I grew up fishing the traditional Hornberg Special pattern, which is a New England favoritealthough it was first tied by a Wisconsin game warden named Frank Hornberg in the 1920s. In fact, it’s possible that the very first trout I ever caught on a fly was a brookie that fell for a Hornberg trolled behind a canoe paddled by my older brother and me on New Hampshire’s Stonehouse Pond.
What makes the pattern so cool is that you can fish it it many different ways. However, most folks fish it solely as a streamer, as I did when I started out. Later, I learned that a “Leisenring Lift” was another useful presentation, perhaps imitating a stunned baitfish springing back to life. Finally, I used it as a dry fly to imitate grasshoppers on Western rivers. Only recently did I learn that Hornberg designed the pattern as a dry fly.
In this video, Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions offers a different dry-fly version of this venerable pattern, one that looks more like the kinds of buggy attractor drys we’re used to casting on freestone streams. What’s cool is that he is able to preserve the essential characteristics of the original Hornberg while reinventing the tying process. The results is an easy-to-tie pattern that you can dead-drift, skate, swing, or strip below the surface. And all these methods will surely catch trout.
Hornberg Dry Fly
Hook: Straight-eye dry-fly hook (here a Dai-Riki 310), sizes and 18.
Thread: Light brown, 6/0.
Body: Mylar tinsel, small.
Underwing: Yellow saddle-hackle fibers.
Overwing: Mallard flank-feather fibers.
Hackle: Furnace/brown and grizzly.