Fly fishers are always looking for an edge in their pursuit of trout — a new fly rod or maybe a new fly line.
They are always looking for the latest and greatest fly to tie to the end of their line.
While the materials and the creativity for tying flies have never been greater than they are today, a look back in time can lead to the rediscovery of some tried and true fly patterns.
One of the old fly tyers who was both innovative and creative was New Hampshire’s own Ora Smith.
Ora lived in the Keene area. He taught fly tying in adult education classes from the late ’60’s until the early ’90s. He passed away in 2007.
Smith was a mad genius when it came to tying flies. His magic came from his mastery of tying with golden pheasant crest. Smith learned how to take these super translucent feathers and create fly patterns that drove trout and salmon crazy.
Golden pheasant crest is the feather from the crown of this bird that originated in China. During Ora’s day, this feather was not easy to acquire and was one of the more expensive feathers purchase. These feathers never really laid flat, but Ora came up with a method to straighten the feathers and then layer them onto the hook.
This meant that tying these flies was time-consuming and expensive. The flies were beautiful to look at and fun to fish. Patterns with a layered wing of golden pheasant crest included the Maynard Marvel, the Canopache and the Pumpkin Head.
Ora developed many successful flies. These flies have become the “secret” flies that still work well for catching trout and salmon here in the Mount Washington Valley.
Flies like the Red Demon, Warden Variant, Orange Tag, Woodie Variation and the Granite Lake Special will all catch fish here in the valley.
However, our favorite is the Red-Silver-Gold. This fly is a combination of flash and action. It can be tied in any hook size from 2-14 and as a tandem trolling fly.
Here is the recipe for the Red-Silver-Gold:
Tail — Red hackle fibers
Body — Embossed silver tinsel
Wing — Two saddle hackles over two golden pheasant crest feathers tied flat
Super easy and super effective.
If the Ora Smith flies intrigue you, Scott Biron will be holding a fly tying demonstration at the North Country Angler on Feb. 8 at noon. Scott will be tying the Red-Silver-Gold and the Canopache and sharing his many Ora Smith stories.
There will be places for 10 people to tie along with Scott. You will need to bring your fly tying tools, but materials will be provided. There is no charge to tie along with Scott. To reserve your place at the tying table, call the North Country Angler at (603) 356-6000.
If you are just interested in watching Scott tie these amazing flies, there will be room to stand and watch him as he unravels the mysteries of the Ora Smith flies.
Back to the flies and the fishing. The Woodie Variation is a great fly for Hatch Pond. Fished deep on a sinking line and retrieved with short, quick strips will get a response from the stocked brook trout.
The Orange Tag is the fly that works best in Long Pond, and the Red-Silver-Gold is a fly that we take out of our fly box when we are fishing on Saco Lake.
Tip of The Week
Try fishing with the old-style flies. These were effective in the past but have since fallen out of favor. This means that the trout haven’t seen these fly patterns, so they are new to the fish.
Steve Angers is a native son to the Conway area. He has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.