Category Archives: Dry Flies

Damsel Adult – 03/21/2020

Damsel Adult 03/21/2020 Photo Album

With the corona virus necessitating self quarantines in Colorado, and a snowstorm placing a freeze on outdoor activities, I decided to return to my vice. During the winter I cycled through all my mainstay flies, and I was now positioned to undertake some experimental patterns. But before I forged into the new and untested, I remembered a day on a Frost Creek pond, when I was frustrated with my inability to hook trout in spite of the presence of abundant quantities of large rising fish. Rising is really an understatement, as most of the trout were aggressively slashing at surface food. My post of 07/12/2019 describes the discouraging day on a Frost Creek pond.

The obvious food that the Frost Creek trout craved was adult damsel flies. Hundreds of delicate blue aquatic insects fluttered about and perched on the reeds along the shoreline. At the time I vowed to remedy this lack of matching imitations, and with the completion of my standard tying for the upcoming season, I prepared to tie damsel adults. I started with an on line search of damsel adult patterns, and I began with one of my favorite tiers, Charlie Craven. I was pleased to discover that Charlie had a parachute damsel adult on his web site, and I promptly decided to make this pattern my first prototype.


Unfortunately the recipe called for a braided damsel body material, blue 2mm foam, and blue dubbing. I possess drawers full of tying materials, but the color blue is totally absent. I made the drive to Charlie’s shop in Arvada, and Charlie himself help me find and purchase the necessary materials. He was out of blue damsel body braid, so I bought white and a blue marker and colored my own. This actually worked out quite nicely, when I finally sat down to make my first batch of adult damsels.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookSize 12 Tiemco 2457
ThreadGray 6/0 (blue prescribed by Craven)
AbdomenBraided damsel body
Thorax2 mm foam
WingsLarge grizzly hackle

A Batch of Five

The Craven parachute adult damsel is actually quite easy to tie, and I quickly produced five for my fly box for the 2020 season. In Charlie’s introduction to the tying steps, he mentioned the teneral stage of the adults. This refers to the stage of the adult when it first emerges from the nymph while clinging to vegetation along the shoreline. The adults are pale yellow to olive at this time and very vulnerable to getting swept into the water by gusts of wind, and this circumstance is not overlooked by the nearby ravenous trout. In preparation for encountering this event, I tied two additional adults with a light olive braid, foam and dubbing.

Olive Color

Hopefully the corona virus will pass before the summer fishing season, and I will be prepared to cast my damsel adults on Colorado lakes and ponds.

Yellow Sally – 02/26/2020

Yellow Sally 02/26/2020 Photo Album

For many years I viewed the yellow sally as a summer hatch that did not occur with enough density to attract trout to the surface in great quantities on major rivers. Sure it was a good searching pattern on small high country creeks, but for hatch matching I carried some just in case but did not use them frequently. That line of thought shifted dramatically after several blizzard hatches on the Eagle River in recent years during the post run off season. If the reader is interested in a vivid description of one of these outings, check out my 07/03/2017 post on the Eagle River. I described a blizzard hatch of yellow sallies, although you will note that I fished an iron sally and hares ear nymph through the hatch and did quite well. Nevertheless, I do not anticipate encountering another similar hatch without access to some yellow sally dry flies. Fish on larger rivers such as the Eagle, Arkansas and Colorado do tune into the plentiful supply of small yellow stoneflies.

Is It Real?

With the improved ranking of the yellow sally dry fly in my fly choice hierarchy, I took a quick inventory and concluded that I could use four additional size 14’s. My size 16’s were adequate, so I positioned myself at the tying station and cranked out some additional imitations. I have experimented with other patterns, but I concluded that the basic deer hair version works as well as any. Only three basic materials are required; yellow dubbing, yellow deer hair and ginger hackle. I feel prepared for the next yellow sally hatch that greets me on western waters.

Size 14 Yellow Sallies

Klinkhammer Blue Winged Olive – 02/23/2020

Klinkhammer Blue Winged Olive 02/23/2020 Photo Album

I counted my CDC blue winged olive supply and determined that adequate quantities were present in my bins for the upcoming season. Over the last several years I settled on three different styles of blue winged olive flies to match the ever changing emergence of these diminutive mayflies. In most cases the CDC olive is my first option, but quite frequently, especially on windy days, the trout ignore the CDC version, and this circumstance forces me to experiment with alternatives. A craven soft hackle emerger without a bead occasionally produces on difficult and windy days, but I apply floatant and fish it in the film, and this presentation is very difficult to track. A larger leading fly assists with visibility, but the wet fly fished as a dry is my third and final choice.

Not Bad

Several years ago I experimented with a Klinkhammer BWO pattern. You can view a materials table along with some narrative about this fly in my 01/09/2018 post. A link to an instance when the Klinkhammer justified my confidence is contained in my 02/22/2019 post.

Four New BWO Energers

My supply of Klinkhammer blue winged olives lagged my other versions, and this condition is probably related to its late addition as a mainstay fly in my arsenal. I remedied this situation to some extent, when I visited my fly tying station and churned out four new size 22 models. Hopefully the Klinkhammer will continue to be a productive addition to my fly box in 2020.

Deer Hair Caddis – 02/16/2020

Deer Hair Caddis 02/16/2020 Photo Album

My post of 11/28/2011 provides a materials table and an account of my early adoption of the deer hair caddis as an effective producer. Another post on 12/01/2011 documents the effectiveness of the deer hair caddis possessing a dark olive-brown body. An update of the deer hair caddis is available with my 02/24/2019 post.

A Row of Caddis Between Green Drakes and Stimulators

My caddis tying efforts generally follow pale morning duns, so I gathered my supply boxes and counted my carryover inventory. I was once again pleased to realize that adequate quantities of size 16 and 18 caddis occupied my storage containers in the common body colors of olive-brown, light gray, yellow, and tan. I accepted my good fortune and moved on to the next dry fly category to evaluate.

PMD Comparaduns – 02/15/2020

PMD Comparaduns 02/15/2020 Photo Album

Upon completion of green drake patterns, my winter fly tying routine normally transitions to pale morning dun imitations. After many years of success I settled on two patterns that generally fulfill my needs during a pale morning dun hatch. Comparaduns represent an accurate low riding likeness, and cinnamon and light gray bodies seem to cover nearly all pale morning dun scenarios. Another variable in the pale morning dun hatch matching game is size, and I typically stock size 18 and size 16 comparaduns, and these two sizes and colors seem to satisfy all my needs.

Cinnamon Size 16 Comparaduns

I collected my fly storage containers and counted my supply of cinnamon and light gray comparaduns in the two prevalent sizes, and I was pleased to determine that I possessed adequate quantities for the upcoming season. This raised the question of why I did not deplete my supply during 2019. The late and heavy run off during 2019 overlapped with the normal hatching time period of pale morning duns on freestone rivers and streams. I sat out the high murky conditions, and consequently missed the bulk of the pale morning dun hatch activity. Another dependable provider of pale morning dun entertainment is the Frying Pan River, but for some reason I never made the trek to the popular tailwater in the Roaring Fork Valley in 2019.

Parachute Green Drake – 02/09/2020

Parachute Green Drake 02/09/2020 Photo Album

I was recently asked to name my favorite hatch, and I quickly replied with western green drakes. Every summer I make a point of seeking these large olive flies on western waters. Western green drake hatches are not dense, but the relatively large size of the mayflies make them a favorite target of western trout. Quite often I experience excellent success by prospecting with a green drake before and after the actual hatch. Trout have long memories, when it comes to green drakes.

Number One Out of the Vice

After many years of searching for green drake hatches, I settled on four primary patterns that yield success during my infrequent but much appreciated encounters. The four producers are the parachute green drake, green drake comparadun, Harrop hair wing green drake, and user friendly green drake. Each seems to have its moment of excellence, but the parachute style seems to generate the most consistent results. I began tying the user friendly green drakes last winter, but the acceptance level was not as high as I anticipated.

Up Close

My post of 01/10/2016 provides some nice background information on the parachute green drake, and my 02/13/2015 post outlines the various styles and their unique qualities. For a materials table and detailed description of the materials utilized check out my post of  09/11/2012. Yes, I have been tying these green drake flies for quite awhile.

A Batch of Six

I counted my supply of all versions, and I determined that the parachute green drake in size 14 was the most depleted. I gathered the requisite materials and created six new imitations for the new season; thus, increasing my inventory to fifteen. Since the parachute style spends the most time on my line, it makes sense that their quantity was reduced the most. Several years ago I switched from using white calftail for the wing to white turkey flats. The turkey flats are lighter and allow for a more slender tapered body.

I anxiously look forward to encountering many green drake hatches during 2020.

Stimulators – 01/29/2020

Stimulators 01/29/2020 Photo Album

Stimulators have become a fixture in my fly inventory since 2014, when I tied a bunch with different body colors prior to a trip to Patagonia. You can read more about my early history with stimulators in my 01/26/2015 post. I love stimulators due to their versatility, as they are solid imitations of stoneflies, large caddisflies, and small grasshoppers. I even experienced success using olive and gray stimulators to duplicate large mayflies such as green and gray drakes.

Close to Perfection

The heavily hackled dry flies with large amounts of deer hair are quite visible and float well in fast, turbulent currents. I often choose one of these fuzzy floaters when prospecting high gradient mountain streams. Another popular ploy involves a small beadhead nymph dangling below a stimulator, and this combination also yields impressive results. A more extensive discussion of stimulator uses is contained in my previous stimulator post of 01/30/2019. Check it out if you are a fan of this popular fly.

Six Olive Stimulators

A count of my fly storage containers revealed that I possessed adequate quantities of size 12 and 14 stimulators in the various body colors. Only size 12 olives seemed to be in relatively short supply, so I manned my vice and manufactured six size 12 stimulators with olive bodies and grizzly hackle. I followed Charlie Craven’s excellent YouTube video, and his exacting instructions enabled me to improve the quality of the large attractor patterns. Charlie’s steps helped me avoid the three major pitfalls endemic to stimulators; gaps in the body of the fly, tails and wings not properly centered, and crowding of the eye of the hook.

Amy’s Ant – 01/20/2020

Amy’s Ant 01/20/2020 Photo Album

Any interested reader who browses this blog will likely conclude, that I possess an adequate quantity of large foam attractor flies for dry/dropper duty or service as a single terrestrial or stonefly adult imitation. I tie and stock fat Alberts, hippie stompers Chernobyl ants, chubby Chernobyls, and pool toy hoppers; and these serve as my mainstays throughout the year. In addition I carry a handful of Charlie boy hoppers and hopper Juans, and while not deployed as frequently as the previous list, I do resort to them during occasions, when I simply want a large buoyant fly to serve as an indicator.

Fly CompenentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 6
OverbodyTwo strips, 2 mm foam
LegsRubber legs
HackleBrown neck or saddle
AbdomenIce dubbing
UnderwingCrystal flash
WingElk hair
ThoraxIce dubbing

Given this abundance of foam imitations it is perhaps surprising that I was lured into producing yet another large foam attractor fly. In a recent Fly Fisherman magazine column, Charlie Craven documented the steps required to construct an Amy’s ant. I read about this fly numerous times, and several acquaintances sang its praises, so I took the plunge and produced ten during a recent session at my fly tying bench. Amy’s ant was created by Jack Dennis of Jackson, WY; and it won the famous One Fly Contest a number of years ago. Jack named the fly for his daughter, Amy, and I happen to have a daughter named Amy, so I dedicate these flies to her.

Should Be Visible

I considered tying the fly on various occasions in the past, but I was a bit intimidated by the number of materials involved. With the availability of Charlie Craven’s step by step instructions, I decided to make an attempt. I gathered my materials, and prior to initiating the process I searched on YouTube and found a Charlie Craven tying video. This was even better than the text and photos in the magazine, so I watched Charlie tie a fly from start to finish and then paused it at the end of each step, as I followed along at my vice.

Craft Foam with Glitter

I am able to report, that I completed ten new Amy’s ants, and I am quite pleased with the results. I tied the first five using pink foam as the top layer, and these should be extremely visible under difficult lighting conditions. Tan and olive/brown ice dub served as the body material for the pink versions. I followed up my initial foray into Amy’s ant production with two that contained a peacock body and orange top layer, and then I added some yellow models with yellow dubbing and a yellow top foam layer. My last contribution to the Amy’s ant experiment features a gray body and a yellow top layer.

Underside of the Gray Amy’s Ant

All these flies should be very visible, and I suspect, that they will be logical candidates for the top fly on a dry/dropper arrangement. I sense that they will not be as buoyant as a fat Albert or pool toy hopper, but their shape seems to mimic a large stonefly better than the fat Albert and pool toy hopper. I am anxious to experiment with my new Amy’s ants during the 2020 season.

A Completed First Batch Ever

Hippie Stomper – 12/26/2019

Hippie Stomper 12/26/2019 Photo Album

Visit my 01/13/2018 post for the story of my introduction to the hippie stomper, and check out 11/18/2018 for a materials table and an update on the effectiveness of the hippie stomper. Without a doubt the hippie stomper has become an essential fly within my array of fly fishing offerings, and as such I visited my vice to replenish my depleted supply.

Nice Side View

Andrew Grillos is the designer of the hippie stomper, and I had the unique opportunity to join him at Trouts Fly Fishing in Denver for a fly tying session on March 16, 2019. I was already a huge fan of the pool toy hopper, another of Andrew’s creations, and his user friendly was on my radar as a new green drake imitation. I thoroughly enjoyed my day with Andrew, and I discovered that he is from Colorado, and he has a very diverse fly fishing background. His resume includes some streamers and nymphs, but his signature works are centered on foam.

Fish Attractors

The hippie stomper exceeded my expectations during extensive field tests in 2019. I find it especially effective in small streams as the lone fly or lead fly in a dry/dropper. The relatively large size, white wing, and foam make it highly visible and buoyant, and these qualities pay off in small narrow high gradient streams with significant amounts of bushes, glare, shadows and white water turbulence. Although high elevation creeks showcase the hippie stomper, one should not overlook opportunities in larger rivers. A trip to the Arkansas River on 07/30/2019 confirmed that the hippie stomper could produce trout on a larger body of water.

A Batch of Eleven and Materials

My experiences with the hippie stomper during 2019 reinforced the effectiveness of the version with a peacock dubbed body. When I counted my supply of stompers, I learned that I possessed fourteen peacock, five silver, and eight red. I judged the quantity of silver and red to be adequate for another season, but I manned my vice to crank out eleven new peacock versions. I stashed six in my fly boxes to raise the total to twenty, and I gifted five to my son Dan, so he can join the hippie stomper revolution.

Missing Link – 03/06/2019

Missing Link 03/06/2019 Photo Album

Several years ago I was fishing on the Eagle River with my friend Todd, when he showed me a fly that generated a couple landed fish. It looked like a mutated caddis fly with a spent wing and a vertical wing. Todd informed me that the fly was called a missing link. I filed this information away, as a fly to investigate, but I never acted on my intention.

I Like the Swept Back Z-Lon Wings

A recent issue of Fly Fisherman Magazine featured an article by Mike Mercer of The Fly Shop in Redding, CA; and in the article Mike described how he created the missing link, and how it evolved from a spent wing caddis imitation to a potent all around attractor. Mike proclaimed that the missing link produced in a variety of hatch situations including both mayfly and caddis emergences.

Four New Missing Links

I completed my standard production tying of known producers for the upcoming season, and the combination of the two factors above prodded me to find tying instructions for the missing link. Fortunately a YouTube search yielded a video starring Mike Mercer himself, and I followed the steps as presented by the originator of the missing link pattern.

Cool UV Sparkle Abdomen

I created five size 16 missing links, and I was quite pleased with the outcome. These flies look exceptionally buggy, and I understand how the narrow flashy abdomen, spent poly wing, tilted elk hair wing, and parachute hackle create a very versatile dry fly. I personally found the fly a bit difficult to tie as a result of wrapping the parachute hackle around the elk hair wing and the small butt end stubble. Tying off the hackle feather and then finishing the whip finish were a challenge with the amount of material coming together near the eye of the hook. Despite this challenge, I feel that my flies are solid copies of Mercer’s creation, and I am anxious to float them on western streams in the upcoming season.