Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Old Blue Dun

The Old Blue Dun would make a fine representation of those bigger early season BWOs we get on the Farmington. Use a darker blue dun hackle and it’s easy to imagine it as a Hendrickson. Clearly, Leisenring thought highly of this pattern. And the trout you present it to will, too.

Old Blue Dun

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Blue dun hen
Tail: 2-3 glassy fibers from a rusty blue dun cock hackle
Rib: One strand yellow buttonhole twist
Body: Muskrat underfur spun on primrose yellow silk, a little of the silk showing through at the tail
Wings: Starling (optional)
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Tying Notes: We’re back to the DMC embroidery floss (#744) as our buttonhole twist substitute. Make sure you pick out the muskrat guard hair — you want the soft, dark underfur. I didn’t leave a lot of the yellow silk showing through at the tail here; I wonder if Leisenring’s intention was to craft the illusion of an egg-layer? Nonetheless, this fly will hunt.

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Gray Hackle

Some questions simply cannot be answered by mortal man: Why do fools fall in love? Should I stay or should I go? But I digress. Consider Leisenring’s Gray Hackle. Why would you specify “yellow or white creamy furnace hackle” and then name the fly…well, you can see where this is going. Maybe Big Jim’s stash of said hackle had a gray cast to it. Maybe it looked a certain way when wet. We may never know. But we do know that there’s a little magic in this design. See for yourself.

Gray Hackle

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Yellow or white creamy furnace
Rib: Narrow gold tinsel
Body: Bronze peacock herl
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Tying Notes: This hackle came from a bag of strung feathers I bought a long time ago for probably a couple bucks. I used two strands of herl to wind the body, and I used the technique of pressure from the thread in front of the herl to make a nice, compact wind (you can see that technique in Tim Flagler’s excellent Squirrel and Herl video.)

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Light Snipe and Yellow

Inspired by classic North Country flies, James Leisenring developed an arsenal of reliable patterns to match the hatches of his beloved local streams. You can clearly see the Snipe Bloa and Poult Bloa influence in the Light Snipe and Yellow. Farmington River trout love this fly, a lesson that is repeated on cool June nights when Light Cahills or Sulphurs are emerging and the water surface is boiling.

Light Snipe and Yellow

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 14
Silk: Primrose yellow
Hackle: Snipe undercovert
Rib: Fine gold wire
Body: Primrose yellow buttonhole twist
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Tying Notes: Instead of working silk, Leisenring used buttonhole twist (the thread that’s used on the borders of buttonholes) for the body. You don’t need to do that — your favorite silk or thread will work. But if you’re shooting for authenticity and can’t find buttonhole twist, try DMC embroidery floss. It comes in a bazillion colors (this is #744). It’s multi stranded, so cut a length then separate a single strand for the body. No snipe? Try starling or woodcock undercovert. You can find a general North Country spider video tutorial here.

Bonus fly: Rat a Tat Big Eelie Variant

After tying the original large R.L.S. Rat a Tat flatwing, I couldn’t help but begin to imagine a translation into a Big Eelie. Those of you who are long time readers (and few of you who have stumbled across me on the beaches of Block Island and wondered, “What fly is that guy using?”) know that Ken Abrames’ Big Eelie is a Steve Culton summertime striper staple. (A little alliteration to jump start your post-lunch brain.) You also know I think it’s a profile and action fly, and that while colors may be irrelevant, I nonetheless love to play around with different combinations. I have to admit I’d never think of grouping these colors in a sand eel pattern. But I’ve got a hunch this is one is going to produce a big bass for me. And for you as well!

Rat a Tat Big Eelie

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253 3/0
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Platform: 30 hairs black bucktail
Tail: A yellow grizzly saddle, under 2 strands each of gold and red flash, under a chartreuse grizzly saddle, under a turquoise grizzly saddle, under a yellow grizzly saddle.
Body: Gold braid
Collar: 3-4 turns ginger marabou, tied in by the tip.
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Tying notes: Sand eels are a slender bait, so make your saddles about the width of a pencil. You don’t want a flaring broom shape for the platform, so likewise make it slim, and take the bucktail from near the tip of the tail. All the saddles are tied in flat. The marabou adds the magic here, as it veils the body when wet, creating movement and an almost glowing effect. I like to tie this fly about 4  1/2 inches long.

“The Little Things” at Russell Library, Middletown, CT, May 1, 6pm

I will be presenting “The Little Things” at the Russell Library, 123 Broad St., Middletown, CT, 06457, on Wednesday, May 1, 6pm-8pm. This is my original “The Little Things” program, so if you haven’t seen it here’s your chance. As usual, we’ll have a post-presentation Q&A, and if there’s time I may tie some flies. Hope to see you there!

The original. Then came LT 2.0. And now, I’m building “The Little Things 3.0.” It should be ready to go for the fall of 2019.

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My wet flies event at Legends on Saturday, March 23, is sold out. Thanks if you’re one of the attendees!

Eight-feather flatwing: Ken Abrames’ R.L.S. Rat a Tat

I’ve been eyeballing the RLS Rat a Tat in the back of A Perfect Fish for about as long as I’ve owned the book. At first I didn’t really know what to make of this pattern. Over the years, its energy grew on me. Finally, this winter, I found the saddles I needed to tie it. Ken described the Rat a Tat’s genesis this way: “That’s a fly I designed just to irritate fish. It’s the kind of a fly that will get a reaction strike.”

I’ll be sure to hold on tight.

Ken once told me that he sometimes includes yellow elements in a fly to indicate the presence of fat, so this should make a fine greasy baitfish pattern (think herring or menhaden). Note how naturally the jungle cock nail integrates with the random black of the grizzly. Lots of magic going on here.

Ken Abrames’ R.L.S. Rat a Tat. This tie is about 11″ long.

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Hook: Eagle Claw 253
Thread: Chartreuse 6/0
Platform: Black
Pillow: Chartreuse dubbing
Support: Chartreuse neck hackle
Tail: First, a yellow grizzly saddle, second, a chartreuse saddle, third, 2 red Flashabou, fourth, a turquoise grizzly saddle, fifth, a light blue saddle, sixth, 2 gold Flashabou, seventh, yellow grizzly saddle, eighth, a ginger saddle, ninth, 2 emerald green Flashabou, tenth, a fluorescent green grizzly saddle, eleventh, 2 red Flashabou, twelfth, a yellow grizzly saddle
Body: Gold braid
Collar: Bucktail, ginger, bottom and both sides.
Wing: Bucktail, yellow
Cheeks: Bucktail, 3 hairs each turquoise, orange, chartreuse, dark blue and emerald green
Topping: Seven strands of peacock here
Eyes: Jungle cock

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A closer look at the zebra-like tail section reveals great gobs of grizzly goodness.

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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.