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Female Trico Polywing Spinner

By Dave Hughes

Though I commonly see the blue-winged olive color listed for spinner dressing, it is my experience, and that of entomologists I know, that almost all mayflies that start out as olives in the dun stage end up as red quills or blue quills in the spinner stage. There are, however, a few variations on the common red and blue colors themes that will serve you well in your fly boxes. They are specific cases, and should be addressed with flies tied especially to solve them.

The first of these is the tiny Trico (Tricorythodes). These are prolific wherever flows are sluggish enough to allow the collection of silt along the bottom. You'll find heavy hatches in almost all meandering spring creek and meadow stream flows, most tailwaters, and in the lower sections of major river systems, where the gradient levels out somewhat and silt settles to the bottom. All of these kinds of waters are defined by one common thread: trout, often big ones, feeding on minute insects because they're so abundant.

Tricos hatch in July, August, and September in waters all across the continent. They usually show up in the morning. Trout might feed selectively on the size 22 and 24 nymphs, but it's rarely been noticed, and its doubtful they become selective to them. Trout also might focus on the duns, but again that is not very common. But spinner falls of these insects are massed, a whole flight of them moving over the water and dropping to the surface almost at one time. Trout, even the largest of them, come up to concentrate on them when that happens.

It's not always easy to notice Trico spinner falls. They can form large, lifting and falling balls in the air, impossible to miss if the light strikes them right. But they can also move over the water and show up on the surface as if by magic. If you see trout that appear to be rising to nothing, get your nose next to the water, or better yet seine the currents with a net, and look closely to see what shows up. If it's Trico spinners, you'll need to match them to take trout.

You often need match no more than the size of such a small insect. I have fished successfully through Trico spinner falls with dun imitations, midge dressings, once even an ant pattern. But that was out of neglect. I didn't have what I needed on me: Trico spinner imitations. Don't let it happen to you. It doesn't take much tying time to build a small supply, and they require very little room in your fly boxes.

Male Tricos are typically dark brown in the abdomen and almost black in the thorax. Females are often olive in the abdomen and dark brown in the thorax. Both fall spent to the water, and trout might key on one, the other, or both. I suggest you tie imitations of both males and females, in one or two of the following styles.

Materials for the Female Trico Polywing Spinner

    Hook: Standard dry fly, 1x fine, size 20 to 24.

    Thread: Brown 8/0.

    Tails: Blue dun hackle fibers, split.

    Abdomen: Olive fur or synthetic dubbing.

    Wings: White or pale gray Polypro yarn.

    Thorax: Brown fur or synthetic dubbing.

Tying Instruction for the Female Trico Polywing Spinner:

    Step 1

    Step 1: Fix hook in the vise and layer it with thread. Form a small bump at the bend. Measure six to ten tail fibers a bit longer than the hook length. Tie them in splayed, or split in three sections. Twist fine olive synthetic dubbing tightly to the hook, and wind a slender and tapered abdomen over two-thirds of the shank.

    Step 2

    Step 2: Separate out a small skein of Polypro yarn, and cut it longer than you'll need it for the wings. Tie it in across the top of the hook shank at the end of the body, and use turns of thread and figure 8s to coax it into the spent position.

    Step 3

    Step 3: Twist fine brown synthetic dubbing to the thread. Form a thorax by wrapping figure 8s of dubbing over the wing tie-in point. Taper it forward to the hook eye. Form a neat thread head, whip-finish, and clip the thread. Shape the wings with your scissors, again without holding them so they'll be the right length when you're finished. ~ DH

Credit: Female Trico Polywing Spinner is just one of the great flies showing special techniques in Dave Hughe's book Matching Mayflies published by Frank Amato Publications.

For more great flies, check out: Beginning Fly Tying, Intermediate Fly Tying and Advanced Fly Tying.

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