|October Caddis ~ mixed black & tan moose hair wing|
Those who follow SHJ will know that I spew quite a bit concerning regionality & tying local as a process through which we, the tiers of flies, are informed by what the trout & our environment are cueing us to – the process possibly resulting in a recognizable regional style of fly pattern.
|Green Drake ~ mixed pearl-gray, black & yellow kip wings|
I saw this process illustrated some years ago when I stopped in to visit Jack Mitchell’s Evening Hatch outfit at their new lodge, downriver from my beat. And at that same occasion Justin Hotchkiss of North River Charters stopped by the lodge, & for the first time all the local guides operating on the American Reach of the upper Columbia where assembled at one table. There were four of us. None of us were aware of what the other guys were fishing. Black Quill (UC ‘Drakes’) & Green Drake where hatching then, & we started talking about flies, so naturally fly boxes were presented & opened around the table. And to my surprise, & to everybody else’s surprise & amusement, it came to light that we’d all arrived at the same conclusion regarding what worked best fishing over the big mayflies – we were all using Wulff-style hairwings tied to resemble the local drakes. Justin Hotchkiss’s superbly tied renditions sporting mixed hair wings were stunningly realistic. The dictates of our trout & water, our needs, & a lot of trial & error, had brought us to the same place. It was clear: from the conflicted currents of the upper
a distinct regional style had
developed, ‘organically’, if you will. We dubbed Justin, native son, Master of
the UC Hairwing Style. Columbia
|Black Quill ~ black with shorter yellow kip wings|
Of course, you might find such flies in use anywhere, & particularly on the big rivers of the West Slope. Form following function, their main function is to float well during extended drifts on fast & rough water. Yes, foam floats, but native UC redband, ever behind the times, seem to prefer hair to foam. Regional preference, if you will. No accounting for taste. Though I do suspect there are explainable factors involved, including, maybe, that natural materials recreate most living things better than plastic foam does. The working elements that apply to good wetfly design: light; motion; obfuscation, apply to effective dryfly design as well, in my own experience.
|CDC & Elk Sedge ~ tan CDC & speckled elk wing|
Though most UC hairwing dries are imitative of larger insects found in the drainage, hairwing designs imported from outside the region have adapted to meeting the smaller mayflies of the upper Columbia as well – notably, the Al Caucci-Bob Nastasi Comparadun style, developed to meet the mayfly hatches & selective trout of the upper Delaware (probably inspired by the Haystack patterns of Francis Betters, created to float well on the swift freestone water of the Ausable). A simple Haystack is my favorite for meeting #14-#18 mayflies. And, as most everywhere, the ever-present wee sedges are effectively matched with simple downwings of deer or elk.
|Royal Wulff ~ white kip wings|
When I first met the American Reach of the
in 1973, the Royal Wulff was a standard among the few local fly anglers, & for
good reason, & it is still the best pattern I know for exploring the top of
the water column. (If the situation calls for a bobber, the Royal Wulff is
usually my choice for the purpose. A soft-hackle dangling under a RW is a killing combination.) And I’ve no doubt the
construction of the Royal Wulff provided the prototype for the more imitative UC
‘drake’ designs that followed. Columbia
|UC Royal Wulff with tailing of moose mane & golden pheasant tippet|