The “Eighty-Eight”, a Forgotten Fly
A while back, I was looking though Paul Schmookler’s massive tome Forgotten Flies. Wow, what a fascinating book. There I came across a picture of a streamer fly I first learned of while fishing a fairly remote spot in northern New England. With me at the time was a professional guide who knew the waters well. We were focused on landlock salmon, at the time. So naturally I asked him what he felt would be the best fly. He relied an “88”.
An “88”? Damn, I told him I had no idea what that was! He smiled, opened his fly box and hand me a small, slim, flat wing streamer. The body was made of red and green copper wire. The wing was a mallard flank feather. Not much else to it really, but it immediately proved its worth, catching several landlocks. Since then I always carry a couple “88”s
Schmookler’s book offers no details, instead referring readers to Dick Steward & Bob Leeman’s book Trolling Flies for Trout and Salmon. There you will find the following dressing. Thread– brown; Body – 2/3 red wire- 1/3 green wire; Wing– lemon wood duck flank tied flat on top; Collar -a few turns of soft grizzle hackle; Comment– Considered a casting fly for brook trout, often tied with red and green floss instead of wire.
Steward & Leeman make no mention of the fly’s origin or creator. Hoping to find out more, in the intervening years I asked quite a few anglers, including some professional fly tyers, if they had heard of the “88”. The answer has always been – a resounding “no”. In fact I have never being able to discover anything more about this forgotten fly. It is not in Eric Leiser’s Book of Fly Patterns nor is it in Colonel Bates big book Streamers and Bucktails. Know anything?
I tie it mainly on a size 8# Mustad 9575 streamer hook. A fine choice for most any streamer. Yeah, I’m no exhibition tyer so I don’t always stick to the recipe. My thread choice is red to start, switching to black for the head. Don’t have any red and green copper wire? There are a slew of other materials you could substitute. Under the wing I may add a few strands of pearl flash and a small touch of white bucktail. (see above) But I never add the collar. Still at times I do get fancy – coat the wire with clear acrylic, spray the wing with fixative, maybe add decal eyes. None of that is really necessary. I fish it as I was shown years ago – short strips with pauses. It works, believe me. A small sleek streamer can be deadly.