Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Voices from the Past: Larry Koller (1934)

We've written a lot lately about noted outdoor writer Larry Koller (to read the original posts Click Here and for the update Click Here. I promised some early fly fishing writings from Koller, and here is a splendid example. It's from this column "With Rod and Gun" in the Middletown Times Herald and is dated May 25, 1934. Keep in mind he was only 22 when he wrote this! But despite his youth, this article reflects the clear and concise advice he was so famous for later in his career. It's solid advice even today.




The beginning fly fisherman usually encounter a great deal of difficulty in their initial selection of flies. The tendency nearly always is in the direction of the English type double split wing floater, but these flies are for the use of the expert only. The novice must have a fly which will float easily and in a correct position on the surface. The double split wing fly must be cast very delicately in order to float at all and must land with the wings cocked in an upright position to be at all effective.

We would recommend highly the bivisible type of dry fly to the beginner as meeting all conditions of easy floating and casting as well as good visibility. This floater, being tied of hackle only, without wing, is a very high floater requiring only a minimum of false casting to dry it. Also, as it has no wings, It looks correct from the trout's viewpoint in no matter what position it may land. At the head of the fly is wound a white hackle, which gives the bivisible its name and makes it very easy to follow with the eye, on the water. Probably the best patterns are the Brown Badger, Pink Lady, Cahill, and Grey Bivisible, named in the order of our first personal choice.

They most certainly have a place in every anglers kit no matter whether he be novice or expert. We can especially recommend them on fast-water streams and for late evening fly fishing when the bigger fish are apt to start feeding.


Almost every dry fly man has at one time or another used the Cahill. This excellent all-season fly is perhaps the one most popular dry pattern the country over. It is a good fly to use when there are no fish raising, even though they may be in a feeding mood. It resembles a great many natural insects and in the light pattern it matches closely the majority of fly hatches which predominate on the Beaverkill and Willowemoc.

In our experience, the buzzwing fly of the Cahill type is infinitely superior on our streams to any of the standard double split wing type. This type of wing is delicately like those of the natural insects, appearing semi transparent from beneath the surface of the water. The double split wing being made from a section of feather taken from a quill vane is more or less opaque, and does not let the light through as it should to imitate closely the wing of a natural insect. Of course many trout will always be taken on this type of fly, but on wary fish it is best to use every possible advantage. A list of the best patterns of buzz wing type flies in the order of their excellence would be the Cahill-Light and Dark, Hendrikson-Light and Dark, Quill Gordon, Mallard Quill, Cahill Quill.

The Fanwings have many admirers and there is no doubt but that these big floaters will raise fish when all others fail, especially if the trout are inclined toward bottom feeding. The large outcurving wings drop the fly lightly on the water and make it clearly visible even in very poor light. The majority of anglers who have used this fly without results and give it up, do so because of their inability to make it float correctly. The general complaint is that the fly lands either upside down, lying on one side, or standing up. The reason for this almost without exception is the anglers using the overhead cast. The only way to make these flies light correctly is by the use of the side arm cast with the rod held nearly parallel to the water’s surface.


As to patterns, the Royal Coachman is the general favorite—it's the easiest to see and raises plenty of good fish even though it resembles nothing in nature. For late evening fishing on long deep runt and pools, under low water conditions when the weather is hot, it is without equal. Other good Fanwing patterns are the Pale Evening Dun, the Dark Cahill, and the Pink Lady. The Fanwings are most productive when fly hatches are scarce and fish are on the lookout for surface food even though there may be none present. The large size of the Fanwings will attract attention to the surface and bring investigating rises from trout when no other fly will.

-- Dr. Todd

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