Deer Hair Caddis – 01/30/2016

Deer Hair Caddis Olive Hares Ear 01/30/2016 Photo Album

Deer Hair Caddis Light Gray 01/30/2016 Photo Album

A size 16 deer hair caddis is one of my workhorse flies. In my previous post I described the experience that led to tying some size 18’s, and this was a deviation from my normal winter tying regimen.

Now that I completed the size 18 project, I refocused on the size 16’s that have faithfully served my needs since my earliest days of fly fishing. Generally I limit my color choices for the body to light gray and dark olive hares ear. I abide by the theory that caddis adults are on the water for a very short amount of time, and the fish recognize only a dark or light body.


Facing Each Other

I counted my stock of each color and determined that I had roughly 25 carry overs of each. In February 2015 I tied a batch of deer hair caddis, but they were all refurbished flies. I concluded that it was time to tie a fresh batch of ten dark olive and ten gray for the upcoming season. By tying them from scratch I assured myself that they would be relatively  consistent.


Ten Size 16 Deer Hair Caddis with Olive Brown Bodies

One of the most desirable developments in the realm of hackled flies is the availability of size 16 saddle hackles. I pulled out two Whiting 100 size 16 grizzly hackles, and these two feathers provided enough material to produce twenty deer hair caddis. As described in the size 18 deer hair caddis post, I tie these small caddis in a very sparse manner. I keep the abdomen relatively narrow; the deer hair wing does not flare more than a quarter inch beyond the hook; and three turns of hackle suffice for the collar. If I want a bushy look for prospecting and fishing frothy water, I opt for one of my stimulators. If I am matching a caddis hatch or prospecting smooth water, I knot a deer hair caddis on my line.


Close Up of Light Gray Caddis

Deer Hair Caddis Size 18 – 01/26/2016

Deer Hair Caddis Size18 01/26/2016 Photo Album

During a fishing outing on the Frying Pan River on September 15, 2015, I encountered some small caddis that provoked sporadic rises. As I did not carry size eighteen caddis imitations in my front pack, I was frustrated in my attempts to dupe the wily inhabitants of the tailwater below Reudi Reservoir. While on the river I resolved to tie some size 18 deer hair caddis during the off season in case I faced a similar situation in the future. Over the last couple weeks I honored my pledge, and I tied twenty-three with various body colors. I also experimented with a tan deer hair wing and a darker gray wing. I recall that the caddis fluttering above the river were tan, but I never caught any so that I could inspect the body color or wing color more closely.


Dark Olive

The deer hair caddis has been a mainstay for me since my earliest days of flyfishing in Pennsylvania. I tie elk hair caddis as well, but I possess a large array of natural deer hair patches that display many colors. I feel that these subtle shades imitate the natural caddis found along the streams. I also prefer a very sparse tie in the smaller sizes such as 16, and for this reason I applied the same style to my size 18 additions. If I want a high riding fluttering appearance, I generally opt for a stimulator, as it features the palmered hackle over the abdomen. When the trout are locked into smaller sizes along the edge of the river, and they reject the fully hackled stimulator, I knot a sparse deer hair caddis to my line, and in many instances it works quite well.


Dark Olive and Mustard

The sparse tie consists of only three materials besides the hook and thread. First I dub a body, and next I tie in a deer hair wing. The last step is to attach a neck hackle of the appropriate size, and then complete with three or four turns and whip finish. The hardest part of this fly is preventing the deer hair wing from rolling around the hook shank To avoid this pitfall, I make sure to have a solid thread base in front of the abdomen. In addition I like to add a dab of head cement to the thread base. Pinch an appropriate sized bundle of deer hair at the tie down point in front of the abdomen, and make one loose wrap followed by a second wrap. Once the second wrap is in place slowly cinch the thread down with strong pressure. Maintain a firm grip on the hair bundle and made two or three tight wraps forward. Do not worry about trapping some stray hairs between these wraps as it only serves to secure the deer hair, and the stray fibers will be removed by an angled cut.


23 of Various Colors

I produced twenty plus size 18 deer hair caddis, and hopefully this will allow me to avoid the situation that frustrated me on September 15 on the Frying Pan River. Spring cannot come soon enough.

Stimulators – 01/25/2016

Red Stimulator 12/27/2015 Photo Album

Olive Stimulator 12/27/2015 Photo Album

Black Peacock Stimulator 12/30/2015 Photo Album

Yellow Stimulator 01/02/2016 Photo Album

Yellow Stimulator Size 14 01/03/2016 Photo Album

Size 16 Stimulators 01/10/2016 Photo Album

During 2014 I experienced several superb outings when stimulators proved to be extremely productive flies. The most memorable was our trip to Idaho, and the stimulator was highly attractive to the cutthroat trout in the small tributary streams of the South Fork of the Snake River.


In 2015 I continued to opt for stimulators with various body colors, and once again they proved to be worthy occupants of my fly box. I seem to recall better results on stimulators in the early summer time period when run off subsided to levels that accommodated dry fly fishing. The large heavily hackled attractors might also excel during the summer and fall, but I probably do not give them the playing time on the end of my line that they deserve.



In preparation for the 2016 season I hunkered down at my vice during the latter part of December and early January and manufactured 20 plus stimulators. My favorite body colors are red, olive, black peacock, yellow, gray and tan. I split my production fairly evenly between size 14 and size 16; however, I tied these buoyant flies on 3XL hooks.


Countertop View

For the size 14 yellow versions I made some modifications in order to match the golden stoneflies that I observed along the Conejos River in July. These bugs approximated the size 14 3XL hook size, but they displayed traces of orange at the tip of the abdomen and in other areas. To mimic this color nuance, I tied a small orange section at the tip of the abdomen and also used orange thread and orange dubbing under the collar hackle. I omitted the palmered hackle over the abdomen on all of these flies, and for half of them I used the Letort hopper technique which translates to no hackle whatsoever. I purposely designed these larger flies to ride relatively low in the surface film. Hopefully I will encounter another golden stonefly egg laying event during the upcoming summer, and these new flies will fool an abundance of trout.


Two Styles and Materials

Green Drake Comparadun Size 12 Standard – 01/18/2016

Green Drake Comparadun Size 12 Standard 01/18/2016 Photo Album

I mentioned in a previous post that I tie four different styles of green drake, so that I am prepared for the various scenarios that western rivers serve me during my many summer adventures. This is not entirely true. The fourth component of my green drake menu is actually the same style of fly as the green drake comparadun described in my previous post. This version, however is smaller, and I build it with a different abdominal dubbing material.


Nice Profile

Several years ago I encountered some healthy green drake hatches on the Frying Pan River late in the season, and I was frustrated to discover that the large comparadun and parachute green drake imitations were ignored by the hungry denizens of the fabled tailwater. I searched through my fly box and chanced upon a smaller green drake comparadun that I tied many years before, and this fly saved my day.

After this experience I did some research online, and I also consulted several of the fly fishing books in my small library. I concluded that there are two hatches of green drakes on the Frying Pan River, and the later emergence is a smaller mayfly that is similar in color. These mayflies are named drunella flavalinea, or flavs for short. On the Frying Pan River they seem to overlap in September and October with a larger species. In my experiences the larger green drake emerges in the early afternoon, and then the flavs become active in the mid-afternoon time frame. Of course overcast skies scramble these timing windows, so a fly fisherman needs to be prepared for anything.


A Finished Batch and Key Materials

Based on my observation, the flavs are smaller and they possess a slightly lighter colored body. For this reason I tie some comparaduns on a size 12 standard length hook, and I dub the body with a dark olive antron yarn that I initially purchased and used for bright green caddis pupa. The color is a nice blend of dark olive, light olive and clear sparkle yarn fibers. On these comparaduns I abandon the maroon thread, as I do not notice the distinct dark segmentation that highlights the larger western green drake.


Up Close

I tied an additional ten of these smaller versions of the western green drake for the upcoming season. Hopefully I will once again encounter some dense western green drake hatches on the Frying Pan River or other western streams. These smaller imitations also produce decent results on South Boulder Creek in August and September.

Green Drake Comparadun – 01/11/2016

Green Drake Comparadun 01/11/2016 Photo Album

The third style of green drake that generates success for me in western streams during hatches is the comparadun. I tie these in size 12 and 14. Historically I used moose mane for the tail of these large comparaduns, but during my tying sessions last winter and this year, I modified my method to use dark olive microfibbets. A size 12 fly is difficult to support on the surface of the water, and I discovered that the stiff microfibbets serve as supporting outriggers for the fly if split at a wide angle. I use six fibers and split them so that they each protrude at a 45 degree angle from opposite sides of the hook shank.


Size 12 Green Drake Comparadun

I was not satisfied with my method of splitting microfibbet tails, so I searched online and found a method that solved my problem. When I attach the thread to the hook, I allow the tag end to remain and trail from the hook bend behind the thread ball that I create. When I tie the microfibbets to the top of the hook shank behind the wing, I wrap backward until I am a couple hook eye widths from the thread ball. At this point I pull the trailing thread forward and split the tail fibers evenly and then stretch it against the near side of the hook shank and lock it down. This causes the near side fibers to splay nicely. As I wrap back to the thread ball I use my left hand to position the far side fibers on the proper plain, and when I reach the base of the thread ball, I am careful to make sure that the tail fibers on both sides split and remain even. This method creates beautiful split tails that I believe will dramatically improve the flotation of these large comparadun dry flies.

Another personal touch that I favor is using thick maroon sewing thread to form a rib on the abdomen. I love the segmented body that this technique generates. For the deer hair wing I select relatively dark deer hair, and I spread it to the sides as much as possible to help support the fly in an upright position, although I sometimes feel that the versions that fall on their side are equally if not more effective as cripple imitations.


Five Completed Size 12

During 2015 I did not encounter as many green drake hatches as I did in previous years, so I did not have the opportunity to test the ribbed mircofibbet tail comparaduns extensively. Hopefully this will not be the case in 2016.



Parachute Green Drake – 01/10/2016

Parachute Green Drake 01/10/2016 Photo Album

Over the years I discovered that it takes a variety of green drake imitations to successfully dupe trout in Colorado during hatches of these large western mayflies. Once I finished tying five Harrop hair wing green drakes, I progressed to producing my other green drake favorites. Next on the checklist were parachute green drakes. These flies have proven themselves repeatedly, although there are times when trout prefer the bristly Harrop version or the slimmer comparadun style. The parachutes represent a critical component of my green drake arsenal, so I approached my vice and produced five size 14 imitations.


Angled View

During 2015 my best green drake action occurred on the Conejos River on July 22. During this encounter the Harrop style fly excelled during the morning time period when I used it as the point fly on a dry/dropper configuration as I prospected likely holding locations. However, once the actual hatch commenced, the parachute green drake became the favored offering that fooled surface feeding trout.

I experienced a second encounter with western green drakes on South Boulder Creek on August 26, 2015, and on this occasion the parachute style flies performed quite well until I depleted my supply. These examples reinforced my confidence in the parachute green drake and motivated me to replenish my supply for 2016.


All the Materials Needed

I adopted a new method of tying off the parachute hackle during my recent tying sessions, and this modification yielded a significant improvement in the appearance of these valuable flies. I reviewed a YouTube video that demonstrated how to tie the hackle off against the wing post, and I applied this technique to the five flies that I produced. This method yields very nice flies with a symmetrical hackle image. I am not sure this will make a huge difference to the fish, but the flies are much more pleasing to a fisherman.


Symmetrical Hackle

Hopefully 2016 will produce some fast paced green drake activity, and my array of green drake offerings will satisfy the discerning inspection of hungry cold water trout.



Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake – 12/29/2015

This story begins in 2011 when I made a three day trip to the Conejos River. I chose this destination since the northern portion of Colorado was locked in an exceptionally long snow melt that year. After an afternoon on the lower river near Aspen Glade Campground with minimal success, I paid a visit to the Conejos River Angler fly shop and asked for advice. The store salesperson directed me to the upper river below Platoro, and as is my custom, I purchased some flies in exchange for information.

Harrop Hair Wing Green Drake 12/29/2015 Photo Album

The salesperson suggested some flies, and his guidance included salvation nymphs and green drake dry flies. The dry flies were the bushiest imitations I ever saw, and in fact they struck me as olive bodied stimulators, but they produced some very nice fish that day and the next day on the upper Conejos River. I deployed these green drakes on numerous occasions subsequent to the purchase, and they seemed to perform best during the initial stages of green drake emergence periods.

During July of 2015 I made a return visit to the Conejos River and camped at Lake Fork Campground in close proximity to the upper stretch where I experienced stellar success in 2011. Once again I knotted the heavily hackled green drake to my line and enjoyed splendid results during the late morning hours on two successive days of intense fishing. Of course extended usage of a fly exposes it to loss, and I depleted my supply of bushy green drakes to two bedraggled versions in my front pack.


I resolved to tie some more, but I did not know what they were named. Fortunately our modern state of life offers a tool for such a dilemma, and it is called the internet. I typed hair wing green drake in my browser, and I was pleasantly surprised to observe results that included Harrop’s hair wing dry fly. I scanned the images on the screen and rejoiced when I spotted a green drake that matched the two remaining flies in my possession. I continued my search and found tying instructions for Harrop’s hair wing green drake and printed them.


I am pleased to report that the step by step instructions were superb, and I cranked out five size 12 Harrop hair wing green drakes. My versions appear to be slightly more sparse than the purchased varieties as they possess a narrower abdomen, but my intuition says they will be productive additions to my fly box. The newly completed flies are slotted in my boat box, and they taunt me every time I spot them. I can hear the siren call saying, “You have seven months to wait before I can torment large trout and entice smashing top water takes.” That may be true, but at least I no longer worry about depleting my supply of these amazing fish magnets.


Light Gray Comparadun – 12/27/2015

Light Gray Comparadun 12/27/2015 Photo Album

Up until several years ago the light gray comparadun was my preferred fly for matching the pale morning dun hatches that are prevalent in the western United States. I was always perplexed by the effectiveness of this fly since it possessed a light gray body yet most of the specimens I collected displayed light yellow and even cinnamon bodies. Despite this misgiving, who was I to argue with fishing success? I hypothesized that the light gray poly dubbing contained strands of yellow fibers, and this explained the positive feeding habits of targeted trout during a PMD hatch.

The light gray comparadun was so effective on the Colorado River near Parshall, CO that I encouraged my friend Jeff Shafer to tie some prior to a trip to Colorado. He asked me to take a photo, and I used the margin of a page of the Wall Street Journal as the background. We both felt that using a newspaper that documented financial results was suitable given the effectiveness of the light gray comparadun, and we jokingly nicknamed the fly the money fly.


Unfortunately change is a constant in fly fishing, and I began to encounter situations where the money fly failed to entice feeding trout during pale morning dun hatches. Exhibit A for this circumstance was the Frying Pan River where I endured several outings when the light gray comparadun left me in a disillusioned state relative to my dependable comparadun. Fortunately during a September trip in 2013 I stumbled across the cinnamon comparadun as a more effective imitation for the feeding inhabitants of the Frying Pan. In addition to body color, I also downsized my flies to size 18 instead of the previously favored size 16.


My conversion to size 18 cinnamon comparaduns has not caused me to totally abandon the light gray comparadun. I continue to find scenarios where the light gray money fly performs at a high level. I can only theorize that different river systems harbor pale morning duns with different shades of PMD body color.


I reviewed the status of my light gray comparadun inventory and decided to tie an additional ten in size 18. These have been completed and added to my fly storage container. These flies should enable me to test whether size of fly or color explain the change is success from the light gray to cinnamon comparadun. Stay tuned.

CDC BWO – 12/24/2015

CDC BWO 12/24/215 Photo Album

I do not have much to add regarding the CDC blue winged olive that I did not previously convey on my 03/11/2014 CDC BWO post. This tiny fly continues to be a must have for my fly box throughout the season.

On November 23 I visited the Arkansas River tailwater in Pueblo for the first time, and I was lucky to experience a fairly dense blue winged olive hatch during the afternoon despite a clear blue sky. My size 22 CDC BWO produced three fish during the early stages of the emergence; however, it was largely ignored during the peak activity. I was in a prime position next to a long pool where at least twenty fish fed aggressively on tiny blue dun mayflies, and yet aside from a few temporary hook ups, I failed to land any fish.


Size 24

Near the tail end of the lesson in frustration I seined the water and inspected the specimens that appeared in my net. I estimated that the mayflies were a size 24, and this probably explained my lack of success. I vowed to tie some size 24 CDC BWO’s, and I fulfilled that pledge during the first couple weeks of December. I tied ten minuscule blue winged olives, and then because I was not satisfied with the look of my carryover size 22’s, I manufactured ten more.


CDC, Microfibbets and Size 24 BWO's

Despite its small size this fly is fairly easy to tie as it only involves three materials. The most challenging step is sizing the clump of CDC that is used to form the upright wing. I discovered through experience that an optimal amount of feather is necessary. If I make the wing too sparse, it mats readily and does not present a viable wing imitation. In addition once it gets wet it is very difficult to fluff back to the desired thickness. If the clump is too thick, the fly does not present an accurate silhouette, and the fish ignore it. In order to counter these difficulties, I strip CDC fibers from a feather and roll them into a clump. I gauge the thickness for proper bulk by focusing on the area just above my pinch because this section does not contain air spaces and more accurately portrays how the wing will appear once tied to the hook shank.


Macro of Size 22's

Cinnamon Comparadun – 12/23/2015

Cinnamon Comparadun 12/23/2015 Photo Album

Up until several years ago, I relied primarily on size 16 light gray comparaduns to match the pale morning dun hatches in Colorado. During a trip to the Frying Pan River in September 2013 I encountered a heavy pale morning dun hatch, and the light gray size 16 comparadun was soundly rejected by the educated fish in the upper tailwater. Fortunately I searched through my excessive number of fly boxes and discovered some old size 18 comparaduns that I tied for the Dolores River. I blended light olive and maroon dubbing by hand, and these flies not only saved my day, but they produced spectacular results.

Of course this experience prompted me to produce some newer versions, and I purchased a bag of Hareline cinnamon dubbing for this purpose. In the two years since the Frying Pan River success story I tested the cinnamon comparadun on the Eagle River and Yampa River along with the Frying Pan River, and it delivered solid results in these additional settings. These encounters with positive results using the cinnamon comparaduns convinced me to tie additional numbers for 2016. I consumed quite a few of my size 18 imitations, so I began by producing fifteen of these and then added five size 16’s.



The two keys to tying effective comparaduns are split tails and a deer hair wing that is upright or even angled backward a bit. I was not completely satisfied with my ability to split the tails. My standard practice was to make a small ball of thread at the end of the hook shank, and then I attached the microfibbet tail fibers individually at an angle on top of the hook shank. Next I wrapped backward to splay the fibers against the thread ball. This worked reasonably well most of the time, but occasionally the near fibers rolled up, and the split tail fibers were not on the same plain.


Finished Batch of Cinnamon Comparaduns

I performed a search on split tail fibers and uncovered a tip on a fly tying forum. I adopted this technique for the comparaduns that I tied for 2016, and I am quite pleased with the outcome. When I attach my thread to the hook shank, I wrap back to the end of the hook, and then I hold the tag end of the thread angled upward at a sixty degree angle while I create a ball using figure eight wraps against the taut thread. I do not clip off the tag end of the thread, but instead allow it to dangle from the end of the hook. After I move forward and build the wing, I return to the middle of the abdominal area and attach the desired number of microfibbet fibers to the top of the hook. Once the fibers are adjusted to the proper tail length, I wrap back until I am approximately two or three eye widths from the thread ball. At this point I pull the tag end of the thread forward and evenly split the tail fibers and then angle it down along the side of the hook shank. This causes the near side fibers to splay, and I then lock them by placing some wraps around the tag end thread before I snip it off. I then carefully wrap backward while holding the far side fibers so that they splay against the thread ball and remain in the same plain as the near side microfibbets.


Macro with iPhone

The other trick to creating attractive comparaduns is to leave a gap behind the wing as you wrap the dubbing forward. After you complete the abdomen, allocate a gap and place some tight dubbed thread wraps against the front of the wing while using your left hand to push the wing backward. This causes the wing to angle backward into the gap. After the wing is cocked properly, make some loose dubbing wraps behind the wing to cover any thin spots under the wing.

There you have it. Use my suggestions to create attractive and effective comparaduns of various colors, catch a lot of fish during hatches, and save a bunch of money by not buying expensive dry fly hackle feathers.