BEGINNER’S MASTERCLASS: An Improved Trico Sunken Spinner

There is more to matching the summer Trico hatch than using a floating imitation. You might actually catch more trout fishing a fly that sinks.

by Tim Flagler

MATCHING THE TRICO HATCH, which takes place in many regions during late July and August, can be very frustrating. To begin with, Tricos are exceptionally small; think hook size 22 down to nearly invisible. When they hatch, Tricos form mating swarms above the water and fall as spent spinners at Oh-yawn-hundred in the morning; it’s actually hard to get on the water too early to catch a Trico hatch. Also, regardless of whether the trout are taking emergers, duns, or spinners, the fish seem to get hyper- selective when it comes to Tricos. The good news, however is because of all these tough factors, you’ll most likely have little competition from other anglers.

It’s funny how great minds think alike; no, I’m not one of them. Years ago, I had the privilege of working with Pennsylvania fly fishing legend Charlie Meck on a series of tying videos, and one of the flies he made was a sunken Trico spinner. Charlie insisted that although anglers get excited when the fish take Tricos on the water’s surface, the majority of feeding occurs subsurface after the spinners have been pulled under by turbulence. As I recall, Charlie’s pattern was designed to sink like a stone and included a half dozen or so wraps of lead wire.

Years later, while reading Ed Engle’s fabulous book Tying Small Flies (many of the chapters in that book were first published as articles in the pages of this magazine), I found he also advocated fishing sunken or drowned Trico imitations. Rather than using lead wire as an underbody, however, Ed favors making the body with very fine Ultra Wire.

My solution for weighting a Trico imitation lies somewhere between these two approaches.

A Compromise That Works Rather than following Meck’s or Engle’s methods, I tie a short piece of lead-free wire to the top of the hook between the wings and then wrap a thorax of dubbing. This keeps the abdomen of the fly very slender and adds just the right amount of weight so it breaks the surface tension of the water and sinks. Turbulence can pull the fly deeper, but I think it generally rides less than six inches below the surface.

A fly this small is next to impossible to see under the surface, so I usually use it as a dropper with a small Parachute Adams or Hi-Vis Griffith’s Gnat. It is remarkable how many times I think a trout has taken the floating fly, but when I land the fish, I find the little Sunken Trico Spinner stuck in the tip of its upper lip.

If you can haul yourself out of bed and get on the water before the sun is fully up, and can tie a size 22 fly to the end of a 7X leader in the half-light of early morning, fishing the Trico hatch can be a lot of fun. It especially helps if you can get over the idea that you must fish floating duns and spinners, and start concentrating on using sunken spinners.

Tim Flagler is a leading fly tying instructor. To see his terrific fly tying videos, go to practicalpatterns.com or check them out at this magazine’s official website, flytyer.com. Tim lives in New Jersey