Our Man In Canada
September 19th, 2005

The Canadian Catskills Coffin Fly
By Sheldon Seale

Having just returned from a trip to the Catskills to meet the famous Green Drake hatch, I thought it appropriate to write about the pattern that served our crew the best. It is a simple form of the Coffin Fly (the spinner stage of the green drake.)

If you've never experienced a Green Drake spinner fall, you have missed one of the great spectacles of fly fishing experience. At its peak, there are tens of thousands of large, white mayflies flying upstream to mate, then falling to the water to deposit their eggs and die, drifting downstream into the jaws of waiting prout. There is no mistaking a large trout taking a Coffin Fly spinner. The take is deliberate and moves a lot of water. It can get you more than a little worked up.

Green Drake spinners are not difficult flies to imitate: the original Coffin Fly consists simply of a tail, a body, and a hackle. There are more complex patterns in the books, but over the years I have found the three materials version sufficient. This year, however, after much musing and debate in the wee small hours with a dram or two of single malt, my friend Paul and I added a fourth material, grizzly hackle.

I can take no credit for the idea. It all belongs to Paul. His idea was touse the grizzly hackle to imitate the venation of the wing (which, to our eyes anyway, is quite distinct). I must confess that I resisted the idea, as I felt it an unnecessary addition. Why take the trouble to spend time making a pattern more imitative when the original suggestive version was quite effective? I shuttered to think that Paul's enthusiasm might lead him to include wings, eyes, and six legs complete with joints! Fortunately, he seemed content with just the extra hackle, which proved every effective when we put it to the test on the water the next day.

Canadian Castskill Coffin

    Hook: 2x long, sizes 12-8 (Mustad 9671 or 94831 or similar).

    Thread: White (for body), black (for hackle) 3/0

    Tail: Moose mane or body, 4-5 fibres.

    Body: White dubbing.

    Hackle: One each of silver badger and grizzly quality dry fly hackles, long enough to provide heavy hackling.

Tying Notes:

1. Start the white thread 1/3 back from the eye of the hook and secure the tail. Wind the thread down to the hook bend, keeping the tail material on top of the hook shank.

2. Dub a body back to the starting point and tie off the white thread.

3. Start the black thread just behind the hook eye and wrap it back to the body. Tie in both the hackles at this point, then bring the thread forward to the eye, ensuring a smooth surface for wrapping the hackle.

4. Wrap the hackle seperately. I usually start with the silver badger. As you wrap the second hackle through the first, waggle the feather back and forth to minimize the number of fibers trapped by the second hackle, form a neat head, and coat with head cement.

5. There are a couple of ways to finish the pattern. One is to trim the hackle flat on the body for the egg-laying female (as in the photo above), while the other is to trim it flat on top and bottom for the spent spinner. Current issue

Silver badger is a white feather with a black center. As it can be difficult to find really pure white ones, just settle for the lightest you can find. The fish don't really seem to mind that much.

This basic pattern can be adapted for any large mayfly such as the early and late Hexagenia or the Brown Drake. In any case, it's relatively quick to tie and uses materials that can generally be located without too much trouble. ~ Sheldon Seale

We thank the Canadian Fly Fisher for re-print permission!

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