Archives

Fly Tying Archives - FFI Magazine

My Rip Rap came to be after watching streamers continue to get larger every year. The problem with that increase in size is that going too big limits your opportunities. A trout is capable of eating something half its body size, and a large fly is indeed a significant meal for a 24-inch plus trout. But a 20-inch trout is much more likely to eat something in the two-to three-inch range. In other words, as flies get larger, the angler’s potential for a “trophy” trout increases slightly, but their opportunity for a “quality” trout of 16-to 20 inches decreases significantly.

I needed something that was a medium-sized item. But I also wanted it to grab a fish’s attention in northern Michigan’s smaller, pocket-water systems. Larger waters typically see more angling pressure, so drab colors are a good call because they more subtly imitate the natural food sources. When pressure is high, subtly is key. However, in smaller pocket water with limited ambush windows, getting the attention of fish is of utmost importance, and sometimes too much subtlety means that a fly swings past unnoticed. Since these pocket water fish are generally less pressured, they’re more likely to respond to the vibrancy of a brightly colored fly.

I also wanted a swim-fly rather than a jig-fly. Although jig-flies are great for getting deep in pocket water, I wanted something I could work in front of logjams without the dip and rise of a jig—something that would give me more time and space to tease a fish out. Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow is a productive fly in this type of water; however, since it is a single-hook fly, it lacks kick and has minimal inherent movement, other than its marabou portions. One day it occurred to me, by combining the flash concept of the Sparkle Minnow with a Double Deceiver profile, using Ripple Ice Fiber to gain both flash and movement, and deploying a rabbit strip for general meatiness, I could create the exact fly I was looking for, one that swam like a Double Deceiver, flashed like a Sparkle Minnow, and when it came to catching fish, had something all its own.

The Rip Rap can be fished from a boat or on foot. For boat anglers, the best rig is a fairly short, medium-to heavy-grain sink-tip, such as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold in 250 grain. A heavier grain can be used for heavier flows or larger rivers. A six-foot leader tapered down to a fluorocarbon tippet between 12 and16 pounds is preferred, although heavier tippet can be used where the opportunity for larger trout is present. That said, 16-pound seems to be the sweet spot—enough rope for larger fish, but enough suppleness to allow movement. When fishing on foot in smaller rivers, shorten the leader down to four feet. The Rip Rap can also be fished on an intermediate line in shallow rivers and lakes.

Recipe

Rear Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #6 (Do not substitute)
Front Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #4 (Do not substitute)
Thread: 140D to match color variation.
Tail: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Connection: .018 Beadalon/RIO WireBite/equivalent
Beads: Hareline 3D Beads or Netcraft ProEye 3D Fishing Lure Beads, 6mm
Front of Connection: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Collar: Mallard Flank dyed red
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Head: Fish Mask #5 (This could also be tied in a weighted version with a matching Fish Skull head)
Eyes: Holographic Eyes 3/16” Super Pearl


Variations

Old School Rabbit

 

Rabbit Strip: Tiger barred olive/black over light olive
Palmer Chenille: Medium peacock
Beads: 3D Beads, green olive
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, olive
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Fury Orange

 

Rabbit Strip: Black Barred Groovy Bunny strip, orange/yellow/white
Palmer Chenille: Medium orange
Beads: 3D Beads, orange
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, orange
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Steps

Step 1: Form a thread base on the rear hook. Measure a piece of rabbit strip (using only the skin side as reference) against the length of the hook shank and tie it in above the hook point, leaving some available to tie over to the hook.

Step 2: Tie in the chenille and palmer it forward to a little behind the hook eye.

Step 3: Bring the remaining rabbit strip forward and tie it in over the top of the chenille.

Step 4: Invert the hook and securely fasten the tail.Grab some Ripple Ice Fiber (significantly less than you think). Finger stack the clump slightly to align fibers. Measure the back half of the stack to the end of the rabbit tail (fur side). Tie it in and bring the thread forward slightly.

Step 5: Fold the remaining RIF stack back on top of the hook ( similar to a bullet style head ) and make several solid wraps back to make sure the material lays flat. ( Tip: try pulling up on your tying thread to cinch the RIF down. This will make sure that the stack stays on top of the hook shank. )

Step 6: Repeat the process on the bottom part of the hook shank with the Minnow Mix RIF, this time with a slightly smaller amount of material.

Step 7: Fold the material again back over the top of itself. Whip finish and reinforce with glue.

Step 8: Now it’s time to trim. Holding the eye of the hook with the tail hanging down, trim the bottom RIF to extend just beyond the bottom side of the hook and palmer chenille. Then trim top wing on the sides and top to get any stragglers and create a taper.

Step 9: If your fly looks like this, you’re on the right track.

Step 10: Create a connection between the hooks with .018 Beadalon and two 3D beads. Tie the Beadalon in on the side of the shank in order to get the tail to ride correctly. Reverse the wire, make several strong wraps, and trim excess.

Step 11: Tie in a piece of rabbit strip and palmer one time. The trick here is to wrap the rabbit over itself to create extra bulk with creeping the materials forward on the hook shank.

Step 12: Tie in chenille and palmer forward to 1/3 back from hook eye.

Step 13: Take a medium-sized mallard flank dyed red and remove one side of fibers from the quill. Tie in and wrap forward a few times to create a collar.

Step 14: Take a stack of RIF slightly larger than the one used for the rear hook. This will form your top wing. Measure the fibers so that the top wing extends to the halfway point of the rear wing to fully cover the gap between hooks.

Step 15: Fold the fibers back just as on the rear hook.

Step 16: Tie in the bottom wing the same way as with the rear hook.

Step 17: Fold over, tie off and trim just as you did before.

Step 18: Glue on the head. For the standard version use a Fish Mask #5. Or use a Fish Skull for a heavier offering.

Step 19: Glue on Super Pearl eyes. The pearl eyes will help bring out the color of the fly.

Step 20: Time for a final trimming to get rid of straggling fibers and to create the desired taper.

Capt. Ethan Winchester
Capt. Ethan Winchester has been tying flies for 20-plus years and designing flies commercially since 2017. He has been a full-time outfitter and guide since 2009 and is currently the Director of Operations of Boyne Outfitters—northern Michigan’s premier fly-fishing outfitter. Winchester’s Rip Rap and other Winchester patterns are available exclusively through Catch Fly Fishing dealers.

Timing and Location
My home waters in the greater Yellowstone region—including Wyoming’s Snake River, the South Fork Snake and lower Henry’s Fork in Idaho, and the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone rivers in Montana—all have some great midge fishing.

Depending on the year and specific water conditions, these hatches start in February and extend through April. Talking to anglers in other areas leads me to believe that they also enjoy some wonderful early season midge fishing.

No matter where you fish with midges, the best fishing is usually in the afternoon. In Jackson, Wyoming and surrounding areas, skiing in the morning and fishing in the afternoon is common occurrence. You need something to do until the trout and midges awaken. Some years, skis or snowshoes may be needed to reach the water. The trout will still be found in winter habitat adjacent to deeper, moderate currents. Inside corners, back-eddies and slack water tailouts are prime midge fishing locations. The fish can mover very shallow, but are still found near deeper retreats. A good indicator of hatch activity is an abundance of midge adults on the snow. If they are found in quantity, there is a good chance they will be on the water, too.

Adapt To The Situation
Trout get into the early spring midge hatches big time. Midges are small but numerous, and they are easy for trout to capture in big numbers. In many waters, this is the first consistent, predictable food source of the year. Think of it as a constant flow of snack food. With the quantity of food, trout can get selective, and having a variety of patterns to match the stages of this hatch can be beneficial. I’ve seen many occasions when imitating a stage was more important than the exact size and color of the fly. Following are a couple of proven midge patterns with noted enhancements.

Tubing Submerger
With midges, fish can key in on specific stages of the hatch, and it is common to see trout feeding selectively on emerging pupae. The telltale sign is seeing trout breaking the surface with nothing more than their backs, which means the are eating pupae just under the surface. Another good indicator is fish that are feeding heavily but refusing all your dry-fly offerings. Sometimes you need to stand back and watch for a while to figure this out. Think of it from the trout’s perspective: they have a lot of food to choose from and the easiest item is under the surface—they don’t have to risk breaking the surface for a meal. In many situations, a hangdown emerger like my Parachute Midge Emerger or a Quigley Cripple work extremely well. However, there are times when trout like it just a little bit deeper. Depth is critical in these circumstances and if you go too deep the trout won’t see the fly. Six inches down is a good starting point and covers most situations. The Tubing Submerger is the fly I use for this situation.

I picked up this body style years ago from an old Larva Lace promotional brochure written by Phil Camera. This is an interesting body where you slide the hollow tubing over the hook shank rather than wrapping it. Soon after playing with this body, I tied up some midge larvae to fish on the tailwaters of Utah’s Green River. They fished very well and I added the fly to my regular arsenal. I soon added a small black dubbing head to the fly. This fly can be fished deep, in traditional nymph style with split shot to get it down, but where it really shines is as a subsurface emerger. The denser plastic body and more water resistant dubbing head causes the fly to ride in a vertical position like a natural coming to the surface. It is almost the reverse effect of a beadhead pattern, with the tail hanging down. To further enhance the position, I added polypropylene gill filaments above the hook eye, which also adds realism. A touch of pearlescent flash at the butt catches the trout’s eye and matches the rear breathing tubes on real midge pupae.

To get the fly to the correct level, you can fish it below a dry fly, or the leader can be greased to within a few inches of the fly. I generally don’t use indicators, since they tend to be bulky and land on the water with force. A buoyant, visible fly that might be eaten by the trout is a good choice. I use my Midge X cluster pattern in this situation, but a slightly oversized parachute or another midge cluster also works. I prefer to tie the top indicator fly to a short dropper off a blood knot.

Hook and material selection makes the fly easier to tie. A fine wire hook with a small eye is easier to slide the tubing over. A Dai-Riki 310 straight eye fine wire hook is a good choice. Light wire emerger hooks, such as a Dai-Riki 125 or TMC 2488, are also good options. The tubing size should be matched to the hook. Larvae Lace standard size is good for size16, Hareline standard tubing for sizes 18 through 20, and for smaller flies use Hareline Midge Tubing. Other brands also work, but tubing sizes aren’t universal from brand to brand. Standard colors for the fly are clear, olive, tan, gray, black and red. Since the material is translucent, the hook color darkens the body color.

Tubing Submerger
Hook: Dai-Riki 310 straight eye dry fly, sizes 16 through 22

Thread: Olive 8/0

Tag/Breathing Tube: A single strand of pearl Krystal Flash or Midge Flash folded over.

Body: Clear, hollow plastic tubing. Larvae Lace standard size is good size16; Hareline Standard Tubing for sizes 18 through

Rib: Tying thread over tubing body

Gill filaments: White polypropylene fibers

Head: A sparse amount of black dubbing

STEP 1: Start your thread on the bend of the hook just past the hook shank.

STEP 2: Fold a strand of pearl Krystal Flash over your thread, fold it back and secure it to the hook shank with a few wraps.

STEP 3: Slide the plastic tubing over the hook eye so it covers the hook shank. Sometimes it takes a little coaxing, and moistening the hook eye helps. Remember, putting bands on a slingshot? A slightly angled cut on the tubing makes it easier. If you have trouble, cut a new end.

STEP 4: Pull the tubing back so that it covers ¾ of the hook shank and trim it.

STEP 5: Push the tubing back down the hook until it is even with the tag and just over the thread base. There should be a little space between the front end of the tubing and the hook eye. This allows you space to tie in the gill filaments and head. Also, the tubing will stretch a little as your wrap your thread over it.

STEP 6: Wrap your tying thread over the plastic tubing in a spiral fashion. This forms the segmentation. Secure the very front end of the tubing, and make a small thread base in front of the tubing.

STEP 7: Tie in a small amount of polypropylene fibers by tying in the middle and then folding it forward. Post the base.

STEP 8: Dub a sparse head. Use some of the dubbing to lift the gills above the hook eye. Whip finish and cement. Trim the tag short and trim the breathing tube.

Flyfishing for pike in cold water during spring takes real discipline. It can be a slow business. Pike, like many apex predators, can go “off the chew” for long hours. When they are off, they really are off.

Then, suddenly, nature flicks a switch, the barometer rises or the river starts to fall and clear, and they are very much on.

When that happens, it’s easy to let the excitement get to you. You speed up your retrieve and forget those crucial pauses that so often induce a solid take. Don’t do that. Slow down, instead. Pike are lazy. They look for victims in trouble. Victims that are incapacitated. Victims that can’t get away.

The problem with fishing flies ultra-slow is that pike get a chance to really examine your offering. No matter how much time and attention to detail you put into your fly, guess what? It’s just a bunch of fluff and feathers. They reject it. You’ll need something that looks alive, even when it’s barely moving.

Italian angler Paolo Pacchiarini is a brilliant predator angler. He holds 10 IGFA records and really understands how to induce big, wary predators into taking a fly.

His Wiggletail patterns are deadly. They have a huge amount of presence in the water and create a big profile that is much easier to cast than a traditional pattern of equal size. In the water, they move with a sinuous allure, even when retrieved in an ultra-slow, figure-eight next to the boat. Using Paolo’s ingenious snap link system, you can quickly change the tail from dark to light, flashy to somber, and large to small.

Pacchiarini recently introduced a couple of variations on the design, and his Dragontails and Wavetails offer an option that is every bit as effective as the original.

Pike absolutely love Wiggletails, and nail them with abandon. I recently started using the tails on hybrid Gamechanger patterns, tied by my good friend Rupert Harvey (he ties innovative patterns for clients worldwide from his base in Ireland). Equipped with rattles, the flies have proven themselves for pike, and also for big peacock bass, arapaima and huge chinook salmon in Chile. When the water warms up in spring, it is worth experimenting with Gamechanger poppers equipped with a wiggletail.

Some people still harbor prejudices against Wiggletails—they don’t consider them to be valid flies. I would urge you not to entertain such negative thoughts—fly-fishing for big pike in icy conditions is tough enough without further handicapping yourself. Embrace this great addition to the pike-fisher’s armory, and enjoy the action these flies provide, even on the coldest spring days.

A tip: before you fish the Wiggletail, gently but firmly stretch it. This will soften the tail and make it more mobile in the water.

Wiggletail

Hook: Various sizes Sakuma or similar pike hooks 2/0 to 6/0, incorporated into Niklas Bauer Pike Rig with rattle

Thread: 100d GSP white

Head: Bucktail in white and medium dunn

Head: Nayat (Snow Runner) in grey and black

Head: Red wool roving

Head: Black wool roving mixed with black angelina fibre

Flash: White Deer Creek Mega Lazer dub (or use white wool roving mixed with silver angelina fibre) Metz natural grizzly saddle

Flash: Hedron Magnum Flashabou in moonlight

Flash: Hedron standard Flashabou in silver and black

Flash: Hedron Mirage in pink

Flash: Holofusion in opal

Eyes: Jerkbaitmania 12mm eyes

Tails: Various Wiggletails attached with fast change snap

Matt Harris
Matt Harris is a globetrotting photographer who catches fish wherever he goes. Check out more of his work on IG
@mattharrisflyfishing

While most of us prefer fishing dry flies, adult caddis are most vulnerable to trout when they transition from pupa to adult. This change starts near the bottom of a stream and finalizes at the surface, making nymphs and emerges more effective than dry flies.

Spring and Summer Fun

Caddis hatch for most of the summer, but some of my favorite times to match them are the heavy spring and early summer hatches in the Rocky Mountains. The Mother’s Day hatch of brachycentrus caddis on the Yellowstone River near Livingston, Montana is the most famous springtime emergence. But this early season caddis also can be found on other regional waters, such as the lower Henry’s Fork, Madison, Snake, Green, Clark Fork, Big Hole and Gallatin rivers among others. It’s also fairly widespread in Colorado. The Mother’s Day moniker is true on some waters, but the bulk of that activity takes place in late April. This timing coincides with the start of runoff and it is a mad race for the weather to get warm enough for the bugs to emerge, but not too warm to start spring runoff, which could make the rivers unfishable. The best way to hit these hatches is to live there, near the banks of those rivers, and be voluntarily unemployed. Most of us can’t do that and even if we could some years we’d hit the hatch for a couple weeks of prime fishing and other years we’d only get a few days. You hope for the best and take your shots when the conditions are right.

            Another peak of caddis activity occurs around the tail end of runoff, usually around the end of June or the Fourth of July, depending on water conditions. At this time, a variety of caddis and small stoneflies can be found in abundance. The stoneflies shine during the day with caddis activity taking over as evening arrives. These early summer caddis are mostly hydroschye. They resemble a turkey quill in coloration. One of the best hydroschye hatches occurs on Montana’s Missouri River in July, a predictable evening emergence, usually right at dusk, that brings every fish in the river to the surface. On the Missouri, that means plenty of heavy 16-to 22-inch browns and rainbows.

            On the Missouri, and the aforementioned streams, take advantage of situations when trout can feed heavily without expending much energy. The caddis hatch provides that—trout can rest on a seamline and watch a steady stream of caddis float over their heads. Because these mergers are struggling at the surface trout merely raise up, suck in a snack, drop down a few inches and repeat.

Coalescing Ideas

The Everfloat Caddis Emerger came about in preparation for a trip to Livingston, Montana for the April caddis hatch on my old home water, the Yellowstone River. I’ve used a variety of caddis patterns over the years, from imitative to attractor, but in the last few years, caddis emergers have worked best. My Everything Emerger and Matthew’s X Caddis are at the top of the list. However, early in the day, prior to evening surface activity, a Glass House Caddis, Ultra Zug or a beadhead soft hackle work best. These flies do a good job of imitating drifting larvae and deep emerging pupae. A standard procedure, especially when fishing from a boat, is to hang a sunken pattern below a buoyant dry fly. Obviously, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulators and Convertibles work as indicators, and fool a number of fish on top. However, when the fish are keyed in on emerging pupa, they are better indicators than fish-catchers. This is especially true as the hatch progresses and fish are looking for the easiest meal.

Dan’s Green Pacu Streamer is an extremely simple fly to tie, which is perfect because pacu, like piranha, chew flies up flies. The Pacu Streamer is, essentially, an oversized, mostly synthetic Woolly Bugger I tied while prepping for my first jungle fishing assignment in Guyana (Mano A Mano P2). It was meant to catch peacock bass and other toothy predators. And it did. But where it excelled was on pacu—in fact it was the only fly that fooled pacu during the trip.

The Pacu Streamer is best fished using sharp, erratic strips with plenty of pauses in between. I believe the fish are attracted to the fluttering of the green saddle hackle that makes up its tail. When casting to fish that haven’t seen many, if any, flies, the Pacu Streamer would get bit on nearly every cast. Most of the eats were short, and I noticed ends of the saddle hackle shortened each time. Once the tail gets shortened to just over an inch long, the pacu seem to lose interest and it is time to tie on a new one. On our most recent jungle trip, we went through nearly a dozen of these flies in an afternoon. Prior to my next trip I plan to tie up a few with stinger hooks to see if that increases my hookup rate.

RECIPE

Hook: Mustad R73np Streamer Signature Fly Hook, size 4

Eyes: Lead Dumbbell Eyes (size small or medium)

Thread: 6/0 W Uni Thread 136D in black, brown or green

Tail: Green Hackle/Shlappen

Inner Body: Hareline Green UV Polar Chenille

Outer Body: Waspi Green Woolly Bugger Chenille

Optional Flash: Green Crystal Flash

Step 1: Lay down a few thread wraps and tie on a pair of dumbbell eyes to the top of the hook shank, just behind the eye of the hook.

Step 2: Work your thread down to the bend of the hook and tie in 4 to 6 green saddle hackle feathers, Deceiver style (concave sides of the feathers inward). Feel free to use two different shades to give it some contrast. I prefer olive and light green/yellow. At this stage, you can add some green crystal flash to the fly, but this is completely optional. Most of the time I tie it without flash.

Step 3 & 4: Tie in Hareline polar chenille and bugger chenille just after the saddle hackle. Then work your bobbin to the dumbbell eyes. Wrap the bugger chenille tightly in the opposite direction of your thread to create the body. Stop right before you reach the dumbbell eyes and lock it in place with a few thread wraps.

Step 5: Palmer Hareline polar chenille over the bugger chenille forward to head, and up and over the dumbbell eyes. Secure with a few thread wraps.

Step 6: Whip finish and add head cement for a long-lasting fly.

The Skunk Leech is a slightly different take on the classic Green Butt Skunk, which was made popular by steelheaders in the Pacific Northwest. This fly is best fished on a sink-tip line in a traditional down-and-across swing. I always let this fly “dangle” a little longer at the end of my swing, as the soft materials it’s made of offer an enticing swimming action, even in a slight current. The Skunk Leech’s large profile and contrasting colors make it especially effective in higher, slightly stained water.

MATERIALS

HOOK: Partridge single salmon #2/0
EYES: Lead Eyes, white 1/24oz
THREAD: Uni thread black 6/0
TAIL: Red marabou
RIB: Silver mylar
BODY: Chartreuse Ice Dub/black Hareline Dubbin
COLLAR: Black hackle
THROAT: Black marabou
WING: White rabbit zonker
FLASH: Extra limp Flashabou holographic black

Step 1: Start with the hook right-side up in your vise. The fly will fish hook-point up, but the majority of the fly is easier to tie in this manner.

Step 2: Start your thread just before the bend in the hook and work forward, closing the return eye.

Step 3: Using a figure-eight pattern, tie in the lead eyes at the rear of the return eye. Make a few tight wraps around the base of the eyes to secure them in place.

Step 4: Select a full red marabou feather and pinch all the ends together by running your fingers up the stem.

Step 5: Tie in the marabou on top of the hook-shank, just before the bend, to create a tail about ¾” long.

Step 6: Cut off the excess at an angle tapered forward.

Step 7: Using wide thread wraps , lash the rest of the marabou to the shank to create a tapered body.

Step 8: Tie in a strand of silver mylar for the rib.

Step 9: Dub the body halfway forward with chartreuse Ice Dub.

Step 10: Wrap the mylar forward in evenly spaced turns—3 to 4 wraps—and trim away the tag.

Step 11: Tie in a black saddle hackle feather by the tip—try to find one with shortish, softer barbs.

Step 12: Wrap the hackle 6 to 8 times, keeping your wraps as close together as possible without overlapping.

Step 13: Tie in another piece of silver mylar for the second rib.

Step 14: Dub the rest of the shank with black Hareline Dubbing up to the eyes.

Step 15: Wrap the mylar forward in the same fashion as the first rib.

Step 16: Select another hackle feather similar to the first and tie it in by the tip, just behind the eyes.

Step 17: Again, make 6 to 8 close wraps with the hackle, just behind the eyes.

Step 18: Use a small amount of black dubbing, and dub around the eyes in a figure-eight to clean up the head.

Step 19: Turn the hook upside down in the vise.

Step 20: Select a fairly sparse black marabou feather and pinch the tips together.

Step 21: Tie the feather in on top of the shank so that the tips reach just past the hook point.

Step 22: Cut the end of a white zonker strip into a V. This creates a more natural taper to the tail.

Step 23: Pierce the point of the hook through the zonker strip about ½” from the V-cut in the end.

Step 24: Lay the zonker strip over top of the fly and tie it in just behind the eye of the hook. Don’t stretch the zonker strip too tight or it will be more likely to rip off the hook.

Step 25: Cut off the excess zonker strip and make a few more tight wraps to secure it.

Step 26: Tie in a full strand of black Flashabou on either side of the fly so they roughly line up with the tail.

Step 27: Double the strands over, creating a loop ahead of the fly, and tie the opposite end in. Same length only slightly higher on the sides of the fly.

Step 28: Cut the loops formed in the Flashabou and fold the ends back over the top of the fly. This creates 8 total strands of flash on the fly.

Step 29: Be sure to secure the Flashabou with a few tight wraps before cleaning up the head and whip finishing.

I even Googled “How To” and couldn’t find what I wanted. Nonetheless, I did receive materials and products suggestions, along with plenty of ideas on how to achieve the thickness and finish I was after. Still, I didn’t get any straight to the point suggestions, like, “Hey buddy, this is the product and the process I use to achieve the finish you’re looking for.”

             So I continued to scour the internet and paperback fly-tying books, hoping to find answers, or maybe even some step-by-step tying video. Nothing.

             You may be saying, “You’re trying to poach someone’s method and patterns.” But don’t judge me yet—I’m not someone who just started tying yesterday. I never wanted to be spoon-fed other people’s hard work. Instead, I armed myself with a handful of jigsaw pieces of information, purchased several different products, and tried to piece it all together. I experimented with multiple silicone brands and retardants, trying to break down the materials into a pourable and paintable consistency, while steering towards a low-fume mixture.

             It took some trials, but I finally found a suitable combination of products that are easy to find and mixed safely together. Now I needed to work a finishing technique to get the smooth, shiny finish I was after.

              A lot of people suggested dishwashing detergents, saliva, and Foto Flo solution. I found all three to work in some degree, but I still couldn’t get a finish I was happy with. In my attempts, the silicone was left with milky/cloudy streaks and a slightly uneven surface after I tried to smooth it out.

             Finally, I found a better way. By using a soft, flat-tipped paintbrush and mineral turpentine, I could gently smooth the silicone by brushing the mineral turps from the eye of the hook to the end of the silicone head. That process removed small bubbles and bumps in the curing mixture and allowed me to place the perfect fly in the rotary dryer until fully cured. No streaks. No bumps. No bubbles.

             I now use a three-step process to finish my flies. First I coat and let dry. I repeat that process and add eyes. Then I apply a final coat to secure the eyes and add strength to the body. Note: After each coat I brush with Turps to get the best finish possible.

TOOLS

1-Silicone sealant
2-Mineral turpentine
3-Soft, flat-tipped brushes. (1cm)
4-Mixer (or mix by hand)
5-Small sealable bottle to mix and then store the silicone product

STEP 1

Place the desired amount of silicone into a sealable bottle.

STEP 2

Add a small amount of mineral turps to the silicone.

STEP 3

Mix the silicone and turps together, gradually adding until the desired thickness is achieved. Add more turps until you get a constant, workable mix. I like a mixture with a consistency similar to thin syrup, but not too watery. A runny mixture takes longer to dry and affords a greater chance of tracking in the fibres before drying.

Living in the high-elevation icebox of Jackson, Wyoming, doesn’t lend itself to serious winter fishing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about warmer spring days ahead, and casting to rising trout. However, after a summer and fall spent dry-fly fishing, there are depleted fly boxes to deal with—in other words, an incentive to tie. This isn’t a bad thing because fly tying is a combination of creativity and anticipation, that little bunch of fuzz in the vise giving us visions of those perfect spring days ahead, when the trout are up and sipping. Fly tying, to me, is a way to revisit memories and dream of new adventures to come.

Spring hatches in the Northern Rockies are the most reliable of the year. From mid-March into May, these emergences provide great dry-fly fishing. My favorite spring hatches are midges, Baetis and small stoneflies. This tantalizing trio is endemic to most Rocky Mountain streams and they consistently occur before runoff.

Last April, I spent 20 afternoons on the water. I was casting to rising cutthroats on 19 of those days. The other day I sight-fished to those native trout with nymphs.
From years of fishing the Greater Yellowstone area, I’ve narrowed down the spring patterns that produce. I always run out of these flies because they work and I have confidence in them. These are the flies that I’ll tie this winter in preparation for spring. Many of these flies are crossover patterns that work well when hatches overlap.

As a rule, when tying small flies make sure your hooks have enough gap and strength to hold large fish. Also, sparser is better when tying small flies because tying sparsely allows you to use those stronger hooks. I’ve listed the hooks I use with each of these recipes. If you don’t have that exact hook, just use a similar model.

Start tying these flies this winter and you’ll easily have full boxes when the spring hatches pop. I believe you will enjoy tying and fishing these flies as much as I do.

TYING FLIES FOR SPRING

Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail

This fly looks like food and matches just about any subsurface larvae or nymph. Its origins are found in Frank Sawyer’s original Pheasant Tail herl and copper wire pattern. It was first tied in the 1930s for fishing England’s Avon River. Al Troth’s modern version, with a peacock herl thorax, is now the most common tie—it naturally evolved into beadhead and jig hook versions. I tie a majority of my PTs as soft-hackles. And I’m starting to tie more of my nymphs on jig hooks, because there’s nothing wrong with having a hook point up—I get more consistent hook-ups on these rigs. This is a great pre-hatch fly and works equally well as a dropper/anchor below a smaller nymph or subsurface emerger.


Hook: Kumoto KJ304 Wide-Gap Jig, sizes 14 through 18

Thread: 8/0 Rusty Brown

Head: Copper tungsten bead

Rib: Small copper wire

Tail: Pheasant-tail fibers

Abdomen: Pheasant-tail fibers

Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub

Hackle: Dark hen

Grouse Tail Nymph

This is my variation on the good old Pheasant Tail Nymph, and substitutes ruffed grouse tail fibers to create a grayer Baetis imitation. If you don’t have those fibers don’t fret—many duck flank feathers, such as mallard, teal and widgeon, work well. Like most flies, this one evolved to meet certain needs, and crosses over for midges. One bundle of grouse fibers are used for the tail, body, and legs. I’m becoming a big fan of jig-style nymphs but, unfortunately, those hooks aren’t made small enough for midge and Blue Wing Olive patterns. Fortunately, short-shank nymph and scud hooks make a jig fly when combined with a slotted bead. To do this, invert the hook and align the slot of the bead so that most of the bead is below the hook, and anchor with thread. Angle the legs upward (inverted position) to help the fly flip over. This a great sight-casting nymph, and I use it prior to midge and Baetis hatches, or on cold days when the trout just won’t come all the way up.


Hook: Kumoto K3761C 1X Short Competition Nymph hook, sizes 16 through 20.

Head: Slotted black tungsten bead

Tail: Ruffed grouse tail fibers

Rib: Fine copper wire

Abdomen: Ruffed grouse tail fibers

Legs: Butts of grouse fibers used for body

Neck: Gray dubbing behind bead

Para Midge Emerger

This fly is an old friend and is as close to a non-refusal midge as I have found. A high proportion of midge feeding is on pupae that are stuck in the surface film, and not on actual adults. The trout key on those emergers because they are an easy meal. However, this situation is often mistaken for trout feeding on adults. Here’s how to tell: see a nose—feeding on top; see a dorsal—feeding subsurface. The Krystal Flash tag and rib on this fly seem to make a difference. Is it an attractant, simulation of movement, or an air bubble? I don’t know, but it works.


Hook: Kumoto 100C Competition Dry-Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Indicator: White, orange or black synthetic fibers

Tag: One or two strands of pearl Krystal Flash cut short

Rib: Pearl Krystal Flash

Body: Peacock or dark-olive colored Antron dubbing

Hackle: A few wraps of grizzly, one gap length

Split Top Emerger Grizzly Olive

This fly has its origins in my PFD Emerger. I added a split-foam wingcase for both realism and to hide the indicator. The hackle at the base of wingcase mimics a partial wing and legs. This is another one of those “everything” emergers because so many stuck-in-the-film emergers look alike. It could be a mayfly, stonefly, midge, or caddis. All have a shuck, a partial body, and messed up wings and legs. Why not have some crossover flies to cover a myriad of situations? I tie these in sizes 12-to 20 and in gray, olive and tan. For spring fishing, a grizzly/olive combo is great for Baetis and midges. However, I give the Para Midge Emerger (see above) an edge when strictly matching midges. For a small emerger, the Split Top floats well and is easy to see in bad light and/or choppy water. Dull orange or pale pink polypropylene are good choices for the post.


Hook: TMC 2488, sizes 12 through 18

Thread: Olive Dun 8/0

Shuck: Brown/olive Antron

Abdomen: Stripped grizzly hackle stem

Wingcase: Gray 1.5mm or 2mm foam

Hackle: 1 1/2 gap grizzly

Indicator: Orange poly (EP Fibers)

Thorax: BWO dubbing

F Fly Variant

This is a “stupid simple” fly for smart fish. I fish this Marjan Fratnik pattern more often each year. It features a simple dubbed or thread body, and a wing of CDC. It’s simple to tie in small sizes and easy to tie sparsely. This fly looks like everything—midge, mayfly, caddis, cripple, or adult. I like to tie it in natural tan/dun CDC. Close enough to match most insects and easy to see. I tie these on standard dry-fly hooks or emerger hooks to give it more of that emerger look and a bigger hook gap. Unlike the downwing original, I tie a bundle of CDC in the center and fold it back. I lightly post that bundle to make it more upright. Scraggly flies seem to fish best. With many wing materials, bulk makes the fly look too big and is less effective. Not so with CDC. For some reason you can tie it full and visible and it doesn’t bother fish. I use Loon Lochsa or TMC Fly Magic on the CDC and after catching a fish I blot it dry with a chamois. Then I fluff out the fibers and cast again.


Hook: TMC 2488 Emerger hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Olive Dun 8/0

Body: Tying thread

Wing: Natural CDC

Two-Tone Parachute Baetis

Seeing is believing. We all feel most confident when we can see our flies. Also, visibility helps us attain a drag-free drift. Visibility has to do with contrast and background. The classic white post on most parachute patterns can be hard to see when the sun is low and the light is angled, and in the frequent silver/white glare of spring. In fact, the Two-Tone’s wing can appear to be same color as the water. That’s why I like an orange/black post combo, since it is visible in most lighting conditions and it isn’t too gaudy. You can easily overdress this fly. Just remember, sparser is better. Try to keep the dubbing body very thin, or even use thread for the abdomen. This is a go-to fly when matching Baetis adults.


Hook: Fulling Mills Ultimate Dry Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Brown 8/0

Tails: Split Coq de Leon fibers

Rib: Doubled tying thread

Abdomen: Olive/gray dubbing

Wing: Orange and black Antron or poly

Thorax: Olive/gray dubbing

Hackle: Dark dun

Sparkle Caddis Midge Stone

This fly started out as my Sparkle Midge, back when I was in Livingston, Montana, and fishing the Yellowstone River and other area waters. The fly has evolved, and I now feel that the Sparkle CMS (caddis, midge, stone) is a better name and description. This is a useful pattern from the first midge hatches of late winter to the caddis hatches of later spring. You can tweak this fly to match each species by making the wing longer or shorter. The wing and post are made of the same strands of Krystal Flash, and the dark biot body is segmented for a very buggy appearance. I’ve added some CDC over the Krystal Flash for a more natural tint and to make the fly easier to see. That also adds floatation without too much bulk. I’ve tied the CMS in various shades, using medium-to dark dun hackles, and experienced similar results with each. This fly really shines during spring hatches of Capnia stoneflies. These flies are not easy to notice—they are small, dark, and flat. However, fish don’t ignore them, and often key in on them. If you see a bunch of them on the snow or on the riverbank rocks, take a closer look. These are often the flies that cause subtle rises in riffled water or runs. That water is usually a little faster speed than where you’d expect to see midges. So, when you see fish rising in that type of water, and you can’t get them on a midge imitation, your natural process should be to deliver the CMS and see what happens.


Hook: Kumoto Competition Dry Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Body: Dark brown or black turkey biot

Wing and Post: Pearl Krystal Flash with tan/dun CDC over it

Thorax: Black dubbing

Hackle: Dark dun

Moose Mane Micro Soft Hackle

Sometimes fish never learn. Such is the case with soft-hackles—trout still take a fly that’s almost 2,000 years old. These flies can be swung in wet-fly style or dead-drifted. Why do they work? Because they look and act like a lot of things. Could be an emerger, a cripple or a sunken spinner. When active Baetis nymphs and emergers are present, swinging soft-hackles is the perfect recipe for success. In most other applications drifting a soft-hackle in the film, or just below it, and allowing it to swing at the end of a drift is a good ploy. When drifting soft-hackles just below the surface watch the area near the fly and if you see a rise, gently lift up. It doesn’t take much of a set to hook trout on small flies. You can also use a dry fly to track the soft-hackle, setting up when the dry “indicator” fly twitches or disappears. The thin moose “quill” body on this fly is sparse and segmented, like you’d find on a real insect. Since small soft hackle is hard to come by, I tie loose hackle fibers forward and pull them back over the thorax before whip finishing.


Hook: Kumoto Competition Scud hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Abdomen: Tan and dark brown moose body hair, wrapped

Thorax: Dark brown dubbing

Hackle: Dark hen

The comically named "Grandpa's Eggs Fly" is an interesting "double take" on the ever-popular Nuke Fly. I use this fly primarily when fishing southern Ontario's Saugeen River. This river tends to get coloured in the spring, making larger flies easier for the fish to find. I find this fly particularly useful when surrounded by center-pin anglers drifting beads—Grandpa’s Eggs tends to stand out from the crowd a little more than your standard yarn pattern. It is simple to tie, but make sure that the two eggs are lined up so the fly doesn't helicopter during casts. When you’re having a slow day, this is a good fly to try.

MATERIALS:

Hook: Daiichi 1150 size 8
Thread: Veevus GSP 100d
Body: McFlyfoam Fl. Peach
Blood Dot: UV red Egg Yarn
Body Extension: 10lb fluorocarbon
Veil: Wapsi white Antron Sparkle Dubbing

Step 1: Cut a 1.5” length of McFlyfoam about .5” in diameter and another 1.5” length of egg yarn about half a pencil width in diameter. Lay the egg yarn on top of the McFlyfoam as shown.

Step 2: Loop a piece of 10 lb fluorocarbon around the middle of the materials.

Step 3: Tie a knot around the material—the same way you would tie on a hook- and pull tight.

Step 4: Pull the material away from the knot tightly.

Step 5: Trim off the excess material about 5mm from the knot.

Step 6: Finish trimming off any leftover material and gently massage it to form the egg shape.

Step 7: Start a small thread base about halfway down the hook shank and tie in the fluorocarbon with tight wraps.

Step 8: To prevent the fluorocarbon from slipping, use a small dab of fast drying super glue over your thread wraps.

Step 9: Make sure the glue has dried before continuing.

Step 10: Cut another length of McFlyfoam and egg yarn the same size or slightly larger than the first.

Step 11: Lay the materials over the hook shank and make three loose wraps around it before pulling it as tight as possible—this is where the GSP thread is important.

Step 12: Without losing tension on the thread, make one or two parachute style wraps around the base of the material. At this point, make a whip finish to secure your thread.

Step 13: Pull the material upwards and cut off the excess to make a second egg roughly the same size as the first.

Step 14: Massage the material around the hook shank.

Step 15: Trim off leftover material to make the egg as round as possible. But remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Step 16: Take a small batch of white antron dubbing and gently spread the fibres apart in your fingers.

Step 17: Lay the dubbing over the hook eye and tie it in with about ¾ of the dubbing in front of the eye.

Step 18: Fan out the dubbing so that it surrounds the whole hook shank.

Step 19: Fold the dubbing back over the fly and make a few wraps in front of the dubbing to hold it back.

Step 20: GSP thread can be slippery so double the whip finish before trimming off the thread.

Photography by

Christian Bilodeau

My Rip Rap came to be after watching streamers continue to get larger every year. The problem with that increase in size is that going too big limits your opportunities. A trout is capable of eating something half its body size, and a large fly is indeed a significant meal for a 24-inch plus trout. But a 20-inch trout is much more likely to eat something in the two-to three-inch range. In other words, as flies get larger, the angler’s potential for a “trophy” trout increases slightly, but their opportunity for a “quality” trout of 16-to 20 inches decreases significantly.

I needed something that was a medium-sized item. But I also wanted it to grab a fish’s attention in northern Michigan’s smaller, pocket-water systems. Larger waters typically see more angling pressure, so drab colors are a good call because they more subtly imitate the natural food sources. When pressure is high, subtly is key. However, in smaller pocket water with limited ambush windows, getting the attention of fish is of utmost importance, and sometimes too much subtlety means that a fly swings past unnoticed. Since these pocket water fish are generally less pressured, they’re more likely to respond to the vibrancy of a brightly colored fly.

I also wanted a swim-fly rather than a jig-fly. Although jig-flies are great for getting deep in pocket water, I wanted something I could work in front of logjams without the dip and rise of a jig—something that would give me more time and space to tease a fish out. Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow is a productive fly in this type of water; however, since it is a single-hook fly, it lacks kick and has minimal inherent movement, other than its marabou portions. One day it occurred to me, by combining the flash concept of the Sparkle Minnow with a Double Deceiver profile, using Ripple Ice Fiber to gain both flash and movement, and deploying a rabbit strip for general meatiness, I could create the exact fly I was looking for, one that swam like a Double Deceiver, flashed like a Sparkle Minnow, and when it came to catching fish, had something all its own.

The Rip Rap can be fished from a boat or on foot. For boat anglers, the best rig is a fairly short, medium-to heavy-grain sink-tip, such as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold in 250 grain. A heavier grain can be used for heavier flows or larger rivers. A six-foot leader tapered down to a fluorocarbon tippet between 12 and16 pounds is preferred, although heavier tippet can be used where the opportunity for larger trout is present. That said, 16-pound seems to be the sweet spot—enough rope for larger fish, but enough suppleness to allow movement. When fishing on foot in smaller rivers, shorten the leader down to four feet. The Rip Rap can also be fished on an intermediate line in shallow rivers and lakes.

Recipe

Rear Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #6 (Do not substitute)
Front Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #4 (Do not substitute)
Thread: 140D to match color variation.
Tail: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Connection: .018 Beadalon/RIO WireBite/equivalent
Beads: Hareline 3D Beads or Netcraft ProEye 3D Fishing Lure Beads, 6mm
Front of Connection: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Collar: Mallard Flank dyed red
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Head: Fish Mask #5 (This could also be tied in a weighted version with a matching Fish Skull head)
Eyes: Holographic Eyes 3/16” Super Pearl


Variations

Old School Rabbit

 

Rabbit Strip: Tiger barred olive/black over light olive
Palmer Chenille: Medium peacock
Beads: 3D Beads, green olive
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, olive
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Fury Orange

 

Rabbit Strip: Black Barred Groovy Bunny strip, orange/yellow/white
Palmer Chenille: Medium orange
Beads: 3D Beads, orange
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, orange
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Steps

Step 1: Form a thread base on the rear hook. Measure a piece of rabbit strip (using only the skin side as reference) against the length of the hook shank and tie it in above the hook point, leaving some available to tie over to the hook.

Step 2: Tie in the chenille and palmer it forward to a little behind the hook eye.

Step 3: Bring the remaining rabbit strip forward and tie it in over the top of the chenille.

Step 4: Invert the hook and securely fasten the tail.Grab some Ripple Ice Fiber (significantly less than you think). Finger stack the clump slightly to align fibers. Measure the back half of the stack to the end of the rabbit tail (fur side). Tie it in and bring the thread forward slightly.

Step 5: Fold the remaining RIF stack back on top of the hook ( similar to a bullet style head ) and make several solid wraps back to make sure the material lays flat. ( Tip: try pulling up on your tying thread to cinch the RIF down. This will make sure that the stack stays on top of the hook shank. )

Step 6: Repeat the process on the bottom part of the hook shank with the Minnow Mix RIF, this time with a slightly smaller amount of material.

Step 7: Fold the material again back over the top of itself. Whip finish and reinforce with glue.

Step 8: Now it’s time to trim. Holding the eye of the hook with the tail hanging down, trim the bottom RIF to extend just beyond the bottom side of the hook and palmer chenille. Then trim top wing on the sides and top to get any stragglers and create a taper.

Step 9: If your fly looks like this, you’re on the right track.

Step 10: Create a connection between the hooks with .018 Beadalon and two 3D beads. Tie the Beadalon in on the side of the shank in order to get the tail to ride correctly. Reverse the wire, make several strong wraps, and trim excess.

Step 11: Tie in a piece of rabbit strip and palmer one time. The trick here is to wrap the rabbit over itself to create extra bulk with creeping the materials forward on the hook shank.

Step 12: Tie in chenille and palmer forward to 1/3 back from hook eye.

Step 13: Take a medium-sized mallard flank dyed red and remove one side of fibers from the quill. Tie in and wrap forward a few times to create a collar.

Step 14: Take a stack of RIF slightly larger than the one used for the rear hook. This will form your top wing. Measure the fibers so that the top wing extends to the halfway point of the rear wing to fully cover the gap between hooks.

Step 15: Fold the fibers back just as on the rear hook.

Step 16: Tie in the bottom wing the same way as with the rear hook.

Step 17: Fold over, tie off and trim just as you did before.

Step 18: Glue on the head. For the standard version use a Fish Mask #5. Or use a Fish Skull for a heavier offering.

Step 19: Glue on Super Pearl eyes. The pearl eyes will help bring out the color of the fly.

Step 20: Time for a final trimming to get rid of straggling fibers and to create the desired taper.

Capt. Ethan Winchester
Capt. Ethan Winchester has been tying flies for 20-plus years and designing flies commercially since 2017. He has been a full-time outfitter and guide since 2009 and is currently the Director of Operations of Boyne Outfitters—northern Michigan’s premier fly-fishing outfitter. Winchester’s Rip Rap and other Winchester patterns are available exclusively through Catch Fly Fishing dealers.

Timing and Location
My home waters in the greater Yellowstone region—including Wyoming’s Snake River, the South Fork Snake and lower Henry’s Fork in Idaho, and the Gallatin, Madison and Yellowstone rivers in Montana—all have some great midge fishing.

Depending on the year and specific water conditions, these hatches start in February and extend through April. Talking to anglers in other areas leads me to believe that they also enjoy some wonderful early season midge fishing.

No matter where you fish with midges, the best fishing is usually in the afternoon. In Jackson, Wyoming and surrounding areas, skiing in the morning and fishing in the afternoon is common occurrence. You need something to do until the trout and midges awaken. Some years, skis or snowshoes may be needed to reach the water. The trout will still be found in winter habitat adjacent to deeper, moderate currents. Inside corners, back-eddies and slack water tailouts are prime midge fishing locations. The fish can mover very shallow, but are still found near deeper retreats. A good indicator of hatch activity is an abundance of midge adults on the snow. If they are found in quantity, there is a good chance they will be on the water, too.

Adapt To The Situation
Trout get into the early spring midge hatches big time. Midges are small but numerous, and they are easy for trout to capture in big numbers. In many waters, this is the first consistent, predictable food source of the year. Think of it as a constant flow of snack food. With the quantity of food, trout can get selective, and having a variety of patterns to match the stages of this hatch can be beneficial. I’ve seen many occasions when imitating a stage was more important than the exact size and color of the fly. Following are a couple of proven midge patterns with noted enhancements.

Tubing Submerger
With midges, fish can key in on specific stages of the hatch, and it is common to see trout feeding selectively on emerging pupae. The telltale sign is seeing trout breaking the surface with nothing more than their backs, which means the are eating pupae just under the surface. Another good indicator is fish that are feeding heavily but refusing all your dry-fly offerings. Sometimes you need to stand back and watch for a while to figure this out. Think of it from the trout’s perspective: they have a lot of food to choose from and the easiest item is under the surface—they don’t have to risk breaking the surface for a meal. In many situations, a hangdown emerger like my Parachute Midge Emerger or a Quigley Cripple work extremely well. However, there are times when trout like it just a little bit deeper. Depth is critical in these circumstances and if you go too deep the trout won’t see the fly. Six inches down is a good starting point and covers most situations. The Tubing Submerger is the fly I use for this situation.

I picked up this body style years ago from an old Larva Lace promotional brochure written by Phil Camera. This is an interesting body where you slide the hollow tubing over the hook shank rather than wrapping it. Soon after playing with this body, I tied up some midge larvae to fish on the tailwaters of Utah’s Green River. They fished very well and I added the fly to my regular arsenal. I soon added a small black dubbing head to the fly. This fly can be fished deep, in traditional nymph style with split shot to get it down, but where it really shines is as a subsurface emerger. The denser plastic body and more water resistant dubbing head causes the fly to ride in a vertical position like a natural coming to the surface. It is almost the reverse effect of a beadhead pattern, with the tail hanging down. To further enhance the position, I added polypropylene gill filaments above the hook eye, which also adds realism. A touch of pearlescent flash at the butt catches the trout’s eye and matches the rear breathing tubes on real midge pupae.

To get the fly to the correct level, you can fish it below a dry fly, or the leader can be greased to within a few inches of the fly. I generally don’t use indicators, since they tend to be bulky and land on the water with force. A buoyant, visible fly that might be eaten by the trout is a good choice. I use my Midge X cluster pattern in this situation, but a slightly oversized parachute or another midge cluster also works. I prefer to tie the top indicator fly to a short dropper off a blood knot.

Hook and material selection makes the fly easier to tie. A fine wire hook with a small eye is easier to slide the tubing over. A Dai-Riki 310 straight eye fine wire hook is a good choice. Light wire emerger hooks, such as a Dai-Riki 125 or TMC 2488, are also good options. The tubing size should be matched to the hook. Larvae Lace standard size is good for size16, Hareline standard tubing for sizes 18 through 20, and for smaller flies use Hareline Midge Tubing. Other brands also work, but tubing sizes aren’t universal from brand to brand. Standard colors for the fly are clear, olive, tan, gray, black and red. Since the material is translucent, the hook color darkens the body color.

Tubing Submerger
Hook: Dai-Riki 310 straight eye dry fly, sizes 16 through 22

Thread: Olive 8/0

Tag/Breathing Tube: A single strand of pearl Krystal Flash or Midge Flash folded over.

Body: Clear, hollow plastic tubing. Larvae Lace standard size is good size16; Hareline Standard Tubing for sizes 18 through

Rib: Tying thread over tubing body

Gill filaments: White polypropylene fibers

Head: A sparse amount of black dubbing

STEP 1: Start your thread on the bend of the hook just past the hook shank.

STEP 2: Fold a strand of pearl Krystal Flash over your thread, fold it back and secure it to the hook shank with a few wraps.

STEP 3: Slide the plastic tubing over the hook eye so it covers the hook shank. Sometimes it takes a little coaxing, and moistening the hook eye helps. Remember, putting bands on a slingshot? A slightly angled cut on the tubing makes it easier. If you have trouble, cut a new end.

STEP 4: Pull the tubing back so that it covers ¾ of the hook shank and trim it.

STEP 5: Push the tubing back down the hook until it is even with the tag and just over the thread base. There should be a little space between the front end of the tubing and the hook eye. This allows you space to tie in the gill filaments and head. Also, the tubing will stretch a little as your wrap your thread over it.

STEP 6: Wrap your tying thread over the plastic tubing in a spiral fashion. This forms the segmentation. Secure the very front end of the tubing, and make a small thread base in front of the tubing.

STEP 7: Tie in a small amount of polypropylene fibers by tying in the middle and then folding it forward. Post the base.

STEP 8: Dub a sparse head. Use some of the dubbing to lift the gills above the hook eye. Whip finish and cement. Trim the tag short and trim the breathing tube.

Flyfishing for pike in cold water during spring takes real discipline. It can be a slow business. Pike, like many apex predators, can go “off the chew” for long hours. When they are off, they really are off.

Then, suddenly, nature flicks a switch, the barometer rises or the river starts to fall and clear, and they are very much on.

When that happens, it’s easy to let the excitement get to you. You speed up your retrieve and forget those crucial pauses that so often induce a solid take. Don’t do that. Slow down, instead. Pike are lazy. They look for victims in trouble. Victims that are incapacitated. Victims that can’t get away.

The problem with fishing flies ultra-slow is that pike get a chance to really examine your offering. No matter how much time and attention to detail you put into your fly, guess what? It’s just a bunch of fluff and feathers. They reject it. You’ll need something that looks alive, even when it’s barely moving.

Italian angler Paolo Pacchiarini is a brilliant predator angler. He holds 10 IGFA records and really understands how to induce big, wary predators into taking a fly.

His Wiggletail patterns are deadly. They have a huge amount of presence in the water and create a big profile that is much easier to cast than a traditional pattern of equal size. In the water, they move with a sinuous allure, even when retrieved in an ultra-slow, figure-eight next to the boat. Using Paolo’s ingenious snap link system, you can quickly change the tail from dark to light, flashy to somber, and large to small.

Pacchiarini recently introduced a couple of variations on the design, and his Dragontails and Wavetails offer an option that is every bit as effective as the original.

Pike absolutely love Wiggletails, and nail them with abandon. I recently started using the tails on hybrid Gamechanger patterns, tied by my good friend Rupert Harvey (he ties innovative patterns for clients worldwide from his base in Ireland). Equipped with rattles, the flies have proven themselves for pike, and also for big peacock bass, arapaima and huge chinook salmon in Chile. When the water warms up in spring, it is worth experimenting with Gamechanger poppers equipped with a wiggletail.

Some people still harbor prejudices against Wiggletails—they don’t consider them to be valid flies. I would urge you not to entertain such negative thoughts—fly-fishing for big pike in icy conditions is tough enough without further handicapping yourself. Embrace this great addition to the pike-fisher’s armory, and enjoy the action these flies provide, even on the coldest spring days.

A tip: before you fish the Wiggletail, gently but firmly stretch it. This will soften the tail and make it more mobile in the water.

Wiggletail

Hook: Various sizes Sakuma or similar pike hooks 2/0 to 6/0, incorporated into Niklas Bauer Pike Rig with rattle

Thread: 100d GSP white

Head: Bucktail in white and medium dunn

Head: Nayat (Snow Runner) in grey and black

Head: Red wool roving

Head: Black wool roving mixed with black angelina fibre

Flash: White Deer Creek Mega Lazer dub (or use white wool roving mixed with silver angelina fibre) Metz natural grizzly saddle

Flash: Hedron Magnum Flashabou in moonlight

Flash: Hedron standard Flashabou in silver and black

Flash: Hedron Mirage in pink

Flash: Holofusion in opal

Eyes: Jerkbaitmania 12mm eyes

Tails: Various Wiggletails attached with fast change snap

Matt Harris
Matt Harris is a globetrotting photographer who catches fish wherever he goes. Check out more of his work on IG
@mattharrisflyfishing

While most of us prefer fishing dry flies, adult caddis are most vulnerable to trout when they transition from pupa to adult. This change starts near the bottom of a stream and finalizes at the surface, making nymphs and emerges more effective than dry flies.

Spring and Summer Fun

Caddis hatch for most of the summer, but some of my favorite times to match them are the heavy spring and early summer hatches in the Rocky Mountains. The Mother’s Day hatch of brachycentrus caddis on the Yellowstone River near Livingston, Montana is the most famous springtime emergence. But this early season caddis also can be found on other regional waters, such as the lower Henry’s Fork, Madison, Snake, Green, Clark Fork, Big Hole and Gallatin rivers among others. It’s also fairly widespread in Colorado. The Mother’s Day moniker is true on some waters, but the bulk of that activity takes place in late April. This timing coincides with the start of runoff and it is a mad race for the weather to get warm enough for the bugs to emerge, but not too warm to start spring runoff, which could make the rivers unfishable. The best way to hit these hatches is to live there, near the banks of those rivers, and be voluntarily unemployed. Most of us can’t do that and even if we could some years we’d hit the hatch for a couple weeks of prime fishing and other years we’d only get a few days. You hope for the best and take your shots when the conditions are right.

            Another peak of caddis activity occurs around the tail end of runoff, usually around the end of June or the Fourth of July, depending on water conditions. At this time, a variety of caddis and small stoneflies can be found in abundance. The stoneflies shine during the day with caddis activity taking over as evening arrives. These early summer caddis are mostly hydroschye. They resemble a turkey quill in coloration. One of the best hydroschye hatches occurs on Montana’s Missouri River in July, a predictable evening emergence, usually right at dusk, that brings every fish in the river to the surface. On the Missouri, that means plenty of heavy 16-to 22-inch browns and rainbows.

            On the Missouri, and the aforementioned streams, take advantage of situations when trout can feed heavily without expending much energy. The caddis hatch provides that—trout can rest on a seamline and watch a steady stream of caddis float over their heads. Because these mergers are struggling at the surface trout merely raise up, suck in a snack, drop down a few inches and repeat.

Coalescing Ideas

The Everfloat Caddis Emerger came about in preparation for a trip to Livingston, Montana for the April caddis hatch on my old home water, the Yellowstone River. I’ve used a variety of caddis patterns over the years, from imitative to attractor, but in the last few years, caddis emergers have worked best. My Everything Emerger and Matthew’s X Caddis are at the top of the list. However, early in the day, prior to evening surface activity, a Glass House Caddis, Ultra Zug or a beadhead soft hackle work best. These flies do a good job of imitating drifting larvae and deep emerging pupae. A standard procedure, especially when fishing from a boat, is to hang a sunken pattern below a buoyant dry fly. Obviously, Elk Hair Caddis, Stimulators and Convertibles work as indicators, and fool a number of fish on top. However, when the fish are keyed in on emerging pupa, they are better indicators than fish-catchers. This is especially true as the hatch progresses and fish are looking for the easiest meal.

Dan’s Green Pacu Streamer is an extremely simple fly to tie, which is perfect because pacu, like piranha, chew flies up flies. The Pacu Streamer is, essentially, an oversized, mostly synthetic Woolly Bugger I tied while prepping for my first jungle fishing assignment in Guyana (Mano A Mano P2). It was meant to catch peacock bass and other toothy predators. And it did. But where it excelled was on pacu—in fact it was the only fly that fooled pacu during the trip.

The Pacu Streamer is best fished using sharp, erratic strips with plenty of pauses in between. I believe the fish are attracted to the fluttering of the green saddle hackle that makes up its tail. When casting to fish that haven’t seen many, if any, flies, the Pacu Streamer would get bit on nearly every cast. Most of the eats were short, and I noticed ends of the saddle hackle shortened each time. Once the tail gets shortened to just over an inch long, the pacu seem to lose interest and it is time to tie on a new one. On our most recent jungle trip, we went through nearly a dozen of these flies in an afternoon. Prior to my next trip I plan to tie up a few with stinger hooks to see if that increases my hookup rate.

RECIPE

Hook: Mustad R73np Streamer Signature Fly Hook, size 4

Eyes: Lead Dumbbell Eyes (size small or medium)

Thread: 6/0 W Uni Thread 136D in black, brown or green

Tail: Green Hackle/Shlappen

Inner Body: Hareline Green UV Polar Chenille

Outer Body: Waspi Green Woolly Bugger Chenille

Optional Flash: Green Crystal Flash

Step 1: Lay down a few thread wraps and tie on a pair of dumbbell eyes to the top of the hook shank, just behind the eye of the hook.

Step 2: Work your thread down to the bend of the hook and tie in 4 to 6 green saddle hackle feathers, Deceiver style (concave sides of the feathers inward). Feel free to use two different shades to give it some contrast. I prefer olive and light green/yellow. At this stage, you can add some green crystal flash to the fly, but this is completely optional. Most of the time I tie it without flash.

Step 3 & 4: Tie in Hareline polar chenille and bugger chenille just after the saddle hackle. Then work your bobbin to the dumbbell eyes. Wrap the bugger chenille tightly in the opposite direction of your thread to create the body. Stop right before you reach the dumbbell eyes and lock it in place with a few thread wraps.

Step 5: Palmer Hareline polar chenille over the bugger chenille forward to head, and up and over the dumbbell eyes. Secure with a few thread wraps.

Step 6: Whip finish and add head cement for a long-lasting fly.

The Skunk Leech is a slightly different take on the classic Green Butt Skunk, which was made popular by steelheaders in the Pacific Northwest. This fly is best fished on a sink-tip line in a traditional down-and-across swing. I always let this fly “dangle” a little longer at the end of my swing, as the soft materials it’s made of offer an enticing swimming action, even in a slight current. The Skunk Leech’s large profile and contrasting colors make it especially effective in higher, slightly stained water.

MATERIALS

HOOK: Partridge single salmon #2/0
EYES: Lead Eyes, white 1/24oz
THREAD: Uni thread black 6/0
TAIL: Red marabou
RIB: Silver mylar
BODY: Chartreuse Ice Dub/black Hareline Dubbin
COLLAR: Black hackle
THROAT: Black marabou
WING: White rabbit zonker
FLASH: Extra limp Flashabou holographic black

Step 1: Start with the hook right-side up in your vise. The fly will fish hook-point up, but the majority of the fly is easier to tie in this manner.

Step 2: Start your thread just before the bend in the hook and work forward, closing the return eye.

Step 3: Using a figure-eight pattern, tie in the lead eyes at the rear of the return eye. Make a few tight wraps around the base of the eyes to secure them in place.

Step 4: Select a full red marabou feather and pinch all the ends together by running your fingers up the stem.

Step 5: Tie in the marabou on top of the hook-shank, just before the bend, to create a tail about ¾” long.

Step 6: Cut off the excess at an angle tapered forward.

Step 7: Using wide thread wraps , lash the rest of the marabou to the shank to create a tapered body.

Step 8: Tie in a strand of silver mylar for the rib.

Step 9: Dub the body halfway forward with chartreuse Ice Dub.

Step 10: Wrap the mylar forward in evenly spaced turns—3 to 4 wraps—and trim away the tag.

Step 11: Tie in a black saddle hackle feather by the tip—try to find one with shortish, softer barbs.

Step 12: Wrap the hackle 6 to 8 times, keeping your wraps as close together as possible without overlapping.

Step 13: Tie in another piece of silver mylar for the second rib.

Step 14: Dub the rest of the shank with black Hareline Dubbing up to the eyes.

Step 15: Wrap the mylar forward in the same fashion as the first rib.

Step 16: Select another hackle feather similar to the first and tie it in by the tip, just behind the eyes.

Step 17: Again, make 6 to 8 close wraps with the hackle, just behind the eyes.

Step 18: Use a small amount of black dubbing, and dub around the eyes in a figure-eight to clean up the head.

Step 19: Turn the hook upside down in the vise.

Step 20: Select a fairly sparse black marabou feather and pinch the tips together.

Step 21: Tie the feather in on top of the shank so that the tips reach just past the hook point.

Step 22: Cut the end of a white zonker strip into a V. This creates a more natural taper to the tail.

Step 23: Pierce the point of the hook through the zonker strip about ½” from the V-cut in the end.

Step 24: Lay the zonker strip over top of the fly and tie it in just behind the eye of the hook. Don’t stretch the zonker strip too tight or it will be more likely to rip off the hook.

Step 25: Cut off the excess zonker strip and make a few more tight wraps to secure it.

Step 26: Tie in a full strand of black Flashabou on either side of the fly so they roughly line up with the tail.

Step 27: Double the strands over, creating a loop ahead of the fly, and tie the opposite end in. Same length only slightly higher on the sides of the fly.

Step 28: Cut the loops formed in the Flashabou and fold the ends back over the top of the fly. This creates 8 total strands of flash on the fly.

Step 29: Be sure to secure the Flashabou with a few tight wraps before cleaning up the head and whip finishing.

I even Googled “How To” and couldn’t find what I wanted. Nonetheless, I did receive materials and products suggestions, along with plenty of ideas on how to achieve the thickness and finish I was after. Still, I didn’t get any straight to the point suggestions, like, “Hey buddy, this is the product and the process I use to achieve the finish you’re looking for.”

             So I continued to scour the internet and paperback fly-tying books, hoping to find answers, or maybe even some step-by-step tying video. Nothing.

             You may be saying, “You’re trying to poach someone’s method and patterns.” But don’t judge me yet—I’m not someone who just started tying yesterday. I never wanted to be spoon-fed other people’s hard work. Instead, I armed myself with a handful of jigsaw pieces of information, purchased several different products, and tried to piece it all together. I experimented with multiple silicone brands and retardants, trying to break down the materials into a pourable and paintable consistency, while steering towards a low-fume mixture.

             It took some trials, but I finally found a suitable combination of products that are easy to find and mixed safely together. Now I needed to work a finishing technique to get the smooth, shiny finish I was after.

              A lot of people suggested dishwashing detergents, saliva, and Foto Flo solution. I found all three to work in some degree, but I still couldn’t get a finish I was happy with. In my attempts, the silicone was left with milky/cloudy streaks and a slightly uneven surface after I tried to smooth it out.

             Finally, I found a better way. By using a soft, flat-tipped paintbrush and mineral turpentine, I could gently smooth the silicone by brushing the mineral turps from the eye of the hook to the end of the silicone head. That process removed small bubbles and bumps in the curing mixture and allowed me to place the perfect fly in the rotary dryer until fully cured. No streaks. No bumps. No bubbles.

             I now use a three-step process to finish my flies. First I coat and let dry. I repeat that process and add eyes. Then I apply a final coat to secure the eyes and add strength to the body. Note: After each coat I brush with Turps to get the best finish possible.

TOOLS

1-Silicone sealant
2-Mineral turpentine
3-Soft, flat-tipped brushes. (1cm)
4-Mixer (or mix by hand)
5-Small sealable bottle to mix and then store the silicone product

STEP 1

Place the desired amount of silicone into a sealable bottle.

STEP 2

Add a small amount of mineral turps to the silicone.

STEP 3

Mix the silicone and turps together, gradually adding until the desired thickness is achieved. Add more turps until you get a constant, workable mix. I like a mixture with a consistency similar to thin syrup, but not too watery. A runny mixture takes longer to dry and affords a greater chance of tracking in the fibres before drying.

Living in the high-elevation icebox of Jackson, Wyoming, doesn’t lend itself to serious winter fishing.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t fantasize about warmer spring days ahead, and casting to rising trout. However, after a summer and fall spent dry-fly fishing, there are depleted fly boxes to deal with—in other words, an incentive to tie. This isn’t a bad thing because fly tying is a combination of creativity and anticipation, that little bunch of fuzz in the vise giving us visions of those perfect spring days ahead, when the trout are up and sipping. Fly tying, to me, is a way to revisit memories and dream of new adventures to come.

Spring hatches in the Northern Rockies are the most reliable of the year. From mid-March into May, these emergences provide great dry-fly fishing. My favorite spring hatches are midges, Baetis and small stoneflies. This tantalizing trio is endemic to most Rocky Mountain streams and they consistently occur before runoff.

Last April, I spent 20 afternoons on the water. I was casting to rising cutthroats on 19 of those days. The other day I sight-fished to those native trout with nymphs.
From years of fishing the Greater Yellowstone area, I’ve narrowed down the spring patterns that produce. I always run out of these flies because they work and I have confidence in them. These are the flies that I’ll tie this winter in preparation for spring. Many of these flies are crossover patterns that work well when hatches overlap.

As a rule, when tying small flies make sure your hooks have enough gap and strength to hold large fish. Also, sparser is better when tying small flies because tying sparsely allows you to use those stronger hooks. I’ve listed the hooks I use with each of these recipes. If you don’t have that exact hook, just use a similar model.

Start tying these flies this winter and you’ll easily have full boxes when the spring hatches pop. I believe you will enjoy tying and fishing these flies as much as I do.

TYING FLIES FOR SPRING

Tungsten Jig Pheasant Tail

This fly looks like food and matches just about any subsurface larvae or nymph. Its origins are found in Frank Sawyer’s original Pheasant Tail herl and copper wire pattern. It was first tied in the 1930s for fishing England’s Avon River. Al Troth’s modern version, with a peacock herl thorax, is now the most common tie—it naturally evolved into beadhead and jig hook versions. I tie a majority of my PTs as soft-hackles. And I’m starting to tie more of my nymphs on jig hooks, because there’s nothing wrong with having a hook point up—I get more consistent hook-ups on these rigs. This is a great pre-hatch fly and works equally well as a dropper/anchor below a smaller nymph or subsurface emerger.


Hook: Kumoto KJ304 Wide-Gap Jig, sizes 14 through 18

Thread: 8/0 Rusty Brown

Head: Copper tungsten bead

Rib: Small copper wire

Tail: Pheasant-tail fibers

Abdomen: Pheasant-tail fibers

Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub

Hackle: Dark hen

Grouse Tail Nymph

This is my variation on the good old Pheasant Tail Nymph, and substitutes ruffed grouse tail fibers to create a grayer Baetis imitation. If you don’t have those fibers don’t fret—many duck flank feathers, such as mallard, teal and widgeon, work well. Like most flies, this one evolved to meet certain needs, and crosses over for midges. One bundle of grouse fibers are used for the tail, body, and legs. I’m becoming a big fan of jig-style nymphs but, unfortunately, those hooks aren’t made small enough for midge and Blue Wing Olive patterns. Fortunately, short-shank nymph and scud hooks make a jig fly when combined with a slotted bead. To do this, invert the hook and align the slot of the bead so that most of the bead is below the hook, and anchor with thread. Angle the legs upward (inverted position) to help the fly flip over. This a great sight-casting nymph, and I use it prior to midge and Baetis hatches, or on cold days when the trout just won’t come all the way up.


Hook: Kumoto K3761C 1X Short Competition Nymph hook, sizes 16 through 20.

Head: Slotted black tungsten bead

Tail: Ruffed grouse tail fibers

Rib: Fine copper wire

Abdomen: Ruffed grouse tail fibers

Legs: Butts of grouse fibers used for body

Neck: Gray dubbing behind bead

Para Midge Emerger

This fly is an old friend and is as close to a non-refusal midge as I have found. A high proportion of midge feeding is on pupae that are stuck in the surface film, and not on actual adults. The trout key on those emergers because they are an easy meal. However, this situation is often mistaken for trout feeding on adults. Here’s how to tell: see a nose—feeding on top; see a dorsal—feeding subsurface. The Krystal Flash tag and rib on this fly seem to make a difference. Is it an attractant, simulation of movement, or an air bubble? I don’t know, but it works.


Hook: Kumoto 100C Competition Dry-Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Indicator: White, orange or black synthetic fibers

Tag: One or two strands of pearl Krystal Flash cut short

Rib: Pearl Krystal Flash

Body: Peacock or dark-olive colored Antron dubbing

Hackle: A few wraps of grizzly, one gap length

Split Top Emerger Grizzly Olive

This fly has its origins in my PFD Emerger. I added a split-foam wingcase for both realism and to hide the indicator. The hackle at the base of wingcase mimics a partial wing and legs. This is another one of those “everything” emergers because so many stuck-in-the-film emergers look alike. It could be a mayfly, stonefly, midge, or caddis. All have a shuck, a partial body, and messed up wings and legs. Why not have some crossover flies to cover a myriad of situations? I tie these in sizes 12-to 20 and in gray, olive and tan. For spring fishing, a grizzly/olive combo is great for Baetis and midges. However, I give the Para Midge Emerger (see above) an edge when strictly matching midges. For a small emerger, the Split Top floats well and is easy to see in bad light and/or choppy water. Dull orange or pale pink polypropylene are good choices for the post.


Hook: TMC 2488, sizes 12 through 18

Thread: Olive Dun 8/0

Shuck: Brown/olive Antron

Abdomen: Stripped grizzly hackle stem

Wingcase: Gray 1.5mm or 2mm foam

Hackle: 1 1/2 gap grizzly

Indicator: Orange poly (EP Fibers)

Thorax: BWO dubbing

F Fly Variant

This is a “stupid simple” fly for smart fish. I fish this Marjan Fratnik pattern more often each year. It features a simple dubbed or thread body, and a wing of CDC. It’s simple to tie in small sizes and easy to tie sparsely. This fly looks like everything—midge, mayfly, caddis, cripple, or adult. I like to tie it in natural tan/dun CDC. Close enough to match most insects and easy to see. I tie these on standard dry-fly hooks or emerger hooks to give it more of that emerger look and a bigger hook gap. Unlike the downwing original, I tie a bundle of CDC in the center and fold it back. I lightly post that bundle to make it more upright. Scraggly flies seem to fish best. With many wing materials, bulk makes the fly look too big and is less effective. Not so with CDC. For some reason you can tie it full and visible and it doesn’t bother fish. I use Loon Lochsa or TMC Fly Magic on the CDC and after catching a fish I blot it dry with a chamois. Then I fluff out the fibers and cast again.


Hook: TMC 2488 Emerger hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Olive Dun 8/0

Body: Tying thread

Wing: Natural CDC

Two-Tone Parachute Baetis

Seeing is believing. We all feel most confident when we can see our flies. Also, visibility helps us attain a drag-free drift. Visibility has to do with contrast and background. The classic white post on most parachute patterns can be hard to see when the sun is low and the light is angled, and in the frequent silver/white glare of spring. In fact, the Two-Tone’s wing can appear to be same color as the water. That’s why I like an orange/black post combo, since it is visible in most lighting conditions and it isn’t too gaudy. You can easily overdress this fly. Just remember, sparser is better. Try to keep the dubbing body very thin, or even use thread for the abdomen. This is a go-to fly when matching Baetis adults.


Hook: Fulling Mills Ultimate Dry Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Brown 8/0

Tails: Split Coq de Leon fibers

Rib: Doubled tying thread

Abdomen: Olive/gray dubbing

Wing: Orange and black Antron or poly

Thorax: Olive/gray dubbing

Hackle: Dark dun

Sparkle Caddis Midge Stone

This fly started out as my Sparkle Midge, back when I was in Livingston, Montana, and fishing the Yellowstone River and other area waters. The fly has evolved, and I now feel that the Sparkle CMS (caddis, midge, stone) is a better name and description. This is a useful pattern from the first midge hatches of late winter to the caddis hatches of later spring. You can tweak this fly to match each species by making the wing longer or shorter. The wing and post are made of the same strands of Krystal Flash, and the dark biot body is segmented for a very buggy appearance. I’ve added some CDC over the Krystal Flash for a more natural tint and to make the fly easier to see. That also adds floatation without too much bulk. I’ve tied the CMS in various shades, using medium-to dark dun hackles, and experienced similar results with each. This fly really shines during spring hatches of Capnia stoneflies. These flies are not easy to notice—they are small, dark, and flat. However, fish don’t ignore them, and often key in on them. If you see a bunch of them on the snow or on the riverbank rocks, take a closer look. These are often the flies that cause subtle rises in riffled water or runs. That water is usually a little faster speed than where you’d expect to see midges. So, when you see fish rising in that type of water, and you can’t get them on a midge imitation, your natural process should be to deliver the CMS and see what happens.


Hook: Kumoto Competition Dry Fly hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Body: Dark brown or black turkey biot

Wing and Post: Pearl Krystal Flash with tan/dun CDC over it

Thorax: Black dubbing

Hackle: Dark dun

Moose Mane Micro Soft Hackle

Sometimes fish never learn. Such is the case with soft-hackles—trout still take a fly that’s almost 2,000 years old. These flies can be swung in wet-fly style or dead-drifted. Why do they work? Because they look and act like a lot of things. Could be an emerger, a cripple or a sunken spinner. When active Baetis nymphs and emergers are present, swinging soft-hackles is the perfect recipe for success. In most other applications drifting a soft-hackle in the film, or just below it, and allowing it to swing at the end of a drift is a good ploy. When drifting soft-hackles just below the surface watch the area near the fly and if you see a rise, gently lift up. It doesn’t take much of a set to hook trout on small flies. You can also use a dry fly to track the soft-hackle, setting up when the dry “indicator” fly twitches or disappears. The thin moose “quill” body on this fly is sparse and segmented, like you’d find on a real insect. Since small soft hackle is hard to come by, I tie loose hackle fibers forward and pull them back over the thorax before whip finishing.


Hook: Kumoto Competition Scud hook, sizes 16 through 20

Thread: Black 8/0

Abdomen: Tan and dark brown moose body hair, wrapped

Thorax: Dark brown dubbing

Hackle: Dark hen

The comically named "Grandpa's Eggs Fly" is an interesting "double take" on the ever-popular Nuke Fly. I use this fly primarily when fishing southern Ontario's Saugeen River. This river tends to get coloured in the spring, making larger flies easier for the fish to find. I find this fly particularly useful when surrounded by center-pin anglers drifting beads—Grandpa’s Eggs tends to stand out from the crowd a little more than your standard yarn pattern. It is simple to tie, but make sure that the two eggs are lined up so the fly doesn't helicopter during casts. When you’re having a slow day, this is a good fly to try.

MATERIALS:

Hook: Daiichi 1150 size 8
Thread: Veevus GSP 100d
Body: McFlyfoam Fl. Peach
Blood Dot: UV red Egg Yarn
Body Extension: 10lb fluorocarbon
Veil: Wapsi white Antron Sparkle Dubbing

Step 1: Cut a 1.5” length of McFlyfoam about .5” in diameter and another 1.5” length of egg yarn about half a pencil width in diameter. Lay the egg yarn on top of the McFlyfoam as shown.

Step 2: Loop a piece of 10 lb fluorocarbon around the middle of the materials.

Step 3: Tie a knot around the material—the same way you would tie on a hook- and pull tight.

Step 4: Pull the material away from the knot tightly.

Step 5: Trim off the excess material about 5mm from the knot.

Step 6: Finish trimming off any leftover material and gently massage it to form the egg shape.

Step 7: Start a small thread base about halfway down the hook shank and tie in the fluorocarbon with tight wraps.

Step 8: To prevent the fluorocarbon from slipping, use a small dab of fast drying super glue over your thread wraps.

Step 9: Make sure the glue has dried before continuing.

Step 10: Cut another length of McFlyfoam and egg yarn the same size or slightly larger than the first.

Step 11: Lay the materials over the hook shank and make three loose wraps around it before pulling it as tight as possible—this is where the GSP thread is important.

Step 12: Without losing tension on the thread, make one or two parachute style wraps around the base of the material. At this point, make a whip finish to secure your thread.

Step 13: Pull the material upwards and cut off the excess to make a second egg roughly the same size as the first.

Step 14: Massage the material around the hook shank.

Step 15: Trim off leftover material to make the egg as round as possible. But remember, it doesn’t need to be perfect.

Step 16: Take a small batch of white antron dubbing and gently spread the fibres apart in your fingers.

Step 17: Lay the dubbing over the hook eye and tie it in with about ¾ of the dubbing in front of the eye.

Step 18: Fan out the dubbing so that it surrounds the whole hook shank.

Step 19: Fold the dubbing back over the fly and make a few wraps in front of the dubbing to hold it back.

Step 20: GSP thread can be slippery so double the whip finish before trimming off the thread.

Photography by

Christian Bilodeau

My Rip Rap came to be after watching streamers continue to get larger every year. The problem with that increase in size is that going too big limits your opportunities. A trout is capable of eating something half its body size, and a large fly is indeed a significant meal for a 24-inch plus trout. But a 20-inch trout is much more likely to eat something in the two-to three-inch range. In other words, as flies get larger, the angler’s potential for a “trophy” trout increases slightly, but their opportunity for a “quality” trout of 16-to 20 inches decreases significantly.

I needed something that was a medium-sized item. But I also wanted it to grab a fish’s attention in northern Michigan’s smaller, pocket-water systems. Larger waters typically see more angling pressure, so drab colors are a good call because they more subtly imitate the natural food sources. When pressure is high, subtly is key. However, in smaller pocket water with limited ambush windows, getting the attention of fish is of utmost importance, and sometimes too much subtlety means that a fly swings past unnoticed. Since these pocket water fish are generally less pressured, they’re more likely to respond to the vibrancy of a brightly colored fly.

I also wanted a swim-fly rather than a jig-fly. Although jig-flies are great for getting deep in pocket water, I wanted something I could work in front of logjams without the dip and rise of a jig—something that would give me more time and space to tease a fish out. Coffey’s Sparkle Minnow is a productive fly in this type of water; however, since it is a single-hook fly, it lacks kick and has minimal inherent movement, other than its marabou portions. One day it occurred to me, by combining the flash concept of the Sparkle Minnow with a Double Deceiver profile, using Ripple Ice Fiber to gain both flash and movement, and deploying a rabbit strip for general meatiness, I could create the exact fly I was looking for, one that swam like a Double Deceiver, flashed like a Sparkle Minnow, and when it came to catching fish, had something all its own.

The Rip Rap can be fished from a boat or on foot. For boat anglers, the best rig is a fairly short, medium-to heavy-grain sink-tip, such as the Scientific Anglers Sonar Sink 25 Cold in 250 grain. A heavier grain can be used for heavier flows or larger rivers. A six-foot leader tapered down to a fluorocarbon tippet between 12 and16 pounds is preferred, although heavier tippet can be used where the opportunity for larger trout is present. That said, 16-pound seems to be the sweet spot—enough rope for larger fish, but enough suppleness to allow movement. When fishing on foot in smaller rivers, shorten the leader down to four feet. The Rip Rap can also be fished on an intermediate line in shallow rivers and lakes.

Recipe

Rear Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #6 (Do not substitute)
Front Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #4 (Do not substitute)
Thread: 140D to match color variation.
Tail: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Connection: .018 Beadalon/RIO WireBite/equivalent
Beads: Hareline 3D Beads or Netcraft ProEye 3D Fishing Lure Beads, 6mm
Front of Connection: Barred rabbit strip
Body: Wapsi Palmer chenille
Collar: Mallard Flank dyed red
Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber
Head: Fish Mask #5 (This could also be tied in a weighted version with a matching Fish Skull head)
Eyes: Holographic Eyes 3/16” Super Pearl


Variations

Old School Rabbit

 

Rabbit Strip: Tiger barred olive/black over light olive
Palmer Chenille: Medium peacock
Beads: 3D Beads, green olive
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, olive
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Fury Orange

 

Rabbit Strip: Black Barred Groovy Bunny strip, orange/yellow/white
Palmer Chenille: Medium orange
Beads: 3D Beads, orange
Top Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber, orange
Bottom Wing: Ripple Ice Fiber Minnow mix

Steps

Step 1: Form a thread base on the rear hook. Measure a piece of rabbit strip (using only the skin side as reference) against the length of the hook shank and tie it in above the hook point, leaving some available to tie over to the hook.

Step 2: Tie in the chenille and palmer it forward to a little behind the hook eye.