Tying Tricos

A Female Trico Spinner, Size 24

I picked a morning when my eyes were clear, and my fingers relatively pain free, as tying any size 24 dry fly requires good vision and dexterity. Lashing a wisp of Antron to the hook shank demands the most delicate thread control when the flies are this tiny. Magnification makes the wings look more substantial than they are, while in truth only about one third of one strand of the multi-strand yarn is required.

Three on a cork!

If seeing clearly to tie these little darlings seems difficult, imagine trying to follow them fifty feet away, awash in the surface glare amid thousands of seeds and bubbles and (hopefully) the real thing! That is just the beginning of the challenge of fishing the trico hatch.

Light two and three weight rods get the call for this hatch, supple rods that flex gently and freely under load, both to cast the long, light leaders and protect the tiny hooks and the finest of tippets. My 7X fluorocarbon tests at 2.5 pounds, on a good day, and before I tie a knot in it. I don’t have access to a micro scale to test it, but I would expect significantly less than two pounds of strength for fishing, provided I don’t nick it with a bit of rough skin on my fingers while tying that knot.

Of course a size 24 fly doesn’t have a lot of hook gap available to catch a trout’s lip either. I have always tied my tricos on the hook the venerable George Harvey recommended. George was one of the first fly fishers to match this hatch on the Pennsylvania limestoners many decades ago. The Tiemco 500U is an upturned eye dry fly hook with a 2X short shank, that is, the size 22 hook I use has the shank length of a size 24, with the gap of the larger 22. The upturned eye also helps with hooking a fish, as it is completely out of the way of the hook point.

I fished the hatch on Falling Spring almost daily each summer during my fly shop years in Chambersburg. If memory serves the largest trout I ever caught on a trico spinner was a wild rainbow of sixteen or seventeen inches. I would truly enjoy the challenge of landing a twenty inch Catskill brown on one of these miniscule spinners, though the greatest challenge might be finding one taking tricos to fish to. As I wrote the other day, I have not found the clouds of spinners habitual to the species on these rivers. With such tiny mayflies, a significant density of spinners is usually necessary to interest the trout, particularly the larger ones.

Were it not for the public health crisis, I might be tempted to visit the streams around State College, Pennsylvania to refresh my trico fishing skill set. To my knowledge, many of these limestoners still offer a relatively heavy hatch and spinner fall. The key I believe is habitat. The limestone streams tend toward an abundance of the very fine silt tricorythodes inhabits, while our Catskill rivers and their greater fluctuations in flow tend toward coarser silts.

Aquatic weed growth has been on the upswing these past two seasons on the West Branch. Should the weed beds continue to expand and not succumb to high seasonal flows, they could trap more of the finer silts and foster more significant deposits capable of supporting better trico populations. It would be fun to spend mid-mornings on the West, pitting our skills against the fly some have called “the white curse”. Big West Branch browns eat plenty of size 22 and 24 olives, so I have no doubt they would feast upon a heavy trico spinner fall.

Light two and three weight rods, long fine leaders and 7X tippets are the standard tools of the trade.

A good spinner fall is something every dry fly fisherman should experience. The number of flies can be astounding, and the trout will feed on them with metronomic timing and efficiency. The better the fall, the more trout up and rising, and the harder it is to catch one. It can be hard to ignore a pod of trout rising every few seconds, but picking out a straggler out of the main drift can make your morning. Often the larger trout will position themselves away from the fray, in soft, shallow water where they can lift and take spinners at their leisure. With fewer flies to choose from, a straggler is more likely to be deceived into taking your fly, but only if you fish perfectly!

My best Falling Spring spinner fall trout was a straggler, nosing out from an undercut bank to sip tricos away from the main current. His habit made for a tricky float, but I met the challenge that morning.

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