Gadwall and Orange
Flies With a Story
 

"It was a warm Saturday morning in November..."

 

Story By: Peter Frailey
Home: Carlisle, MA
E-mail: pfrailey@hotmail.com
Web site: www.fishingwithflies.com

Fly Tied By: Alberto Jimeno
Originated By: Adapted by Alberto Jimeno from Jay High's Woodduck Orange
Massachusetts fishing regulations allow Peter to fish year-round.  He chooses to fish for panfish and bass during the summer and chases salmonids during the other months. 

 

   gadwall and orange-300.jpg 

Hook: Size 6-10, 2XL Streamer Hook
Thread: Black or gray, 6/0
Underwing: Gadwall (or Mallard) tied in by the tip and wrapped several times, each time stroking the barbules back toward the rear, wet fly style.
Collar: Orange hen hackle, wrapped wet fly style.

 

Part I

It was a warm Saturday morning in November when I arrived at the parking area next to one of my favorite stretches of a small local trout river. The summer had been a dry one and the water was low, clear, and generally slow moving. But water temperatures were cooling nicely and the baitfish were abundant.

I had high hopes, as I usually do on this stretch of water. My fishing log indicated that the previous November I had been successful with a size 12 yellow attractor pattern. (This means I had caught fish on what was sort of a sloppy Wulff-style pattern.) In fact, on each of the two November days I fished there last year, I had been successful along the first set of riffles, right by the car. So, as I rigged up I was sure that I would soon be into fish. After all, water temperatures the previous year were in the mid-40s. Now, the water was a balmy 52 degrees. Wouldn't the fish be more active?

I spent quite a bit of time fishing the pool and riffles by the car hoping for the action to begin. A few chubs in the 5- to 6-inch range gently took a beadhead pheasant tail nymph, but nothing even came close to moving toward a yellow attractor fly, let alone several other dry flies I selected.

The chubs were fun, but I had wanted to pick up a trout or two. As I easily walked upstream through a shallow patch of grassy slow water where I would have been knocked over and swept away in the spring, I did begin to ponder a change of tactics.

As I approached a bridge, I knew it was time for a fly change. The water under the bridge and on the right was a little deeper. Or, at least it had always appeared deeper.  Being shaded by the bridge, the water was dark and I could not see bottom. I stood just downstream of the bridge's shadow and reached for my fly box. Like so many of us have done so many times, I just stared into the box hoping for wisdom.

What I saw on the streamer side of the box was a bunch of Woolly Buggers, several Hornbergs, and two thin soft-hackle streamers with orange hackle collars that my fishing friend, Alberto, had tied and given to me during the summer. I couldn't remember what they were called, but I did remember David Benoit tying some of them at his demonstration booth at the Marlboro Fly-Fishing Show the previous January. For a reason unknown to me then or now, I picked one out of the box and tied it to the end of my 6X tippet. (I had started the day with 6X, and I rarely change the tippet unless I need something thinner or longer.)

I began a series of "upstream and across" casts into the black water on the right hand side under the bridge. I basically let the fly drift downstream with a few slow strips, mending where necessary, and playing out each cast with a few more strips after the streamer swung below me. After each cast I moved one step further upstream.

The strategy worked. Within 15 minutes I landed two pickerel and hooked one large rainbow (or were the headshakes that of a brown?). I have fished this section of water for years and had never seen or caught a pickerel. But then I know the pike family likes flash and bright colors, so I wasn't completely surprised. Of all the flies I have fished in this area, the Gadwall and Orange soft-hackle streamer would be the one I would pick if I were a pickerel.

I never did land the trout, however. I forgot a lesson I learned as a kid: "After catching a pickerel, check the leader!!!!" How did I ever think I would catch a trout using a 6x tippet that had already been munched on by two pickerel? Grrrrrr.

This streamer casts efficiently, lands quietly, and often floats until tugged under. One advantage of its thin profile in slow water is that the soft feathers do little to keep the weight of the hook from sinking the fly once it breaks the surface. In deeper water only a minimum amount of added weight is required to get it down.

During late fall, when insects are not exactly abundant in my neck of the woods, and the only obvious food source is baitfish, I can think of no better wounded baitfish immitation.

Part II (To read only if I have held your attention so far !!!)

But my morning didn't end there. Further upstream, I had more success. I fished an elbow-bend in the river, with more slow water. Standing on the inside of the bend, I cast downstream and let my one remaining Gadwall and Orange streamer drift until it was below me, again giving a few short slow strips. Downstream and below me the baitfish were hanging out, just outside of the main current and sheltered by the small sandbar on which I was kneeling. Voila. Two more trout enjoyed Alberto's streamer, both small rainbows in the 9- to 10- inch range. The water was deeper here, perhaps four to five feet. The secret to getting the fly down deep, where the trout wanted it, was to slip a small black tungsten beadhead over the tippet and re-tie the streamer. I have used this technique frequently with traditional soft hackle wet flies, to fish them as nymphs or to keep them under the surface when fishing downstream in current.

Satisfied with my success at the bend pool, I walked past quite a stretch of low water to arrive at my final destination, an old dam. Wading upstream and casting a PT nymph and strike indicator, I managed again to catch a batch of chubs.

It was about noon, and the sun was high and warm. It had been fun, but after I broke off a nymph on a submerged rock, I thought it was a good time to head home. Had I completely broken off the tippet, I probably would have begun the walk downstream to the car.

But there was still tippet left. I couldn't waste it. How about "just a few more casts"? Why not go to a downstream presentation with the Gadwall and Orange? I removed the streamer from the fly patch, tied it onto the remaining 12 inches of tippet, positioned myself right below the dam and starting swinging the streamer downstream, dredging it back and forth in the current. This time a larger tungsten bead helped get the fly down deep. Letting a bit more line out, the streamer moved downstream into some of the same water where I had coaxed the chubs onto my PT nymph. The chubs weren't impressed with the streamer, but a 15-inch rainbow was! Landing the fish was a bit of a chore because I could not get downstream of it, nor could I get out of the fast water. But the size 8 streamer hook held nicely and I was able to bring him to my hand.

Now, it was definitely time to head home. This had been a very nice morning. As I drove home, I knew I would have to contact Alberto right away, and I pondered what three flies he might accept as trade for three more Gadwall and Oranges. Plus, I got home in time to have lunch with my wife. What a perfect day!

--Peter Frailey

 

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