I understand why so many of us are always trying to create the next greatest fly pattern—tying flies is a lot of fun and the possibility of creating something that fools fish and allows us to catch more than the next guy is a real drive.
Along the way to invention, however, some of us forget about the old standby flies and their value in our fly boxes. One of those patterns, often overlooked these days, is the brassie, a super simple fly to tie and a fly, it should be noted, that is deadly on trout during the winter season. Because the brassie is quick to tie it fits my style—I fish the bottom of rivers and I lose flies like crazy. I have to use flies that are easy and quick to tie, otherwise I would shed tears each time I broke off a double nymph rig. With materials set at a vice you can tie a brassie in about a minute. No need to cry when the bottom eats a brassie.
The bassie is an effective midge imitation and can be fished on all western rivers through the winter season. It’s also a decent Baetis nymph imitation. Due to its copper-wire body, the brassie sinks quickly and drops to the bottom, which is exactly where it needs to be. During winter the brassie excels when drifted through the deeper, medium speed currents. That’s where fish reside when the temperature falls. Fish conserve energy by sliding into the slower currents and they feed heavily on midge larvae and pupa. Often I tie on a GIE or a similar egg imitation and drop a brassie about 16 inches behind the lead fly. I place split shot on the leader above the egg and attach an indicator to the leader, too. I drift those offerings just above bottom and watch the indicator intently.
Most of the brassies I use are size-18, but it pays to carry brassies in various sizes, ranging between size 16 and size 24. That way you can match the size of the midges coming off at any given time. And you should know this: despite the brassies diminutive size, it takes big fish. In fact, I landed a 26-inch brown on a brassie one time. So, make sure you tie brassies on strong hooks and fish them off 4X tippet when you can. If you have to, go with 5X tippet but don’t be surprised if you lose a fish or two.
Here’s the simple recipe for the brassie. You can substitute red, black or green wire for the copper wire if desired.
Hook: TMC 200R, sizes 16-24
Thread: Black or rust
Body: Copper wire
Head: Peacock herl