Western Coachman at the Vise

The Western Coachman is without question my favorite fly pattern, and I never fish without a few size 14 Westerns in my fly box. I've caught many species of bream and black bass; five species of trout; black crappie; and even golden shiners, chain pickerel and bowfins on the pattern. Although the Western is not as old as some of the other historic patterns I also favor, like the Partridge and Orange or Irish Invicta, it is of some historic significance.

The Western Coachman was designed by Buz Buszek of Visalia, California in either 1939 or 1940 originally as a local pattern for taking rainbow and brown trout in the Kings River of the Sierras to the east of Fresno. Mr. Buszek owned Buz's Fly Shop for many years in Visalia, and the Buz Buszek Memorial Award that is presented each year by the International Federation of Fly Fishers to the person who has made significant contributions to the arts of fly tying was named for him. He patterned the Western Coachman after the wet version of the Orvis Company's Royal Coachman, which was designed in 1878. The various Coachman designs, including the Royal Wulff, Royal Stimulator and others, are ancestors of the original Coachman that was designed in the 1830s by the driver or coachman for the Royal Family of England. Not only was the first of these patterns named after the coachman but the color of brown hackle used in the pattern also remains referred to as coachman brown.

Buz first used white African impala hair for the wing in the fly, but had difficulty getting supplies of the material and changed to hair from white calf tails he acquired from local dairies. This source of material apparently was also not dependable, and he settled on white hair from the side of mule deer as the wing in the pattern by the early 1940s. His purpose was to market the fly and the pattern received a boost in 1949 when the Pacific Coast Olive Company purchased 2,000 Western Coachmans from Buz to use in a company promotion. They offered a coupon with purchase of olives that could be mailed into the company to receive one of Buz's Western Coachman in a special small metal box. He later began providing the pattern to the Orvis Company to carry in their stock of fly patterns. The most reliable source of the Western Coachman today is at your own vise.

  • Hook: Daiichi 1550, #12 - 20
  • Thread: Black Danville's 6/0 or Gudebrod 8/0
  • Tail: Golden pheasant tippet
  • Body: Peacock herl with gold wire rib
  • Wing: White dear hair
  • Hackle: Coachman brown Indian rooster neck or Whiting coachman brown hen saddle
  • Head: Black thread

Tying the Western Coachman as follows:

1. Tie thread in with a jam knot behind the hook eye and wrap to mid-point of the shank, making sure to counter-spin the thread to flatten and lay each wrap side by side for a flat thread base. Tie gold wire in on bottom side of shank and wrap thread to rear tie-in point, approximately mid-way between hook point and barb.

2. Tie tippet barbs cut from one third of cape feather in for tail. Barb tips should be even and tied in on top of hook shank at rear tie-in point. The black band on tippet barbs should show behind first thread wrap. Stubs should extend forward to approximately the 50% point of shank. Wrap thread forward to tie in tippet barbs and then wrap thread back to rear tie-in point, holding barb tips up with middle finger and thumb of left hand to keep tail on top of shank. Make one thread wrap under and behind barb tips and one wrap over barbs at rear tie-in point.

3. Tie 1 to 5 barbs of peacock herl (depending on fullness of herl and hook size) in on bottom side of shank at rear tie-in point and wrap forward to approximately the 75% point of shank. Tie the herl in on bottom side of shank with two thread wraps. Wrap gold wire rib forward in five wraps in same direction as herl to front of herl and finish tying down both rib and herl on bottom of shank to hook eye. Hold herl ends between middle finger and thumb of right hand while holding thread up with left hand and snap rearward to break herl at thread and without leaving stubs. Wiggle wire rib till it breaks at thread in similar manner. Wrap thread back to front tie-in point of herl; thread should hang at 25% point of shank behind eye.

4. Tie hackle in with barbs stripped from stub of shaft on bottom side of shank at herl front tie-in point. Top side of hackle should face forward; bare feather shaft should extend to just behind eye when tied in. Wrap hackle forward four wraps, each wrap in front of the last, and tie off under shank by wrapping thread forward to hook eye and back to front tie-in point of hackle. Hold tip of hackle between middle finger and thumb to snap rearward and snap feather shaft at thread without leaving shaft stub. Remove remaining feather barbs at thread (behind eye) with needle nose pliers.

5. Stack wing of white deer hair and tie in at front tie in point of the hackle. Tips of the hair wing should extend to rear of hook bend and stubs of hair should be cut evenly to terminate behind eye. Hold wing between middle finger and thumb of left hand on top of shank until completely tied in. Counter spin the thread to extreme so that the thread will lie back over the wing base. Make two loose thread wraps over base of wing and tighten by pulling thread up to compress hair wing down between fingers on top of shank. This will form the rear of the head. Thread should be flattened and wrapped to eye and rearward until all white hair stubs are covered, forming a flattened thread base and finished head.

6. Complete head with five whip finish thread wraps from rear of head to eye and cement.




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