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.

CDC Trico – 02/27/2019

CDC Trico 02/27/2019 Photo Album

In my previous post on the FP Merger, I described a fly, that I created to solve a challenging situation, that I encountered on the Frying Pan River in early May of 2018. Only time will tell if the FP Merger imitates the tiny emerging midges savored by Frying Pan River trout.

On 09/06/2018 I endured a similarly frustrating day on the South Platte River. For a two and one half hour period beginning at 11:00AM an abundant quantity of hungry and large trout gorged on a dense trico spinner fall. At the end of this aquatic feast I could only report two landed fish. I was grateful for the presence of massive quantities of tasty delicacies, but I was also frustrated by my inability to hook and land more fish. I pledged to address the situation during my winter fly tying activities.

Overhead Look

In February the time arrived to solve the trico spinner puzzle that frustrated me on the South Platte River in early September. The natural tricos that I observed were very tiny; I estimated that they were equivalent to a size 24 hook, and they possessed extremely slender bodies.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 100 size 24
Thread 1Black 6/0
TailTwo dun microfibbets
AbdomenBlack 6/0
WingsGray CDC feather
ThoraxSuperfine black dubbing on 8/0 black thread

I clamped a size 24 Tiemco 100 hook in the vice and wrapped a thread base of black 6/0 from behind the eye to the bend. At the bend I split two very fine dun microfibbets, and then I wrapped a slender tapered abdomen, until I reached a point one-third of the shank length behind the hook eye. I knotted the 6/0 black thread and attached a spool of 8/0 thread at the forward end of the abdomen. I switched thread to minimize bulk on the minute size 24 fly. Next I stripped ten CDC fibers from a gray wing and rolled them in a bundle and attached them to the top of the front one-third of the hook. I executed a series of figure eight wraps that forced the CDC to align perpendicular to the hook shank, and then I dubbed super fine black dubbing in the thorax area. I completed a three wrap whip finish and snipped the thread. The 8/0 thread was necessary to minimize the bulk created when adding the figure eight wraps, dubbing and whip finish. For my final step I pinched the CDC below the shank and forced the fibers upward and cut them so they were equal in length to the abdomen.

Dun Microfibbets, CDC Feather and Black Thread

I am very pleased with the outcome of this effort. The flies are very dainty, and I am convinced they will present an accurate profile of the naturals that I observed in September 2018. The CDC wing will aid floatation, until they are gobbled by a ravenous trout. Drying and fluffing the CDC after it becomes saturated will be a future challenge, but I have managed it previously with my CDC BWO imitations. The CDC trico will be very difficult to track, but I can always resort to the double dry ploy with a larger visible dry fly in front of the small trico.

Ten Tricos

Trico hatches do not generally develop until late July, so I have five or six months to wait, before I can test the ten CDC tricos that arrived from my vise in February. As always I am overly anxious to test my new flies in a real world application.

FP Merger – 02/26/2019

FP Merger 02/26/2019 Photo Album

Before reading this narrative on a new fly I developed, I encourage you to follow this link, Frying Pan River 05/10/2018, and check out the photos of the naturals, that I seined from the river on that date. If you take the time to read the report, you will learn that I experienced a relatively frustrating day on May 10, 2018. At the time I made a mental note to revisit this day during fly tying season, and the FP merger is the product of that commitment. A massive quantity of trout rose over a four hour period within the twenty by twenty yard area that I occupied, and I was largely thwarted in my efforts to take advantage of the dense midge hatch. Ultimately I concluded that my greatest problem was the lack of tiny size 24 flies.

Dense Midge Hatch Lingered for Four Hours

Before tying the FP merger I retrieved images of the mass of natural biomass, that I captured, when I seined the river. The net included translucent tan-gray husks and midges in the process of emerging from the pupal case. The emergers displayed a medium to dark gray body and a dark, almost black head. In case I visited the Frying Pan River at the same time of year again in the future, I sat down at my vise and designed a fly, that I hope replaces frustration with joy.

Size was the most important factor to me, so I began with a size 24 Tiemco 100 dry fly hook. I started medium gray 6/0 thread near the eye of the hook and covered the shank to the bend. I returned to a point 1/3 of the shank length from the hook eye and built up a very slender tapered body. The naturals possessed extremely narrow bodies, and I opted for thread only to minimize bulk. Next I stripped a clump of fibers from a gray CDC feather, and I tied these in at the 1/3 point behind the hook eye. I estimate that I used ten fibers for each wing. I wanted enough bulk to make it visible, but I did not want it to flare out so as to represent an open fluttering wing. An emerging wing was the ideal image that I sought.

Size 24

At this point I knotted the gray 6/0 thread, cut it off and replaced it with 8/0 black thread. I did this to minimize the bulk around the small head space on a size 24 hook. I retrieved some black ostrich herl from my supplies and stripped one four inch strand from the stem. I tied the black herl in front of the CDC wing and made two wraps and then tied it off and did a three wrap whip finish. As a last step I made an angle cut of the CDC wing, so that it was just short of the hook bend.

A Batch of Seven and Associated Materials

I am very pleased with the product of my design. I suspect size is the most important factor, and therefore the slender size 24 will match the size. Shape and silhouette are probably the next consideration, and I feel that the narrow body, small wing tuft and black ostrich herl head are representative of the real bugs. Color is the third factor, and gray and black are a solid choice that represent many natural insects. I am sure that I could browse through catalogs and search on line and find the same fly designed previously by someone else, but it was fun to attack the problem with my personal thought process. The fly will be next to impossible to track, but I can always use the ploy of a six to twelve inch dropper behind a more visible front fly.

The trout of the Frying Pan River are probably in defense mode already with the creation of this tiny fly. I hope to visit the tailwater in early May in 2019.

Deer Hair Caddis – 02/24/2019

Deer Hair Caddis 02/24/2019 Photo Album

Caddis represent one of the most prevalent aquatic insects throughout North America and in all likelihood, the world. I never visit a stream without an adequate supply of deer hair caddis. I stock size 14, 16 and 18; and I focus my body colors on olive-brown, light gray, tan, and pale yellow. This array of caddis seems to cover nearly all the situations, that I encounter on the streams, that I visit. For a material table and additional commentary on the deer hair caddis visit my post of 11/28/2011.

I tie the deer hair caddis in a very sparse manner, and this style served me well over the years. I recall several situations, where I caught fish, while a nearby fisherman experienced less success; and when we compared flies, the other angler displayed a much bushier version of the caddis. I do rely heavily on stimulators in size 12 and 14, and these flies form a much fuller image to feeding trout.

Side View

I collected all my deer hair caddis from my various sources and determined that adequate quantities remained from previous tying efforts. I found three size 16’s that were lacking a full wing, and I partially deconstructed them to add a fresh deer hair wing and hackle. One possessed a light gray body, and two carried an olive-brown body. A full wing is critical, as it greatly improves the visibility of this earth-toned fly.

Two Dark Olive and One Light Gray

The deer hair caddis is obviously a useful pattern for blizzard caddis hatches, but I also prospect with them in situations when the trout exhibit an elevated level of selectivity as evidenced by numerous refusals. Caddis season cannot arrive soon enough in 2019.


Klinkhammer Blue Winged Olive – 02/22/2019

Klinkhammer Blue Winged Olive 02/22/2019 Photo Album

Last winter I tied my first batch of Klinkhammer BWO’s. My post of 01/09/2018 provides background information on my motivation for adding this small fly to my inventory. It also presents a materials table that includes all the required ingredients to create this effective fly.

Four Completed Klinkhammers

The Klinkhammer blue winged olive was added to my fly box in response to several outings, when my old reliable CDC blue winged olive failed to interest trout during a baetis hatch. Most of these instances coincided with windy conditions, and I surmised that the trout selectively locked into emergers just below the surface. I speculated that the dangling abdomen of the Klinkhammer on a curved scud hook might be the solution to this perplexing situation.

A Nice Example

During the 2018 season I encountered several situations, when the CDC version was ineffective, and I resorted to my new weapon; the Klinkhammer BWO. I am pleased to report that the alternative fly was successful, and the best example occurred during a visit to the South Platte River in early April. My 04/05/2018 post describes this experience in detail.

CDC Feather Included

Given the sporadic success of the Klinkhammer I decided to increase my supply for the upcoming 2019 season. I surveyed my fly boxes and counted eight remaining from my tying efforts during the previous winter. I refurbished two that contained an unraveling parachute hackle and then added two new models to increase my beginning supply to twelve. Hopefully the Klinkhammer will justify its presence in my fly box during 2019.

CDC Blue Winged Olive – 02/21/2019

CDC Blue Winged Olive 02/21/2019 Photo Album

I would hate to wade into a stream in Colorado during the spring or fall without a sufficient supply of small blue winged olive imitations. Furthermore, the track record of the CDC blue winged olive is superior to that of all the other flies, that I deploy during baetis hatches. My post of 03/11/2014 provides an excellent description of my history with the CDC BWO as well as an explanation of the pluses and minuses of this diminutive fly.

Tiny Size 24 CDC BWO

During recent years I encountered several situations where the CDC olive disappointed me. Most of these scenarios involved wind, and I theorized that the adults were swept off the surface before the fish could react. Since trout always seek the least amount of energy expenditure for their meals, they seemed to tune into emergers just below the surface. I adjusted to this scenario by tying the Klinkhammer BWO and the soft hackle emerger, and these alternatives provided improved success during windy conditions.

Despite these occasional hiccups I continue to rely on the CDC blue winged olive as my favorite baetis imitation. When I spot tiny mayflies on the surface of the stream during blue winged olive seasons, the CDC BWO is always my first option.

Close Up

Since I view CDC BWO’s as a key element of my fly box for duping trout during blue winged olive hatches, I performed my customary count, and I determined that I stocked adequate quantities of size 22 and 24. I sorted through my damaged fly canisters and uncovered a batch of various tiny flies. Many of these flies were midge larva in previous lives, so I stripped them down and converted them into CDC BWO’s. Two were comparable to size 22 and three approximated size 24. A blue winged olive hatch is certainly in my future, and I feel adequately prepared.

Light Gray Comparadun – 02/20/2019

Light Gray Comparadun 02/20/2019 Photo Album

I encourage the followers of this blog to check out my post, Comparaduns – 02/21/2014, for an interesting description of my introduction to comparaduns and some excellent pointers on how to tie an attractive mayfly imitation without hackle. The comparadun style continues to excel during mayfly hatches in the west.

A Pair of 16’s

Comparaduns effectively imitate pale morning duns, western green drakes, and blue winged olives in the west along with a myriad of mayfly hatches in the east. I fish primarily in the west, so my focus is on the big three listed at the beginning of the above sentence. For small blue winged olives I substitute CDC for deer hair for the wing, as it compresses more and does not contribute the bulk that accompanies deer hair.

Zoomed on Three

As is my custom, I counted my supplies of light gray comparaduns in sizes 18 through 14, and I determined that I possessed adequate quantities of each. Having assured myself of the necessary inventory of light gray, I sorted through my damaged fly canisters, and I found three in need of rehabilitation. All of them were missing tails, so I stripped them and tied three new models. Rarely does a season pass when I do not deploy light gray comparaduns, and they typically yield favorable results. I expect 2019 to be no different.

Cinnamon Comparadun – 02/18/2019

Cinnamon Comparadun 02/18/2019 Photo Album

I have very little to add to the subject of cinnamon comparaduns, that I did not already communicate in my posts of 02/01/2015 and 12/23/2015. I particularly like the 12/23/2015 post, as it offers several detailed fly tying tips that enable a fly tier to produce very attractive comparadun dry flies. I continue to favor comparaduns as my “go to” mayfly imitation, as they ride low in the film and produce a very lifelike delicate silhouette that consistently fools trout. A side benefit is the avoidance of buying expensive dry fly hackles. The 02/01/2015 is interesting as well, as it narrates the story of my introduction to the cinnamon comparadun as a pale morning dun imitation.

Fresh One

For some reason my stream interaction with pale morning duns was limited during 2018. The snowpack in Colorado was abnormally low, and consequently I visited freestone streams three weeks earlier than is typically the case, as I sought the edge fishing phenomenon. Although the water levels dropped early, I suspect the timing of mayfly emergences did not advance to the same degree. Normally pale morning duns hatch on the Yampa and Eagle Rivers in concert with elevated but manageable flows. 2018 convinced me that much of the success I previously attributed to edge fishing to concentrations of trout was in fact equally derived from dependable hatches of pale morning duns, golden stoneflies, caddis and yellow sallies.

A Batch of Six Size 16

Because I failed to intersect with dense pale morning dun hatches, I did not deplete my supply of size 18 and 16 cinnamon comparaduns. I determined that I was well stocked with size 18 imitations but was a bit light in size 16’s. I used February as an opportunity to twist six new size 16 comparaduns and refurbished one size 18. During 2019 I will remain ever alert for the sight of delicate pale morning duns, as they float skyward in their adult state. Cinnamon comparaduns will be my first choice should such an occurrence transpire.

Parachute Green Drake – 02/02/2019

Parachute Green Drake 02/02/2019 Photo Album

Although I remain very optimistic that the user friendly green drake will prove to be a successful fly during western green drake hatches, I decided to cover my bases by reviewing my inventory of the other green drake flies that delivered outstanding results during previous years. At the top of this list is the parachute green drake. I first began tying this fly in 2012 after some frustrating encounters with green drake hatches on the Frying Pan River. My post of 09/11/2012 provides a materials table and some brief notes regarding my introduction to this parachute style dry fly.

Should Be Very Visible

I typically stock three styles of green drake adults in my fly box, and the user friendly will increment that count to four. A size 14 parachute green drake is my most consistent producer, and I usually default to this balanced low floating version first. The comparadun and Harrop hair wing have their moments, but the paradrake seems to fool fish in a wider range of circumstances.

Four Completed

I love the white wing post on the parachute green drake, as it enables much better visibility than can be obtained from the olive earth-toned deer hair wings of the comparadun and Harrop versions. Floating a large size 14 fly with no hackle, as is the case with the comparadun, is also very challenging.

Since I began constructing parachute green drakes in 2012, I adopted two significant modifications that improved the appearance. Several years ago I viewed a technique on YouTube that demonstrated tying off the hackle against the wing post as well as whip finishing the fly at the same point. I applied this method to my parachute flies, and I was extremely pleased with the results. Trapped hackle fibers and gaps in the concentric wraps became a problem of the past.

Looking Good

I implemented my second improvement this winter, and once again I feel certain that it will be a permanent change. I substituted white turkey flat feathers for white calf body hair as the wing post. I read about this wing variation for parachute flies in A.K.’s Fly Box by A.K. Best. The turkey flat feather is not as dense as the calf body hair, and consequently it is easier to work with. The feather option is easier to stand up, provides less bulk at the front of the fly, and serves as a solid base for wrapping the parachute hackle.

Finished Parachute Green Drake Production

When I counted my green drakes, I determined that I maintained adequate supplies of all size 12’s as well as the comparaduns and Harrop hair wings in size 14. However, my quantities of size 14 parachutes shrank below the reorder point, so I produced seven additional versions. Green drake hatches cannot arrive soon enough.

User Friendly Green Drake – 01/31/2019

User Friendly Green Drake 01/31/2019 Photo Album

I must disclose at the outset, that this post describes a fly that has yet to be field tested in Colorado by this fly fisherman. If you follow this blog, you know that I am a huge fan of fly designer Andrew Grillos. He was the creator of the pool toy hopper and hippy stomper, and those two flies evolved into two of my top producers. Andrew has mastered the creative use of foam in many of his designs.

Helicopter View

I recently began following @andrew_grillos_flyfishing on Instagram, and he posted a photo of a User Friendly. Andrew is a fly designer for Umpqua Feather Merchants, and he obviously was attempting to generate interest in his new fly with the hope of influencing sales. I immediately exchanged some comments with Andrew, and he directed me to a recent column by Charlie Craven in Fly Fisherman Magazine. Since I am a subscriber, I searched through my pile of unread magazines and found the article that Andrew referred to.

Five New User Friendly GD’s

I anxiously scanned the tying steps and accompanying photos, and my immediate thoughts migrated to the applicability of the user friendly to the western green drake. Up until now I stocked my fly boxes with three versions of the large western mayfly; a parachute green drake, a green drake comparadun, and a Harrop hair wing green drake. Each produced fish in certain situations, but none were consistent trout attractors. To varying degrees they absorbed water, and maintaining a solid surface float with a large waterlogged fly was a problem. Floatation was a particularly significant problem with the comparadun version due to its lack of hackle and relatively large size. I worked through this shortcoming with frequent dabbing and trips to the dry shake canister, but these minutes subtracted from time on the water. As the old proverb suggests, you cannot catch fish if your fly is not on the water.


The feature of the user friendly that caught my attention was incorporating razor foam into the body construction. I was a bit concerned about scaling this feature down to size 16 and smaller flies, but the concept seemed well suited to a size 14 fly on a 3XL hook. I reached a point in my production tying when green drakes were at the top of the list, and I was very excited to experiment with the user friendly, so I took the plunge.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 200R Size 14
ThreadDark olive 6/0
TailSix brown microfibbets
RibMaroon sewing thread
Overbody/Thorax UnderbodyGreen razor foam
AbdomenPale olive dubbing (Ligas No. 21)
WingPoly yarn or McFlylon
LegsSmall sillilegs
HackleOlive grizzly
ThoraxIce dubbing

The tying instructions outlined by Charlie Craven utilized a material list that produced a purple user friendly, so my first step was to select substitutes required to replicate a green drake. I decided to adhere to my standard brown microfibbet tails, pale olive dubbed abdomen with a maroon thread rib, and a hackle of dark olive grizzly hackle. For the differing features of the user friendly I adopted dark green razor foam, small barred olive and black sillilegs, and tan ice dub. The ice dub was applied at the the thorax of the fly to provide a touch of flash. If I had an olive ice dub, I would have chosen that, but I recently challenged myself to use the vast quantity of materials that already consume space in my storage cabinets rather than purchase more.

My single biggest remaining decision revolved around the wing. Craven’s pattern required a gray poly wing, but I desired something darker for my green drake. I extracted some white Mcflylon and green poly yarn from my storage bag. I never settled on a preferred wing material and ended up tying five of each color.

A Group with Green Poly Wings

Needless to say I am very pleased with the outcome of the user friendly tying experiment. The final verdict is in the hands of the trout; however, I feel very confident that these green drakes will dupe western fish during  green drake hatches. The splayed tails and V-cut hackle should cause the fly to land upright every cast, and incorporating the narrow razor foam strip into the body and thorax should greatly improve the buoyancy of this green drake model. Initially for the white Mcflylon wings I colored the base with a black permanent marker and left the tips white for visibility. I think this wing closely mimics the dark gray of natural green drakes. I must admit, however, that the green poly wings were also very consistent with the overall olive appearance of western green drakes. In reality I suspect that both will be effective, as I am not convinced that trout obtain a clear view of the color of the wing, since it is above the water. Their trigger is most likely the silhouette of a large wing protruding out of the back of the fly.

These ten user friendly green drakes will join my already diverse and abundant supply of western green drake imitations. Hopefully this fly will evolve into a regular occupant of my line during green drake hatches and not a platoon player, but its role will be defined by the hatches that I encounter in the upcoming season.