The Platte River Special is perhaps one of the most imitated flies in existence. I have seen well over a dozen variations on this pattern and with good reason. The original version is, to put it plainly, ugly as can be. I used to get orders for this fly back when I was a kid from a bunch of old guys who traveled to distant, foreign waters to trout fish. The Miracle Mile section of the North Platte River in Wyoming was their destination. It’s funny to think about how far away that seemed back then. It’s also funny how the crowds are just finally discovering the North Platte as a new fishery! At any rate, the PRS has always been a go-to pattern for North Platte anglers and has taken more than its share of fish on other waters as well.
I believe this pattern imitates a small brown trout. It can be stripped slow or fast like a streamer and even, as originally used, with a dead drift. A lot of those old guys used spinning rods with a piece of solder wire for a weight and their flies on a short dropper. I remember pictures of massive trout taken back in the day. It quickly became apparent that this fly works!
The pattern I present here is not the original. I have dressed the pattern up a bit and it appeals much more to me in this form. The original fly had no body, splayed brown and yellow saddle hackle wings and a bushy, dry fly style collar of brown hackle. I have added the red throat, for a splash of color to imitate gills, the furnace hackle outside wings to mimic the lateral line of a small baitfish and a vinyl wrapped body to increase durability. The vinyl over body lets the tinsel underbody show through for a slight hint of flash. Ive also added a two-color collar, merely to break with tradition and add a little piece of my own. This new version reminds me a lot of the classic feather wing streamer patterns of the old days and is probably as close as Ill ever get to fishing them. I admit it is just simply more rewarding to tie a pretty fly, even if it is more work than the ugly ones. After all, fish eat worms too.