I like old patterns. Something nostalgic is awakened when you tie on one of the classic flies from the last century or the century before. That link with the past offers reassurance and knowledge if a fly has been around for this long it must catch fish. So my fly boxes bulge with old-stagers either in their original, undiluted form or with the addition of newer materials. Sure, I have lots of glittery/flashy/fluorescent newbies in there too but I often resort to using the old lads and will continue to do so, basking in their reflected glory. Here is one that you all know but maybe have not fished for a while. The Soldier Palmer.
It is widely described as a variant of a very old fly called the Red Palmer which is thought to be a copy of a hairy caterpillar. The simple addition of a red tail turned that fly into something much, much more effective. I used to have great success with this fly for rainbows back in Scotland and have no reason to doubt that it still kills ‘bows back in my native land. I even recall catching a rainbow on a Soldier palmer fished dry one evening! The trout were rising all round me but I couldn’t tempt one until I greased up a size 12 soldier and fished it static. Sure enough, a two pounder slurped it down, saving a blank for me. Here in Ireland I use it for a very different species, Salmo Salar. Tied in big sizes for the roughest days a Soldier Palmer can be just the medicine for springers and grilse alike. Go as big as you dare, size 4 is about my normal but there are one or two even bigger in my box, just in case…………..
Most of you know the dressing already so I won’t bore you with the details of tying the fly but here are a few tips which I think are important. Firstly, the colour of the body and tail need to be a bright red, not dull and lifeless. I have seen the body tied with florescent wool but this is a step too far for me. Just bright vermillion red wool is perfect. A fl. tail is good though.Next the colour of the hackles needs to be a deep, rich, dark ginger shade. I don’t mind if the hackles are a wee bit too dark but find lighter ginger does not work for me. Lastly, I use an additional hackle at the head to give the fly a better shape.
The Soldier Palmer is a great fly for spate rivers like this one
Do not be tempted by such fripperies as bodies made of Peacock herl, red Lite-brite or (heaven forbid) flat red tinsel. If you really must interfere with this old timer try adding a wing of gold flashabou. I have not tried this variant for Salmon but Scottish rainbows used to push each other out of the way to snaffle this gaudy creation.
The only drawback I can see with the SP is that it proves to be next to irresistible to Perch. These little stripy fellows absolutely love the palmer and can be a real nuisance when you are trying for bigger game.
The grilse are due any day now so think about giving the old Soldier Palmer a swim.