Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dark Spruce Hairwing

     A walk through the archives of ancient trout flies & we see hair was not that popular a material for trout flies in the British Isles. In an era when the Brits were still fastidiously marrying quills onto their trout flies, pioneer anglers of the American West were discovering that hairwings were more effective than the old quill winged wetflies, hair, a more suitable material for the larger sized flies needed to meet the big trout of the western freestones, & they were finding more creative ways to use it, developing new patterns that were uniquely American, like the streamer flies of Maine, informed by a regional need. Indigenous patterns. The earliest hairwinged trout flies of the West were simply favorite old-world wetfly & streamer patterns tied with hair wings, but things took off from there. The Trude, tied in 1901 by Carter Harrison for Alfred Trude, with some red yarn from the cabin rug & winged with retriever hair (as a joke, some say), was a landmark pattern, all the more so, as it is fished both dry & wet, foundational to an entirely new breed, now extensively fished throughout the Rocky Mountain Region & beyond. The squirrel-winged Picket Pin, tied by Montana tavern owner Jack Boehme in 1910, is another unique Western pattern that comes to mind. Meant to fish for stoneflies but also a good attractor. Like the Trude, the Picket Pin is fished both wet & dry – I’ve seen it classified as a streamer, & it does fish as a streamer, but I suspect its maker fished it in the Western style, as a dryfly, until it sank, then, a wetfly. The Godfrey Special, now known as the Spruce, is another Western design that proved, & survived as a favorite for over 100 years. Though originally tied as a streamer, not a hairwing, the Dark Spruce lends itself well to the style. Originally tied for sea-run cutthroat, I’ve found that inland cutthroat like this hairwing version as well. Brookies too. My brother caught a 9 pound brown on this pattern.

The original calls for a red floss butt, though the red mylar gives more flash. One can wind fine wire over the body, but having had trouble with it slipping down the mylar portion, I quit using it, instead, coating that portion of the fly with a thick, clear dope.

Dark Spruce Hairwing

Hook: I like TMC 200R, TMC 2312, & I still have some old-timey Mustad 3906B’s – ideally a wetfly/nymph hook 2x or 3x long, depending on design & size. In sizes smaller than #10, a 2x long or standard wetfly hook will give you more gape in the bend, which may be a better way to go in some waters. Paul Bruun, who also develops hairwings, & probably knows, tells me Jackson Hole cutthroats tend to twist off the TMC 200R. Which leads me to consider how various populations of trout have their distinctive fighting characteristics which, along with other variables, will dictate what the hook need be. In theory, the design functions much the same as a classic salmon/steelhead fly, & can be fished the same way. As the fly is often fished with quite a bit of movement, swung, lifted, stripped, I don’t want a lot of material trailing for chasing trout to snipe at. I don’t want to get short-bit. But, at the same time, the longer the wing the more action it has, so I want to maximize the length of the wing, which extends to the end of the hook bend.

Thread: Black UNI 8/0

Tail: Peacock sword tips

Butt: Red mylar tinsel

Body: Peacock herl

Wing: Pine squirrel tail

Hackle: Furnace hen  & finish

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:                

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