The Sierra Bright Dot is another fly with an obscure history. It is a fly that dates back to the 1950’s and has not seen much popularity outside of the eastern slope of the southern Sierra’s. I picked up the pattern many years ago on a backpacking trip out west. The quarry was going to be trout in high alpine lakes, but as things sometimes go a last-minute calamity caused us to lose one member of our hiking party. We were a group of three that was now down to two. Priorities had to be re-established, the gear had to be re-organized, and to save weight, fishing gear was dumped and sent back home. The flies made the trip stored in a small fly box that somehow stayed behind. You can not believe the frustration I felt camping next to beautiful alpine lakes with golden trout rising everywhere and no fly rod, only a tiny box of flies.
The Sierra Bright Dot is a fore and aft pattern, meaning it has two sets of hackle. Fore and aft patterns have been around for a while, at least since the early 1900’s. As usual, there are multiple origin stories for this fly, which is to be expected with patterns of this vintage. Regardless when it was first created, it eventually found its way to the Sierra Nevada mountains where it found some popularity. Apparently, it liked the area so much it never left. The fly is relatively unheard outside of that region. The originator of the pattern is not known, but supposedly the fly was named after a Dorothy Bright who was the wife of a mine owner who lived on a lake in that area.
So how does a fly designed for trout, living in the alpine lakes of the Sierra Nevada, end up as one of my favorite bluegill dry flies? Good question, the answer is pretty straight forward. I ended up fishing those original flies for trout in various parts of the country and had enough success with them as a general attractor pattern to begin tying some up for myself. As often happens when learning a new pattern the first couple flies are bound to be a little rough until you work out all the kinks. When a fly does not come out right many tiers will cut off all the material from the hook and start over. Not me, they go into the bluegill cup. The bluegill cup is a mug or jar that permanently resides on my tying bench. All of my appropriately sized rejects end up in there, and they eventually find their way into my panfish boxes. I will take the time to strip off and redo larger streamers, bass and saltwater patterns. One of the things I love about bluegill and other panfish is their willingness to accept the worst looking flies in my box.
The Sierra Bright Dot was an instant success for me. Those first flies were tied with a red floss body, and they worked very well. Over time I started experimenting with other colors like orange and yellow which worked well also. Bright green or chartreuse ended up being my favorite, and that is how I tie them today. I don’t think the color means a hill of beans to the fish, but I can see it clearly on the water, so that’s how I tie them now.
This pattern works well for me once the water warms into the mid-sixties and the fish are accustomed to looking up for an occasional meal. It is a small fly so expect to take smaller fish from time to time. I will tie the fly up to a size ten but to be honest, I prefer to fish a size 12 or 14 and deal with the occasional small fish. I find with patterns in this size range there is no hesitation, the fish grab it as soon as it hits the water. With larger flies there seems to be a lengthy should I, shouldn’t I decision-making process that takes place.
The Sierra Bright Dot is not your traditional panfish dry fly, but it is one that I enjoy tying and fishing. For panfish, I don't worry too much about the size of the hackle. The original pattern calls fro the forward hackle to be larger that the rear one. I don't bother with that often using the same feather for both positions. Why to I bother to fish such strange flies when a basic size 12 Adams would do the trick? Maybe it's because I love the head-scratching looks I get from folks when I tell them what I am catching them on!