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 don’t know if W.C. Stewart had yellow sallies or sulphurs on his wee Scottish burns. But we have them here in the States, and Stewart’s Dun Spider does a bang-up job of imitating those hatches. Try fishing this on a small stream as a dropper off a bushy dry — or as a dry-wet tandem during a sulphur emergence. (You can thank me next time you see me.)
Every fly tier has a good supply of dotterel on hand…uh…hold on…dang! Turns out, not so much, even in Stewart’s time (mid-19th century). You can substitute with webby dun hen, or heed the sage advice of the man himself:
Stewart’s Dun Spider
Hook: 14-15 (from Leisenring). I used a Partridge SUD2 #14.
Hackle: Dotterel (I used a feather from the inside of a starling wing)
Body: Working silk
Tying Notes: The silk body should cover only the front half of the shank. Select a feather with fibers about as long as the shank. To make a more durable fly, Stewart suggested twisting the hackle around a silk tag before winding. Here’s how I did that: Start the silk at the head, winding rearward. Leave a 3″ tag about 3/4 of the way down the body. Continue winding the working silk. At the halfway point of the shank, proceed back toward the head. When you get to the silk tag, tie in the feather at its tip, and continue winding your working silk toward the head. Now, twist the feather around the silk tag, taking care not to break the spine (starling is fragile!). If you look closely at the photo, you can see the silk reinforcement around the spine of the feather. Wrap the feather toward the head, 3-4 turns, preening the fibers so they don’t get covered (a bodkin or needle may help). Tie down the feather and whip finish.
Last winter I posted a very popular series, the Best Of North Country Spiders, a list of thirteen of my favorite ancient and traditional Yorkshire soft hackles. What was missing was a single reference list of the bunch. And now, the remedy: the list, a photo of each pattern, and a link to the original post with my comments and tying instructions.
Best of North Country Spiders. “With the soft-hackled fly, the trout throws caution to the wind…” — Syl Nemes
There you have them. Fish these patterns with confidence: North American trout have no idea that they’re not in an English chalk stream 200 years ago. As always, if you have trying or fishing questions, I’ll do my best to answer them.