By Nick Simonson
Strings of streetlights, even stoplights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures. – Silver Bells
It’s tough to deny the holiday spirit this time of year, and when preparing gifts for friends and family at the fly tying vise ahead of Santa’s big scene, those hallmark colors sneak into nearly every pattern, but it’s not just a celebration of the season. Traditionally, the combination of green peacock herl and red thread, floss or wire has proven effective on all species encountered on the fly. This pairing, first popularized by the Royal Wulff dry fly pattern, has been incorporated into many recipes for nymphs, wet flies and surface offerings and is a simple substitution for those all-peacock bodies in many of them, adding some extra attraction. What follows is just one simple substitute in a pheasant-based fly – the Carey Special – that flat-out catches fish and colors things up for the holidays with a bit of the royal treatment.
Hook: Nymph Size 10-14
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Church Window Feather Fibers
Body: Peacock Herl & Red Floss
Collar: 2 Turns of Church Window Feather
Start the fly by peeling a pinch of fibers from a church window feather found on the back of a rooster pheasant. Tie them in at the bend of the hook so some of the white is still showing and the tips extend about half a hook length beyond the bend as a tail (1). Next tie in two strands of peacock herl by the trimmed base and wind them one-third of the way up the hook before securing and wrapping them down along the hook shank over the middle third (2). Go back and tie in a segment of red floss and advance the thread to the start of the front third of the hook (3).
Wrap the floss forward and backward multiple times over the middle third of the hook, forming the red portion of the body in front of the wrapped herl. When complete, wrap the floss forward once more, tying it off and trimming the excess (4). Pick up the remaining strands of herl and form the third segment of the body, tying off and trimming the excess about one hook eye length back from the hook eye (5).
Take the second church window feather by the tip and stroke the feathers toward the base of the quill and tie the feather in by its tip (6). Make two wraps of the feather around the hook shank just behind the hook eye, forming a collar with the tips of those fibers pointing back to the tail then tie off and trim the excess (7). Form a small thread head in front of the collar, whip finish and add a drop of head cement. The fly is now complete and loaded with Christmas cheer and fish-catching colors proven to work on just about any species of trout or panfish (8).
Spread the spirit around. There are dozens of patterns where plain old peacock can be decked with a shot of red. Use red ultrawire for added weight, crimson tinsel for added flash, and a bit of ruby nymph dubbing can provide a buggy look as well. Experiment with the options available in a stash of materials and have yourself a merry little Christmas at the tying vise now and good fishing next spring!