ALL FRESH WATER trout Fly Fisherman should have themselves a ready supply of these bad-to-the-bone surface flies. Not only fun and easy to tie, the Royal Coachman is a classic top-water pattern that has long stood the test of time.
It’s also a perfect search fly — use it whenever you find yourself on some water where you don’t know what’s going on for dinner. If you can’t see or figure out the hatch, the Royal Coachman might still drum up a little surface action before you resort to a subsurface search fly, like the woolly bugger or Rabbit-hair nymph.
Coachmans are killers for Brook Trout and Rainbows. I’ve had Brook Trout go positively nuts on them. The wily Brown Trout will also fall prey, even when it’s not terrestrial season — though I’m certain to see arguments on that claim. I’ve landed fat browns with Coachmans spring, summer and fall.
The only time I don’t use them is during the cold and miserable winter months, but who wants to fish then, anyways? That’s a rhetorical question for any real fisherman out there!
The classic Royal Coachman Trude. Note the tail is Golden Pheasant tippets, the red floss body is quite fat and the hackles are all ginger. There’s a wide variety to the Royal Coachman pattern and all are great!
Here’s what you need: #10, #12 and #14, 3X dry fly barbless hook (2X hook length will work too, but not as easy); a nice shock of deer hair, length of hair about 2 or 3″ long, or Golden Pheasant tippets* (which I prefer). Bright green peacock hurl; medium red silk floss (but not flourescent!); some nice White calf hair, about the same as the deer hair in length; badger and/or ginger hackle (get the best you can afford); fly tying cement and black 3.0 tying thread.
Note: Using cement, I make a special effort to add durability with the Royal Coachman, since the strikes are so vicious.
First, start your thread at the top and work down to about 1/8″ from the bend of the hook. Make a base and tie in a bundle of the deer hair or Golden Pheasant tippets here. If you use hair, don’t put too much pressure on the thread or it will flair out. Remember, this is not a Bass fly! Run the thread forward. Add a tiny drop of cement to the base of the hair after you trim it neatly. Run a tad of cement along where the hurl will go.
Tie in a peacock hurl at the base of the tail. Wrap it across the wet cement in a tight bundle about 1/5 the size of the hook. Tie in the red floss and then work the thread forward in a nice base. Run a little cement along this. Wrap the floss about 1/4 of the hook shank and don’t hesitate to add enough to make it look fairly fat. Tie that off and trim the excess. Tie in another peacock hurl for the front bundle on a base of thread and glue (I like the front one to be slightly smaller than the rear).
At this point you should have 1/3rd of the hook left. See why 3X hooks are best for this pattern?
After this last blob of hurl, tie in a “wing,” or small bundle of White calf hairs on the top, extending to the rear and over the last peacock hurl. This version is called the Trude, after the A. S. Trude Ranch in Idaho where Carter Harrison first tied it — all the way back in 1906!
After neatly trimming the base of the wing, add another touch of cement to where the hairs are tied in. Advance the thread to make a base for the hackle and go back. Tie in the hackles. I prefer 1 badger and 1 ginger. Wrap them together so they mix a bit. Tie them down with a half-hitch. Whip finish a nice head. You can add a touch of glossy head cement or epoxy to add to the bugginess, but a small head and regular cement will be just fine.
Viola! You now have yourself a nice fly. Tie a dozen or so, nice ones and you’ll always have the perfect top-water search fly in your box.
To make it even more durable, besides the strategic touches of cement, tie in a piece of black thread with the peacock hurl before you wrap it. Also, put a short piece of thin gold wire and run this in a wide spiral down the red floss body to keep it from fraying too much from the toothy strikes you’re sure to get!
You can also do variations, such as changing the White calf hair wing to 2 small white wings buried inside the hackle area or 2 bundles of calf hair in a upright wing design, should you be proficient at this technique. Or just tie the White hair or even feathers as a single bushy parachute inside the hackles (seen in the top illustration). Also, many prefer to use only ginger hackle, like in the photo of the fly above.
— Phillip Marlowe
*Deer or other hair like Muskrat is more durable than Golden Pheasant tippets and seem to work just fine. Many claim the Pheasant tippets look like shucked larvae skin and will vehemently argue the point, so be careful broaching the subject with other opinionated tiers. I just think the black tipped Golden-yellow feathers look cooler and that’s more than enough for me!