If you have been fly fishing for trout in Wisconsin for any length of time you have probably heard of the Pass Lake Special fly pattern. From what I have been told by others more informed about this pattern than me, it was first tied in the mid-1930s by Rev. E. Stubenvoll, a Lutheran minister from Clintonville, WI. He liked using a white calf tail for wings on many patterns he tied and originally tied this pattern for his fishing trips to Pass Lake, Ontario for big brook trout. As the fly became a big success Stubenvoll decided to name it after the Pass Lake area.
Stubenvoll's son-in-law Mr. Earl Paape of Marion WI began to tie and sell the Pass Lake Specials locally which helped grow the fly's popularity across northern Wisconsin. The original pattern tied by Stubenvoll and Paape was a wet fly tied with a tail of mallard flank, a body of black chenille, a soft brown hen hackle, and a wing of white calf tail tied over the top of the hackle.
In Ross Mueller's book "Flies That Catch Trout", on page #39 Ross describes the Pass Lake Wet Fly. He noted that Stubenvoll tied the calf tail wing IN FRONT of the hackle. While Earl Paape favored the calf tail wing BEHIND the hackle (trude style).
Today, there are many variations of the original Pass Lake fly pattern and they all seem to work. I have seen the pattern tied with peacock herl body and the tails tied with either brown hen hackle to golden pheasant tail. There is also a Pass Lake streamer that I have recently read about but have never seen. Some fly tiers also tie the Pass Lake pattern as a dry fly substituting stiff brown rooster hackle for the hen hackle, as well as a Pass Lake Wulff pattern too.
Pass Lake Special Fly Pattern (Original Recipe)
tied by John Simonson
Hook: Mustad 3906 #8 - #16
Tail: Mallard Flank
Body: Black Chenille
Collar: Brown Hen Hackle
Wing: White Calf Tail
As I mentioned above, today there are many variations to this old classic wet fly pattern.
The Pass Lake Kid
I was also told by a friend, Phil Anderson, about Larry Meicher, who was a long-time member of the Southern Wisconsin chapter of Trout Unlimited and Larry was so devoted to the Pass Lake Special that his friends nicknamed him the "Pass Lake Kid".
As I mentioned above, today there are many variations to this old classic wet fly pattern. Larry Meicher, known also as "Dr. Sausage", was a real devotee of the fly and tied many variations to the Pass Lake fly pattern. Larry's Pass Lake fly box includes two each of a Pass Lake Beadhead Nymph, the Pass Lake Wet Fly (original pattern), a Pass Lake Emerger, the Pass Lake dry fly, a Pass Lake Hexagenia, and the Pass Ant (photo below from Phil Anderson).
For many years Larry taught fly tying classes for Wisconsin Trout Unlimited and shared his passion for tying the Pass Lake Special and his other fly patterns. Larry never claimed or even inferred that he originated the Pass Lake Special pattern. I am told through close friends of Larry that he got his nickname "The Pass Lake Kid" sometime in the early 1980's when he started tying all his Pass Lake fly pattern variations. Some of Larry's Past Lake fly patterns were mentioned in Shawn Perich's book, titled "Fly-Fishing The North Country", published in 2001.
I am told that Larry Meicher's Pass Lake Wet Fly pattern was tied with a golden pheasant tippets for the tail, peacock herl for the body, white calf-tail wing and a furnace hen hackle. For Larry's Pass Lake dry fly pattern he substituted white Antron for the calf tail wing.