I have written previously of my 100-Year Drake pattern and its inspiration in the flies of Catskill Legends Theodore Gordon and Phil Chase. The pattern evolved over a number of seasons as I searched to improve upon a fly that worked marvelously for me from the outset. Yes, like most fly tyers I tend to tinker with patterns and techniques.
By the spring of 2014 I was tying the drake with turkey biots, and predominately with natural wood duck flank feathers for the wing. I had started with mallard flanks dyed both pale yellow and green, and though both versions caught big brown trout for me, I wasn’t satisfied with the amount of water the mallard wing absorbed, regardless of the floatant applied. Wood duck seems to stay drier and is more beautiful to my eye. It also is an integral part of the tradition lying at the heart of this fly.
The biot body has remained, though I still experiment with different dubbings, pure silk most recently. Biot bodies have been tied both smooth and ridged, both with success, and I have settled at last on one of Charlie Collins golden grizzly dyed capes for hackling.
I had promised myself to tie additional imitations, to start a series of patterns, and I finally took the time to work on that this winter. There have been some Hendricksons so far, all dubbed bodied flies tied with my tan fox, pink enhanced fox and brick red “Beaverkill Hendrickson” blends. I look forward to the hatch with fervor each spring, and this year moreso due to the stress of the virus outbreak and the anticipation to try these new 100-Year Duns.
I have also tied a few March Browns, today adding to that family with light and dark versions tied with tannish yellow and March Brown colored biots and natural silk dubbing. I like these two, tied with cree and dun cree hackle respectively. One can never tell whether the Red Gods will grant us a good March Brown season or a poor one. I can only hope this becomes a good year for the big mayflies.
Color is a funny thing when it comes to stream insects. For nearly 25 years, every March Brown dun I captured on the Catskill Rivers was an amber or caramel brown bodied bug. A couple of years ago I began to see some with a pale tannish yellow body, a different looking insect from the “March Brown” we all recognize as the Gray Fox, so I tied them too.
Last year Mike Saylor and I were stymied on the Beaverkill when the hatch appeared and trout fed happily. On the way out Mike finally snatched a fly from the surface revealing a size 10 mayfly with the heavily blotched wings and two barred tails of a March Brown, and a body color I have to call road sign yellow. It was a ridiculously bright shade of safety yellow and the trout were selective to it.
I proved that to myself by tying some neon yellow imitations and catching several large browns on subsequent trips to that pool. When I switched to the old pale tannish yellow or amber flies they were refused. Changing back to the “Woodstock March Browns’ allowed me to catch those same fish. I wonder if I will ever see anything like that again?
I guess to be thorough I should tie a couple 100-Year Woodstock Duns but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe the mayflies were simply celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Festival last year, and things will get back to normal this May; at least for another 50 years.