A Reasonable Bit of Work

Freshly tied quill bodied duns: Little Dark Hendricksons and Red Quills made a good start to a reasonable bit of work on this cold, blustery February Friday.

The wind and rain actually rousted me from sleep this morning. It was a bit before five, and the house seemed to be moving from the force of the gusts, with the rain driven so hard we feared it might penetrate the siding. There was no doubt that a thoroughly inhospitable day lay ahead, but I rolled up and fumbled for my moccasins anyway.

The first mug of coffee fortified me enough to head for my tying bench, and I began assembling the materials for some quill bodied dry flies. With any luck, the first Hendricksons are just fifty days away, and I felt it was time to replenish my supply of standby patterns.

Since I brush my quill fly bodies with a protective coating, I tie these flies in stages, a production technique learned at the vise of Ed Shenk. I tie tails and bodies, a quick whip finish and a coat of Hard As Hull, then the hooks are hung in my little fly rack to allow the glossy overcoat to harden. I started with the Red Quills then moved on to the Little Dark Hendricksons, all of these in size sixteen. With those set aside I decided I had earned some breakfast.

Production style fly tying does get the boxes filled, and there is another bonus besides efficiency. The flies look better! Tying several flies of a size and pattern, I tend to get in a rhythm, and that leads to better concentration and repeatability.

After my eggs and Canadian bacon, I continued with my quill obsession, tying two each of the red and dark tan bodies in size 14. Mayflies vary from season to season and riffle to riffle, so even though I know to expect sixteens, I want to be prepared for eventualities. While those were drying, I took a reading break with the late Roger Menard’s My Side of the River. It helps pass the day when you can relax at stream side with a like-minded angler.

The afternoon session included some tan Hendrickson quills and a pair of soft hackles. So with two dozen flies ready for April I called it a day, taking a moment to put away all those materials. Two dozen flies is a respectable bit of work for a house bound fisherman, so I feel like it has been a productive day. Yes, I do wish the sunshine that’s lighting the curtain above my bench was evidence of the real warmth of an afternoon and not the false image of winter. The temperature has fallen throughout the day and now sits in the low twenties and, though the wind isn’t trying to take down the walls anymore, it’s still strong and gusty.

My quill bodied 100-Year Dun in Light Hendrickson trim is a new pattern variation this year.

Quill bodied dry flies have proven themselves for more than a century, and I particularly enjoy tying and fishing my 100-Year Dun style flies to celebrate that history. When I find a trout that looks for movement before taking, I offer the CDC dun variation. If that fish demurs, I know the wing silhouette of the 100-Year Dun can be a reliable trigger. I have a high degree of confidence in both of these flies as they are proven performers.

Tomorrow looks to be another very wintery day, but there is a Catskill Fly Tyers Guild Zoom meeting to provide some entertainment. Sunday might just shape up well enough to be a decent outdoor day, and next week could actually tempt me back to the river, at least before the snow comes.

Our rivers are elevated from rain and snowmelt, though I hope we escaped any significant ice damage. Hancock has been under a flood watch today due to that possibility. The riverbanks are still piled with big slabs of ice from our last rainfall event, the one that melted most of the snow. My friend JA remarked last weekend that the area around the Beaver Kill Covered Bridge looks like a moonscape. A run of nice stable weather would be a welcome change. Forty something degree late winter days are downright pleasant.

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