Buoyant, Visible, Durable

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The high country trout you find in more remote locations aren’t usually picky eaters. You can over think the ins and outs of whether to imitate anything in particular, but the bottom line is you’re going to need a dry fly pattern that’s buoyant, visible and durable. That sounds easy enough. In practice it isn’t. The streams you encounter in the Rocky Mountain high country often stair step down through moderate to high gradients under the closed canopy of subalpine forests. That means on a good day you get a splotchy mishmash of light and shadow on the water. Riffles add more confusion. On a cloudy day the water’s surface turns to flat chrome gray.

The challenge is to tie a dry fly that stands up to all of this and for the sake of artistry let’s say we’ll tie it with all natural or predominately natural materials. So what works for a size 16 to size 12 hooks? The first thought to come my mind is maybe an H & L Variant (Eisenhower’s favorite) or maybe Fran Better’s “Usual” or John Gierach’s variation of the Hare’s Ear parachute. All good stuff.


Here’s some design considerations. Do you go with a heavy parachute hackle and highly visible post or a heavy traditional hackle and highly visible split-wings? What’s the best wing material? Which hackle style is most buoyant? What materials make the fly durable? Durability is a tough order. The dry fly will end up swinging underwater like a wet fly about half the time no matter what you do, get stuck in trees, get stuck in underwater logs and brush, and get gooey when you remove it from trout before releasing them….and on top of all that the forest isn’t going to allow you to false cast it dry anywhere near as much as you’d like.

I’m going to the fly tying vise now to mess around with all of this. So what’s the point? I like the idea of going to the high country with just seven or eight flies in my fly box.

Think lightness.