"The variant is a style rather than a pattern, for it now comes in standard patterns,"
according to Fly Patterns and Their Origins, " This long hackle
design belongs to Dr. Wm. Baigent . . . of England. This fly dates about 1875.
According to Mr. Baigent, when dry flies were beginning to be used he commenced
dressing the "more lightly and with longer but less hackle and called them 'long-
hackled, sparsely dressed flies'." Whe they became know they were referred to as
"a new variety of floater" and later as "variant." It is said that it orginally was
"Baigent's variant of Pools's Hackle." The Pool Hackle was a wet fly with
long, sparse hackle.
The multi-colored variant was orginated by Albert C. Barrel, of Pittsfield,
Massachusetts, a fishing writer and for many years editor of a newspaper fishing
column. He died about 1940.
The Southcote variant, a long, dark, smoky gray hackles that stand out in a
bristly way and small gray wings pointing forward with gold tinsel body, which
reflects the color of its surroundings and conveys their appearance, was named
after George southcote, the non de plume of Sir George Ashton, author of
Mostly About Trout,1921, and Letters to a Young
Flyfisherman 1926, who lived near the River Avon in Wiltshire, England."
Vincent C. Marinaro, in A Modern Dry Fly Code does not give
credit for the Variant's origin, but comments, "Relieve the so-called standard
pattern of wings, body and tail, lengthen the hackle somewhat, and a spider is
born. Add a considerable amount of hackle for the entire length of the hook
shank, a spicy turn or two of contrasting color, and the bivisible emerges.
Alterations to these fundamental changes have created an endless variety of
patterns in different shapes, sizes (generally very large), and colors. Some
bivisibles have forked tails and some do not. Some are tied with wings and some
without. Small wings and a small body are often added to the spider, and
it becomes a variant."
Information and drawings from Fly Patterns and Their
Origins, published by Westshore Publications,
and A Modern Dry Fly Code (reprinted by
Lyons press.) Color photo from Forgotten Flies.
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