Written by: Gary Martineau
Big fly, big fish” may be an old adage, but it’s as true now as ever. The bigger the protein source, the farther a big fish will move for it to get a protein fix. I’ve caught plenty of good fish on RS2s and other size 20 flies, but mostly on spring creeks and tailwaters, where you sight-fish and have to all but hit the trout on the nose. In faster, heavier, deeper, or cloudy water, a big trout isn’t going to go out of its way for a size 20 anything. It might not chase a Woolly Bugger or streamer, either, because often the natural baitfish will escape in such water, making any chase a waste of the trout’s energy. Big stoneflies and helgrammites don’t swim away, which makes them more attractive to big trout.
The MartineauHeavy Helgy is big enough, has plenty of motion, and dead-drifts so naturally that it entices big fish to move for it, even if the drift is not perfect. You simply won’t find a more productive and consistent fly in these situations.
But bigger isn’t better all by itself. With the Heavy Helgy, I also tried to create a fly with “bugginess,” movement, and enough weight to get down to the bigger fish fast–especially in heavier water. I also wanted a profile that was realistic, but still big like the natural. To achieve all this, I use a slightly bent hook to give the fly the curvature a natural has when drifting in the water. A weighted underbody helps add to the flat appearance but more importantly gets the fly sinking as soon as it hits the water, while the natural muskrat dubbing and grizzly hackle allow the nymph to drift like a natural.
The brown hackle forelegs and Bodi-Stretch casing create a natural-looking segmentation and movement, while the forked biots at the tail and head mimic that of the natural insect. The soft-hackle “legs” not only aid the drift, but give the fly an overall buggy look that gets fish to take.
One of the most effective ways I’ve found to fish the Heavy Helgy is in deep riffles and fast runs and at the heads of runs, where the water is choppy and drops into deeper water. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught fish after fish at the heads of runs, in the agitated whitewater that is so often overlooked by anglers or difficult to fish well with unweighted or smaller nymphs.
The Heavy Helgy gets down fast, right to where the fish stack up and have just a split second to make a decision to feed. The size and movement of the Helgy induces hard strikes in this water, often from the biggest fish. Try high-sticking with a full floating line to let the fly sink and to get the most realistic dead drift possible. If the water is especially deep and heavy, add weight 18-20 inches above the fly as necessary. Another great technique is to “crawl” the Helgy. That is, take line in slowly through the fingers. This adds subtle, lifelike action to the fly that trout and salmon jump on.
Fish the Heavy Helgy all season long, at anytime of the day, hatch or no hatch. The larger sizes are fantastic early and late in the season, or in cloudy water, when trout are really looking for that one-shot protein fix. The Helgy works even in the midseason at high noon. In these conditions, you’re best bet is to fish a slightly lighter tippet and a smaller, size 10 Helgy to pick up good fish consistently, often when nothing else produces. It’s also a great attention-grabber for a smaller dropper off the back. The fly is not only great for big trout but for bass, too. The bass knock this fly dead.
Martineau’s Heavy Helgy
Hook: Mustad 7594, sizes 4 through 10.
Thread: Brown Monocord or similar.
Weight: Large diameter lead-free wire.
Cement: Dave’s Flexament.
Tail: Brown mahogany turkey biots, clipped at a steep angle.
Overbody: 1/4-inch brown Bodi-Stretch.
Abodmen Underbody: Brown chenille
Thorax Underbody: Tan Sparkle Chenille
Legs: Brown mahogany turkey biots, unclipped.
Gills/Forelegs: Two short-barb brown hackles.
Head & Wing Case: Folded Bodi-Stretch.
Mandibles: Pair of small shoulder feathers from wing of ruffed grouse, clipped at tip to form horseshoe shape.
Note: for complete step-by-step instructions visit the Martineau Heavy Helgy page at orvis.com.
Gary Martineau is a lifelong fly tier, rod builder, and fly fisherman. A former research biologist for Vermont Fish & Wildlife, he holds a degree in fisheries and wildlife biology. His Martineau Heavyweight Stonefly pattern was the best-selling fly ever sold in The Orvis News.