Elegant Flies

Elegant flies are simple. Not all simple flies are elegant. The classic Partridge & Orange North Country wet fly is elegant. It is also extremely simple, consisting of nothing more than a silk thread body and a turn or two of partridge hackle. At the other extreme, the Overhand Squirmie I posted yesterday is unquestionably simple - just a piece of Squirmie Wormie tied in an overhand knot around the hook shank - but it is the polar opposite of elegant.

Partridge and Orange fly in the North Country stylePartridge & Orange
Squirmie Wormie tied around hookOverhand Squirmie Wormie

I have a friend, a bit of a traditionalist I guess, who has fished my original pink chenille Overhand Worm (it was on the line when I handed him my rod). He caught fish, but later said something to the effect that he kind of wished it didn't work as well as it did. If I handed him a rod with the Overhand Squirmie on it, I think he'd change flies. 

The Overhand Worm, which is pink chenille tied around hook with simple overhand knot.The Overhand Worm

There's something about the Overhand Squirmie that's just not ... proper.

Understand that he is not one of the Halfordian "upstream dry fly to rising fish" (with a bamboo rod and silk line while wearing tweed and smoking a pipe) types.

Angler landing fish caught with Overhand Worm...working better than he'd hoped

He just feels, very reasonably, that a hunk of silicone on a hook isn't his idea of fly fishing. I understand completely. There is a mystique about fly fishing that has developed over the couple thousand years since Aelian wrote of the Macedonians with their red wool and two feathers. A brotherhood. A shared respect for tradition.

Even though I do poke fun at tradition from time to time, I do respect it. After all, it was an image of a North Country wet that started me on the path that led to tenkara.  Plus, I think I have done as much as anyone to bring back the idea of fishing with horsehair lines (which are common to both the old North Country anglers and the original commercial tenkara fisherman).

With that in mind, I offer another fly pattern. It isn't quite as simple as an Overhand Worm or even a Partridge & Orange, but it's still simple enough to be elegant. It also catches fish. The horsehair body has both a color and a slight translucence that is very similar to a mayfly nymph's exoskeleton.

Mayfly nymph on fingertip
Different mayfly nymph on fingertip
Simple fly tied with sparse brown partridge hackle and brown horsehair body, which has translucent coloring similar to the mayfly nymph bodies.Mayfly "clinger" nymphs and Horsehair Soft Hackle

Hook: Daiichi 1550 size 12 or 14 (size 14 shown)
Hackle: Partridge
Thread: Uni-Thread 6/0 Dark Brown
Body: Brown Horsehair

Angler holding brown trout caught with the horsehair flyHorsehair Soft Hackle and Brown Trout

Unfortunately, I was photographing the fish rather than the fly. You can just barely see the head of the fly in the fish's mouth. (You can also see the horsehair line.)

Bluegill sunfish showing  the horsehair fly in its mouth.Horsehair Soft Hackle and Bluegill

This shot gives a better view of the fly. If there's anything less Halfordian that pitching flies to a bunch of bluegills in an office park retention pond, I don't know what it is.

If you are even a little bit of a traditionalist, you can tie flies that are simple and effective, and yes, elegant.

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"Be sure in casting, that your fly fall first into the water, for if the line fall first, it scares or frightens the fish..." -
Col. Robert Venables 1662

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