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Thread: Definition of a Variant Fly

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    Default Definition of a Variant Fly

    On a different thread, there was some discussion of the term "variant" as applied to fly tying.

    I am reading an old book by Jim Quick, called "Trout Fishing and Trout Flies", published in 1957.

    In it, Mr. Quick describes a "Variant" this way: "The variant is constructed, generally speaking, with longer, heavier than usual tails and one of its two hackles up to two sizes larger or even longer. The second hackle is generally the normally correct size for the fly. Hackles, too, are usually of two different shades or kinds."

    This is similar to LadyFisher's explanation in the a Fly of the Week section.

    He also writes of "semi-variants" and says: "Flies tied in this fashion are excellent floaters and excellent fish attractors". It was interesting to note his use of the term "fish attractors"..............


    So, I had to sit down and immediately tie this "Variant".




    Of course, if you ask a hackle raiser what a "variant" he will say it is a feather slightly off-color to the general color of the neck or saddle.
    Last edited by Byron haugh; 10-10-2013 at 01:36 AM.

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    Beautiful fly as always.

    With the caveats that I haven't read the book and don't know which other thread to which you refer, I'd offer up that there are Variants and Variants.

    My understanding is that a Variant is a wingless fly with oversized hackle, a la Art Flick's Variants. I've also seen the term variant combined with named patterns to suggest that the pattern is like the named pattern but with something slightly different, but not enough for a wholesale name change.

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    The word 'variant' has a couple of meanings especially insofar as fly tying:
    It is used as an adjective to describe a pattern that deviates from the norm with just a slight difference, i.e. you might use a rib of silver tinsel instead of gold, or cree hackle instead of grizzly and brown. It is also used as a noun when it describes the name of a specific pattern, i.e. Gray Fox Variant, or Cream Variant.

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    Thanks Steven,
    If you scroll down on page 2 of this thread I posted about the Whitcraft fly, you will see that I posted what I called a "Variant of the Whitcraft". It was basically the same fly, but I substituted different colored hackle.
    I was told I had improperly used the term "variant" by Allan and did not want to start that again by explaining that when I say "a variant OF.......something" I believe it is appropriate to use variant in that context.

    Here is the page of the previous discussion of the term "variant". You might scroll down to Allan's posting there.

    http://www.flyanglersonline.com/bb/s...-Pattern/page2

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    Looks to me like Allan's post on page 2 of the Whitcraft thread was a decent question of when is a fly so different from another that it deserves the adjective variant rather an entirely new name. Post 22 of that thread is basically what he says above. As for the question of what is variant and what's a new fly, I can't help.

    My view is the noun Variant should only be used for a Flick-style tie (ie. an Adams Variant). The adjective "variant" should reflect a minor change. I'd even go far as to suggest the use of the variation (ie. I caught him with a size 16 Adams biot-bodied variant).

    Anyway, that my undeveloped thought at this moment.

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    Bryan,

    You just won't let something be done. You just posted that: "If you scroll down on page 2 of this thread I posted about the Whitcraft fly, you will see that I posted what I called a "Variant of the Whitcraft". It was basically the same fly, but I substituted different colored hackle."

    Are you saying that the only thing different between the Whitcraft recipe and your version, as in the photograph, is the hackle color? Doesn't look it. I'll repeat what I wrote in prior posts: If you can see an obvious and distinct difference between two flies then they are not 'variants'. If I were to paraphrase your description, substitute 'material' in place of hackle, I could say that the Light Hendrickson and Red Quill are variants of the Quill Gordon because they are "basically the same fly, but different body material".

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    Quote Originally Posted by Allan View Post
    Bryan,

    You just won't let something be done. You just posted that: "If you scroll down on page 2 of this thread I posted about the Whitcraft fly, you will see that I posted what I called a "Variant of the Whitcraft". It was basically the same fly, but I substituted different colored hackle."

    Are you saying that the only thing different between the Whitcraft recipe and your version, as in the photograph, is the hackle color? Doesn't look it. I'll repeat what I wrote in prior posts: If you can see an obvious and distinct difference between two flies then they are not 'variants'. If I were to paraphrase your description, substitute 'material' in place of hackle, I could say that the Light Hendrickson and Red Quill are variants of the Quill Gordon because they are "basically the same fly, but different body material".
    There's obviously some level where things are so different that you don't have a variation, you have a separate fly. A couple of years ago, there was a post here over whether if you use only grizzly for the hackle and the tail for an Adams is it as effective as using grizzly and brown?

    I posted, "Probably, but you don't have an Adams, you have a Grizzly Fly."

    And then all hell broke loose for six pages.

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    To the initial question.....I have always understood the term "Variant" to apply to a pattern tied oversize in hackle X2, and wingless. Therefore and "Adams Variant" would be a wingless version of an Adams with at least one of the hackles tied X2 larger.

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    NJ:
    I think that is true. I just couldn't resist adding wings.
    I think the definition of a "Variant" is just what you say with the additional aspect that the tail is also longer than a "standard" dry fly tail and usually "bushier".

    I also think that one can tie "a variant OF ......." which simply means "a variation OF......". But a stand alone noun "Variant", I believe, refers to a style of fly with oversized hackle and tail which would allow one to "skate" the fly on the water surface if so inclined. I personally believe that is why it was tied with oversized hackle and tail - to allow the fly to skate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steven View Post
    There's obviously some level where things are so different that you don't have a variation, you have a separate fly. A couple of years ago, there was a post here over whether if you use only grizzly for the hackle and the tail for an Adams is it as effective as using grizzly and brown?

    I posted, "Probably, but you don't have an Adams, you have a Grizzly Fly."

    And then all hell broke loose for six pages.
    Steven,

    I'm not sure I recall that thread, but your post, "Probably, but you don't have an Adams, you have a Grizzly Fly" is entirely correct.
    Allow me to add one other thing about the size of hackles/tail on the Variant (as in pattern style) and admit that this is something I hadn't realized for many years. Hooks used to get larger in increments of 1. The hackles/tail had been generally 2 sizes larger then the hook size usually calls for. Since almost all of today's hooks go up in increments of 2, that means 1 size. A 14 hook gets a tail/hackle of 12. This was pointed out to me by many renown Catskill tyers several of whom sat at the tables of Catskill legends.
    When I learned this I realized how many Variant flies I tied with hackle/tails 2 extra sizes larger then they should have been, LOL.

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