Fly Tying for the Extended Winter

The 100-Year Drake 2014

I awoke to a world of white yesterday morning, and now we have a Winter Weather Advisory in place for tonight. Spring did begin nearly a month ago, I am certain I saw it written right there on my calendar! My solace must come from the bench it seems.

I have written various times of my 100-Year Drake, a fly inspired by the original flies of Theodore Gordon, and influenced by the late Phil Chase. Memory tells me that I began playing with this concept years ago, using first a sparse conventionally wrapped hackle as per Gordon’s ties, and then a thorax hackling technique in the style of Vincent Marinaro. Yes, the springs of the Cumberland Valley will always run deep in me.

I came across Justin Askins’ book and Mr. Chase’s “The 100-Year Fly” perhaps 8 years ago, finding the parachute hackle to be the most suitable. To that point my fly bodies had been dubbed, the majority using the bleed through technique learned from Pat Schuler, Delaware Guide of legend and gentleman angler. I still tie versions of the fly this way, though by 2014 I had tried the turkey biot body shown in the photo above. I have used biots in cream, pale yellow and the pale, yellowish green I found labelled “Green Drake”. The Green Drake biots are most common coming from my bench now, though experiments are always ongoing.

Ephemera guttulata stuck in its shuck

I have planned to make another simple video to share my tying technique for the fly. It is somewhat different from that recounted by Mr. Chase and, I feel somewhat easier to tie. Chase’s chapter in “The Legendary Neversink” describes a fly tied to imitate the Hendrickson, where my investigations have concentrated on the Green Drake.

The hatch of Ephemera guttulata is the highlight of our Catskill angling season, and I believe it is the most difficult mayfly to imitate. Much of my own fishing occurs on flat, clear water, and the flies can be quite active, adding greatly to the difficulty of imitation. Movement attracts trout, if you have fished more than a handful of days you have witnessed this.

The Drake is the most popular hatch in the East, and thus the fishing pressure for its duration is increasingly heavy. Our wild trout see thousands of imitations, fished well and fished poorly, and so are continually educated by anglers. As the hatch proceeds, the larger browns get much tougher to deceive. This fly has solved the puzzle on trout that refused or ignored a variety of other proven imitations.

The style of tie lends itself particularly well to our larger mayflies: Coffin Flies and all of the “drakes”, isonychia, March Browns, etc. If you tie them, reserve them for the trout who refuse your usual patterns. There’s no point in hurrying to wise them up to another style of fly!

4 thoughts on “Fly Tying for the Extended Winter

  1. Good morning, once again I have enjoyed your post and video, they are the way I find myself starting every day lately. I have a 100 year fly typed by Phil some years ago. I had the privilege of fishing the Gorge several times. I would be glad to show it to you when things finally calm down. Mike Canonico


    1. I would be most interested in seeing Chase’s fly. The book had no photos of it. My thorax hackled versions worked nicely but they are a bitch to hackle. The parachute ties easily and works very nicely. I fished to one big brown last June after the river had been pounded. He would only eat 5 to 10% of the naturals that wiggled over his lie, and wouldn’t touch a fly. Then I offered him one of these in a new experimental version I call the translucence series. He measured 22 inches, thick and wide through the shoulders!

      Thanks for your kind words.


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