I was not aware that my fishing “stuff” in Old Farmer’s Almanac, Canadian Edition, also appears in the American Edition, and thus was unprepared for the inquiries about my heresy against always dead drifting artificial flies and in favour the “slow draw,” the “sudden inch,” ”the fast strip” and other moving fly fishing ploys.
Mention it once and American readers want to know how to get and fish my Jekyll-Hyde Fly.
You can’t buy it: it is one of my few originals; you have to tie your own, and then learn how to fish it.
The name comes from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, about the good and evil persona within the same man.
Alberta fly fishing guru and author, Jim McLennan, is a great fan of my Jekyll-Hyde Fly, and writes this about it: “One moment it’s a dignified and proper dry; the next a sinister and deceitful streamer.”
Both sides of the dual personality of my floating streamer are the basis for the design and manner of fishing my Jekyll-Hyde Fly, and the reason that it so frequently conjures up fishing magic, especially at the instant the personality changes.
The only place I have encountered the concept of a floating streamer fly is in old friend, the late Charlie Brooks’s first book, Larger Trout for the Western Fly Fisherman, where he describes tying and using a sort of Ozarks-type top-water bass bug made with a long, stiff goose quill to hook a huge, wary and cannibalistic old brown trout in Yellowstone Park’s Firehole River.
Then, in 1975, another old friend, the late and legendary Lloyd Shea of Edmonton, gave a seminar on his “slow draw” with his pipe-cleaner black beetle pattern, by catching a 24-inch brown trout with it at the tail of the Perkins Pool on my own home water.
I showed Lloyd where the brown was, and he plopped his beetle neatly upstream into its bankside pocket and immediately started drawing it back downstream slightly faster than the current. The big trout lunged at and missed the fleeing fly and I could see him turning his head from side to side.
Lloyd cast again, drew again, and the big brown had it. “If you can get them chasing, you’ve got them,” Lloyd told me. My friend Ken Short is today’s master of this technique, using my own black beetle pattern, the Despickable.
Hurricanes howling downstream on the Crowsnest River blow away upstream-casting dry fly purists to the bar in Lundbreck.
But especially when salmon flies or golden stones had been hatching, flying, and egg-laying, I’d stay on the river and let the barn-rolling winds fly big Stimulators for me like small kites down and across on a slack line to the far bank.
Often I’d get good action to the dead-drifting dry fly, but then I started noticing the frequency of the explosive hits I’d get when the fly came to the end of its downstream drift, swung around, sunk, and I started stripping it in, just as if it were a streamer fly.
Big trout that hadn’t fallen for the dry fly Stimulator dead-drifting and drag free, often attacked it when suddenly it seemed to become something else that was making a fast getaway.
Gradually I thought of and refined the transformational aspect and started to tie flies based on the general Stimulator design, but using some wet fly materials, so that that the fly could be sunk easier at the end of the drift and then suddenly transform from a colourless floating fly (trout apparently can’t see colours above the surface) to an underwater, gaudy, glitzy, wiggly “something” else that was escaping … fast.
Materials: First, use size six to 10 standard-weight 3X long streamer hooks, rather than a light wire version you would use on Stimulators or other big flies intended only to float.
Use bright poly yarn for the body, red for under the hackle at the head; short brown hackle palmered on the body, copper wire rib; stiff deer or elk under wing to prop up the floppy, gaudy, glitzy stuff, the over wing of bright marabou plume and flashabou, or tinsel; red bucktail tail, topped by more marabou and tinsel flashabou; large semi-stiff grizzly saddle hackle at the eye.
Colours: The brighter the better; experiment until you find the combinations that work best for you.
The fly works well on wadable, medium-sized rivers, like the Crow, the Castle, the Oldman, Prairie Creek, etc., or from a drift boat on bigger rivers, like the Bow or the Red Deer. Either way, cast it down stream and across, slack-line style, toward the bank on long, outside bends, and when it starts to drag and swing around, pull it under and strip it in fast.
Several anglers who’ve “tested” the Jekyll-Hyde Fly for me, including son John, have taken some big bull trout with it, particularly along the “cliff” banks on the Oldman Dam tailwater.
Bob Scammell is an award-winning columnist who lives in Red Deer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.