The Ramblings of a Fly Fisherman

Extended Body - Deer Hair

After working to improve many of my tying techniques this summer, I decided to try creating some extended body patterns, a challenge that I had not yet faced.  There are really three basic materials that are used extensively by most tyers to create this look; foam, deer hair, and dubbing.  After researching various patterns that incorporate this technique and consulting with a few other tyers, I decided to start with deer hair as this material lends itself well to larger mayfly recipes. 

One of the most common deer hair extended bodied patterns that I have run across is the Paradrake.  Below is my third attempt.  This fly was moderately challenging as I initially had a difficult time determining the right amount of deer hair to use to create a proportionate body. 

After tying a few of these, I decided to incorporate another technique that I had been reading about that introduced the use of a needle and would require the construction of the fly to be done in the reverse order.  I liked this adaptation as it created a more delicate representation which could more aptly be applied to various mayfly species.
Using a needle to create the body was easy.  Just remember to coat the needle in dubbing wax as this will allow you to remove the form once the construction is complete.
Modified Paradrake

Ant Patterns

I stayed home sick today, but it didn’t take too long, once my head started to clear, to get inspired to visit the tying bench and spin up a few bugs that were missing from my fly box.  Ants are a pattern that I probably do not fish enough.  In the past, I have found them difficult to track on the surface and I have never been in a situation where these appeared to be the patterns that the trout were specifically targeting.  However, after talking to a few friends over the last year, I have come to realize that this is a must have pattern for any fly fisherman.  Many reports have indicated that trout will often take ant patterns during the late summer months even in the middle of prevalent mayfly hatches.  The key to getting consistent strikes on an ant pattern is going to be size.  Keep a few different sizes and colors in order to vary the presentation. You will want to vary that presentation when you see a trout take interest, but turn away at the last second.  Ant patterns will likely fish better near stream edges unless you are using a flying ant pattern.  This variation will do well anywhere that trout may reside, even in high mountain lakes.   In order to improve the visibility of an ant pattern, tie it with a post similar to a Parachute Adams; just keep the post small in order to avoid disrupting the profile.

 Below is a flying ant that I tied today.  I used a yellow CDC feather for the wing in order to add some additional buoyancy, and because I have actually not seen one tied with this feather before.

The Rubber Leg Stone

The Rubber Leg Stone has a ton of variations.  It is a simple pattern for the novice and is highly effective during the summer, especially during periods when the rivers are running a bit higher.  I have used this pattern on the Big Thompson, South Platte, and Taylor rivers and in all cases, was able to hook into some nice trout.  It is more of an impressionistic imitation, so avoid slower water as this fly may not catch the attention of fish that live in higher pressured areas.  The most effective presentation that I have experimented with has been in moderately fast seams where the primary river current meets the edge of a slower moving section of water.   This fly also acts as a great attractor pattern in a nymph rig.  Many times I have used this as the front fly attaching many different kinds of midges behind it approximately 18 to 24 inches depending on water conditions.  Just this past weekend, I was fishing the rubber leg stone in tandem with a blue poison tung right at dusk on the Taylor.  The large silhouette created by the stone and the blue color of the midge that was clearly apparent to the trout in this low-light condition, proved to be irresistible.

The Rubber Leg Stone

It's July and Time for Hoppers

Inspired by Ed Schroeder, this hopper fly is a nice break from the many foam-based grasshopper patterns that fill my fly box.  It’s late July in Colorado making hoppers a great option on nearly any river in the state.  Drop a nice beaded pheasant tail or stone fly under this guy and you should be in business. 

Fly Fishing Rocky Mountain National Park

Fly fishing Rocky Mountain National Park may not produce any trophy trout, but it’s hard to argue with the scenery and the feeling that you are on top of the world.  Alyssa and I ventured out during the July 4th weekend for one purpose in mind; we wanted to catch a few cutthroat trout.  I find it surprising that for as long as I have been fly fishing, I have failed to hook up with any of these guys no matter where in this state I have cast a line.  Well, the hunt is over.  We entered the park early Sunday morning and hiked the Fern Lake trail.  This is a pretty popular trail, but at 7:00am, we had the path all to ourselves. 

After arriving at the lake, the back drop was spectacular and the trout were on the surface feeding, just what I was looking for!  It didn’t take long to entice one of the cutts to take my parachute adams and at that moment, a goal came to mind.  On the way up to Fern Lake, I managed to snag a brook isolated in a small pool no doubt attempting to avoid the runoff that was barreling down the canon…  Could today be the day that I actually hit a grand slam? 

Once I realized this prospect, Alyssa and I took off back down the path in order to find some water more likely to hold a few nice browns and rainbows.  As expected, Lake Estes did not disappoint us.  It wasn’t long until I hooked a small rainbow and then a really nice 17 inch brown.  The grand slam was complete!

Fly Fishing Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Alyssa and I visited Great Smoky Mountain National Park last week.  We fished the various streams on the Tennessee side and were pleasantly surprised at the number of wild brook trout that were willing to take our flies.   The primary streams that we focused our efforts on were located near Elkmont and Greenbrier. This area had a number of quiet trails that were secluded and lacked the volume of traffic seen in other areas of the park.  Much of the fishable water was limited to pockets, but those pockets were teaming with hungry trout ranging from 6 to 12 inches in size.  The most effective patterns that we used were pheasant tails, prince nymphs, and hoppers.  What I liked most about this area was the scenery.  The area was beautiful, the water was clean and clear, and our lines were tight….  It was a great trip.

Here are a few pictures taken on our trip!

Fly Fishing Evergreen Reservoir

Evergreen Reservoir has always been a fun location to fish for me.  It’s only about 30 minutes from the house, it’s well stocked, and there are no gas power boats allowed!  The only problem with the location is the street noise that can sometimes become excessive and the volume of shore fishing that can be witnessed on the weekends.   The easy solution to these issues is to fish the reservoir from a boat.  Launching a boat quickly gives you access to a lot of fishing real-estate not easily reached from shore.  Soon after you launch, you will often find yourself hooked into some nice trout which in turn replaces the background distractions with the excitement of a tight line.

Yesterday was no exception.  The day was warm and the wind was moderate.  We got lucky in that we didn’t spend a great deal of time experimenting with various patterns before we started catching trout.   We tied on a bugger and using a sinking line, started stripping it around the many underwater structures that can be found in the lake.  PAY DIRT!  We caught 8 nice fish (12 to 14 inches) in only a few hours. 

Fly Tying With Charlie Craven

I finished fly tying classes with Charlie a few weeks ago; however, I am just getting around to posting my thoughts about my time spent there in the shop.  Honestly, I couldn’t say enough good things about the experience.  Classes were well thought out, fun, and did an excellent job at building a good skillset and a strong foundation.  When I first signed up, I thought that I might get a little bored as I had already worked my way through most of his first book. This was not the case at all.  I find now that I have taken the class, the book provides a good outline of his tying techniques, but the class fills in all of the holes or gaps in the training.  There are lot of tips and tricks that Charlie discusses and demonstrates that will bring your tying skills to the next level.  I would recommend this class to anyone that is serious about tying great flies.

Check out my fly boxes now!

Fly Fishing Clear Creek

Connor and I took off up to Clear Creek Sunday around 11:00am.  Fishing was a little slow at first as I only brought three to the net during the first few hours, one on a prince and the others on a jujubaetis.  However, after 3:00pm, everything began to change.  The temperature dropped a little which inevitably triggered a nice hatch of mayflies.  It was at this time the surface of the river came alive.  Trout ranging from 10 to 12 inches began to rise consistently taking both adults and emergers from the slower pools of the river.  I strapped on a parachute adams and proceeded to cast into the madness.  We were not disappointed.  In only two hours Connor and I had landed about 15.  It was a fun day…   Just a light wind and we had the river all to ourselves.

Fly Fishing The Taylor River

This was my first time on the Taylor River. This time of year, the most productive fishing area was right near the dam in what the locals called the “pig trough”. The fish here are big and there are lots of them. My friend Tom and I fished Saturday. The winds were a bit high and the temperature was in the mid-40s with a water temperature of about 39 degrees. We caught a few nice ones (15 to 18 inches) on mysis and hooked up with a few larger trout that liked to break off quickly and swim away laughing. The only real complaint that I had about the area was the crowds and the lack of fishing etiquette. It was elbow to elbow for most of the day with many guys having no issue dropping in right on top of you and attempting to cast into the same run, presumably between each of your casts… annoying! I had a few words with one guy that came down and stood less than 4 feet from me, yet he seemed confused as to why I had an issue with it. Next time, I will certainly plan to be there on a weekday so I can avoid those types of issues. Overall, it was a productive day as we caught about 10 trout between the two of us. I look forward to this summer as I have already booked a camping trip on the Taylor for July. Oh yeah, those camp days will be during the week...

Here are a few pictures of the trout we caught that day -

Fly Fishing Eleven Mile Canyon

Canyon fishing was on fire this weekend.  I headed down there mid-morning and fished from about 11:30am to 4:00pm.  I could see a lot of small browns surfacing taking BWOs, however; the real action was deep within the countless pools that lay along that section the South Platte.  I started nymphing with a prince (size 14) and jujubaetis (size 18) casting into the riffles and allowing the rig to drop into the center of the pools… Strike after strike after strike! J I hooked up with some really nice fish Saturday, the largest of which was a 17 inch rainbow.  What was even more fun that day was watching Alyssa connect with a few trout herself.  Fishing with her is always entertaining because shortly after the hook-set comes frantic screaming and confusion as to what to do next.  She’s getting better, and with every new trout on her line, so does her interest in fly fishing!   

Fly Fishing the Big Thompson

Conditions were marginal today, but getting on the river before the front hit the area was the right thing to do.  Right away, the trout were in a frenzy as they appeared to strike at anything that may have even seemed slightly edible.  I was fishing with BWOs, pheasant tails, caddis, and baetis patterns, and all worked just fine.  We arrived around 9:30am, while it was still 60 degrees, and fished well into the temperature drop to 30.  While most of the activity did drop off as the snowfall thickened, we still got a few nice browns to the net before we determined that a cold beer and a plate of Texas brisket was becoming a bit more interesting than standing in the middle of an ice cold river.  Overall, we both had a great time and look forward to the summer months of fly fishing!

Fly Fishing Eldorado Canyon

The weather could not have been better today.  There was a light wind, the sun was out, and it was finally too warm to wear even a thin jacket.  Due to these conditions, the fam and I decided to check out Eldorado Canyon State Park today as we have only mildly used our yearly park pass and we wanted to do anything but stay indoors on such a nice day.  After arriving at the visitor’s center, I started to take a walk near the stream’s edge in order to look for surface activity and to get an idea of the current water conditions.  While I did not see any trout slurping the surface, I did see many jetting in and out of the small currents no doubt feasting on a variety of midges, presumably baetis this time of year.  Needless to say, out came the fly rod!  At first I attempted to nymph, but soon realized that there was just too much muck on the bottom to make this an effective approach.  I switched to a dry-dropper running a small mosquito pattern at the surface and a jujubaetis at the rear about 12 inches down.  This quickly provided some action.  Nothing was too large today, not surprisingly,   but it was nice to be back on the river again after a long winter huddled over my vise at the tying bench.  Game on!

The baetis are among us!

Clear Creek is looking very good. So good in fact that it was hard not to rush back home, grab the fly rod, and head back out into the wild. Instead, I decided to take a few water samples and explore the micro-chasm that governs the type of fly fishing day that we will all have in the area. This is really my first time doing this so early in the season and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time of year.

After reviewing my water samples, I can attest that the baetis are among us! I took eight small water samples total. Together, the baetis numbered over 100 with the only variation being size and not species. Based on what I was able to collect, I would recommend hook sizes between 20 and 16 with brown and olive variations being the focus.

Baetis Bicaudatus

The Rojo Midge

The Rojo Midge was created by Greg Garcia. At this point, this is the smallest fly that I have attempted to tie at size 22. I have fished this pattern many times in the past and would add that I have had more luck with it in early spring than during any other time of year.  You can fish it alone, but I have typically used this pattern to follow a more predominant nymph like a prince or stone pattern.  I have also had a lot of success including this as the trailing midge behind a dry or hopper pattern.   In reality, it’s a great fly and one that can be very effective in all kinds of water conditions, especially during those slower days when the trout seem reluctant to bite.

The Caddis Pupa

The caddis fly is one that all fly anglers should be familiar with. It is a staple for many trout streams and when the season is right, there are very few patterns that can beat it. However, I feel that many of us often fail to take full advantage of this insect and its lifecycle. We typically find ourselves only tying one on when we see visible adults in the area that the trout are currently responding to. In reality, trout are often willing to take pupa and larva stages even more voraciously than the adults.

How can you tell if you are in an area that has caddis pupa or larva if you see no visible signs of adults? I do this by scanning the shallows and looking for their rock-like casings, as I find these the easiest to spot.

The picture below is what you need to be looking for along the streambed to determine the presence of caddis.

As far as tying these patterns, there is a huge range of possibilities.  I have seen some that involve nothing more than some rubber ribbing, dubbing, and a small black bead.  Others have ranged from CDC feathers to improve swimming action to leather strapping to simulate body texture and color.  The choices are limitless.  The most important fact is that you have to use what works best for you and keep casting.
My Simple Caddis Pupa  -

Here is a more complex version that I started tying this weekend - Charlie's Caddistrophic Pupa

Fish Explorer

I was just introduced to this fishing resource today by my new friend Aaron Russell. So far, I have been impressed with the content and usability of the site. It looks as if you can get information regarding fishing reports, water conditions, best locations, maps, reviews, recommended flies, etc… I am going to add it here as one of the tools that you will be able to find and utilize when planning your fly fishing adventures!

The Scud

One of the best flies that I have fished with, especially in early spring, has been the scud. Scuds come in a wide variety of colors, but often colors such as tan, olive, and brown seem to work best. I have used orange and pink as well, but these colors are really more intended for darker water conditions in order to aid in higher visibility. A scud is a small, freshwater shrimp and can often comprise up to 20% of a trout’s overall diet. Next time you are wading around the river bank, try to focus on the bottom of the river bed around the shoreline. If you see scuds, you can pretty much guarantee some action if you happen to have one of these in your fly box.

This is what a live scud looks like!

Here are a few examples of the Epoxy Scud variation that I have been tying recently...

Idle Hands and Homebrew!

Well, tonight I was attempting to restock my fly boxes with one of my favorite patterns, the pheasant tail nymph.  I started as I normally do, tying the traditional recipes and then slowly moving into minor variations that included alternate hooks, wire, beads and of course flashbacks.  It was then that I saw some potential.  I began incorporating some of the epoxy techniques that I learned just a few weeks ago while tying the jujubaetis and applied that idea to the pheasant tail wing case.  What materialized was a flashback variation unlike any that I have tied before.  The flashback feature really jumps out on this pattern.  Hopefully, the trout will be as excited about this fly as I was when I was tying it.
The New and Improved Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph

They look even better lined up in my fly box!

After that, there was no stopping me.  I kept experimenting with epoxy, hook sizes and types, dubbing, etc…  You name it!  What was created at last, with just a few scraps that I would have normally tossed in the trash, was something that I really feel good about.  What once was a simple nymph pattern has now been exposed to a few hours of homebrew, idle hands, and what can only be described as the equivalent of concentrated gamma radiation.  She will have a test run this season.  Let’s see what the trout think!
The Hulk!

Un-Matching the Hatch

I have been fly fishing now for about 5 years and one of the first things that I was taught had to do with the importance of “Matching the Hatch”. As we have all certainly experienced, there are magical times during the year when we find ourselves on the river at just the right moment. The temperature is perfect, the wind is calm, and the mood is just right… and then it happens. All of the sudden, we are in the middle of a massive emergence. We frantically rifle through our fly box for that perfect fly that the trout will certainly find irresistible. We toss pattern after pattern watching in desperation as the trout rise at what seems to be anything but the fly that we are presenting. “What’s going on”, you start thinking. Is it the fly? Is it the presentation? Is it me?

Despite the effort, you end up short. The emergence begins to thin and the surface of the river falls silent once again. You then compare your pattern to a few bugs that you have managed to catch during what was certainly a poor example of adult behavior as you uncontrollably swatted at the air still unlucky and without a trout on the end of your line. What could you have done differently?

These are the moments to throw out everything you have learned. Ignore all of the recommendations that you have been given and do the unthinkable, “Un-Match the Hatch”. Believe it or not, this technique can be quite effective, especially during those periods in which there is a load of surface activity and such a large volume of natural foods that even a great imitation still lacks the needed detail to be mistaken for the real thing. These are the times to try patterns such as ants, hoppers, stimulators, etc… Presenting something that is a polar opposite to what the trout might be expecting may be just the trick to grasp their attention, especially during what can seem to be similar to a wild feeding frenzy. Give it a try; you just might surprise yourself as to what will be effective.

The Jujubaetis

You will have to pardon the picture on this one because the surface had so much of a sheen that I had a hard time focusing on such a small fly with my point and click camera.  Anyway, this is the Jujubaetis.  Now while it may just be a variation if the original Jujubee pattern, it can be quite effective fishing in tandem along with the little midge counterpart.  This is another one of Charlie Craven’s designs that I have been utilizing for a few years and which has produced some really nice fish both in the South Platte and Big Thompson rivers.    I have had the best luck mid to late fall and I recommend tying these in a wide range of colors.
The Jujubaetis

The GFA or “Clod Hopper”

This is the General Foam Attractor (GFA) or sometimes called the “Clod Hopper” depending on which resource you are finding these in.  It is a simple pattern and very easy to tie.  However, don’t let the basic nature of this pattern fool you.  It is highly customizable as far as color and size and it is a prime candidate for a “hopper and dropper” rig.  If you find yourself on a river where smaller trout are taking hoppers and the Charlie Boy just has a little too much bulk to set the hook, try one of these on for size.  A slimmer profile and wider gape could provide more consistent hook sets.
The Clod Hopper or GFA

Muddy Water

I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I see a stream that has become murky due to runoff, I typically either head for the nearest bar for a couple of beers or return home to plan a fishing trip for another day. However; after talking to a few guides over the last month, I have been informed that in these situations, all is not lost. There are a few things to consider that could really salvage the trip and provide a pretty effective fishing day.

1. Surface patterns in most cases will be useless, especially small ones. Stick with wet flies like streamers or nymphs.

2. Color will be important. Darker colors will show a better contrast in muddy water than lighter colors. It will be best to use black and olive variations of streamer or large nymph patterns. Some of the guides that I spoke with actually recommended two-tones as well , as these attract a lot of attention.

3. Fish the edges. Often trout will congregate within the overhanging brush or grass along the sides of a stream or within cut banks while the water is muddy. There are better natural opportunities for them there due to increased visibility and terrestrials being caught in the runoff.

4. If the first three suggestions prove to be unsuccessful, head further upstream. Often poor water conditions are caused by a tributary bringing deposits into the main river. Water conditions above that particular area may prove to be better.

At the Tying Bench!

I spent a nice relaxing day indoors today after a week of long hours and little sleep.  As always, those days are perfect times for practicing my tying and improving on the many techniques that I have learned over the last year.  Today, I wanted to concentrate on the Charlie Boy Hopper.  I know that I have tied this one in the past, but after attending the show last weekend and seeing the latest demonstration of it there, I thought that I would revisit the pattern and see how well I can improve.   If you compare my first attempt to this one… it is like night and day.
The Charlie Boy Hopper - IMPROVED!



The Jujubee Midge

Well, I just returned from the Fly Fishing Show this weekend and have tons of great information to share with you.  However, first I’d like to show you my first pattern attempt from Charlie Craven’s new book.  His first chapter covers the Jujubee Midge.  Now, I have been using this pattern for a number of years and can certainly agree that this is another great fly to have in your arsenal.  It is a little more involved than many other midge patterns, but it is by no means a difficult one to learn.  I have had success with this one on the Big Thompson, all along the South Platte, Steamboat, and on the St Joe River in Idaho.  Tie them in a number of colors and be sure to give it a try.

The Jujubee Midge

The Fly Fishing Show - Denver, CO - January 7th - 9th

In case some of you were not already aware, this weekend “The Fly Fishing Show” will be held at the Denver Merchandise Mart on January 7th, 8th, and 9th.  It looks like there will be tons of instruction on casting, tying, as well as pointers for fishing various river systems including some here in Colorado.  I recommend that you attend.  I will be there Saturday.