Try a Great Attractor Pattern—the Patriot

I tied my first Patriot dry fly more than 20 years ago. When I first tied the pattern I called it the RB Coachman. The RB stood for "really blue" and the body was first tied with barbules from a blue marabou feather. Shortly after Krystal flash came on the market I substituted that product in smolt blue for the body. When I first showed the pattern to Art Gusbar he looked at it and said we should call it the Patriot because it has red, white and blue in the pattern. I handed Art one of the patterns and urged him to try it. Art tied on the pattern immediately and began casting it on one of Pennsylvania’s top tailwaters, the Youghiogheny River, just below the town of Confluence in southwestern Pennsylvania. On the second cast Art hooked onto an 18-inch rainbow on the Patriot.

But, does the pattern consistently catch trout? Back in 1985 I conducted experiments almost the entire summer with the Patriot and 19 other dry fly patterns. I compared its effectiveness against patterns like the Light Cahill, Royal Coachman, Adams and other top patterns. Over an entire season I cast each of the 20 patterns 1000 times on the same section of a nearby river. I made certain that none of the casts were made over rising trout. If I saw a trout rising I purposely passed by that section. I carried a counter with me so I had a fairly accurate count of the number of times a dry fly drifted and the number of strikes. In those tests the Patriot out-fished all other patterns by a wide margin.

In 1989 Mike Manfredo of Fort Collins, Colorado, and I took a month long trip to New Zealand’s South Island. In preparation for that February trip I tied a dozen size 12 Patriots. For an entire week we were frustrated with these New Zealand rainbows and brown trout. Not until Mike and I began to fish some of the lesser known streams and rivers did we begin to catch a lot of trout. And yes, the Patriot contributed our abrupt change in success. On the 13 largest trout we caught the first two weeks, 12 of them were taken on the Patriot. We ran out of Patriots in a couple days and attempted to tie some. One big hang-up: We had no smolt blue Krystal flash to use for the body. One of Mike’s travel bags was made of a blue material so we tore some of the threads off the bag and used it for the body material on the Patriot. We continued to catch plenty of trout even on that corrupted blue pattern.

The Patriot has caught plenty of trout for me on Arizona and New Mexico streams and rivers. It has worked on the Red River in northern New Mexico and the South Branch of the Negrito Creek in central part of that same state. On the Ruby River in southwestern Montana the Patriot caught trout when the Trico failed me.

The Patriot is at home as much in the Midwest as it is in the East and West. I’ll never forget that trip to the Pere Marquette with my brother Jerry Meck and our friend Dave Tongue. I used the tandem made up of a Patriot dry fly and a bead head Pheasant Tail. As evening progressed no trout took the wet fly—all the action occurred with the Patriot dry fly. I ripped off the wet fly and for the last hour on the river I used only the dry fly—and I caught a couple dozen trout before darkness set in.

Why do I like the Patriot more and more each year? With its white calf body wings it’s extremely easy to detect on the surface. Even when I fish heavily shaded small mountain streams I can follow the float of that dry fly. As my eyes get poorer I still have little trouble following the Patriot.

I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I used the Patriot on the Pere Marquette as part of a tandem rig. Here’s where I’ve found the Patriot to be of most value: used in the dual role as a strike indicator and a dry fly. I call using a dry fly this way as a strike indicator with an attitude. I usually use a size 12 Patriot and attach that pattern in the normal way to the tippet of my leader. I then take a piece of 2 to 3 foot tippet material and connect a wet fly like a bead head Pheasant Tail to the one end of that new piece of tippet material. On the other end of that tippet material I make an improved clinch knot and attach it to the bend of the hook of the Patriot. Now I have two flies—one wet and one dry—drifting in tandem. The dry fly floats even if you add 10 wraps of .010 lead to the body of the trailing wet fly.

If you use the Patriot or any other dry fly as part of a tandem there are other advantages. If the Patriot floats drag free on top then the wet fly often drifts drag free underneath. Even on the high water of the Colorado River at Lee’s ferry in northern Arizona you’ll have an easy time following the drift of the Patriot. And detecting strikes is as simple as watching a bobber sink.

Make certain you tie a few of these patterns for your next trip. If you don’t tie then you can order these patterns directly form Orvis. Orvis is the only authorized distributor of the Patriot.


Thread: Red
Tail: Brown hackle fibers
Body: Smolt blue Krystal Flash wound around the shank; wind some of the red thread in the middle of the shank, similar to the Royal Coachman
Wings: White impala or calf tail, divided
Hackle: Brown
Hook: Mustad 94833, sizes 10-18

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