Many years ago I used to tie my dry flies with thick clumps of spade hackle and could not explain why I got many refusals from rising trout. It finally dawned on me that I was using way too many hackle fibers in the tail. I had been using so many that it possibly looked like part of the fly’s body to the trout. Even though I may have been tying a dry fly on a size 14 hook which matched the natural insects, by the time I tied in a very thick clump of tail hackle fibers, my fly looked like a size 10 to the trout.
I now use only enough spade hackle or straight moose body hair for my dry fly tails to help float my flies and my catch is greatly improved.
Many years ago two elderly gentlemen in my advanced fly tying college class made a simple request: Teach us to tie a dry fly that floats like a cork, that we can easily see on the water and that matches many of the early season natural insects. I thought this was a reasonable request and the Mr. Rapidan Dry Fly was born. Today this is my favorite dry fly on the Epeorus pleuralis hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena vicarium hatch in size 14, for the Stenomena fuscum hatch in size 16 and for the Beatis hatch in sizes 18 and 20.
I have now expanded the Mr. Rapidan series to match three different adult caddisflies, two different caddis pupa, two mayfly nymphs, two mayfly emergers, midges, two different soft hackles, terrestrials, streamers and even smallmouth dry flies.
Those two gentlemen had an outstanding idea which has helped hundreds of anglers catch thousands of fish all across the country.
Just as Mother Nature controls the time of the year in which the beautiful little wildflowers push through the thick leaf carpet in the mountains to bloom, so does she dictate the time which the natural insects hatch in the streams. Since I am fond of photographing both of these I have kept stream notes on them for forty years.
Interestingly enough this has helped me in my fishing because usually a specific fly hatch will coincide with the blooming of a specific wildflower. The beautiful little blood root which is the first wildflower to bloom in many mountains tells me it is time for the first aquatic insect hatch. The trillium follows this and usually brings the next two aquatic insect hatches. Different wildflowers follow throughout the season with their accompanying hatches.
The specific insects that hatch at these times vary from one geographical part of the country to the next. However, it repeats each year in a predictable pattern. Keep stream notes and you will be richly rewarded.