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.

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Coachman

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.

Coachman

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Hook: Dry or wet fly, 12-13
Silk: Orange
Hackle: Bright red cockerel
Body: Bronze-colored peacock herl
Wings: Land rail, primary or secondary
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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.

Leisenring’s Favorite Twelve Wets: Blue Dun Hackle

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

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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
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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.

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.)