The giant stonefly and Max Christensen’s Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

In Flylife Magazine Spring 2008, I wrote an article on the Mersey River in Northern Tasmania. Within this article I spoke of hatches of giant stoneflies, and the large bouyant dry flies used to imitate the adult insect – flies such as our WMD Hopper, or the slightly more crass Chernobyl Ant. Well, it appears that this is a hatch that hasn’t passed through time completely un-noticed.
A couple of weeks ago I was lucky to receive a parcel in the mail from well know fly-fisherman Rick Keam, detailing the history of Max Christensen’s Bloody Mary fly, a popular wet fly used even today among the highland lakes of Tasmania. In Rick’s own words:

‘Few people today know that he (Max) developed it as an impressionistic imitation of those same stoneflies. It is still around of course, but nobody ties it with the really long, raked-back hackles it originally featured’

Of even more interest in the parcel were two items: an excerpt of an article written by David Scholes on the Bloody Mary, originally published in the Anglers Digest during the late 1960’s, and three Bloody Mary flies tied to correct proportions for me to try.

From the Anglers Digest, Scholes writes:

‘But every so often a real gem comes to light, a fly that either answers some long-standing need, or, by virtue of it’s success just as a nondescript, is a contribution of definite value to the sport…Without question the Bloody Mary is such a fly.’ ‘Max Christensen’s thoughts were first stirred when he considered the larval and adult stages of large stoneflies and wondered how to best imitate them. Bloody Mary is the result of much subsequent trial, error, and careful experimentation. I have no doubt that, in addition to achieving this aim, Max has accidentally evolved a most remarkable general-purpose fly which, so far as I can see, will work successfully at any time, so long as it is fished correctly.’

Isn’t it interesting how the future is often rediscovering the discoveries of the past? My questions in parting is this: if Max was seeing enough stoneflies to prompt thought, it is most likely that he was fishing the Chudleigh Lakes or the Mersey River, two modern-day hotspots for giant stonefly activity. The thing is, these fisheries were barely mentioned by the friends of Max such as David Scholes. So where was Max fishing – was it way out west in the Chudliegh Lakes, or perhaps deep among one of the Mersey’s great gorges, well before either became modern-day icon fisheries?