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The Hornberg Special (Fly Pattern)

First, a confession. The Hornberg - or sometimes the Hornberg Special - is a classic Wisconsin pattern but it is not one that I have used very often. In fact, I had to tie a few up just so I had a few in my fly boxes - and for photos for this blog post.

It is a classic "do everything" fly - much like the Pass Lake or "Pass Lake Special" - it is fished wet or dry. I think of it largely as a streamer but as sort of a "do everything" streamer. Many fish it dry on the upstream then use the current to fish it across the current and then strip it back to them. Or any hundred of other ways to fish the pattern.

The Hornberg is pretty simple - it is a flashy tinsel body, a couple of yellow hackles - though most seem to substitute yellow bucktail for the underbody, a "body" of mallard flank feathers, jungle cock eyes, and somewhat perplexingly for a streamer, "Adams" dry fly hackles (Adams hackles = 1 brown and 1 grizzly for those not familiar with the Adams). There are a ton of places on the internet with the pattern and at least a few with historic information about the pattern (see links at the bottom of this post) but I'd start with John Simonson's Wisconsin Fly Fisher site and the Hornberg Special page.

I highlight the pattern mostly because it is a Wisconsin original. While it is a Wisconsin original, it seems Mainers are particularly fond of The Hornberg. It is such a Maine staple that the The Maine Mag lists it first in their list of flies.

As with any other successful fly pattern, there are about a billion variation (OK, maybe not that many but an awful lot!). Most of the variations are pretty minor changes that involve changing the underbody color from yellow to something else or replacing the mallard flank with another species of duck. And some of the alterations are much more significant - like the streamer and dry fly versions below.

As I mentioned, it is not a pattern I have a ton of familiarity with fishing but it is one of the first patterns that I knew of. It is one of those old, versatile patterns that can be fished in many different ways. I'll be interesting in people's experiences with this fly.

My Hornbergs
Versions of the Hornberg Special that I tied. I bet I've not tied them in 25+ years.

As always, I give (too) many links so you can sort things out for yourself. Here are a number of variations on the Hornberg Special and articles about the pattern.


From the comments, I'll share the Loeberg - a California fly that I was unaware of. Keep the variations coming and I'll continue to add them.

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I see you don't have a bumblebee in your box. I always find it hard to believe that scientists don't know where female bumblebees hibernate over the long, cold Winters now that the female bumblebees are on the Endangered List. Last week I got a letter from a "donate" environmental organization to protect bees that last year people had donated over $500,000,000 and the bee scientists still don't know where the female bumblebee hibernates in Winter.

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I'm from the left coast of this country. The state that would be your first guess is correct. Anyway, I have a bad habit of using 100 words when 10 would suffice. Sorry.

In the Sierras, we use a fly called a Loeberg. I have had great luck in McGee Creek with this fly. McGee flows into Crowley Lake and the Loeberg is said to imitate the Sacramento Perch that feed the trout. Tom Loe used to guide the Eastern Sierra but has since moved on (to Oregon, I think). The Loeberg is just a Hornberg with Olive dyed flank. I have memories of a couple of 20" cutthroat I caught with that fly near the mouth of McGee, w…

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Thanks, dty. I added the Loeberg to the post. It's an interesting variation I was not aware of. I've long enjoyed his site.

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“ I see you don’t have any Haaaahnbaaahgs in your box. I guess you don’t like catching fish.

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