Know Your Pattern: H and L Variant

H and L Variant is a new fly. At least to me. I picked up the fly several weeks ago at a fly shop near Winter Park, Colorado. Frankly, I had not even heard of the H and L Variant until a friend put me on to it. Shows what I know.

H and L Variant

The H and L Variant is no new fly, of course. Here is a snapshot of this oldie but goodie:

1. How it originated

I cannot verify this, but R.C. Coffman (a western Colorado fly fisher) ostensibly tied the first H and L Variant. He apparently sold so many of the fly in the mid-to-late 1950s to President Eisenhower that he (Coffman) said he was able to buy a “house and a lot” (thus the “H” and “L”) on the Fryingpan River in Colorado.

Sounds apocryphal to me.

Using today’s math and valuations, Coffman would have likely had to sell $100,000 worth of $2 flies to buy even a small piece of real estate along the Fryingpan River.

I bet that Coffman was a really good story-teller. He certainly created a fly for the ages.

2. How is it designed?

I am certainly no fly-tying expert but when I saw the H and L Variant for the first time, it reminded me of the Royal Coachman chassis. Like the Royal Coachman dry fly, the H and L Variant has calf-tail wings and a body of peacock herl. According to Skip Morris, the H and L Variant body is created by partially stripping a peacock quill and wrapping it so “the bare quill forms the rear half of the body and the fiber-covered quill the front half.”

The other distinguishing feature is its calf-tail-hair tail, which along with its calf-tail-hair wings, gives it its buoyancy.

3. Why it works

The H and L Variant is what is known as a “rough water” fly.

That is, as one writer put it, “this fly floats like a cork.” It sits nice and high in swift-moving current and stays dry. I also love the fly’s visibility in low light. One writer called its calf-hair wings and tail “white beacons.” They are. And my middle-aged eyes appreciate it!

I should state the obvious: the H and L Variant is an attractor pattern, generally, though I did see at least one fly fisher mention that he uses the fly as a Green Drake imitation on western rivers, such as the Roaring Fork and Colorado.

4. When to use it

I’ve made the H and L Variant one of my go-to attractor patterns when I want to surface evening risers. I did that recently on the Fall River in Rocky Mountain National Park. I had caught several brook trout on Caddis emergers but not on a dry fly Caddis or a Purple Haze pattern, two of my favorites. Stumped, I tied on the H and L Variant, and within ten minutes I had my first brookie on a dry fly.

The H and L Variant is more visible (at least it is to me) than any other attractor pattern. So, if you are fishing small, swift-moving streams or rough water, this is the fly.

The H and L Variant Name

I do not mean any disrespect to Mr. Coffman, but name H and L Variant is just about the most clunky name for a fly that I can imagine. But I tip my hat to him for creating a dry fly classic with a rich legacy and a bright future.

Other Flies in the “Know Your Pattern” Series

    The Royal Coachman

    The San Juan Worm

    The Parachute Adams

S3:E10 Fishing the Dead Zones

Dead zones are those seasons of the year and times of the day when fishing will be unproductive. It’s important to know that as a new fly fisher. If you spend your first few times on the river during a fly fishing dead zone, you might think fishing is harder than it really is. In this episode, we discuss a few dead zones to avoid.

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Listen now to “Fishing during the Dead Zones”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Where did you disagree with us on the dead zones? What have we missed? Tell us your best story during a dead zone.

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S3:E9 Fishing the Colorado High Country

Colorado high country makes for an amazing backdrop for a day on the river. We each take at least one trip to Colorado each year to fly fish, and the creeks and lakes we fish typically are in the Colorado high country. Most recently Dave was in Colorado fishing with one of Steve’s brothers, and besides the two yearling moose that wouldn’t leave them alone, they had a terrific day. Click now to listen to “Fishing the Colorado High Country.”

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Listen now to “Fishing the Colorado High Country”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Any favorite places to fish in Colorado? Or elsewhere? We’d love to hear about your great days on the water.

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To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E8 One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek

Wisel Creek is a gorgeous spring creek fishery with a tragic past. On August 6, 1866, a flash flood destroyed a community, killing 16 men, women and children in Preble Township, Fillmore County, Minnesota. Today, it’s hard to imagine that this quiet creek could flood anything. On a whim, after a no-fish day on another stream, we decided to fish the evening rise on Wisel Creek, which we had never fished before. And what an evening it was! Listen now to this episode.

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Listen now to “One Fine Evening on Wisel Creek”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

We’d love to hear about a recent “one fine day” that you’ve had on the river. Please tell us your story below. What surprised you about the fishing?

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To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E7 Fly Fishing Persistence and When to Quit

Fly fishing persistence is necessary if you want to catch fish. Wind, rain, cold, snow – fly fishers know the truism that the worst weather is often the best for fishing. There are times to persist. Make another cast. Walk another mile. Change up your rig one more time. And then there are times to call it quits. In this episode, we attempt to ballpark the times when persistence pays off – and when it’s time to go home.

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Listen now to “Fly Fishing Persistence and When to Quit”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

When did you stick it out – and have a banner day? What principles do you have for making a decision about when to fish and when to go home? We’d love to hear your stories and how you made decisions.

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Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E6 Getting Ready to Fly Fish

Getting ready to fly fish is slower for some than it is for others. Some of you jump out of the truck, don your waders in an instant, rig up, and are on your way. Others are more methodical (read: slow) as they get ready to fly fish. Steve is slow. Dave is slow but not quite as slow as Steve. In this episode on “Getting Ready to Fly Fish,” we describe some of our habits before we step into the river.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Getting Ready to Fly Fish”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

What are your habits as you get ready to fly fish? How to you make the transition from the truck to the river? We’d like to hear about your disciplines and quirks!

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Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E5 Blogger Matthew Lourdeau on Fly Fishing Culture

Fly fishing culture is what you experience every time you walk into a fly shop. The shop monkey speaks a different language – mending, nymphs, attractors, hare’s ear, streamers, mid-flex, and thousands of other strange words. Fly fishing culture also creates a wonderful esprit de corp among others who have taken up the sport. In this episode, we interview Matthew Lourdeau, a fly fishing blogger, who writes Casting Across, a delightful blog that takes a wide perspective at the sport, all the stuff on the periphery that adds to the experience of getting after the fish.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “Matthew Lourdeau on Fly Fishing Culture”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

What is your connection to the fly fishing culture? How did the culture help you grow in the sport? What did you read? What media helped you most? Also, what funny stories can you tell of learning to become a fly fisher?

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Casting Across

Be sure to follow Matthew on his blog, Casting Across.

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E4 The Art of Fly Fishing Alone

Fly fishing alone may be the norm for many fly fishers. Not everyone has a buddy. And even if you do, you’ll want, on some days, to head to the river by yourself. In this episode, we discuss the solitude that goes with fly fishing alone, its benefits, and some of its challenges. Click now to listen to “The Art of Fly Fishing Alone

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “The Art of Fly Fishing Alone”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Do you fish mostly by yourself? What do you like about fly fishing alone? What are its benefits? Any recommendations on what has helped you stay safe?

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To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    Why I Fly Fish

    “Bad Weather, Great Day”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E3 Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes

Summer fly fishing can be hit or miss. Summer is here, and in this episode, we list the joys and woes of summer fly fishing. One joy of summer fishing is wet wading – less clothes. One woe is the family vacation. Click now to listen to “Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes.”

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Listen now to “Summer Fly Fishing Joys and Woes”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

What do you love about summer fly fishing? When have you had the most success during the summer? What tips would you offer summer fly fishing warriors to improve their time on the water?

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

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Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    “Summer Fly Fishing without Losing It”

    “Winter Fly Fishing without Losing It”

    “The Promise of Fall Fly Fishing”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!

S3:E2 7 Tips for Better Fly Casting

Fly casting is the first skill that newbies learn. Every Trout Unlimited chapter and every fly shop offers classes. Yet, until a fly fisher hits the river, it’s all academic. There it gets messy. There may be precious little room for one’s back cast or the only approach to the run is at an awkward angle. In this episode on fly casting, we scare up seven tips to help fly fishers improve their cast.

fly fishing persistence

Listen now to “7 Tips for Better Fly Casting”

Great Stuff from Our Listeners. At the end of each episode, we often include a feature called “Great Stuff from Our Listeners.” It’s the last portion of each episode, where Steve reads one of the comments from our listeners or readers. We enjoy hearing from you, and appreciate your advice, wisdom, and fly fishing experience.

Do you have a quick tip to help aspiring and beginner fly fishers with their casting? We’d love to hear it. Please post your comments below.

Download a Podcast App on Your Smartphone

Be sure to subscribe to our podcast feed. You can do that on your smartphone or tablet by downloading a podcast app. The most common app used by 2 Guys feed subscribers is “Podcasts.”

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Subscribe to 2 Guys and A River2 Guys and A River

To see every episode that we’ve published, click on “Every Episode” on the top navigation.

Other Articles and Podcasts on the Topic

    “Trouble with the Cast”

    “Casting Upstream or Downstream?”

    “Fly Fishing Physics 101”

Our Sponsor

For this episode, we are the Sponsor!

We’ve published a book called, The Fly Fisher’s Book of Lists: Life is short. Catch more fish.

We like to say it is a book of bite-sized snacks. Maybe even like a handful of potato chips. It’s an entire book of lists. The goal is to help you find practical help quickly and in an easily digestible format!

Visit Amazon to get your copy today!