"It is doubtless true that the fly fisher derives no small part of his
pleasure from the act of selecting and purchasing flies. It is within
the experience of every fly fisher, I think, that, under the influence of
the memory of a certain fish taken on a particular pattern of fly, he
includes a dozen or two of the sort in his next purchase. Perhaps
the fly is a nondescript that he may never again find successful, but,
nevertheless, he adds it to his store. Angling friends recommend their
patterns to him, or some special flies they found taking under certain
circumstances or over particular streams, and these, too, he buys and
puts away. Maybe he may never use one of them, and in the end he
comes, perhaps, to feel, as does the philatelist, great pleasure in the
pride of ownership, but no thought of putting his treasures to use.
Of course, there can be no reaonable objection to fly collection, and
I can see how it may become as fascinating an employment as
stamp or coin collecting.
Assuming that the angler is a believer in close imitation, he will, of
course, be content only when he has all the patterns which have
been created by the votaries of the theory; but if he should be
inclined to agree with me - that a great part of the imitation must
be produced by the angler himself while actually fishing the
stream - he will find that about ten patterns will suffice under nearly
I give the dressings of eight patterns, although I rarely use over six.
If I were compelled to do so, I could get along very well with one -
the Whirling Dun. Fishing the Brodhead throughout the
month of July, I used this fly exclusively, and took fish every day
except two. On three separate occasions I used a different fly -
at one time a Pink Lady, at another a Mole, and at still another a
Silver Sedge. On each occasion I took one fish with the selected
fly, after which I went back to the Whirling Dun, and continued
my fishing. I killed one or two fish each day, the average for
the month being very close to a pound and a half. I returned many
fish to the water, and these averaged over ten inches. Some days
the fish were feeding, and some days they were not. There was
apparently little difference in the taking effect of the fly, except
that it was taken readily when it was delivered properly, and
never when it was not."
Here is the recipe for George La Branche's favorite fly:
WHIRLING DUN (BLUE)
Wings. -Startling or duck, medium light.
Body. -Water-rat [muskrat] or mole fur;
two turns of flat gold tinsel around hook at end of body.
Legs. -Glossy ginger or light brown cock't hackle.
Tail. -Three whisks of same.
The Whirling Dun shown here was tied by David Ledlie, from the
directions given in the book. Also note, the factor which LaBranche
found so important was the forward angle of the wings. Or in his
own words: "My own experience is that flies tied in this manner
[with the wings tilted forward at an angle of about 120 degrees] sit
beautifully upon the water. . .I would suggest that the angler tie
a few flies with the wings tilted forward at an angle of about 120 degrees,
and try them. If nothing else is accomplished, the experiment may lead
to a development in the form of the fly which will enable us all to some
day take the one "big fish." ~ dlb