Category Archives: How-To

Nautical Attitude

Nautical Attitude

I had a lot of success with Magpie Nymphs.  However, unlike its dry counterpart; the mosquito, a Magpie Nymph does not imitate a mosquito very well.  But this got me to thinking, “What wet fly does?”  Besides, the best places I knew of to fish for trout had lots of mosquitos.  I noticed in the horse trough that the larvae had only a few distinguishable features.  For example, the ones near the surface had a visible gas bubble, and they also had segmentation, but were so small that there didn’t seem to be much else to them.  Nevertheless, I observed that many larvae would hang vertically from the water’s surface, but I knew my Magpies did not.  I wanted a pattern that could mimic the larvae’s nautical attitude in the water.  By nautical attitude, I mean how the fly may float, drift, navigate, or is positioned in the water column.  I also liked the effectiveness of bead heads, but was uncertain with how the heavy weighted bead on a BH nymph may cause the pattern to ride with the head in a downward bearing, and the aft end slanting up.  I wished to maintain the effectiveness of a bead head, but I also wanted to manipulate its up-and-down position, thereby more closely imitating a natural.

I sought to employ my patterns’ nautical attitude as a “trigger” for its effectiveness, and this gives the design its name.  I also enjoyed the success of the old miracle nymph, or the more modern zebra midge or snow cone, but I wanted to modify my patterns to more closely imitate a mosquito or chironomid larvae.  The nautical attitude of the naturals is often in the noted vertical position.  In the article, Midge Fishing in Paradise, Brant Oswald agrees that, “…midge pupae often rise to the surface at dusk and hang vertically just under the surface film…”  Apparently I’m not the only one that has contemplated strategies for imitating surface-hanging midges.

Some of my more recent patterns employ a plastic bead for the gas bubble (which floats), with an ultra wire rib and/or a metal bead on the rear for my deep patterns; but a horse hair or thread rib for the surface-hanging pupa.  Consequently, I found that the plastic beads do not float well enough to consistently hold the pattern near the surface, so I’ve been experimenting with different materials for some time.  Subsequently, while browsing through the bait section at Wal-Mart, I spied some 1/8” diameter bobber stops.  Understand now that I was merely walking THROUGH the bait section–not shopping, so I don’t want to hear it.

Nevertheless, the old standbys—spun deer or antelope hair, continue to be a viable solution.  So, these alternatives will have to suffice until I can talk Brian Westover and Westwater Products into making Unibobbers specifically for tying small flies…

A key feature of some of these designs incorporates one wrap of ultra wire on the rear of the hook for nautical ballast.  The remainder of the fly is then ribbed with a lighter material.  The weight of the hook bend also serves as counterweight.  When cast, this pattern plops down under water, then the floating bead “bobs” it back to the surface, which effectively imitates an emerging insect.  The bead in one of the photo examples is a painted bobber stop.

Hook: Mustad 94842, TMC 101 or similar work well.
Bead(s): use a plastic bead or bobber for the head, and/or a metal bead for the rear.  The theory is that this configuration gives the pattern its head-up and tail-down nautical attitude in the water column.
Abdomen: White or translucent thread
Rib: One wrap of ultra wire on the rear, and thread or horse hair for the rest of the fly.

Keeping Your Feet Warm

Let’s talk about keeping your feet warm. This discussion always comes up this time of year, and a little bit of planning and foresight will really go a long way toward making your winter days on the water much more enjoyable. First, we will develop a strategy for warmth, and then we will talk about what equipment will get you there.

Three things really stand out as important when discussing this topic: pre-fishing warmth, moisture, and insulation.

Pre-fishing warmth: Your feet need to be warm when you put them in your boots. No matter how dry and insulated your feet are, you will have a hard time warming up your feet once you step into the water.

Moisture: Moisture is the enemy of warmth. Check your waders frequently for leaks, as even a pinprick leak in your neoprene booties can spell disaster for warmth. The seam between the neoprene and wader fabric is one of the weak spots when it comes to leaks, so pay particular attention to that area. Even in the absence of leaks, however, feet can become wet with sweat. One of the best ways to deal with sweat is through the use of a polypropylene liner sock. This may be the most commonly overlooked weapon in the arsenal against cold feet. If you’ve never worn them, you’ll be amazed. Buy some. Today.

Insulation: The final important consideration is providing your feet with enough space in your boots to be properly insulated; this means buying wading boots that are large enough to accommodate neoprene booties and multiple layers of socks. All of the preparation mentioned above will be meaningless without enough room for an insulating layer of air to surround your feet. Further, tight-fitting boots may restrict blood circulation to your feet. Obviously, multiple pairs of socks will help to provide this insulting layer around your feet. Avoid cotton as it tends to collect moisture much more easily than wool or fleece.

There are a number of other recommendations that I have heard over the years and never felt compelled to try. These include such things as rubbing down your feet with petroleum jelly before putting on your socks and wearing plastic bags over your feet. The plastic bag idea would seem to trap moisture around your foot, so I would advise against it. Besides, following the advice above should prevent you from needing to resort to dipping your feet in Vaseline before fishing.

As far as equipment goes, make sure you have the following items on hand:

  • Polypropylene Liner Socks
  • Quality Wool Socks
  • Fleece Pants – I’d recommend finding a pair with stirrups to make sure they don’t ride up throughout the day.

I hope these tips make your winter days on the water a little more pleasurable and a lot less miserable.  No use sitting at home while some of your favorite waters are devoid of other anglers on chilly winter mornings, right?

 

The Magpie Nymph

The Magpie Nymph Fly Tying Tutorial

I enjoyed a lot of success as a kid one summer with a traditionally tied mosquito dry fly, but then one day it stopped working, just like that.  Ah, such is trout fishing!  Further observation revealed that the fish had switched to sub-surface feeding, so I was forced into fishing nymphs.  I caught a few fish with a hare’s ear, but thought that I could have achieved more success with a nymph that featured the same color scheme as the mosquito dry, since the trout were already keyed into that.  Therefore, I designed a nymph that was comprised of white and black, like the dry.  I used to call it the Grizzly Nymph, which delineates the color scheme of the popular barred rock feathers, as well as the colors of the traditional dry mosquito dressing.  More recently I refer to it as the Magpie Nymph, since these birds offer good wing case material.  The design is actually the same as any other nymph pattern, aside from color.  Consequently, I think the eye-catching color contrast is what makes the pattern successful.  Since a standard nymph pattern does not look much like a mosquito larvae, I did not want to call it a mosquito nymph.  I’ve been fishing with this fly since the 80’s.  Subsequently, the pattern is so simple and effective that I’ve often wondered why it had not been popularized much earlier.

Dressing guidelines:
Hook: your favorite nymph hook
Bead: (optional) white, black, or silver bead.
Thread: Black with white bead, or vice versa; 6/0 or 8/0.
Abdomen: white and black ultra wire, wrapped together; or one strand each of black and white dubbing.
Ribbing (optional): silver wire or tinsel
Thorax: white and black dubbing mixture; maintain either mostly white or mostly black in the mixture, or, like the abdomen, twist a white and a black dubbing strand separately, then wrap them together.  If black & white are blended 50% each, the outcome tends to be more gray in appearance than grizzly.
Wing case: white & black barred feather section; or latex or other synthetic material speckled with a permanent marker.
Hackle/legs: (optional) grizzly hen, or another black & white barred feather such as guinea, starling or partridge.
Author’s note: I have also found it useful to focus individual patterns with either the white or the black.  For example, a predominantly black pattern should be highlighted by white streaks, or vice versa.  Along these lines, a mostly black wing case should be contrasted against a white thread head.

 

Esox Essentials : Don’t Fish For Long Fish Without These Items

Being prepared and on point while fishing for esox is paramount. Over the years here is a list of essential items that I keep accessible and ready at all times while fishing for Tiger Musky.

William Joseph Hemocuts – Great for cutting leader, tightening knots and removing hooks.

Fluorocarbon and Hard Mason (or Hard Mono) – Fluoro for leaders and  bite-guards, I usually have 20 – 80 LB on hand. Mason for use as a breaking section in your leaders, I use 20 and 25 LB. My typical leader set up is 60lb fluoro butt section of 2′, 20 lb section of hard mason of 2′  and 2′ of 40-80 LB bite-guard. Since hard mason is much thicker, 20-25 lb can easily be tied to 40-80 fluoro, resulting in a powerful leader that can turn over large flies easily.

Jaw Spreaders – Having two on hand for difficult hook removals is always a good idea.

Large Landing Cradle Or Net – I usually tail most of the fish I land but having one of the two is always nice to have as a option. Which ever one you decide to use make sure it’s rubber or has a coating since traditional nets with knots can seriously damage a fishes fins and eyes.

Rising Lippa – Great for lipping a fish when needed and does not damage fish like a Boga Grip. It’s also a good idea to tie a strap with a float to the handle because eventually you will drop it in to the water.

Long Nose Pliers and Berkley Hook Remover – I always have 10” long nose pliers and a pistol style grip hook remover on hand for hook removal. I use the the Berkley hook remover mostly since it’s easy to use and is gentler on flies.

Super Glue, Scissors and Markers  – I often color, enforce, trim and repair flies on the water. Sometimes a trim and color job can make all the difference in the world.

A Pliable Tape Measure – Easier to handle and on the fish in addition to measuring the girth of the fish more accurately.

Hooks Cutters – Sometimes the best choice is to cut the hook instead of removing it. Make sure you have something strong enough to go through heavy gage hooks.

Two Small Bags – One bag for all your retying and rigging items and one for all of your handling and releasing tools.

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Bridle Path Emerger Tying Directions

Bridle Path Dressing:

Hook: 10-18 TMC 205 BL or similar; a slightly curved, down-eye hook works well.
Head: Spun, clipped deer or antelope hair.
Wings: tie calf body wings with the tips pointing forward, towards the hook eye; spun hair forms a base in front of the wings.
Tail: antron or similar for trailing shuck, or mono dropper loop.
Thread: Use your favorite thread color and body material; they should match the naturals.
Body: Use your favorite thread color and body material; they should match the naturals.
Hackle: Color should match naturals; wrap it as illustrated, through the trimmed path, behind the wings, and under the hook—in front of the clipped hair.

Step 1: Mount and wrap the thread; then spin a clump of deer, elk, or antelope hair on the front of the hook as shown. Trim the hair to imitate the bulging thorax of an emerging insect.

Step 2: Tie a pair of calf hair wings behind the spun hair. After separating these with figure 8 wraps, instead of standing the wings upright, let them slant forward over the spun deer. The wing angle is a key for the configuration of this pattern.

Step 3: After trimming the wing butts, cover them with thread wraps. Tie in the tail. Since this is an emerger, I like an antron trailing shuck. In this instance, I tied in yellow mono which doubles as a dropper loop.

Step 4: Attach and wrap the body material.

Step 5: Tie off the body and complete it with a whip finish near the base of the wings. Cut the thread. Dab a little head cement over the knot at the wing base for stability.

Step 6: Carefully trim & part the hackle path through the spun hair on both sides of the fly, from behind the eye under the hook, toward the back of the wings as shown.

Step 7: Re-attach tying thread just behind the hook eye. Then secure the hackle under the hook & in front of the spun hair.

Step 8: Wrap the hackle two or three times through the near path, behind the wings, through the opposite path, and in front of the spun hair. The angle in which the hackle is secured positions the fly in the surface film with a bearing or nautical attitude that imitates a natural emerger.

Step 9: Wrapping the hackle through the path creates a durable, highly buoyant emerger pattern, as can be observed from the underside view.

Step 10: Secure & trim the hackle, then build a thread head.

Step 11: Whip finish and apply head cement.

 

An Emerger That You Can Actually See!

Remember the emerger pattern craze that erupted in the 90′s? Me too! I jumped on board with everyone else, tying and fishing emergers–catching trout that had become “standard-dry shy.” However, after a few years of this, I grew tired of rigging a two-fly setup, or managing strike indicators, for an emerger pattern that sat partially on the surface. I yearned for the old days when I fished a dry fly on top, where I could see the fish take the fly. Fly fishing has always been very visual to me. I found myself drawn by memories of seeing a trout inhale a dry attractor pattern off the surface.

Therefore, I set out to design a pattern that combined the effectiveness of an emerger with the visibility characteristics of a dry fly. My first few designs worked well, and I have seen similar ideas from other tiers in magazines and on the web. After years of experimentation, including several as a professional river guide, I had an epiphany for a design that fit the bill, and it has been very effective for me. I coined the design the Bridle Path Emerger, because of its similarities with manipulating horse hair to accommodate the animals’ bridle.

Tying tip: under sizing the hackle one hook size will compensate for the bulk of the spun hair for more refined patterns.

 

Recipe:

Hook: 10-16 TMC 205 BL or similar; a slightly curved, down-eye hook works well.

Thread: Use your favorite thread color and body material; they should match the naturals.

Head: Spun, clipped deer or antelope hair.

Wings: tie calf body wings with the tips pointing forward, towards the hook eye; spun hair forms a base in front of the wings.

Tail: antron or similar for trailing shuck, or mono dropper loop.

Hackle: color should match naturals; wrap it as illustrated, through the trimmed path, behind the wings, and under the hook—in front of the clipped hair.

Remember the emerger pattern craze that erupted in the 90′s? Me too! I jumped on board with everyone else, tying and fishing emergers–catching trout that had become “standard-dry shy.” However, after a few years of this, I grew tired of rigging a two-fly setup, or managing strike indicators, for an emerger pattern that sat partially on the surface. I yearned for the old days when I fished a dry fly on top, where I could see the fish take the fly. Fly fishing has always been very visual to me. I found myself drawn by memories of seeing a trout inhale a dry attractor pattern off the surface.

Therefore, I set out to design a pattern that combined the effectiveness of an emerger with the visibility characteristics of a dry fly. My first few designs worked well, and I have seen similar ideas from other tiers in magazines and on the web. After several years of experimentation, including several as a professional riverguide, I had an epiphany for a design that fit the bill, and has been very effective for me. I coined the design the Bridle Path Emerger, because of it’s similarities with manipulating horse hair to accommodate the animals’ bridle.

An Emerger that you can actually see!

Tying The Triple Surgeon Knot

This knot is useful for connecting two pieces of tippet, leader or other line materials together.  It is pretty fast and easily done stream side.  The line will also come out of this knot pretty straight in both directions.

  1. Lay the two butt ends of the lines next to each other, but in opposing directions.
  2. Create a loop using both tag ends.
  3. Wrap the tag ends through the loop three times (that is where the “triple” comes from).
  4. Pull all four legs of the knot to tighten.  Lubricate with water or saliva as necessary.

 

Illustrations by Greg Pearson

 

 

 

Summertime and the Streamers are Easy…

Typically no one thinks of fishing streamers in the middle of summer. Especially not when fish are looking up for terrestrials, caddis or large stoneflies. In all honesty several of my best streamers days have been had in June through September, not late fall like typically thought. Last year one of my nicest and most memorable fish came after a stellar morning of fishing large attractor dries while floating the South Fork of the Snake . The morning started out great and the fish were eating hoppers and attractor dries very well, until the gale force winds kicked up in the afternoon. After 45 minutes of struggling to deliver a bushy dry inches from the bank I decided it was time for a articulated streamer, a 7 wt and a 250 grain sinking tip. Knowing the fish were tight in on the bank we didn’t change anything but switch from a dry to a streamer. In all honesty the action was much slower on the streamer but the fish that did show up to play were much bigger than that were interested in our dry offerings. We came around a eroded outside bend with some downed trees, my buddy placed the boat excellently and I made a cast back up stream into the pocket of a downed tree, just like I would with a hopper. As the streamer hit the water a large brown came off the bottom for a closer look, with one strip he closed the distance and on the second strip he committed to the eat. It was just as much or more of a visual eat than any of the dry fly eats from the morning and reminded me yet again to never underestimate summer time streamer fishing.

So if the wind is howling, the fish aren’t looking up, rain has stained the water or like this year with everything being 3-10 times higher than usual mix it up and throw on a streamer. I think you all might be pleasantly surprised.

In the summertime I like to fish a lot of white and other bright colors like yellow. But often times like the day mentioned above, olive is hard to beat.

Top three streamers you won’t catch me without in the summer. Sasquatch in white and olive, Circus Peanut in olive and crawdad , Chubby Muffin Sculpin in olive and brown.

 

 

 

Typically no one thinks of fishing streamers in the middle of summer. Especially not when fish are looking up for terrestrials, caddis or large stoneflies. In all honesty several of my best streamers days have been had in June through September, not late fall like typically thought. Last year one of my nicest and most memorable fish came after a stelar morning of fishing large attractor dries while floating the South Fork of the Snake . The morning started out great and the fish were eating hoppers and attractor dries very well, until the gale force winds kicked up in the afternoon. After 45 minutes of struggling to deliver a bushy dry inches from the bank I decided it was time for a articulated streamer, a 7 wt and a 250 grain sinking tip. Knowing the fish were tight in on the bank we didn’t change anything but switch from a dry to a streamer. In all honesty the action was much slower on the streamer but the fish that did show up to play were much bigger than that were interested in our dry offerings. We came around a eroded outside bend with some downed trees, my buddy placed the boat excellently and I made a cast back up stream into the pocket of a downed tree, just like I would with a hopper. As the streamer hit the water a large brown came off the bottom for a closer look, with one strip he closed the distance and on the second strip he committed to the eat. It was just as much or more of a visual eat than any of the dry fly eats from the morning and reminded me yet again to never underestimate summer time streamer fishing.

So if the wind is howling, the fish aren’t looking up, rain has stained the water or like this year with everything being 3-10 times higher than usual mix it up and throw on a streamer. I think you all might be pleasantly surprised.

Summer time I like to fish a lot of white and other bright colors like yellow. But often times like the day mentioned olive is hard to beat.

Tope three streamers you won’t catch me without in the summer. Sasquatch in white and olive, Circus Peanut in olive and crawdad , Chubby Muffin Sculpin in olive and brown.

Tying The Albright Knot

The Albright Knot is a very strong connection from your fly line to your leader or butt section.  It can also be used to attach a fly line to backing.  The strength of this knot comes from the core of the fly line being doubled over and incorporated in the knot.  Some knots rely simply on tightening into the coating of the line which, under high pressure, can slip off.

  1. Start by doubling the fly line over and threading your butt section material though the loop that was created.
  2. Wrap the tag end back around both legs of the loop and the butt section material several times.
  3. Thread the tag end back through the loop the same direction it came through initially.
  4. As the knot is tightened, work the wraps as close to the top of the loop as possible (without the butt section material slipping off the fly line loop).  Pull everything tight and trim the end of the fly line that is exposed from the knot.
  5. In theory, that is the end of the Albright Knot, but it tends to have a pretty abrupt edge that doesn’t feed through the eyes of the fly rod very well.  To remedy this we can tie a quick jam-knot using the tag end of the butt section material.  Wrap the tag around the main line four times.
  6. Now, wrap the loop around the main line as well.
  7. Slowly pull the tag end to tighten everything down.  Use saliva or water to moisten the knot as it is secured.
  8. Trim the final tag end.

 

Illustrations by Greg Pearson

 

 

Tying The Homer Rhode Double Overhand Loop Knot

The Homer Rhode Double Overhand Loop Knot is a great variation on the basic Homer Rhode Loop Knot.  This knot adds one more tightening point in the knot to keep it from slipping out.  A good solid loop knot is invaluable when fishing streamers and saltwater flies and you need them to have the best action possible.  A traditional clinch-type knot will restrict fly movement, where a loop will allow it to perform at its best.

  1. Before threading the line through the eye of the hook, tie a double overhand knot and slowly tighten it (but not all the way).  Often times the know will flip into a figure-eight on its own.  If it doesn’t, you may need to encourage it to do so.
  2. Now take the line through the eye of the hook and back through the figure-eight as shown.
  3. Slowly tighten the figure-eight now and slide it down so that it is up against the eye of the hook.
  4. Tie a single overhand around the main line with the tag end.  Snug it fairly tight.
  5. Simply hold the fly and pull the main line and the two knots will slide together and tighten, while leaving a nice loop between the knot and the fly.

 

Illustrations by Greg Pearson