Chris Sandford takes us through how to tie the 'Hairy Hotchkiss'.
There is no doubt that professional qualifications and local knowledge can be the key to a good day’s fishing.
Most keen golfers I know will, at least once a year, have a few hours with their local professional to sharpen their game. Fly-fishing may not be quite as competitive, but it always surprises me that more of us don’t take advantage of the skills of a qualified guide to tone up our casting and watercraft.
John ‘The Hotch’ Hotchkiss has been a good friend and mentor to me over the last 20 years. We first spent time together when he was producing the television series ‘The Take’ and asked me to be the ‘warm and friendly’ voiceover! Before each session we would meet in the local café for breakfast. I had just started my all-consuming affair with fly tying and spent every spare moment at the vice. On one occasion, I proudly showed him a large box with the best of my recent work. He looked over the contents for a while and as he handed them back said “Nice, but a bit too neat!” I still tie neat flies but have to admit that many of them seem to be more effective once they’ve had a good battering from a couple of fish!
‘Hotch’ retired from the film business some years ago but didn’t ‘let the grass grow’. He qualified as GAIA casting instructor and now has a client base that keeps him busy from the southern chalkstreams to Iceland.
A few years after completing the TV series we were both invited for a day on the Itchen and I had the pleasure of sharing a beat with him during the Mayfly.
Before we started he took me to one side and introduced me to his ‘go to’ Mayfly pattern, The Hairy Hotchkiss! He said ‘I’ve been fishing this pattern for more years than I care to remember…heaven knows where it came from, but the scruffier it gets, the better it works!’ How right he was! I lost count of the fish I caught that day and since then I’ve always kept a few in the Mayfly box.
I called ‘Hotch’ a few weeks ago and asked him if it would be OK to put the fly in my column. He said ‘Why not…it’s been a bit of a secret over the years, but maybe it’s time to unleash it on the general public!’
Tying the Hairy Hotchkiss
You will need:
1) Mount the hook in the vice and run the thread a short distance down the hook and then back again to the eye. For wings select a clump of calf tail about the length of the hook-shank and tie in, points over and hard up against the eye. Make securing turns of thread working towards the bend before cutting the butts of the calf tail at an angle to form a tapered body. Before dividing the wing, take several turns of thread under the wing and behind the eye, forcing the wings into an upright position and then divide the wing in equal parts with figure-of-eight wraps.
2) Tie in a short tail of the calf hair, tying down along the shank. Dub the thread and form a tapered body two-thirds along the shank leaving space for the hackle. Tie in the hackle feather on its back, dull side up, pointing towards the rear of the fly. Tied in this position with the first turn of hackle you will find the fibres sit perfectly at 90 degrees to the shank.
3) Wind the hackle forward in touching turns and secure tightly behind the wing. Move the thread to the eye, whip finish and apply a little varnish. Flatten the barb and you’re all set.