Sparkle Wing RS2 – 01/17/2019

Sparkle Wing RS2 01/17/2019 Photo Album

Historically I fished a classic RS2 in situations that dictated a blue winged olive nymph, but as an avid follower of Instagram I observed numerous highly regarded guides and experts in the fly fishing industry tying and fishing a sparkle wing RS2. I decided to join the crowd and tied twelve sparkle wing versions a year ago.

Nice Tail Split

When I took stock of my RS2 supply several weeks ago, I noted that the sparkle wing population shrank from twelve to seven, thus indicating that I lost a fairly large percentage of these flies. I concluded, that I allocated time to the flashier baetis nymph, but I did not sense that it outperformed the classic RS2 that served my needs for many years.

Corked Fly Upper Corner

Nevertheless I decided to replenish my sparkle wing supply with the intent of allowing another season of solid testing for effectiveness. I tied thirteen sparkle wing RS2’s to boost my inventory to twenty for the 2019 season. When creating a sparkle wing version I substituted white fluoro fiber for the pheasant feather tail, and I replaced the fluff used for the emerging wing with a small clump of antron or similar white sparkling wing material. Hopefully 2019 will be the year when the sparkle wing lives up to its reputation.

RS2 Classic – 01/15-2019

RS2 Classic 01/15/2019 Photo Album

Perhaps the most prolific mayfly hatch in western waters is that of the blue winged olives. These small insects emerge in dense quantities from the middle of March until early May, and then they once again become a prominent food source in the September through early November time period. The small mayflies typically range in size from 18 to 24, with the largest varieties prevalent in the spring and smaller cousins present in the fall.

Scraggly Up Close

If you read my post of 01/21/2011, you can view a materials table and read a brief history lesson on the RS2. Also my most recent prior post on this fly of 12/29/2017 does a nice job of updating my history with this fly and the advent of a RS2 variation, that I experimented with in 2018. Although the sparkle wing RS2 endured some time on my line during baetis season, the results were inconclusive. The classic RS2 seemed to hold its own, and I am reluctant to anoint the synthetic flashy cousin as a superior version.

The RS2 imitates the nymphal stage of the baetis mayfly, and I typically trail it behind a larger beadhead nymph in a dry/dropper setup or a deep nymphing rig. The two hour period of late morning and early afternoon just prior to an emergence is typically the most effective setting for the RS2. I often fish the small nymph in a dead drift, but very frequently my most successful technique is lifting and swinging particularly at the end of a drift.

Wing Fluff on Left

I rummaged through my damaged fly canisters and selected nine RS2’s and other random nymphs tied on size 20 and 22 hooks. I refurbished several and stripped the others down to the bare hook and produced nine new beadhead RS2’s. This restored my inventory to fifty. and I feel prepared for the upcoming 2019 blue winged olive seasons.


Beadhead Pheasant Tail – 01/11/2019

Beadhead Pheasant Tail 01/11/2019 Photo Album

The pheasant tail may rank as the all time most popular nymph among fly fishing circles. When I first moved to Colorado in the 90’s, this fly occupied a permanent position on my line. I matched it with a San Juan worm, and I enjoyed fantastic days on the South Platte River before the Hayman Fire.

From the Side

During 2010 I discovered the salvation nymph, and this stellar fly gradually supplanted the pheasant tail nymph. In spite of this circumstance I would never approach a waterway without some pheasant tails in my fleece wallet. I recall several instances during 2018, when pale morning duns were present, and the salvation nymph generated disappointing results. I resorted to a size 18 pheasant tail nymph, and the throwback nymph salvaged my day. The pheasant tail remains a very productive fly; and, in fact, the salvation nymph possesses a similar color scheme to the pheasant tail albeit with nearly 100% synthetic materials.

Materials Needed

I sorted through my unraveling fly canisters and collected eight pheasant tails or flies of equivalent size. I converted these into fresh new beadhead pheasant tail nymphs in the size 18 size range, and I added these to my already adequate supply. I continue to stock eighty of the classic pheasant tail nymphs, and I am certain that the stalwart fly will spend time on my line in 2019.

20 Incher – 01/06/2019

20 Incher 01/06/2019 Photo Album

Historically I did not select the 20 incher for my line often, but I probably should give it more stream time. It is an effective heavy fish attractor that commands attention particularly in deep runs, riffles and pockets. My post of 02/06/2014 provided a deeper narrative on my reasons for tying this reliable workhorse fly. I suspect that I have not tied additional quantities of this nymph since 2014, so I counted my supply and took my position at the vise and cranked out six additional models.

UV on the Wing Case

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262 Size 12 or equivalent
BeadBrass gold sized to fit the hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
TailBrown goose biots
RibGold ultra wire
AbdomenPeacock herl
Wing CaseTurkey tail feather section
LegsPheasant feather
ThoraxHares mask dubbing

I found six damaged and unraveling large nymphs in my storage canisters, and I converted these into more than acceptable refurbished versions of the peacock herl nymph. I made a few modifications from the instructions that I described in my 02/06/2014 post. I did not weight these six twenty inchers, as I assumed that a split shot or two could serve as the ballast, should I need to dive deep. Instead of copper wire I utilized medium gold ultra wire, and I was quite pleased with the look that this produced. On my 2014 versions I used Tyvek material for the wing case, but in 2019 I opted for the more traditional section from a turkey tail feather. To enhance the fragile nature of the turkey fibers, I applied a coat of Solarez UV resin to the wing case upon completion of the six flies. This layer of epoxy enhanced the natural look of the 20 incher in addition to adding durability.

Six Recovered 20 Inchers

Light Yellow Caddis Pupa – 01/02/2019

Light Yellow Caddis Pupa 01/02/2019 Photo Album

When I pluck a sparkle caddis from my fleece wallet, I typically opt for a go2 sparkle pupa with a bright green body or an emerald caddis pupa. The body color of these two flies seems to attract extra attention, and when combined with the trapped air bubble, make the sparkle pupa a very effective fly.

Macro Shot

Although less frequently utilized I also encounter situations that call for a caddis with a light body, and in anticipation of these circumstances I carry light yellow sparkle pupa. This fly is offered in Gary Lafontaine’s book,Caddisflies, and his material recipe documents a light yellow body with a gray collar or thorax. The need for this imitation typically arises during the summer period of August and September, when caddis with tan and light yellow bodies are present on western trout streams.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2457 or equivalent
Bead2.4 MM brass gold
ThreadYellow 6/0
Sheath/BubbleLight yellow antron
AbdomenMedium yellow antron
Emergent WingGray coastal deer hair
Head/LegsGray rabbit fur

I sorted through my used fly canisters and extracted eight versions in various states of damage, and I converted them to new models in the size 14 size range. The addition of these flies increased my inventory to sufficient levels for a fly that sees reduced usage compared to my other top producers.

A Completed Batch


Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/30/2018

Emerald Caddis Pupa 12/30/2018 Photo Album

For a materials list and my history with this fly check out my post of 01/01/2012. The emerald caddis pupa continued to be an effective fly among my collection in 2018. I used it in the early season and summer, when I observed sparse numbers of adult caddis in the streamside vegetation. It seemed to attract fish in situations when there was an absence of other abundant aquatic insects. I attributed its effectiveness to the body color and the antron sheath which mimics a trapped air bubble in an emerging caddis..

Trailing Shuck Version

I often impart action to this fly, and the trout react favorably to this tactic. In fact on many occasions I utilize fairly rapid strips at the end of the drift, and underwater residents respond with aggressive grabs. I may be handicapping this fly by relegating it to some of the more challenging situations, when my other favorites fail to produce.

As with the go2 caddis and bright green caddis pupa I possessed a considerable quantity of old  damaged caddis pupa in need of repair. I refurbished nine and added six to my backup supply while including the other three in a gift to my son.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa – 12/29/2018

Go2 Sparkle Pupa 12/29/2018 Photo Album

For some reason I did not fish frequently on grannom waters in April and May during 2018, and consequently I retained an adequate supply of Go2 sparkle pupa in my fly inventory. My post of 01/11/2017 Go2 Sparkle Pupa does an excellent job of documenting the creation of this fly.

A New Go2 Sparkle Pupa

I sorted through my cylinders of damaged and unraveling flies, and I discovered thirteen old flies in need of repair. Most of them had bright green caddis pupa bodies, so in spite of my ample supply I decided to refurbish nine of the misfit flies into Go2 sparkle pupa. In most cases I stripped the flies down to the bare hook and added a 2.4mm brass gold bead.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2457 or equivalent
BeadBrass Gold 2.4mm
ThreadBrown 6/0
Sheath/BubbleOlive antron fibers
AbdomenMidge diamond braid chartreuse
Emergent wingSmall clump of coastal deer hair with brown color
Head/LegsRed/brown rabbit dubbing

I love the look of these hybrid versions of the LaFontaine sparkle caddis emerger, and I suspect that the chartreuse diamond braid is a strong fish attractor. Hopefully I will interact with more grannom caddis activity during 2019.

2018 Top Ten – 12/29/2018

In a year that included 93 fishing trips and more than 1,200 fish in my net, how is it possible to select a top ten list? My travels included the trip of a lifetime to the other side of the world. In North America I ventured to central Pennsylvania, Wyoming, and Montana. Surprisingly after twenty-seven years of fly fishing in Colorado, I discovered some new places during my 2018 wanderings. I read the 93 posts that documented my fishing trips over the past year, and I whittled the possibilites down to 35. From this list of highlights I culled fourteen outings that stood above the others, and then I boiled that list down to a 2018 top ten. Many outstanding outings failed to make the cut, and it was difficult to not overload the rankings with days in New Zealand, since that place was so spectacular and unique. Here they are, my top ten fishing adventures of 2018.

10. Eagle River 06/25/2018– Monday June 25 was my best outing during my annual search for hot action while edge fishing Colorado freestones, as they declined from peak run off. During 2018 the low snow pack caused flows to drop three weeks early, so I encountered 400 CFS on June 25. On this day I met dense hatches of golden stoneflies, pale morning duns, yellow sallies and caddis; and my fly choices proved effective, as I landed seventeen trout including many muscular battlers in the 13 -15 inch range.

9.South Platte River 04/05/2018  – Nineteen trout landed including numerous hard fighting rainbows and browns in the twelve to fifteen inch range made this a candidate for my top ten. A 3.5 hour blue winged olive hatch nudged it toward the top ten, but the gratification associated with successfully introducing a new fly secured a spot at number nine. The Klinkhammer BWO emerger saved the day.

Perfect Rainbow Pose

8. North Fork of the White River 07/04/2018 – Abundant numbers of gorgeous wild fish on the Fourth of July in the Flattops is hard to beat. This was my first visit to the Flattops area in a time frame other than September, and it will not be my last.

7. South Boulder Creek 10/19/2018 – South Boulder Creek provided numerous exceptional memories in 2018, but this day stood out as the best. Low flows, solitude, mild autumn weather and hungry fish made October 19 a memorable day. My tried and true dry/dropper featuring a hippy stomper, ultra zug bug and hares ear nymph did the heavy lifting.

The Narrow Pool Yielded Two Trout

6. Piney River 07/11/2018 – How could a fifty fish day using dry flies while achieving a grand slam not make the top ten? It was a spectacular summer day in July in the Colorado backcountry. I even enjoyed some success with a green drake comparadun.

5. North Platte River 03/22/2018 – Was a five fish day during blustery fifty degree weather in Wyoming truly worthy of a top ten ranking? This Thursday in March was my first visit to the Miracle Mile, and it lived up to its reputation. Five stunning rainbows in the sixteen to twenty inch range left a large impression on my memory banks.

Quite a Bend

4. Mill Creek 08/18/2018 – I landed thirty fish in three hours, and I was quite pleased with that outcome. All the trout were brightly colored Yellowstone cutthroats, and that tipped this day from excellent to exceptional. New water and a different species of fish earned extra credit in my evaluation.


3. Mountain Creek 10/25/2018 – This was another new piece of water that I discovered in 2018. I used a generic name to protect its fragile status. On this day in late October the fish were plentiful and aggressive despite low clear flows. Oversized trout in a tiny high elevation stream are always a positive, and I suspect Mountain Creek will appear in a future blog post.

Second Oversized Brown for Small Stream

2. South Platte River 10/03/2018 – Hot fishing, glorious scenery, balmy weather and the companionship of my lovely wife elevated Wednesday to a memorable day in 2018. The above sentence was extracted from the summary paragraph of 10/03/2018 blog post. I have very little to add, and I would relive this day in a heartbeat.

Spectacular Day

1. Wangapeka River 01/23/2018 –  I was tempted to rank all six of my fly fishing days in New Zealand among my top ten, but that would have reflected unfair weighting for the uniqueness of the fisheries and the surrounding beauty. Instead I chose this day as my best of the trip and for all of 2018. Why not? Although I only landed four brown trout on this day, each was a plump wild fish in the 18 -24 inch range. I caught four of the largest brown trout of my life in the same day! Numerous additional opportunities to land large fish presented themselves in the form of long distance releases, refusals, and sighted fish that ignored my offerings. This was New Zealand sight fishing at its finest.



Ultra Zug Bug – 12/15/2018

Ultra Zug Bug 12/15/2018 Photo Album

The ultra zug bug has evolved into one of my top fish producers over the last six years, and I have little to add beyond the information provided in previous posts. For a materials list go to my post of 01/31/2012. A nice description of how I stumbled into increased dependence on the ultra zug bug is contained in my post of 12/07/2014. If you wish to tie this simple but effective fly, access my post of 11/04/2015, as this contains a paragraph with detailed step by step instructions.

Close-up of Ultra Zug Bug

During 2018 I offered the ultra zug bug to fish throughout the season, and I rarely regretted the choice. The peacock dubbed wet fly performed admirably and was often combined with a beadhead hares ear nymph or salvation nymph. The zug bug rarely took a back seat to my other top producers, but I would still rate it third if asked to rank by number of fish caught. I can tie an ultra zug bug in half the time required for a salvation nymph or hares ear nymph, and that is an important consideration.

A Batch of Ultra Zug Bugs

I counted my residual supply of UZB’s and determined that I held twenty-three carryovers in my boxes. I tied an additional forty to increase my holdings to sixty for the start of the 2019 season. My one criticism of this fly is the tendency of the thread to unravel at the head just behind the bead. For this reason I tried some Solarez UV flex resin on the first five, but application from the tube was difficult to regulate, so I abandoned this step for the remaining flies produced. Instead I was very meticulous in my application of head cement to the entire band of thread, and hopefully this will improve the durability of this valuable fly.

Iron Sally – 12/14/2018

Iron Sally 12/14/2018 Photo Album

Sparkling, shiny, flashy and twinkling are apt adjectives for this fly. Any fly fisherman who gazes upon this jewel will be transfixed by its glamorous attraction. But even more important than attracting anglers is the ability of the iron sally to also attract fish.

Two New Iron Sallies

A good starting point to learning about my history with this fly is my 02/04/2014 blog post. My post of 12/18/2017 describes how my experiment with the iron sally in 2014 evolved into a full blown mainstay fly in my subsurface arsenal. During 2018 the iron sally once again surpassed my expectations, and I selected it for a position on my line much more frequently than prior seasons. Three of my most productive iron sally days were 06/28/2018 on the Eagle River, 10/11/2018 on the Arkansas River, and 10/24/2018 on the Colorado River. The iron sally graduated to one of my top five producing nymphs. It was very productive during golden stonefly and yellow sally hatches during the summer, but it also generated solid action during fall trips.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 12 and 14
BeadGold Brass, 2.4MM
TheadTan or beige
TailAmber/Gold goose biots
AbdomenGold ultra wire small
Abdomen TopBlack crystal flash
Wing CaseSection of turkey tail feather
LegsBlack crystal flash
ThoraxAmber/gold dubbing

In an effort to establish an adequate quantity for the 2019 season, I tied five size 12 nymphs to bring my total to 37. During several fall outings I tested a smaller size 14 version, that a friend purchased and donated to me, and the results of these sessions provoked me to tie five of the smaller stonefly imitation. I sense that the the iron sally’s rise in popularity has only begun.

Iron Sally Earrings for Jane