Red Shadow – Original Tie by Robert Bragg
with John Hey
It was still November and early season when Owen and I went down after work to fish the Ashley River. We arrived at about 8 pm and proceeded down towards the mouth. Owen is a good angler when it comes to teaching a bully to swim, and a few nights earlier had caught a couple of trout. We waited till it got dark before entering the water. Being almost a fly fishing purist I resisted the chance to swim a bully.
When I fish for sea trout I almost always fish two flies. I vary the bottom fly depending on location and always a Red Shadow on the dropper. I was first shown the effects of the Red Shadow many years ago by a good fisherman on the Waimakariri River which was just clearing after a flood. I tied on my tail fly, which was a Burglar pattern, thick and bulky like a bully, and on the dropper a Red Shadow. A few trout were splashing with the tide as we began to cast.
Not long after, Owen’s bully rig caught on my lures, and I was getting down far enough when a fish moved below us. I cast a little further out, a mend to slow the sink tip line down, a pull strike, a solid hit and off downstream it went, reel screaming – another short run and into the net. And no, it wasn’t on the Red Shadow, but the Burglar! To make matters worse I didn’t even tie it, I had bought it that day at work. But the Red Shadow has caught for me a lot of sea trout from the Waimakariri and the Rakaia Rivers.
I also tie the pattern big enough for salmon and have used it to good effect in Lake Coleridge off the mouth of the Ryton for rainbow and landlocked salmon, so it’s a very versatile lure.
Like many of Canterbury’s great night flies, this was tied by Robert K. Bragg on hook sizes 2 to 8 for trout and 1 or 1 / 0 for salmon on upturned eye special salmon hooks. It is tied, as many of our streamer patterns are, with a body of white chenille, a wing of four black hackles and two red hackles, one on each side tied down with tinsel and finished with a black hackle spun at the head. Then tied off and applied with head cement. For those who don’t fly fish, a small l / 2 oz ball lead stopped by a swivel, then a 2ft 6in trace cast up and bounced downstream works well on sea trout.