“Mixing Styles”Photo, article and fly by “Catskill John” Bonasera
I have grown to live with things as they are. I’m the type who doesn’t deviate from the standard. I used to mix it up a lot as a younger man, always tinkering with things to change them, most of the time with subpar results. My father told me, “They make it like that because it works.” When I took up fly tying, I went with my adult philosophy on the patterns I tie: read the dressing, tie the fly. No need to alter them much—maybe a different shade of hackle or body color, but for the most part, when you look at one of my flies, there is no argument as to what it is. In a nutshell, I guess that I am not a pattern designer.
However, I am happy that others are, and I never tire of reading about or seeing the “new” patterns that people think up and, better yet, use with success. Let’s face it, there are thousands of “new” patterns tied every year. Some are variations on a standard and some are totally different. And sometimes someone takes two standard patterns and morphs them together to make something different, yet familiar.
An Internet friend of mine—we will call him “Mack,” because that’s his name—came up with this variation based on a Catskill dry and the Comparadun. He has been tinkering with this design since 1987 and really likes the way it works on the water. It’s interesting to me because while there are some flies tied like this, this one has a few sensible applications that make it a little more realistic while keeping it impressionistic enough to produce. Microfibbet tails and flank wings mix the new and the old, too.
The first thing that I really liked about the design is that instead of using a standard hook to match the insect in question, Mack uses a long-shank, smaller-gape hook. He explains that a Mustad 79580 in a size 16 is the same as a size 12 94833-40. Al Caucci went into this a little bit in Hatches, but rarely do I see patterns that use this approach. It makes for a lighter fly of the same size.
Another aspect that I liked was the “forward of the wing” hackling, something that is more mayflylike in appearance. Also, it’s clipped on the bottom for a nice stance in the water. While this style of hackling does not make a terrific rough-water floater, it does leave a very seductive footprint on the surface in choppy or slower water, where imitative aspects are a plus.
This is a pattern that could be tied in all sizes for all Catskill hatches. I have already finished a batch for the Hendricksons, should winter ever stop and spring begin.
The dressing is as follows.
Wings: Flank feather, upright and divided
Tail: Microfibbets, split Comparadun style
Body: Dubbing, hatch-matching color of your choice, figure-eighted through the wings
Hackle: Hatch-matching colors—dun, grizzly, cream, and so on—mounted ahead of the wings, with a V clipped on the bottom
This is a great fly using common materials with a slightly different look. I am anxious to try it myself.