Iron Sally – 12/10/2019

Iron Sally 12/10/2019 Photo Album

My love affair with the iron sally began in 2013, but for a solid introduction read my post of 02/04/2014. This entry chronicles my early association and provides a link to an early success story on the Arkansas River. If you take the time to read 12/14/2018, you will understand the rapid advancement of this fly on my nymph ” must have” list. As I prepare this entry on 12/10/2019, I can report that the legend of the iron sally with Dave Weller continues to grow.

Flash and Folded Wing

Of course, it serves as an excellent representation of yellow sally and golden stonefly nymphs during July and August, when those insects are prevalent on western streams. However, I also discovered that trout relish the gold hued nymphs throughout the season. Apparently stonefly nymphs get knocked loose from their rocky homes frequently and subsequently drift into the mouths of hungry trout. During the fall of 2019 I knotted the iron sally to my line in many situations, where I previously utilized a hares ear nymph, and I was pleased with the results. The wire abdomen adds weight to the fly, and this enables me to achieve deeper drifts in fast water and pocket water situations. During 2019 I experimented with using heavier lead flies such as the iron sally and 20 incher to gain more depth in dry/dropper situations, and I concluded that bouncing close to the bottom of the stream is a benefit in many scenarios. I suspect that I missed out on some solid fishing in previous seasons by ignoring the important fly fishing practice of adjusting weight for stream conditions.

Symmetrical From the Bottom

The iron sally occupies a position near the top of my preferred nymph rankings, and it consequently receives increased time on my line each year. The only drawback to this fly is the additional amount of time required to tie it compared to a hares ear nymph. During my recent tying efforts, I tried a modification suggested by Hopper Juan Ramirez on his YouTube video. Instead of tying in 8-10 strands of black crystal flash and then using it for the back of the abdominal area, I substituted a strip of flashback black. I delayed tying in the black crystal flash, until I reached the thorax construction stage. This change reduced tying time moderately, but managing the small legs and the folded wing case continue to be the major time consumers. I am considering some alternatives for the wing case for future seasons, so stay tuned.

Even Closer

I counted my iron sally nymphs and determined that I maintained a stock of twenty-six size 12’s and five size 14’s. I am increasingly interested in testing the effectiveness of the smaller size version, so I tied five 14’s to boost that inventory to ten, and then I added four size 12’s to even up that quantity at thirty. I guarantee that the iron sally will continue to excel in the coming year.

A New Batch of Size 12’s and 14’s

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/09/2019

Emerald Caddis Pupa 12/09/2019 Photo Album

The story behind my adoption of the emerald caddis pupa is contained in my post of 01/01/2012. The same post also contains a materials table, and construction of this fly follows the steps outlined by Gary LaFontaine in his classic book; Caddisflies.


Unlike the go2 sparkle pupa, the emerald caddis pupa’s effectiveness seems to span the entire season. I attribute much of its performance to the emerald color of the body, and on rare occasions, when I was able to corral an adult caddis on the stream, I observed the matching color at the tip of the abdomen. Caddis seem to be universally prevalent on western rivers and streams, and I suspect the resident trout are familiar with the emerald color and recognize it as a tasty source of protein.

Up Close

When I approach a stream, I generally select a hares ear nymph or salvation nymph among my first offerings, and this probably handicaps the emerald caddis pupa. I resort to it, when the preferred choices fail to deliver, so I utilize it in more demanding conditions. In spite of this hindrance to success, the emerald pupa delivers results on a fairly consistent basis. Perhaps I should elevate it on my subsurface fly ranking.

Flies and Materials

When I took stock of my caddis pupa, I noted that the emerald version was depleted to thirty-one, so I approached my vice and churned out nine additional models to increase my inventory to forty. I am certain that the emerald caddis will once again attract a fair number of trout to my net in 2020.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa – 12/08/2019

Go2 Sparkle Pupa 12/08/2019 Photo Album

The material table for this fly can be viewed on my 01/10/2012 post for the bright green caddis pupa. Simply substitute chartreuse midge diamond braid for the listed materials for the abdomen. My post on 01/11/2017 describes the genesis of the Go2 sparkle pupa; a hybrid of two flies developed by other tiers.

Chartreuse Midge Braid

The Go2 sparkle pupa has now displaced the bright green caddis pupa as my preferred imitation during early season caddis emergences. The chartreuse midge diamond braid stands out and attracts the attention of trout, particularly during grannom activity. More time on my line translated to the loss of flies, so I created five new versions to increase my supply to thirty for the upcoming season. Hopefully early season caddis action will demand that I knot some of these flies to my line in 2020.

Take 2

Prince Nymph – 12/06/2019

Prince Nymph 12/06/2019 Photo Album

A material table for the prince nymph is available on my 12/03/2011 post on this blog. The prince nymph enjoyed a resurgence in my fly box during the past two seasons, and a main reason is the success it delivered during green drake hatches. Apparently a size 12 peacock imitation is a close approximation of the nymph stage of the large western green drake mayflies. Check out my South Boulder Creek 08/15/2019 post for an example of prince nymph productivity in advance of a green drake hatch.

As Good as It Gets

The other prime situation that creates prince nymph success is the egg laying stage of a grannom hatch. A size 14 prince tied on a curved scud hook historically delivered superior results on the Arkansas River and other western streams during the April and May caddis event. My post of 11/17/2019 does a nice job of describing these prince nymph applications, and it also describes some improvements that I introduced to my tying technique. Mounting the white horns with the points of the biots extending beyond the eye of the hook and then bending back to lock them down has dramatically improved the durability of my prince nymphs, particularly the larger sizes.


The new found effectiveness of the size twelve prince nymph resulted in some depletion of my inventory, so I tied four new models to elevate my count to ten. In addition I manufactured four size 14’s and refurbished a pair of size 16’s. I am confident that my supply will be adequate for the 2020 fly fishing season.

Completed Batch

20 Incher – 11/22/2019

20 Incher 11/22/2019 Photo Album

Ever since a guided fly fishing trip with Royal Gorge Anglers on the Arkansas River I carried a supply of 20 inchers in my fly fleece wallet. During 2019, however, I knotted one to my line more frequently than during previous seasons, and I was pleased with the results. Increased usage, however, also depleted my supply more than usual, so I approached my vise and produced an additional quantity of ten to increase my inventory to twenty-five.

Fine 20 Incher

If my readers are interested in tying this large attractor stonefly imitation, please refer to my post of 01/06/2019. This blog entry from earlier in 2019 displays a materials list, and several YouTube videos do a nice job of teaching the fly tying steps. During several recent fall outings I positioned the 20 incher as the top nymph on dry/dropper and deep nymphing systems with the intent of obtaining a deeper drift, and the ploy seemed to pay dividends. I was particularly impressed with the 20 incher’s effectiveness on South Boulder Creek on 10/26/2019.

Close Look at a Clump

I seem to gravitate to this large weighted fly in the early and late season, but I hope to give it more time on my line during the summer time frame. A large dark drifting stonefly assuredly represents a significant bite of protein, that trout cannot ignore, and stoneflies get knocked loose during all seasons of the year. I love the appearance of this fly, and the application of epoxy on the wing case really makes this fly stand out. The 2020 pre-runoff season cannot come soon enough.

10 New 20 Inchers

Ultra Zug Bug – 11/21/2019

Ultra Zug Bug 11/21/2019 Photo Album

In all likelihood my third most productive fly over the last five years has been the ultra zug bug. I first stumbled on this fly in a book by Scott Sanchez, and it stood the test of time to become a proven winner from my fly box. If you are interested in the materials list or tying steps, go to my post of 12/15/2018, and there you will find links to the two items mentioned previously. A third link takes you to a post, where I describe how the ultra zug bug became an important component of my fish catching arsenal.

Ready for Actioin

During the 2019 season the simple yet effective UZB continued to earn its space in my fly wallet. It seems to be particularly effective in the spring time frame, and that coincides with pupating and egg laying caddis; however, I do not ignore it throughout the summer and fall. For a simple tie it offers quite a bit of flash through the crystal flash ribbing and the iridescent Ligas peacock dubbing. I suspect ice dubbing would be a solid substitute for the Ligas peacock dubbing, but I am a creature of habit, who abides by the motto of don’t mess with success.

Up Close

A quick count of my supply revealed a total of forty-four, so I spun out sixteen additional copies to increment my inventory to sixty for the 2020 season. I am certain to catch a fair number of trout on the ultra zug bug in the coming year.

A Batch of 16

South Platte River – 11/20/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 3:00PM

Location: Eleven Mile Canyon

South Platte River 11/20/2019 Photo Album

A forecast of 68 degrees in Denver had me anxiously anticipating another day of fishing in 2019. Fly tying is a pleasant winter diversion, but being out on the stream is a far better option. November 19 is late in the season for this avid fair weather fly fisherman, and a lot depended on my chosen destination for what could possibly represent my last day in 2019.

My day on Friday on the Cache la Poudre River was nice, but it confirmed that rainbows were more willing eaters than spawning brown trout at this time of year. What streams offered the highest ratio of rainbow trout to brown trout? The Big Thompson River, South Boulder Creek and the South Platte River immediately came to mind. I quickly ruled out the Big Thompson under the assumption, that 68 degrees in Denver translated to fairly chilly temperatures at the higher elevations near Estes Park. South Boulder Creek was interesting, as the flows returned to 89 CFS, but I was concerned that the narrow canyon walls would shield the warming impact of the sun, and snow and ice might remain from storms during the prior week.

More Snow Than I Expected

The projected high temperature in Lake George near Eleven Mile Canyon was 60 degrees, and the releases from Eleven Mile dam registered flows of 99 CFS. These two factors weighed heavily in my decision, and I made the two plus hour drive to Eleven Mile Canyon on Tuesday morning. Unfortunately as I advanced along the dirt road that provides access to Eleven Mile, I was disappointed to discover significant remaining accumulations of snow throughout the canyon. Apparently the factor that ruled out South Boulder Creek was an equal negative in Eleven Mile, although fly fishing in this area did not require an extensive hike in a manner similar to that of South Boulder Creek.

Icy Perch

I found a plowed pullout along the road and prepared for a day of fishing. The temperature on the dashboard display was in the upper thirties, so I pulled on my Under Armour undershirt, a fleece, and my North Face light down in addition to my New Zealand billed cap with ear flaps. I added some fingerless woolen gloves to my array of winter attire, and I never regretted the multi-layer approach during my 3.5 hours of fishing. I assembled my Sage four weight and hiked toward the dam a short distance. I faced a new challenge; the task of getting down the steep bank that separates the access road from the South Platte River.

The Path to the River

After a short walk I encountered three “paths” that enabled me to descend to the river’s edge. I placed paths in quotation marks, because they were simply large sunken footprints in deep snow. I elected to maneuver down the set closest to the dam and carefully stepped down backwards to avoid a face first fall. The ploy worked, and I reached a nice pool unharmed.

With flows at 99 CFS and relatively deep snow lining the banks, I decided to deploy a deep nymphing rig. I looped a thingamabobber to my line and added a split shot, orange scud and beadhead size 20 RS2. I prospected some attractive deep runs between 11:30 and noon, but I encountered no evidence of the presence of trout. A layer of clouds blocked the sun’s warming rays, and the air temperature lagged my expectations, so I found a large rock that was devoid of snow and consumed my small lunch. At this point in my day I was not optimistic that a trout would grace my net, even though I only fished for thirty minutes.

A Splash of Color in November

After lunch I migrated upstream to a very attractive pool, and I prospected the tail and midsection with an abundant number of casts, but again the trout were uncooperative. I allotted many more drifts to each prime location than was my normal summer practice, but patient persistence was not translating to success. Finally I arrived at the gorgeous deep trough that ran along the main current seam near the top of the pool, and much to my amazement the indicator paused on the first cast, as the flies tumbled out of the whitewater froth and into the deep slower moving slot. I reacted with a hook set, and the torpedo streaked downstream, and within seconds my line was limp, and the first connection of the day slid into the long distance release column. I persisted in the same area, and once again the indicator paused, and again I hooked a strong trout that chose a downstream escape route and managed to shed my fly. Given my misgivings over my ability to land a fish on the cold November day, you can imagine my state of mind after two consecutive escape episodes. The twin incidents did, however, elevate my confidence and prodded me to persist in my pursuit of South Platte River trout. Gaining knowledge of which fly duped the trout would have been welcome, but the releases pointed to the small classic RS2 with a small hook gap.

I once again progressed upstream along the river and carefully avoided ice patches and packed snow, until I arrived at another large quality pool. Earlier I spotted another angler in the area, but he was absent by the time I arrived, so I covered the large pool very thoroughly. I was certain that the large prime hole would produce fish, but it did not. I decided to exchange the orange scud for a 20 incher, since it was weighted and when combined with the split shot would provide deeper drifts.

The next section of the river was comprised of faster chutes and short pockets, and I made some cursory casts, but when results were not forthcoming, I continued on to the gorgeous pool below the first tunnel. This pool entertained me and friends on numerous occasions, and I was somewhat optimistic that it might erase my skunking on November 19.

The Area That Produced

I moved immediately to the nice riffles that spanned the river at the top of the pool, and I sprayed casts across the entire area, but my hopes sank, as the flies only collected moss and aquatic debris. I took three steps downstream and once again executed casts starting within eight feet of my position and then extending outward. In the blink of an eye the indicator dipped, I set the hook and a spirited rainbow trout thrashed near the surface. The pink striped fighter performed some acrobatic maneuvers, but eventually I guided the fish into my net and observed the 20 incher in its lip. The skunking was avoided, and I silently congratulated myself for persistence and a hard earned reward.

A Welcome Catch

I continued probing the upper section of the pool, and on a subsequent cast I felt a jolt, as the flies began to swing at the downstream end of the drift. Again a rambunctious rainbow trout appeared, but once again I maintained tension and eventually slid my net beneath its swirling body. The second trout of the day was a mirror image of number one, but this specimen displayed the RS2 in its lip.

I worked my way down the pool for another ten minutes, and then I resumed my upstream progress. Just above the top of the pool a small relatively shallow shelf pool appeared, and although I judged it to be relatively marginal, I flicked a cast to the top. Imagine my amazement, when after a short drift I lifted to make sure that the flies were not hung up, and I found myself attached to a nine inch brown trout that gobbled the 20 incher.

Happy for Any Size

I continued onward for another hour, and I thoroughly fished two additional first-class locations, but I was unable to recreate the magic of the tunnel pool. The sun broke through for a few short time periods, but for the most part a thin layer of clouds prevented significant warming. I suspect the temperature topped out in the fifty degree range, and my feet and fingers reminded me of the chilly circumstances. By 3PM my confidence once again plummeted, and this mental state when combined with my gnarled fingers and numb feet prompted me to return to the car to call it a day.

Last Hour Spent in This Area

My return hike necessitated two river crossings, and I utilized the same packed footsteps that aided my descent to climb to the road. Tuesday was a challenging day, but I am proud to report that I landed three trout and connected with two others. In retrospect I underestimated the impact of the narrow canyon and the temperature differential between Lake George and Eleven Mile Canyon. I enjoyed a day outside in the middle of November, and I avoided an injury in spite of the dangerous snow and ice conditions. I consider Tuesday, November 19, 2019 a success.

Fish Landed: 3

Fingerless Wool Gloves Were Effective

Salvation Nymph – 11/17/2019

Salvation Nymph 11/17/2019 Photo Album

The salvation nymph clearly established itself as my number two producer, and it may have surpassed the beadhead hares ear nymph in 2019. Aside from being a premium fish attractor, it is relatively easy to tie, as well as being a very durable fly. The official name of the commercial version of this fly is tungsten salvation nymph, but I substitute a less expensive gold brass bead for the tungsten, and the fish do not seem to mind. If you plan to fish fast water, and you desire a rapid sink rate, by all means substitute a tungsten bead.

My post of 12/30/2011 provides a materials list and describes the tying steps required to create this fish magnet. I continue to tie my salvation nymphs in the same manner, as I did in 2011. Last year I applied Solarez UV resin to the nymph back, and I marveled at the results. This is the only significant modification that I made to the initial tying process.

Nicely Done

The salvation nymph yields peak results in the June through August time frame in Colorado. This time period coincides with pale morning dun emergences, and I suspect that the salvation represents a flashy version of a pheasant tail nymph, and thus, a reasonable imitation of a pale morning dun nymph. One should not, however, limit this fly to purely a PMD imitation, as it generates action throughout the season, albeit not quite as intense, as the months I cited. All the components of the fly scream fish attractor including the ice dub abdomen and thorax, the flashback and flashabou nymph back and wing case, and the flexible silli legs. It qualifies as an attractor nymph year round, and it also serves as a viable imitation of small stoneflies. Fish love it.

Macro of a Few Jewels

I performed my usual count of all the salvation nymphs in my various storage compartments, and I determined that I held 68 in inventory. My goal for the start of the 2020 season was 100, so I cranked out thirty-two shiny new versions and then added five for a friend. When I gaze into the salvation nymph compartment in my large plastic fly box, I get a warm feeling knowing that I am more than adequately equipped for the upcoming season.

32 New Salvation Nymphs


Cache la Poudre River – 11/15/2019

Time: 9:30AM – 12:30PM

Location: Within the town of Fort Collins

Cache la Poudre River 11/15/2019 Photo Album

The forecast of a 63 degree day along the Front Range of Colorado on Friday, November 15 caused incessant brain messages that implored me to visit a trout stream. I contacted @rockymtnangler, also known as Trevor, and learned that he was off from work on Friday and planning a day of fishing. With that news in hand we planned a day on the Cache la Poudre River in Fort Collins, CO. Trevor logged sixty plus days on the city section of the Cache la Poudre, and he has become a bit of an expert on the nuances of the urban fishery. In fact, Trevor shared a sample of his impressive art work with me in the form of a pen and ink rendition of a map of the Cache la Poudre. I am convinced that Trev could have a future in art, if he tires of his current occupation.

We agreed to meet in Fort Collins at 9AM, and I arrived at our designated rendezvous point at that exact point in time. Trevor was already clad in waders, and since he owns a rod vault, his rod is in a constant state of readiness. He waited patiently, while I cycled through my preparation routine which included the assembly of my Orvis Access four weight.

Very Low Flows on the Cache la Poudre in Fort Collins

The air temperature remained quite chilly at this early juncture of the morning, so I slid into my North Face light down coat. By the time we quit at 12:30 the temperature rose to the low sixties, but I was never uncomfortable in my chosen attire. In a text message on Thursday Trevor warned me to temper my expectations due to the low water conditions, and evidence of his advice was apparent, as we approached the low narrow stream of flowing water to begin our day. I estimate that only 1/3 of the stream bed was covered by water with the remainder a jumble of bleached river rocks.

We hiked downstream for .5 mile and jumped in the river just below the water gauge bridge. Trevor grabbed a pool downstream, while I targeted a spot, where the river flowed against the north bank and created a nice deep run. Within minutes Trevor hooked and landed an eight inch rainbow trout, but I was unable to lure anything to my line. I began my day with a Jake’s gulp beetle and a size 16 salvation nymph, as I searched for a surface fly that was small yet visible and buoyant enough to support a beadhead dropper.

Trevor Focused on a Run

Trevor and I continued fishing upstream through the remainder of the morning and played hopscotch among the intermittent attractive pools. The most productive locales featured a bit of current that fed large smooth pools, and the trout seemed to gravitate to the top to intercept food, before it spread out in the slower sections. Within the first thirty minutes Trevor added a second rainbow, and both landed fish attacked his small parachute Adams. We both were convinced that my nymph should be generating more interest, so I swapped the salvation for a beadhead sparkle wing RS2. Surely the Poudre trout could not resist the small baetis imitation in the prevalent low conditions. Since the beetle was difficult to track in the shadowed areas, I opted for a peacock body hippie stomper with a white wing, and this move proved effective, as the large wing contrasted nicely with low light conditions.

My strategy seemed viable, but in a twist of trout contrariness, the hippie stomper became the desired food object and not the RS2. During the remainder of my time on the water, two rainbow trout smashed the attractor dry fly, but the small nymph went unmolested. In fact, I swapped the RS2 for a size 18 beadhead pheasant tail nymph for an extended period, and it also was ignored.

A Pod of Rainbows Next to Trevor

By 11:30 the infrequent rises in the pools ceased to appear, and we persisted in our upstream mission, but the fish were no longer willing to accept our offerings. At a spot that contained a large quantity of man-made stream improvement boulders, we agreed that the best fishing of Friday, November 15 was behind us, so we climbed the bank and ambled back to our cars. Once we removed our gear, Trevor led the way to the Odell Brewing tasting patio, and we quaffed craft brews and enjoyed the unseasonably warm afternoon.

The fishing was slow, but my expectations were appropriately lowered. The highlights of Friday were the companionship of a fishing friend, pleasant weather, and a tasty brew at Odell Brewing. Any nice day with a few fish is a bonus in mid-November.

Fish Landed: 2

Boulder Creek – 11/10/2019

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 11/10/2019 Photo Album

With a high of 65 degrees forecast for Denver on Sunday, November 10, 2019 I could not resist the siren call of Boulder Creek. Boulder Creek within the City of Denver is one of my favorite destinations in late November, as it remains milder than the streams in the foothills and those at high elevation.

I departed my house in Denver at 10:40AM on Sunday morning, and this enabled me to arrive in Boulder across from the stream by 11:15AM. My normal parking space at Scott Carpenter Park was off limits, as the parking lot was fenced off for some sort of construction project. This forced me to reverse my direction on 30th Street, and after I crossed the bridge over Boulder Creek, I made a left and parked in a CU parking lot next to some greenhouses. The lot was empty, and signs warned against parking without a permit on Monday through Friday. An advantage of my rare weekend fishing excursion was the availability of parking.

Near the Start

I assembled my Orvis Access four weight rod and quickly ambled to Boulder Creek just below the 30th Street Bridge. I knotted a peacock hippie stomper to my line and then added a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph. These flies remained on my line during my entire stay on Boulder Creek. The stream was seasonally low, but no snow remained from the back to back storms of the previous week. The temperature was in the low sixties and the sun was bright, so I elected to forego additional layers beyond my fishing shirt over a long sleeved Columbia undershirt.

A Rare Rainbow from Boulder Creek in Boulder, CO

I covered .6 mile of water in my 3.0 hours on Boulder Creek, and I landed eight trout in the process. All except one of the temporary net residents were brown trout, with the outlier being a colorful rainbow. The largest trout was barely eight inches, and most fell within the six to seven inch range. The hippie stomper served as an indicator, although two or three fish flashed to the surface only to veer away at the last instant thus registering only teasing refusals.

Love the Leaf Wrap

The shallow condition of the stream caused me to skip significant sections, as I sought slower moving areas with greater than normal depth. The most effective technique was an up and across cast followed by a long drift to a point three quarters below my position. Most of the trout nabbed one of the nymphs, as the flies began to accelerate away from the bank, or as I executed a lift to initiate a new cast. I tried to remain on the north bank as much as possible, as this position avoided the strong glare that made tracking the hippie stomper difficult from the south bank.

The Slack Water by the Roots Produced

Sunday was a short outing and the fish were small, but I took advantage of one of a dwindling number of warm days in November. The Boulder Creek bike path was swarming with skateboarders, dog walkers, runners, walkers, and cyclists; however, I only saw one other fisherman, and I was pleased with that circumstance on a rare weekend outing. I checked the weather forecast, and a high of 65 is predicted for Wednesday. Perhaps another visit to Boulder Creek is in my future for 2019.

Fish Landed: 8

One of the Best Fish of the Day