Having enjoyed tying, fishing and reading about North Country wets for many, many years, I spent a long time gatering the original and correct materials for many of the dressings. What they have in common are materials that, for the most part, were easily available in their own time, but you try getting a landrail skin today. The bird is protected (for good reasons, modern, industrial agriculture have pushed them out of their habitats).
Early on I "just" began substituting, which I still do to a certain extent. I visited the natural historu museum in my home town and instected for instance landrails. But for some odd reason, the conservators who stuffed these birds failed to take into account the need for a flydresser to inspect the undercovert feathers of a certain species, so a proper substitue was often just guess work. Which is fine, because I do think that's the same level of pragmatism that woulæd have been practised back in the day.
Then Robert Smith's fantastic book on North Country wets came out, and amongst the wealth of useful information found in it, is a *very* useful chapter that lists substitutes for many of the now impossible-to-get-materials. That has been a great help for - if for nothing else then seeing how these flies really were supposed to look and appear.
For some odd reason it never really crossed my mind to try patterns of my own. I've created several other flies for trout/grayling, seatrout, salmon and pike. but for some reason, I never really ventured into making soft-hackle patterns. It was a bit of an epiphany when I attended an Oliver Edwards-clinic many years ago. We tied some of his patterns of course, and then a couple of North Country wets, which was fantastic. Oliver has been a true "champion" of these flies, their history and the ways to fish them, so it was great for me to tie some with him. I've attended several of his clinics, and we've always tied one of two NC wets. But the real epiphany came when he presented us with his own Yellow May Spider - a totally modern, new pattern in the NC-tradition. That made me think, and I now have four flies in the same tradition that are patterns of my own.
Like Olver, and very much like the old masters, mine are tied as specific imitations. This was another aspect Oliver Edwards turned my attention to - that the old NC wets were imitations of specific hatches. I always had a preference for the herl headed versions, so each of my own have herl heads. Although Oliver Edwards' Yellow May Spider is good, I created my own version. It's called The Yellow Oliver.
Hook: Ahrex FW 501, #12.
Thread: Yellow silk.
Body: Yellow Thoft & Kjaer seal's fur.
Hackle: Dyed yellow partridge hackle.
Head_ Bleached and dyed yellow peacock herl.
This fly fishes very well, kills (as they said in the old days) very well in May and June when the Yellow May Duns are hatching. This is one of the four of my own NC-style wets. Another is closely related to this, as it imitates the Heptagenia fuscogrisia, a slightly smaller, brown relative of the Yellow May Dun. Then there's my Large Dark Olive-imitation, and finally, the inevitable small-black-somthing. Today you get the Yellow Oliver, the rest will follow later on. I know it's too late for this year's YMD-hatch to present it now, but then you have almost a year to tie a handful for the next hatch. Oh and btw, the hatch often trickles on all the way int September, so maybe you should tie a few now anyway?
Have a great weekend!