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Adventures in Fly Tying... June 2007

The Renegade
Fly and Text by Joe Cornwall
Video Production by Jim Stuard

In The Masters on the Nymph (The Lyons Press, ISBN 1-58754-704-1) Chuck Fothergill presented a technique for fishing a nymph that Lefty Kreh dubbed "the outrigger" method.  "The outrigger technique is a nymph presentation to those fish located near the bottom of a river, that layer of water in which the larvae of insects spend most of their lives and where trout do most of their feeding."  This technique would evolve into what is now known as high-stick nymphing.  It is perhaps the most deadly and effective trout fishing technique one can employ on a trout stream.

Before the method became an accepted standard one more fly fishing master needed to work out the fine details of the high-stick system. This job was taken by Georges Odier who quietly changed fly fishing in a fundamental and profound manner with the 1984 publication of his book Swimming Flies (Stone Wall Publishing, ISBN 0-91327-648-0).  Odier was one of the first to understand that adult caddis re-enter the water and swim to the bottom to deposit eggs directly in desirable habitat.  He determined that eggs released at the surface would drift for hundreds of yards before reaching the bottom and thus was an unlikely action for a species as successfully established as the caddis.  His research into the life cycle of this important insect, and his single-minded focus on refining Fothergill's outrigger technique, prompted an industry that, more than two decades later, is dominated by fast action nine-foot rods engineered to make the most of this tight-line method.  Beyond this, Odier lauds the efficacy of the Renegade as a caddis imitation many times over in his tome.

The Renegade started its life as an attractor dry fly. It was also fished as a wet fly on the swing.  It was only a short drop to the bottom to prove this fly is also a fine nymph.  I've suggested the use of dry flies as nymphs and subsurface offerings many times in the past.  I believe the stiff dry fly hackles create a sonic signature in the water.  This sonic signature is a strike trigger when detected by the sensitive lateral line of trout and other game fish. 

Today the Renegade is still a fine dry fly.  Rodger Oleson recently reminded me that the Renegade is also a pretty neat fly when presented in its historically correct dressing, which includes a gold tinsel tag, brown hackle to the rear and white in the front.  While I usually strive for accuracy in my patterns, on this one I resorted to the fly tier's version of the vernacular.  I present the fly as I commonly use it.  No matter how you tie it, this is a fly that works.  Use it anytime caddis or midges are on the water.  Even better, add a couple split shot 6 to 10-inches above the fly and fish it in the "layer of water in which the larvae of insects spend most of their lives."  You won't be disappointed!


Hook: Mustad 94140 dry fly, size 10 to 18
Thread: Black, 8/0
Rear Hackle: White or cream, dry fly quality
Body: Peacock herl, 3 strands
Front Hackle: Fiery brown, dry fly quality

Windows Media Video  QuickTime Video 



The Renegade is a simple fly consisting of a herl body framed by a front and back hackle.  The original colors are brown and white, but there's no law that says you can't experiment to see if the fish in your waters want something a bit different.  I've found that olive-sipping trout on the Mad River often like this fly in size 18 tied with a dark dun hackle front and a ginger dun in back.  It fishes perfectly well on top and with all that hackle it can float like a cork.  Under water this fly really becomes something special.
Start by laying a smooth thread base on the shank of the hook.  Tie in a properly sized neck or saddle hackle at the back of the shank, just above the barb of the hook.  Advance the thread and make four or five wraps of hackle. 
Tie off and clip the remaining hackle.  You want to use about the same amount of hackle that you'd normally use for a Catskill-style traditional dry fly.  The hackle at the aft end of the fly really helps to hold the bend and point of the hook up, that's what makes this a good floater.  It's an excellent searching pattern.
Tie in two or three quality peacock herls and wind a thick body. The slight flash and metallic reflection of the peacock herl is a powerful strike trigger.  Peacock is used on many, many successful patterns and this one is no different.  I use the Renegade in much the same way many folks fish the Griffiths Gnat - it's a fine choice to fish during a midge hatch.
Tie in the front hackle and wrap four or five turns.
Clip the hackle and finish the fly with a neat thread head and a whip finish.  Now go fish!

Till next time, tight lines and clear waters…

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