This might just be the most annoying hatch we have on our Mad River
here in Ohio. When I first spotted these flies swarming over the
riffles early in the season I thought they must be some kind of
small caddis. The fish were rising and I was putting fly after
fly over them, coming up empty. It was only later that I found
out that these bugs were tiny black stoneflies. I didn't even
know that the Mad contained any stoneflies at all, but it does
in the spring. They seem to swarm about a foot off the water in
groups, and when the fish are on them they get very selective.
This particular imitation is from a book called Chauncy Lively's
Flybox. My friend Jim Andrix put this one aside for me when
it got marked down to half price at our local fly shop. He knows me
only too well. Any book that was written in the '70s is a must-have
for me, as well as any book that has black and white photographs.
Jim knows this, and has sold me a lot of books. Chauncy Lively was
a very inventive tier, from the Vince Marinaro Pennsylvania spring
creek school, and this book contains many subtle and creative ideas
where fly design is concerned. You can see how Chauncy Lively approaches
a given insect and tries to come up with a reasonably simple
impressionistic imitation; all the while keeping things like fly
floatation and durability in mind. Chauncy lived on the North
Branch of Michigan's Au Sable River from 1984 until his death from
complications from pneumonia on February 24, 2000. Chauncy was 81.
Each fly has step-by-step tying instructions, complete descriptions
of the insect in question, along with a picture of the bug being
imitated. The use of the wonder wing as a down-wing on this fly
will give you some idea of Lively's creativity, and I find all
the flies in the book to be very functional and easy to tie.
This fly couldn't have taken me three minutes, and that included
getting the materials out of the drawer. I'm really looking
forward to trying this one next spring. Here's the recipe:
Little Black Stonefly
Lively prepares the wonder wing ahead of time and coats
it with vinyl cement. I tied mine in right on the fly.
To make a wonder wing, just stroke back a hackle toward
the base or stem, pinching it when you get the wing shape.
You can then tie it in where you're pinching, or put hackle
pliers on at the pinch and cement it. You then cut the tip
of the hackle off at the end of the wing. This photo should
give you the idea:
Hook: #20 dry fly hook.
Hackle: Dark chocolate brown, tied fore and aft,
clipped flat on top, with a "V" trimmed from the bottom.
Body: Underfur from rabbit's foot dubbed on thread.
Wing: A wonder wing formed from black hackle.
Head: Black lacquer.
Credits: Chauncy Lively's Flybox
by Chauncy Lively. ~ EA
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