Our Man In Canada
March 26th, 2001

Great Canadian Flies
Carey Special

By Arthur James Lingren

Carey Special

One of the patterns that is a staple in many a British Columbia angler's fly box is the Carey Special. Colonel Carey's Special is listed as a "fancy" fly in Roderick-Haig Brown's classic 1939 book, The Western Angler. He says:

This is far from being a complete list of the "fancy" flies . . .it includes at least one fly which, besides being one of the best killers, is as somberly dressed as any natural - Col. Carey's Special. Whether or not it was originally tied as an imitation of some natural insect I do not know, but it has an extremely lifelike action in the water and may well be taken for an imitation of a dragon-fly nymph. (Vol1, p.103)

A sample Carey Special is shown in the frontispiece of Haig-Brown's 1939 classic. The Carey Special's origins, however dated back to the 1920s. Colonel Carey, a retired British soldier, moved from Victoria to the Okanagan in 1925, and, according to Martin Tolley, the development of a sure-fire trout pattern became an obsession.

When you read the words written by Tolley in his "Colonel Carey" article in the October, 1968 issue of Northwest Sportsman magazine, a picture is framed in your mind of this old soldier in the wilds of British Columbia dressing flies:

As a prelude to find the great solution his passion must have overcome the old soldier because he failed to return from one of his spring offensives. Quite naturally, the family became concerned for his safety and search parties were dispatched to reconnoiter and bring him home. According to the legend, the Colonel was wrestling with the issue at Arthur Lake when discovered. He was sitting in his tent experimenting with prototypes for his perfect fly, surrounded by corpses of cock pheasants. He had literally clubbed dozens to death and not let a closed season stay his quest for the prime rump feathers which he deemed the answer to his enigma.

The Colonel produced a number of patterns, but the Carey Special proved the Colonel's most successful. Now it is used all over the province and elsewhere in sizes 2 to 12 in a variety of body colours: green, yellow, olive, black and red. Tommy Brayshaw, who met Carey one 1934 day while fishing Lac Le Jeune, affirms Carey developed the fly "when he was camped at Arthur Lake and I think dressed it for a dragonfly nymph, at any rate we did the same at Knouff with the 'pazooka' and fished it the same way." (Tommy Brayshaw, The Ardent Angler-Artist, page 85.)

Brayshaw thought, but was not sure, that the sample Carey gave him at Le Jeune consisted of a tail, body and wing of marmot . . . Fur and says Carey's fly was referred to as The Dredge or Monkey Faced Louise. According to Mr. Haywood of Harkley & Haywood, the Dredge was the popular Lower Mainland name for Carey's fly. Brayshaw dressed his Carey with a deer-hair body and ribbed it with black linen thread to protect the fragile hair body.

According to the history of the fly published in Steve Raymond's book Kamloops (1971), the Carey Special, tied on a number 6 hook, was intended to represent a hatching sedge pupa. Whatever the fish take the fly for, it is a very effective pattern, either cast and retrieved, or trolled.

In the spring of 1982 a life-long friend invited me to his 250 acre, interior ranch to fish his small but productive lake. I remember the day well. Large fish were shrimping in the shallows, and I decided to try entice them with a Carey Special. My two largest fish for the weekend were 5 and 6 pounds.

The fly, dressed in its many sizes and variations, is one of British Columbia's most productive patterns.


Hook:  Number 6.

Tail:  A few fibres from a ringed-neck pheasant's rump feather.

Body:  Ringed-neck pheasant tail fibers, deer hair or marmot fur.

Rib:  Black linen thread.

Collar:  Ring-necked pheasant rump feathers extending well past hook bend.

Originator:  Colonel Carey.

Intended Use:  Wet fly for rainbow trout.

Location:  Arthur Lake, B.C. Canada.
~ Arthur James Lingren

Credits: From Fly Patterns of British Columbia by Arthur James Lingren. We thank Frank Amato Publications, Inc. for use permission!

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