From FlyFisherman Magazine
July 17, 2016
Fly Fisherman Magazine
Most often when I sit down to try to develop a new pattern I have a theme in mind. These themes can often be summed up by a single word; slim, heavy, wide, specific, detailed, buoyant…things like that. Flies like the Two Bit Hooker and Screaming Banshee came about with a single theme in mind and were pointedly designed around the individual aspect I was after. The Haymaker, however, did not. It was sort of an accident that appeared, then developed a bit more over time and then sneakily became a pattern I pull out of my box a lot more often than I had ever anticipated.
The first inception of the fly now known as the Haymaker came about in an effort to find something subtle and non-descript that I could trail behind a large streamer. After becoming frustrated on a few floats with non-committal fish following my bigger patterns out from the bank only to slowly turn and glide back to their lairs, I reasoned that it might be a good idea to hang some sort of smaller pattern off the back on a long dropper that could just magically appear in front of these fish as they sulked away. I wanted something nymph-like, as I had had previous success in this sort of instance with patterns like a Hare’s Ear Soft Hackle or Copper John, but I wanted it to look more at home when being retrieved as well. That smaller nymph racing behind just never made sense to me as it chased my giant streamer pattern out from the bank like a territorial bulldog, so I decided I needed a pattern that could do double duty as both a larger nymph and smaller streamer; something that could swim or be dead drifted and look right doing either. I had my work cut out for me.
As it worked out over time, the Haymaker came to be sort of a Rubber Leg Nymph/ Wooly Bugger combo platter that fit the bill perfectly. I clearly recall one of my first floats after dialing the pattern in…I had thrown my streamer with the Haymaker on a long (24”) dropper into the tail out of a run and saw the arcing flash of a nice brown turning to chase it down. The river was moving fast and I threw a mend to keep the current from ripping my flies away from, but just as the fish closed in, he just as abruptly turned off and started to slither back into his hole. That’s when he encountered the Haymaker, now dead drifting and plainly looking for trouble. Without changing speed, the fish simply glided right through the fly, taking it in as he returned home. Then I stabbed him in the face and laughed. I love when a plan comes together.
Over the years since I have always kept a dozen Haymakers stashed away in my streamer box for days when the fish get a little snippy about actually consuming my bigger flies and I have resorted to the old bait and switch with regularity as the need arises, but this specific instance is not the only place this pattern has proven to be useful.
While non-descript is usually a term I look on as a slam, the very nature of this pattern makes it pretty versatile in a wide variety of fishing situations. I have since used this subtle little pattern in lakes and streams in addition to bigger rivers. I often fish it by itself and let the fish decide what they want it to be. The smaller size coupled with a relatively bulky profile can allow it to cross over for a stonefly, a dragonfly, a leech, a smaller baitfish and God knows what else. I have fished it straight up as a nymph under an indicator with split shot and the whole works as well as as a single streamer fished solo. I really give little thought to what the fish ultimately have decided it represented to them, but instead concern myself with the fun I have catching them. This pattern has caught trout, sunfish, bass and even smaller pike for me over the years and as I look back on it, has earned more real estate in my fly box than I ever guessed it would. While the original version was tied in black as I’ll show here, I have experimented a bit with other colors as well. Olive, gold and brown have all produced fish as well, but the black version has truly become my favorite and my sort of secret go to pattern when things get sketchy. I have always hated the old question: “If you only had one fly?” but if I had to answer it, the Haymaker just might get the nod. It’s easy and cheap to tie, casts well, sinks readily and is very versatile in a variety of fishing situations and above all else, it keeps me from fishing those dang rubber leg nymphs that offend my heart and mind. That’s enough for me.