From an unassuming English Grayling fly to a superstar Tasmanian Trout fly
This pattern came to fruition in the middle of
the nineteenth centaury at the vice of a Mr.
Martyn Flynn, a resident of Worcestershire,
England. The fly was named the 'Worcestershire
Gem' and proved to be a reasonably effective fly,
primarily as a dry or wet Grayling fly. Remember,
this was around about 1850 and dry fly fishing was
only in its infancy at that time. It is not known
how the fly or the pattern made its way to Australia
and Tasmania about a hundred years ago, but luckily
for Tasmanian anglers it did. One can only wonder who
was the first to fish this fly and who first realised
the compelling attractiveness of the fly to Tasmanian
trout. Anyhow, the fly was an outstanding success,
it's reputation spread and it soon found a growing
list of devotees. The fly could be relied upon to
constantly catch brownies and rainbows anytime
throughout the season when the fish were surface feeding.
Most probably, back in those days, Tasmanian anglers
wouldn't have known the fly was called a 'Worcestershire
Gem' - all they needed to know was that it caught fish
like no other fly. It's not hard to understand why the
fly was commonly called a 'Red Tag'. The fly soon
established itself as a 'must-have-fly' for all
Australian trout waters and by 1920, the name 'Red Tag'
was well and truly adopted.
There are more species of insects in the world than
all the animals, and, of all insects, beetles make
up about 40%, hence, beetles are extremely abundant.
It is a therefore a common occurrence for trout to
encounter beetles and it is no surprise to regularly
find beetles in trout stomach contents. Trout seem
to love beetles and the 'Red Tag' is the quintessential
beetle artificial fly. Be that as it may, 'Red Tags'
are often taken when no beetles are in the fish gut,
proving the attractivness of the fly to trout. In
Tasmania the right sized 'Red Tag' is an extremely
versatile fly, it can be fished with confidence in
many situations. 'Red Tags' can also be fished as a
et fly with equally surprisingly good results.
Throughout Australia the 'Red Tag' is excellent fished
to surface feeding trout in rivers or still water. The
fly is a half imitator and half attractor, the red tag,
the peacock herl and to some extent the brown hackle
attracting the fish. Because the fly is beetle shaped
it is also dynamite when trout are feeding around trees
or other structures located in or near the water that
beetles inhabit. When fishing with the 'Red Tag' as a
dry, a long 3 - 4 lb tippet is generally used, especially
on bright sunny days. On such days, a smaller pattern #14
or 16 is usually more successful. The 'Red Tag' is a
great searching pattern, but it is a fly which can be
fished with confidence to sighted trout. If you get a
refusal simply give the line a slight jerk and generally
the trout will come back for a second look thinking it's
alive. If a 'Red Tag' doesn't work, try another fly or
Many international anglers, whilst fishing in Tasmania,
have been introduced to the merits of the 'Red Tag.'
Returning home, most of these overseas anglers have
found the fly to be excellent on their home waters.
The 'Red Tag' is a fly well worth carrying. I implore
you, tie a few up in various sizes and give them a run,
you will be pleasently suprized.
'Red Tag' alias 'Worcestershire Gem'
(Mr. Martyn Flynn)
Hook: Size 8 - 18 dry fly hook, #12 and 14
is the common size.
Thread: 8/0 bug thread brown or black.
Tail: Red wool.
Rib: Peacock herl.
Hackle: Ginger/red (brown) cock hackle.
As a wet fly hen hackle is used wet fly style.
The 'Red Tag' is a very easy pattern to tie. First tie
the thread the full length of the hook, then tie in red
wool tag on to the end. Once secure cut the tail to what
length to suit size of hook. It's better to have the tag
too long, you can always cut it shorter. Then tie three
strands of peacock herl at the end of the hook and wrap
up the hook forming a beetle shaped body, leave room for
hackle and head.
TIP - when you tie herl in, be sure that the back
of herl (back of feather) is facing up. If tied in the
wrong way the herl squashes itself when wound on. The
end result should be a beetle shaped ball. Be careful
not to crowd the gape of the hook. You can wind the
herl one at a time or form a rope and wind. Once the
body is made, tie off and cut off excess herl. Then
tie in one hackle at the base of the feather, dry fly
style. Wrap it around 8-10 times and be sure there are
plenty of fibres sticking out to ensure good flotation.
Tie and cut the hackle off, whip finish...easy!
Recently anglers have tinkered with the pattern,
trying to eke out the last bit of performance from
the fly. Such developments include, a pink tag, brown
and black cock hackle and palmered grizzle cock hackle.
As a wet fly, a bead head with palmered brown hackle has
proven to be successful. I'm sure all these new
developments have merit at a particular time, place,
or with a particular fishing method, but then again
these flies are not a 'Red Tags' anymore, they are
'Red Tag Variants.' ~ Alan Shepherd