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WiflyfisherJune 5th, 2007, 4:11 pm

Posts: 663
Over the past weekend it was cold and pouring rain and I decided it was time re-read Gary LaFontaine's "The Dry Fly New Angles". I had not looked at this book in several years and thoroughly enjoyed reading it again.

One of Gary's favorite patterns for large mayflies was called the "Mess". It looks really odd with it's forward slanted wing and hackles, but Gary said he gave up using the extended body imitations on larger mayflies for this pattern and had great success with it. Since I really don't want to tie anymore extended body patterns for the upcoming brown drakes and Hex hatches I decided to whip up some of Gary's pattern called the "Mess".

Gary talked about how the forward slanted wing and flush floating body are major triggers to excite trout into action. His logic makes total sense, although the fly looks really odd. It is the kind of fly you don't want to show off to anyone, but if it works what the heck!

I am curious to know if anyone else has tried this pattern?
John S.
JADJune 5th, 2007, 6:34 pm
Alexandria Pa

Posts: 362

Hi John
I have not used Garys fly but I personally used my own version for quite a few years and is a producer for me.


They fasten red (crimson red) wool around a hook, and fix onto the wool two feathers which grow under a cockís wattles, and which in colour are like wax.
Radcliffe's Fishing from the Earliest Times,
WiflyfisherJune 5th, 2007, 7:49 pm

Posts: 663
Thanks for your response.

Over the years my favorite large mayfly pattern has been an extended body comparadun. ( I had to search far and wide for the right deerhair for tying really good, large comparadun patterns.) This year I vow to use the "Mess". Besides, I am good at tying messy flies. :-)
John S.
InvictaJune 6th, 2007, 10:13 am
Tulare, CA

Posts: 23

I did use the Ďmessí during the mid 90ís for several hatches: Hexagenia, Ephemera and D. grandis. The pattern worked well enough, with a couple of caveats. I substituted teal for the mallard, and sandwiched it between wraps of hackle to add support. Otherwise the teal tended to collapse after a fish, or two. Gary had used the hackle only on the forward portion of the fly. And I changed the tail material to moose mane for durability.

For the Hex hatch it was marginal, not having the size or motion need to match the hatching natural. I found I had better success with the nymph. Those mayflies make an audible Ďpopí and quite a disturbance when they hatch. The Ďmessí didnít come close to matching that performance. For Ephemera I donít think the triggers of the appearance of the body color made any difference as the hatch occurred so late in the day. Shape was more important, and Iím not sure that other patterns would not have worked better. For the Green Drake Iíve gone almost exclusively to the nymph and cripple. There is just too much fishing pressure for other than the best imitation where I fish that hatch.

Hope that helps,

GONZOJune 6th, 2007, 10:53 am
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
Although I seem out of place posting in a "Johns only" thread, I was struck by the similarity of John's (Invicta's) advice and the comments I just posted to Billy about the (Eastern) green drake (Green Drake Hatch Frustrations).

LaFontaine's Mess is an interesting approach to imitating large mayflies, and I'm sure it works well at times. But, like Invicta, I don't find the exaggerated flare of the hackle or the appearance of the body to be universally critical "triggers." The triggering flare theory assumes that the fly always enters the fish's window headfirst, and the body color/translucence theory depends on prevailing light. Like Invicta, I prefer the nymph (wiggle style) or an emerger/cripple that hangs partly below the surface and can be moved. (Both aspects of the emerger/cripple help to attract the trout's attention from a greater distance.)
WiflyfisherJune 6th, 2007, 2:23 pm

Posts: 663
**a "Johns only" thread**

It does appear that way, but your comments are obviously welcome even with out the "John" sig.

Don't get me wrong, my favorite imitations for E. simulans are the wiggle nymphs and emergers. For the H. limbata I prefer emergers and my own extended body comparadun which has been very successful for me in the twilight. I just thought this year I would for the heck of it tie up a few of the "Mess" flies and give it a whirl.

I still have a good supply of my old standbys. :)

John S.
GONZOJune 6th, 2007, 3:10 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681
John, please don't let my comments deter you from giving the LaFontaine Mess a try. Although I'd be surprised if it outperformed the other flies you mention, one never knows. Gary was one of the great fly-fishing innovators, and just because I think a few of his theories are a bit strained or cockeyed doesn't mean I'm not fully prepared to be proven wrong. (I've been known to posit some strained or cockeyed theories myself from time to time.) ;)

Non-John (Lloyd)
InvictaJune 6th, 2007, 4:58 pm
Tulare, CA

Posts: 23

I absolutely agree with Gonzo, by all means try the ĎMessí. I just wanted you to know my views on the pattern Ė my waters here on the West Coast are very much different than your home waters.

WiflyfisherJune 7th, 2007, 7:55 am

Posts: 663
Not a problem guys, I do appreciate the input. They do look awful, but I will try to keep an open-mind.

PS - did end up pulling out my heavy mono and tying a couple more extended body comparaduns for additional backup. :)
John S.
JMarcusSeptember 14th, 2007, 10:32 pm
Bellingham, WA

Posts: 7
Although I'm chiming in in a less than timely manner, I've had rather extensive experience fishing not only the "Mess" but also LaFontaine's absurd looking "Airhead" on hatches of Hexagenia Limbata. "Just for the hell of it" I tied some and tried them. I found that both of them will catch fish as well as the best of all the other Hex imitations I've seen and used, and at times will outfish them! I was flabergasted to find this but couldn't argue with results. I rarely use anything else for the Hex. If they aren't working for you they probably weren't big enough--tie bigger ones. Also, as I've found with most of my flies--they are more effective if tied a bit on the sparse side. Try 'em! They only LOOK ridiculous!

Good luck,
J Marcus

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