hat’s the opening sentence of the entry in my newly organized
fly fishing log for May 7, 2001. It describes an afternoon trip to
Whiteman’s Creek, a spring fed cold-water creek that is a tributary
of the Grand River and is located west of Brantford, in Southwestern
The creek is one of my favorite spots and I have spent many
enjoyable afternoons there chasing rainbows and browns. The fish are
not large, usually 12-14 inches, with many smaller ones in the 8-10
inch category. The largest I had caught in the three years previous
to May 7 was 15 inches. The rainbows are very acrobatic and the
browns are scrappy enough to make hooking them and landing them with
a 0wt rod great fun.
I live in London, Ontario and generally fish the tailwater brown
trout fishery of the Upper Grand River. A trip to the Grand takes
the best part of two hours, one way. I go there a minimum of once a
week during the season, usually on Thursdays, with one or two
fishing buddies. Because of the distance, a trip to the Grand has to
be an all-day trip. Whiteman’s, on the other hand, is only one hour
from home, so whenever I can find an afternoon, I’m off to
I left home at one o'clock in the afternoon and was on the water
by 2:15. My way of fishing the creek is to walk downstream for quite
a distance and fish all the way back to the access point by
May 7th was overcast and the water temperature was 13
degrees Celsius (55 degrees Fahrenheit). I had never before seen
that many insects hatching and flying in the creek area that early
in the afternoon. The fish were extremely active. It took a lot of
self-control not to go in the water until I reached my usual
starting point. I saw rise after rise all the way down my downstream
As far as I could make out, the hatch was a mix of Hendricksons
and BWO. As I started to fish, it was obvious that it was going to
be a very good day. My starting fly was a #16 quill-bodied parachute
BWO. Although I got some takes and landed two fish with it, my
impression was that the takes were not consistent enough and there
were too many observed refusals.
So I went to a #16 parachute Adams, followed by a #14 Adams. The
results were slightly better than the BWO, but again I had the
impression that the fish were not delighted with what I was
And then it happened! On a whim, I tied on a fly that I had never
used before. In fact I had only tied a few, in sizes 12, 14 and 16,
the week previous. I had found the pattern in the VFS (flyshop.com)
archives and liked the looks of it. It is called a Wright’s Royal
and it is a variation of the Trude tie of a Royal Wulff.
Since the size 16s in the two other patterns I had tried were
somewhat successful, it was a #16 that I put on. The fish went nuts!
They kept me busy for the three hours that followed, and I lost
count of the number of fish I landed after number 15. The fly was
also responsible for my largest brown ever on Whiteman's.
I was drifting the fly very close to the side of a large deadfall
in fairly fast flowing water. I had found fish at that very spot on
previous occasions. The big brown came from under the submerged tree
trunk, smashing the fly and scaring the daylights out of me.
Fortunately, when he felt the hook, instead of going back under the
log where I would probably have lost him in a snag, he took off
downstream to a fairly deep snag-free hole where I easily managed to
play him out and land him.
This 18-inch brown trout. Photo by Alex Vardanis at Whiteman's Creek, May
I was alone, and it is just as well that no one was watching. I
proceeded to impersonate a pretzel as I retrieved my camera from the
back pocket of my vest while holding the fish netted in the water
and holding onto my rod. I did manage to do it though and took a
reasonable picture of the 18-inch brown.
On the 0wt rod it was a blast! I took my time to revive him and
sent him on his way upstream, with many thanks, where he probably
took refuge under the same log.
A day, a fish and a fly I will never forget.
The Wright’s Royal has produced for me on a number of other
occasions including a memorable day with Kamloops rainbows on a lake
near Merritt, British Columbia.
But that’s another story.
Wright's Royal as tied by Alex
Photo by Peter Frailey
Hook: Size 10-16, TMC 900BL or equivalent dry
Thread: Black 8/0.
Brown hackle fibers (optional, but preferred by
Body: Peacock herl, red floss, peacock
Wing: Light or bleached elk
Hackle: Coachman brown, palmered over