RS2 – 12/29/2017

RS2 12/29/2017 Photo Album

The RS2 has been a staple of my fly boxes since I moved to Colorado in 1990. I became aware of it, when I purchased and read Fly Fishing the South Platte River by Roger Hill, and he gave the fly designed by Rim Chung many glowing recommendations. Up until this winter I nearly adhered entirely to the classic pattern. The only exception was a substitution of brown pheasant feather fibers for the tail instead of muskrat guard hairs. I landed many fish in the intervening twenty-seven years on this fly, but during the last couple seasons I encountered situations where I should have been attracting more attention from trout during the periods prior to strong blue winged olive hatches.

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Muskrat Guard Hairs Are Obvious

I made a mental note to research some alternatives prior to tying a new supply, and I fulfilled my vow several weeks ago. I searched the internet and quickly stumbled across a close cousin of the RS2 called the sparkle RS2. I liked the idea of maintaining the basic concept with the addition of some extra flash, so I produced three conventional RS2 nymphs and ten sparkle versions. For the sparkle RS2’s I substituted white fluoro fibers for the tail and a clump of white antron fibers for the emerging wing. The only material that remained from the original pattern was the muskrat dubbing. I am quite excited to try these enhanced RS2’s, as I believe the extra flash of the fluoro fiber and antron will cause the small baetis nymph imitation to stand out more during the time period prior to an emergence. I also experimented with a black crystal flash rib on five of the sparkle RS2’s, and I like the ribbed look that this addition created. I learned the crystal flash ribbing concept from the ultra zug bug pattern by Scott Sanchez.

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Traditional and Sparkle RS2's

The thirteen new RS2’s brought my total inventory to sixty, as we enter the 2018 season. Hopefully this supply will be adequate for spring, summer and fall blue winged olive hatch periods in 2018.

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Crystal Flash Version

Iron Sally – 12/18/2017

Iron Sally 12/18/2017 Photo Album

If you are interested in learning how I was introduced to this fly, check out my 02/09/2017 post. It includes links to older posts and also describes how the iron sally produced one of my best days of 2016 on the Yampa River.

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Fish Candy

As I stated in my last post, I should probably attach an iron sally to my line more frequently. I believe that I gave it more line time in 2017 than in previous years, and I enjoyed some success. The day that stands out the most is 07/03/2017 on the Eagle River. In fact during that special day I observed a yellow sally hatch that surpassed any others during my many years of fly fishing. Whenever I encountered a yellow sally emergence in the past, they seemed to pop off the water sporadically and over a three to four hour period in the afternoon. On July 3 they appeared in blizzard quantities, but I spotted very few rising fish. I continued fishing a hares ear and iron sally through the dense 2.5 hour stonefly emergence, and I was rewarded with eleven fish, and they displayed a strong appetite for the flashy gold nymph.

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Completed Batch of Eleven

When I tallied my supply of iron sallies, I discovered thirty in my various storage compartments. My impressive although infrequent success with this fly prompted me to produce an additional ten to bring my season beginning inventory to forty. With this significant quantity in my coffers, I expect to select the bright attractor nymph more frequently in 2018.

Pheasant Tail Nymph – 12/17/2017

Pheasant Tail Nymph 12/17/2017 Photo Album

When I first moved to Colorado in 1990 and throughout the 90’s, the beadhead pheasant tail nymph was my number one producing nymph pattern. You can check out the materials list and read more about my early success with the pheasant tail in my 01/11/2012 post. Over time, however, it got displaced by the salvation nymph, as the flashy nymph seems to be as effective during the pale morning dun period, but also produces exceptionally well during other time frames when an attractor nymph is in demand.

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Nice One

I continue to carry a decent supply of pheasant tails in my fleece wallet, however, since I encounter situations where the smaller and darker nymph is relished by western trout. Although not a western stream, my day on Camp Creek in Wisconsin provides a glimpse of the results that a pheasant tail generates on occasion. Judging from the number of references to the pheasant tail in social media and in magazine articles, I am certain that it maintains a strong following, and this can only be attributed to a high level of effectiveness.

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23 Refurbished

Historically I never entered a new season without at least eighty of these simple nymphs in inventory; however, my heightened reliance on the salvation enabled me to reduce my beginning inventory. I counted fifty-seven in my various fly bins, and I deemed that quantity to be adequate. Despite this determination I emptied my canisters of damaged and unraveling flies, and uncovered twenty-three pheasant tail nymphs that accumulated over the past seven years. The pheasant tail fibers tend to be somewhat fragile despite counter wrapping with copper wire, and I suspect that most of the crippled flies were victims of trout teeth. I spent a day or two refurbishing all twenty-three flies, and I am now confident that I am more than prepared for 2018 with eighty imitations in my possession.

 

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/16/2017

Emerald Caddis Pupa 12/16/2017 Photo Album

My post of 01/01/2012 provides a nice background story to how I became acquainted with the emerald caddis pupa, and it also provides a materials table. I continue to admire this fly and its fish attracting capability. Unlike the bright green caddis pupa or go2 sparkle pupa, the emerald version seems to entice fish throughout the season, not just during the heavy grannom period. For this reason I give it more opportunities on the end of my line. During the early season before snow melt and then again in the fall, I elect to pair the emerald pupa with a beadhead hares ear nymph, and it often results in a sagging net.

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New One on Display

I am convinced that the emerald green color is an outstanding fish attractor. I have seen caddis larva with body colors that approximate the emerald green, so that might explain some of its effectiveness. I also caught several recently hatched adults and noticed the emerald green color on the tip of the abdomen on otherwise charcoal gray bodies. My logic dictates that trout are conditioned to seeing this color on tasty morsels, and they are readily drawn to my pupa imitation.

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Three Refurbished and Five New

I counted twenty-eight in my various storage containers, so I situated myself at my tying station and cranked out seven more to bring my total to thirty-five. This quantity is in line with my starting inventory for previous seasons, and I look forward to swinging and drifting the emerald caddis pupa again in 2018.

 

Bright Green Caddis Pupa – 12/11/2017

Bright Green Caddis Pupa 12/11/2017 Photo Album

The bright green caddis pupa has been a solid occupant of my fly box since my early days of fly fishing in Pennsylvania and New York. My 01/10/2012 post provides some background information on my introduction to this fly as well as a materials table. The 12/16/2014 post expands on the eastern story and then extends the history to my move to Colorado. I invite you to check them out.

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Macro View

Fast forward to 2017, and I continue to select the bright green caddis during my frequent fishing trips in Colorado and beyond. Over the last two seasons I modified the bright green caddis pupa abdomen by utilizing chartreuse diamond braid instead of a blend of bright green craft yarn and olive sparkle yarn. I like the additional flash provided by the diamond braid. I renamed this fly the go2 sparkle pupa. Old habits die hard; however, and I am reluctant to totally abandon the dubbed body version. I suspect there are situations where the shiny green body might alarm the trout, and they may display a preference for the more subtle bright green dubbed imitation.

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Displayed on Deer Hair Stubs

My inventory of bright green caddis pupa yielded a total of 41 in my various storage compartments, so I produced four additional flies to increase my stash to 45 for the 2018 season. For some reason I failed to encounter significant caddis activity during the spring in recent years, and consequently the bright green emergent pupa was not in high demand. I hope to change that during the coming season.

Go2 Sparkle Pupa – 12/08/2017

Go2 Sparkle Pupa 12/08/2017 Photo Album

Check out my 01/11/2017 post for the story behind the creation of this productive fly. It continued to excel during the early season of 2017, particularly during the prime grannom emergence period. I deployed the bright green emergent caddis pupa with a dubbed body as well during the previous season, but I now view the go2 sparkle pupa version as my prime choice.

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A Completed Go2 Sparkle Pupa

I like to jig and swing this fly in April and early May to imitate the active grannom pupa on western streams. Quite often the fish are tuned into the image of an emerging or escaping pupa, and a lift or bad mend initiates a grab.

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Necessary Materials

A count of my go2 sparkle pupa flies revealed a supply of twenty-five. I visited my vise and created five additional facsimiles to boost my total to thirty for the new season.

Ultra Zug Bug – 12/07/2017

Ultra Zug Bug 12/07/2017 Photo Album

My relationship with the ultra zug bug goes back to January 31, 2012 (materials list in this post), when I spotted some in my Scott Sanchez fly tying book called A New Generation of Trout Flies. I tied a few to test, and they never spent time on the end of my line until a trip to the Flattops in 2014. Check out my 12/07/2014 blog post, if you are interested in reading the story of how the ultra zug bug morphed from an experimental, never tested fly to my third highest producing nymph.

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Hope the Trout Do More Than Admire

The ultra zug bug has now stood the test of time, and I select it from my box with confidence especially during the early spring and late fall seasons. I use it during times, when I previously opted for a prince nymph, and it performs on par if not better than the classic peacock body nymph.

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A Completed Batch

Tying an ultra zug bug requires only three materials in addition to a hook and bead. The iridescent Ligas peacock number eight dubbing and the sparkling crystal hair rib make this fly stand out, and trout do not seem to miss it. A dry/dropper with a beadhead hares ear and ultra zug bug combination provided me with many fine days of successful fishing in Colorado and western streams.

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Zoomed On Dubbing and Flies

A count of my supply of ultra zug bugs revealed that thirty-three resided in my fly boxes. I tied an additional seventeen to bring my total to fifty for the upcoming season. You can be sure that this simple fly will spend time on my line during 2018.

Hares Ear Nymph – 12/06/2017

Hares Ear Nymph 12/06/2017 Photo Album

During the 2016 season the beadhead hares ear nymph staged a major comeback. As detailed in my 12/11/2016 post, the salvation nymph surpassed the hares ear nymph during 2015 as my workhorse fly. That changed, however, in 2016; and I am able to report that the hares ear continued to fool western trout like no other imitation in my fly box during the 2017 season. The classic gray nymph continued to be the first nymph on my line, and it repeatedly rewarded my steadfast confidence.

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A Pair of New Hares Ear Nymphs

I have little to add regarding the hares ear nymph other than additional rave reviews. You can check out my 11/05/2010 post for a materials list and a description of a few of my variations from the standard hares ear nymph steps and ingredients.

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A Batch of Five Completed

I counted my supply of beadhead hares ear nymphs as I prepared for the winter tying season, and I discovered that I had 95 in my combined storage boxes. I refurbished twelve in late October, so that helps explain the high level for the late season count; however, I inexplicably lost fewer of these flies than one would expect given its frequent presence on my leader. I can only suggest two reasons for this unexpected phenomenon.

During the summer of 2017 I seemed to fish a single dry fly more often than any other year in recent memory. In fact I designated the past season the year of the green drake, as I encountered that highly desirable hatch quite often. In addition to green drakes I fished a single dry fly to yellow sallies, pale morning duns, blue winged olives, small gray stoneflies, and caddis of various sizes and colors. During the late summer and fall I opted for beetles and ants quite frequently, and the cumulative effect of fishing these surface offerings may have displaced dry/dropper time and consequently reduced the shrinkage of my precious nymphs.

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Six Additional Hares Ear Nynphs

A second reason might be that my casting skills improved or at least my awareness of my surroundings increased, and therefore, I lost fewer flies to tree branches, rocks and over sized fish. This is certainly a possibility, but I am skeptical that this explains my extraordinarily large supply of leftover hares ear nymphs.

 

 

Salvation Nymph – 12/05/2017

Salvation Nymph 12/05/2017 Photo Album

Another season passed, and I have little to add regarding the salvation nymph. It remains a mainstay in my fly box and is generally one of the first nymphs that I deploy after a beadhead hares ear. I often use the dynamic duo in tandem, and this combination produces outstanding results. When I compare the two, I assign an edge to the hares ear, as I believe that it produces trout over the entire fly fishing season in Colorado. The salvation nymph also attracts fish in the spring and fall, but it truly distinguishes itself in the June through August time frame. This period coincides with pale morning dun emergence on western freestones and tailwaters, and I believe the salvation nymph is a close approximation of the PMD nymph.

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Shiny Nymph

If you attempt to look up this fly on line, search using tungsten salvation nymph. I tie mine with a standard gold brass bead, but the heavier tungsten is an option if you seek a faster sink rate. You can find a materials table and step by step tying instructions in my 12/30/2011 post. 2011 was my first attempt to tie this fly, and I have made no significant modifications other than to substitute black peacock ice dub for peacock ice dub for the thorax. It would be interesting to experiment with some different color combinations, but this fly is so effective, that I never felt the inclination to dabble with variations. The 2011 post also describes how I was introduced to the salvation nymph, and the comments section includes some remarks from the originator of the fly, Devon Ence.

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Eleven Fresh Salvations

I counted my supply in November and ascertained that my combined storage boxes contained 94. I target a starting quantity of 100 for each season, so I produced six new flies to reach my quota. For some reason I did not lose as many flies to trees, rocks and logs during 2017 as was generally the case in previous seasons.

 

 

Boulder Creek – 12/01/2017

Time: 12:45PM – 3:00PM

Location: City of Boulder

Boulder Creek 12/01/2017 Photo Album

Boulder Creek within the City of Boulder has established itself as my new nearby favorite winter destination. Air temperatures remain fairly consistent with those of Denver unlike other close by Front Range destinations such as South Boulder Creek, Clear Creek and the canyon section of Boulder Creek. Mild winter temperatures are an attraction; however, November 2017 weather has been so conducive to fly fishing, that I rarely needed to resort to the lower altitude alternative. Friday December 1 was an unbelievably balmy day, and I decided to make the short drive up the Boulder Turnpike for yet another day of fly fishing. Yes, you read that correctly. I planed a day of fly fishing in December. I cannot recall fishing in December within the last ten years, although I suspect that I did it sometime in my past.

I left Denver Stapleton at 11:15 and arrived in Boulder by 11:45; however, I attempted to find a different parking location nearer to a heretofore unexplored section of the stream. Unfortunately I was unable to accomplish this goal and ended up at the familiar lot used in prior visits to Boulder Creek. Circling through the back streets of Boulder added thirty minutes to my trip, and by the time I ate my lunch, pulled on my gear, assembled my Orvis Access four weight and ambled to the creek; it was 12:45PM. As forecast, the weather was spectacular with the temperature in the low sixties, and the sun blazed down on the outdoor enthusiasts of Boulder, CO all afternoon.

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Doing Its Job

A yellow fat Albert with an attached two foot length of 5X tippet remained in my frontpack from Monday, so I elected to give it another trial. Beneath the large foam attractor I added a salvation nymph and a beadhead hares ear nymph. These stalwart flies remained on my line for the entire two plus hours that I occupied Boulder Creek. The flows were on the low side and comparable to earlier November visits, but the section that I chose to explore offered numerous deep pools, where the stream residents enjoyed adequate cover. My approaches required stealth but not an excessive amount.

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Surprisingly This Type of Water Produced

I worked my way upstream for two hours and landed seven brown trout to elevate my record cumulative fish count to a nice round number. Check the fish counter tab if you are curious to discover this milestone. The first hour was quite slow, as I coaxed two small browns into my net. One nipped the hares ear and the other nabbed the salvation. In my mind I conceded that I would not reach the sought after cumulative total, but then I approached a promising section with a long wide riffle of moderate depth. This area and some quality water above it yielded five additional brown trout and enabled the attainment of my cumulative goal for the year. The largest fish on the day measured ten inches, and all the fish landed in the second hour grabbed the hares ear.

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Small but Feisty

Landing seven small fish is normally a minor accomplishment, but to do this in December was a welcome experience for this fair weather fisherman. Of course fair weather represented the reason I was on the stream, and I will continue to visit Colorado rivers and streams, as long as mild weather continues to encourage me. Is this the end of my fly fishing season and the start of serious fly tying? Who knows?

Fish Landed: 7