** NOTE** Video for the Blue Collar Worker appears below.
Show up on time, do your job and have a little fun while you’re at it. Then go home and do it all over again tomorrow. That’s a blue collar worker.
I grew up in western Pennsylvania — it was coal country, mixed in with steel mills and farming. A solid work ethic was dyed deep and woven into the fabric of every family in the region. My father and his father were coal miners and, later in life, federal mine inspectors. Both of these men — my mentors — could build or repair anything. They built their own homes and constructed homes for others. Framing, wiring, plumbing, concrete work — what do you need done? They, or somebody else in the Pittsburgh region, could do it for you.
So to me, the phrase blue collar worker was and still is a compliment. It’s a measure of pride and respect. Because these workers, these people, are the salt of the earth. They are the welded joints that hold everything together. Blue collar workers are simple, reliable and effective . . .
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The Blue Collar Worker Recipe
Hook: Dohiku 302 (or similar) #10-18
Bead: Silver Tungsten
Lead: Touching lead wraps to mid-shank (diameter to match the hook wire)
Tail/Body: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Collar: CDC (Dun color)
Hot Collar: Doctor Blue 8/0 Uni-Thread
Watch the following video, and then find more detail in the paragraphs below.
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Justification, and a Platform
This fly is a Pheasant Tail with a CDC collar. It has a little disco for the rib and a hot spot/collar. It’s nothing special, right?
Yes, that’s right. And that’s the point. None of my flies are over the top. Simplicity wins in these wild trout rivers. And that has proven out, time and again. There are four materials here. Enough attraction to get some attention and stand out, but not too many elements to turn a trout off. This fly catches trout. The Worker gets the job done, day in and day out.
Of course, other color combinations catch fish too. I have them in my own fly box. Change the bead color, the collar color or even the pheasant color. Experiment judiciously. For me, the Worker has become a style. It’s a platform that includes pheasant for the tail and body, Sulky tinsel furled with 6X rib, some wrapped CDC and a colorful collar. There’s plenty of room to play around within that framework. And the Blue Collar Worker has stayed with me because it’s unlike anything else in my box.
The Dohiku 302 is strong, sharp and standard length. I won’t tolerate hooks that bend out, as many modern boutique and budget hooks do these days.
I’m out there, ready to catch the biggest fish of my life, so I need something strong. Fulling Mill 5105 is another favorite option.
This fly inverts. Yes, it’s true. Tie any nymph with a bead and some lead wraps, and it rides upside down. You do not need a jig hook or an inverting bead to make this happen. The eye of a jig hook blocks the gap a bit, so a jig hook is not my first choice. This fly is already riding . . . inverted.
Bead and Lead
Whether you choose a slotted or countersunk bead, wrap some lead or lead substitute on that hook shank. Then cover it up with 210 denier to form a taper. Keep your proportions.
I also wouldn’t over-bead this fly, but that’s just me. I like natural proportions and do not want the bead taking up the majority of the fly profile. So instead of a bigger bead, use lead wraps on the hook shank for more weight. That’s right, I don’t like to take the thin-to-win thing too far.
This classic material is still widely used, for good reason. Its natural mottled look, along with the micro barbules is deadly. Buy quality pheasant tails, or shoot a couple birds out of the sky for yourself. Don’t use dried out pheasant tail, because the tails will break easily. Quality matters.
These days, I know that your natural tendency will be to substitute CDL for the tail. I love CDL, and I use it on many of my flies. But the Worker is better with pheasant. Part of its superpower is to look like many things that trout encounter under the water. About 5-6 fibers of pheasant for the tail (for a #14) can be just a tail on a mayfly nymph or it can look like the longer body on a caddis or stonefly. It’s thin, but it’s thicker if the trout want to see it that way.
Pheasant tail catches trout like crazy. So why take any of that away?
The original version did not have this flashy rib, and this is the element I experimented with most. I used wire ribs, pure mono and a few other things.
I’ve loved Sulky ever since Loren Williams created the Sexy Walt’s, and I was looking for somewhere else to employ it.
Wrapping Sulky and then counter wrapping monofilament for strength is the standard approach. But it mats down too many pheasant fibers, taking away too much of the secret sauce of pheasant tail material in the first place. So one evening, I just spun the two materials together. I haven’t looked back since. The furled effect is both strong and attractive. Trout teeth don’t break this rib. And it definitely gets the trout’s attention.
Thankfully, quality CDC is pretty easy to find these days. And as the years pass, I use it more and more, both above and below the surface. As shown in the video above, I simply choose a good feather, clip the tip and wrap it once or twice for a collar — usually. But I also like using a Swiss CDC tool to grab CDC fibers and twist them into a dubbing loop. It’s a couple extra steps but it’s another way to accomplish the same thing — probably a little better.
Pinch off the CDC to achieve a length that crops the CDC just beyond the bend or a little longer.
Don’t overdo the CDC. Get a Worker wet and put it in a glass of water someday. You’ll see that a little CDC goes a long way, and the necessary effect is achieved with not much material.
Here’s where the Blue Collar Worker gets its name. Again, I suggest being careful not to overdo this step. I choose 8/0 Uni-thread and keep the wraps to about a ten overall — less in smaller flies. Most of those wraps are in the two whip finishes that compete the fly.
This blue color is something I have high confidence in from way back, because I’ve been using a Silver Doctor as a go-to wet fly at night for many, many years.
Again, playing with the platform of the Worker can fill up a fly box, and many variations yield results. Choose orange, red, yellow, pink, white, etc, for the collar. Workers are great in many varieties.
It’s a Blue Collar Worker
A couple of years ago, my good friend, Josh Darling, showed me a simple nymph with a blue hot spot. It stood out in his box, and I quickly realized that it would stand out in my own lineup as well.
“What do you call it?” I asked Josh, turning the CDC collared nymph in my fingers.
“It’s a Blue Collar Worker,” Josh said with a grin.
“Of course it is.”
Fish hard, friends.
Fish hard, friends.
Enjoy the day.
T R O U T B I T T E N