2022 Top Ten – 01/09/2023

During 2022 I landed 928 trout during 63 days of fly fishing. I go into every year with the goal of landing one thousand fish, and I came up short, so that aspect of the year is somewhat disappointing. Despite this shortcoming I landed fish at a higher rate per hour, so my fly fishing time became more efficient. Despite my proclivity for counting fish, the real reason for my passion for this sport is discovering new places, solving problems, and continuing to evolve as a fly angler, and I feel that I accomplished those objectives in 2022. Below I offer my take on my top ten fly fishing outings of 2022.

Lunch Pool and Eddy

10. South Fork of the Rio Grande River – 06/21/2022 –  This was my first visit to the South Fork, and discovering a new and productive stream always counts for a lot, when I do these rankings. I landed twenty fish in five hours of fishing on a gorgeous first day of summer. A pale morning dun spinner fall was a highlight of the day, and it motivated me to cut short my lunch. A light winter snow pack in the Rio Grande drainage enabled nearly perfect stream conditions during the second half of June. The size of the fish was average with the largest measuring thirteen inches, but discovering a new stream counted for a lot in my assessment.

9. Arkansas River – 07/12/2022 – This was my second float trip of the summer, and the results were excellent. We drifted the Arkansas River in the area below Brown’s Canyon, and the action was steady all day. Most of my landed trout came to a rusty dun/spinner or a pheasant tail nymph, as pale morning duns were apparently the main food source in early July. The trout were nearly all browns, and from a size perspective, quite a few fell in the thirteen to fourteen inch range.

Oversized Tail

8. Elk River – 08/09/2022 – A hippie stomper and beadhead hares ear nymph did the heavy lifting on this venture to a high country stream in Colorado. I expected colorful, wild cutthroats, and I was not disappointed, but I was surprised by a strong population of brown trout displaying larger than anticipated size in this small stream environment. I started early and quit early due to high air temperatures, and this allowed me to land 25 trout, before the stream temperatures elevated.

7. South Boulder Creek – 08/03/2022 – This was my first outing with my new Sage R8 four weight, and I had my license checked in the parking lot, but these were secondary events compared to the wonderful day of fly fishing. I fished a green drake dry fly from 10:15AM until 4:00PM, and this tactic rewarded me with 48 trout landed! I also discovered that the trout of South Boulder Creek prefer parachute green drakes with poly wings and moose mane tails. This will be good to remember for 2023; however, I also need to remind myself that change is constant in the fly fishing world.

6. Roaring Fork River – 06/29/2022 – I love the Roaring Fork River, and a day like 06/29/2022 reinforced that sentiment. This was my first guided float trip of the 2022 season, and it was well worth the commitment. High but clear river flows and cool overcast weather provided favorable conditions for a float trip, and the cooperative fish made the entire adventure a significant win. We tossed double dries all day long, and I landed 22 mostly bank feeders during our time on the river. The purple haze was the star of the show, and many of the trout were heavyweight fighters in the fourteen to eighteen inch range. Very rewarding.

Wow. Great Stripe and Speckles

5. Arkansas River – 06/27/2022 – It had been a long time since I experienced a banner day on the Arkansas River, but this day proved to be such an outing. The flows were 1100 CFS and the river was murky, but these conditions proved to be ideal for duping strong and physical trout from the Arkansas River. This was also the best day I ever logged using Pat’s rubber legs, as the trout gobbled the black and olive chenille, as it tumbled along in my dry/dropper rig. Twenty-nine trout visited my net, and many were in the twelve to fifteen inch range.

4. South Platte River – 04/27/2022 – A long lasting blue winged olive hatch elevated this day to the number four in 2022. The olives came in waves, as the skies darkened periodically. The conditions for blue winged olives were perfect. I landed twenty-five fine trout, and twenty-three sipped my blue winged olive dry flies. I landed six picky feeders at the shallow tail of a major pool at the end of the day, and these fish were all robust wild fish in the thirteen to sixteen inch range. What a way to end a successful day!


3. Elk Creek – 09/02/2022 – This was a particularly gratifying day. This creek was a relatively small high country gem that my daughter and I scouted with a hike during the previous day. During our hike the creek bubbled along at a low level, and it was extremely clear. I never spotted a fish during our entire walk, so I was fairly intimidated, as I approached the waterway once again the next day. Stealth, long casts and light flies paid dividends, and I managed to catch and release thirty-four trout, mostly browns, before I called it quits. Some larger than expected fish were in the mix, and the peacock hippie stomper and salvation nymph accounted for most of the fish.

No Fish, But a Great Swimming Hole

2. South Boulder Creek – 08/12/2022 – How could a fifty-two fish day end up ranked number two? You will need to read number one to answer this question. The reader will note that South Boulder Creek already checked in at number seven, so a second top ten ranking is quite impressive for the small Front Range tailwater. The poly wing parachute green drake with a moose mane tail was irresistible, and nearly all the landed fish fell to its attraction. The largest fish was probably thirteen inches, but the quantity of fish more than made up for size. It is hard to beat a day spent casting a large solitary dry fly to likely fish holding spots resulting in positive responses a significant proportion of the time.

First Poly Wing Parachute Green Drake

1.North Fork of the White River – 09/14/2022 – This day in the Flattops represented the highest number of fish landed in one day in my entire career of fly fishing, sixty-three. It would be easy to cite this fact as the reason for the number one ranking, but the experience goes beyond numbers.  The beauty of these fish was nearly indescribable. The brook trout displayed brilliant orange bellies, while the cutbows and cutthroats exhibited dense speckles and pastel background hues accented by vivid scarlet stripes and slashes. All the fish were wild, and quite a few exceeded expectations for the small size of the North Fork. The larger cutbows and cutthroats were terrific pound for pound battlers. When can I go back?

Fat and Orange Like a Pumpkin

Proud Release



Sunk Ant – 01/03/2023

Sunk Ant 01/03/2023 Photo Album

I set a goal last winter to use sunk ants even more than in the past, and I actually followed through on this pledge during the 2022 season. I experimented with them on some large rivers during higher flows, and they were not extremely productive. However, when I knotted one to my line in a dry/dropper arrangement and tossed it to likely trout holding spots on small mountain streams, there was no mistaking the love affair between trout and ants. The sunk ant performed in admirable fashion.

Zoomed on a Black Sunk Ant

As one would expect, I lost a few along the way, and increased usage translated to more lost flies. I counted my stock of carry over ants, and I decided to replenish my inventory with size 14 and size 16 black sunk ants. I followed the pattern demonstrated by Kelly Galloup in his excellent YouTube video, although I substituted a black plastic bead for the rear bump instead of winding thread forever. Even Kelly remarks on the mind numbing exercise of forming the rear bump with thread. The feature of this fly that I admire the most is the method that he demonstrates to form the legs. If you are interested in tying some of these, definitely check out his video. Also, if you are interested in learning more about my experience with the sunk ant check out my post of 01/22/2022.

Lots of Ants

Crystal Stone – 01/03/2023

Crystal Stone 01/03/2023 Photo Album

For some reason I continue to avoid this fly, yet I am convinced that it would be quite productive, if I gave it a chance. Click on this link for my 01/18/2022 post to browse background information on why I developed this fly. There may be another version out there, but I like the usage of black crystal flash for the tail, wingcase and legs. The ice dub peacock black only enhances the flash and attraction of this small nymph.

Black Crystal Hair

I tied five additional crystal stones to add to my existing supply, and I am committing to deploying this little black stonefly in 2023. I expect to use it frequently in the early spring season, when small black stoneflies are prevalent on local rivers.

Pat’s Rubber Legs – 12/22/2022

Pat’s Rubber Legs 12/22/2022 Photo Album

During a 06/27/2022 trip to the Arkansas River the local brown trout and rainbow trout displayed a strong preference for Pat’s rubber legs. The river remained high from run off at 1100 CFS, and heavy rains several days earlier created turbid conditions with visibility to three feet along the edges. This suited my style perfectly, as I lobbed my dry/dropper featuring an olive and black Pat’s rubber legs as the upper nymph in a tandem nymph dry/dropper arrangement. I was frankly stunned by the effectiveness of the simple chenille and rubber leg fly.

Facing Down and Left

Overhead from the Front

I began tying these in recent years when my friend, Dave G, raved about their effectiveness on the Eagle River and Colorado River on guided float trips with Cutthroat Anglers. I must admit that I gave them scarce time on my line, so I was probably overlooking a very productive fly. After my outing on the Arkansas River in June, however, the days of disregarding Pat’s rubber legs are history. My post of 12/19/2020 provides additional background information on this popular fly.

Molting Stonefly

I follow the tying method of Tim Flagler, and if you want to attempt tying these tricky nymphs, you should search it out on YouTube. The most difficult aspect of tying this fly is the unruly nature of the rubber legs, and Tim devised a solution that keeps the legs under reasonable control. For my tying sessions in December I manufactured three different colors; olive and black, coffee and black, and orange-green-yellow. I use the latter in March to match molting stoneflies in the Arkansas River, although I’m sure they would work just as well on other western rivers that hold a strong population of stoneflies.

Three Colors

BWO Soft Hackle Emerger – 12/16/2022

BWO Soft Hackle Emerger 12/16/2022 Photo Album

This pattern created by Charlie Craven has become a workhorse fly for baetis hatches. When I first started tying them, I added a small silver bead, so they would sink when fished in a dry/dropper combination. I subsequently discovered that a beaded soft hackle emerger is redundant with a RS2 or sparkle wing RS2, so my tying sessions over the last two years resulted in true emergers with no bead. For more information and background on the BWO soft hackle emerger follow this link to my 01/08/2022 post.

Nice View of the Left Side

During a 10/11/2022 fishing outing at the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon, I was in a state of frustration, as sizeable trout refused my BWO imitations in a long and smooth glassy pool. In a state of desperation I plucked a soft hackle emerger without a bead from my fleece wallet. Guess what happened? I suddenly began hooking and landing gorgeous wild trout on the soft hackle emerger. I applied floatant to the body and fished in dry fly style with across and down casts, and the results were very positive. When the conditions include strong wind, I suspect that the tiny olives get knocked down on the surface, and the low riding soft hackle with no bead does a nice job of portraying cripples and struggling emergers. I am very anxious to deploy this technique once again in the new season.

14 Soft Hackle Emergers

I sat down at my vise and produced fourteen new BWO soft hackle emergers, and this broke down into four size 20, five size 22, and five size 24. The 24’s are minute, but so are the late autumn naturals.

Sparkle Wing RS2 – 12/09/2022

Sparkle Wing RS2 12/09/2022 Photo Album

Check out my post of 01/04/2022 for background information and a link to a materials table for the sparkle wing RS2. Each year I seem to use this fly for greater periods of time, and this translates to more lost flies and the need to tie more. After I counted my remaining supply, I decided to replenish my fly storage container with fifteen additional sparkle wings.

Other Side

I made one change to my usual tying recipe this year, as I substituted a crystal hair loop for the emerging wing instead of the antron stub that I utilized in previous tying sessions. I love the sparkle and flash of this addition. I will soon find out if the trout agree.

15 New Sparkle Wings and Materials

Classic RS2 – 12/05/2022

Classic RS2 12/05/2022 Photo Album

I would never wish to be caught without a sufficient supply of RS2’s in the spring and fall in the western United States. The RS2 imitates the nymphal stage of the baetis mayfly along with a myriad of other small mayfly nymphs. My fleece wallet contains the classic RS2, sparkle wing RS2’s, and small RS2-size soft hackle emergers. They all work, but in spite of the additional flash of the synthetic versions, the classic RS2 continues to perform at a high level. For this reason I always count my supply and tie replacements.

Soft Wing for Movement

Here is the link to a previous post that contains additional background information and additional links to related narrative. The classic RS2 is a simple tie, as it only contains three materials besides the hook, thread and bead. I can whip these out in no time, and I did just that recently to produce seven new models. The need to generate seven indicates that I suffered some shrinkage during the past season, and this is proof that the classic RS2 remains an often utilized fly in my fleece wallet.

Spotlight on One

Super Nova PMD – 12/02/2022

Super Nova PMD 12/02/2022 Photo Album

My post of 12/01/2022 is rather comprehensive regarding my introduction to this fly and my subsequent situational application and consequent success. My confidence in the super nova PMD (pale morning dun) continued in 2022, and I eagerly topped off my inventory with nine additions. I view this fly as a simpler and easier to tie replica of the pheasant tail nymph, yet it seems to be just as effective.

Love Slim Rib

I use these mainly during the time period when pale morning duns are active, and it imitates the nymph stage of the prevalent mayfly in the west. My fly box continues to hold an ample supply of pheasant tails, so I utilize them as well while the supply lasts. I cannot wait for the advent of the pale morning duns in mid-June of 2023.

Batch with Materials

Iron Sally – 11/28/2022

Iron Sally 11/28/2022 Photo Album

Check out my post of 01/09/2022 for additional information on this favorite nymph that occupies my line quite frequently. My confidence in this fly has expanded dramatically during the past several seasons. The flash of the iron sally is a high powered fish attractor, but it also imitates golden stonefly and yellow sally nymphs. These naturals are present in significant numbers during the June through August time frame, and I take advantage by tumbling this fly through attractive trout lairs. The trout of the Arkansas River and Eagle River are particularly receptive to a dead drifted iron sally. The abdomen construction with ultra wire makes this fly relatively heavy, and it is, therefore, a good option when I seek a deeper drift on my dry/dropper rig.

Lots of Flash

My supply experienced a decent amount of shrinkage, so I knuckled down at my vise and manufactured nine additional nymphs split between size 12 and size 14. Bring on the stonefly hatch in 2023.

New Ones from the Vise

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 11/21/2022

Emerald Caddis Pupa 11/21/2022 Photo Album

Another effective sparkle caddis pupa pattern that I rely on heavily is the emerald body version. My post of 12/19/2021 provides additional links and background on my experience with this workhorse fly in my arsenal of flies. I am convinced that the emerald color is a fish magnet, and this fly has historically produced for me in otherwise slow fishing situations.

Thread Was Unraveling

My count of emerald caddis revealed that my supply remained at adequate levels; however, I sorted four unraveling versions from my damaged fly canister, and I refurbished them. I am certain that the emerald caddis pupa will spend time on my line frequently during the 2023 season.

Five Refurbished