Sunday, April 3, 2016

North Country and March Brown

At left, the view out of my library window this morning.

It's April but this is a Michigan March scene.

March and most of April are winter months here. We've been spoiled by a mild March and the hint of spring; but, yesterday it let us know: we're still in winter.

I expect the North Country has a little of this now as well. I'll find out one day. I might have to spend a year or two in that part of the world.

Steelheaders have no idea what I'm talking about with this winter/spring thing. The ice is off and so they're out. The Alaska bound crew should take note. 

I'm working on spring. Maybe if I spend some time getting ready, it'll come sooner.

Here I am fitting a huge Medalist 1498 CJ to my Echo Glass 3wt 10'6" switch.

It is a heavy reel but the effect of the counter-balance keeps me using my lower hand for the power around the lowered c.g of the rod and thus, I don't get excited and "throw" my top hand. I can get away with throwing my top hand on my salmon rod -- which I almost never use -- but this little 3wt is more sensitive to solid technique.

I could use the two-handed tune-up. I never was "good" but merely "okay." I'll settle for "competent" and no blown casts over an entire day on the water. This rod will help me get there.

I've spooled with with a 7wt TT floating line from Wulff and this hits 190 grains right on the button.  It also seems perfect for the 10'6" rod.

The Echo glass will throw a much much heavier line but the recovery is poor in the tip. Echo gives me a solid grain window and this TT 7wt is right in the wheelhouse. I'll be able to cover the waters I want and get better day-by-day for a big fall spey steelhead season.

I got pro advice on the line. Thanks, Steve. I went with the TT over a DT but endgame is nearly the same. I'll be able to cast AND mend all the way to the fly with this line over the previous Ambush head I used for swinging fall streamers.

There's a pile of gear in the corner of the library needing a solid field test. I replaced a Frostline kit-made sleeping bag (goose down) I made years ago then left in a rental cabin last fall. Hey, 30 years and several pieces of duct tape means it is time for a replacement, anyway.

I went synthetic from Marmot. I'm more likely to need the insulating power of a synthetic in wet conditions these days. Shoulder seasons are damp.

I can stand the savings over down, too. I don't have enough days left in me to get "the goody" out of a $350 bag. REI points I've carried forever bought the bag.

New daypack there too (I haven't had one suitable for fly fishing) and a new heavy pack as well. Cookstuff  (Banks fry-bake pan) and new stove (Solo Titan model ... no more dealing with white gas).

I'm old and have more money than brains thus better gear. I've also seen the north country tinder dry and so I'm less inclined to cook over a free-form open fire than I was back in the day. In a dozen years of Ontario fly-ins, I had one dry year. Several trips saw me all but sleeping in rain gear.

It can get dry here in Michigan. The stove is a reasonable provision.

I'm tying. 

I have the excellent volume The North Country Fly: Yorkshire's Soft Hackle Tradition by Robert L. Smith. I purchased the volume here this spring from an independent bookseller. I encourage you to do the same.

AT left, my North Country Spider inspired May Brownie

The pattern books are full of some wonderful March Brown versions. However, in reading and studying Mr. Smith's wonderfully comprehensive survey, the herl collar stood out as a prominent feature I have not incorporated into my tying. I tie a herl thorax, but not a collar.  This, this new beast.

March Brown based patterns are solid here in April and May into early June. I'm extending them a little while with a slightly heavier dubbing to cover Hare's Ear flymph territory and will probably tie a dozen with grey-to-black transitional dubbing patterns mixing the two across the wraps and also add a darker hackle - probably black hen - for more work in the summer season. I'm listing my pattern here for the use in spring.

Warning: I tied this beast but haven't proven it's worth through the season. I'm just happy to be doing something so be aware of that lingering winter madness in my reasoning. April in the library is not May on the stream!

May Brownie:

Hook: standard 12, any make. Pinch the barb, please.

Thread: Peasall's silk in orange.

Tail: pheasant hen. This makes a wonderful tail material for soft hackles. I like it better than cock pheasant tail on wet flies.

Abdomen and Thorax: Wotton SLF mixed synthetic hare's ear on a dubbing loop. This fly carries no wire wrapping so the dubbing loop is essential for durability on those occasion where you use it all afternoon.

Hackle: Ginger Hen. (I have a new ginger hen saddle that is butter soft. Thanks to Lauren at the Painted Trout !). Two wraps. My saddle has a nice iridescent quality when wrapped.

Collar: two peacock herl mixed with dubbing loop strand for durability. Small collars are illustrated in the old flies preserved today. Follow their lead: small.

I'm ready to swing.

I'm ready to fish upstream to current seams an arm's length away from my right leg.

I'm ready to find a half-warm PBR in my side bag late in the afternoon.

I'm ready to laugh on the water at jokes I've heard before.

I'm ready. I'm certain you are, too.



  1. Spike, getting caught up with your last few posts. You are prolific. And so, so bitten. I see you turning a corner. It is good to see. Always good to see somebody immersed in our game, growing & enjoying, looking forward to the next bend. Your May Brownie has that killing look. Like it.

  2. I'm thinking about a good drowning as I tie my flies. Ought to cut down on the rewrite if I do a better job of saying what I intend the first time.

    Two bodies with one bullet. That's always a good tale.