Fishing & Tying the Rusty Spinner

Fishing & Tying The Rusty Spinner

We are on the Bighorn River in Montana this week and one of our go-to flies is a size 16 rusty spinner. This is a bighorn21pattern that we have many of in our fly boxes from home in Pennsylvania, and in our western boxes. When you think about it, rusty spinners should have a prominent place in every fly box. This spinner, tied in various sizes and shades represents numerous mayflies found on rivers and streams, both east and west, in this country and in others.

bighorn213The mayflies that come first to mind that have a rusty-like spinner for the final stage of life are Quill Gordon, Hendrickson, March Brown, Blue Winged Olive, Slate Drake, PMD, and Brown Drake. There is some variation in the size and shade of “rusty” in each of these mayflies but they all fall into the general grouping of rusty, red-brown or mahogany spinners.

Some days are hot and breezy and the hopper fishing can be lots of fun, but there are calm warm days this week and that brings out the PMDs (Pale Morning Duns) and PMD spinners. Today we caught fish on three different shades of rusty and three different hook sizes. Our guide, Clint Krumm, agreed that it is a “go-to” fly for him on the river. Here it represents the pseudocloeon (pseudos), the PMD, and mahogany mayflies. Even when the flies are not hatching and spinners are not on the water, the fish are used to seeing the flies and will often take a spinner when it is offered.

The weather today was overcast because of forest fire smoke in the west and glare on the water was bad making the slender spinner profile hard to find. Our solution was to tie on a larger size 14 poly wing spinner with a size 16 hen wing spinner as a dropper. The light reflected off the poly wing making it easy to locate and sometimes the fish would take the larger spinner and other times the smaller. When the smaller spinner was chosen, the larger fly acted as a strike indicator, but whenever I saw a fish rise close to the larger spinner I set the hook and most of the time it resulted in a hook-up. We often use the same technique when fishing small hard-to-see flies at home – a bigger fly that can be easily seen and a small fly as a dropper.  bighorn212

Our favorite rods are 9 foot, 5-weights for dries and 6-weight for nymph fishing. Leaders are about 9 feet long and usually 5X leaders. We have Sage Sonics with us and these rods have been lots of fun to fish, very responsive and accurate, and in a $550 price range, they are one of the best values in a mid priced multi-purpose fly rod.

In this article for Fly Fisherman, renowned author, fly tier and angler, Renee Harrop, talks about the rusty spinner imitating at least 13 mayfly hatches. Renee is a legend on western rivers like the Henry's Fork and no one knows bugs and the river better. It's a fascinating read.

While Lunn's Particular (referenced in the link above) may be a proven fly, we often use a simple poly fluff spinner tied with a little red brown dubbing and a micro-fibett tail. Tim Flagler ties a variation of this simple pattern in his video. If you Google the rusty spinner you'll find many variations. It's a pattern that can be simply tied.....or not. Either way it's a very effective fly, easily tied, easily fished, and is almost always the right choice. You can find rusty and red brown spinners, micro-fibetts and white or light dun poly fluff wing material in our online store.


 We will have a Bighorn Report next week with photos from the two weeks. We have had perfect weather, good water, and good fishing. We love the Bighorn River Lodge! Here are a few shots until next week.

 image0image1 bighorn214bighorn215bighorn216  bighorn217bighorn219 birhorn218

Spain Availability, Alaska Review, & Hemingway