Monday, March 25, 2013

Butterflies - Part II

The Leaper, doing what she does best

A couple summers ago, my friend Marc and I were invited to fish a small river (unnamed) in Atlantic Canada (parts unknown). Our friend and gracious host, Bob, brought us to stretch of river a few hundred yards long. Though this was not my first time fishing a tidal pool, it was my first time fishing the mouth of a salmon river. Walking along a sandy beach on the way to fish for Atlantic salmon was a bit surreal to me. If anything, this spot evoked memories of fishing for striped bass in my hometown of Narragansett, Rhode Island.

Before fishing on our second morning, I combed through Marc's amply stocked fly chest. Marc suggested that I try a #6 Blue Butterfly he tied. Marc mentioned how salmon are particularly sensitive to the color blue the closer they are to the sea and that was the fly for me. We weren't just close to the sea, we were right at it! I had never seen a Butterfly tied in that color scheme before but, being a Butterfly fan, I had no qualms about tying it on before we walked the beach to our fishing destination.

It's easy to get distracted watching salmon roll out in the bay, but eventually I went to the end of the lineup and began fishing the Blue Butterfly through the pool. The tide was dropping and conditions were about prime for fishing wet flies. The hotspot of the pool was near a large, gnarly, barnacle-encrusted rock. I cast my fly and swung it through the streamy water of an inside bend. Next thing I knew, I was tight to a fish. It took a little while before she knew she was hooked. When she finally got pissed off enough, she took off like a bolt of lightening. This was the freshest salmon I have ever hooked, literally a stone's throw from the sea.

Please get away from those submerged rocks...

To make a long and painful story short, that salmon cleaned my clock. After a couple of powerful runs, she started jumping. We estimated her in the 12#-14# range, which was pretty good considering the large percentage of grilse around at that time of the season. She kept hovering dangerously close to that gnarly rock. I thought I could guide her downstream and take the fight into the open water of the bay. She had other ideas and ultimately finished me off by running me around the gnarly rock, tightening the fly line, jumping and breaking me off. I was wrecked...she was solidly hooked and I really thought I was going to land her. Shaking his head, Bob said, "That's the kind of fish you want your picture taken with." I have lost bigger salmon but this was and continues to be my heartbreak fish. The fight has been burned into my memory, though possibly because I didn't land her.

"Screw this, I'm going back to Greenland!"

As soon as we got back to the car, I raided Marc's chest and took two more Blue Butterflies, one for fishing and one for reference. A year or so later, I bought Art Lee's book Tying and Fishing the Riffling Hitch. Little did I know I had found the origins of my old friend, the Blue Butterfly.

I have fished that fly a couple of times since that trip, but it has always seemed out of place. I tied some last week and added a green butt (the original has no butt). Blue, Green and peacock herl seems like a winning combo to me. Until I can get back to this magical place, I'll fish the green butt variation at points inland and save the pure blue Butterfly for only the saltiest of salmon.

Everything's better with a green butt, right?

Blue Butterfly w/Green Butt

Hook: Mustad 3399a #4-#8
Wing: Light/medium blue goat or polar bear hair
Tail: Light/medium blue hackle fibers
Butt: Chartreuse Uni-Yarn (omit for original pattern)
Body: Peacock herl wound with dark blue Krystal Flash
Hackle: Light/medium blue rooster hackle

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