Tinkering With Dries

The Goal of Imitation: A big, wild, beautiful Catskill brown trout sulks in the net prior to release. Might I fool him again?

It is my understanding that the British were rather halting in their embracing of the catch and release doctrine, particularly in their chalkstreams. It seems they felt that brown trout, having attained a few seasons of experience and having been caught and released, might well be uncatchable henceforth. I believe their concern was valid, though perhaps they failed to recognize the supreme challenge of adapting their angling to keep up with the adaptation of the trout.

I whole heartedly believe that a trout develops, that is he gets better at being a trout and thus much less easy to dupe with an imitation of his food. A couple decades ago some may have called me a heretic for that statement, though science has come to embrace the belief that trout not only learn by experience, but pass these traits along genetically to future generations.

I do not maintain that every individual trout possesses these sublime abilities to avoid angling, though certainly many of them do. Just as human beings vary considerably in mental and physical abilities, I find it easy to accept that the lesser creatures share this variety.

I have long maintained that we must seek to refine and develop our angling abilities and our flies. Imitation has always been a puzzle, for no matter how much science and research can teach us, no one will ever know how a fish’s brain interprets the signals it receives from his senses. I find that limitation interesting and learned long ago to accept it as fact and move on. As a result, I have enjoyed more than three decades of fly tying and experimentation.

When winter locks me indoors, my thoughts turn to experimentation and my continuing quest for better imitations. As a confessed disciple of the Cult of the Green Drake, that regal mayfly is often in my thoughts.

I have called this morning’s variations on my 100-Year Dun Gordon Duns to reflect my original inspiration for the entire spectrum of canted wing Catskill influenced mayfly patterns that populate my fly boxes. Early in my experimentation with this style of Green Drake imitation, I hackled the flies in the thorax style originated by the late Vincent C. Marinaro. Marinaro’s design placed the wings at the center of the hook shank, and his crisscross hackling and perpendicular, outrigger tails balanced his ties on the surface very effectively. Wings set amidships worked with that style of hackling perfectly, but the forward set canted wing I took from my studies of Theodore Gordon’s Catskill originals did not produce the same critical balance when combined with the Marinaro hackling.

I selected an oversize hackle and wound it around the canted base of my wing in a lopsided parachute style and suddenly that balance was achieved!

A soggy 100-Year Drake nestles in the hook keeper of my Payne 102 replica to celebrate its effectiveness.

Canting the parachute hackle put the barbs to the rear of the wing below the hook’s centerline, supporting the heavier end of the fly – the end including the hook bend. The fly “cocks” as Mr. Gordon and the English would say, riding the water very naturally.

This morning’s trio of patterns began with the Marinaro crisscross and then the idea became combining that style with the conventional Catskill style hackling. The first Theodore Gordon fly I ever saw was in a glass case at the Catskill Flyfishing Center and Museum. The canted wing, tied with a single bunch of woodduck flank fibers caught my attention immediately, as well as the extremely sparse hackling that looked to have been tied mainly in front of the wing. The fly on the left in the photo gallery above modifies this style with two wraps behind the thorax dubbing ball, then one wrap crossed in front of the wing below the shank and behind the wing above it, finishing with two more wraps in front. I wasn’t happy with this hackling either, so I changed things up for the center fly.

This style has a tapered thorax as opposed to Marinaro’s “ball”. I made two conventional wraps behind the wing, the first at the edge of the dubbing and the second on the tapered thorax so the fibers can’t. I moved the third wrap to the front of the wing, crossed over to finish that wrap tight to the back of the wing on top of the shank. Coming around I moved back in front of the wing onto the tapered thorax and tied the hackle off. There are four wraps of hackle total on this fly, and I like the way it sits on the table.

The fly on the right was wrapped in similar fashion, though I made three tight wraps behind the wing Catskill style, crossed over as before, and then finished with two wraps in front, spaced away from the wing instead of tight against it on the taper of the thorax. This one looks a bit more like a Catskill tie, as it doesn’t have the radical cant. These were all trials to so what little variations in hackling style might do the the way the fly will sit on the water. Number two is my favorite, though I would not take any bets on it to out fish the canted parachute 100-Year Drake.

I do think the Gordon Dun will ride very nicely on faster water. It should float a bit higher on the chop, weather natural current or windblown, and still have that seductive slouch like a big mayfly. Hopefully the Red Gods will lead me to a good hatch of Drakes this season and I will have a chance to see just how the trout react to it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s