Not long ago, it dawned on me that I’d never caught a trout on a Royal Coachman, perhaps the most famous of all classic dry fly patterns. So I headed to a local Class A wild trout stream and purposed to change that. It was literally a downpour, but the trout were cooperative. Within a few minutes, I caught my first ever trout on a Royal Coachman. Although that fish was a wild rainbow, the second was a native brookie, and somehow, my life as a fly fisherman felt a little more complete!
The Royal Coachman is a derivative of the Coachman, sometimes referred to as the Leadwing Coachman, which was at one time a hugely popular wet fly. The fly became “royal” in 1878 when John Hailey, perhaps America’s first supplier of fly tying materials, added the red silk body. The original intent was to make the fly more durable, but there’s no denying that most fish also find red incredibly attractive.
The Leadwing Coachman, at one time, was the most popular fly in North America.
The fly was dubbed the “Royal Coachman” by Charles Orvis, the uncle of Mary Orvis, who named it based on its regal appearance. Within a few years after its development, the Royal Coachman proved its worth on brown trout, especially big brown trout, which had also recently arrived in North America.
The Royal Coachman was created by adding a body of red silk to a Leadwing Coachman. It quickly proved effective on brown trout!
In the 1890s, Theodore Gordon began revisiting many classic wet fly patterns and “reimagining” them as dry flies. One of those was the Royal Coachman. Gordon added a pair of male wood duck, white breast feathers for the wings, creating the Fan Wing Royal Coachman.
The Fan Wing Royal Coachman was created by Theodore Gordon of Quill Gordon dry fly fame.
Since Gordon’s Fan Wing version, Royal Coachman flies of all styles have been tied and used to catch fish the world over. It has been tied as a Bi-Visible, a Trude, a Wulff, a streamer, a parachute, and every other style imaginable. But here’s the thing: they all work!
Royal Coachman Wulff
Royal Coachman Streamer
In the nearly 200 years since its invention, the Coachman is still a deadly wet fly pattern, but the Royal Coachman is no doubt the most popular and recognizable fly in history. It has been used to catch fish all over the world, and even those who don’t fish at all often recognize the Royal Coachman. And that’s exactly what makes it a classic fly pattern!
Here’s the video I made that day I first used the Royal Coachman. Hope you’ll check it out and drop a line to let me know about your favorite classic attractor fly pattern!
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