Tricos and Terrestrials

The late Ed Shenk: friend, mentor, Fly Fishing Hall of Famer, and they guy responsible for a great morning’s fishing!

I wasn’t planning on doing any trico fishing this morning, terrestrials were my game, and I was nearly caught short. The trico box wasn’t in the little chest pack draped around my neck, and there was no spool of 7X tippet in there either. I wasn’t prepared, but the trout spread out in the river in front of me were sipping those confounded little spinners quite happily. I tried my smallest beetle – no. Then I knotted on an even smaller ant – no chance fella. Hmm, consternation…

There is a second small fly box in that chest pack, and I thought for a moment that there might be something in there I could use. My late friend Ed Shenk saved the day for me once again, as I dug around and came up with a single Shenk Double Trico!

Ed came to the rescue of frustrated fly fishers decades ago when he conceived and tied this pattern. Tricorythodes mayflies are a size 24, and it is very, very difficult to hook trout consistently on a size 24 hook. You can offset the point, you can make sure you hold your mouth just right, but its still pretty chancy, particularly when you find a good fish sipping the “White Curse”. Where trico populations are good, the spinner falls can be quite heavy, and Ed had observed trout sucking down clusters of spinners under these conditions. His solution was to tie two spinners on a single size 18 dry fly hook: one tail, two abdomens, wings and thoraxes, tied one behind the other.

The fly I snatched from that catch-all box this morning was a female Double Trico, with two white abdomens and two black thoraxes, and it worked like a charm!

I was armed with my Dennis Menscer four weight, seven and a half feet of flamed bamboo, rigged with a vintage 3″ Hardy St. George and an unknown English line. I have been looking for the right reel to fish with that rod and I finally found it in the old Hardy. I examined the line that was already spooled to find a long delicate taper, one that formed sweet loops when I tried it on my rod in the yard. No reason to change it out I decided, and this morning’s fishing proved it was the right decision.

That first riser, the one that ignored the beetle and the ant, came to the Double Trico perfectly. He didn’t care for the hook one bit though, and bucked against the slender arc of bamboo in an effort to rid himself of the thorn. I netted the fifteen inch brownie with a smile: a nice fish for a trico sipper.

The next one was laying in the shade of a tree, and the morning sun was glaring right into my right eye as I tried to place my fly in just the right line of drift. It took several tries, with the trout in the shade and that spotlight in my eye, but I finally got it right and the trout tipped up just as the first one had. He spun the Hardy a few times, bucked against the cane, but a net was clearly in his future. Brown number two was between sixteen and seventeen inches long, basically tying my best ever trico fish from back in my Falling Spring days.

I found another making a nice bulge back in the shade, and pulled more line from the reel. I was about to find out just how much I liked this mystery fly line. When you’re fishing to a nice trout sipping tricos, you have to make gentle presentations. When that cast has to go under a couple of low overhanging branches, and fifty feet back in the shade to alight without a ripple, the challenge increases. I had the perfect tool in my D.W. Menscer Payne 100, and that first shot back into no man’s land was perfection. Bulge, take, bent bamboo!

This fellow was primed to make some music on that vintage click and pawl! It was a good fight, with multiple runs and plenty of twists and turns, but he too found his way to my net. Eighteen and a half inches, nose to tail, a new trico record for me! Thank you Mr. Shenk, Mr. Menscer and Mr. Hardy.

Eventually the tricos thinned out I guess as the rises became irregular. Time to hunt I figured and knotted a Grizzly Beetle. There was one nice bulge deep in another shady spot, and I made the approach carefully. This was a one cast and done affair, but the rod and line felt like a part of my arm as I shot the little dark fly back into the shade beneath the branches.

You’ve gotta love that gentle bulge when it interrupts the silhouette of your fly drifting down the mirror and all hell breaks loose with the twitch of the rod. This one wasn’t coming out from under that tree if he could help it, but I put all the pressure the light rod and tippet allowed to keep him coming once I turned his head my way. He passed the snag and turned back toward it, but I swept the rod downstream and away, completing his turn with an extra curve that got him running down and away from danger. Yes my bronze and golden friend, I learned a few tricks about trout in cover many, many years ago!

In the net he measured twenty inches, the red spots on his bronze flank brilliant in the morning sunshine. There was one more that drew a cast with the Grizzly Beetle, a foot long aerialist that put on a spectacular show, out of the water four or five times in quick succession. I laughed as I held him in my hand and twisted the fly free.

My time was drawing short, and I worked my way down river, thinking of the short drive and a fresh deli sandwich for lunch. It was a perfect morning, the river quieter than it has been. I wrapped my self in the solitude as I waded slowly, thinking of my old friend and his special trico fly. I believe I’ll tie a few more, the one in my pack looks pretty ragged.

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