R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

What’s the best shrimp fly pattern? You could go with the philosophy of, “There ain’t no best,” and you’d get no argument from me. Or you could weigh in with the General Practitioner — and you wouldn’t be wrong.

General Practitioner = G.P. = Impressionistic shrimpy goodness.
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Trey Combs writes in Steelhead Fly Fishing that the original prawn was tied by Colonel Esmond Drury in 1953. The General Practitioner then got really famous as a west coast winter steelhead pattern. Today there are all manner of versions and colors; this one is a variant developed by Ken Abrames as published in A Perfect Fish.

Ken introduced me to the pattern many years ago. He handed me a black G.P., and with a knowing confidence, told me to fish it as part of a three fly team. Sadly, I’ve long since lost that fly, but I still have one of Ken’s olive G.P.s. tucked away in the never-to-be fished-again archives. When tied just so, G.P.s are magical creations that bask in their impressionistic glory. Picture this fly near the surface on a greased line swing or a dead drift, easily visible to a striped bass even in the mucky outflow of a salt marsh. Wait to feel the weight of the fish — and then hang on. Stripers love shrimp, and when they are keyed on this bait, feeding on station, they will often ignore all other offerings and stripped presentations.

R.L.S. Black General Practitioner

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Hook: Atlantic salmon 2-8
Antennae: Black and blue bucktail, mixed
Head: Black golden pheasant neck feather
Eyes: Golden pheasant tippet
Body: Gold flat tinsel
Ribbing: Gold oval tinsel
Hackle: Natural black
Carapace: Metallic black turkey feather
Back: Same
Tail: Same
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A view from below. You can imagine all those hackle fibers gently quivering in the current and whispering to a striper, “I’m alive…”

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Tying Notes: Ken called for an Eagle Claw 253, but I like the badass black of Atlantic salmon hooks. No gots turkey feathers? Me either, so I used dyed black pheasant rump. The majority of the black G.P.s I’ve seen use far too much bucktail; remember, you’re tying the antennae of a grass shrimp (the steelhead pattern calls for 10 bucktail hairs; I used 20) not an opaque jig. To form the eyes, cut a V-shape in the tippet and then lacquer with head cement. The “eye stalks” will narrow from the head cement. You don’t have to use the tinsels; gold braid works just as well. The body and top feathers are somewhat of a pain; tie in the carapace at the tail, then tie and wind the tinsel and hackle to the mid-point of the shank, tie in the back (like a little roof), continue forward with the tinsel and hackle, then tie in the tail feather, again like a little roof. Make a spiffy head and go fish.

“The Little Things” and fly tying demo Wednesday May, 1 Russell Library, Middletown

I’ll be presenting one of my most popular fly fishing programs, “The Little Things,” at the Russell Library in Middletown, CT, Wednesday May 1 from 6pm-8pm. I’ll kick things off with a short fly tying demo, then we’ll go straight into the program, and finish with Q&A. This presentation is all about seemingly insignificant things that can make a huge difference in your fishing success. Everyone is welcome — hope to see you there! Here’s a link to the Russell Library website.

Want to catch more fish? Want to catch bigger fish? This is a good place to start.

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Time to tie up some Soft-Hackled Flatwings

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.

SofthackledFlatwings

Here’s the basic template:

Hook: Eagle Claw 253 1/0
Thread: 6/0
Platform: 30 bucktail hairs
Tail: Flatwing saddle to match platform color, under 2-4 strands flashabou
Body: Braid
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)

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Iron Blue Nymph

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

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Hook: 14-15
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.
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Tying Notes: 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.

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Pale Watery Dun Wingless

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

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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
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Tying Notes: 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.

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Hare’s Ear

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.”

Hare’s Ear

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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
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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!

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Black Gnat

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…

Black Gnat

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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
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Tying Notes: 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.