If a simple, shaggy, all-purpose dry fly is good, I’m starting to think a simple, shaggy, all-purpose emerger is even better.
The effectiveness of emergers is old news to fans of such flies as the Klinkhamer Special, the first widely used fly designed to ride with its wing poking out of the surface film, but its curved body hanging underneath.
I’ve now adopted a “crude, retrograde” version of the Klink, as described by Bob Wyatt, who champions it in his new book, “What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and Other Myths.”
Last week, I wrote about Wyatt’s
Deer Hair Sedge — an utterly simple dry fly with a hare’s ear body and a deer hair wing, tied downwing style. The downwing tie would normally be classified a caddis imitation, but Wyatt also uses it for mayfly hatches. I’ve fished it, and it works — not on every fish, but on enough fish to prove its worth.
The Deer Hair Emerger has worked better, at least in my experiments. That jibes with the widely accepted idea that trout love to eat insects struggling to metamorphose from nymph to winged adult in the surface film. Bugs at this stage are utterly helpless and an easy snack.
As with the Deer Hair Sedge, the emerger is nothing more than a hare’s ear body and a deer hair wing, but tied Klink-style on a curved hook. You dress the wing with a little floatant so it stays at the surface while the body hangs below.
There’s no question that the emerger posture is important to the fly’s effectiveness, but I think there’s something more — the nature of hare’s ear dubbing.
Viewed up close, an insect is a complex-looking creature, with all kinds of armor plates in distinct colors, gill filaments, legs, tails, feelers, etc. Untold numbers of complicated patterns have been devised to imitate all these things, but I’ve come to believe that the more detail we try to add to a fly, the more chances we have to get it wrong.
Plucked hare’s ear, on the other hand, suggests all that complexity in a natural way. The key word is plucked — not the drab, uniform blended hare’s ear sold in packages, but the wide assortment of colors you get when you actually pluck fingerfuls of the fur off a rabbit’s face.
On the hare’s mask I’ve been using, there is black, brown, tan, yellow, white and gray. Some of it is downy underfur, and some of it is stiff, spiky hair.
Dub this great variety of colors and textures onto thread, wind it down the shank, come back up with a spiraled rib of tying thread, and voila — a segmented gray-brown body full of the kind of subtle intricacies that separate a living organism from random stream debris, or from a man-made fake.
I’m convinced a fly made this way contains the same triggers as the real mayfly, caddis fly and stonefly nymphs the fish eat every day of their lives.
So my experiment in essentialist fly selection continues. Along with a box of Wyatt-style duns in sizes 12 through 20, I’ll have a box of his emergers in the same sizes.
I’m starting to think I’ll use the emerger most of the time.
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