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.
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. The 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.