I have enjoyed the opportunity of living in Prince George on two different occasions. My second stay in this BC working town was in the mid 80s and my interest in fly fishing led me to the Polar Coachmen's, a rather informal group who liked to get together to tie flies, swap fishing stories and yes, to even build fly rods! At these sessions, I learned to tie some interesting northern fly patterns, including the subject fishing fly, the Hart Lake Vixen. One of our mentors was Steve Head who claimed that patterns like the black leech needed a bit of touch up for the darker waters found in many of the Prince George vicinity lakes.
I tie several leech patterns, most often with marabou in black, brown and deep maroon colors. However, the Hart Lake Vixen is not a marabou leech but instead, it has a black mohair or seal body, black hackle flowing wings, sparse black throat hackle and the most striking feature of this fly, a bright red kip's tail! The tail, it was said by the Polar Coachman old timers, was the difference between rainbow trout in the frying pan or eating beans only on those northern fishing trips!
The test for me came when the BC Wildlife Department announced a special two week opening on Hart Lake, about 65 kilometers north of Prince George. The lake had been stocked with a special rainbow trout strain some two years previously and because of the abundant feed, the trout had quickly grown to as much as four pounds! Although Hart Lake had been designated as a special children-seniors lake only, it was felt that the large fish were numerous enough to withstand a general public opening that June. I just had to try it but I found the fish very moody and uncooperative on my first trip to Hart. In short, I was skunked! I tried most of my favorite patterns to no avail including my top four, the muddler, spratley, leech and shrimp. But I had seen enough large fish rolling to be drawn back there in just a few days time. I decided to try the red tailed leech on a fast sinking wet line with a very, very slow retrieve. I had a couple of touches when suddenly, a powerful fish took the fly and surged away, taking half of my backing on a deep, powerful run. After a long tussle, the fish, just a touch under four pounds, was landed with the red tailed leech firmly in its jaw. Thus was born the name that I use for this fly, the Hart Lake Vixen!
Secure your tying thread (black cotton or invisible mending thread) to the hook shank and tie in a small amount of red kip's tail, allowing it to project about 1/4 inch past the hook bend. My preference is to wind fairly thin mohair, hook bend to eye, or dub in black seal hair in order to give the fly body a somewhat tousled but slim appearance. A chenille body is neater but it does not seem to work quite as well. Then tie in about three narrow black hackle feathers near the hook eye so that the feathers flows back in low profile to about 1/2 inch past the hook bend. I usually find that I must tie in these feathers one at a time in order to achieve the proper lie along the back. Finally, place two turns of black hackle at the hook eye, cement, whip finish and you are ready to try the Hart Lake Vixen! Just ask Cata Clutterham or Gordie Aucoin about the effectiveness of this fly. This past August, during what normally is the summer doldrums for trout, I guided these fine relatives to several good trout using the Hart Lake Vixen, on two separate trips to a small Caribou lake near 100 Mile House called, naturally, Secret Lake!
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