The One Feather Fly

So, we’ve established that we love a good click / pawl reel. What about the business end of a fly fishing setup — the fly? As a fly angler who seeks simplicity, here’s a perspective and pattern I always come back to.

“Outdoor pursuits and crafts that I’ve been involved in— from mountaineering and whitewater kayaking to spear fishing and tool making— the progression from novice to master has always been a journey from the complex to the simple. An illustrator becomes an artist when he can convey his message with fewer brush strokes.

Fishing with a fly seems to have gone in the opposite direction: It has become a needlessly complex and expensive pastime where anglers choose from hundreds of fly lines, high-tech rods, and trout reels with drags that can stop a truck. We all know that palming the rim of a reel with a simple click drag can stop any trout or salmon, but the industry has become dependent on building insecurity in the minds of their customers — if we aren’t outfitted with the latest gear and au courant signature fly, can we really be enjoying ourselves? (I must admit that I too have multiple rods and reels and I’ve caught myself cursing for not having the exact fly for that specific stage of that particular mayfly.)”

Yvon Chouinard: Lessons from a Simple Fly, 2016

Meet my favorite simple fly — the CDC “One Feather” Emerger. The name is pretty much the recipe. A hook, a single CDC feather, and thread. It was the first fly I tied that a trout took, I always have it on hand, I can’t recall an outing where I didn’t turn to it, and I didn’t have to rob a museum to get the materials.

I came across the 2007 recipe by Joe Cornwall in 2009, during my self-directed “ok where the hell do I start?” mode of learning how to fly fish and tie. I was intrigued by the simplicity of it and it was my introduction to CDC (thank you Hans Weilenmann for the others).

I emailed Joe the other day. He lives in Florida now and said he’d nearly forgotten that pattern. The Internet never forgets. We won’t either. Thank you Joe.

Here in Colorado, I always roll with size 20 in light gray. Play around with color and size but this is my go to for prospecting.