THE FLIES OF SUMMER
100 Fly Patterns Guide Flies Northern Rockies Best Patterns Southern Rockies Favorite Flies Upper Midwest Flies You Need New England Trout Ponds Pro Patterns Pacific Northwest Trout and Bass Flies The Southeast
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SUMMER 2019 • VOLUME 25, NUMBER 2 • WWW.FLYTYER.COM
Features 20 Pro Patterns for the Pacific Pacific Northwest
Northwest Trout Trail
GLENN ZINKUS Whether you prefer fishing rivers or lakes, our author tells us what the region’s best anglers use to keep their lines tight and reels screaming.
28 Selecting a Summer Combo
Columns 2 Editor’s Bench
DAVID KLAUSMEYER Happy Birthday, North Country Angler!
5 First Wraps
BILL “BUGS” LOGAN It’s Just This Simple, a very special salmon fly, and more.
Northern Rocky Mountains
AL & GRETCHEN BEATTY Our craft’s favorite fly tying duo offer sage advice for selecting the best combinations of patterns for fishing the Yellowstone River and other fabled waters.
36 Go (South)West, The American Southwest
AL RITT From California to the Southern Rocky Mountains, this vast region offers a lifetime’s worth of terrific fishing. Our author shares the tips and patterns we need to succeed.
46 Flies for a Midwest Summer
14 Match the Hatch IGOR & NADICA STANCEV The Blue Bottle
68 Materials Notebook MIKE CLINE How to Design a New Fishhook
Great Lakes Region
JERRY DARKES The Upper Midwest offers a wealth of opportunities for catching trout, bass, pike, and more. Use these flies and you will catch fish—guaranteed!
54 Favorite Flies for Fishing Down Dixie Way
TIM FLAGLER Pro Tips for Tying with Foam
80 Reader Favorites DAVID KLAUSMEYER
Matching the hatch on the fly. Photo by Barry & Cathy Beck.
SETH FIELDS Whether you prefer casting to trout or bass, our author says you’ll have more fun—and perhaps catch more fish—if you make variations to older established patterns.
62 Best Flies & Tactics for New England
Fishing Trout Ponds
DAVID KLAUSMEYER New England’s trout ponds are an overlooked fly fishing secret. While other anglers crowd the region’s rivers and streams, our editor usually has the still waters—and their trout—all to himself. Learn what flies and techniques he uses to catch fish—but keep it to yourself!
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by David Klausmeyer GROUP
Happy 50 th Birthday,
NORTH COUNTRY ANGLER
ly Tyer started with humble beginnings in the small town of North Conway, New Hampshire, in 1978. A gentleman named Dick Surette, the proprietor of Dick Surette’s Fly Shop, was this magazine’s first publisher. Over the years, both Fly Tyer and North Conway’s legendary fly shop, now called North Country Angler, have changed hands many times. Last year was Fly Tyer magazine’s 40th anniversary, and this year North Country Angler is celebrating 50 years of continuous business. “I’ve have been the caretaker here for two and a half years,” said Steve Angers, the shop’s current proprietor. “The original fly shop, which Dick Surette opened in 1969, is right across the street from where we are today. The building once had a fake log-cabin façade, which has long been replaced, but it’s the same place. That’s where Fly Tyer magazine started. “In addition to running his shop,” Steve continued, “Dick was the first to market small bags of fly tying materials with cards showing the completed flies. Next, he published a loose-leaf binder of fly patterns that was so popular he decided to start the magazine. After Dick had such great success with Fly Tyer, he sold the shop to Dick Stewart, who eventually took over the publication and then started American Angler magazine. There have been other owners between Dick Stewart and when I took over the fly shop and changed the name to North Country Angler, but it has been a going concern for half a century.” North Conway, New Hampshire, nestled in the White Mountains, is a winter playground for skiers. During warmer summer months, the area features some very fine fly fishing.
John Lunn ASSOCIATE
Michael Floyd (706) 823-3739 • firstname.lastname@example.org EDITOR
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Seth Fields ADVERTISING PRODUCTION COORDINATOR
“We want to celebrate the shop’s fiftieth anniversary, but we also want to celebrate the role of fly fishing in the Mount Washington Valley and the White Mountains,” Steve said. “The valley has a great fishery, and it also has a terrific fly fishing history. So much has been developed here with respect to fly fishing and tying. “The Saco River is our main fishery. The shop has played an instrumental role in making the Saco a fly fishing destination for so many anglers. It contains brown trout, some measuring thirty inches long. Catching one of those trout is a challenge, but every season someone does land a twenty-eight- to thirty-inchlong fish. That’s pretty exciting! “In the White Mountains, we have what some biologists consider the last bastion of the Eastern brook trout. There are a lot of headwater streams above two thousand feet containing these native fish. The millennials especially enjoy this type of fishing. They hike into the mountains, fish all day, and are none the worse for wear.” I pointed out to Steve that his business might be the oldest fly shop in existence in the eastern half of the United States. “I’ve thought about it, and I even called the American Fly Tackle Trade Association about this, and no one can think of another fly shop in this half of the country that has been in business for half a century.” Steve is busy planning celebrations for the North Country Angler’s 50th anniversary—and the area’s terrific fly fishing— for this September. Stay posted on these events at www.northcountryangler.com, and follow the North Country Angler on Facebook.
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Linda W. Wood
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Edited by David Klausmeyer
It’s Just This Simple
PHOTGRAPHY BY BILL LOGAN
Let’s start our summer issue by talking with Justin Spence, a remarkable Montana fishing guide whose move back to basic flies is something to consider. by Bill “Bugs” Logan
What does a passionate guide do on his day off? That’s easy to guess! What you don’t see is that our friend Justin Spence has just two small fly boxes in his shirt pocket. You don’t need lots of flies. Just cover the basics and you’ll have plenty.
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atching Justin Spence fishing is perplexing. He flicks out his fly, and that’s not much to see. He almost seems to loaf along. Yet he’s always into fish, as if it’s just that easy. As I said, it’s puzzling, except it isn’t, not really. You probably know anglers like Justin; they’re the ones who’ve figured out more is less—and no, I didn’t get that backwards. What I mean is that the more you know, the less you fuss or worry. You forget gimmicks, figure out the simplest way to get things done, get good at it, and that’s when it looks as if you’re not trying too hard. It should be no surprise that the way things look isn’t the way things really are. Hopefully, it’s the fish that find that out, but do you know what? We should too. I’ve watched Justin fish more times than he knows. I’ve fished with him and had to keep up. Surprisingly, that wasn’t
tough! He shares knowledge with good humor and enormous ease, as though everything you need to know were a wonder waiting right there for you. It’s no surprise that our buddy has become one of the finest fishing guides I know. Almost three years ago, Justin and two partners, Joe Moore and Jonathan Heames, purchased Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop in West Yellowstone, Montana. Now it’s called Big Sky Anglers, and that is new, but this crew’s enthusiasm is like the freshest breath of fine, old air. Tradition, optimism, and innovative foresight are doing just fine, and big things are happening.
Talking with Justin
So, now you’ve met an exceptional angler. Let’s have a chat with him before our summer fishing kicks in. You’ll learn a little something and be reminded to pay more attention to what you already know.
BL What’s the difference between the patterns you guide with and the flies you personally fish? JS Not much. When I guide, I try to have people do the same things I do when I fish by myself, but they’re not always ready for it. Sometimes I have to build them up over years of fishing before they’re confident with techniques or patterns I personally use. I might cast a larger or a much smaller fly than I would ever have clients use. BL So wait: define small and large. JS Okay, large could be six-inch streamers, even in Montana. I’m not saying they’re heavy, but they’re still tricky to cast and I don’t want a client to struggle. So I change the size. I downsize but I don’t really change the pattern. As for small flies, I often use tiny, tiny patterns. That can be a size 22 or 24, say a dry fly with a little CDC. It might be
This puddle of patterns is from Justin Spence’s summertime fly boxes. Other than how plain they look, there’s only one other thing worth pondering, and it’s not what that bass popper is doing in there. No, we need to remember this: when ordinary flies are fished well, they also work well. That’s Justin’s secret to success!
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tough to present without having it drown; you know, sink. That takes some skill. And I can see it out there on the water, where a lot of clients can’t. These are extremes, but really, a good presentation at the right depth with a fishy-looking bug will trick trout. I take the patterns I know that work, and start with sizes that seem more normal so people can cast and see what they’re using. BL What must a fly have to make you happy? JS A good hook is number one. You can take very big fish on small flies, but in powerful water like you find here, you might be using heavier tippets. Little hooks must be strong or they’re the first thing to give. I spend extra money on hooks, especially on size 14 and smaller hooks. BL What hooks do you like? JS Tiemco and Daiichi. Their smaller sizes are quite good and sometimes a little heavier. You can get away with less expensive hooks from about size 12 and up, but they might not be as sharp. Some of the competition hooks that have come out are really interesting. BL Tell me about those competiton hooks. JS Yeah, the Europeans have used these for years. It’s one of the areas that is particularly changing and improving. These hooks are very strong. They tend to have wider gaps and longer points. Sometimes they may look a little big, but you only tie on the portion of the hook that you need. BL Wait, you mean you tie a slightly smaller fly on a slightly larger hook? JS Yes, that’s another reason you get more gap. And the points are barbless, too, but they’re very sticky; they really hook and hold more fish. And they release easily. Have you seen these hooks? BL Pretend I know nothing. What do I need to know? JS Well, there’s a new brand—it’s actually a Bozeman company—called Firehole Sticks. They’re reasonably priced and good quality. Fulling Mill also has competition hooks. We carry both brands and are very happy with SUMMER 2019 | 7
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them, but there are also other brands. Some of the points of these hooks are offset. We’ve adopted that in our own patterns. We take scud hooks, or even straight-shanked hooks, and cock the points just a little to the side, especially on smaller flies. BL Okay, so we have our hooks. Now what? If I see a fly hanging in the willows, how will I know it’s yours? JS I like sparse flies. I don’t overdress them, but I want movement. And I use more natural materials. I do use synthetics, but I think natural and simplicity are good. BL Is this because they catch more fish or you can tie them quicker? Are we talking guide flies? JS Oh boy, guide flies have to be simple, durable, and yeah, you need to crank ’em out quickly. Do I put legs on nymphs or wrap wire through the hackle on an ElkHair Caddis? Probably not. Do we do that when we’re tying for our shop bins? Yes! The norm today is to put too much on a fly. That creates “bin appeal.” Flies with a lot of stuff can look good, but I don’t think they fish any better. They sell when someone says, “Oh, look at the rubber legs,” or “I don’t have anything with that color of flash.” Take a Copper John; it started as a little copper wire, a bead, and was a kind of a mix between a Pheasant-Tail, a Prince Nymph, and maybe something else. And you ask,
Check Out Big Sky Anglers Okay, so you’re not moving to Montana to become a dental floss tycoon. (That reference is for the Frank Zappa fans). If you’re heading there this summer to fish, however, you’ll want to drop into Big Sky Anglers. It’s the old Bud Lilly’s Trout Shop in West Yellowstone, and it’s as good as ever. To learn more about Justin Spence and the gang, Big Sky Anglers, and their new venture, the Golden Stone Inn, check out www.bigskyanglers.com and www. goldenstoneinn.com. Tell them Fly Tyer magazine gave you the tip!
“Okay, why does it work?” I’ve come to the conclusion it’s just the extra weight. The fly sinks faster, so it gets into the strike zone quicker than most other flies. But, if a customer walks into a shop, asks what’s working, and is told, “A Copper John,” he says, “Well, I have a box full of those.” So now they are tied in black and chartreuse, and blue and red.
a great pattern for matching those bugs. BL Okay, we’ll get back to your list of flies, but first, what matters most: presentation or fly selection? JS Presentation, hands down, but that’s on maybe 80 percent of the water I fish. Say it like this: the slower the water, or the more pressured the water, the more important correct fly selection becomes.
BL Where does that leave us? JS I’m beginning to see guides and people who fish a lot moving back to the basics—simple nymphs and wet flies, those kinds of things.
BL Gotcha. Now tell me about nymphs. JS I want them to either sink really fast or ride with no weight just under or even in the surface film. One of my favorite nymphs is a plain old Pheasant-Tail. I can do a lot with it. If I put a partridge hackle up front, it has that little extra action I like when I swing it through the current. If I am going to work it in slow water and I’m sight fishing, I’ll just add copper wire to the thorax with no extra weight; then it has a slim profile and sinks just enough to fool very big fish. I don’t use this fly with clients much because it’s hard to present. You have to cast it just right, and see the fish eat it. Then it’s deadly. Put an oversized tungsten bead on it and it drops quickly. I do that too. And since we’re talking about the difference between my guiding and fishing flies, I’m beginning to feel that using a darker bead head in pressured places makes a difference. Replace gold or copper with maybe a black nickel bead for fishing pressured water, and you’ll see a difference.
BL Is this the next trend? JS I think it’s just me and a handful of guys. This is a conversation I have with more veteran guides who spend a lot of time on the water and see the trends. The young guys come in, and stuff’s new to them. Maybe they’ve never used something as basic as a Peacock & Partridge soft-hackle. I use that fly a lot. It’s that good, whether I’m swinging it or fishing it dead drift. Or take that Elk-Hair Caddis you like so much. Vary the hackle and dubbing, and it can be so many things. With peacock or black for the body, it becomes a beetle or ant. You can also tie it as a spruce moth. It’s so versatile in so many sizes, and it floats no matter how much you trim it. You know, I don’t carry a lot of different patterns, but I carry different sizes of the same flies. BL Tell me about those. JS Well, a basic parachute pattern, like an Adams, but tied with different body colors and tailings. BL What colors? JS You should have it some sort of olive to maybe yellow, and olive-brown to match general mayflies. And I like darker colors, especially in summer. People think an Adams is just a mayfly, but change the body, fish it on flatter water, and it becomes something different; if ants are on the water, or caddises are out, tie it in the right size, present it well, and it becomes
BL This is good stuff, even better because it’s just common sense we’ve kind of forgotten. JS Do you remember that story you told me about the guy who only used one fly but fished it in every way? BL Yeah, his name was Dick O’Connor. I wrote about him for the Autumn 2015 issue of Fly Tyer. JS That got into my head. I went out to the Madison, and I had this dry fly that works as both a caddis or even a grasshopper; trout just eat it. I started putting split shot in front of it like a nymph, and it kept catching fish. BL What pattern is this? JS I don’t know if you’d call it a caddis or an attractor: it has a parachute-style
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Sometimes everything is just right—a river tumbles through our daydreams and that golden brown from last summer still humps up the water as you bring it near. Soon enough, you’ll make it happen again.
hackle and a hair wing coming off the back. I don’t think it has a name. BL Is this your pattern? JS No, just one we fish. Have you seen a Parachute Madam X? It’s like that but without the rubber legs. And I tie it in more natural colors. I’ve fished it as a nymph and swung it through the current. That gets us to thinking about getting the fly to the level where fish are feeding. Great flies won’t do much if they aren’t where the fish are. What else matters? Having flies you can modify in the moment; trimming and clipping materials so a pattern matches the water you’re fishing. I’m tying more and more weightless streamers and softhackled flies. They ride freely, which makes them more adaptable. I just carry weight and add it to my leader depending
upon what I need. I don’t think anglers spend enough time observing. You’ve got a fly box with both surface and subsurface stuff. You get to the river, tie something on, and that’s okay. But why not spend five minutes studying the water and the daylight? Is it bright or cloudy? Are bugs on the water? Is it cold? Sort out the conditions before choosing your fly. I really don’t know which is more fun: editing or reading one of Bill “Bugs” Logan’s great articles. And then he includes his wonderful photographs! He’s been teaching us the finer points of tying flies for years, and he says he has a lot more to share. I’ll be a happy editor, and you’ll be a very happy reader. Bill mostly hangs out at his art studio in New Jersey, but you can reach him through his website, www.billloganart.com. SUMMER 2019 | 9
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Dressed by Warren Duncan Warren Duncan was a legend among tiers specializing in Atlantic salmon flies. Hailing from New Brunswick, Canada, he traveled the world demonstrating fly tying. Warren was awarded Fly Tier of the Year more than once by the Atlantic Salmon Federation. Warren tied this presentation-grade hairwing Blue Doctor.
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The FFI Fly Tying Challenge Don’t Miss Out!
n the spring issue of this magazine, I reported that Fly Fishers International, a leading organization dedicated to the education of anglers and tiers, is holding a fly tying contest it is calling the Fly Tying Challenge. This event will be part of the FFI’s annual Fly Fishing Expo, which will be held this year in Bozeman, Montana, from July 23 to 27. As I said in that article, rather than letting the Fly Tying Challenge become a rugby scrum of hooks, hackle, plastic, epoxy, and more, the FFI Fly Tying Group is asking tiers to select from a set of mandatory patterns commonly used for realworld fishing. The Fly Tying Group, led by Jerry Coviello, chose these flies for a reason. “A lot of guys are asking if they must tie the flies from this list, or can they submit their favorite patterns,” Jerry said in a recent conversation. “We decided to use a common set of patterns so we can judge everyone on a level playing field. We’ll be comparing apples to apples, and see who has the shiniest apple.” The FFI Fly Tying Challenge gives you many opportunities to win. Tiers will be divided into two groups; there is an allage category, and a category limited to
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tiers aged 16 years and younger. Within each category, prizes will be given to overall winners who show special proficiency at tying all four patterns, and awards for the best single flies. The grand prize for the overall firstplace winner in the all-age category is two days of guided fishing and three nights’ lodging, for two anglers, at Northern New Mexico’s Quinlan Ranch. Land of Enchantment Guides, one of New Mexico’s leading outfitting and guide services, is graciously providing this wonderful trip. (Please visit its website at www.loeflyfishing. com.) As an added incentive, all the winning flies will appear in a future issue of this magazine. Fly Tyer is a proud sponsor of this great contest! All flies must be submitted by June 7, 2019. For complete details, go to Fly Fisher International’s website, www.flyfishersinternational.org. Good tying and good luck!
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MATCH THE HATCH
by Nadica & Igor Stancev
Bluebottles are common flies found along trout streams in late summer. A lot of fly tiers and anglers overlook them, but the fish eagerly eat them when they land on the surface of water.
THE BLUE BOTTLE There is more to terrestrial patterns than just grasshoppers, crickets, beetles, and ants. Do you see those regular-looking flies buzzing over the water? The trout do! Adding this snazzy imitation to your fly box will bring fresh excitement to your late-summer fishing.
y the end of summer, the number of aquatic insects on the water starts declining. During the warmer parts of the day, you will see an increase in the number of land-born terrestrials such as beetles, ants, grasshoppers, and common flies we
call bluebottles and greenbottles. The bluebottle (Calliphora vomitoria) and greenbottle (Lucilia caesar) are common and widespread. They belong to the group of insects we generally call blowflies. Their larvae feed on dead animal tissue, and even though we think of them
as natureâ€™s cleaners, the adults can transmit diseases to humans. They also play a positive role as pollinators when flying from flower to flower, feeding on nectar. These insects are often shiny and metallic looking, featuring blue, green, or black thoraxes and abdomens.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NADICA & IGOR STANCEV
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Do trout really eat bluebottles? Check out this photo of the stomach contents we pumped from a large fish. We see a caddis larva, an ant, blowflies, and two large insects that strongly resemble the outline of our Blue Bottle.
Try selecting a bluebottle imitation when fishing terrestrials during the end of summer and beginning of autumn. Even though you might not find a large number of these insects near water, even a solitary fly attracts the attention of the fish. Using this sort of pattern is a nice break from casting the usual grasshopper and ant imitations.
Newer Materials, Better Flies
The classic Blue Bottle originated in Scotland. It has a body of dark blue silk thread ribbed with flat silver tinsel, black hackle legs, and wings clipped from a gray thrush feather. During the past few decades, however, new materials give us many opportunities to create better floating flies in a wider range of colors. Some tiers will construct this imitation with a foam body, but for making the metallic-looking pattern in the accompanying
tying photos, we selected polypropylene dubbing blended with Angel Hair or Ice Dub. Tying a chunky, tapered body using dubbing is very easy, but peacock herl is also great for making the shiny abdomen and thorax of this terrestrial. For legs we use a black dry fly hackle, but inventive tiers might experiment with black deer hair. Imitating the translucent wings of the natural insect is more of a challenge; the wings might also be the most delicate part of the pattern. Organza ribbon, which has a plain synthetic weave, entered the world of fly tying in the early 1990s; we create the wings of our Blue Bottle using this inexpensive yet durable product. Organza comes in many colors, but the most useful are white, gray, tan, and olive. These light-reflecting fibers are easy to tease apart and are also ideal for making trailing shucks on nymphs, the
shellbacks on scuds, and wings on emergers, dry flies, and even streamers. Look for organza ribbon in well-stocked craft and fabric shops. Our Blue Bottle has proved successful for catching trout. Once you get the hang of tying this fly, make a few in pale brown and yellow. It really comes into its own when the hatches of aquatic insects decline and the trout turn their attention to feeding on terrestrials. I met Nadica and Igor Stancev at an international gathering of fly tiers in Italy many years ago. They hail from Macedonia, and over the years we have enjoyed several of their great articles in this magazine. (Iâ€™ve tied their flies, and they do catch fish!) Hereâ€™s a fun fact: It is claimed that the first artificial fly was created in Macedonia sometime around AD 170. I suspect that early pattern designer had no closed-cell foam.
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MATCH THE HATCH
Tying the BLUE BOTTLE
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Slip a glass bead onto the hook. Place the hook in your vise and start the thread. Mounting the hook with the eye pointing down will give you more room to tie the fly. Spin some dubbing on the thread and begin wrapping a tapered body. Wrap a tapered abdomen halfway up the hook shank. Tie a small bunch of blue Angel Hair onto the top of the hook shank. Do not clip the excess material pointing forward.
Pull both ends of Angel Hair over the back of the abdomen. Make three or four large spiral wraps to the tip of the abdomen, locking the Angel Hair to the top of the body. Cut the excess Angel Hair fibers, and then spiral-wrap the thread forward; follow the path of the first set of spiral wraps.
Pick out a small bunch of fibers from a piece of organza ribbon. Weâ€™ll tie the wings using this material.
Tie on the organza fibers in front of the abdomen slanting across the top of the hook shank. Both lengths of fibers are slightly longer than the abdomen.
Blue Bottle Hook: Tiemco TMC2487 or TMC2488, sizes 16 to 10. Eyes: Red glass bead. Thread: Black 12/0. Body: Black polypropylene dubbing blended with blue Angel Hair or Ice Dub. Wings: Pale gray organza ribbon. Thorax: Black polypropylene dubbing blended with blue Angel Hair or Ice Dub, and pearl plastic film or foil. Legs: Black dry fly hackle.
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MATCH THE HATCH
Tying the BLUE BOTTLE
9 10 11 12 13
Pull back the other end of organza fibers. Tie both bunches to the top of the body, splaying at a 45- to 60-degree angle. These are the delta-shaped wings of the fly. Wrap the thread forward and tie on a black dry fly hackle.
Spin more dubbing on the thread and wrap the thorax of the fly. The thread is now hanging between the abdomen and thorax. Cut a three-millimeter-wide strip of pearl film or foil. Tie on one end of the strip between the abdomen and thorax.
Spiral-wrap the hackle back and then forward over the thorax. Tie off and clip the excess hackle tip. Brush the hackle fibers down the sides of the fly, and pull the strip of foil over the top of the thorax.
Tie off the foil behind the glass bead headcut the excess. Whip-finish and snip the thread. Coat the knot with a drop of cement. Your Blue Bottle is ready to take flight!
In addition to blue, tie the accompanying pattern in shades of yellow and brown.
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The Flies of Summer PAC I F I C N O RT H W E S T
PRO PATTERNS for the PACIFIC NORTHWEST TROUT TRAIL
Anglers living in the Northwest United States have a lifetimeâ€™s worth of fly fishing opportunities. Glenn Zinkus gives us the flies we need to succeed.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY GLENN ZINKUS
4/8/19 11:35 AM
Summertime, and the living is easy for Pacific Northwest trout.
The region’s rivers and still waters are fertile food factories, especially during the summer, and fish pick their favorite meals from the diverse insect life. Of course, one food source is often the favored meal, and this is where proper fly selection comes into play. A well-prepared angler has a selection of nymphs, emergers, dry flies, and some leech and streamer patterns in his vest. The flies in this article include many go-to patterns recommended by some of my Pacific Northwest fishing cohorts. These guys are fly fishing professionals and include fly shop owners, guides, and pro tiers. Western tiers and anglers developed these flies for fishing their favorite waters.
Guide Flies for the Underwater World
Brian Silvey, a longtime Deschutes River guide hailing from Maupin, Oregon—this town is Trout Central on the Lower Deschutes River—loves caddisfly imitations for his summertime trout fishing. Brian explains that the Deschutes “is predominantly a caddis river.” Therefore, more often than not, he ties on various caddisfly patterns for his clients. Many of the central and eastern reaches of the Pacific Northwest are high desert; the sun is always shining and the days can get downright hot. Nymph fishing is the name of the game, and caddisfly imitations for big western rivers like the Deschutes are often subsurface patterns. Brian’s favorite flies include the Super Sinker, Silvey BeadHead Caddis, and Primetime Pupa. You can fish these caddisfly patterns in different ways. The Super Sinker is made for nymph fishing deeper water; use this pattern as a dropper with a big dry fly, or employ traditional nymph-fishing techniques using a strike indicator. Fish the Silvey Bead-Head Caddis with a strike indicator, as a dropper under a dry fly, or swing it through the current. The Silvey Bead-Head Caddis is one of Brain’s confidence flies, and he says anglers “can’t go wrong with this one.” Tie this pattern in both green and tan in sizes 16 to 12, and you will be well armed for a caddis hatch. The Primetime Pupa is a dual-purpose fly; use it either as a dropper or a nymph with an indicator. You can fish the Primetime Pupa a number of ways. As a dropper, fish it with a highly visible floating caddisfly using either a dead drift or a swinging presentation. When you’re nymph fishing with this pattern, Brian suggests tying it onto a two-fly rig, positioning the Primetime Pupa as the dropper so it drifts higher in the water column. If fish start rising, simply clip off the lower point fly and fish the Primetime Pupa closer to the surface as an emerger; this guide trick eliminates the need for rerigging your tackle.
More Pro Flies for Fishing the Pacific Northwest
A few other serious anglers who provided input and shared patterns include Darian Hyde from fly tying–materials supplier Hareline Dubbin, and Jeff Perin, the owner of
the Fly Fisher’s Place in Sisters, Oregon. Darian is a longtime member of the Hareline Dubbin team; chances are good that when a fly shop calls Hareline to place an order, he’s the one who answers the phone. Darian fishes throughout the western United States, concentrating on his home waters in Oregon. Jeff’s fly shop, located in Sisters, is set on the east flank of the Cascades, idyllically located with views of 10,000-foot-high peaks. It is just a short drive to numerous cool, clear spring-fed rivers and high lakes. The Fly Fisher’s Place is a quintessential fly shop and beehive of activity on most summer days. Euro-style nymph fishing is an increasingly popular and highly effective technique practiced throughout the season on Pacific Northwest rivers. Jeff and Darian count several Euro-style nymphs among their confidence flies. These patterns imitate mayfly nymphs and caddisfly larvae, and are just the ticket for fishing freestone rivers, spring creeks, and tailwaters throughout the region.
Favorite Lake Flies
Perin guides anglers on the Cascade’s high lakes, spending many of his summer days on waters such as Crane Prairie Reservoir, targeting the big rainbows known locally as Crane ’bows. Jeff advises, “In Oregon, chironomids, Callibaetis, and leeches drive an awful lot of the lake diet.” Heeding Jeff’s advice, carry a selection of patterns matching these three primary food groups, as well as damselfly imitations. Norm Domagala, of Alpine, Oregon, is a fixture on the lakes of the Cascades during the summer. Norm fishes still waters everywhere from Oregon’s Cascades to British Columbia. He ties professionally and is on the pro staffs of Whiting Farms, Montana Fly Company, and other leading fly tying–materials suppliers. Norm is always incorporating new materials into his patterns and experiments on the water to optimize these flies. He tied a bevy of stillwater patterns to share with us. Washington’s Jay Paulson has a unique way of observing trout behavior and translating it into flies that catch trout. The Paulson Mating Damsel, originated on a June day on Washington’s Lake Lenice, is a good example. The weather was perfect and real damselflies were plentiful. Fish rose to the adult damsels, but Jay’s imitations of single male and female insects went untouched by the trout. Jay noticed the fish keying on pairs of mating damsels, and he tells it like this.
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BROWN SUPER SINKER
Hook: Tiemco TMC206BL, size 16 or 14. Thread: Brown Veevus 12/0. Underbody: Pearl Krystal Flash. Body: Green or tan Antron melted on one end to make a tapered body. Wing pads: Small starling feathers. Legs: Tan or olive barred marabou. Head: Brown dubbing. Front head: Deer hair.
Hook: Tiemco TMC2302 or TMC200R, sizes 12 to 16. Thread: Yellow Veevus 12/0. Tail: Red rabbit fur. Body: Yellow dry fly dubbing. Foam: Yellow closed-cell foam. Wing: Tan polypropylene yarn. Legs: Tan barred rubber legs.
Hook: Tiemco TMC2457, size 16 or 14. Thread: Brown Veevus 12/0. Head: Gold. Tail: Brown hen hackle fibers. Abdomen: Tying thread. Rib: Brown wire. Thorax: Brown dubbing. Wing case: Brown Nymph Skin. Legs: Brown hen hackle fibers.
Hook: Tiemco TMC2457, sizes 18 to 12. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Brown Veevus 12/0. Body: Tan or olive pearl braid melted on one end to make a tapered body. Legs: Tan or olive barred marabou. Wing pads: Starling feathers. Head: Brown dubbing. Antennae: Partridge feathers.
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“I went up to my camper and pulled out the tying stuff. I did not have any long-shank hooks and couldn’t figure out how to put two damsels on a standard hook. Out of desperation, I looped the male tail so it would fit, and the first crude version of the Mating Damsel was born. I took it down to the lake and couldn’t keep the fish away from it!” Damselfly nymphs are a midday staple for fishing Pacific Northwest still waters. There’s little mistaking damsel nymph activity; the insects readily climb onto bankside rocks and vegetation, as well as boat pontoons and the sides of canoes, before emerging. Watching this activity can be mesmerizing. The body of a real damselfly nymph undulates wildly, propelling the insect through the water. The Hula Damsel, designed by Herman Degala, has great action in the water and emulates a real nymph wriggling itself toward shore. Fish the Hula Damsel using a deliberate strip retrieve to elicit strikes from the trout.
Midge Magic and Emerger Madness
Chironomids are day-in, day-out favorite flies on Northwest still waters throughout the year. All the tiers I contacted carry a selection of chironomid imitations in their lake fly boxes. Norm Domagala ties one of his recommended chironomid patterns in blue. As Norm comments, “I’ve been using a blue chironomid for when the hatch seems slow or there is no hatch at all. It seems like the fish pick up on the blue color when things are slow. Blue also seems to work best on cloudy days.” Of course, you can tie his chironomid in different colors to match the conditions and the natural insects. Emergers are also important for fishing Pacific Northwest still waters. There is something irresistible about an emerging insect, stuck in the surface film while dropping its shuck. All these anglers recommend that we add emerger imitations to our fly boxes. I am including a selection of fine patterns you should add to your fishing kit: Brian Silvey’s Edible Emerger, the Quigley Film Critic, the Mole Fly, the Crazed Purple Cripple, and the Knock Down Dun. Tye Krueger, owner of the Confluence Fly Shop in Bend, Oregon, is a fan of the Quigley Film Critic; it is, after all, a kick-ass mayfly imitation. The Film Critic features a stacked hackle post and curved-shank hook. The fly remains visible on the water while the tail and body hang below the surface film. You may change the color of thread and body material to imitate almost any mayfly, making it a versatile summer pattern. During caddisfly hatches on the Deschutes, which is Brian’s home river, a pattern such as the Silvey Edible Emerger is a phenomenal fish attractor. He uses the Edible Emerger as a trailing fly behind an Elk-Hair Caddis when the trout are rising, but there are also times he will swing this pattern through the current. Brian says that fish key in on movement, and that adding proper action is critical to a good fly design. In this case, marabou gives the Edible Emerger the right movement in the water.
Flies on Top–the Drys
There is nothing better than clouds of caddisflies in the evening with rising trout keeping us on the water until the dark drives us home. Tye Krueger recommends Mike Mercer’s Missing Link. Mike developed this pattern to mimic a crippled caddis. The Missing Link floats low in the film and attracts trout under a wide variety of rising fish situations. Other dry flies included here: caddis and mayfly imitations such as Wood’s Super Caddis and the Domagala’s CDL Callibaetis. The Wood’s Super Caddis combines high visibility with good flotation, making this a great indicator fly when you’re using a dropper. Fish this pattern in all light conditions—morning, noon, and evening. Cast it along the edges, under bankside brush and trees during the days, or anywhere the trout are rising in the evening. Norm Domagala has also developed a handful of bigger patterns. We all know the mantra: Big fly, big fish. I enjoy fishing streamers for that “interactive” experience; you know, hunting for underwater structure that holds fish, casting and stripping a streamer or other large pattern, and finally, the reward of a trophy trout crushing your fly. Fly line selection comes into play to get streamers into the strike zone. Use floating, intermediate-sinking, sinking-tip, and other hybrid lines as required. Select your favorite type of water here in the Pacific Northwest, or better yet, plan a road trip on the Pacific Northwest trout trail. Before you come, pick up your bobbin, select the appropriate hooks, and start preparing for some quality time on the water. Glenn Zinkus fishes throughout the Pacific Northwest. This is the second article he has written for our magazine, but he promises more. Glenn lives in Oregon.
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PRIME TIME PUPA
QUIGLEYS FILM CRITIC
Hook: Tiemco TMC206BL, size 16 or 14. Thread: Brown Veevus 12/0. Underbody: Krystal Flash. Body: Tan or olive Antron melted on one end to make a tapered body. Legs: Tan or olive barred marabou. Wing pads: Starling feathers. Head: Brown dubbing. Antennae: Partridge feathers.
REAR (ABDOMEN) Hook: Wiggle Shank. Thread: Olive Uni 17/0. Tail and gills: Olive ostrich herl. Abdomen: Small olive D-Rib.
FRONT (THORAX) Hook: Tiemco TMC2487, size 14. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Olive Uni 17/0. Connection: 3X fluorocarbon tippet. Thorax: Olive cul de canard and UV Ice Dub. Wing case: Mottled olive Medallion Sheeting.
Hook: Daiichi D1170, size 12 or 10. Thread: Tan Veevus 12/0. Eyes: Black monofilament eyes. Tail: Hareline Adult Damsel Body. Thorax: Hareline Blue Steelie Ice Dub or your favorite electric blue dubbing. Wing: Spirit River White Sea Hair. Hackle: Grizzly.
Hook: Dai-Riki 135 or Tiemco TMC2487, sizes 18 to 14. Thread: Pale yellow Veevus 14/0. Tail: Mallard fibers or root beer Midge Flash, and brown Darlon. Abdomen: Fine copper brown dubbing or a brown goose biot. Rib: Fine copper wire. Wing post: Congo Hair (a product of Fly Tyers Dungeon) or a substitute. Thorax: Yellow Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Ginger grizzly or pale ginger.
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MOLE FLY EMERGER
CRAZED PURPLE CRIPPLE
MERCER’S MISSING LINK
WOOD’S SUPER CADDIS
Hook: Dai-Riki 124, sizes 20 to 16. Thread: Olive Veevus 14/0. Wing: Natural cun cul de canard puff. Abdomen: Brown beaver dubbing. Thorax: Tan dubbing or your choice of color. Wing: Dun cul de canard. Antennae: Some clear material such as Super Hair or a substitute.
Hook: Tiemco TMC100, sizes 18 to 12. Thread: Olive 6/0 (140 denier). Abdomen: Pearl Krystal Flash. Thorax: Peacock-colored dubbing. Spent wings: Midge gray Z-Lon. Hackle: Cree. Upper wing and head: Bleached elk hair.
Hook: Daiichi 1167 Klinkhammer, size 14. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tailing shuck: Dark gray polypropylene yarn. Tail: Black moose body hair. Abdomen: Purple Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Rib: Small silver wire. Thorax: Purple Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Grizzly saddle hackle Wing post: Dark gray Hareline Para Post and medium coastal black-tailed deer hair.
Hook: 2X-long dry fly hook, sizes 16 to 10. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Wapsi Life Cycle Caddis Dubbing—brown, green, or orange. Rib: Brown S-Lon Beading Thread, size D. Underwing: Natural gray cul de canard. Wing: Elk hair. Indicator: Fluorescent pink or orange Water Silk or polypropylene yarn. Legs: Black or brown rubber legs, or a color of your choice.
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CDL INSTA JIG LEECH
Hook: Ahrex FW561 jig hook, size 10. Thread: Orange Veevus 14/0. Jig head: 1/8-ounce orange tungsten Insta Jig. Tail: Burnt orange coq de Léon Chickabou with two or three micro-barred Voodoo Fibers. Body: An orange coq de Léon saddle hackle wrapped up the hook. Hackle: Green coq de Léon soft hackle.
CDL PREDATOR BAITFISH Hook: Gamakatsu S11S-4L-2H, sizes 8 to 4. Thread: Brown Veevus 14/0. Head: Copper bead. Tail flash: Pearl UV MFC Sparkle Minnow Brush. Body: Olive MFC Swisher’s Generation X. Wing: Olive pine squirrel Zonker strip. Side feathers: Grizzly coq de Léon. Hackle: Grizzly, orange, and chartreuse.
SUMMERTIME CHIRONOMID BUZZER
Hook: Ahrex Curved Nymph FW541, sizes 16 to 10. Thread: Red 8/0 (70 denier) and black 8/0 (70 denier). Abdomen: Red tying thread. Rib: Stripped olive hackle quill. Thorax: Black tying thread. Cheeks: Chartreuse Uni-Flex. Add a spot of red and green on the bottom of the cheeks using a permanent felt marker. Wing case: Veevus Holo Blue Tinsel. Cement: Light-activated cement.
Hook: Gamakatsu S11-4L-2H, size 10. Thread: Red Veevus 14/0 Bead: Red glass bead. Tail: Barred olive MFC Buggerbou Mini and two wraps of a rusty olive MFC Sparkle Minnow Brush. Body: Olive MFC Swisher’s Generation X. Rib: Extra-small chartreuse wire. Hackle: Golden brown saddle hackle. Collar: Olive MFC Swisher’s Generation X.
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SOFT HACKLE FRENCHIE
WHITING CDL BAITFISH
CALLIBAETIS MIRAGE DRY
CALLIBAETIS SOFT HACKLE
Hook: Daiichi 1560, size 16. Head: Gold tungsten bead. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Ginger coq de Léon. Abdomen: UV2 dun ring-necked pheasant tail fibers. Rib: Small copper brown wire. Thorax: Shrimp pink UV Ice Dub. Collar: Natural quail feather.
Hook: Ahrex FW 531, sizes 16 to 12. Thread: Gray Veevus 16/0. Tail: Grizzly coq de Léon. Body: Mirage Opal Tinsel. Rib: Stripped quill coated with cement. Wing: Fine deer hair. Hackle: Grizzly.
Hook: Gamakatsu L11S-3H, size 6. Bead: Hot orange. Thread: Orange Veevus 14/0. Body: Veevus Holo Orange Tinsel. Rib: Silver tinsel. Wing: Olive coq de Léon. Collar hackle: Silver Doctor blue coq de Léon. Front hackle: Olive grizzly schlappen.
Hook: Daiichi 1560, size 14. Head (optional): Any bead of choice. Thread: Olive 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Wood duck or yellow mallard flank. Abdomen: Dark brown Haretron. Rib: Fine gold wire. Thorax: Peacock eye herl. Collar: Partridge feather.
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The Flies of Summer N O RT H E R N RO C K Y M O U N TA I N S
Combo Some lucky anglers live on the fabled trout rivers of the upper Rocky Mountains, but most of us are only occasional visitors. What flies should we use? Al and Gretchen Beatty offer sage advice for selecting the best combinations of patterns for fishing their favorite local streams.
ver the past few years, we’ve shared many of our favorite flies for fishing for trout in the spring and fall. You might be wondering what we consider our favorite summer patterns. The answer is, “It depends.” In the Northern Rockies, summer presents us with many fishing opportunities on various types of water in environments ranging from alpine forests to desert canyons, and everything in between. All of this is available within an hour drive of our home in Boise, Idaho, and some are just a few minutes across town. We divide our summer fly boxes into several categories: attractor, match-the-hatch, steelhead, and lake flies. We could have a good discussion about each family of flies, but today we’ll concentrate on our attractor patterns and how we use them in combinations when approaching different types of moving water. When we come to a new section of stream or river, we often set up our camp chairs, nestle down, and just observe the gliding water. We take this relaxed time to see if anything is hatching and, of course, if any fish are rising to those emerging insects. If we see a hatch and feeding fish, we are a long way to choosing the right flies. If, however, nothing is hatching, we have to come up with another plan; this is when we often select a combination of patterns to prospect for the unseen trout.
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Although it is possible to fish with two wet flies or nymphs at the same time, when we think of using a combination of patterns, we are fishing a dry fly and subsurface pattern together. We rig these flies to our leader so we can easily swap patterns as conditions warrant, and we select the specific patterns based on the type and conditions of the water. The types of moving water we fish usually fall into three general categories: larger rivers, medium-size freestone streams, and small creeks. Water conditions—the depth and speed of the flow—vary upon two environmental conditions, rain and runoff. We choose the size of our flies based upon the condition of the water. We use larger patterns if the water is high and off-color and select smaller flies when the water is low and clear. From this starting point, we are like you: We change flies until we find the best combination that attracts the most fish. When fishing two flies at the same time, you can tie the point fly—usually a floating pattern—to the end of your tippet, and tie the second fly, called the dropper, to the hook bend of the point pattern. This is a very common method for creating a dry-dropper rig. Changing the point fly that has a piece of monofilament tied to the hook bend is frustrating; it requires more rerigging than swapping just the one fly. Using a sliding loop knot that is easy to loosen and slip off the hook bend of the point fly is an obvious answer, but wet hands, short fingernails, cold weather, and old age often throw a wrench in the process. We got a great solution for this common problem from our Danish friend, Søren Klunder. It’s one of those easy ideas we should have thought of ourselves. While guiding Søren on the Yellowstone River, he instructed us not to tie the dropper to the hook bend of the point fly. Instead, he told us to tie it to the tippet in front of the point fly. In this way, the dropper can slide up the tippet so tying on a new point pattern becomes quick and easy. Søren’s tip is a great idea for creating a fishing rig featuring easy-to-change flies. Try it and you’ll like it!
How to Select Two Flies
The exact colors of some of the flies we’re sharing with you today change based upon the specific fishing environment, such as going from a desert to an alpine forest setting. For the purpose of this discussion, let’s review the patterns we’d probably select for approaching mediumsize freestone streams anywhere in the West; we’re thinking of waters similar to the Gallatin River north of Yellowstone National Park. In that beautiful section of the world, the Gallatin glides out of the park and then quickly drops into a steep canyon filled with riffles, runs, and pools. The rough-and-tumble canyon section covers about half of this 100-mile-long river, but it eventually slows down and becomes gentler upon entering the Bozeman Valley. The Gallatin terminates at Three Forks, Montana, where
it joins the Madison and Jefferson Rivers to form the Missouri River. This is a great piece of freestone water. Gretchen and I often approach fly selection differently for fishing this type of river. She prefers using an H & L Variant as the point fly and an Any River Renegade as the dropper; Al, on the other hand, often selects a lime Poly Humpy at his point pattern and the Any River Nymph as the dropper. Notice all these flies contain the color green. According to the LaFontaine Theory of Attraction, the most successful angler bases color selection upon the surrounding stream environment. Gary goes into great length about his theory in his book The Dry Fly, but we will summarize it in a couple of sentences. According to the LaFontaine Theory of Attraction, select fly patterns containing at least one accent color in their designs. The accent is a color reflected from the environment surrounding the body of water you are fishing. For most of its length, the Gallatin River runs through an alpine forest where the predominant color is green, so we choose flies containing green. On the other hand, when we return to our former home near Colorado’s Gunnison River, we often select patterns containing red or orange to more closely match the rust-orange desert canyon walls. Gary’s theory makes it sound easy, right? To be successful, all we have to do is carry patterns containing a couple of accent colors. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Let’s return to the desert canyon section of the Gunnison River. You might think all you’ll need is a fly box containing patterns accented with rust and orange, but what about the side channels entering the main stem of the river? These smaller sections of water are often overgrown with willows, so the color of the prevailing surrounding environment changes from rusty orange to green. There are also sections flowing through a narrow mini canyon made of granite walls, and the prevailing color changes from green to grayish black. These variations in color complicate fly selection, but the LaFontaine Theory of Attraction provides an answer for choosing the best patterns. There are many options when selecting the exact flies. Gary explained his theory in his book, and we briefly reviewed his ideas in our book LaFontaine’s Legacy, in the chapter about tying the pattern called the Double Wing. Check out the accompanying flies and let your imagination stray. Think about your favorite waters and their surrounding environments. How could you alter these flies to match the rivers and streams you will visit this summer? And be sure to pay attention to the changing light throughout the day, and swap flies as the day progresses. There are no guarantees when it comes to catching fish with flies, but with a little planning, we can tie and select patterns that will have the greatest chances of success. Al and Gretchen Beatty have contributed terrific articles to our magazine for many years. They are also two of best fly tying instructors you will ever meet. To learn more, go to their website, wwwbtsflyfishing.com.
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H & L Variant
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 12. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Calf hair. Wings: Calf hair. Body: Stripped peacock herl and regular peacock herl. Hackle: Brown or brown variant. Comments: When fishing a freestone stream, we always use the H & L Variant as a point fly with an Any River Renegade as the dropper. The only change we might make is pattern size, which is based on water clarity and depth. Early in the summer, we use a size 12 point pattern with a size 14 dropper, but by the end of summer, we drop to sizes 20 to 16. We sometimes tie the H & L Variant with fluorescent floss in place of the stripped peacock herl in the body.
Any River Renegade
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 10), or 2X-long wet fly hook, sizes 18 to 10. Thread: Fluorescent green 6/0 (140 denier). Bead head: Colored glass or metal. Tag: Tying thread. Rear hackle: Brown. Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Tying thread. Front hackle: White, slightly larger than the rear hackle. Comments: You’ll notice our Any River Renegades have brightly colored tags, ribs, and heads. We often fish in an alpine forest environment, so many of our flies have the color green somewhere in their recipes. It is important to make color changes that fit your local environment. It’s equally important to observe the light as it changes throughout the day, and select patterns to match. With respect to tying this pattern, if you don’t have white hackle, lightly colored grizzly feathers work just fine.
Half & Half Humpy
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 8. Thread: Red 6/0 or 70 denier. Tail: Moose hair. Hump: Polypropylene yarn, gray or color of your choice. Body: Tying thread. Wings: Calf hair. Hackle: Brown or color of your choice. Comments: We refer to the Half & Half Humpy as the “Triple H.” The easy-to-tie Poly Humpy (on the right) is our personal favorite. We tie our version with either white polypropylene wings or wings that match the color of the hump. When Al guided on the Yellowstone River, he often started his front-of-the-boat clients with a yellow-bodied Poly Humpy. The polypropylene wings tend to float better, don’t become waterlogged, and are a snap to tie.
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Any River Nymph
Hook: Standard dry fly or scud hook, sizes 20 to 10. Thread: Fluorescent green 6/0 (140 denier). Head: Metal bead. Tag: Tying thread. Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Tying thread. Hackle: Brown. Comments: We tie this nymph on various styles of hooks and in several sizes. Vary colors to match the surrounding fishing environment or the hatching insects. Tie it so the wing equals the length of the hook shank, and then trim the wing to length when fishing. A longer wing works better for fishing higher, off-colored water, while a shorter wing is often best for clear, low-water conditions.
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 8. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Deer hair. Body: Peacock herl and red floss. Wings: Calf hair. Hackle: Brown. Comments: This is another of Alâ€™s go-to flies when fishing the Yellowstone River. When teamed with the Easy Prince as the dropper, they are a tough-to-beat combination. Al often substitutes a Wrightâ€™s Royal (on the right) as the point fly because the Trude-style elk-hair wing provides better flotation on rough water. As crazy as it sounds, a size 20 Royal Wulff is our go-to pattern when fishing a spring creek or the Henrys Fork of the Snake.
Hook: 2X-long wet fly hook, sizes 18 to 8. Bead head: Gold bead. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Brown Antron. Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Gold tinsel. Wing: White Antron. Hackle: Brown. Comments: This pattern is much easier to tie than a classic Prince Nymph, and it catches just as many trout. The wing equals the length of the hook shank, and we trim it later as needed.
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Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 6. Thread: Fluorescent green 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Butt ends of the wing. Body: Green Antron dubbing. Wing and head: Elk hair. Comments: This is the caddisfly version from our Stub-Tail series of patterns. We often include a set of rubber legs tied Madam X style or spiralwrap a hackle over the body when the fly represents an adult stonefly or grasshopper. We also change hook sizes and dubbing colors to match stoneflies and grasshoppers.
Deep Sparkle Pupa
Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes 20 to 10. Head: Metal bead. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire. Body: Orange dubbing or floss. Sheath: Antron yarn. Hackle: Brown. Head: Peacock herl. Comments: Gary LaFontaine added a bead head to his already famous pupa imitation in the 1990s. We fish both versions as droppers under the Stub-Tail Caddis or a regular Elk-Hair Caddis. The weight of the bead places the fly deep in the water column; the beadless version rides closer to the surface. If tied without weight, this pattern remains close to the surface and is an excellent option as an emerger imitation.
Orange Double Wing
Hook: 2X-long dry fly hook, sizes 18 to 8. Thread: Fluorescent orange 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Orange Antron yarn. Tag: Orange floss. Back wing: Brown polypropylene yarn. Body: Orange floss or dubbing. Body hackle: Brown. Front wing: White calf hair. Hackle: Brown. Comments: Weâ€™ve modified this LaFontaine pattern by changing the back wing from stacked deer or elk hair to just a tuft of yarn. Gary developed this pattern to support his Theory of Attraction, and it is an incredible searching pattern using the colors he suggested in his book The Dry Fly. The orange fly featured here is an awesome point pattern when the setting sun turns the sky orange; in this situation, we team it with the Squirrel Nymph as a dropper.
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Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes 20 to 8. Thread: Fluorescent orange 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Squirrel tail hair. Body: Red squirrel dubbing. Rib: Copper wire or tying thread. Hackle: Partridge. Comments: This Dave Whitlock pattern, along with its cousin, the Hare’sEar Nymph, is always a good option. We could have included either pattern, but we most often use the Squirrel Nymph—tied with dubbing from a fox squirrel—because the material is available in our own backyard. Either pattern, however, is effective.
Henrys Fork Hopper
Hook: 3X-long dry fly hook, sizes 14 to 6. Thread: Yellow 6/0 (140 denier). Bullet head and collar: Elk hair. Body: 2-millimeter-thick yellow foam. Wing: Squirrel tail hair and Montana Fly Company Wing Material. Legs: Yellow rubber legs. Comments: We modified this Mike Lawson fly by replacing the folded elkhair body with a strip of foam. We offer it here in yellow, but tie it in colors to match your local grasshoppers. Many of the grasshoppers we see on the lower Yellowstone River have light creamy gray bodies, while others near the rivers in western Idaho are more orange-yellow. When grasshoppers are on the water, use this pattern as the point fly and the dropper. Later in the summer, fish your two hoppers subsurface—weight them down with a piece of split shot—to imitate drowned insects.
Hook: 3X-long streamer hook, sizes 10 to 4. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Eyes: Bead chain. Weight: Several wraps of lead-free wire near the hook bend. Claws: Brown marabou. Body: Fine brown chenille. Body hackle: Brown. Carapace: Brown Antron or polypropylene yarn. Rib: Fine copper or gold wire. Tail: Butt end of the carapace. Comments: Gretchen developed this pattern as an easy-to-tie guide fly for Al. It’s basically a Woolly Bugger with a strip of yarn as a carapace. It has become our go-to crayfish imitation when fishing any water containing a population of these little crustaceans. We fish it as a point fly with a smaller version as the dropper. It is especially effective on the lower Madison and Snake Rivers when fished deep in the water column under a strike indicator. This is a must-have pattern in anyone’s fly box!
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Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 24 to 10. Thread: Fluorescent green 6/0 (140 denier). Tag: Tying thread. Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Tying thread. Parachute post: Polypropylene yarn in your choice of color. Hackle: Grizzly. Comments: This super-simple parachute pattern is a complete fly box unto itself. We tie it both with and without the tag, and our preferred body colors are peacock, tan, olive, hareâ€™s ear, gray, and brown. We tie four of each color in the full range of sizes. Thatâ€™s why it takes a complete box to hold them all!
Build a Better Two-Fly Rig Tying a length of tippet to the hook bend of the point fly (in this case, the bushy Humpy on top), and adding the dropper fly to the other end of the tippet (the beadhead nymph on the bottom) is a common way to make a two-fly rig for fishing. Swapping the point fly for another pattern, however, requires extra effort: you have to change the point fly, and then retie the dropper tippet. In essence, you have to rebuild the entire two-fly rig. There is a better way! Rather than tying the dropper tippet to the hook bend of the point fly, attach the extra piece of tippet to your leader in front of the point fly using a slipknot. Now you can just slip the dropper out of the way to replace the point fly. This small tip will save you a lot of time on the water.
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Hook: Standard wet fly hook, sizes 20 to 8. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire wrapped under the thorax. Tail: Pheasant tail fibers. Abdomen: Pheasant tail fibers. Rib: Tying thread with a little dubbing. Thorax: Peacock herl. Wing case and legs: Pheasant tail fibers. Comments: This is a standard Pheasant-Tail Nymph with one difference; we add a very sparse application of Double Magic Antron Dubbing as a highlight to the rib. The color of this highlight is based on LaFontaine’s Theory of Attraction. We think it is a better option than a standard Pheasant-Tail Nymph. It works especially well as a dropper under a Humpy, Royal Wulff, Henrys Fork Hopper, or Double Wing point fly.
Hook: 3X-long streamer, sizes 16 to 6. Bead head: Black. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Black marabou. Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Tying thread. Hackle: Black. Comments: Just about everyone ties the Woolly Bugger. We fish this pattern in a wide range of sizes, especially sizes 16 and 14. When we tie it in a smaller size, we follow Bruce Staples’s idea and make it as a Half Bugger with hackle on the front of the body only. The base of a saddle hackle is a great source of marabou for the tail of a smaller Woolly Bugger.
Missouri River Sow Bug
Hook: Standard scud hook, sizes 20 to 10. Thread: Fluorescent green 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Two strips of lead-free wire tied on only one side of the hook shank. Tail: Partridge fibers. Body: Natural hare’s ear, muskrat, mink, beaver, or otter dubbing. Rib: Tying thread. Comments: Gary LaFontaine developed this fly with one of his field team members, Tony Perpignano. It is part of their flies-with-motion series. With the lead-free wire tied to the side of the hook shank, the pattern falls over when pausing the retrieve. In a spring creek or other slowmoving stream, this subtle action is deadly to the fish!
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The Flies of Summer SOUTHWEST
(South)West, Young Man! Heed the call, says Al Ritt. The American Southwest offers some of the best fly fishing for trout. Al tells us where to go and gives us a fly box full of guidetested patterns.
The famous rivers and still waters of the Southwest offer a variety of fish for us to catch. PHOTOGRAPHY BY AL RITT
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s a boy, I devoured every magazine article I could find about fly fishing in the West. I read stories of oversize brown trout hiding behind every rock, engulfing streamers larger than the little fish most easterners ever see—or so those stories went. In my dreams, fat rainbows lazily feasted on spring-creek hatches, and exotic cutthroats crowded freestone stream riffles from bank to bank. I longed to take Horace Greeley’s advice and “Go West, young man,” and when the day finally came, I moved west with mixed feelings. Yes, I was going west, but to California, not Montana. Close, but . . . I discovered that Montana is not the only state in the West that has excellent trout fishing. Since 1989, I have fished for trout in California, Oregon, Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, Idaho, Colorado, Wyoming, and also Montana. And there are still experiences I have to explore in New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Washington, Utah, and South Dakota. So much water and so little time! After living for a short time in the Bay Area of California, I relocated to the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Both these regions are what I consider the northern portion of the Southwest United States. In contrast to the misconceptions I grew up with as a youth, that this was a hot and arid region with few trout-fishing opportunities, I discovered a vast array of fish species, habitats, and angling experiences.
So Many Fish to Catch, Young Man! Study maps indicating the ranges of various coldwater species, and you’ll see there are trout throughout the Southwest; the most widespread species is rainbow trout. Native to the waters west of the Sierra Nevada, many subspecies of rainbow trout have been introduced to new waters and others were developed in hatcheries to fill specific niches. The result is that there are rainbow trout in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, California, and Nevada. Brown trout in North America are all European imports, tracing their roots back to Germany and Scotland. Today, you will find brown trout throughout the entire Southwest. Cutthroat trout were the most widespread species prior to Europeans settling on the continent. There are many strains, including native, hybrid, and hatchery-created cutthroat. Yellowstone and westslope cutthroat are most frequently encountered; ironically, these were introduced to the Southwest from Montana and northern Wyoming. Other regional subspecies are Bonneville cutthroat from the Great Salt Lake Basin, Lahontan cutthroat of Western Nevada and Eastern California, Paiute cutthroat of the eastern Sierras, Colorado River cutthroat from the Colorado and Green River Basins, greenback cutthroat from Colorado’s eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains, and Rio Grande cutthroat of southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Cutthroat trout have been widely redistributed and are now found throughout California, Arizona,
New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming. While rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout dominate the Southwest, close relatives inhabit similar waters; the most common are brook trout. Brook trout are native to the Upper Midwest, New England, and the Appalachian Mountains down to Georgia. Now we can enjoy these colorful, scrappy little char all over the Southwest. Grayling are an often-overlooked species. Grayling were once found in Northern Michigan, including a portion of the Upper Peninsula, and a limited range in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. The only native population existing today resides in Montana’s Big Hole River. Grayling, however, were introduced into new waters and are now found in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. While grayling don’t get the same publicity as trout, they eagerly feed on the surface, are subtly beautiful, and respond well to flies. Kokanee salmon, a landlocked variety of sockeye salmon, thrive in reservoirs throughout the Southwest. While kokanee salmon are plankton feeders, fly fishers do catch them using nymphs and egg patterns, especially when these fish are staging in tributary inlets and as they run up streams to spawn. If you enjoy pursuing unusual trout that have limited distributions, there are golden trout, a subspecies of rainbow trout, which is native to the Kern River–Mount Whitney region of California. Golden trout have been introduced into various coldwater environments such as the Trinity Alps mountain range in California and the Wind River Range in southwestern Wyoming. And don’t overlook Apache and Gila trout, which evolved in very limited waters in Arizona and New Mexico. Finally, trout and char hybrids are widespread and worthy of pursuit. These fish include tiger trout (a cross of brown and brook trout), splake (a cross between brook and lake trout), and cutbows (a cross of rainbow and cutthroat trout).
Go High, Young Man! The highest-elevation trout waters include alpine lakes, which are relatively small and very cold. Some have larger fish, but the short growing season often means slower growth, and the typical trout are 6 inches to 15 inches long. Because these waters are at or near the tops of drainages in rocky, mountainous terrain, they accumulate little in the way of nutrients from runoff and may have less prolific aquatic food bases. What the trout in alpine habitats lack in size they often make up for in dazzling colors. The short growing season encourages these fish to feed at every opportunity, and they can be voracious. That is not to say these trout are easy to catch, however, because the crystal clear water makes them very skittish. Stealth and gentle presentations will increase the odds in your favor. Don’t expect to find blanket hatches of insects in alpine lakes and streams, but you will see midges, leeches, min-
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nows, caddisflies, and Callibaetis mayflies. Terrestrials also make up a large percentage of the forage base. Beetles, ants, and moths may be plentiful, but due to the lack of grass, grasshoppers are less important. The need for alpine trout to feed aggressively also makes attractor patterns good bets. Some fly anglers fish these lakes utilizing float tubes, but I prefer walking the shorelines. Where light penetrates the shallows, you’ll find more algae, moss, and weeds. Vegetation is the foundation of the food chain, and the bulk of the food is found where the weeds grow. I focus my efforts on the shallow areas near shore and the first break line past these flats. In my experience, it’s far more important to approach the fish and present your fly unnoticed than to match a specific food. Shallow flats are ideal for using dry flies, lightly weighted nymphs, and leech imitations. Trout may come to the surface from the deeper water past the first drop-off, so when I’m not stripping a leech or heavier nymph, I fish a dry–dropper rig. Look for alpine trout habitat in the mountains of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and California. Expect to encounter rainbows, cutthroat, brook trout, grayling, and in some waters, lake trout. Alpine lakes may also harbor very uncommon specimens because natural barriers keep competing, nonindigenous stocked fish from reaching the tops of these drainages. In other cases, there may be no outlets from alpine lakes, and many of these waters have been stocked with populations of fish that have not been diluted by hybridization. Alpine stream trout, like their lake-bound relatives, face the same hurdles of a short growing season and a sparse food base. As a result, the typical fish in these tiny streams are commonly 6 to 12 inches long. A notable exception is where a stream has an inlet or outlet to an alpine lake. During spawning season, resident fish might migrate from the lake into these tributary streams. As the stream gradient gradually decreases in meadow or alluvial stretches, you’ll find a good deal of rapidly flowing pocket water. In these stretches, fish an Adams, ARF Trailing Bubble Harey Caddis, foam beetle, or ant on the surface, and a lightweight nymph or soft-hackle such as the Hare’s-Ear Nymph, Pheasant-Tail Nymph, Red Fox Squirrel Nymph, Partridge & Orange, Partridge & Peacock, and ARF Gen-X Soft-Hackle, all of which are effective. Faster stretches and pocket water also fish well with the Royal Coachman, Humpy, and other buoyant dry flies.
Brown trout become more common as waters warm; fish such as grayling and golden trout, which evolved in high-altitude habitats, become less common as the waters heat up. To find lake trout, head to deeper waters with colder temperatures. In addition to what you encounter in alpine habitats, expect to see more Callibaetis mayflies, caddisflies, and grasshoppers; midges and leeches also remain prolific. Damselflies, dragonflies, scuds, larger numbers of mayflies and caddisflies, crayfish, and water boatmen add to the forage base. At the middle elevations, fish enjoy a longer growing season, and with the richer food base, you will begin finding larger trout; here is where you might catch fish measured in pounds, not inches. Fishing from boats and floats tubes can be very productive, but I still prefer to fish the shorelines. Mid-elevation flowing waters come in all sizes and shapes. You’ll find spring-fed trickles, large and small freestone stretches, meadow streams, tailwaters, and spring creeks. Some you can easily cast across, others are suitable for wading, and some must be floated to reach the best holding water; these are what I consider prime trout habitat. In California, look to the Trinity River, Pit River, Fall River, Hat Creek, Feather River, Hot Creek, the McCloud River, and the Sacramento River. The Green River, flowing from Wyoming into Colorado, and the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, which originate in Colorado, are all worthy destinations. And don’t overlook the Colorado River flowing through Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. If you have the time to travel, add the Roaring Fork, Yampa, Gunnison, South Platte, and San Juan Rivers. The diversity of mayflies and caddisflies increases as you work your way into lower elevations. Stoneflies also become a major source of food. You’ll want to add imitations of blue-winged olives, pale morning duns, red quills, green drakes, brown brakes, gray drakes, Tricos, and stoneflies to your arsenal. Stonefly nymphs can be very simple; I like the Brooks Stone, Girdle Bug, ARF Simple Stone, Copper John, Red Fox Squirrel Nymph, and a larger Hare’s-Ear Nymph. Tailwaters are best known for heavy midge and mayfly hatches, as well as annelids. San Juan worms are a staple for many guides and local fishermen. If you’re seeking great trout fishing, look to the Southwest and its exceptional variety of species and habitats. From California to Colorado, you will find more trout fishing than you can sample in a lifetime.
Don’t Forget the Middle Elevation, Young Man!
Al Ritt is a very busy man. Al is a leader in Fly Fishers International, hosts guided trips, is a production manager at Peak Engineering (the manufacturer of the Peak Vise), and more. Al lives in Colorado. Be sure to check out his website, www.alrittflies.com.
Middle elevations contain the largest variety of habitats: large, small, shallow, and deep. Lakes and reservoirs at lower elevations are generally a bit warmer and have more nutrients than alpine waters.
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ARF Harey Dun (PMD)
ARF Hi-Vis Damsel
ARF Articulated Sculpin
ARF Gen-X Soft Hackle
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 14. Thread: Green 8/0 (70 denier). Wing: Dun snowshoe hare from the bottom of the foot. Tail: Dun Microfibbetts. Abdomen: PMD Quills II. Thorax: PMD Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Dun dry fly hackle.
Rear hook: Daiichi 2451 or equivalent, size 4 or 2. Thread: Red 6/0 (140 denier). Hackle: Brown saddle hackle. Tail: Barred brown marabou. Shank: Flymen Fishing Company Articulated Shank, 35 to 55 millimeters long. Hackle: Brown saddle hackle. Butt: Barred brown marabou. Body: Laser Dub, tan on the bottom, and alternating bands of brown and dark tan on top. Collar: Grizzly variant brown schlappen. Flash: Root beer Krinkle Mirror Flash. Head: Flymen Fishing Company large or small brown Sculpin Helmet. Eyes: Adhesive eyes. Head coating: Thin coat of light-activated resin covering the head and eyes.
Hook: Partridge L3AS or equivalent, size 12. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Wings: Clear organza. Post: Chartreuse polypropylene yarn. Abdomen: Blue Adult Damsel Body. Back: Blue closed-cell foam. Thorax: Blue Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 22 to 14. Thread: Green 8/0 (70 denier). Trailing bubbles: Opal Mirage Midge Flash. Body: Chartreuse, hot orange, blue, tan, copper, or olive wire. Thorax: Ice Dub, color to complement the body. Hackle: Whiting Brahma hen or dyed soft hackle to complement the body.
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ARF Simple Stone
ARF Slim Flash Damsel
ARF Swimming Baetis
ARF Trailing Bubble Harvey Caddis
Hook: Partridge H1A or equivalent, sizes 12 to 6. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire. Tail: Ring-necked pheasant tail fibers. Back: Butt ends of the tail fibers. Abdomen: Brown stone Whitlockâ€™s SLF dubbing. Rib: Copper wire. Wing case: Orange bustard Thin Skin. Legs: Hen pheasant hackle. Thorax: Dark stone Whitlockâ€™s SLF dubbing Antennae: Two pheasant tail fibers.
Hook: Tiemco TMC2488H or equivalent, sizes 20 to 16. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Brown barred marabou. Wing case: Large or medium black Mirage Tinsel. Thorax: Peacock herl.
Hook: Partridge H1A or equivalent, size 14 or 12. Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier). Eyes: Plastic dumbbell eyes. Tail: Pale olive marabou with one strand of opal Mirage Tinsel on each side. Body: Butt ends of the tail fibers twisted together and wrapped forward. Rib: Opal Mirage Tinsel. Wing case: Mix of Antron fibers, color to match the body, and opal Mirage Tinsel.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 10 to 12. Thread: Tan 8/0 (70 denier). Trailing bubbles: Two strands of midge opal Mirage Tinsel. Abdomen: Cinnamon caddis Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Underwing: Midge opal Mirage Tinsel. Wing: Tan snowshoe hare from the bottom of the foot, color to complement body color. Thorax: Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing, color to match the abdomen. Hackle: Light barred ginger dry fly hackle trimmed flat on the bottom.
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ARF Life & Death Callibaetis
ARF Midge Pupa
ARF Midge Adult
ARF Midge Larva
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 14. Thread: Tan 8/0 (70 denier). Wing: Clear organza. Post: Chartreuse polypropylene yarn. Tail: Grizzly or dun spade hackle fibers. Abdomen: Tan or gray quill. Thorax: Callibaetis Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Grizzly.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 22 to 16. Thread: Tan 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Grizzly. Abdomen: Olive Quills II. Wing: Clear organza. Post: Chartreuse Gator Hair. Hackle: Grizzly.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 22 to 14. Thread: Yellow 8/0 (70 denier). Wing: Deer hair. Shuck: Pale morning dun Antron. Body: Pale morning dun Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing.
Hook: Tiemco TMC2488 or equivalent, sizes 22 to 16. Thread: Red 8/0 (70 denier). Gills: Clear organza. Bead: Silver-lined clear bead. Body: Red tying thread. Rib: Small silver wire inside clear Midge Tubing. Wing: Clear organza. Thorax: Peacock Fine Flash dubbing.
Hook: Alec Jacksonâ€™s Covert Nymph Hook or equivalent, sizes 17 to 13. Thread: Red 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Red tying thread. Rib: Small silver wire inside clear Midge Tubing. Head: Tying thread coated with light-activated resin.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 16. Thread: White 8/0 (70 denier). Wings: Clear organza. Tail: White or light dun Mayfly Tails. Abdomen: Cream or light olive Quills II. Thorax: Black Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing.
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ARF Tung-Syn PT
Hook: Tiemco TMC 5263 or equivalent, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Tan 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire. Tail: Medium round rubber legs, your choice of color. Body: Chenille, your choice of color. Legs: Medium round rubber legs, your choice of color. Antennae: Medium round rubber legs, your choice of color.
Hook: Tiemco TMC5263 or equivalent, size 14 or 12. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Body: Ice Dub, your choice of color. Back: Two layers of closed-cell foam, your choice of colors. Legs: Round rubber legs, your choice of colors. Post: Hi-Vis closed-cell foam or polypropylene yarn.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 10. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Wings: White calftail hair. Tail: Deer hair. Body: Peacock herl and red floss. Hackle: Brown and grizzly dry fly hackle.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 12. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Bead: Copper tungsten bead. Tail: Root beer Krystal Flash. Body: Root beer D-Rib. Underbody: Butt end of the tail. Wing case: Large or medium opal Mirage Tinsel. Thorax: Peacock Fine Flash dubbing.
Hook: Tiemco TMC5262 or equivalent, sizes 12 to 6. Thread: Brown 6/0 (140 denier). Abdomen: Larva Lace closed-cell foam, orange tan or yellow. Wing: Polar Hair, black or tan. Overwing: Polar Hair, white or a high-visibility color. Legs: Round rubber legs, your choice of color. Thorax and head: Larva Lace closed-cell foam, orange tan or yellow.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 12. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Closed-cell foam cylinder. Wing: Zing Wing. Hackle: Dry fly hackle, color to match the body.
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Gray Hackle Yellow
ARF Trailing Bubble Harey LYS
Halo Midge Emerger
Hook: Partridge D4AF or equivalent, sizes 8 to 4. Thread: Red 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Olive-brown STS Trilobal Dub. Body: Olive-brown STS Trilobal Dub. Rib: Copper wire. Hackle: Copper brown Whiting Coq de Leon Hackle.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 10. Thread: Gray 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Red spade hackle fibers. Body: Yellow Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Rib: Gold tinsel. Hackle: Grizzly.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 14. Thread: Yellow 8/0 (70 denier). Trailing bubbles: Two strands of midge opal Mirage Tinsel. Egg sac: Red closed-cell foam. Abdomen: Yellow Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Rib: Yellow grizzly hackle with the fibers trimmed close to the stem. Underwing: Midge opal Mirage Tinsel. Wing: Natural winter-phase snowshoe hare foot fur. Post: Red closed-cell foam. Thorax: Yellow Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Light barred ginger dry fly hackle trimmed flat on the bottom.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 16. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Halo: White polyethylene packing foam. Shuck: Amber Antron yarn. Body: Dubbing blend of Antron and natural furâ€”black, olive, red, yellow, tan, brown, purple, or pink. Rib: Opal Mirage Tinsel or fluorescent blue monofilament. Spike: Orange deer hair.
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Ritts Fighting Crawfish
Red Fox Squirrel Nymph Soft-Hackle
Rickards Callibaetis Nymph
Hook: Tiemco TMC5263 or equivalent, sizes 14 to 8. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Tan or black calftail hair. Abdomen: Yellow, tan, orange, or black polypropylene yarn. Rib: Brown, grizzly, or orange grizzly dry fly hackle. Back: Tan, brown, or black closed-cell foam. Wing: Opal Mirage Tinsel and tan, brown, or black Widow’s Web. Indicator: High-visibility or white Widow’s Web or polypropylene yarn. Thorax: Golden brown, peacock, or hot orange Ice Dub. Hackle: Brown or black.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 10. Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier). Bead (optional): Copper brass or tungsten. Tail: Guard hairs from the back of a red fox squirrel pelt. Abdomen: Fur from the belly of a red fox squirrel pelt. Rib: Gold wire. Thorax: Fur with guard hairs from the back of a red fox squirrel pelt. Hackle: Brown brahma hen or soft hackle.
Hook: Daiichi 1730 or equivalent, sizes 10 to 4. Thread: Olive 6/0 (140 denier). Antennae: UV gray Krystal Flash. Eyes: Black round rubber legs. Carapace: Mottle olive Thin Skin. Claws: Blue closed-cell foam mounted on olive or barred olive round rubber legs. Underbody: Olive yarn. Body: Olive gray Whitlock’s Crawdub. Rib: Blue wire. Hackle: Blue Whiting Farms Coq de Leon badger hackle.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 12. Thread: Gray 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Wood duck flank fibers. Wing case: Butts end of the tail. Body: Tan fur from a hare’s mask. Rib: Copper wire. Hackle: Tan grizzly.
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Partridge & Orange
Partridge & Peacock
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 12. Wings: Wood duck flank fibers. Tail: Dun spade hackle fibers. Abdomen: Stripped peacock quill. Hackle: Dun.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 18 to 12. Thread: Orange 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Orange floss. Rib: Gold wire Thorax: Brown fur with guard hairs from a hareâ€™s mask. Hackle: Brown brahma hen or soft hackle.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 16 to 12. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Wings: Deer hair. Tail: Deer hair. Body: Yellow, red, green, or black floss or tying thread. Back: Butt ends of the tail fibers. Hackle: Brown and grizzly.
Hook: Partridge D4AF or equivalent, sizes 8 to 4. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Body: Silver flat tinsel. Rib: Silver oval tinsel. Wing: Yellow and red bucktail.
Hook: Partridge G3A or equivalent, sizes 20 to 12. Thread: Gray 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Small opal Mirage flash. Hackle: Brown brahma hen or soft hackle.
Hook: Partridge L5A or equivalent, sizes 24 to 4. Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Peacock herl. Rib: Gold wire. Hackle: Grizzly.
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The Flies of Summer MIDWEST
Flies for a
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JERRY DARKES
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Jerry Darkes shares his favorite patterns for catching trout, bass, and more in the Great Lakes Region. Tie these flies, pack your gear—Have Fun!
in the Midwest offers a multitude of fly fishing opportunities. Trout fishing remains consistent across most of the region. Michigan and Wisconsin anglers anticipate the appearance of Hexagenia limbata mayflies on their favorite streams, and for many, this species of huge mayfly signals the official start of summer.
It’s Just the Beginning
The storied Hex hatch usually begins sometime around the second week of June. This nighttime emergence draws the largest trout to the surface. During the next several weeks, sleep-deprived anglers stake out their favorite pieces of river and wait. Every evening, they hope this will be a night when everything falls into place for the bugs to appear. If the insects do show, so should the feeding trout. But this is not always the case. Even when all things look perfect, the Hex may not appear, or the insects will hatch and the trout will ignore them. When all things do fall into place, however, with both the mayflies hatching and the trout rising, it can be a wonderful thing. Hitting a good night of Hex fishing is not a regular occurrence, but it is worth pursuing. Hexagenia mayflies also appear in huge numbers on some Midwest lakes. On Lake St. Clair, they are so abundant that snowplows are sometimes used to clear them off shoreline roads. Bass, panfish, and even walleyes gorge on Hex nymphs, duns, and spinners. Watching a five-pound smallmouth cruise up and sip in mayflies is a unique experience; it puts a new wrinkle into the concept of “match the hatch.”
After the Hex hatch winds down, another form of exciting night fishing starts that can last all summer and into the fall. We call it “mousin’.” Mousin’ involves casting oversized flies—usually mouse imitations—tight against the bank. Next, you wait and watch, listening for a telltale slurp or splash of water reflected in the pale moonlight as a trophy brown trout sucks in your fly. Doing this requires a special type of angler because it is much like working the night shift: it’s tough duty, but the rewards can be worthwhile. Mousin’ has grown significantly in the past few years and is now practiced almost everywhere anglers find big browns; there are even glow-in-the-dark lines and leaders on the market to help track the drift of a fly. These unique pieces of tackle don’t seem to alarm the fish. S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 | 47
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offering dozens of cold springs and streams of all sizes. These waters have abundant aquatic life and are full of trout. There is an abundance of scuds, cress bugs, and caddisflies in these waters that add even more variety to our fly boxes. A number of unique patterns have emerged from this area that have proved effective on other waters. The Driftless Area is quite special in the world of fly fishing; there are few locations similar to it in the world. Luckily, there is still plenty of daytime trout fishing to enjoy. Isonychia mayflies hatch sporadically throughout the summer. Both the emerging duns and the subsequent evening spinner falls draw trout to the surface. Throughout the day, the trout eagerly feed on Isonychia nymphs. Trout have a special attraction to these insects, and there doesn’t have to be a lot of them on the water to attract attention. Midges, those nonbiting little guys of the Diptera group, are everywhere and often bring fish to the top. They can show up almost year-round and are usually found in quiet backwater areas. Look closely at any rising fish; what you think is a chub could actually be a nice brown trout feeding on midges. In mid-July, the minuscule Tricorythodes mayflies make their appearance. In spite of their small stature, they bring big trout to the surface. Early-morning anglers can get their fill by fishing Trico dry fly imitations on numerous streams. As the day wears on, you can enjoy fishing terrestrial imitations. Terrestrial fishing is in full swing by early July, and a variety of ant, beetle, cricket, and grasshopper patterns are productive. Windy, sunny days are often best because land-based insects are more active in the heat and likely to blow onto the water. Be sure to fish along grassy areas featuring undercut banks. On rainy days, or after a rain when the water runs high and off-color, put your streamers to work. Big fish will be on the prowl and lose some of their caution in the dirty water. Fly color and movement are the keys. You can also fish streamers almost anytime no fish are rising. The game is to cover a lot of water, looking for actively feeding fish.
A Unique Fly Fishing Experience
The spring creeks of the Midwest’s Driftless Area offer a lot of fishing opportunities. The Driftless Area is in southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, and Northwestern Illinois. This region escaped glaciation during the last ice age and is consequently characterized by forested ridges, deep river valleys, and a geology
Fun with Bass and More
Bass and panfish angling is in full stride as summer starts. Spawning has finished and the fish are feeding regularly again. River fishing for smallmouth bass gets a lot of attention. There are thousands of miles of smallmouth bass rivers, most of which receive little angling pressure. A variety of other species also inhabits these waters. Hundreds of lakes and ponds offer largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, and panfish. In the northernmost part of the region, northern pike and muskie add to the mix. The shallow-water flats of the Great Lakes have carp on them until mid-July, and smallmouth bass are still in shallow water and very reachable in many places until the dog days of August drive them offshore. Backwater areas hold largemouth bass and northern pike. Muskies will be on the prowl and ready to eat oversized streamers. Although there is less pattern variety in our waterwater fly boxes, many of these flies are just templates; tie them in different sizes and colors to cover a variety of food forms. This significantly expands the number of flies we might carry, but you can use most of them to target multiple species. The biggest problem with fly fishing and pattern selection in the Midwest is deciding what to do and where to go. In the summer, there are too many options and so little time! The accompanying assortment of patterns just touches the surface of usable flies for fishing the Upper Midwest. You might recognize some of them, but others will be new to you. Most of these flies originated in the Midwest or have become commonly used in the region. I am sorry if I missed your favorite fly. Similar to the fishing opportunities in the Midwest, there are too many great patterns and too little room to include them all. Jerry Darkes is a regular contributor to our magazine. He is also the author of two great books: Fly Fishing the Inland Oceans: An Angler’s Guide to Finding and Catching Fish in the Great Lakes, and Fly Tyer’s Guide to Tying Essential Bass and Panfish Flies. Jerry lives in Ohio.
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Super Hex Stacker
Hook: Daiichi 1280, size 6. Thread: Chartreuse 3/0 (210 denier). Tail: Elk body hair. Abdomen: Elk body hair. Thorax: Tan fox fur or polypropylene dubbing. Wings: Grizzly hackle tips. Post: Yellow polypropylene yarn. Hackle: Grizzly and brown. Notes: This pattern, designed by Michigan tier John Sheets, might be one of the best Hex imitations. There is also a late season Hex hatch on a number of Midwest rivers. Hexagenia atrocaudata, also called the red Hex, shows up on evenings in August on a host of smallmouth bass waters. To more closely match that insect, substitute claret thread in place of the chartreuse.
Borcherâ€™s Drake Parachute
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, sizes 16 to 10. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Moose mane hairs. Body: Natural turkey quill fibers. Wing: Fine deer hair. Hackle: Grizzly and brown. Notes: This is a modern version of a classic Midwest pattern that imitates various dark-colored mayflies, including Isonychia species. This fly has a super-buggy look on the water. The size of the real mayflies decreases as the summer goes on, so keep that in mind and tie a few in smaller sizes.
Hook: Daiichi 1100, size 10. Thread: White 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: White hackle fibers. Body: White dry fly dubbing. Post: Clear Hi Viz or similar synthetic yarn. Hackle: White or cream. Notes: The Ephoron hatch occurs from late afternoon into evening. It crosses over to warmer rivers that hold smallmouth bass, but many anglers donâ€™t know it happens, because they pack up and head home too early. Where the Ephoron mayflies are abundant, there can be so many insects on the water that it becomes difficult to track a fly.
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Hook: 2X-long dry fly hook, size 10 or 8. Thread: Yellow 8/0 (70 denier). Body: 2-millimeter-thick yellow and black foam glued together. Legs: Orange-barred rubber legs knotted to form the rear legs. Notes: The colors of real grasshopper bodies vary quite a bit, so you can make this pattern using a variety of foams. Tying this pattern using only black foam, thread, and legs creates a great cricket imitation.
Front hook: Daiichi 1710, size 2. Rear hook: Gamakatsu B10S, size 4. Thread: Gel spun. Tail: Holo Flashabou or New Age Holo Flash. Rear body: UV Polar Chenille, a rabbit strip, and mallard flank. Connector: 30-pound-test wire. Front body: Holo Flashabou or New Age Holo Flash, a rabbit strip, and UV Polar Chenille. Overwing: Two mallard flank feathers and your choice of flash material. Collar: A rabbit strip and deer body hair. Head: Spun deer hair, trimmed flat on the bottom and top then coated with Clear Cure Goo Hydro or another lightactivated adhesive. Eyes: 3-D eyes coated with Clear Cure Goo Hydro or another light-activated adhesive. Notes: This is a smaller version of a pattern called the Drunk & Disorderly. It has a crankbait-type action when tied correctly. It is equally effective for catching trout and bass, and almost anything else that swims. Make this pattern in both baitfish and attractor colors.
Rear hook: Gamakatsu B10S, size 4. Thread: White gel spun. Tail: Saddle hackles with your choice of flash material. Body: Senyo’s Predator Wrap trimmed short, then rabbit fur in a dubbing loop and a mallard flank feather. Connector: 40-pound-test braided wire with three plastic beads. Front hook: Gamakatsu Round Bend Worm Hook, size 2/0. Rattle: 5-millimeter glass rattle secured to the front hook. Body: Cover the connector with your choice of flash material; then make two wraps of a rabbit strip up to the rattle. Cover the rattle with Senyo’s Predator Wrap, wrap a marabou feather on the hook in front of the rattle, tie your choice of flash material over the top, and place a grizzly hackle on each side of the fly. Collar: Large red Palmer Chenille. Head: Rainy’s Foam Diver Head. Notes: Tie the Swinging D in baitfish colors as well as all white, white and olive, white and gray, and in the colors of your choice. This pattern was designed for catching smallmouth bass and pike, but everything eats it, including trout. It works best when fished using an intermediate-sinking line in the upper part of the water column. 50 | W W W . F L Y T Y E R . C O M
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Hook: Straight-eye dry fly hook, size 22 or 20. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Clear Microfibetts or white hackle fibers. Abdomen: Tying thread. Thorax: Black dry fly dubbing. Wings: Clear HI Viz or white polypropylene yarn. Notes: The Trico hatch is usually an early morning occurrence beginning in midsummer; it gets later in the day through August and into September. Long leaders, light tippets, and accurate casting are a must. Adding a post of brightly colored egg yarn at the thorax increases the visibility of the fly on the water.
Hook: Tiemco TMC206BL, size 16. Thread: Tan or gray 8/0 (70 denier). Body: 2-millimeter-thick tan foam and ginger Sparkle Yarn. Wing: Amber Antron fibers. Thorax: Ginger dry fly dubbing. Hackle: Cree. Legs: Coq de León hackle fibers. Notes: Craneflies are on the water throughout most of the summer and are important in some locations. The streams of the Driftless Area have an abundance of these insects, and the trout relish them. If you are caught without a specific cranefly imitation, fish with a traditional Partridge & Yellow soft-hackle as a dry fly.
Hook: Daiichi 2461 or equivalent, sizes 6 to 2. Thread: Size 3/0 (210 denier) or Monocord. Tail: Marabou or sparse bucktail with a bit of flash and rubber legs. Body: Estaz, Cactus Chenille, or a similar material, with an optional rib of grizzly saddle. Back: 2-millimeter-thick closed-cell foam. Legs: Rubber hackle. Notes: This variation of the Gartside Gurgler serves double duty. It is one of the best patterns for nighttime mousin’ for big brown trout, and it is also great for topwater bass fly. Larger sizes and darker colors work best at night, but you can make this pattern in your choice of colors.
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Hook: Daiichi 2720, size 3/0. Thread: Size 3/0 (210 denier). Body: ½-inch-thick floor-mat foam cut into a wedge shape, or use a precut body. Tail: Marabou, Centipede Legs or round rubber legs, and schlappen. Legs: Centipede Legs pulled through the body. Notes: This is an updated version of the Blockhead Popper, but it is less air resistant and easier to cast. This popper moves with the slightest twitch, and the possible color combinations are endless. Fish this and other poppers slowly; let the marabou and legs do their work attracting fish.
Hook: Daiichi 1760, sizes 6 and 4. Thread: Size 8/0 (70 denier), color to match the body. Eyes: Black plastic monofilament or bead chain. Pincers: Clawdad Tails from Eastern Trophies Fly Fishing, cut your own claws out of a microfiber fabric. Antennae and tail: Two Sili Legs or similar material with a short tuft of orange marabou. Body: Crosscut rabbit strips—crawfish orange, olive, or tan. You can also put rabbit fur in a dubbing loop. Weight: Medium dumbbell. Notes: The EZ Craw is a great fly for catching smallmouth bass and carp, but trout also eat it. Fish this fly using a long leader.
Hook: Mustad Signature Stinger, sizes 4 to 1. Thread: Black gel spun. Weed guard (optional): 30-pound-test stiff monofilament. Tail: White arctic fox fur, olive arctic fox fur, and olive Krystal Flash. Legs: Olive grizzly saddle hackles. Collar: Chartreuse, olive, and white deer hair. Legs: Yellow and olive round rubber legs. Head: Yellow, olive, and white deer hair. Eyes: 4-millimeter doll eyes. Notes: This is my take on Dave Whitlock’s timeless pattern. The Frog Diver is a must-have fly when fishing for bass.
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Hook: Tiemco TMC100, size 12. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Peacock herl. Back: 2-millimeter-thick black foam. Wings: Gray polypropylene yarn. Indicator: Bug Yarn. Notes: All kinds of beetles are present in the Midwest. This fly works everywhere trout eat terrestrials. Tied in size 16 and 14, this pattern is a fine ant imitation. By midsummer, smallmouth bass often stage under overhanging trees to sip any morsels that fall onto the water; tie this pattern in slightly larger size 10 and give it a try.
Hook: Tiemco TMC300, size 4 or 2. Thread: Gel spun. Tail: Yellow marabou. Body: Pearl Sparkle Braid. Wing: Mallard flank dyed wood duck yellow. Underwing: White calftail. Collar: Yellow deer body hair. Head: Olive-yellow deer body hair. Notes: Itâ€™s hard to believe that this groundbreaking pattern is now considered a classic. It is both a sculpin and crayfish imitation. This fly fishes best using a sinking-head line. Strip and swing it across the current to catch both trout and smallmouth bass.
Bethke Pink Squirrel
Hook: Mustad 3906, sizes 16 to 12. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier) or 6/0 (140 denier). Bead: Gold. Tail: Two strands of rainbow Krystal Flash. Abdomen: Fox squirrel body fur mixed with amber Antron Lureflash and olive Ice Dub. Rib: Red wire. Thorax: Fluorescent shrimp pink chenille. Notes: My best guess is that the Pink Squirrel imitates a pregnant scud. This is the original recipe, but there are numerous variations that are all productive patterns. Scuds are slowmoving bottom dwellers, so fish this fly deep and slow.
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The Flies of Summer
SNEAKING UP, BY ADRIANO MANOCCHIA
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Favorite Flies for Fishing the Southeast Seth Fields gives the creators their due, but he says itâ€™s okay to redesign established flies to match our local waters. Long live these variations! S U M M E R 2 0 1 9 | 55
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Big Streamers for Trout
I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool trout guy. I grew up in a part of the Southeast that was almost a day’s drive from even the nearest hatchery-supported trout stream, so it just wasn’t a big part of our family fishing legacy. Trips to trout streams were always a special treat, but as my life has progressed, my family and I have slowly moved closer to the rhododendron-laced hills and streams of the southern Appalachians—not by accident, either. While small, winding Appalachian freestone streams dominate the majority of my time, I also like the stability of tailwater fisheries. Throughout much of the Southeast, tailwater rivers maintain the proper water temperatures required for sustaining healthy trout populations. This is especially beneficial because many freestone mountain trout streams get a little warm by mid to late summer. I usually focus my efforts on those creeks in the season and fish tailwaters the rest of the year.
On most southern trout streams, summer offers local trout an abundance of food. Baitfish congregate and dart excitedly in the shallows, caddisflies flutter wildly and dabble on the surface, and terrestrials find their way to the water with an awkward plop! It’s as though nature were ringing the dinner bell. All the major food groups are there, and now it’s time to eat! If you run into me on a trout stream, the chances are I’ll be swinging streamers downstream. That’s right, I’m a streamer guy. For me, there’s no greater satisfaction than a tight grab on a well-placed streamer, so this is where we will start. Lately, it seems that the trend in the trout-streamer game is to go big or go home. That’s great if you’ve got jumbo trout, wide rivers, and a rotator cuff to support throwing meaty patterns against the bank all day, but I find that on most southern trout streams—and on almost any trout stream in the world, for that matter—you just can’t beat a Woolly Bugger. If you want to target the more carnivorous salmonids in your local waterway, the Redhead Woolly Bugger variation will elicit that predatory one-two punch you’re after; the red throat on this pattern seems to get the fish riled up when a regular Bugger gets refusals. The Bloody Hairy is my other go-to streamer for fishing southern waterways. The collar on this leech pattern is made using a Fair Flies brush that pushes a lot of water, has great movement, and most important, looks slightly bloody. (Are you sensing a theme here?) I often dead-drift leech patterns like this when the fish are is deep water or behaving sluggish. If you still want a meaty pattern to entice the brutes of the underwater world, try this variation of Jerry French’s Summer Sculpin. It should also be a staple in your streamer box.
Southeast Summer Dry Flies
When it comes to dry flies for a Southeast summer, trout streams sometimes offer slim pickings. I can, however, always count on using caddisfly imitations. I’d almost be willing to lay down a bet that if a hatch occurs, it will be caddisflies. On the off chance that I’m wrong, I have faith that the Puterbaugh Foam Caddis will catch fish anyway. Once, I even stood in the middle of a large Hexegenia mayfly hatch in Western North Carolina with no matching pattern in my box. After a minute or two of searching through my fly boxes for an imitation, I gave up, tied on an Unsinkable Caddis, and started catching trout on almost every cast, even fish that were keying in on those mayflies. I also like casting bigger drys, such as my Brookie Bug, a fusion of an Elk-Hair Caddis and Stimulator that rides high but still has a small-to-medium-size profile. This pattern is perfect for fishing small southern Appalachian trout streams. It also works well as an indicator pattern when combined with a small nymph or wet fly as a dropper. Use this drydropper technique with the Orange & Orange wet fly or try your own color schemes out to see what works best for you. I run the same dry fly–dropper rig using a Stimulator tied in grasshopper colors for when terrestrials are on the water. The Iridescent Ant is my go-to wet fly for this
SLOW EVENING, BY ADRIANO MANOCCHIA
he idea of standing knee deep in a summertime stream has gotten me through countless bouts of wintertime blues. Usually sometime around February, I start uncontrollably daydreaming about summertime bass ponds, muddy carp flats, tailing redfish, and sight casting to trout on my favorite streams. On coldenough days, I even fantasize about my local gar hole; you know you’ve got a bad case of cabin fever when you long for catching prehistoric river monsters that have hundreds of glass shards for teeth. That’s what summer means to me. It’s a full-blown case of ADHD coupled with a desire to catch just about anything that swims, but I focus mostly on trout and bass. This is a benefit of living in the Southeast, particularly in my corner of East Tennessee, where I can get to any type of water within a matter of hours. Whether it’s the trout streams of southern Appalachia, local reservoir smallmouth bass, tailwater brown trout, or even that local longnose gar hot spot, I switch it up to keep my fishing fresh. This also goes for my fly tying. By some standards, I’m a pretty bad tier, not because of my abilities but because of my lack of discipline. You know the guys who sit down and hammer out a small army of identical, perfectly proportioned patterns? Well, that’s not me. I’m lucky to complete three or four flies before I start switching it up. I think experimenting is a good thing. After all, where would fly tying be if we never left our comfort zones and occasionally shook things up? Every tier should tap into his creative side, and I hope that while you read this article, you decide to get a little crazy and see what happens at your vise. Tie it, fish it, adapt it, and tie it again. Find the color schemes and materials that work best for you. You won’t regret it.
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because grasshoppers and ants are always on the southern summer food menu. I occasionally swing the Iridescent Ant by itself on bright, sunny days, and the strikes are usually incredible. You’d better double-check your knots!
Bass Are Like Comfort Food
Ahhh . . . bass. My oldest friends—or enemies, depending upon how you look at them. But I’m sure the fondness is one sided. I grew up a bass-pond kid. I lived on one, and spent most childhood summers barefoot in the shallows searching for Mr. Lunker. Today, it’s much the same, but the ponds have gotten bigger and the old Zebco reel sits collecting dust. When I think of summer, this is most often where my mind goes. There is a fierceness and predictability in bass that makes fishing for them a sort of comfort food. They can’t resist eating everything in sight, and I can’t resist catching them. I often hear non-tiers and general killjoys say that it doesn’t matter what you throw at them, all you really need is a basic popper. I don’t disagree that poppers catch bass—oh boy, do they—but I do disagree with this one-
size-fits-all approach. There probably isn’t a trout in the world that can’t be caught with an olive Woolly Bugger or Adams, so why single out bass as one-dimensional? We tie different patterns because we enjoy doing it, not because it is necessary. Bass flies are no different. Bass flies fit into at least two distinct categories: imitations of food and attractors. I tie flies that either emulate an exact food source or just drive bass nuts, focusing on color and movement. The bass on my local impoundment have abundant sources of food and will actually move around the lake following a meal. There are several islands and coves on my lake that support a healthy hatch of large Hexegenia mayflies throughout the summer. Yes, I throw dry flies to bass; watching a seven-pounder slowly sip a mayfly imitation from the surface and then go ballistic is amazing. Most large reservoirs and lakes support mayfly hatches, so tie a few Flex Hex flies and experience the thrill of bass on dry flies.
More Favorite Flies
Shad are another specific food source for bass. Spotted bass, largemouth bass, and striped bass all eat shad. Fish
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Flies for Trout Orange & Orange Soft-Hackle Hook: Wet fly hook, size 14. Thread: Orange 6/0 (140 denier). Body: Brown goose biot and orange SLF Spikey Dubbing. Collar: Orange soft hackle.
Bloody Hairy Hook: 3X-long streamer hook, size 2. Thread: Black gel spun. Weight: .030 lead-free wire. Tail: Black marabou blood quills. Body: Red floss. Collar: Fair Flies Bleeding Leech black brush or a similar brush. Head: Black tungsten bead. Note: Don’t overdo wrapping the brush; one complete turn will give you the correct profile and shape.
Puterbaugh Foam Caddis Hook: Dai-Riki #125, size 16. Thread: Semperfli Micro Glint in medium olive. Body: 3-millimeter-thick olive foam. Wing: Pale morning dun cul de canard. Hackle: Barred dark ginger. Note: This pattern is a variation of a fly designed by Don Puterbaugh.
Summer Sculpin Hook: 3X-long streamer hook, size 1. Thread: Black gel spun. Tail: Olive magnum Zonker strip. Body: Fair Flies red/black Mind Bender 5D Brush, brown ostrich plumes, Senyo’s Predator Wrap, and olive saddle hackles. Collar: Senyo’s Laser Dub, sculpin olive. Weight: Black dumbbell eyes. Note: This pattern is a variation of a fly by Jerry French.
Brookie Bug Hook: Regular dry fly hook, size 14. Thread: Orange 8/0 (70 denier). Rib: Small bronze wire. Body: Orange SLF Spikey Dubbing and barred dark ginger hackle. Underwing: Root beer Midge Flash. Wing: Pale morning dun cul de canard. Head: 1.5-millimeter-thick white foam, barred olive rubber legs, and orange SLF Spikey Dubbing.
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Hook: Wet fly hook, size 12. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Body: UTC micro Herl Chenille and tying thread. Hackle: Dark olive soft hackle.
Hook: Gamakatsu C13U Keel Balance, size 16 or 14. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Body: Tying thread. Rib: Micro Flashabou. Gills: Red Flashabou. Coating: Solarez thin light-activated glue.
Rubber-Legged Stimulator Hook: Dai-Riki #270, size 6. Thread: Olive 3/0 (210 denier). Tail: Root beer Midge Flash and olive elk hair. Body: Olive floss and olive Semperfli Straggle String. Rib: Fine chartreuse wire. Underwing: Krystal Flash. Wing: Elk hair. Hackle: Olive saddle hackle. Head: Orange SLF Spikey Dubbing and barred olive rubber legs.
Zebra Midge Variation Hook: Daiichi 1167, size 18. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Body: Tying thread. Rib: Pearl Semperfli iridescent thread. Wing: A single strand of Krystal Flash. Collar: A pinch of Senyoâ€™s Laser Dub, sculpin olive.
Redhead Woolly Bugger Hook: 3X-long streamer hook, size 2. Thread: Black gel spun. Weight: .030-inch lead-free wire. Tail: Olive marabou and root beer Midge Flash. Body: Fine dark olive chenille, red Semperfli Straggle String, and olive saddle hackle. Rib: Medium silver wire. Note: To help build an even profile, wrap the lead-free wire underneath only the red throat. Start wrapping the wire at the midpoint where the olive chenille ends, and leave room at the head for a clean hackle finish.
Hook: Dai-Riki #270, size 6. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire. Tail: Orange SLF Spikey Dubbing and gold turkey biots. Abdomen: Burnt orange Semperfli Quick Dub and turkey tail feathers. Rib: Brass wire. Thorax: Orange SLF Spikey Dubbing and gold turkey biots. Wing case: Turkey tail feathers. Finish: Light-activated glue or epoxy on the wing case.
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the Articulated Clouser Minnow, my go-to, fast-sinking imitation, in still waters or tight against rocky riverbanks when smallmouth and other bass are chasing shad. When it comes to frogs, I lean more toward creative patterns rather than specific imitations, again with a focus on color and movement. Based on their willingness to chase frogs and the increase in topwater activity around the time frogs become plentiful, I believe that bass crave frogs more than most other food. I tie an arsenal of diving, popping, and wiggling imitations that drive trophy bass bonkers. I love fishing for bass in rivers. Whether they’re smallmouth, spotted, or largemouth bass, none resist the original Sneaky Pete. Rather than the original balsa heads, however, I prefer using the indestructible double-barrel foam popper heads from Flymen Fishing Company. And the Double Pete is a favorite pattern for early in the season when good topwater fishing is still not quite guaranteed. My favorite popper, the Damsel in Distress, came about when I was talking with a West Coast steelhead guide while he tied a popper set on a shank with a trailing hook, much like a steelhead fly. This thing is deadly. I always tie it with an undersized blue popper head, and I swear the bass think it’s a damselfly. Cast the fly, let it land on the water, and wait a few seconds before making your first strip or pop. This is often when the magic happens! The Bullfriggle and Crawdiggle both have enticing movement, especially the way they wiggle. Although the two are similar in design, I fish the Bullfriggle as a topwater diver using a floating line, and the Crawdiggle as a subsurface swimmer with a sinking line. Both are absolute bass killers. Be sure to try the Wormhole for carp, bream, and bass. When fish are holding tight to their redds and aren’t willing to chase, the Wormhole is the perfect pattern to entice them. Carp also can’t resist its floating tail and movement when the Wormhole bumps along the bottom. It’s my catchall pattern that is easy to tie and fun to fish. When it comes to summertime, fish each day as if it were the last of the season. It’s a time to experiment, have fun, and work on your farmer’s tan. Push the envelope and see what new patterns you can create. If you approach each tying session thinking that established patterns are just the outlines for new creations, you will feel more fulfilled at the end of a day of fishing. Let the other guy lay the groundwork, and then make your flies your own. Okay, I’ll be on the water, fishing as much as life, work, and family will allow. Leave a message after the beep. I’ll get back to you sometime around autumn. Seth Fields manages this magazine’s digital outlets: website, Facebook page, and more. He is also the editor of our sister online publication, The Angling Report. The Angling Report is the last word in authoritative information about where to fish around the world. The Angling Report’s readers provide reviews about the places they have fished, so it is information you can trust. For more information, go to wwwanglingreport.com. Seth lives in East Tennessee.
Flies for Bass Double Pete Hook: Ahrex TP650-26, size 3/0. Thread: Black gel spun. Weed guard: 40-pound-test monofilament. Weight: Lead-free wire. Tail: Chartreuse EP Fibers, and black-and-chartreuse rubber legs. Body: Black Semperfli Straggle String. Head: Small double-barrel popper. Legs: Two chartreuse rubber legs and one barred rubber leg. Eyes: 4-millimeter Fish-Skull Living Eyes.
Bullfriggle Hook: Ahrex NS122, size 2. Thread: Black gel spun. Tail: Olive marabou and barred olive rubber legs. Rib: Medium silver wire. Body: Olive Straggle String and olive hackle. Head: 4-millimeter-thick foam, olive. Eyes: 4-millimeter Ice (silver) Fish-Skull Living Eyes. Note: Want to learn how to tie this fly? Check out the video on www.flytyer.com to see how it’s done.
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Flex Hex Hook: Dai-Riki #270, size 6. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Underbody: Six strands of root beer Midge Flash wrapped around the shank. Body: 4-millimeter-thick foam and tying thread. Wing case: 2-millimeter-thick light tan foam. Wing: Grizzly hackle.
Articulated Clouser Minnow Rear hook: Gamakatsu SC15, size 6. Thread: White gel spun. Tail: White bucktail and Krystal Flash. Body: Pearl sparkle braid. Collar: White soft hackle. Wire: Senyo’s Intruder Trailer Hook Wire, silver. Bead: Orange Carolina rig bead. Front hook: Ahrex NS122, size 4. Weight: Silver dumbbell. Tail: White bucktail and shad gray bucktail. Body: Pearl sparkle braid. Bottom wing: White bucktail. Top wing: Shad gray bucktail and Krystal Flash. Note: This fly is a variation of Bob Clouser’s original famous pattern.
Wormhole Hook: Ahrex NS172, size 4. Thread: Black gel spun. Tail: Red chenille and 4-millimeter-thick red foam. Body: Red Straggle String. Eyes: Large black bead chain. Note: To make the tail, start by cutting a deep slit into a cube of foam. Apply superglue to the inside of the slit, insert the chenille, and close tightly until set.
Damsel in Distress Rear hook: Ahrex NS182, size 4. Wire: Senyo’s Intruder Trailer Hook Wire, silver. Thread: Black gel spun. Shank: Fish-Skull 25-millimeter-long shank. Body: Fair Flies blue/grizzly/pink Mind Bender 5D Brush. Head: Small Surface Seducer Double Barrel popper and barred rubber legs. Eyes: 3-millimeter Volcanic (red) Surface Seducer Dragon Eyes.
Crawdiggle Hook: Ahrex NS122, size 2. Thread: Black gel spun. Tail: Orange barred marabou, two strands of root beer Midge Flash, and two shrimp orange rubber legs. Weight: Large black bead chain. Body: Orange SLF Spikey Dubbing and orange Semperfli Straggle String. Head: 4-millimeter-thick orange foam. Note: To see a great video showing how to tie this pattern, go to www.flytyer.com.
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The Flies of Summer N EW E N G L A N D
oday in New England, as in most parts of the fly fishing world, the majority of anglers spend their time visiting well-known rivers and streams. The larger pools on these rivers are often named, the hatches are known and anticipated, and local tiers have created imitations that match the major forms of aquatic food. In addition, most New England rivers are easily accessible, and success catching fish requires only common angling methods, so the vast majority of fishermen overlook the region’s hundreds of ponds containing trout. Generally speaking, when asked about my home waters, I tell folks it is Grand Lake Stream, a historic fly fishing destination about forty-five minutes from my home in Maine. The truth, however, is that other than pursuing the Hendrickson hatch in May, a terrific caddisfly hatch that occurs around the Fourth of July, and a day or two of lateseason fishing in mid-October (I’m really there then to run my springer spaniels through the local woodcock covers), I spend most of my time fishing one or two local ponds managed for trophy trout. While Grand Lake Stream is crowded with anglers, I am just 15 or 20 minutes away, enjoying a lovely pond managed by the state for our enjoyment, and I almost always have it to myself. I could tell similar stories about crowded streams and rivers—and mostly vacant trout ponds—all across New England. Most anglers don’t know the tactics for fishing a pond, and they might not have the right lines and flies. As a result, they wait for a hatch and to see rising fish, neither of which might occur. For them, fishing a stream seems easier, so they swear off still waters.
Not Much to Say About Floating Flies
Let’s get this out of the way: fishing New England trout ponds doesn’t require a large selection of dry flies. But is this any different from fishing a stream or river? The most successful river anglers I know carry large selections of subsurface patterns and fewer dry flies. The anglers participating in the World Fly Fishing Championships have us all talking about European nymph-fishing tactics, yet I haven’t heard anything about new dry fly fishing methods. All these accomplished anglers know that to catch a lot of fish, you have to present your flies at the depths where the trout spend most of their time—down below. All New England trout ponds contain caddisflies. You’ll see these insects scurrying across the surface of the water and trout slashing at them at sunset. Like so many anglers, I am partial to the classic Elk-Hair Caddis, but I need a pattern that is easy to draw across the surface at the end of a long leader. Adding an underwing of cul de canard turns the common Elk-Hair Caddis into a high-floating, almost unsinkable cork. My collection of mayfly patterns is also fairly sparse. The Foam-Bodied Mayfly features an abdomen crafted us-
ing closed-cell foam, so it is practically unsinkable. I tie this pattern in sizes 16 to 12, and jumbo size 6 for matching the late-June Hexagenia hatch. Tie your favorite highfloating mayfly imitation in similar sizes, and you will be prepared to match almost any evening mayfly hatch. Okay, caddisfly, mayfly, and midge imitations—the ordinary Griffith’s Gnat is a fine midge pattern—and our dry fly box is complete.
An Unusual Fishing Tactic
When fishing a pond, I spend the majority of my time using subsurface patterns. The opportunities to fish dry flies successfully occurs only very early in the morning before the sun beats on the water, and late in the afternoon and early evening at sunset. If you chase the Hexagenia hatch—this is one of my annual fly fishing rituals—this occurs well after sunset. The remainder of the day, if we are to catch fish, requires using sinking lines and subsurface patterns. While I am including a few weighted flies, I have been experimenting with an unusual fishing method that is paying great dividends. I use a fast-sinking line, a four-to-five-foot-long leader, and a buoyant fly containing closed-cell foam. To maximize the fly’s action in the water, tie the fly to the tippet using a loop knot. The sinking line draws the fly down the water column to the trout, but since the fly contains closed-cell foam, it can hover above weeds and other obstacles. The Hovering Fly fishing method is very simple. Cast the fly, and then count to 10, 15, or 20; the deeper the water, the longer you should count. Next, retrieve the fly very slowly. Real nymphs and leeches don’t drag race around a pond, so an extremely slow retrieve works best; save using a faster stripping retrieve for the evening when emerging insects are swimming to the surface. This technique has two distinct advantages. First, the fly is less likely to snag weeds and more solid objects such as unseen boulders and sunken logs. Second, because you are spending less time cleaning debris from the hook—or worse, replacing a lost fly—you spend more time actually fishing. The Hovering Leech and Hovering Damselfly Nymph are among my favorite patterns for using with this method. The Hovering Leech contains an underbody of closed-cell foam; the abdomen and wing case of the Hovering Damselfly Nymph are also buoyant closed-cell foam. New England’s trout ponds are overlooked gems. All these states have ponds managed for trophy trout, and many are designated as “fly fishing only.” While other anglers crowd the region’s streams and rivers, there’s an excellent chance you’ll have a pond all to yourself. Don’t tell anybody! David Klausmeyer is the editor of this magazine.
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Best Flies & Tactics for Fishing Trout Ponds New Englandâ€™s trout ponds offer solitude and terrific fishing. Our editor, David Klausmeyer, shares a few of his favorite patterns and describes how he fishes them.
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BEAD-HEAD MARABOU ROYAL COACHMAN
BEAD-HEAD CADDISFLY PUPA
DIVING HEX NYMPH
Hook: 2X-long nymph hook, size 10. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Red 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Golden pheasant tippet fibers. Body: Peacock herl and tying thread. Wing: White marabou. Hackle: Brown or grizzly. Note: Okay, kids, despite all the talk about matching the hatch—both below and on the surface of the water—this old-style attractor pattern is one of my go-to flies. I suppose the trout can’t resist the swimming marabou wing, but you’d have to ask them about that.
Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, size 8 or 6. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Weight: Extra-small dumbbell. Tail: Olive marabou and a couple of strands of pearl Krystal Flash. Abdomen: Olive marabou. Rib: Fine gold wire. Wing case: The butt end of the tail folded back and clipped to length. Thorax: Olive wet fly dubbing. Legs: Grizzly hackle fibers. Note: I use this pattern midday when the hatch is still hours away and the real nymphs are moving near the lakebed, preparing to ascend to the surface when the sun sets. Wapsi Fly offers dumbbells in extremely small sizes for tying weighted nymphs.
Hook: Regular nymph hook, sizes 14 to 8. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Abdomen: Gray emu or marabou. Rib: Fine gold wire. Thorax: Olive Hare’e Ice Dub and dun cul de canard using the splitthread technique. Hackle: Grizzly or olive grizzly. Note: I tie this pattern for matching smaller caddisfly pupae. It’s the right size and shape, and the materials have lifelike swimming action in the water.
Hook: Regular dry fly hook, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Tan hackle fibers. Abdomen: Olive closed-cell foam. Rib: Yellow tying thread. Wing: Medallion Sheeting or a similar material fashioned in a wing burner. Thorax: Olive Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle: Olive grizzly. Note: When fishing this pattern on Maine’s Kidney Pond, I noticed the tip end of my leader mysteriously rising from the water, and my fly was nowhere to be seen. A large dragonfly had snatched it from the surface and was flying away with it. That’s a true story!
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PURPLE HOVERING LEECH
BLACK HOVERING LEECH
HOVERING DAMSELFLY NYMPH
Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, size 10 or 8. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Purple marabou and a couple of strands of pearl Krystal Flash. Underbody: A strip of closed-cell foam. Body: Purple shaggy dubbing in a dubbing loop. Note: This is one of the patterns I use with a full-sinking line. The closed-cell foam keeps the fly hovering above the weeds. Fish the Hovering Leech slowly.
Hook: Bent-shank, light-wire hook, size 6 or 4. Thread: Olive 8/0 (70 denier). Tailing shuck: Olive Antron. Abdomen: Olive Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Rib: Yellow 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread. Wing: Yellow cul de canard. Thorax: Peacock herl. Legs: Grizzly hackle using the paraloop method. Note: I tie the Hexagenia Emerger as a paraloop, but you could also make it as a parachute pattern. Fish this fly using a floating line, swab a little floatant on your leader and the hackle fibers, but keep the floatant from clogging the fine CDC fibers.
Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, size 10 or 8. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Black marabou and red Krystal Flash. Underbody: A strip of closed-cell foam. Body: Bloody black shaggy dubbing in a dubbing loop. Note: This is an important member of my Hovering Leech series of flies. Iâ€™m including the purple and black versions, but I also tie this fly in olive.
Hook: Long-shank nymph hook, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Green 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Chartreuse marabou. Abdomen: A strip of closed-cell foam. Thorax: Peacock herl. Wing case: Green closed-cell foam. Legs: Dun hackle fibers. Eyes: Green closed-cell foam. Note: Many New England trout ponds contain very small, bright green damselfly nymphs. This is another member of my family of Hovering Nymph imitations.
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SIMPLE HEX NYMPH
CHARTREUSE MIDGE LARVA
NYMPH SKIN PUPA
Hook: Regular nymph hook, size 8. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Olive marabou. Body: The butt end of the tail wrapped up the hook. Wing case: A strip of mottled turkey tail feather. Legs: Grizzly hackle fibers. Note: I love tying complicated, more realistic Hexagenia nymph imitations, but this basic pattern has a lot of lifelike, fish-attracting movement in the water.
Hook: Curved-shank pupa hook, sizes 18 to 14. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Chartreuse 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Tying thread. Rib: Extra-fine gold wire. Thorax: Natural Hare’e Ice Dub. Note: I have never seen a real chartreuse midge pupa, but the trout eat this fly. I suppose it proves the adage, “It ain’t no use if it doesn’t have chartreuse.” Stupid fish . . .
Hook: 2X-long wet fly hook, size 6. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Pheasant aftershaft feathers. Hackle: Partridge. Note: This pattern, created by Jack Gartside, huffs and puffs when stripped through the water. Although Jack said it imitated a damselfly nymph, the real nymphs are extremely slender and dainty. I suspect the trout mistake the Wet Mouse as a dragonfly nymph.
Hook: 2X-long nymph hook, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Abdomen: Natural Nymph Skin or a similar material colored with a tan or brown permanent marker. Rib: Brown 6/0 (140 denier) tying thread. Thorax: Tan nymph dubbing and dun cul de canard using the splitthread method. Note: The Nymph Skin Pupa, something I cooked up to match the larger caddisflies I see hatching on local New England trout ponds, features a segmented abdomen and lifelike thorax.
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BEAD-HEAD WOOLLY BUGGER
SWIMMING DAMSELFLY NYMPH
CDC ELK-HAIR CADDIS
RED MIDGE LARVA
Head: Gold bead. Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, size 10 or 8. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Black marabou and pearl Krystal Flash. Body: Black chenille or dubbing. Hackle: Black saddle hackle. Note: I use a weighted Woolly Bugger when I want to quickly cover a lot of water. Frankly, however, I catch more trout using the accompanying Hovering flies and a fast-sinking line. If that style of fishing is too slow and boring for you, you might prefer casting a weighted fly.
Hook: Regular dry fly hook, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Tan 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Tan Super Fine Dry Fly Dubbing. Hackle (optional): Tan. Underwing: Tan cul de canard. Wing: Deer or elk hair. Indicator: Orange polypropylene. Note: This fly kisses and skims the surface of the water. The CDC underwing makes it float higher than a traditional Elk-Hair Caddis. Fish love this fly!
Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, sizes 12 to 8. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Olive marabou. Abdomen: Olive micro tubing, Vinyl Rib, D-Rib, or a similar material. Thorax: Olive Hareâ€™e Ice Dub. Wing case: A strip of mottled turkey tail feather or brown Medallion Sheeting. Legs: Olive grizzly hackle fibers. Note: Slightly bending the hook shank prevents the fly from flipping over when fishing and keeps it swimming in the correct position.
Hook: Curved-shank pupa hook, sizes 18 to 14. Head: Gold bead. Thread: Red 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Tying thread. Rib: Extra-fine gold wire. Thorax: Bloody black Hareâ€™e Ice Dub. Note: I tie this pattern in a variety of colors. I am giving you two versions with this article, and you will also want to tie it in black.
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FLY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVE KLAUSMEYER
by Mike Cline
HOW TO DESIGN A NEW FISHHOOK Creating new hooks is about more than just sharpening and bending thin pieces of wire. And with all the hooks already on the market, why would you even want to? Meet a man who saw a need and is working hard to fill it with some great new barbless hooks.
he basic function and design of the fishhook was settled many centuries ago. Like knives, forks, and spoons, there’s not a lot of room for change. Today, fishhooks are global commodities with at least a dozen major manufacturers in Asia and Europe.
Some brands don’t even compete in the United States where companies like Eagle Claw, Mustad, Tiemco, Daiichi, Gamakatsu, and others hold significant market share. You’d think that an entrepreneur starting a new business wouldn’t choose fishhooks as a first product line,
but Joe Mathis, of Firehole Outdoors, in Bozeman, Montana, disagrees. Unbeknownst to me, Joe and his wife, Deb, live just a few miles across town. Although I saw Joe’s hooks in local fly shops, I knew nothing about his company. He and I agreed to meet and talk
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NADICA & IGOR STANCEV
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Why Another Hook?
I wanted to know more about the engineering aspect of fly hook design, so I sat with Joe in the basement of his home, affectionately known as “Firehole Central,” and he explained his story. As Joe tells it, one day he walked into a local fly shop looking for barbless hooks. Although he found them, he couldn’t believe the price; he thought it
was a lot of money to pay for a package of only 25 hooks, even if the quality was high. Walking out of the shop, Joe the Engineer thought, I can do this better. I can design and manufacture a barbless fly hook at a far more affordable price. There is a reason barbless fly hooks tend to be more expensive than similar barbed models. Pure and simple, it is supply and demand. Twenty-five years ago, finding barbless hooks specifically made for tying flies was a hopeless pursuit, but over the last few decades, the pros and cons of fishing with barbed versus barbless hooks became well documented. Moreover, new federal, state, and local regulations mandating the use of barbless hooks drove additional demand. Even though barbs can be pinched down with pliers to make hooks comply with regulations, major hook manufacturers introduced more models of barbless hooks. The demand for barbless hooks, however, is still probably less than 5 percent of the entire fly hook market. For mainstream When designing a new hook, Joe Mathis pours all the data he’s collected into a computer. Next, prototype hooks are manufactured and sent to knowledgeable tiers. Joe will include their observations—pro and con—in the final design. Finally, the hook-making machines start churning out new hooks for use to use.
about hooks. I’ve chatted with Joe many times since, but our first meeting was a real education. When I first met Joe, we spent more than an hour talking about Bozeman and, more important, hooks. Joe, with a long beard and Montana State University sweatshirt, had this Duck Dynasty look. In his mid-50s, he started his career as a professional engineer working in production management and manufacturing for Dell Computers in Austin, Texas. Joe moved his family to Bozeman in 2009. Early on, I asked Joe if he is a fly fisher; of course he is, but it is obvious that fishing is a secondary pursuit. Yes, he ties flies, has all the fishing gear, and gets out on the water occasionally, but at heart, Joe is an engineer. For that first hour, neither of us shared any fish stories or the inevitable parade of big-fish pictures; instead, we talked about hooks, and how he and his wife started Firehole Outdoors.
Designing a fishhook is about more than just bending a piece of wire. Joe Mathis carefully studies the needs of anglers and tiers, and then researches what hooks are already available. He creates his own barbless hook based on this data. Left: Firehole Outdoors offers about a dozen models of barbless hooks in a variety of sizes. Firehole’s goal is to offer quality barbless fly tying hooks at an affordable price.
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MATERIALS NOTEBOOK manufacturers, barbless fly hooks are only small niches of their businesses, so fly tiers pay premium for barbless hooks in the right sizes and shapes compared to the prices of barbed counterparts. Sometime in 2014, Joe started designing a series of barbless hooks that might appeal to fly anglers. He consulted with more than a dozen manufacturers in Asia and the United States, seeking one to produce his hooks and ensure production quality, and consistently deliver his product in a timely manner at a price that makes economic sense for tiers. He settled on a small manufacturer in China, and outfitters, guides, and fly tiers rigorously tested the first samples.
How a Manufacturing Engineer Designs a Fishhook
Joe Mathis, the engineer and barblesshook entrepreneur, found a way to make high-quality, functional barbless fly hooks at a very affordable price. (In a quick internet search, I found various Firehole Outdoors trout hooks—the company calls them Fire Sticks—selling for $7.25 per box of 36. —editor) The more I talked with him about his hooks, the more curious I became about hook design. This is what he told me about designing barbless fly hooks.
MIKE I think you started with 12 different hook models, each in a specific set of sizes. What are the factors that go into deciding on a new hook model and what sizes you will offer? JOE For the first dozen designs, it was important that I create a selection that broadly covered the basic styles of hooks. This, of course, had to include standard dry fly, nymph, jig, streamer, and beadhead nymph hooks. In addition, a selection of scud, emerger, caddis, and Klinkhammer-style hooks was necessary. I rounded out the offering with a heavywire, short-shank nymph hook and a unique extended-body dry fly hook. During the design process, I created specifications for sizes that ranged both larger and smaller than what would be considered standard for each hook style. I ordered wire molds for all the sizes as well as initial prototype manufacturing runs for each model. For the production runs, I narrowed the sizes down to those that would target the broadest audience; I could always add more sizes if the demand was there. While the initial designs reflected 12 different hooks, from the beginning there were about two dozen models in some level of development.
MIKE Can you explain how you design a specific hook model? JOE After extensive research on existing hooks, and with FAVORITE BARBLESS HOOKS the models that I have alIn addition to Firehole Outdoors, several other comready designed, it is simple panies also offer barbless fly tying hooks. This list is to create a new hook. I defar from exhaustive, but it will get you started when cide to bring a new model selecting the types of barbless hooks you want to to market because there is add to your fly tying bench. —David Klausmeyer a lack of a barbless hook of that style, or I decide to Daiichi www.anglersportgroup.com directly compete with a traFirehole Outdoors www.jsflyfishing.com ditional model of barbed Fulling Mill www.fullingmill.com hook. I generally stick to the following steps when deGamakatsu www.gamakatsu.com signing a new hook. Mustad www.mustad-fishing.com First, I make preliminary Orvis www.orvis.com drawings of what I want to Partridge www.partridge-of-redditch.co.uk see in the new hook. I define any changes I want from Tiemco www.umpqua.com what is currently or similarly Varivas www.anglersportgroup.com available in other hooks. Do I want a larger gap, longer or
shorter tying length, or changes to the angle of the eye? It’s things like that. I take the measurements and analysis of similar models: shank length, hook length, gap, point length, the termination of the point with respect to the shank, wire diameter, bend shape, and more. Next, I incorporate all this analysis into the final hook measurements based on my design criteria, have prototypes manufactured, and go! For a hook like the model 718, there really isn’t anything standard about it; it doesn’t fit into any of the traditional standard categories. I specifically designed this hook to compete in the market with barbed nymph hooks featuring slightly bent shanks. As with my initial designs, I measured, charted, and analyzed shank length, hook length, gap, point length, termination of point with respect to the shank, wire diameter, and bend shapes. I studied as many similar hooks as I could find. This gave me the basic metrics and shape that tiers see in this style of hook. The overall length is within a couple hundredths of a millimeter of the same numerical sizes of those hooks, but the wire of my hooks is slightly heavier and the shanks are slightly more curved. The difference in the curve allows for a smoother transition, and it accommodates a larger gap and an extended retention point. The hook is also forged way up into the shank to ensure against bending. MIKE At one point in the initial development process, you asked some prominent tiers and other industry experts to evaluate prototype designs of your hooks. How did you incorporate that feedback from an engineering perspective? JOE I sent sample hooks to tiers around the country. The difference in feedback was amazing depending on where the each tier lived. They tied different flies, different sizes of the same flies, experience different water conditions, and cast to different species of fish. They often loved or hated the exact same models of hooks, or they would say to change nothing or change everything! I charted each model to the varying conditions and saw a pattern develop based on the type of hook— dry fly, nymph, curved-shank, and so
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on. I changed the designs of three of the initial hooks, and about half of all the hooks received a change in wire size. I must admit that, from an engineering perspective, I got one model significantly wrong with respect to who had more leverage during a fight—the fish or the angler. No one landed a single fish on the first prototype on one of my hooks, so I changed the curvature of the shank, the depth of the bend, and the angle of the retention point. Even my manufacturer made contributions to the final designs. Using proprietary hook production techniques, which the manufacturer can’t reveal, he generated recommendations that resulted in better designs and lower production costs. MIKE As an engineer, how do you judge the performance and quality of a fly hook? And what should a tier look for when judging the quality of a hook? JOE I think there is not as much of a difference in how I judge the performance versus how a tier judges performance and quality. I tend to be concerned with more things than the consumer is, and if I do my work correctly, he shouldn’t have to be concerned with anything but catching fish. When I hear from someone who dislikes a hook, it is almost always because he was unable to land a fish with a barbless hook. As you can imagine, this is a delicate conversation to have because it almost always involves their “fish of a lifetime.” Generally, folks have become used to hooks with barbs, and fishing barbless requires a little more finesse. Poor quality is almost always reflected in broken hooks. In the first year, I cataloged as many of these problem hooks as possible from anglers who contacted me, and a very distinct pattern emerged. Without fail, hooks broke at the spot in the bend where they would have been placed in a vise. When viewed under magnification, most of them showed evidence of the imprint of overtightened vise jaws. This is also a delicate conversation to have with most tiers. MIKE Is hook design an art or a science? JOE It is a bit of both. I worked hard to
Above: Shawn Holsinger tied this collection of Flash-Back Hot-Spot Stones using the Firehole 718.
Above: The Firehole 315 is perfect for tying a pattern like this Wired Stonesickle, tied by Tim Sickles. Right: A barbless hook such as the Firehole 419 is ideal for releasing trout quickly and safely. Tim Sickles tied this pattern he calls the Iced Mocha Naked Stimulator. Love the hook— and the name of the fly!
incorporate as much engineering into the designs as made sense. I was able to take the necessary time when I didn’t know if this little basement experiment would be anything more than just that—an experiment. At some point, I had to tell myself that a dry fly hook is just a dry fly hook, and a nymph hook is just a nymph hook. I wasn’t going to reinvent the wheel, I just hoped to make it roll a little better.
Mike Cline is a retired United States Air Force officer and business consultant. He caught his first Firehole River trout in 1972, and has since fly fished throughout the world. Mike lives in Montana. To see the entire line of Firehole Outdoors hooks, go to J. Stockard Fly Fishing; check out the company website at www.jsflyfishing.com. This is an edited version of an article that appeared as a blog on its website.
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High-floating closed-cell foam is ideal for making terrestrials and other dry flies.
PRO TIPS FOR TYING WITH FOAM Closed-cell foam is an excellent fly tying material. A master tier shares his tricks for using this common and inexpensive ingredient.
hinking back several years—actually, decades—I remember foam-body flies beginning to appear in magazines and fly fishing catalogs. At the time I thought to myself, Wow, those flies must float all day. Then, shortly after, I can’t believe a trout would eat one of those things. Since then I’ve watched foam patterns evolve and become more refined. I also find myself tying and using them on a regular basis. Today, closed-cell foam is available in nearly every color, thickness, and shape, but I’d like to focus on 2-millimeter-thick craft foam, which is used the most and is readily available. You can find the stuff virtually everywhere, from grocery and craft stores to fly shops. It cuts, folds, glues, rolls, stretches, and colors easily. Closed-cell foam is
cheap, durable, and most important, floats. And fly tiers love stuff that floats! Those early foam patterns came mainly out of the American West and primarily mimicked large terrestrials, especially grasshoppers. Today, foam-body flies still lean toward the terrestrial realm and include crickets, beetles, ants, with a few frogs thrown in for you bass-fishing guys. I’ve also seen a foam mouse or two. Foam is used in greater or lesser amounts in dragonfly, damselfly, stonefly, caddisfly, and mayfly patterns. Somehow, closed-cell foam even managed to finagle its way into saltwater patterns, such as Gurglers and Crease Flies. (Made in smaller sizes, they are also great bass flies.) The foam invasion has taken a while to take hold, but it is now widespread for tying flies that catch a variety of species.
Overcoming Common Problems
Working with foam is not without challenges. It likes to twist around smooth metal hook shanks and has a tendency to pucker where you really don’t want it to. Using a good thread base and superglue, or making an underbody using a thin strip of foam or dubbing helps prevent the foam from twisting around the shank. And as far as puckering, use this to your advantage as handy spots for securing rubber legs, tying on wing material, and adding colorful accents. And finally, if foam is bound down and compressed too much, most of the air gets forced out so it sinks like a stone. Make many common patterns using strips of foam requiring no fancy cutting. Although it’s possible to cut out a variety of
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TIM FLAGLER
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FOAM HAS BECOME an indispensable fly tying material and is used in countless fly patterns.
shapes using scissors or a hobby knife, foam cutters, like those available from River Road Creations, do a remarkable job of producing intricate and repeatable shapes in different sizes. They are well worth the investment. Tap into your creativity when tying with foam. Before you begin making a foam fly, pick up a piece of material and start playing with it. Fold, twist, glue, and cut it; like all materials, it requires you to learn its unique characteristics. If you come up with something thatâ€™s unique or looks cool, use it as the basis for creating a new pattern. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results. Let me share with you some of the things I have learned about tying with closed-cell foam. Use these tips when designing your own foam patterns.
CLOSED-CELL FOAM is available in a myriad of sizes, shapes, and colors. Use it to make dozens of fish-catching flies.
THE MOST COMMON TYPE of fly tying foam comes in narrow sheets. It is available in several thicknesses and a rainbow of colors.
Tim Flagler is a leader at producing instructional fly tying and fishing videos. Tim lives in New Jersey but travels the country teaching classes and giving fly tying demonstrations. To see his terrific videos, go to www. practicalpatterns.com.
WATCH & LEARN Want to see how to tie the Half & Half? Each installment of Beginnerâ€™s Masterclass features an accompanying fly tying video you can find at www.flytyer.com and www.practicalpatterns.com. Read the article, watch the video, tie the fly, and CATCH MORE FISH!
CUT SHEET FOAM using strong craft scissors or a straightedge and hobby knife.
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THERE IS ENOUGH FOAM here to tie at least 100 flies. To save time and increase output, cut sheets into narrow strips to tie batches of flies.
SPECIALIZED CUTTERS are capable of cutting sheet foam into intricate shapes with repeatable precision. If you tie a lot of foam flies, cutters are worth the investment.
CUTTING FOAM to shape in large batches will help to speed fly tying later on.
SLIGHTLY HEAVIER THREAD, such as UTC Ultra Thread 140 denier, works well for securing foam to the hook. Wrap a layer of thread on the hook shank before gluing the foam in place.
DON’T GLUE the foam body directly to the hook or it will probably twist around the shank when you’re fishing. Instead, wrap the shank with a layer of thread before attaching the foam.
TYING A SMALL STRIP of foam to the hook shank as an underbody will strengthen the finished foam body even more.
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SECURING A FOAM STRIP to the hook is easy. First, tie the end of the strip in place using two loose thread wraps. Pinch the foam and tighten the thread. Spiral-wrap the thread up and down the foam underbody.
WRAPPING DUBBING on the hook shank is another great trick to strengthen a finished foam body. The glue and foam adhere to the dubbing, locking the body in place and adding realism to the bottom of the fly.
WELD THE FOAM BODY to the underbody—thread base, foam, or dubbing—using superglue or Zap-A-Gap.
GLUING TOGETHER different colors of foam before making the body is a great way to make custom-looking flies.
SET YOUR CREATIVITY FREE and color a foam body using your choice of permanent markers.
USE YOUR IMAGINATION when tying with foam. Nothing is out of bounds.
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C O N T I N U E D F R O M PA G E 8 0
MOTHER OF DRAGONS
Hook: Long-shank streamer hook, sizes 10 to 6. Thread: Size 6/0 (140 denier) in your choice of color. Body: Pieces of art foam board glued to the hook shank and then wrapped with thread. Head (optional): Roll back and glue the end of the body to the hook. Tail: Flashabou and deer hair wrapped together with thread. Eyes (optional): Adhesive eyes work great. Back: A tuft of barred rabbit fur, Flashabou, or feather fibers. I only began tying flies in the winter of 2017, and have had great pleasure making almost 800 flies since. I removed my golf plaques from a wall near my desk and hung a rack for fly tying supplies, feathers, and accessories. Here are four of my dragonflies. I live on a lake, and the bass just eat these up. I purchased dragonflies that would last only one afternoon because the bluegills hammered them, but the monofilament wings on my flies eliminate these nuisance strikes; the bluegills can’t get their little mouths around them. The bass, however, are another story! Jon McKee Germantown Hills, Illinois
MARDI GRAS MAGIC BUGGER
Hook: Mustad 9671, size 8. Head: Small or medium gold cone. Thread: Black 3/0 (210 denier). Tail: Rabbit fur with two strands gold and green Krystal Flash on each side. Underbody: Black wool yarn. Body: Peacock herl and one strand of gold, green, and wine Krystal Flash. Hackle: Black. Rib: Fine gold wire. I conceived of this pattern about 20 years ago while in Louisiana for Mardi Gras. So far I’ve caught 19 species of fish using it. Jim Edwards Santa Ana, California
ARMAND’S SNAKE BUG
Hook: Daiichi 2720, size 3/0. Thread: Size 6/0 (140 denier) in your choice of color. Weed guard: 50-pound-test hard monofilament. Tail: Black and orange barred rabbit Zonker strip. Body: Black, orange, and yellow deer hair. I fished with deer hair bugs that looked like frogs for my whole life. I did very well, but nothing to write home about. In the past five years, I have been making bugs that look like a favorite water snake found in my area. This fly catches bass! Armand Courchaine Marlborough, Massachusetts FLY PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID KLAUSMEYER
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SPEY JOCK SCOTT
This fly is intended to be a Spey-style Jock Scott. The wing consists of red-crested pheasant and peacock feathers tied similarly to the wing of a General Practitioner. Jason Dobbs Conway, Arkansas
Tui chubs are important forage fish in alkaline lakes. Youâ€™ll find them in Pyramid Lake. Matt Pinsonneault Chico, California
VOODOO BASS ASSASSIN
Cut a two-millimeter-wide strip of foam. Twist and release the foam so it doubles onto itself, and then tie the abdomen to the hook and complete the fly. It is essential that this pattern floats in the surface film. Bengt-Olof Eriksson Lesjofors, Sweden
Chuck this bad boy anywhere largemouth bass are lurking. Let it sink, strip and twitch it back in, and bingo bango, fish on! Look for Skull Beads and Haute Fur Yarn in your local crafts store. David Bagley Lees Summit, Missouri
Hook: Mustad SL53UBL, size 2. Thread: White 8/0 (70 denier). Tag: Flat gold tinsel. Tail: Golden pheasant crest. Butt: Black ostrich herl. Body: Yellow floss and black Hareline Steelhead Dubbing. Rib: Oval silver tinsel. Wing: Red-crested pheasant breast feather, a yellow breast feather, a peacock feather, and a slip of bronze mallard. Throat: Blue guinea fowl. Cheeks: Jungle cock.
Hook: Kamasan B 100, size 14. Thread: Yellow 6/0 (140 denier). Abdomen: Closed-cell foam. Hackle: Female black grouse or a substitute. Thorax: An equal blend of brown SLF dubbing and brown Glister Sparkle Dubbing.
Hook: 2X-long nymph hook, size 10 or 8. Thread: White 3/0 (210 denier). Weight: Lead-free wire. Tail: Golden olive marabou. Body: Pearl braid. Wing: Golden olive marabou and peacock Krystal Flash. Lateral line: Thin gray marabou. Belly: White marabou. Throat: Golden olive marabou. Head: Olive and orange permanent marker. Eyes: Black permanent marker.
Hook: Tiemco TMC 5263, size 1. Head: Skull Bead. Thread: Black 3/0 (210 denier). Body: Black Haute Fur Yarn. Legs: Rubber legs.
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CALIFORNIA NATURAL WET FLY
BRAS D’OR SHRIMP
Hook: Mustad 9672, size 12 or 10. Thread: Orange 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Ring-necked pheasant tail fibers. Abdomen: Tying thread. Rib: Narrow gold wire. Thorax: Hare’s-ear fur dubbing. Wing: Lemon wood duck. Head: Peacock herl. Head cement: Orange paint.
Hook: Long-shank saltwater hook, size 6 or 4. Thread: Tan 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Beige calftail. Antennae: Two strands of Super Hair or Supreme Hair. Eyes: Melted monofilament. Body: Beige chenille. Legs: Beige hackle. Shellback: Beige Thin Skin.
In 1995, my wife and I began our 11-year residence in Southern California. I began scouting streams in the San Gabriel Mountains. The fish in a particular stream were overly resistant to my offerings, so for that stream, I designed a fly that contains only natural materials. Keeping with the natural theme, I use Pearsall’s silk thread and floss. Tom Cody Vicksburg, Mississippi
This is my imitation of a sand shrimp. I fish it in the Bras d’Or Lakes on Cape Breton. These lakes contain brackish water. So far this fly has caught Atlantic salmon, brook trout, rainbow trout, brown trout, striped bass, white perch, and more. G. Osmond Pipers Cove, Nova Scotia
MORNING COFFEE MIDGE
Hook: Regular dry fly hook, sizes 20 to 16. Thread: Black 10/0. Legs: Micro rubber legs. Body: Herl from a peacock eye. Lob this fly onto a stream and fish it with a dead drift. The current will give the spindly legs action that initiates strikes. John Brookes Randall Racine, Wisconsin
Hook: Tiemco TMC2488, size 22 or 20. Thread: Brown 8/0 (70 denier). Head: Coffee-colored small tungsten bead. Tail: Root beer Krystal Flash. Abdomen: Tying thread. Rib: Small black wire. Wing: Pearl Krystal Flash. Thorax: Black Ice Dub. I use the Morning Coffee Midge in the morning when the sun is warming Colorado’s cold tailwater rivers. Fish this pattern as a midge emerger or a dropper behind a dry fly. Scott Trainor Littleton, Colorado
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TURKEY BEAD HEAD
As a guide, I sometimes had to sit down in the evening and cobble together a few flies for the next day of fishing. We call these “guide flies,” and most of the time you won’t find them in a fly shop, because they aren’t sexy enough to sell. This pattern worked well on the North Yuba, Truckee, Lower Sacramento, and McCloud Rivers in California. Ralph Wood Grass Valley, California
A classic wooden lure inspired this pattern. It is my best trolling fly. Use it with a sinking line when fishing lakes and other deep water. Pierre Henrichon Saint-Hippolyte, Quebec
ADAMS OVA EASY
This is an effective, easy-to-tie variation of the venerable Adams. The calftail wings are far less expensive than hackle wings. Martin Amsel Ossining, New York
I tie this pattern using fur from my dog, Buddy. This basic wet fly has proved effective, and I carry eight variations in what I call my go-to fly box. Steve Arenholz Brighton, Colorado
Hook: Tiemco TMC2457, sizes 16 to 12. Thread: Black 8/0 (70 denier). Head: Copper bead, size to match the hook. Tail: Dark mottled turkey tail fibers. Abdomen: The excess butt ends of the tail. Rib: Copper wire. Thorax: Black Ice Dubbing.
Hook: Mustad 78580, size 4. Thread: Black 6/0 (140 denier). Tail: Black marabou. Body: Silver Crystal Chenille. Throat: Red saddle hackle fibers. Wing: White and black bucktail. Eyes: White and black enamel paint.
Hook: Regular wet fly hook, sizes 18 to 12. Thread: Tan 8/0 (70 denier). Body: Cream fur. Rib: Copper wire. Hackle: Ginger variant. Hot spot: Orange yarn.
Hook: Regular dry fly hook, sizes 18 to 12. Thread: Gray or black 8/0 (70 denier). Tail: Moose body hair or brown artist paintbrush fibers. Egg sac: Fluorescent orange thread. Body: Adams gray dry fly dubbing. Wings: Gray calftail. Hackle: Grizzly.
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Recipesn start o ! page 76
A Very Special Reader Favorite
I’ll tell you a secret: Editing Reader Favorites is the last thing I do when preparing Fly Tyer magazine for publication. After all the editing and taking many of the dozens of photographs that appear each issue, it’s fun to dive into my mail inbox and open the letters and packages of flies you send for this fun column. It’s great seeing what patterns you are tying and fishing. Jordan Etele, of Sidney, British Columbia, submitted this very special Reader Favorites fly. Jordan is obviously a fledgling young tier possessing excellent skills. Receiving his fly was a joy, and I think his letter speaks for itself! Would you like for your fly to appear in Fly Tyer magazine? Send your favorite fly, along with the complete pattern recipe and a brief description of how you tie or fish it, to: Reader Favorites, Fly Tyer magazine, P.O. Box 131, Ellsworth, ME 04605. (Sorry, but all flies become the property of Fly Tyer. Hey, I have to have something to fish with!) 80 | W W W . F L Y T Y E R . C O M
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Red Midge Larva
Ritts Fighting Crayfish
Mole Fly Emerger
Mercer’s Missing Link
ARF Midge Pupa
Orange Double Wing
4/17/19 3:31 PM
Fly Tyer Summer 2019