"Splendid Spinners"

By: Bernard Elser

Experimenting with new fly patterns can lead to terrific success, but sometimes you can tap a good idea from the past. I had once seen a rare set of dry flies tied by the famous British angler/author Frederick Halford. (Halford was a dry-fly enthusiast who sent his flies to our well-known stateside angler, Theodore Gordon. Gordon plied New York's Catskill watershed with his floating imitations, and helped to popularize dry fly fishing during the early years of this century.) The wings on Halford's creations were notably unusual; each set looked too long and out of proportion when compared to the length of the body, hackles, and tail. Nonetheless, the flies obviously worked for Halford and Gordon. I made a mental note of their unique character which I would recall years later.

Some seasons ago, an elderly angling friend had called me to order a dozen spinners. (A spinner, also known as an imago, is a mature adult mayfly. Its final act of life is a mating and egg-laying flight over water, after which it falls spent-winged upon the stream.) The gentleman wanted two popular patterns, the Adams and Light Cahill, each tied in traditional dry-fly manner. He was emphatic about one other requirement: the wings were to be oversized (reminiscent of Halford!). His wish was granted, and while at the tying bench I made a few extras for myself.

Well, the veteran fisherman knew his stuff! Both patterns are superb during the mid and late season. On many occasions, these imitations have fooled some large and selective trout. They are best fished at twilight, when most spinners are usually active. I suspect that the Adams spinner represents darker mayfly imagoes, such as the prolific Isonychia bicolor. The Light Cahill spinner mimics various light-colored imagoes within the genera of Stenonema and Ephemera, or larger Potamanthus. Each is effective on streams that support these insects; New York's Beaverkill and New Jersey's Raritan are good examples. It's sage advice to carry a few of these classics in your fly box!

Adams Spinner

Hook: # 12, Mustad 94833
Thread: Black 6/0 Nylon
Wings: 2 Tips of Grizzly Hackle Feather
Tail: Mix of Brown and Grizzly Hackle Fibers
Body: Gray Beaver Dubbing
Hackle: One Brown Hackle and One Grizzly

Light Cahill Spinner

Hook: # 10 thru 16, Mustad 94833
Thread: Pale Yellow 6/0 Nylon
Wings: 2 Barred Ginger Hackles
Tail: Cream Hackle Fibers
Body: Cream Beaver Dubbing
Hackle: 2 Cream Hackles

Tying Instructions:

1. Tie the wings perpendicular to the hook.

2. Tie in the tail fibers, then dub the body.

3. Tie in 2 hackles, then finish.