Our Man In Canada
July 2nd, 2001

Great Canadian Flies
Cowichan Special

By Arthur James Lingren

Cowichan Special

In the annals of British Columbis river fly-fishing, the Cowichan River has few rivals. Fly fishers have been travelling to this prolific Vancouver Island river for more than 110 years. Vancouver Island's first trout pattern, the Cowichan Coachman, was devised to deceive the cutthroat and rainbows of that famous river. The Cowichan Special was developed in the 1940s by Ron Saysell and dressed by his wife-to-be. Sayshell's son, Joe, in a recent letter to me relates the fly's development:
The Cowishan Special was tied by my mother as my dad did not tie, he only fished and would borrow (use) other people's flies. Because he took a lot of people out fishing he seemed to have an endless supply of flies coming into the house.

My mother tied before they were married (maybe part of the reason for the attraction) and they were married in 1947 . . .she probably first tied the Cowichan Special in 1945 or 1946. The original fly was dressed with wool body (mostly oranges and reds) and later with the new chenilles, therefore the salmon egg look.

. . .Some of the originals had a while polar bear wing (optional) . . .and more an attractor type of fly . .

The salmon-egg-type pattern is dressed in sizes 10 to 4 with the larger sizes to be used during higher colored water. Saysell recommends a leaded body to help get the fly down quickly down to a proper fishing depth.

Joe has lived on the river all his life and can tell numerious stories of large fish taken on the Cowichan Special. One recent fish that Saysell told me about was a five-pound brown taken by General Paul Smith of Parksville in the spring of 1994. Besides the introduced-brown trout, the fly is readily taken by Cowichan steelhead, rainbows and cutthroat.


Hook:  Number 4 to10.

Tail:  A few springs from a white hackle.

Body:  Red or orange chenille.

Collar:  Soft, white hackle.

Originator:  Ron Saysell.

Intended Use:  Wet fly for steelhead, brown and rainbow trout.

Location:  Cowichan River.
~ 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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