This is another wet fly featured in the Ray Bergman book
Trout, and it's a bit unusual in one respect.
It features both shades of mallard, brown in the tail and
gray in the wing. Other than that, it's quite typical of
the flies that were fished in the heyday of the wet fly
in upstate New York.
I'm a bit short on history with this fly, so I thought
I might provide a little of my own. A small group of
friends and I spent a couple of days fishing and camping
on the Chateaugay river in the early 60s. I'm guessing
we were fifteen or sixteen at the time. We pitched our
tents late in the day when we arrived there, at a beautiful
open area that led right down to the river. After a night
of fun that included a big bonfire and some incredibly bad
food cooked over a truly open fire, we turned in, a tired
and happy bunch.
The next morning we were awakened by the sounds of cows mooing,
and quickly discovered they were headed our way. We had pitched
our tents right in the path the cows took every morning on
their way down to the river to drink. I won't call it a
stampede, though it seemed so to us at the time. The herd
laid waste to our camp, trampling tents, sleeping bags,
everything in their path. There was no stopping them.
Though we had suffered a minor setback, we immediately set
upon our task of catching as many fish as the river had to
offer. I don't know if the place had been stocked the day
before we got there or what, but we caught fish hand over
fist. In two days we caught and kept over 120 fish. They
were browns, rainbows, and brook trout, and I think we all
scored a "Trifecta." I think this carnage had a lot to do
with my conversion to a catch and release policy (my own,
nobody else was doing it), by the time I was out of high
school. But this was a different time, and we were young
and didn't know any better. And it was legal.
The first day's fishing, which had been wonderful, culminated
in perhaps the only true blizzard hatch I've ever witnessed.
I'm talking about white-out conditions, with every fish in
the river up. I couldn't begin to tell you what was hatching,
in those days we didn't know one bug from another, but there
were millions of them. My friend Bill, the only worm fisherman
among us, couldn't buy a hit at this point. Bill was a fantastic
fisherman, normally out-fished me ten to one, and here he was,
getting nothing while we caught fish after fish. It was almost
dark when Bill came up with an idea. He removed the worm and
sinker, and took the aluminum foil from a gum wrapper, attached
it to the hook, and somehow got it out there with his spinning
rod. On the first cast he caught a fish! I saw it with my own eyes.
The river was to exact a terrible price for our prideful
decimation of its fish population. Two of our group drank
the water, contracted hepatitis, and spent the rest of the
summer in bed. Nature always finds a way. Here's the recipe
for the Chateaugay:
Credits: Trout, by Ray Bergman.
Tail: Brown mallard.
Body: Pale yellow floss.
Wing: Gray Mallard.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA