The ‘Royal Coachman’

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After recently returning from a fly-fishing float trip on the Flathead Middle Fork, a friend challenged me, “I’d bet you’d never guess what I caught my biggest cuttie on.”

“No clue,” I answered.

“Got him on a Royal Coachman!”

I wasn’t surprised.

With increased river fishing traffic looking like I-5 north of Seattle, trout have been looking up to a constant parade of Donkey Kongs, Fat Alberts, Pink Pookies, and Chenobyl Ants, not to mention Cat Vomits, Dog Pukes, and Things from Uranus.

The iconic Royal Coachman, with a peacock body bisected by a band of floss, has outwitted trout in this country since 1878, when it was designed by John Haily.

“Among the general public it may be the world’s best known fly,” Paul Schullery wrote in “The Lore and Legends of Fly Fishing.”

Variations have been tied with different colors and materials, and in different styles, by just about every fly tier.

I remain a believer in red banding, especially for cutthroat trout.

One way to increase its effectiveness is to slowly skate the dry fly version, keeping a drag-free float.

In other words, cast up and across, then mend upstream, twitching the fly towards you, keeping your fly line straight.

Don’t let the fly line race downstream below the fly, where the line drags the fly down and across the water unnaturally.

Good luck!

Jerry Smalley’s Fishful Thinking column appears weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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