I've been thinking for a couple of weeks now that I
needed to get back to the Bergman flies, which were
my prime motivation for doing this column in the first
place. The dilemma is always history with these, as
some of the prettier ones come without much information.
The Orange Blue was a fly that caught my eye immediately,
and one I've wanted to do for some time now. The truth is
I don't have a single bit of information about this fly,
and the only reference I've ever seen concerning it is
the recipe and artistic rendering in Trout.
Being somewhat fearless by nature however, I've decided
to plunge ahead with an article anyway, because I think
that when all is said and done, the Orange Blue is a
I'll start by saying I've never liked chenille as a tying
material. This is deeply rooted in my childhood I'm afraid.
In the '60s we had all kinds of flies with chenille bodies,
the best known of which was the Black Gnat. A more poorly
named fly never existed. I would see groups of tiny midges
swarming on the stream and think "I know what fly I need,
the Black Gnat", whereupon I'd pull out the big old #14
fat chenille bodied gray winged chunk of fun and flog the
water mercilessly with it until my arms got tired. If I
saw say a small bee (we used to call them "sweat bees")
I'd drag out the McGinty. Now I'm sure these flies worked
somewhere on the planet, but they sure didn't work for me,
ever. Why on earth would you call a fly a Black Gnat when
it's a hundred times bigger than any gnat there ever was?
I've never figured it out. But I knew one thing for sure,
big fat chenille bodies didn't work. Not in the Adirondacks
anyway, not for me. Now the egg sack flies like the Female
Beaverkill worked ok, so I wasn't down on chenille completely,
just when used for bodies.
When I saw the Orange Blue in Bergman's book I thought that
at last, here was a reasonable use for chenille. I was
already sold on the San Juan Worms, and Fred Bridge's
enhancement thereof, the Infamous Pink Worm, chenille used
as God intended, but still saw little use for it in fly bodies.
But here was a fly where the chenille was used for a thorax,
and now we were talking! Rather than build up a thorax on a
cripple, like Harrop's Brown Drake or Green Drake, why not
just wind on some chenille? Makes sense to me, and I just
might try it one of these days.
My real stumbling block with this fly though was the hen
pheasant wings. Ring-neck pheasants of the male persuasion
seemingly abound, but I'd never even seen a hen pheasant.
Fortunately for me, I've gotten to know the Irish tier
Alice Conba, and have spent some time studying with and
learning from this consummate tier. She does a March Brown
with Hen Pheasant wings that is absolute perfection, a fly
that I just HAD to tie. Here's a photo of a March Brown
Alice sent me, tied in her own special way:
Just a little historical perspective for those who think
the Black Gnat is an old fly. The date on the envelope
for the March Brown is 1360. Alice had traced the lineage
of the fly back that far. Alice picked up on the fact that
I didn't have any hen pheasant quills, and sent me some so
I could learn to do her fly. So at last, I was able to do
her wonderful March Brown, and this fly that I bring you
today. Here's the recipe for the Orange Blue, we at least
have that much information about the fly. And we have some
newfound respect for chenille as well!
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman;
March Brown tied by Alice Conba. ~ EA
Body: Orange Chenille and blue floss.
Tip: Gold tinsel.
Tail: Golden pheasant tippet.
Wing: Pheasant, orange stripe.
I started fly fishing as a teen in and around my hometown
of Plattsburgh, New York, primarily on the Saranac River.
I started tying flies almost immediately and spent hours
with library books written by Ray Bergman, Art Lee, and
A. J. McClane. Almost from the beginning I liked tying
just as much as I liked fishing and spent considerable
time at the vise creating hideous monstrosities that
somehow caught fish anyway. Then one day I came upon a
group of flies that had been put out at a local drug store
that had been tied by Francis Betters of Wilmington, N.Y.
My life changed that day and so did my flies, dramatically.
Even though I never met Fran back then, I've always
considered him to be one of my biggest influences.
I had a career in music for twenty years or so and didn't
fish much, though I did fish at times. The band I was with
had its fifteen seconds of fame when we were asked to be in
John Mellencamp's movie "Falling From Grace." I am the
keyboard player on the right in the country club scene in
the middle of the movie. Don't blink. It's on HBO all the
time. We got to meet big Hollywood stars and record in John's
studio. It was a blast.
So how did I wind up contributing to the Just Old Flies
column on FAOL? I'm not sure, it was something that I simply
wanted very badly to do, and they let me. Many of the old flies
take me back to the Adirondacs and my youth, and I guess I get
to relive some of it through the column. I've spent many happy
hours fishing and tying over the years, and tying these flies
brings back memories of great days on the water, and intense
hours spent looking at the flies in the fly plates in the old
books and trying to get my flies to look like them. And now,
here I am, still doing that to this day. ~ EA