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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Yellow Sally – 02/02/2016

Yellow Sally 02/02/2016 Photo Album

The yellow sally is a small stonefly that is fairly abundant on Colorado rivers and streams. Yellow sallies overlap with pale morning duns, green drakes and caddis on many freestone rivers; and the aforementioned insects tend to hatch in denser quantities. For this reason I opt for mayfly and caddis imitations more frequently than yellow sallies. It does seem, however, that the yellow sally hatch endures longer into the hot days of August, and it is during these times that I knot a small yellow down wing fly to  my line.

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I have experimented with various versions of yellow sally imitations including A.K. Best’s design with a yellow quill body and a yellow hackle tip wing. A couple winters ago I also whipped out some prototypes without hackle that utilized snowshoe rabbit foot hair as an under wing. None of these deviations seemed to outperform the basic style that mimics the deer hair caddis in a yellow color, so I decided to produce more of the old reliable.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”16 Yellow Sallies and Materials” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0455.JPG” ]

During late January I positioned myself at the vice and cranked out sixteen additional yellow sallies. Eight were size 16 and an additional eight were size 14. For four of the size 14 versions I used green thread and began the abdomen with a small amount of bright green dubbing. I have seen some larger yellow sallies with a light green hue in the late July time frame, so the size 14’s are intended to cover the likelihood of encountering light green sallies in the future.

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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.

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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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Ten Size 16 Deer Hair Caddis with Olive Brown Bodies” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0308.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Close Up of Light Gray Caddis” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0317.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Dark Olive” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0299.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Dark Olive and Mustard” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0301.JPG” ]

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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”23 of Various Colors” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0302.JPG” ]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Two Styles and Materials” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0252.JPG” ]