Keene’s Bronze Coachman

Those who’ve shared a canoe with me know the delight I take in catching panfish, and especially the white and yellow perch. I have a firm devotion to the “Ol’ Black Pan”,  and the furs and feathers that litter the floor of my den are rivaled only by the bread crumbs underfoot in my kitchen. I hunt for the pot and fish for the pan, but I am fly fisherman to the core. If the culinary delights I take from the woods and waters are to be challenged for preeminence in my heart, it is my love of classic flies that will gain the throne.  If per chance I can combine the two, I reach the very heights of enjoyment and can ask for no more.

I know of two nineteenth century flies developed and tied especially for perch.  Both were born right here in New England. One in Massachusetts, and this pattern, Keene’s Bronze Coachman, in New Hampshire. John Harrington Keene, an Englishman by birth but New Englander by choice, is best known for his 1887 book “Fly-Fishing and Fly Making for Trout, Etc.”. It is a fairly scarce book that has  some interesting plates that have tipped in actual furs and feathers used in fly-tying; a wonderful book for the collector. But being the panfisherman that I am, it is his 1894 title “The Boys Own Guide To Fishing, Tackle-Making And Fish-Breeding” that really delights.  In his chapter entitled “Fly Fishing For Bass, Perch, Sunfish, Etc.” he shares with the reader a simply fly developed for the perch of his New Hampshire home waters.  I quote:

“It is a modification of the ever-useful “Coachman”, I call it the “Bronze Coachman” : - 

       Body, of the bronze tinsel cord one gets at the dry-goods store at five cents or so a ball. It is used by ladies for embroidering on velvet, etc. Legs, plenty of brown hackle; wings, white”

Keene recounts catching three perch at a time on a three fly cast, all of which are tied on a size 6 hook.

I have used bronze Bills Bodi-Braid for the body and a Mustad 3389H gold sproat hook, size 6, for my version of this wonderful New Hampshire perch fly.  I can’t wait to fish it, my “priest” at the ready!

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In the teeth of a storm..

Wood Special

Yellow Miller

Big Top

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See The Hook, Grasshopper!

Generally when we look at a fly we disregard the hook as an element of form, but acknowledge its contextual importance in the overall appearance of the fly. It’s really odd how we both don’t see, and do see the hook at the same time. Just about all of our fly tying involves covering up the hook and making it disappear, and yet relying on it to carry the fly and present it in a pleasing form to both man and beast.  Of course all of this is secondary to the hooks primary purpose as a trap, but that’s another issue altogether.

I want to tie some flies where the hook contributes not only contextually but also makes a primary visual contribution to the fly.  I want to see the hook.  I’ve found it really hard to break out of the conditioned manner I am accustomed to  in seeing/not seeing the hook.  It’s going to take a leap of faith to tie and fish such flies, but in the end I think this will be an experiment that might bear fruit in my fly tying and fishing enjoyment.

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American Parrot

A slight variation of Ken Sawada’s “Amazon Parrot” on a great little vintage herters TUE iron. I have a favorite brook trout spot in NH just in mind…

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A bass fly translation of an old trout and salmon classic streamer…

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A wonderful classic trout streamer from the Pine Tree state…

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Crayzee Bug

Smallmouth LOVE crayfish; but they will almost always choose the wee molters over the mature well-armed adults. The Crayzee bug is just that; a little molter (Mustad 9671 sz. 8 ) with plenty of action, and the orange drives the smallies crayzee!!

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Silver Horns

Silver Horns.
A 19th century wet fly caddis imitation, (here in sz. 12), wherein the teal flank tail represents the insects spotted antennae. Its praises have been sung by those that fished it. I need to step outside of my 20th century sensibilities now and again both at the vise and astream when confronted with a trout pattern such as this. It unites the attractor and imitative schools in one simple and attractive fly. Almost everything in contemporary trout fishing urges us to lay mystery aside and side with “science”. Aren’t we all tempted to oblige? It’s not the fishes attitude that concerns me; it’s my own.

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The Bandit; a deceiver style smallmouth pattern. I used to tie these with Reeves pheasant for the cheeks, but those feathers are just to expensive and uncommon. Guinea hen is always a good choice. This pattern has proven its worth on the water with smallmouth up to 4 lbs. I have also used it chasing brown trout, but the deceiver style is not appropriate as it tends to short strikes and foul hooking with trout. For bass it’s a killer!

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Black Pond

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Brown Cow

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Bannock Chief

This one is out of Ken Sawada’s book; though he does not claim it’s origin, I can’t find it anywhere else. It almost identical to the California Coachman with the addition of a red floss tag rather than tinsel and a dun wing rather than white.

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Taps Tip

A simple bucktail from the late H. G. Tapply, editor and author of long time Field and Stream feature “Taps Tips” (as well as book of the same name that collected many of the wonderful tips). As is typical of Tap Tapply, nothing fancy, but sure to get the job done!

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Chuck Caddis

Eric Leiser’s Chuck Caddis is simply one of the best searching as well as representative patterns ever developed. Simple, durable, effective.

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