For helpful hints, visit: Take Me Fishing (http://www.takemefishing.org/fishing/family/fish-with-your-kids)
Our friends in England have been fishing soft hackles since the late middle ages (medieval times) as some suggest they date back to the 1400’s or even earlier. The soft hackle was a little late in coming to the United States, the mid 1970’s to be exact, at least that’s when it was popularized, and like all new flies it was likely the “hot” fly for awhile. Fast forward to the present and you might get a response like this; “soft hackles, are you kidding??? Do they really work??? Everything’s wrong with the technique, I’ll stick with indicator nymphing”. Ok I’ll admit this may have been my own response several years ago. However, I have now realized that soft hackles are my friend and have solved the toughest hatches.
A few years ago the Double Whammy was born on the Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park. It was a miserable cold, snowy, gusty early June day, Blue Wing Olives were coming off in droves and I could not get a single fish to rise to my sparkle dun. I tried dead drifting nymphs to no avail, dead drifting emerger patterns in the surface film was hopeless as well. I was about ready to call it quits and was reeling in my emerger and “wham” a nice trout hit the fly. Suddenly the light came on….soft hackles … I looked in my box and hidden in the dark recesses was a single #18 PMD soft hackle. I tied it on and fooled a couple of fish before it broke off on an aggressive strike. That night I tied up several BWO # 20 Double Whammy’s, and enjoyed epic fishing the next day. The Double Whammy wasn’t officially named until a few months ago when I was fishing one of my favorite spots on the Middle Provo River. A Blue Wing Olive hatch erupted and what looked like a lifeless hole before, was alive with porpoising fish, some real hogs in the mix. Tried a dry…of course no takes (I’ll always try dries first). Next, tied on a Double Whammy and sweet success once again, and some of the bigger browns where pushing a respectable 18-19″. Early on, I broke off a fish on the swing; it happens when fishing soft hackles. Later I netted a nice brown, and while removing the Double Whammy I noticed a BWO in its mouth and thought to myself “no wonder they eat this fly it looks just like the natural, but wait. …that’s an artificial, hey, it’s my Double Whammy the one that broke off earlier”. I caught the same trout twice, same fly, (a Double Whammy so to speak), awesome. The fly is now officially named.
Here’s a little secret, tie the Double Whammy in white #20 and you’ll catch fish during one the toughest hatches I’ve ever experienced, the dreaded white drake hatch. The hatch is nicknamed the “white curse” and for good reason, many an angler has been humbled by that hatch. White drakes hatch similar to caddis; in that they explode off the surface, trout have little time to take the duns so in most cases they don’t even bother, however a white #20 Double Whammy is absolutely deadly when swung in front of feeding fish. Soft hackle technique is quite simple, cast down and across the current, mending to achieve a dead drift allowing time for your fly to sink slightly below the surface. Towards the end of the drift a belly will form in your fly line and pull your fly broadside across the current. This is most likely when you’ll get aggressive strikes so be ready. Keep a shock loop of fly line in your hand and let go when the fish strikes. It won’t prevent break offs on the strike, but will greatly reduce them. Also, use 4X tippet minimum, go with 3X on larger flies. A softer action rod is also beneficial in bringing more fish to the net and losing fewer flies. Once you get good at it, you can cast to individual fish, and can actually see the strike, much like dry fly fishing.
Double Whammy BWO recipe:
Hook: TMC 100#20
Tail: Brown or Golden Straw Brahma hen
Body: Olive Antron fibers tightly wrapped, (not dubbed) you want the body not much thicker than the hook shank
Thorax: Killer Caddis glass bead Light olive midge size
Wing: Golden Straw Brahma hen
While epoxy is a well known fly tying material, it has been scarcely used because it was a real pain in the you-know-what. It was like trying to juggle within a time limit. You have to mix it, hope you got the proportions right, then hurry and get it in place all the while keeping the fly spinning so that gravity didn’t mess up the application. Even if all that went right, often times the epoxy would yellow. No wonder we avoided it.
Enter Clear Cure Goo (CCG). It is hard to sit down at the vice and not use some form of it over the course of a tying session, whether it is filling gaps in a head, making a fly more durable or simply finishing a fly to have a nice clean look. This product is everything that you love about epoxy without everything that you hate about epoxy. There is no time limit, simply apply the product and get it into place, then when you are ready…hit it with the UV light and you are done. The epoxy is cured within seconds and you are free to keep tying!
Here is a quick rundown of all the CCG products:
Clear Cure Goo Thick – One of the original CCG products, the Thick is awesome for building up heads, filling in gaps or any other time you need the epoxy to take up space. While it is thick, it will still lay down nicely to create very clean finishes. The original CCG Thick will have a slight tack to it, even after it is cured making it great for applying eyes, etc. Once the fly is done, a quick coat of Hard as Nails will make it complete.
Clear Cure Goo Thin – The perfect complement to CCG Thick, the Thin flows and spreads better than Thick. It is great for coverage (like big saltwater heads, poppers, etc.). I personally have used the thick to fill a gap on a big bucktail streamer head and then used the thin to complete the entire head. CCG can take a bad head and make it look great.
Clear Cure Goo Brushable – Similar in consistency to the Thin, the Brushable applicator brush makes it great for coverage situations, like Crease flies and other big poppers. It is also amazingly useful for epoxy back nymphs, etc.
Clear Cure Goo Flex – This is something that epoxy could never do! Apply CCG Flex anywhere you want, cure it and you now have a flexible shape that wants to return back to its original cured shape. Think about all the soft plastic applications with this one. Another amazing use I have found for it is making a foul guard on long materials. Simply apply CCG flex to the material from the bend of the hook to about and inch beyond and it will still move without fouling when cast.
Clear Cure Goo Curing Light – The piece that brings it all together. Simply work your CCG material of choice into place, then BAM, hit it with the light for a few seconds and you are done. The material will not move and you can go on with your life not stressing about your epoxy curing.
Clear Cure Goo Tips – Seems like such a minor thing, but these tips make a major difference. They help with finer applications and can also be used to move and smooth the epoxy into place. The tips are sold in sets with 2 straight, 2 standard curved and 2 fine curved.
Clear Cure Goo Kit – A great starting place for anyone looking to start using CCG. The kit includes the Curing Light, 2 Tips and Covers, 1 tube of Thick and 1 tube of Thin.
Clear Cure Goo Thin Squeeze – The great feature of CCG Thin in a hand squeeze applicator bottle.
Clear Cure Goo Tack Free Thin – All the same great features as the CCG Thin, but cures tack free!
Clear Cure Goo Tack Free Brush – Brushable CCG that lays down and cures tack free.
Clear Cure Goo Tack Free Flex – Flexible and tack free.
Clear Cure Goo Tack Free Hydro – Hydro has the same consistency of head cement, so it is a great material for securing the base of a large clump of materials (bucktail, etc.) or for giving your perfect head a nice clean coat for durability and presentation.
Clear Cure Goo Fleck – Now we are talking…want to give your flies a little more flash and sparkle? CCG Fleck has flecks of gold, silver, green and blue pearlescent glitter. All that and all the features of CCG. Awesome.
Clear Cure Eyes – The newest product. These look awesome and will likely cause a few more fish to fall prey to our streamers. Available very, very soon.
Any products that are not linked will be available in the next few weeks!
We know you have a lot to say about fly fishing and a whole lot of topics related to the sport we love. Fly fishing takes us to some of the most beautiful in the world and a lot of fly fishers are also great photographers. Here’s your opportunity to get your thoughts and photos out there – and to a lot of people!
We’re delighted to offer the opportunity to post your thoughts and images. We’re looking for interesting articles that cover anything and everything fly fishing related. Write about some of your travels, show how tie that hot new fly pattern or discuss a technique. If it is interesting to you, it will be interesting to others, probably lots of others.
This is your chance to get something published on a legit fly fishing resource, but if getting published isn’t enough, we are going to sweeten the deal by offering a $50 gift certificate to be used at www.fishwest.com for any submitted articles that we use (see more detail below).
Think you got the stuff? here is how to submit: Please email your article, supporting photos and a title to firstname.lastname@example.org. If selected, we will contact you to get any further needed information.
Most importantly, have fun! We look forward to seeing all your great work.
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The idea of using tying materials to enhance a fly pattern’s effectiveness is as ancient as the inception of fly tying. In fact, it could be argued that the practice of manipulating both old and new materials in different ways into both old and new fly patterns comprises a large part of modern fly innovation. Considering this, one might ask, “How many ways can you tie fluff on a hook?” Good point; but personally, I am continually surprised by new innovations in fly tying. For example, consider the CDC & Quill Parawulff. Quill bodies have been around for a long time–and still are, because they catch “both fish and fishermen.” Two other notable influences of this pattern stem from Hans Weilenmann’s CDC & Elk Caddis and Jack Dennis’ parawulffs. It seems that Weilenmann prefers caddis. I like them too–but prefer to fish mayflies; so I followed his lead and incorporated CDC in my mayfly designs. In other words, none of the components in this design are original. However, the pattern combines such trout-catching triggers as the distinct hair-wing profile with the wispy movement of CDC. The parawulff style hackle allows the fly to ride flush in the surface film.
I believe that a large part of my enjoyment of fishing comes through sharing my experience and knowledge with others. Subsequently, maybe these ideas will spark an interest in you to make pattern modifications of your own, because I believe more interest in the sport will ultimately benefit fly fishing as a whole.
Next, tie in the tail and secure a quill for the body.
Wrap the quill body and secure & trim the excess. Sparingly place a couple drops of cement over the quill. Then make a waxed dubbing loop, insert some CDC fibers, and twist this into a rope. Weilenmann uses the whole CDC feather, and this is an outstanding method for imitating caddis. However, mayflies usually have slim abdomens, but the bulging thorax–where the legs are–is a good place to integrate CDC. Besides, I believe the loop creates a little less bulk.A
Finish the thorax with a couple turns of the CDC loop in front of the wing and tie it down. Wrap the head and whip finish. CDC notoriously soaks up head cement, so cement the head sparingly and carefully.
Hook: your favorite dry fly hook, 10-18.
Wings: white calf tail tied in the parawulff style.
Tail: hair or hackle fibers; color that matches the naturals.
Abdomen: Quill fibers that match naturals; soak them overnight before tying.
Thorax: Influenced by the Hans Weilenmann CDC & Elk Caddis. Secure some CDC fibers in a waxed dubbing loop and twist this into a rope, then wrap the thorax.
Hackle: Use your favorite color, or match the naturals. Make a few wraps around the wing post in the Jack Dennis parawulff style.
It has been said that a dog is man’s best friend. Never has this adage been more true than with the relationship between an angler and his/her dog. Fishing dogs are loyal, willing partakers of the adventures we pursue as anglers. The connection is deep enough to wonder if dogs inherently understand angling. Most love the water, are seemingly oblivious to inclement weather, and are perfectly happy when wet, cold and hungry regardless of the fish count. When I begin packing for a fishing trip, my dog exhibits behavior that can only be described as sincere hope that her name and gear are on the packing list. If she gets to go she expresses something rare and precious in this world; pure joy. If she is left home she creates a list of her own, household items that must be destroyed before I return. Upon arrival at our angling location she will scout the immediate area while impatiently waiting for me to prep my gear. I must admit that I am a bit slow in getting ready to hit the water. My dog always gives me the look that says “c’mon buddy let’s go already!” When I sense that particular gaze upon me, I always reassure her that the better prepared I am now, the longer we can stay. She then sets about occupying herself with predatory preparations. Rolling in the nearest cow pie in order to disguise her scent is a favorite. The fact that trout don’t smell cow pies is somehow irrelevant.
The connection between man and dog runs so deep that we are inclined to anthropomorphize their thoughts. Below are some examples of “thoughts” that I’m sure have occupied my dog’s brain between squirrel sightings and manure anointings:
- You – Snag a tree branch on a back cast., Dog – Fishing a little high don’t you think?
- You – Snag and reel in a piece of driftwood., Dog – Nice catch. Can I keep it?
- You – Kerplunk, gasp! Followed by lying on your back, feet in the air, draining the water from your waders., Dog – Hey, now you smell like me. Now, shake off like this.
- You – Staring a a fly box trying to select the perfect fly for the situation., Dog – Who are you trying to fool? Just pick one and go!
- You – See a muskrat swim through the seam you are fishing., Dog – Did you see THAT?!!
- You – Another angler approaches., Dog – Shall I bite him? Swim through his drift? Go find his lunch?
- You – If approaching angler is female., Dog – Time to break out the puppy dog eyes.
Some people believe that the blank stare is all there is to a dog. Those of us with fishing dogs know better. Note, there is no such thing as a fishing cat, goldfish notwithstanding.
We enjoy our canine companions in nearly everything we do. We share our experiences, our food, our accommodations, our feelings, indeed our very souls. This connection runs so deep that when the tragic day we lose them arrives, we experience a profound sense of loss. We have truly lost something that is irreplaceable. When the editor of my favorite publication lost is four legged companion of 15 years, he wrote a wonderful tribute that touched the hearts of all who read it. He ended the piece with the words “We had a snowstorm a couple of weeks after his death. When I looked out the window that morning, there were no paw prints leading away from his doggie door. No paw prints at all, just perfect untouched snow in a suddenly empty world.” I’m confident that Tom will see Trask again, just as I believe I will see Boscoe, Sam, Jed and Maggie again. I have always said that if dogs don’t go to heaven, I don’t want to go either. After a time we start again, obtain a puppy, lose some furniture legs, boot linings, cork, and begin to embark on new adventures, despite knowing where it will ultimately lead. Why? Because it is worth it, totally worth it.
When asking anglers about winter fishing, one might encounter many different opinions. There are those that enjoy it immensely and those that believe winter fisherman are crazy. If you are of the latter opinion it’s in your best interest to make sure you understand how to dress for warmth and be comfortable on the river before you decide to spend the winter tying flies and hibernating.
Staying warm and dry by layering clothing is key to enjoying yourself while fishing on those cold winter afternoons. Layering gives you the option of adding or removing clothing based on temperature and activity level. Your basic layering categories are as follows:
Base Layer or “Next-To-Skin” is the first part and maybe the most overlooked part of staying warm. Base Layer clothing is designed to keep you dry by ventilation or by “wicking” way moisture. Not all Base Layers are made equal, material is what sets them apart.
- Wool – Best – Provides the best breathe-ability and insulation
- Synthetic – Good – Provides good breathe-ability and insulation
- Cotton – Avoid – Provides some insulation and very little breathe-ability
Insulator clothing should be worn over the Base Layer to provide warmth. This should also be non-cotton piece to still promote breathe-ability. The weight of your insulator pieces should be chosen by activity level.
Outerwear is the final piece you put on and provides protection from wind and precipitation. Choose your Outerwear based on conditions. If you are fishing in wet and humid conditions a heavy duty rain jacket will provide the greatest protection from the elements. If you are fishing in cold dry conditions a soft-shell jacket provides excellent warmth without bulk.
Gloves, Socks, and Hats
Don’t forget any of these. Your hands, feet, and ears are the first things to get cold. Taking care of these extremities will keep you noticeably warmer and on the water longer. Make sure you layer your socks by following the same Base Layer and Insulation system and discussed before, but still provide room for ventilation.
Winter fishing can be very productive and if nothing else it is a good opportunity to expose yourself to sunshine on short winter days. With the right clothing it doesn’t only have to be for the “crazies”.
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.
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?
Most people don’t think of Dakine when they think of fly fishing gear, but I am here to tell you that they should. A perfect example is the Dakine Waterproof Duffel. This gear bag is made of waterproof fabric and all the seams are sealed. It features a roll-top that runs along the long side of the bag and a small zipper pocket on the outside. The roll-top closure can be secured to clips on the side or by clipping both ends together.
Fly fishing isn’t always perfect sunny weather and, frankly, I don’t think we would want it to be. Fishing takes us to tropical climates where afternoon rain is expected and to rivers where steelhead swim and often times we are hoping it rains. Honestly, we would be surprised if it didn’t. In the modern world, most of us are packing electronics (phones, cameras, etc.) and, if we are smart, carrying a dry change of clothes…for that unexpected swim. A good dry bag should be of extreme importance and there are plenty of choices out there. The Dakine Waterproof Duffel is the most simple and well thought out one I have found. The biggest problem with most dry bags is that they open on the small narrow end. This means it is difficult to rummage and find what you need. This bag opens on the long side, providing better access to everything in your bag and allowing it to stand on its own while you are working inside. At 23″x16″x12″, it is a great size for stowing in the bottom of the boat or tossing in the back of your truck. It can also adapt to bigger or smaller loads by simply rolling the closure a few more times.
- Easy access: Wide opening on the long side of the bag.
- Waterproof: As long as it is closed.
- Adjustable size: Roll more to take up excess space.
- Multiple carry options: padded shoulder strap, carry handles or by the roll-top clipped together.
- Side Pocket: While it is a zippered closure, it will allow water in under extreme conditions. Don’t learn this the hard way (like I did). The pocket is so small that it is almost inconsequential.
If you haven’t already figured it out, I am a huge fan of this product. If you ever intend to fish when the weather might be less than ideal, I highly recommend this bag.