In Praise of Ugly Flies: The Junk Yard Dog

Battenkill browns love hideous streamers, especially in the fall.
Photo by Phil Monahan

It was one of the driest Septembers on record in Vermont, and the Battenkill has been running very low—down around 150 cfs, which can stress the bigger fish. But recently, nighttime air temperatures have started dipping into the 40s, and the leaves on the maples are brilliant on the mountainsides. More importantly, we got a spell of rain over the weekend that has bumped the river levels up. Now it’s time for the Main Event: fall streamer fishing. And when I’m after big browns bulking up for the long winter, I like to throw something heavy, meaty, and ugly.

As a native New Englander, I grew up casting elegant featherwing streamers, such as the Gray Ghost, and hairwings like the Black Nose Dace. Something “ugly” might have been a (shudder) Woolly Bugger. But over the years, I’ve embraced the aesthetically challenged mutants—patterns like the Slump Buster, Beldar Rubber-Leg Bugger, and all manner of things featuring tungsten cones, multi-material bodies, and lots of wiggly rubber appendages. Traditionalists may frown upon such monstrosities, but brown trout love ’em.

This fall, I’m pumped to try Mike Schmidt’s Junk Yard Dog, which seems custom-made for the Battenkill. It’s a big, ugly mess of a fly, but it’s lightweight and easy to fish. The motion of the current on the pattern imparts tons of lifelike action. I can picture a big ol’ brown coming out from under a log to hammer this thing. Check out the step-by-step tying sequence on Mike’s blog.

          Junk Yard Dog
          Rear Hook: Gamakatsu SP11 3L3H, size 1.
          Thread: Brown, 6/0 or 140 denier.
          Tail: Tan marabou.
          Body: UV Copper Polar Chenille.
          Veil: Head cement or Sally Hansen Hard-As-Nails.
          Topping: Rusty brown Arctic fox tail.

          Front Hook: Gamakatsu B10S, size 2/0
          Thread: Brown, 6/0 or 140 denier.
          Connection: 4-inch piece of 19 strand .018″ Beadalon, with two beads.
          Body: Tan marabou.
          Eyes: Steel Clear Cure Dumbbell eye, 8mm.
          Collar: Dark-tan and rusty-brown Arctic fox tail.
          Head: Dark tan Senyo Laser Dub, trimmed to expose eyes.

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