By Scott Biron, Ambassador
One of the things I enjoy the most about fly tying is the history of both the tyers and their patterns. Many times, these histories lead you down paths that open up new doors of information. Sometimes questions are answered and other times new questions emerge. As with many things that get passed down from tyer to tyer, the lines of communication and information sometimes get blurred.
Several years ago, I was tying a number of Ora Smith fly patterns. He was a tyer from Keene, NH and had lots of different patterns. Much has been written about him locally but in a nutshell, he tied out of his house in Keene and also offered fly tying lessons.
Many of his patterns were local to the area around Keene which is referred as the Monadnock region. Patterns were named after many of the lakes and anglers that he sold flies to. These flies, which I often call Monadnock casting streamers, are still very effective today.
One thing that Ora was noted for was using large amounts of Golden Pheasant Crests (GPC) on a several of his flies. He had a few patterns that used these crests, the Canopache, Pumpkin Head, Spotty, Maynard or Golden Marvel (there are several versions of this fly in NH). Each one of these flies averaged about 13-15 GPC per fly and they were tied individually in.
You don’t see these flies available much anymore for several reasons. They take quite a bit of time to tie, require painting of a set of eyes on the fly and GPC get costly. If you tie them traditionally you usually benefit from shaping the GPCs before tying them in.
I was always a fan of the Canopache. It worked for me and when I sold or gave these to people, they reported back that they had a great deal of success with it. Over the years I learned more and more about this pattern. I had heard from people that it got its name from some camps in Wolfeboro, NH called the Canopache Camps. Ora trolled the fly along the shoreline where the camps were and the results were very good. The camps are no longer there, but Canopache Road marks their spot.
Just when you think you have most of the information something new comes to light. Last year I was sent a DVD that someone had made of an interview with Ora. He shed some new light on the pattern and its history. Ora spoke about getting the GPC for .40 cents each and buying them in great quantities.
Additionally, he explained that he had rented one of the Canopache camps to fish on Lake Winnipesaukee and had tied up this new pattern. On his way down to the boat, someone he was fishing with asked him what the name of the fly he was using was and he said, “I thought about it for a minute and said Canopache”, after where he was staying.
What I have been told by a number of people who bought that fly from him was there was a stretch by the Canopache Camps that he would troll that fly in early spring and catch landlocked salmon. In the interview he referred to using the fly on Winnipesaukee and on Lake Sunapee.
One thing I gathered from the interview was that in the original pattern, all the tips of the GPC cut off square at the rear of the hook bend. I have seen a few that were like that in photographs. The story he told was he cut them off so they would not foul around the hook bend when fishing them. Given the number of GPC it is easy to see that happening.
The cut off ends were used for Campbell’s Fancy tails and throats. He would cut them off, place them in a dish and use them later. His story goes that one day the cat jumped up on the tying table and knocked over the dish of ends. That ended the trimming of the tails and resulted in the fly looking like it does today.
I’ve taught this fly in several of my classes. It has some unique steps and for an intermediate tyer it is a good way to learn. I caution many people who ask me about tying this that the tendency is to tie the GPC too long. I tie them just about ½ to 1 hook gap past the rear of the hook. When you tie it that way it often ends up just slightly longer as you build one crest on top of the other.
I have several friends that tie these and they do it in bunches of 4-5 crests at one time. When you do it that way, you benefit from having similarly shaped crests. We usually use a 7x long streamer hook but these work well in a 4x or 5x too. Any hook over 7x and it is very hard to get GPC that size and the rate of fouling increases.
I like to think the ones I tie are done as close to the traditional method as possible. However, I have substituted a synthetic yarn in place of the synthetic bucktail (just can’t find the right shade of red in the bucktail) and I now use Solarez resin on my head before and after I paint the eyes.
- Hook: 4x, 5x or 7X Streamer hook in 2, 4, or 6
- Body: Embossed silver tinsel
- Rib: Single strand synthetic red floss or synthetic bucktail
- Wing: Golden pheasant crests (10-15) topped with a guinea fowl feather
- Head: Red with white eye and red pupil