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Gravel Gertie

I searched online for “supervisor, bucktail, streamer” the other day and the search results listed Don Bastian near the top – no surprise there. The first link was to a page I’ve mentioned before that deals with finding good streamer hackle. If you tie streamers I highly recommend following this link to Don’s site to read that article. There were other links to pages by Don but I’d seen them also.

Streamer FlyLower on the list of search results I found Never having visited the site I decided to take a look. To my delight it turns out Hugh Kelly, who I first met at the fly shop, has taken it upon himself to share some well known and some not so well known patterns with fellow fly tiers.

Sure enough, there was a reference to the Supervisor and Hugh was encouraging people to tie a few as bucktails just for a change of pace. But what really caught my eye was the top fly on the page – the Gravel Gertie.

Streamer FlyWilliam (Bill) Covey of Farmington came up with the pattern and his wife came up with the name. Paul Flagg, a fishing friend of Covey’s, was kind enough to give me two originals tied by Bill himself – they are the ones you see in the pictures. Paul gave me the flies and the story behind the name. A name picked from a casual comment by Bill’s wife.

Apparently Bill was tying and when his wife passed by the tying table she remarked, “that fly looks like Gravel Gertie’s legs” – which will mean nothing to you if you aren’t a Dick Tracy fan. But you can take my word for it Gravel Gertie wore stockings with black and white stripes. And so was borne the name.

Streamer FlyI occasionally see a picture of the pattern and 8 out of 10 of the pictures show the black and white bands as spirals. An easy mistake to make since most patterns describe the body as “alternating black and white chenille.”

However, if someone wants to tie a “real and true” Gravel Gertie they will build the body with bands. Here’s a video that shows how you can weave a banded body on a streamer. (body weave starts at 1:30 – the full recipe is at the end of the video)

Warden’s Worry

A fellow fly tyer generously sent me a few cards of wool he had dyed.  The color he was looking for when he dyed the wool is … elusive. “Orange-yellow spun fur or wool applied loosely or picked out to make it fuzzy” is how Joe Bates, Jr. described the body color of a Warden’s Worry in his wonderful book: “Streamers and Bucktails.”

It turns out there are almost as many shades of “orange-yellow” out there as there are people who tie the Warden’s Worry. Happily the “orange-yellow” shade he ended up with is a close match to the shade I like.

Of course I had to sit down and tie a few just to see how they would look. Like many who tie flies I make subtle changes to patterns when I’m tying for myself.  When tying the Warden’s Worry I make two in particular.

Fly Pattern: Warden's Worry

The first change is substituting marabou for the wound hackle collar “gathered downward” into a beard.  The second change is substituting the brown hair from a yellow bucktail for the “light brown bucktail” used in the original pattern. Neither change is dramatic and both have a reason.

When held in the hand, the finished fly with a marabou beard simply “looks” better to me than the hackle collared finish fly and the marabou beard doesn’t require wrapping hackle. Looking better and being easier to tie seem like good reasons to me so that’s the way I tie them. As a bonus the fish don’t seem to mind the change. One good reason for tying flies is that you get to – tie them the way YOU like them.

Using the brown hair from a bucktail that has been dyed yellow for the wing isn’t a change so much as it’s simply the way I was taught.  I guess the end result actually follows the original recipe. Fly Pattern: Warden's WorryThe wing is indeed “light brown” perhaps a little lighter than most having been dyed bright yellow. Fortunately the fish don’t seem to mind this small change either.

Whichever way it is tied the pattern has been around since Joe Stickney, of Saco, Maine dreamed it up in 1930 and it catches fish to this day.  I’ve asked people to weigh in one way or the other on the subject of the beard.  If you care to vote for the traditional or the marabou beard please visit the forum and cast a vote. 


Tape-Backed Caddis Wings

When Caddis are resting or skating across the water’s surface their wings are normally tented over their body.  There are lots of way to imitate tented wings. Some patterns call for Deer Hair others for Duck Quill segments and if you really start poking around in tying books you’ll find many more materials.  All of those materials have a place and almost all have proven their worth.

One method that I like but don’t see used often is Tape-Backed Tented Caddis Wings.  If you’re looking for a good Caddis wing – watch this 3-minute video to see if Tape-Backed Tented Caddis Wings will meet your needs.

The Great Hendrickson Hunt – June 13, 2014

06/13/14 – The Hendrickson Hatch has come and gone for the Waterville area.  At least as far as I can tell.  Now it’s time to head North in search of an area where they are still hatching.  As I hoped it might the hatch seemed to stop gradually as you moved up the river.  When Shawmut died out, Madison still had some as did Solon.  Shortly after that there were none to be found (two days) in Madison (at least not by me) but Solon had them but I haven’t been back since the 7th and they were weak.

With the rain we have high water again – over 3,000CFS at the East Outlet, 4,700CFS in Bingham 5,000CFS in Solon but Solon Rainbowthat’s all subject to quick change since the Sandy and Carrabassett don’t have overly high flows.  Be sure and call 1800-557-3569 to get the flow phone for tomorrow if you’re planning on fishing.

Buy the way if you call the flow phone the interface is different this year.  At first I had to redial for each location I wanted flow information on. I found a work-around for the menu. If you call try this.

During the blah-blah they make you listen to initially just hit the # button.  That jumps you to the place where you hit 5 for the Kennebec.  Hit the 5 button and that will take you to the menu where you hit 1 for Harris, 2 for another location and so on.  Well, I just couldn’t get back to select another location so I’d end up hanging up and calling again – until – I discovered by hitting the * button I could select another location without all the hassle.

Shawmut IslandAnyway, above is a picture of a Solon rainbow – not Bingham but Solon.  Greg B and I had a Solon Grand Slam up there on the 7th a Rainbow, a Brown, a Brookie and a Landlock.  Fun time.

Dropping down to Shawmut again here’s a picture of some junk hung up on the island. I managed to get a bunch of the styrofoam out from the decking but I have to go back with a hatchet or an axe to get rid of that rope. What a mess. One thing about it though the styrofoam sure didn’t weigh much – it didn’t make poling any harder :-)

Canoe with loadOn the 9th I dropped down to Waterville (Shad and Stripers still there) and found we still have good temps there as well as some fish traffic moving up the river.  Look below and you’ll see the temp I got for that day and the “count sign” they keep at the lift.

Fishing is as good as it’s going to get.  GO FISH!



Water Temperature this week - low 60's








fish lift count

The Great Hendrickson Hunt – June 6, 2014

June 6th, 2014 – The Hendrickson Hunt continues.  The Hendricksons are hatching up and down the Kennebec River Valley.  56 and holdingWell, at least from Bingham down to Fairfield. I admit since I discovered them on the Shawmut Section I haven’t gone further North than Bingham to fish them.  They will be stopping soon in Shawmut and Madison and the end for Solon will come shortly after.  Not so for Bingham. While they have started in Bingham they have just started and if they run their normal 10-days to two week course they will be there for awhile longer.

The water temperature in Solon on June 3rd was 56 degrees and while the hatch wasn’t really heavy it will be.  As it was there were enough Hendricksons coming off so that I could easily seine them both from the water as nymphs and riding on the surface as Duns.

The fish still aren’t looking up in Solon. They are looking up in Shawmut and Madison.  Or perhaps I should say they weren’t looking up in Solon on the 3rd – the fish have probably figured it out and started feeding on top by today the OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAsixth.  I’m heading out today for another shot at Shawmut hoping to find one or two of the fish IF&W stocked last fall.

If you’ve got a minute or two you might want to watch the video clip below.  I was lucky enough to seine a nymph just as it was hatching.  I didn’t get the whole emerging sequence but I got enough to be very interesting. Check it out.





The Great Hendrickson Hunt – May 30, 2014

May 30, 2014 – I found the Hendricksons or perhaps I should say they found me.  Weekly I’ve been going over to the Little Little Ossipee Stocked BrookieOssipee River in search of an early Hendrickson hatch.  Never found it. I found Hendrickson Nymphs but never saw one in the air or on the water.  On my last trip over I had good fishing and high hopes but nothing for a hatch.

I looked high and low for Hendricksons. I walked the banks looking at spider webs. I looked at the underside of leaves. I seined the water looking for emergers and of course I was on the water looking for Duns from about 1:00pm until after 5:00pm and not a Hendrickson showed.

So I got in my truck and headed home.  I had caught fish, had a great day, ran into Chris DeLisle for a streamside chat and yet I felt disappointed – I was sure I’d see Hendricksons in the air that day but it wasn’t to be.

Spider Webs hold cluesThe 24th it rained and on the 25th I was going to head back to the Little Ossipee. The Kennebec was still running high and even though the Hendrickson Hatch is normally on here in Fairfield I hadn’t seen any.  Just for grins on the 25th I checked the Kennebec Flows – they were low.  I wouldn’t find out why until the next day – a feared drowning was the cause of the low flow. It turns out nobody drown – something for which I’m happy – and I didn’t go to the Little Ossipee.

The resulting low flows were to tempting to leave and so off to Shawmut I went.  I launched about 12:30pm and by 1:00pm Hendricksons were showing. Color me happy.  No fish were rising – Red Quill - Male Hendricksontypical for an early Hendrickson Hatch but the bugs were in the air. I managed to net a male and female and they agreed to stick around long enough to pose for a photo or two.  The guy on the left with the big red eyes is a Red Quill which is what people call the males because of the reddish brown tint to their bodies.

The mayfly below that one is also a Hendrickson but is noticeably bigger, has smaller black eyes and a completely different body color – but it’s a Hendrickson.  That’s just the way they roll.  No wonder people often think the Hendrickson hatch is two Hendrickson Femaledifferent hatches.

I didn’t get back on the water until the 28th and the hatch was much heavier by then.  And even better than that the fish had started looking up. There was surface activity – I couldn’t hook up but fish were rising.  However, since then rain and the release of all the water they held back looking for a drowning victim (who as I mentioned fortunately wasn’t a downing victim)  has kept the flow too high for safe fishing.  But that should change any day now and it’s back to the Hendrickson Hatch for me.

Here’s a video clips showing a couple of the Hendrickson Mayflies I saw at Shawmut.