The Carey Special by Bill Jollymore (Fly Tying)

Picture the scene - sometime around the early 1930’s a retired British Army Colonel is fishing Arthur Lake, one of a chain of lakes north of Falkland, British Columbia which includes Spanish, Spa, Pillar, and Bolean.

His patience is stressed beyond acceptable. Constantly rising trout taking what he believes are dragonfly nymphs hatching in the surface tension.

His fly boxes show no close imitations.

Necessity being the mother of invention, he seats himself at his traveling fly tying kit and shortly removes an acceptable fly from the vise.

fly flies carey special original super carey fishing

The fly has a short stubby tail of groundhog tail hairs. A body of the same is wound around the hook shank. The black waxed linen thread becomes a ribbing wound in reverse.

Groundhogs were in great abundance at the time. Their tail hairs were used in flies after Bill nation used it in the Grey Nymph and Green Nymph. The original Halfback wore a tail, wing case, and legs of the same product.

Then finally the primary ingredient of the formula - two saddle hackles from a Ring Neck Chinese Cock Pheasant hackle wound full and tips flowing to the end of the fly.

These feathers are reddish-brown, brown, flecked grey, and some with shades of green, all acceptable.

The fly worked.

The fly became one of the most popular in B.C. and reached lakes in the distant corners of the Northwest and Western Prairie Provinces and States.

The British Army colonel brainchild whose name was attached to the fly was Carey.

His first name is not known, but Tom has been advanced with no validation. The original name of the fly was “The Dredge” based on one of the methods of fishing it. At the same time, “The Monkey Faced Louise” name surfaced for unknown reasons, as there seems to be no relationship in appearance, and certainly not to
the method of fishing it.

The official name finally became “The Carey Special.”

In some places, it is shown as “The Carey’s Special,” the apostrophe showing possessive credit. I have been tying and fishing this fly just shy of 60 years and it has always been “The Carey Special” to me.

Much speculation once circulated about the history. Major Tommy Brayshaw, a retired British Army Major, set forth the possibility of the Chinese Pheasant saddle hackle having been seen before by the Colonel in the Pazooka or Knouff Lake

This pattern has a lighter dressed hackle, using only two turns of a single feather.
Today this fly is seldom seen in the fly boxes of the current crop of fly anglers. The trend for some 30 years is the exact imitation and the questionable injection of plastic and other synthetic materials. The fly still performs in all its forms.

At one time it was the most popular fly in B.C.

To establish a time frame of the development and variations of the fly would be difficult, if not impossible. However, challenges like this I try to take head-on.

To further illustrate this, a challenge came to find a wife who enjoyed fly fishing as
much as I; was a capable a fly caster, and reader of hatches and water; and enjoyed the difficult task of taking the Atlantic salmon on the fly. I was successful, so I will try this.

The first pattern was the version with groundhog hair. Next came the “Self Carey” or the “Self-Bodied Carey”.

Only one type of feather was used for the hackle, tail, and body.

The body of brown wool would fit in here.

Next, the Olive Chenille and Peacock Herl bodies. This is a good version.

Then came the rainbow versions: green, red, yellow, silver and gold tinsel.

Everyone with a fly tying vise has had their own “Special Carey”.

Fishing “The Fly”:

Originally, and for a good reason, this fly was called “The Dredge.” At the time of origination, floating and sinking lines had to wait another 25 years to be invented.

However, the idea is to sink the fly close to the bottom. Retrieve in 4”-5” pulls letting it settle between pulls dredging the bottom areas. Trolling is best in a boat that is rowed. Pull on the oars, wait; another pull, stop. Both of these methods do one thing, make the hackle compress tightly then open on the stop. This causes undulation of the hackle.

No matter the color or material of the body, the common thread to all versions is the long hackle and the undulation factor. My favorite version is the Peacock herl body. There is something magical to Rainbow trout about the iridescent sheen of
Peacock herl.



original carey fly flies tying tie fish trout
Hook: #6 wet fly hook
Thread: Black- 3/0-6/0
Body: Groundhog tail wrapped on hook shank
Ribbing: Coarse black thread wound reverse
Tail: Groundhog tail hair, short
Hackle: two large Chinse Ring Neck Pheasant saddle hackles wound full


self-carey carey fly nymph wet dry fishing tied
Body: Pheasant saddle hackle feathers
Tail: same as body

Hackle: as original

- written by Bill Jollymore


  • I got my lies from Steve Raymonds book "Kamloops " in which Tommy Brayshaw says this (p139) He (Colonel Carey) started the fly when camped at Arthur Lake and I think dressed it for a dragonfly nymph". Hence the name “Carey Special”.

    Garry Needoba
  • Every fly angler used a Carey Special when fishing the many small lakes in eastern Washington and North Idaho during the second half of the last century. At least that’s what I’m told.

    I haven’t seen them in fly shop bins for many years. But they are easy to tie using a variety of body materials. My favorite is home-spun wool yarn obtained from a small sweater shop in the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland.

    Thanks for bringing back this old favorite.

    Give them a try. They work!

    Bill Love
  • I remember trolling this fly as a kid when my dad and I went to the interior of the province from Vancouver, it was just crazy . The fly I used had a red body and was wrapped with red brown pheasant rump feather.

    George Phillips

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