Harrop's Hairwing Dun

Harrop's Hairwing Dun

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I admit to being a big fan of Rene Harrop. I am always amazed by his mastery of the bugs and hatches of his home water, the Henry’s Fork River. The way he breaks down the stages and life cycle of the different flies and creates or modifies patterns to match each phase of the hatch is truly impressive. I am just not that committed and scientific in my approach to fishing. That’s why I have a day job!

But I have been fishing this fly for about three years now. It has become one of my go-to flies. I trust it to pique the interest of fish, large and small. And hundreds of fish support my belief that this is a great fly.

Hairwing Dun Recipe I tie this fly in a #16 most of the time. I’ve tried 14 and 18, but not been impressed that it made any improvement. Of course this is a style of fly, so it could be tied to match PMD’s and any other bug you want. I have settled on the Super Fine Gray Olive as my dubbing of choice when I am using this as a searching pattern.

The original pattern calls for split tails, but one time I tied up a batch and forgot to split them. The fish, being always the final arbiter of such decisions, told me it didn’t matter, so I’ve tied them with a fan tail ever since.

I’ve used deer, elk, yearling elk, bleached and dyed hair. I don’t think it makes much difference except that it is much easier to follow the lighter colored hair, so I use that. I am always surprised at just how easy it is to track this fly and how durable it is, too. I’ve caught 30-40 fish on a fly without the fly failing.

Give this fly a chance. If it works for me, it will for you. You can find the tying instructions here.

July Is Green Drake Time

Green Drake Dry

The first two times I fished a green drake hatch, I didn’t realize it until it was over. I was fishing a nice run in a pretty little river around the middle of July. About 2 in the afternoon, I worked my way down the run with no strikes. I decided the fish had all moved to deeper pools to escape the heat. When I looked back up the stream, I saw fish begin to rise. Suddenly there were a lot of rises. Big, slashing rises.

I started casting, hoping for the best. I changed flies. I changed sizes. I began to panic. How could the fish be feeding like crazy, but I couldn’t even get a mercy strike?

Finally the frenzy began to fade. The rises slowed and my discouragement grew. Then I saw a bug on the water. I moved downstream to some slack water where I could  scoop up the chunky fellow. I didn’t know what he was, but I desperately wanted to make his acquaintance.

That night I hit my books and the web to identify the mid-day meal that excited the fish. It was a Western Green Drake. I tied up a variety of patterns, determined to be ready the next time.

A couple weeks later I found myself on a different run, early afternoon,  sweaty and hungry. Then rises started. Aggressive, big fish rises. Thinking that rises that rabid had to be a Caddis hatch, I tied on an Elk Hair Caddis, but no luck. After a couple pattern changes, I began to get the feeling my luck was not going to change. The fish were probably laughing at me under the water.

That feeling of despondency triggered the memory of my last failure. Green drakes! Because the adult doesn’t stay on the surface very long, the fish target the easier prey of the emerger. So the peak feeding time occurs before the adult become visible.

I tied on a green drake dry and worked the center of the channel. On my third cast, I hooked up a 16 inch cutthroat. I caught three more before the hatch ended. I had matched the hatch for the first time.

I keep several Green Drake patterns in my fly box during the mid-summer months. In this post I have two of them.

Olive Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph

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Despite my preference for dry flies, this hatch is much better fished for the emerger. So this fly works great in the first stage, when the rises are just starting.

You can fish it alone, using the greased line technique, or as a dropper fly. You can also fish it as a wet fly on the swing.  All three methods work very well.

Like the basic hare’s ear nymph, it is a nice straight forward tie. I have just a couple of notes.

First, I use a hare’s mask instead of a packaged dubbing for all my hare’s ear patterns. I like the different markings to choose from. A mask dyed olive is a cheap investment and will tie a bunch of flies. You can see what it looks like below.

For the tail, I like the banded cheek hair with all the guard fibers left in. For the body and thorax, I pick out most of the guard hairs and mix the fibers with my fingers before dubbing. It only takes a few seconds.

Second, I like a shaggy look to this style of fly, so I use a dubbing loop for the abdomen. It works for me.

Third, you might ask why I use peacock instead of turkey tail or goose wing, or Swiss straw or any other material for the wingcase. The answer is easy. I learned this pattern from the book “Fly Patterns of the Umpqua Feather Merchants”. This is the recipe they cited. I’ve never felt the need to change it.

To see the step-by-step instructions click here.

Olive Dyed Hare's Mask

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The dry fly pictured at the top of the post, is a pattern I go to as the emerger begins to slow down. Even though I might not see the adult yet, the fish are expecting them and will begin to take them. I like this pattern. It may not be the best, but it floats well and looks like a bug. Here is the recipe.

Recipe for Nealley's Green Drake

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This pattern is credited to Alan Nealley. I don’t always follow the recipe strictly. The original used brown deer for the overbody and dark deer for the wing. It rides so low in the water, I need the lighter yellow deer to see it.

Also the original calls for pale yellow poly dubbing, but I prefer a light olive dubbing. Just a matter of taste.

This is a harder fly to tie than some, so if you have questions about the tying sequence, follow the step-by-step tutorial here.

Next time a couple more patterns. I promise not to be so long winded.

Biot Mahogany Thorax Dun

Recipe for Biot Mahogany dun

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If you float the lower Clark Fork River in the fall, you will see Mahogany Mayflies. One of the last good hatches of the year, they are a staple of the river. They don’t come in swarms like Tricos, or mad splashes like the Skwala’s, but they are consistent producers of fine fall action.

I don’t claim to be the author of this fly, although I can’t find a specific reference for it. I’ve been using it for 8-9 years with good results. It’s heritage comes, of course, from the thorax style of Vince Marinaro. The coloration from Mike Lawson’s Mahogany Thorax Dun. I simply added a biot body. Is it more effective than the dubbed body? It is for me. Your mileage may (and probably will) vary. The biot adds to the tying time without doubt. But as I’ve said before, I don’t tie for speed; I tie for fun. And although this isn’t the toughest fly, it will catch a lot of fish before you retire it.

A few tying notes. The traditional wing on a thorax dun is made from turkey flats. Does a fish care?  I think not. Google “thorax dun” and you will find flies with poly yarn, CDC, snowshoe rabbit foot, hackle tips and anything else you can think of. This tells me that the wing is for the fisherman, not the fish. This fisherman prefers the look of the turkey flat. Tie it any way you like.

Another feature of the traditional thorax dun is the tail. It is tilted up by a dubbing ball and split. I tie it with the tilt, but use a fan tail. A silly little bias of mine. I know mayflies have split tails, but since I like the fanned tail, that’s how I tie it. Hackle tail, micro fibbets, crinkled zelon shuck, on your fly tie it your way. In fact, tie it all different ways and make your own choice.

After tying the fly, the traditional pattern trims the hackle even with the hook point to settle the fly lower in the film. I tend to trim them about half way between the hook point and the body.

On a fishing note, this is a flat water fly. The low silhouette gives a realistic appearance, but this fly won’t stay up well in riffles and pocket water. But the Clark Fork in the fall is mirror smooth. Those big Cutts and Bows are sipping, not slashing and this is the perfect fly to bring some to the side of your pontoon boat for a brief visit.

For step by step instructions and photos, click here.

The Rusty Stim, my favorite fly

It is only right that I choose this fly for my first pattern.  In the summer of 2000 a helpful fisherman on the St Mary’s River in Alberta, Canada gave me one to try. He told me it didn’t know the name or who first tied it, but that it worked great, eh. When I asked if that was elk hair, like in a Stimulator, he said: “Well maybe it should be, but I always use deer.” As a novice tier, I asked him why he used deer. “Because I have lots deer hair.”

Rusty Stim

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For a practical tier, that is reason enough.

By the end of the day, the fly was chewed and tattered, but still catching fish. I carefully tucked it away in my fly box to use as a pattern to tie from. I have used it ever since. I can’t begin to count the number of fish I’ve caught with it. Hundreds for sure. Maybe even thousands.

This fly excels in cutthroat water. Whether prospecting or sight fishing, trout just can’t resist it. In fast water they strike it with abandon. In slow, deep pools on the St. Joe River, it will bring the big boys up to the surface. In the spring it looks like a stonefly. In the summer, I guess it could be taken for a hopper. In the fall, it looks like an October Caddis. It just looks like fishy.

On rivers like the Clark Fork, it makes a great point fly. While riding low in the water, the deer hair wing floats all day long and will support any nymph dropper you want to use.

I needed a name for the fly. Unable to come up with anything better, I call it a Rusty Stim. It shares some of the stimulator traits: hair tail and wing, tapering head and hackle. Of course the change to deer and the wire ribbing instead of hackle over the abdomen diverge from it.

Tying Notes: Tying it is similar to a stimulator pattern. Using the fine wire rib instead of hackle enables the fly to ride low in the water like  stoneflies and hoppers. My favorite dubbing is a mix of Aussum Possum burnt orange and Hairline Dubbin rust. I usually apply the hackle sparsely.  Most of the flotation comes from the wing, so the hackle is for suggesting legs, not to support the fly.

I usually only tie this in a size 10. I’ve tried larger for October caddis and stoneflies, but didn’t notice any better strike rate, so I’ve gone to only the one size. Makes life easier.

Whether on the Joe, Kelly Creek, or anywhere trout hide out, you can count on the Rusty Stim to come through for you.