Light Gray Comparadun – 04/04/2017

Light Gray Comparadun 04/04/2017 Photo Album

Success with the light gray comparadun predates the cinnamon version. Check out my 12/27/2015 post for more information regarding my infatuation with this fly and my migration to the cinnamon comparadun. Despite a recent shift toward the cinnamon variety, I continue to encounter situations where the light gray no hackle dry fly is preferred by Rocky Mountain trout. Scenarios that dictate light gray also seem to coincide with a requirement for the larger size 16.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Love the Background Texture” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2693.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

My inventory of gray comparaduns revealed that I was quite well stocked in size 16, and seventeen size 18’s remained in my fly bins. In order to round off the size 18 count, I tied three additional no hackles. I remain optimistic that I will encounter more pale morning dun hatch matching situations in 2017, and I feel adequately prepared with multiple body colors and sizes.

Cinnamon Comparadun – 04/04/2017

Cinnamon Comparadun 04/04/2017 Photo Album

My post of 12/23/2015 summarizes my history with this fly, and another summer of experience solidified it as a necessary component of my fly fishing arsenal. For some reason I did not encounter as many pale morning dun hatches as was the case in previous years, but a day on the Yampa River on June 23 justified my devotion to size 18 cinnamon comparaduns.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Delicate” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2678.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

When I counted my carry over supply of cinnamon pale morning dun imitations, I discovered that I retained an adequate supply of size 18’s; however, I only possessed three of the size 16 variety. Size 18 seems to be the prevalent size on the streams that I frequent, but I decided to produce an additional seven in the larger size to avoid getting caught short in case I meet a brood of larger mayflies.



Parachute Green Drake – 03/11/2017

Parachute Green Drake 03/11/2017 Photo Album

The parachute green drake is a staple among the corner of my fly box that contains green drake imitations. Trout can be quite discerning during a western green drake hatch; therefore, I stock two different sizes and three styles during the period when I am most likely to encounter the large western mayfly. A previous post documented the Harrop hair wing style, and the comparadun green drake is highly effective on certain streams as well. When I counted my green drakes, I ascertained that five parachute green drakes remained from 2016 in size 14.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Near Perfection” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2668.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During the past five years I learned that a parachute pattern is often preferred when trout shy away from the bushier hair wing version. It projects a silhouette that is more robust than a comparadun but not as bulky as a hair wing. I may be wrong about this, but I also sense that the size 14 2XL matches naturals more frequently than size 12. The size 12 version of the western green drake seems to fool trout early in the season, but it is ignored during later hatches on the Frying Pan River and South Boulder Creek.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Perched on Calf Body Hair” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2671.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During 2016 my best action on a size 14 parachute green drake occurred on the Frying Pan River on July 26. My friend John and I were about to quit for the day, but then we agreed to make one more last ditch effort during the late afternoon. John was the first to discover that the Frying Pan trout were tuned into the green drake, so I borrowed from his knowledge and knotted a size 14 parachute green drake to my line. The move paid huge dividends, as I landed six additional trout over the remaining 1.5 hours on the river.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Hopefully Irresistible” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2672.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Periods like this linger in my memory, and therefore, I tied five additional size 14’s to increment my total to ten. Hopefully my fly fishing travels will intersect with numerous green drake hatches during 2017, and the parachute green drake will be a favorite of western trout.

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake – 03/01/2017

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake 03/01/2017 Photo Album

As I entered the month of March and anxiously anticipated warmer weather conducive to fishing local streams in relative comfort, I continued to make steady progress toward my goal of building my supply of flies to adequate levels for the 2017 season. Mayflies and caddis remained as the last categories to be reviewed and augmented as necessary.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Profile” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2660.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During 2016 I set a goal to converge with as many green drake hatches as possible. This proved to be an objective that eluded my grasp to some extent. I can recall four incidents when the green drake made its presence a factor, but these instances simply fueled my desire for more. I was surprised to encounter a gray drake hatch in the Hayden Meadows area of the Arkansas River, and the Harrop green drake accounted for some landed fish during that enjoyable day of fishing. On 7/15/2016 I spent an afternoon on the Cache la Poudre near Rustic, CO, and green drakes made a welcome appearance. The Harrop green drake accounted for several fish, but I was also frustrated by refusals. It was close but not exactly what the fish were attuned to.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”From the Front” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2661.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I can usually depend on some hot green drake fishing on the Conejos River, but other than a brief spinner fall, the anticipated hatch never materialized in July 2016. The Frying Pan River is normally an ironclad lock for superb green drake activity and successful hatch matching; however, unlike other years I visited early in the season and failed to make the trip in the August and September time frame. Historically these months produced some of my most intense green drake action. Nevertheless I did enjoy a hour of fast action late in the day on 7/26/2016, with my friend John also joining in the fun. On this occasion the parachute green drake fooled all the trout that nestled in my net.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Dubbing Included” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2665.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

My last contact with green drakes occurred on 8/4/2017 on South Boulder Creek, but the Harrop hair wing version was not the preferred imitation. A size 14 comparadun with no rib represented the food of choice.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Clustered Among Moose and Deer” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2663.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

As the reader absorbs the above account of my 2016 green drake encounters, he or she can discern the need for an array of imitation styles and sizes. I generally enter each season with three styles; parachutes, comparaduns and Harrop hair wing. In addition I attempt to stock my fly box with adequate quantities of each style in size 12 and 14. When I sorted and counted my green drake supply a few days ago, I determined that all the Harrop versions were size 12, so I approached my tying bench and produced eight additional size 14 facsimiles. I am quite eager to experiment further with the Harrop green drake in 2017.


Stimulators – 03/01/2017

Gray Stimulators 03/01/2017 Photo Album

Olive Stimulators 03/01/2017 Photo Album

My  02/21/2017 post on stimulators documented my fondness for the light yellow body color, however, other body shades attract Rocky Mountain trout throughout the year. Two additional hues that seem to be exceptionally productive in Colorado are gray and olive. When I counted my supply of these two mainstays of my fly box, I realized that my inventory was largely depleted. Given this discovery I sat down at my vise and cranked out fifteen gray and ten olive stimulators. Ten of the gray versions were size 16 and five were size 14. In the case of the olive variety I made entirely size 16.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”First Gray Stimulator, Size 16″ type=”image” alt=”IMG_2629.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Throughout my years of fly fishing gray has always stood out as a popular color for trout. The fabled Adams dry fly is the best example of gray effectiveness, and many authors claim to fish nothing but an Adams with excellent success. I am also extremely confident in a light gray caddis and a light gray comparadun. Regardless of the color of the naturals, these two flies seem to produce. Perhaps this explains why the gray stimulator is often my first choice when I approach a small stream with the intent of prospecting with a dry fly.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Zoomed In” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2647.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The bushy appearance of the stimulator enables it to float well in turbulent water, and it is easily visible in most lighting conditions, because it exhibits a high profile on the surface. I prefer foam as my top fly on a dry/dropper configuration, but a stimulator can generally support one size 14 beadhead or smaller dropper, and I often opt for a stimulator dry/dropper alignment in low clear stream conditions. The light stimulator allows a soft entry to a pool and thus reduces the risk of startling a potential skittish feeder.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Zoomed” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2658.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During an initial visit to the Hayden Meadows section of the Arkansas River I encountered a gray drake hatch. I assumed the large mayflies were green drakes, and I managed some success with a Harrop deer hair green drake; however, after rotating through other green drake imitations I settled on a size 14 gray stimulator, and it delivered five nice brown trout to my net. This example provides another solid reason to stock ample gray stimulators in my fly box.

[peg-image src=”–0yVipF_juk/WLbsUkptNSI/AAAAAAABHco/7Lh_ALQ2saA9f6TwiRG-ML0fqbMsMD8mgCCo/s144-o/IMG_2657.JPG” href=”″ caption=”Cannot Wait to Knot on My Line” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2657.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]




Yellow Stimulators – 02/21/2017

Yellow Stimulators 02/21/2017 Photo Album

Stimulators have become one of my favorite searching patterns over the past several seasons. Prior to last year I tied quite a few in an assortment of body colors; yellow, olive, peacock, black, tan and red. The heavily hackled attractors in size 16 and 14 performed admirably on the various Colorado streams, but the color that clearly distinguished itself as a necessity in my fly box was the light yellow version.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Very Nice” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2621.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

My devotion to the yellow stimulator began on the Lake Fork of the Conejos River on July 18, 2016. I experienced a day of frustration on the main stem of the Conejos, and in an act of despair, I diverged on to the tiny Lake Fork tributary. Initially I was surprised by an abundance of refusals to a pool toy with a yellow body. I was encouraged by the sudden attention, but it took me a fly change or two to solve the riddle. I eventually opted for a size 16 stimulator with a light yellow body, and the fish rewarded me for my persistence. During my time on the main Conejos I observed quite a few yellow Sallies and small golden stoneflies, so the effectiveness of the small yellow stimulator was not entirely unexpected.

Not wishing to suffer another day of frustration on the Conejos River on July 19 prompted me to drive to Elk Creek, a tributary seventeen miles downstream from the Lake Fork. Guess what I discovered? Amid a fairly steady emergence of yellow sallies and golden stoneflies the size 14 yellow stimulator accounted for twenty trout, and quite a few were above average size for the small tributary.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”10 Size 16 Yellow Stimulators” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2618.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

On July 20 I accepted the challenge of the Conejos River once again despite high flows and memories of a day of futility on July 18. The sought after pale morning dun and green drake hatches never materialized, but guess what salvaged my day? A fairly heavy afternoon emergence of yellow Sallies and two sizes of golden stoneflies prompted me to once again resort to a size 14 yellow stimulator, and it proved to be a winning choice. The yellow attractor contributed eight fish to my count, and enabled me to enjoy a respectable day on the difficult main stem of the Conejos.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Zoomed in for a Closer Inspection” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2619.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

When I reviewed my posts from July 2016, I entered a reminder on my fly tying to do list to produce an adequate quantity of new yellow stimulators, and in early February this became a reality. I refreshed my memory of the tying steps with an excellent YouTube video, and then I sat down at my tying bench and produced twenty yellow stimulators. Half were made on size 16 hooks and the other half were attached to a size 14. Golden stoneflies and yellow Sallies cannot come soon enough.


CDC Blue Winged Olive – 02/15/2017

CDC Blue Winged Olive 02/15/2017 Photo Album

There is no more essential fly required to sustain success throughout the season than a small blue winged olive imitation. These abundant mayflies hatch nearly year round, if one includes freestone and tailwater fisheries on one’s itinerary. Over the last ten years I settled on a CDC-wing BWO imitation, and it served me well. The CDC BWO is a tiny comparadun, however, I substitute medium dun CDC fibers for deer hair to form a wing. I tie exclusively size 22 and 24 flies, and deer hair contains too much bulk for these diminutive replicas of the baetis mayflies that populate Colorado streams. A slender profile is necessary to convince selective blue winged olive feeders to mistake my flies for naturals.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Another One” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2608.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

A critical feature of the CDC BWO is the delicate split tails. I use dun microfibbets and strive to create two tail fibers that split at forty-five degree angles from each side of the hook shank. Historically I struggled to acheive this goal while maintaining the tail fibers on an even plain. Last year I searched online and found a brief instructional piece that solved my problem. When I attach the thread, I make a small bump at the rear of the hook shank, and then allow a three inch tag end of the thread to dangle. I tie two microfibbets to the top of the shank and make thread wraps back until I am 1/8 inch from the thread bump. Next I pull the tag end of the thread upward and split the tails and then pull forward and down until the near fiber approximates the position I desire. I switch hands and hold the tag thread with my right hand while I lock it down with a couple thread wraps with the bobbin in my left hand. I once again switch hands, and I continue wrapping thread back toward the bump with my right hand as I preen the fiber on the far side into the correct angle and position. I find that this technique yields nearly perfect split tails every time.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Close Up of the Feather” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2614.JPG” image_size=”2048×2048″ ]


I counted nineteen size 24 olives in my combined fly bins, so I manufactured six additional imitations to bring my total to 25. Next I inventoried my size 22 supply and discovered 34, so I made an additional six to bring my total to 40. If I am lucky, these flies will see action in the not too distant future, as blue winged olive hatches often commence in the middle of March.

[peg-image src=”–4L19gCCo/s144-o/IMG_2613.JPG” href=”″ caption=”Dun Microfibbets and CDC” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2613.JPG” image_size=”2048×2048″ ]


Chernobyl Ant – 02/12/2017

Chernobyl Ant 02/12/2017 Photo Album

When I counted my supply of black Chernobyl ants the other day, I discovered that I possessed 28 size 8 or 10 flies, and twelve size 6 versions. This quantity is actually fairly close to my desired beginning inventory, so I merely produced two additional size 8’s and three more size 6’s. The high number of remaining Chernobyl’s is indicative of my tendency to migrate away from the popular black foam attractor toward the fat Albert in the spring and summer season and toward Jake’s gulp beetle in the fall.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Size 6 Top View” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2584.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During the previous season I discovered that the size 8 and 10 ants did not easily support two beadhead nymphs, so I tied fifteen size 6 versions. This solved the problem of a sinking top fly, but the fish seemed to avoid the larger foam ant, and consequently I opted more frequently for a large buoyant fat Albert. The fat Albert did a superior job of supporting two size 14 beadhead nymphs, but it also surprised me with its fish attracting capability.

Late in the season even the smaller Chernobyls generated refusals. I concluded that the fish were drawn toward terrestrials on the surface, but they were discouraged from gulping due to the abnormally large size. I adjusted to this circumstance by choosing a size 10 or 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, and the fish awarded this move with a solid thumbs up.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Foam, Chenille and Rubber Legs Do the Job” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2588.JPG” image_size=”2048×2048″ ]

In summary the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle appropriated fishing time from the Chernobyl ant. Despite this turn of events, I continue to value the Chernboyl ant as a key weapon in my fly fishing arsenal. During my long history with this fly I refined it to the point where I am satisfied with its durability and performance. One critical modification was attaching the foam on the downside of the bend, and then folding it over the top to prevent spinning around the shank. Last year I began utilizing heavier hooks such as a Tiemco 5262 or equivalent. The extra weight served as a keel that enabled the fly to land in the desired position most of the time. Long legs seemed to contribute to the foam ant landing upside down, so I now limit the rubber leg extension to one body segment in length. The pinching effect of the thread tended to pull the legs in, so that they extended in a tight parallel manner at ninety degrees from the body. I disliked this look, so I began making narrowly spaced thread wraps around the body to attach the leg material. Given this history of refinement I do not expect to abandon the Chernboyl ant anytime soon.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Three Size 6 and Two Size 8″ type=”image” alt=”IMG_2587.JPG” image_size=”2048×2048″ ]

Pool Toy Hopper – 02/11/2017

Pool Toy Hopper 02/11/2017 Photo Album

Evidence that I made a more significant commitment to the pool toy hopper is documented by the seven decommissioned foam imitations in my refurbishment canister. During 2017 I knotted this buoyant and visible terrestrial imitation to my line quite frequently, and as expected, it accounted for a considerable number of fish. I continue to believe, however, that a simple yellow Letort hopper would outperform a pool toy or Charlie Boy hopper, if I dedicated an equal amount of playing time to the grasshopper imitation created in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the Letort hopper does not possess the buoyancy that I crave in my dry/dropper configurations, so I cling to the pool toy and Charlie boy hoppers as my surface fly during summer sessions. The pool toy seems to attract more fish than the Charlie boy, and I dislike dealing with the super glue that is fundamental to Charlie boy construction.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”I Like This One” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2575.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

During 2017 I stumbled across a competing foam attractor that stole line time from the pool toy. The fat Albert proved to be a superior indicator fly that was effective in supporting two size 14 beadhead nymphs. In addition it duped quite a few Colorado trout as either a golden stonefly or grasshopper fraud. It even fooled a wily Pennsylvania brown trout on Penns Creek that presumably mistook it for an eastern golden stonefly. I shifted my loyalties from the fat Albert to the pool toy during the prime summer months in Colorado, but then I reverted to the fat Albert in the fall season, and it did not disappoint.

Despite my newfound love affair with the fat Albert, I decided to hedge my bets, and I increased my pool toy supply by fifteen for the coming season. I counted twenty carry overs from the previous seasons, so this puts my inventory at thirty-five, and this is assuredly the greatest quantity of pool toys to occupy my fly bins.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Associated Materials” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2579.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The retired flies in my canister served as my starting point. The bodies of these handicapped flies were intact; however, all were missing legs to varying degrees. I managed to attach my thread at the midpoint to attach replacement hind legs, or in other cases I tied down the thread near the eye and added front appendages. This process also tightened the foam to the hook shank and increased the stability of the flies.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Seven Refurbished Pool Toys” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2570.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

After I refurbished the seven misfits, I moved on to constructing new pool toys. I tied the freshly minted foam hoppers on size 8 hooks, and I generated three with tan bodies, four with light yellow and one with a tan ice dub body. I am anxious to give the ice dub version a test. Hopper season cannot come soon enough.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Eight New Pool Toys Ready for Action” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2578.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Iron Sally – 02/09/2017

Iron Sally 02/09/2017 Photo Album

You can check out my introduction to the iron sally on my posts of 01/20/2013 and 02/04/2014. This is a fly that I should probably knot on my line more frequently. It is intended to imitate the nymph stage of a yellow sally stonefly; however, it also works as a subsurface imitation of golden stoneflies. The iron sally nymph takes longer to tie than most of the nymphs that I stock in my fly box, and this historically translated to fewer flies in my beginning inventory. Because I detest tying flies during the season, when I prefer to be on a stream, I too often shy away from the iron sally in an effort to preserve my quantity on hand. Preserve for what?

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Shine” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2550.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

On 06/28/2017 I experienced my best day of fishing in 2016 on the Yampa River, and the iron sally was the star player. During the afternoon I spotted several yellow sallies, so I featured the iron sally as a dropper beneath a fat Albert foam top fly, and the Yampa River residents went crazy. Not only did the iron sally produce quantities of fish, but the size of the landed trout was abnormally large. The memory of this day induced me to get serious in 2017, and I whipped out fifteen new sparkling imitations to go with the thirteen carryovers from last year.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Iron Sally Jewels” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2562.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I will begin the 2017 season with twenty-eight, and I expect this larger quantity to buffer me against the higher demands of more time on my fishing line. A few days in my future that approach 06/28/2017 will make me a very happy fly fisherman.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”15 Iron Sallies Completed” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2561.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]