I love to fish wet flies for all species of fish, especially panfish. I have been known to use some pretty elaborately tied wet flies, meant for cold water species like trout and salmon, for bluegill and other panfish. They all work, and some work very well. I sometimes cringe when I look at what was once a perfectly tied winged wet fly, that took me 15 minutes to tie, after it has caught it’s sixth or seventh panfish. It is usually an absolute mess that does not resemble the fresh out of the box fly that was tied on the end of my leader. You know what? That fly will go on to catch fish after fish until the hook is stripped bare.
If a torn up, messy looking fly will catch just as many panfish as a pristine, fresh out of the box pattern, why bother? It is a good question, one I really don’t have a good answer for. I guess I enjoy fly tying almost as much as fly fishing and it is something I spend a lot of time doing. That results in a lot of flies being tied, which also means I have a lot of flies to throw at fish. So I don’t mind tying and fishing flies that are far more elaborate then they have to be. Most of the time…
When I am not slipping through a bed of lily pads in my kayak, chasing bass and panfish, you are more than likely going to find me waist deep in a trout stream. It may come to a surprise to readers of this blog, but I am actually a fly fishing guide who specializes in fly fishing for trout. As a guide, I provide all the flies for my clients. Most of my clients are new to the sport of fly fishing, so these flies often end up in places other than the river. Trees, rocks and occasionally parts of my body claim large numbers of these flies. Even though I love to tie flies, to keep your fly boxes full in the height of the guiding season can be a challenge. This is where the concept of “guide flies” come in. Guide flies are patterns that are simple and effective and most importantly are quick and easy to tie. I don’t mind it when a painstakingly tied fly is reduced to shreds after catching more than its share of fish. However, my love affair with fly tying loses its luster when fly after fly is lost to trees, bushes, and rocks. Guide flies solve this problem. With as little as an hour behind the vise the night before a trip I can whip up enough flies for even the most novice caster. The best part is these flies catch fish! If these simple flies work so well why fish anything else. In most cases, the answer is you don’t have to, but as I said before, I am a fly tier.
The One Feather Wet Fly A Warm Water Guide Fly
I don’t guide for warm water species, at least not at the moment. If I did, this fly would be an example of a warm water guide fly. This fly could not be any simpler to tie, and the material list could not be shorter. It consists of one feather and of course some tying thread. The tail, body, and hackle all come from a single feather from the body or rump of a pheasant. The sex of the bird does not matter they will both produce effective flies. Fresh out of pheasant? Other game birds like partridge and grouse work just as well. The trick is finding the right sized feather for the hook your using. I like using the entire feather. The tip of the feather makes a short, robust tail and those fibers once tied down can be wrapped around the shank to form the body. The end result looks a lot like a body on a pheasant tail nymph. You continue to wrap the feather up the hook shank, using the entire feather including the fluffy fibers that are near the base of the feather. Those fine marabou-like fibers give the fly a lot of movement in the water.
Fish it like you would any other wet, or soft hackle fly. Is it the most durable pattern? Nope, but if you wanted to, you could add a second item to the material list and counter wrap the body with copper wire. It would add less than a minute to the tying process, but it would significantly improve the durability of the pattern. I don’t bother because these are “disposable” flies. If they get shredded to the point they are no longer catching fish, I cut it off and tie on another. The wrecked fly comes home with me and gets dumped in a jar on my tying desk. When I need some more flies, I take one out of the jar, cut off what is left of the fly, and the hook goes back into the vice. Within a minute or two a new fly is born!