Paul Caron Stonefly

It’s not often that a fly pattern makes such a huge impression on me – but this unlikely looking bug (at least to European eyes) has done just that. And I apologise to my Canadian and North American friends who will be yawning just about now.

While classed as an important group of patterns in the Maritimes, Im pretty sure that over here in a world of Shrimp Flies and Tubes of all shapes and sizes, this style on it’s unassuming single hook and unconventional looks has gone pretty much unnoticed by many. Though I have heard rumours about this fly scoring on a certain Scottish river.

First designed and introduced by Lee Wulff, this pattern offers a very different silhouette than any other salmon fly and is designed to be swung high in the surface. The original used a melted plastic body that was used to seal in and trap the hackle. The picture below is of an original Lee Wulff Surface Stonefly pattern from the early 80’s and shared courtesy of a friend of mine Per Stadigh. It illustrates just how much the original has changed over the years.

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There are a whole assortment of variations out there, some with flash, some with foam bodies, different coloured hackles etc. The common component between most of them being the method of attachment of the hackle. In most cases this being a bent pin with a retaining bead, though I have seen examples using a heavy Mono or Fluorocarbon post with a melted end to retain the hackle.

Bright Fluro Green body with a black wing seems to be the common theme though there are versions with white over wings etc. Hackles I’ve seen vary from grizzle to badger in all sorts of qualities.

The version I’m going to describe is called the Paul Carron Stonefly and is based on examples I’ve fished with and conversations with David Bishop, President of the Gaspe Fly Company who introduced me to the pattern and manufactures the fly commercially.

Dressing

Hook- Lightweight single hook, here I’ve used a Partridge N.

Body- Fluorescent green floss, built up to a cigar taper and strengthened with a coat of “Hard as Nails” which also tends to deepen and hold the colour.

Wing- The original used dyed black bucktail taken from the centre part of the tail that would be brown on a natural tail. This hair tends to flare less and is more manageable. The wing on the original was mounted to flare flat over the top of the shank rather “than tied in the round” like a standard hair wing. I guess to provide more support on the surface action on the swing. In this case Ive used black squirrel.

Hackle post- The butts of the winging hair are posted. Im sure this is an important variation as its lighter in weight than the pin and bead method. And just as secure it seems.

Hackle- On the examples I’ve seen they have all used Silver or Blond Badger. Personally Im not sure of the importance of this and as you can see I’ve used a Dirty Badger, as it was the only similar hackle I had to hand in the correct quality and size.

As a note on hackle, although I didn’t discuss it, all the examples I saw used excellent quality, stiff and sharp hackles, similar to those you would use on dry flies.

Paul Caron Stonefly (slight variation)

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It’s important to attach this fly in-line with the tippet to keep it tracking in the correct attitude, a double turle knot being perfect for the job. Apart from that, as far as I can see, its fished down and across just like any other wet fly (though Ive heard mention of greasing it and fishing it dry, maybe thats why the hackle quality is there?) Depending on the weight of the current, it seems to either fish just subsurface or is very visible tracking in the surface. Not unlike a hitched tube but less pronounced. More subtle perhaps.

The takes are very visual and heart stopping, explosive in the surface with fish boiling at the fly. On several occasions recently, I’ve experienced a fish coming to this fly repeatedly before finally hitting it hard. Wonderful fun!

When we finally get some water I’m going to give this fly a serious tryout on my local river (the Usk, in South Wales) Im really looking forward to that and I have all sorts of variations floating around in my head that I’m going to try on the Towy for Sea Trout this summer.

Mainly I’m thinking black and silver with a little flash (well I would, wouldn’t I) – Its just got to work!!

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff on a hook for fun just can’t be normal.

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Feeling Blue

What is it about “blue” and Salmon and Sea Trout flies? Apart from the fact that its simply my favourite colour, some say its the last colour visible on the spectrum as the light fades, others believe the colour has association with oceanic baitfish that these fish feed on whilst at sea? Whatever it is, the plethora of patterns out there with blue as a component is legion.

Some Sewin Lures

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Home dyed blue materials, hair, hackles and feathers generally fall into two camps, at least on this side of the Atlantic as Veniards Dye give the home dyer two traditional and very useful day to day shades – Teal Blue and Kingfisher Blue. The Teal being a paler and more washed out than the deep and vibrant Kingfisher Blue. Indeed, my personal preference falls in the Kingfisher camp every time, the deeper the better. However Teal Blue, has to be used for certain patterns if “political correctness” is required. While we are at it, can anybody tell me exactly what Silver Doctor Blue is?

Editor with a lovely rich Kingfisher Blue hen cape

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Other dye manufacturers, Jacquards for instance, offer an alternative range. In fact last time I looked there were far more shades of blue available from them. But honestly, thats about all I can tell you about Jacquards.

To get the strongest results out of these Veniards Acid Dyes, I find it best to Ignore the instructions and get plenty of powder in the bath. A practical side effect of dyeing “my way” is the resulting inconsistent colours offering you an interesting range of shades to play with.

Of course using pure white hackle as the raw material offers the best results, but putting the blue over grizzle hackle, badger hackle, Guinea Fowl, Teal, Mallard, Squirrel, Fox, etc leads to a nice selection. And if you can find them, dyed over White Eared or Albino Ringneck feathers for beautiful Spey hackles that can rival the natural Cobalt Blue Guinea for depth of colour and length.

Dyed White Eared Pheasant in a modern Waddington pattern

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So now you’ve got your hackles what can you do with them? Well, there is a huge range of patterns out there and many of the most famous use blue as a major component – Elver Fly or Laxa Blue are two. Or, on the other end of the scale, as a tiny touch that contrasts and enhances a base colour like on the Nighthawk or even Kinermony.

Nighthawk

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Where hairwings have had their roots in traditional feather wing patterns, some have been popular for many, many years, Wilkinson, Silver Doctor, Blue Charm are all good examples.

Blue Charm

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Of course there are many natural shades of blue feathers available out there and leaving aside the expensive and rare feathers used in Classic Salmon Flies,  most are even easily obtainable to the average tier.

Kingfisher is an obvious one – though I rarely use it. European Jay for the front hackle on Bumbles, Vulturine Guinea Fowl (both elver feathers and cobalt breast) for the Elver Fly and Peacock Blues for the wonderful Goats Toe-  are all feathers that find their way into my own patterns. With the expensive Vulturine Cobalt one of my all time favorites.

Elver Fly using Vulturine hackles and cobalt breast feathers

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An unnamed pattern using Vulturine Cobalts and Peacock Blues

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Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff on a hook for fun, just can’t be normal!

Tiers block, good mates and the Green Hornet.

I don’t know about you? but I regularly suffer from bouts of tiers block. I’ve come to learn over the years how to recognise the symptoms and they usually start just after I’ve cleaned up my tying area. I did that the other day. Lethal!

I’ve just come to the end of a helluva run, hundreds of salmon flies have been falling off my vise. That’s the easy bit, you know what needs to be done, you have the materials and just get your head down and into it till your done.

Then comes the day when faced with a pristine tying area, nothing in particular to tie on that bare hook in the jaws. Total blank!

Well now, this is how I deal with it. Open a drawer and grab the first material that comes to hand, think of a pattern that uses that material and tie it. I grabbed some Peacock Swords.

I’ve allways had an affinity for peacock swords and mostly managed to get it to do what I want. A good start.

I’d been chatting with a couple of mates Tim (in New Zealand) and Dazzy (somewhere in the Cosmos) about the Alexandra fly pattern that very morning, so I rattled one out. Took a photo and far from being pleased with the result, I started to see the mistakes and lack of proportions that I knew I was tying into the fly as I was wrapping it. Binned!

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Being my own worst critic I resolved to tie another, better version and if it involved a few more steps to make it tougher, then so much the better.

Next, I tried a variant of the Alexandra that included a supporting wing of Turkey. Better, but to my eye it looks a little contrived,  I’ll probably never fish it and I don’t see much point in tying flies that stay dry. Another for the reject jar.

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Anyway, all that messing about with Peacock Swords got me thinking about an upcoming trip to Canada, It occurred to me that green and black are a very common theme in Canadian patterns so I set about trying to come up with a workmanlike pattern that I could use this summer using the Swords. This is what fell off the vise.

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There was something about the colour scheme that grabbed me. You know the feeling I’m sure, the urge to run down the river and give it a swim.

I showed it to a friend in Canada who I know has a soft spot for Green in his flies. Daniel Duval and I have been corresponding for some time and our styles of tying couldn’t be more different. So I decided to try one in his style, longer, slimmer on big single hook. I was trying to achieve a low water spey look.

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Now this one I don’t like at all, not even close. The colours are ok but way too overdressed and it doesn’t flow. But the Schlappen, something I don’t use a lot of, had potential (thanks to Stuart Foxall) and I love Blue Eared Pheasant.

Back to the drawing board and this happened.

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Now this one does it for me, I showed it to my mate Marc Fauvet in France who says it looks like a green hornet so Green Hornet it is.

The Green Hornet

Hook.. partridge heavyweight size 1

Tag.. oval silver

Tail.. chartreuse crystal flash

Body.. glo-brite  number 12 butt, with pearl mirage  andribbed with silver oval

Hackle 1.. chartreuse schlappen

Underwing.. black fox body

Hackle 2. blue eared pheasant

Overwing.. matched peacock sword, finished with JC and a black and chartreuse crystal flash head.

Tiers block has gone as I feel the need for a for a few more Green Hornets and I have a whole swarm of Hornet variations buzzing round my head.

My tying room is back to being comfortably messy.

Thanks, Tim, Dazzy, Daniel, Stuart and Marc.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up, wrapping bits of fluff around a hook for fun just cant be normal

50 shades of olive

Well its popular in the Cinema as I understand it…..

When the wife is away, the boys go to play
and the Mastercard funds all things nice.
Plain envelopes, no receipts and no questions asked.
You don’t have to ask the man twice.

As gently restrained, and not by the LAW,
lay the soft curves of a Grip 2701.
Lightly waxed, a smooth bed of silk,
it’s just the start of this evenings fun.

Stripped, plucked and wrapped to his desire,
With a little whipping for good measure.
The lust in his eye for those fine Irish dyes,
reveal the depths of his deprived guilty pleasure.

Paul Slaney

I should give this up. Wrapping bits of fluff round a hook for fun, just can’t be normal.