|Bird's Carey tied by Steven Bird|
The old Carey Special is native to interior B.C. & stands as an indigenous pattern that has survived generations of popularity, while remaining mostly unknown beyond its native precincts. And not unknown for lack of virtue as a getter, the pattern is a staple for lake fishing in my neck of the woods, but for the ambiguous nature of the fly itself, not being any one fly, but a pattern, a tying style, apparently too loosely defined to carry the name any great distance. You’ll find versions of it in fly boxes all over
where it is extremely popular, & that popularity shading into Alberta, Washington, Idaho & .
Variants of the Carey are staples for lake fishing in Montana Northeastern
Washington & the dragonfly-rich lakes of the Okanagan region,
both sides of the U.S./Canada border.
The Carey Special was developed in the 1920’s by Colonel Tom Carey, a retired British soldier who, legend has it, came to the Okanagan wilderness of interior B.C. –
redband country – where he set up his tent at ,
on a mission to develop the perfect trout fly. The perfect trout fly, the original version tied with a
body of marmot fur & hackled with two to four cock ringneck pheasant rump
feathers, was meant to simulate a dragonfly nymph. Carey called this version the
Monkeyfaced Louise or The Dredge. As time passed more versions arose, with
bodies of black bear or other fur dubbing, also deer hair, peacock herl,
pheasant tail, colored yarns, fluorescent yarns, tinsel, chenille, all-black
versions, steelhead versions – the pattern continually morphing, the only
constant: the collar of pheasant rump hackle. The inspiration for the pheasant
rump hackle may have come from an earlier B.C. pattern called the Pazooka (from
local Indian slang, meaning ‘the medicine’). And I suspect the Carey design
harkens back to the ancient designs of Arthur Lake . Britain
There’s been many a battle won, I can personally attest, & regional popularity of the design does bear witness, yet, so far, Colonel Carey’s original mission remains unfinished, a victory never declared, the fly, never becoming one thing, only the ambiguous grail of a bright season at
Yet the quest is not lost, as, somehow, the development of his design went fractal.
So the nexus of Carey’s impossible mission has proven energetic if not
attainable. Ah well. It’s the journey. It’s the journey. It’s the journey. The
pattern continues to morph while still retaining its name – the name that
Colonel Carey did not give it. Arthur Lake
Everybody in the interior
Pacific Northwest ties their own variant of the Carey
Special. They are tied mostly tail-less, but also with a short, sparse tail of
pheasant rump. And I’ve found that the Carey style does travel very well, a
capable bait, particularly in still water & wherever fish are feeding on
dragonfly or damselfly nymphs. A few of my favorite old-time Carey variants are
tied with bodies of dark olive chenille; gold tinsel; peacock herl with a tail
of golden pheasant tippet. The version featured here is my own take on it,
trying to stay true to Colonel Carey’s original mission. This one fishes the
local lakes, simulating dragon & damselfly nymphs, & also the big ‘traveling
sedge’ habiting the lakes of my region.
Hook: #4-#10 TMC 200R (Spending two or more years as nymphs, there are always the larger models available. I usually carry this in #6, & #10 to cover traveling sedge.)
Rib: Olive wire wound over the body – heavy, or medium for #6 & under
Body: Variegated brown wool yarn (mix of chestnut & darker brown)
Hackle: Cock ringneck pheasant rump feathers – take two of the soft, long barbed, church-window feathers from the base of the rump patch, one with brown tips & one with the greenish/bluish tips – one turn of each. Hackle should extend slightly beyond the hook bend. Work the hackle back & against the body with your fingers (or hold the fly under running water for a minute) – & finish.
Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: ucflyfishing.blogspot.com