The Garage is just too cold now. You can’t sit out there at the fly tying desk, teeth chattering and wrapped in a winter coat and expect to get anything done, and it would amount to self inflicted punishment to try in the first place. So, I gathered up my materials and boxes and set up camp indoors. I chose the dining table. All of it. Because that couldn’t possibly be in anybody’s way.
My goal was simple – I needed to stock up on some of my Zap Bugs; a simple fly of hackle and flash chenille in chartreuse or white, concocted with bass, bluegill and other panfish in mind. I was also looking ahead to an impending trip to White Clay Creek in search of winter trout. I plan on spending a couple of days fishing there, so I wanted to begin to stock up on local favorites.
I have always tied flies alone, and therefore don’t know for sure, but I have a hunch that almost everybody that sits down to tie flies at home approaches it, as I do, like an event. You don’t tie a couple of flies between paying the cable bill and fixing the leaky faucet. You announce you will be tying flies tonight in the same way you might announce that you are watching the ballgame tonight. The act has been allotted a significant block of your time, and you will make sure all other things are done, and you are comfortable when you begin. For me that includes lighting the fire, opening a bottle of cheap wine, and putting on some tunes.
By all accounts, this time of year on the White Clay is a great time to try, among other things, one of three particular types of flies, all that look entirely different from each other. The first is the nymph, a winter staple. While there is no particular nymph that jumps out as the obvious choice, you instead make your best educated guess from one of many. I managed to procure a nice collection of trout nymphs in the fall for pennies each, and so rather than tie any, I simply organized what I had; gold bead pheasant tail, gold bead hares ear, and gold ribbed hares ear, prince nymphs and the like.
Other staples of White Clay winter fishing include the Greenie Weenie and the golden retriever, so I set up to tie several of both. The Greenie is a simple fly, the kind that a lot of younger trout fisherman learn to tie first. The only real point of preference is the shape or design of the tail and if the fly will carry additional weight, or not. In my case, I tie them both ways. I like to experiment with a bead head, or with copper wire running along the hook shank, or as otherwise weightless flies. I’ve seen some variations of the preferred material, too. I tied mine with simple chenille and looped or single tails.
The Golden Retriever enjoys a great reputation amongst local winter trout aficionados. I’m not sure why, or what it imitates, but I’m not one to argue with facts. I’ve never fished one, but have had this fly suggested to me by far too many local resources for it to have been a coincidence.
The fly, essentially a modified woolly bugger, is usually tied with either root beer or gold estaz, but I had none available in local shops, and paying the five bucks for shipping for one strand of dressing is out of the question. Instead I tied them with yellow crystal chenille and red thread, as close as I could come. It remains to be seen how they will perform on the water, but I’m happy with them, and happy to have recently heard a report from the creek that included catching rainbow trout on a standard yellow chenille-dressed retriever.
As the bottle got lighter, the flies got a little more sloppy, but that was an observation I wouldn’t make until morning. With material and hooks left over, and time to kill, I managed a few extra woollies, saltwater streamers and a couple of poppers to join the fleet of trout flies. I’ll let you know how they perform…..