FLY OF THE MONTH- March 2018

The (Bloody) Mary


Years ago I purchased a copy of Rodger Hungerford’s Guide To Trout Angling, and came across an article by David Scholes extolling the virtues of the ‘Bloody Mary - Champion All-Purpose Fly’. Well, if David Scholes recommended


a fly, then it had to be good. So I tied a few. In 1981 I spent the year working in New Zealand, near Hamilton in the North island. There were heaps of gorgeous little trout streams in the area, and most were well populated with lively rainbows that were quite keen to sample my roughly-tied Marys. So for me the pattern worked - at least on those willing North Island trout.


But in recent years I’ve hardly bothered with the fly. There have just been too many other new patterns to try. However I was clearing out my fly boxes a few weeks ago and came across a few fairly aged Marys tucked in a corner.


And I remembered - it used to be a great fly. I’m sure it still is and will continue to fool plenty of trout.


The original article by David Scholes says this:


“Thoughtful and enthusiastic fly dressers are always creating new flies. Most of their productions, however, are little or no better than existing ones, and more often than not new words to the same music. But every so often a real gem comes to light, a fly that will leave its mark permanently. Without question the Bloody Mary is such a fly.


Created in 1956 by Max Christensen from Longford in Tasmania, the Bloody Mary was first sold under the simple name Mary. But anglers were quick to add the colourful adjective because of its red tail and body tinsel, and the title Bloody Mary became common. Tying this fly is simple enough, but considerable care is needed in the selection of suitable hackles, on which so much depends for success. Size 8 is the most popular, but I always have one or two larger and smaller ones with me.


The hackles are doubled; that is, they are folded before tying in so that all the fibres are on the same side of the stem. As the hackle is wound on, palmer fashion, the fibres are pulled toward the rear to make them lie back.


Max has given us a most remarkable general-purpose fly which will work successfully at any time, so long as it is fished correctly. Support for this rather sweeping statement is found in the fact that when I first introduced Bloody Mary to the trout in the Snowy Mountains area of New South Wales their reaction was not far short of ecstatic. Together with Fred Stewart, past president of the Victorian Fly Fishers’ Association, I fished the Bloody Mary on and off in both rivers and lakes and took trout wherever I went. Fred’s enthusiasm can be judged when I tell you that no less than two dozen newly-made Marys were dispatched to him on my return to Tasmania.


At Lake Tantangara and also on the Murrumbidgee and Eucumbene rivers, the Bloody Mary consistently took a toll. In Tantangara I was able to prove how remarkably effective and versatile it is both on and under the surface. For this is one of its greatest features - you can fish it either wet or dry. Flick it in the air a few times before setting it down gently and it floats like a cork. With no flicking and a more positive landing it sinks. And as a dapping fly Bloody Mary excels.


When the wind is so strong and gusty that all you can think of is retiring with hurt feelings to the pub, this is the time to turn confidently to the Bloody Mary and get amongst them. Grease everything, including the fly itself, and choose a steepish bank with plenty of depth near the edge and the wind either blowing parallel to it or, better still, slightly off shore. Here the surface will be well ruffled, but not broken by wavelets. Cast a Mary out and make sure it floats. Then hold the rod high, allowing the wind to belly the line. By twitching the rod-tip the fly can be made to jump about on the surface, sometimes bounding into the air between ripples.


There is no need to cast far. The wind strength and the height of the angler above the surface will dictate the length of your cast. As you work the fly back in little jerks across the surface with the rod-tip, pull in the slack line. When the fly has been worked for a yard or two, retrieve it for the next cast.


It is not necessary to move the fly very fast or very far; let the wind help in activating the Mary in a life-like manner, because this, in essence, is the whole thing. The effect of this animation on the trout is extraordinary, and the take is always savage.


Another certain place to get results with the Mary is where a good stiff breeze is blowing directly off a sloping lake shore. The water along the edge is calm, but a little way out the ripple begins, growing rougher the further it extends. Cast Mary out a few yards into the ripple proper and work it back towards the calm. Watch out for a hit in such places. Action is practically certain.


As a wet fly the Bloody Mary is no less effective. Indeed, it has the edge on many a standard pattern because of its pronounced pulsating action. The long spongy hackle throbs so convincingly that the trout seem unable to resist it. There is no need to work Mary very fast as a wet fly. In fact it is better not to. Just sink it down near the fish and move it in short, easy jerks so that the hackles pulsate.


Finally, as an ordinary dry fly the Bloody Mary can still hold its own; the smaller sizes 10 and 8 being naturally the best. At Dee Lagoon in Tasmania, where difficult fish rose very occasionally one summer, I smote quite a few with a dry Mary.


There’s no doubt about it, the Bloody Mary is a winner, and is likely to be with us forever. Tied and fished correctly this fly is amongst the deadliest fish-getters in the game.”


 Note: In his book Tasmanian Trout Fly Patterns Max Stokes describes the tying of three flies – the Hairy Mary on page 24, the Bloody Mary on page 25, and the Mary on page 26.

The Materials:

  • Hook: Dry Fly - Sizes 6, 8 or 10.
  • Thread: Black6/0.
  • Rib: Fine gold wire.
  • Tail: Tomato-red thread or red marabou silk. (Or any other suitable bright red material. Your editor used some scarlet Fluorofibre. Perhaps a small pinch of bright red egg yarn would do.)
  • Body: Red Lurex.
  • Hackle:  Softblackcockhackle.(Thehacklefibresneedtobe11⁄2to2timesthelengthof
  • the hook shank. Those in the photo are too short).
  • Eyes: Two small red lurex diamonds (optional).

Tying Notes:

  1. Run some thread along the shank to just before the bend, then tie in the tail, a piece of fine gold wire for the rib, and a length of red lurex for the body.
  2. Take the tying thread back along the shank towards the eye, leaving room for a good-sized head.
  3. Carefully bind on the tinsel to form a nice even body with no lumps or bumps, and tie it off just behind the eye.
  4. Take a softish black cock hackle feather and tie the base in a millimetre or two behind the eye. Then double the hackle, i.e. fold the fibres so that they are all on the same side of the stem and pointing toward the tail of the fly.
  5. Carefully wind the hackle down the shank to the tail. This is done palmer fashion with a couple of turns closer together near the eye. As the hackle is wound on, the fibres are pulled toward the rear to make them lie back. The turns should not be too close further down the body, otherwise the effect of the tinsel is lost.
  6. Secure the hackle at the end of the shank with a turn of the ribbing, then stroke the fibres into a vertical plane. Make five or six turns of ribbing through the palmer hackle and tie it off just behind the eye.
  7. Make a well-formed head and whip finish.
  8. Varnish the head, and if desired, add diamond-shaped pieces of tinsels as eyes on the sides of head.