The Catskill Adams

The Catskill Adams: Buggy and with a little contrast for visibility.

There are times when it makes sense to fish a general-purpose dry fly, something that looks enough like several different mayflies that could be on the water but aren’t. A long time ago that guy in Michigan developed a “caddis” that was renamed The Adams and became a legendary general-purpose fly. There is no denying that the Adams is a great fly, and some fish the pattern almost to the exclusion of others, but it has never been a favorite of mine.

I have never been a fan of hackle tip wings. They look nice sitting there in the vise, but they are not particularly durable once you start squeezing on some floatant and fishing them. Opinions vary as to what type of hackle tips to use. I have an old non-genetic hen neck that has pretty good color and the nice, rounded feather tips most Adams tyers prefer. The downside of hen is that the stems are soft and thin, so the wings tend to get pushed and bent out of position when fished. Dry fly hackle tends to have sharper contrast in the barring and may have stiffer stems, but the current genetic dry fly hackles have sharp pointed tips.

My other complaint with the Adams is the plain gray body. I like some mottling and roughness in the body of a general-purpose fly, that quality fly tyers refer to as “bugginess”, and the gray muskrat fur doesn’t deliver. I am a fan of barred hackle, though grizzly isn’t my first choice when I reach into my hackle box for a cape. So, as I said, the Adams isn’t a favorite.

I was thinking about all of this and my own general-purpose fly, the pattern I call the Fox Squirrel. It’s buggy, close enough to most of our early season mayflies, and has the classic Catskill look to it. I tie it with natural Fox Squirrel fur dubbing and Cree hackle, winged with wood duck. As with a lot of wood duck winged flies, there are times when visibility isn’t perfect. On dark, cloudy days when fishing at a distance against a dark background, the fly can be a little hard to see. The black and white barred wings of the Adams show up better in such difficult conditions, and that gave me the idea for my Catskill Adams.

The Fox Squirrel.

Wanting to avoid those hackle tip wings and preserve a Catskill style, I decided to wing the new pattern with teal flank to get the contrast of the black and white barred wing of the Adams. The body remains natural Fox Squirrel, a beautifully buggy tannish, grayish fur that helps the fly look alive in the water. Squirrel fur has short, barred guard hairs that produce a spiky, rough dubbed body that traps air bubbles. I wanted nice, stiff traditional tailing with speckling, so I chose the Grizzly Variant Coq-De-Leon hackle barbs that have become a favorite of mine.

I wanted the hackle to pop, to reinforce the impression of life and movement and, at the same time, I wanted my fly to be a little lighter in tone. My solution was to choose two barred hackles: a barred ginger and a dark, rusty toned dun barred with pale gray. I like the way the fly turned out. The only drawback I can see with my Catskill Adams is the three and a half months of winter remaining before I can expect to be able to fish it!

One thought on “The Catskill Adams

  1. i find it very interesting all the decisions you made to come to your version of that fly. Sometimes I leave some of the brownish guard hairs in with the muskrat underfur. That give it more color and texture for sure. You definitely have some hackle choices that I don’t have yet. They sound very nice.


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