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Kevin McKay

Let's talk wet flies?

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I have recently started using wets more during those mid days when hatches cool off, I seem to fish one more frequently than any other and that's the one pictured below. I tie it with a red hot spot tail and all Maine ingredients, Maine red squirrel for the body and Maine partridge for the hackle, maybe it's the Maine flavor that the fish like!

 I like swinging them on a floating line or trailing behind a heavier nymph. Surprisingly, salmon seem to really key in on the trailing technique over the swing. However, the swing is more exciting, as you can see it happen. 

1760658319_3Wetfly.thumb.jpeg.0a005ef5d9529c5ba65c050eab6024d3.jpeg

 

GL

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To old folks this is a Wet Fly. 860863493_MarchBrownWet.jpg.4d47ad92811dd6a13d230e2668b8c3b0.jpg

And this is a Soft Hackle. 67425546_SoftHackle.jpeg.3752f9d68d28dc8a636a15e8dd34629f.jpeg

 

I suspect you want to talk about Soft Hackles. 

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I’m on the same page Dryfly. ;)When I first started tying (before soft hackles were invented) I tied many of the traditional wet fly patterns. Today I only have a couple wet fly patterns in my fly box. Lead wing coachman is one and a hares ear wet fly is the other.

 I have s couple others that I’m not sure of the name. I cast across the stream and let it drift down river and let it swing. Some times I will strip it in some manner.

could the traditional wet fly be returning??? Maybe it never left?

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Partridge and grey for a soft hackle and I second the coachman and Alexandra as traditional wets. The “cow dung” wet is also a great imitator. 

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This past season I really focused on using wet flies and since I'm pretty interested in all the fly fishing history in the Rangeley area I used mostly patterns that either originated there or were popular around the turn of the last century ...ie.  The B Pond, Bemis, Tadoodle, Cow Dung, Montreal, Parm Belle  etc...  Over the season I learned a couple things.   

1. Fishing them on the swing is more complicated than it looks. (most days)  You need to mend like a mofo to get the fly where you want it, which honestly is a learned skill, and a good one to have. If you remember the days of not being able to put shot on the leader and fishing unweighted flies you will have a pretty good idea the kind of mending it takes to get flies down in a deep pool....positioning your self to make the cast plays a much larger role.

2. Presentation trumps Pattern....  again not a universal truth but most days it seemed like getting the fly to track where it needs to be seems far more important than it having the right colors or even size.  Truth be told all my wet flies are size 10, 12 or 14.

3. They are super versatile.  You can fish them deep like a nymph, strip them like a streamer...or even add some floatant and fish them upstream on top in the film like a drowned dry.  

Overall, fishing wets was a relatively new thing for me and now I'm a believer.  I plan to do it a lot more next year and have started making a list of historic patterns to try next year.

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I only use wet for Atlantic salmon fishing.

I use them on the swing but unlike RRobert I don't mend the line to get the fly deeper but to adjust the speed of the swing. Atlantic salmon are more likely to strike if the fly is swingin fast rather than slow.

Here's some of my favorite patterns that got me some AS on the line last summer.

black ghost with polar bear wing

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The fusion

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Ekuanitshit

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Big intervale blue with polar bear wing (excellent on bright sunny days)

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And of course the incredible white tail green machine

vQIATtA.jpg

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My flies are not pretty enough to post here, but my go to fly is a heron fly with a little bit of soft hackle behind a tungsten bead.  It works best on the swing in quick water.

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I've only fished it previously in larger sizes for GL steel and browns and Maine smallmouths, but this wee Lady Caroline tied by Kyle Poley intrigues me.  Almost always fished down and across (though sometimes more across and down to go slow n' low) on a tight line.

MIni Lady C.png

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On 12/4/2018 at 6:49 AM, TGIF said:

Which Heron Fly do you like?

I don't know, it's just a wood duck feather around a hook.  I use a slightly darker collar of soft hackle.  

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Here is my interpretation of the heron fly. I learned of this fly from a member of this forum(thanks by the way). I had reasonably good luck with it in Maine and got a nice salmon on it here in Vermont. I just tied the one in orange so have not fished with it.

57939A71-A3A0-4345-867A-EDCF05124E6B.jpeg

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okay - I'm going to ask a bigtime newb question - can someone tell me the difference between these flies (and salmon flies) versus an unweighted streamer? The hardest thing I'm finding is learning the differences between flies and how to spot them.

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Gotcha... you're talking about the Wood Duck Heron... which is palmered woodduck and then dun hen for a collar.  it takes a good amount of practice and spit to get those feathers to lay right and not look like a cockroach.  

There are 3 others as well, orgininated by Nick Lambrou of Manchester NH, who i had the pleasure to spend some time with.  

The bronze mallard is one, and then the olive and brown heron, which are more like palmered wets, with a wood duck wing.  

Cool new england history on these, and a personal connectoin... plus they flat out catch fish.  

 

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On 12/2/2018 at 3:56 PM, arrowflinger said:

When I first started tying (before soft hackles were invented) I tied many of the traditional wet fly patterns.

You must be REALLY old, I just did a quick google search of the partridge & orange soft hackle and see that it dates back to at least the 1890s.:lol::lol:

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OK, I’m not that old :lol::lol::lol:well there are days:huh:

When I started tying the only patterns I had access to were traditional dry,wet and streamer patterns. Very interesting that they tied them so far back. 

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The Heron fly is a go to for me also. I tie the red thread down the hook about half way on some of them and it seems to work well.

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On 12/7/2018 at 10:30 AM, Walpy said:

okay - I'm going to ask a bigtime newb question - can someone tell me the difference between these flies (and salmon flies) versus an unweighted streamer? The hardest thing I'm finding is learning the differences between flies and how to spot them.

I think the main differences are size and what the fly is imitating.  Most wet flies are generally smaller than a size 10 and imitate some sort of insect while streamers mimic some sort of baitfish and are larger. I may be wrong but I think feather wing streamers which originated in the Rangeley region were actually sort of a natural progression from wet fly patterns originating in the Catskills and earlier in Europe, because of the large bait fish runs in the Spring right after iceout.  

Some patterns, like the Parmacheenee Belle or the Grizzly King exist in both wetfly and streamer form.  

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There aren’t many static definitions in what we do.... but I am comfortable saying that streamers are designed to imitate fish and animals while wet flies are more to imitate bugs. Of course as I wrote these I can think of a dozen exceptions to that rule....

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On 12/7/2018 at 10:30 AM, Walpy said:

okay - I'm going to ask a bigtime newb question - can someone tell me the difference between these flies (and salmon flies) versus an unweighted streamer?

Probably $2 to $5 these days...  and a different type of "tie/dressing", but it's not important..it's apples and oranges...atlantic salmon flies vs freshwater salmonoid(trout..).  I mean you can fish anything, it's a free country.  Anglers use what has worked in the present and in the somewhat past, but mostly what works locally.

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I’m gonna go out on a limb and say anything smaller than a number 8 hook is a wet fly these days and anything bigger than a 6 is a streamer the rest are a grey area. It also depends on the size of the rod. I fish what I call “micro streamers” on my 3 wt I guess it’s relative to the size of fish your looking for. So to make this more difficult does the size shape or style of fishing denote what the fly is? You could tie anything on any size hook. I’m gonna say style is more important and what you wanna imitate. Long way around I guess.

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First, all the flies I fish end up being wet flies (humor).

I’m going out on a limb here too but a different one.

 I know this is a bit simplistic and I know there are probably excepts, there always is, but, in my mind streamers are different than wet flies.

A gray ghost, black ghost, Mickey Fin are examples of streamers.

Leadwing coachmen, Parmachene Belle, Professor are examples of wet flies.

In my thinking hook size is not the differentiating factor. It’s the style or way the fly is tied and what it’s supposed to be imitating.

Again, in my thinking streamers more represent bait fish (not always) where as wet flies represent subsurface insects. Again, not always but that’s how I think of them.

To really dig a big deep hole for myself, dry flies are wet flies with their wings sticking up straight verses being swept back along the bodies(wet flies).

Then soft hackles and/or emerges are slightly lower in the pecking order than the wet fly but more advanced than the nymph.

So that’s my simplistic view of things. As soon as I post this I will be changing my phone number and leaving the country.:rolleyes::lol:

 

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