I've just returned from a wonderful weekend in the Catskills.
I can't remember when I've been around a better group of people
than I was at the Clearwater Junction weekend, sponsored by the
Theodore Gordon Flyfishers. The members, tiers and fishermen in
attendance were just great. Roy Christie came over from England,
Allan Podell, Mark Libertone, Andy Brasko, and Catskill John were
there, old on-line friends all, and I simply had the time of my
I was very excited when I learned Friday evening that Art Lee was
going to be there. Somewhere along the line I've apparently memorized
entire chapters of his book Fishing Dry Flies, and it
wasn't until I had it in my hands again that I realized that Art Lee
basically taught me how to fly fish. It was quite a thrill to meet
him after all these years, and he was very kind to me over the
I made other new friends as well. The dean of the realistic tiers
Bob Mead was there, and he and his friend Buffalo Bill Newcomb took
me under their wing and helped me through the show. These guys are
show veterans, and I was hanging on their every word. It was Buffalo
Bill who suggested that I tie a Whirling Blue Dun this week. I
mentioned that I really wanted to do a Catskill fly, but that most
had been done, and he said "What about the Whirling Blue Dun?" I of
course remembered the fly well, and sure enough, it hadn't been done,
so here it is. Thanks Bill.
This fly was something of a forerunner to the Hendricksons, which
largely supplanted it once they came along. It is also mentioned
with the Dark Watchet or Iron Blue Dun in some texts. It's a
beautifully named fly, and was one of my favorites growing up.
There's an old English fly called the Little Whirling Blue that's
quite similar. There are two different American versions, one with
dun hackle and tail, and one with ginger hackle and tail. Some
dispense with the ribbing and tip as well, but I remember the fly
having ribbing, so I've done that with mine shown here.
I had never set foot in Roscoe before this weekend, but for me,
it was like coming home. As a teen I read book after book about
the region, and I was not disappointed in the least once I finally
made it there after dreaming about it all those years. And while
the rivers are gorgeous, out of a fairy tale really, it's the
people there that I'll remember the most. The place is imbued
with the history and traditions of our pastime, but it's the
people who carry them forward. I so look forward to visiting
again. Here's the recipe for the Whirling Blue Dun:
Whirling Blue Dun
Credits: Trout by Ray Bergman; English Trout
Flies by W.H. Lawrie; Fish Flies by Terry Hellekson ~ EA
Hook: Standard dry fly, 8-16
Tip: Flat gold tinsel.
Tail: Blue dun hackle.
Ribbing: Flat gold tinsel.
Wing: Dark gray mallard.
Body: Muskrat or Mink dubbing.
Hackle: Blue dun.
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