Fry patterns are legion. A hook with nothing but a body fashioned from silver tinsel will catch fish, but a fly that more closely resembles and/or moves like a migrant salmon juvenile will provoke more strikes.
Constructing fry with bodies of epoxy resin and a tuft of soft feather for a tail is a relatively recent innovation that enables an angler to fashion fry bearing an uncanny resemblance to the real thing. Andrew Williams’ book, Cannibal Trout, is an excellent source of information on minnow patterns in general and life-like epoxy minnows in particular, and I suspect that there are more than a few videos available on YouTube on the mechanics of putting them together.
Having fished with Andrew when humpy fry were on the move, I can testify to the efficacy of the epoxy imitations, but despite Andrew’s success with them, I chose to continue dressingmy imitations along more traditional lines, partly because flies built that way are more aesthetically pleasing to my eye, and more importantly because those initial patterns were made from epoxy and head cement. Epoxy resin is toxic stuff, as I learned from a steelheader I met on the Coquihalla River before the valley was ruined by the construction of the highway where you can now drive at warp speed legally. I’ve lost the fellow’s name over time, but I vividly recall him telling me how he’d built boats of epoxy and fibre glass, that there were six builders in his cohort, and how he was the last man standing, all the others having died of cancer during their middle years.
Now, thank the fishing gods, several companies are manufacturing non-toxic, water-based epoxy and head cement equivalents that dry hard and clear, so dressing epoxy minnows is no longer a perilous undertaking. The singular fry pattern whose recipe I’m about to share makes good use of one of these glues, but before I get on to that, a bit about the provenance of the fly.
Last year, I came upon a display of flies enclosed in blister packs hanging on the wall in the tackle department of the Tempo Gas Station. In particular, the meticulously tied Little Rainbow Trout patterns (no doubt wrapped up by nimble fingered oriental women who have never seen a trout) caught my eye.
The faux minnows, with their layered multicoloured hair wings, white buck tail under bellies, and painted on eyes, were built in accordance with streamer templates that originated on the east coast of North America. I bought a package of two and used them this spring on the Kitsumkalum River where they were torn to bits by Cutthroat Trout in a single afternoon.
This fish rich experience prompted me to build a west coast streamer pattern employing the silver grey hues of humpback fry. The silver on the little pinks is translucent. After much thought on how to effect this, I decided on a body of French tinsel made by Lartigun, the real metal stuff, which I ribbed with oval silver tinsel made by the same company and counter wound with a strand of fine prismatic mylar tinsel, the latter material essential to mimic the translucence.
After tying in a tail consisting of a few fibres from the tail of an Amhearst pheasant at the bend of a Mustad 9673 streamer hook in a size 6, attach the oval tinsel behind the eye of the fly, then bind it down along the body to the tie-in point of the tail. Do the same with the mylar. Now attach the metal tinsel behind the eye too and wind it to the tail and back, tying it off at the tie-in point. Clip the excess. Now, wind the oval tinsel forward clockwise in evenly spaced turns and tie it off and snip the tag. Next, wind the mylar forward counter clockwise and tie it off and clip. Half hitch the thread and cut it too.
For the next step you will need a bottle of Soft Head, the epoxy substitute I mentioned earlier, or a similar water-based substitute. Coat the body generously. Let this dry, and repeat. When it hardens you will have a bright translucent body that’s a dead ringer for the flanks of humpy fry. For the dark gray back of a pink fry, tie a few strands of polar bear hair and top those with a few fibres from the tail feather of an Amhearst Pheasant.
For the belly of the pattern, flip the fly in the vise and tie a bunch of white polar bear so that it extends to bend of the hook. Now, tie a throat of soft red hackle to suggest gills. Finish the head so that it’s quite large. Coat it with water based head cement (I use Hard Head, also made by Loon Outdoors) and when it’s tacky put a drop of Testor’s model paint (bright yellow) on both sides of the head, and when that has set up, a smaller drop of black for a pupil. When this is hard, coat the head with another layer of head cement.
When complete, the Amhearst Minnow is a handsome and durable fly that will give you much angling enjoyment.