue cockerel hackle only long enough to suggest wing cases.
Rib: Fine gold wire halfway up the body.
Body: Cream colored fur (Chinese mole or Australian opossum) dubbed very thinly at the tail and heavily at the shoulder and thorax.
Tying notes: No gots cockerel, so I used a dark dun hen cape. For body fur, I chose Hareline Dubbin Light Cahill (HD1). It is here that find myself faced with a disturbing question. Leisenring specifies that the rib should go “halfway up the body.” Does this mean his other nymphs were meant to have a rib that continued over the thorax? It’s quite possible. I’m not a fan of ribbing over a heavily dubbed thorax — it kind of defeats the purpose of that buggy section — but Leisenring may have intended otherwise.
I have not been to the lower Farmington to bear witness, but I know the Light Cahills are coming off because the first rose in my garden bloomed today. On top, a classic Catskills dry or a creamy Usual; subsurface, a legacy Light Cahill winged wet or a Partridge and Light Cahill soft hackle. All will serve you well.
Every year is different, but nature is always on time. This rose is called “Grenada.”
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.