I am well aware that I would possibly have caught more trout over the past 30 or so years were it not for one thing. That thing is that I fell hard for feather wing streamers and fishing with them as my primary plan on the rivers and creeks where I spent my time. There were those interludes with dry fly casting when it was quite clear that it was going to be the order of the day and I not only enjoyed my dry fly fishing; I became quite good at it. However, due to my affair with the 'Big Wets', I did not follow any of the trends that came along most of which promised more catching. I never fished a dry with a nymph dropper or any kind of an indicator, go figure........ I just kept throwing those streamers for about 3/5th's of my fishing.
Living in North Central Pennsylvania for many years I learned that there were year round fishing opportunities within my reach. Considering that during the period of time 1970's - 2004, there were 4 very distinct seasons of weather in that part of the country and the dry fly season occupied the minority of the fishing calender. The allure of those pretty flies and the promise of maybe a big fish grabbing them was the Sirens call that beckoned to me. So, tie them and fish then I did. You discover that when you make up a dozen different patterns and load them into a streamer wallet you're going to have to make a decision on which one to try on any given day. Long ago I learned that it was hard to tie an untried pattern to the line when on your last day out you had good results with another fly. But eventually I reached for the 'Nine Three'.
There's a chance that the history behind the name helped with that days choice and so I'll share just a tidbit. The material combination was that of Dr. Hubert Sanborn of Waterville Maine. I am not sure of the year that the man first tied it but I'm thinking Mid 1930's. The story goes that the fly was an un-named Smelt pattern until the originators first fish was caught using it. That fish was weighed at 9 pounds & 3 ounces; a Maine Land Locked Salmon. That was good enough for me and after my first go at using the fly for a full morning I was a believer although I have never caught a fish of such proportions as Dr. Sanborn's first catch.
The original was tied something like what I display below with a simple silver body with an under-wing of buck tail. The hackles were 5 in number and the green were tied flat wing style, 3 of them. Over these were 2 black saddles tie upright and a pair of jungle cock eyes added as cheeks.
I fished this way for years and caught more trout with the Nine Three than I could ever put a number on, but still the originators giant catch eludes me
As time marched on and I became more enamored with the fancier dress of many streamers and steelhead patterns I made a few tweaks to the original pattern and refer to it as Ard's Nine Three. I prefer the 4 hackle wing with all tied upright. I moved the sparse buck tail under wing to a long throat, added an ostrich herl butt and some ribbing on the boy. A topping of black crystal flash brought the pattern into the 21'st Century. All of these morphs occurred in 2005 and were made here in my new home so I don't know if it would be any more effective that the old style. It just seemed to me that I had paid my dues over time and ample homage to the original pattern and felt that the old standby need a makeover.
I am not given to the use of indicators with nymphs or beads but the couple of photos below may attest to the lasting effectiveness of the Feather Wing known as The Nine Three.
There have been many, and I continue to reach for the Nine Three on a regular basis. If you've never given the feather wings a go maybe you should. They are part of the heart & soul of fly fishing in America over the past 80 years.