The Double Trigger Deerhair Emerger
The Double Trigger Deerhair Emerger
Rugged, cheap and quick to tie-and, boy, is it a killer!
- By: Bob Wyatt
The properties of the quirky materials we put into our favorite killer flies are to some extent magical; n a world of variables they build confidence. In trout fishing, even the variables have variables so it's good medicine to have faith in your fly. Many of us get as much pleasure from tying specialized flies for particular situations as they do from the fishing itself. I'm with those that put tying flies well behind actually fishing them, but I'm the last person to spoil anyone's good time. I mean, just collecting enough stained wool from a ram's scrotum for a dozen Tup's Indispensables is half the fun, right? On the other hand, you don't much tying material out of a snowshoe hare foot, or for that matter even a friendly ram.Over time, I have come to rely on common natural materials I can get in significant quantities. I've worked out some designs that I have faith in and for which I have e plenty of the requisite makings on hand. I'm also a lazy tier so, at my age, I want flies that don't induce anxieties about an afterlife, like when I hang a 20-minute parachute job in a tree. This sort of existential musing has resulted in a short but deep list of reliable patterns that are rugged, cheap and quick to tie. My go-to fly these days is one I call the Deerhair Emerger (DHE). Road-tested on three continents and proven reliable in some tough situations with sticky trout, it was designed as an emerger and that's what it does best. It serves as an all-arounder because it presents well enough as a searching pattern to make it my first-string fly for between-hatch situations. To me, most emerger patterns seem too complicated. I hate tying parachute hackles and I don't much like messing around with CDC, which is expensive and relatively hard to get. On the other hand, if there is a cheap and readily available material it's deer hair, followed closely by hare's mask. For the price of a couple of good hackle necks you can buy enough deer hair and hare's masks to reupholster your living room. With these two commonplace ingredients, a variety of fishy color and texture combinations can be turned out in comforting quantities with little investment of time. The DHE's curved abdomen was inspired by a hot European design from Hans Van Klinken, the Klinkhamer Special. The abdomen serves as a primary trigger, penetrating the surface film and getting noticed by trout from a great distance, well before they pick up above-surface 'footprint' features. While the Klinkhamer has a conventional poly yam wing-post and parachute hackle, I incorporated Al Caucci's no-hackle concept for the DHE. This fly rides hull-down in the meniscus, supported only by the hare's mask thorax and wing, which are treated with floatant. Observing the DHE in water, I like the way it hangs like a nymph undergoing ecdysis. I prefer the full hair wing to the tree-stump bulkiness of a wing post, and I believe that the trout do too. The vertical wing acts as another primary trigger (which makes for two if you've been counting) and enters the trout's perceptual window earlier than low cut wing-posts or CDC. I suppose with its erect wing, the DHE is more correctly categorized as a stillborn design, but there is no doubting its effectiveness during an emergence. We know that larger trout will often respond to emergers and stillborm duns in preference to the fully emerged or "perfect" duns. In fact, during the early stages of a hatch trout have been observed to take more than 60 percent emergers compared to duns, even when the emergence is over and far more duns are available. These days I fish the DHE right through the hatch. With respect to the great contribution made by Caucci and Nastasi in their Compara-Dun design, I am convinced that the sunk abdomen is an improvement. The Compara-Dun doesn't really represent any particular phase of the hatching fly, but relies on what Caucci terms the aspect of "vulnerability," which he regards as the single most important factor in a trout fly. He claims the reason the Compara-Dun appears more vulnerable than other flies is simply its lack of a hackle. I'm in agreement with Caucci's views, and my results over the last few seasons prove to me that they are on the money. All I've done is incorporate the primary triggering stimuli of two great flies-the Klinkhamer Special and the Compara-Dun-into one fly, and I reckon I've pushed the performance envelope a little. Color is important in a sub-surface pattern, and the sunk abdomen of the DHE asks for some consideration in that regard. I like the variety provided in a hare's mask for most of my dressings, employing the fine underfur for the abdomen and reserving the spiky guard hair on the ears and the front of the face for the thorax. The hare under fur is reasonably absorbent and sinks well, which is important. Although Gary La Fontaine did not exploit the sunken abdomen design in his selection for The Dry Fly - Some New Angles, I have no doubt that he would have eventually come around. He liked hackle on his flies, but I am also certain he would have further explored the no-hackle concept. The sunk-abdomen and full wing works better than the hackle footprint by a large margin. And I now prefer the buggy profile of the hare's mask thorax to the point that I've begun to regard conventionally hackled dry flies as funny-looking. As far as durability goes, I've taken over a dozen big trout on a single DHE on several occasions, in New Zealand, western Canada and Scotland-more than I can say for any parachute-hackled fly I've ever tied. On Western streams in the summer, I found a full hare's ear abdomen with a bleached or white wing to be remarkably effective all day long. La Fontaine regarded a white wing as an especially strong stimulus, and he was no doubt correct in his analysis of how it reflects the ambient light. For low-light conditions, I go with darker natural deer hair for increased contrast. During afternoon PMD emergences, an abdomen of hare and golden yellow seal fur is a hit. Because the DHE can use some help in fast water for it to fish correctly, apply flotant only to wing and thorax, avoiding the abdomen and hook, which must sink. You have to be especially careful to avoid getting flotant on the abdomen, otherwise the hook will not keel the fly properly and it will flop onto its side. For better floatation in fast water, flare the deer hair Compara-Dun style. You want to wet the abdomen before fishing; I use saliva-but watch those nasty curved hooks on your togue; they bite. Be sure to pinch down even the mini-barbs for another reason: Trout seem to swallow these flies at a frequency I don't see with other patterns, which is further testimony to the confidence with which they are taken. If, like me, you aren't counting on recouping time spent winding hackle down a wing post in the afterlife, then this pattern is the one for you. Tying The DHE Hook: Light wire, curved shank emerger style hook Wing: Medium to fine deer hair. Color and shade according to naturals and light conditions (white or black for hi-viz versions). Abdomen: Natural fur; fine underfur for ephemerids, bulky hare's mask and/or seal fur for caddis pupae. Color mix as appropriate Rib: Tying thread tag Thorax: Spiky hare's mask, from front of face 1) Tie in a bunch of fine to medium deer hair, well back from the eye of the hook. Wrap down the hair butts and take thread around the hook bend, leaving a long tag of thread for the rib. 2) Dub tying thread and wrap to wing. Bring tag end up in a counter-wrapped rib, tied in ahead of wing. 3) Take tying thread to hook eye and dub with spiky hare's mask. Wind dubbing back to wing base, forcing wing into upright attitude, then return to eye with two turns through dubbing-binding and flaring the hare's fibers. Whip finish.