20 Incher – 11/22/2019

20 Incher 11/22/2019 Photo Album

Ever since a guided fly fishing trip with Royal Gorge Anglers on the Arkansas River I carried a supply of 20 inchers in my fly fleece wallet. During 2019, however, I knotted one to my line more frequently than during previous seasons, and I was pleased with the results. Increased usage, however, also depleted my supply more than usual, so I approached my vise and produced an additional quantity of ten to increase my inventory to twenty-five.

Fine 20 Incher

If my readers are interested in tying this large attractor stonefly imitation, please refer to my post of 01/06/2019. This blog entry from earlier in 2019 displays a materials list, and several YouTube videos do a nice job of teaching the fly tying steps. During several recent fall outings I positioned the 20 incher as the top nymph on dry/dropper and deep nymphing systems with the intent of obtaining a deeper drift, and the ploy seemed to pay dividends. I was particularly impressed with the 20 incher’s effectiveness on South Boulder Creek on 10/26/2019.

Close Look at a Clump

I seem to gravitate to this large weighted fly in the early and late season, but I hope to give it more time on my line during the summer time frame. A large dark drifting stonefly assuredly represents a significant bite of protein, that trout cannot ignore, and stoneflies get knocked loose during all seasons of the year. I love the appearance of this fly, and the application of epoxy on the wing case really makes this fly stand out. The 2020 pre-runoff season cannot come soon enough.

10 New 20 Inchers

Ultra Zug Bug – 11/21/2019

Ultra Zug Bug 11/21/2019 Photo Album

In all likelihood my third most productive fly over the last five years has been the ultra zug bug. I first stumbled on this fly in a book by Scott Sanchez, and it stood the test of time to become a proven winner from my fly box. If you are interested in the materials list or tying steps, go to my post of 12/15/2018, and there you will find links to the two items mentioned previously. A third link takes you to a post, where I describe how the ultra zug bug became an important component of my fish catching arsenal.

Ready for Actioin

During the 2019 season the simple yet effective UZB continued to earn its space in my fly wallet. It seems to be particularly effective in the spring time frame, and that coincides with pupating and egg laying caddis; however, I do not ignore it throughout the summer and fall. For a simple tie it offers quite a bit of flash through the crystal flash ribbing and the iridescent Ligas peacock dubbing. I suspect ice dubbing would be a solid substitute for the Ligas peacock dubbing, but I am a creature of habit, who abides by the motto of don’t mess with success.

Up Close

A quick count of my supply revealed a total of forty-four, so I spun out sixteen additional copies to increment my inventory to sixty for the 2020 season. I am certain to catch a fair number of trout on the ultra zug bug in the coming year.

A Batch of 16

Hares Ear Nymph – 11/02/2019

Hares Ear Nymph 11/02/2019 Photo Album

The beadhead hares ear nymph rocks. Year after year it is my most consistent producer throughout all the seasons of the year. What does it imitate? I suspect a reason for its universal effectiveness is its ability to represent numerous underwater life forms. Surely the coarse fur and earthy color cause it to be mistaken for a caddis pupa. Numerous mayfly species carry a gray-brown color and the general shape of a hares ear nymph. A guide also informed me that the hares ear nymph is a reasonable representation of the nymph of a yellow sally stonefly. Dare I suggest that it also serves as a copy of a cranefly nymph? Given this versatility it is no surprise that a beadhead hares ear nymph is my most productive fly.

A Later Model

My post of 11/05/2010 provides a materials chart and describes a few of the alterations that I applied to the standard pattern. I tie them on a scud hook to give the body a slight curled appearance. I substituted Tyvek strips for turkey quill for the wing case. This synthetic addition is nearly indestructible, and many sources are available such as Fedex mailing envelopes. I use race bib numbers and color them with a black magic marker. A standard hares ear specifies a gold tinsel rib, but I utilize fine gold wire. Of course the gold bead is a modification of the original pattern, but I cannot conceive of a hares ear nymph without a bead. I now apply head cement at two intermediate steps before coating the whip finish wraps behind the bead. The first dab goes on the rear of the abdomen, after I add the tail and fine gold wire. A second application is soaked into the wraps after the abdomen is completed and the wing case is tied in.

Macro of the Materials

In my estimation an absolute necessity for an effective hares ear nymph is natural hares mask dubbing. I use the real stuff, and I try make sure that the guard hairs are incorporated into each fly. For the abdomen I make a dubbing loop and insert a blend of the natural fur and guard hairs, and this method yields an extremely buggy appearance with stray guard hairs pointing in random directions. I use the same dubbing for the thorax but without a dubbing loop, but again I make sure to roll some guard hairs into the noodle to create additional buggyness. I tie 100% of my beadhead hares ear nymphs on a size 14 scud hook. The space consumed by the bead creates a body length roughly equivalent to a size 16 nymph. I suppose I should try some different sizes, but it is hard to imagine that additional sizes could make the hares ear nymph more productive than it already is.

A Nice Clump Ready for the Fly Box (Macro)

I counted my inventory of beadhead hares ear nymphs and determined that my various storage compartments contained seventy-six completed flies. I target a starting inventory of 100 each year, so I completed twenty-four new nymphs and then added ten for a friend. I have no doubt that the beadhead hares ear nymph will once again be my most productive fly in 2020.

Sucker Spawn – 03/03/2019

Sucker Spawn 03/03/2019 Photo Album

On several occasions during trips to the South Platte River in the spring I observed dense schools of spawning suckers. During one of these events, a decent blue winged olive hatch was in progress, and I was unable to entice surface takes. I pondered the idea, that the trout were chowing down on a high protein sucker spawn diet and consequently ignored the tiny mayflies. If you go to my 05/29/2014 post and scroll to a paragraph near the end, you will note, that I speculated on the effectiveness of sucker eggs during that outing in May.

The Veil Over the Sucker Spawn Sac

Each year I attend the Fly Fishing Show in Denver during the first weekend in January, and 2019 was no different. As my friend, Steve, and I browsed the fly tier stations along the south wall, we approached the Otter Eggs area. Walt Mueller, the owner and founder of Blue River Designs and the originator of soft milking eggs, was present. After exchanging greetings, I related my theory about the prevalence of sucker spawn in the spring on the South Platte River, and he pointed to an article that was posted on the wall that described the very phenomenon that I referred to. In short, Walt confirmed that my observations were on target, and he then showed us a sucker spawn fly and demonstrated how to tie one.

Zoomed a Bit

Since Steve and I fish the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon together during the spring on a routine basis, we agreed to purchase a sucker spawn kit. It consisted of three strips of soft plastic eggs and a pack of veil material. When we stopped for lunch in the food area, we divided the pack in half, and at the end of the day I returned home and tossed the sucker spawn material kit on my fly tying countertop.

The zip lock bags remained in that position until a few days ago. I completed my standard production tying and inventoried all my proven flies, and I was now prepared to experiment with new patterns. I generated the FP mergers and CDC tricos for special situations on the Frying Pan River and South Platte River, and I was now prepared to experiment with tying sucker spawn flies.

Five Completed

Walt included his business cards with the materials packs, and it referenced softmilkingegg.com, so I paid the site a visit and found detailed instructions for tying the sucker spawn egg clusters. Reading the steps and following the sequence of photos refreshed my memory from Walt’s demonstration, and it took me no more than an hour to manufacture five new sucker spawn flies. Although I had orange and yellow egg strips, I utilized the strip that progressed from clear to a light amber color. The output of my efforts look very similar to the photos of sucker spawn, and they closely matched the one that Walt tied and gave to me as an example.

Today I placed three of the sucker spawn flies in my fleece wallet, and I am anxious to test them on the South Platte River in the spring. Perhaps I will tumble them along the bottom of other Colorado streams, since suckers are not limited to the South Platte drainage. We remain in the grip of winter, so mild weather is all that is required for me to hit a local trout stream and test my new sucker spawn flies.

Soft Hackle Emerger – 01/20/2019

Soft Hackle Emerger 01/20/2019 Photo Album

The background on this fly is succinctly described in my post of 01/19/2012, and a materials table is available within that report. When I initially constructed these flies as documented in Charlie Craven’s book, I made them without a bead, but I also produced several of my own adaptations with a small silver bead. For some reason I gravitated to the versions with a bead, and I enjoyed moderate success during blue winged olive emergences. I suspect that my catch rate with the beaded soft hackle emerger was on par with a classic RS2, although I recall several scenarios where the soft hackle seemed to be the hot fly.

The Model

If you read my more recent post of 01/09/2018, you will note that I reverted to the original design from Charlie Craven’s book. I eliminated the bead. On several occasions when trout disregarded my CDC blue winged olive or the Klinkhammer version, I was able to fool some fish with the beadless soft hackle emerger fished in the surface film similar to a dry fly. I suspect that the adults with upright wings were quickly blown off the surface, and fish tuned into struggling emergers and cripples trapped in the surface film. These insects were easy targets compared to the adults that were rapidly swept off the water.

Size 22, No Bead

During 2018 I experienced a few similar days, where the soft hackle emerger minus a bead yielded some success in difficult circumstances. My results were inconsistent; however, the wet fly saved enough situations to establish it as an important component of my fly box.

I counted my supply of soft hackle emergers and discovered forty-four size 20’s with a bead, twenty-nine size 20’s with no bead and seven size 22’s minus a bead. I produced one more size 20 to up the beadless total to thirty and created three size 22’s to increase the small versions to ten. Hopefully the soft hackle emerger will continue to demonstrate its value during blue winged olive hatches in 2019.

Five Beadless

Sparkle Wing RS2 – 01/17/2019

Sparkle Wing RS2 01/17/2019 Photo Album

Historically I fished a classic RS2 in situations that dictated a blue winged olive nymph, but as an avid follower of Instagram I observed numerous highly regarded guides and experts in the fly fishing industry tying and fishing a sparkle wing RS2. I decided to join the crowd and tied twelve sparkle wing versions a year ago.

Nice Tail Split

When I took stock of my RS2 supply several weeks ago, I noted that the sparkle wing population shrank from twelve to seven, thus indicating that I lost a fairly large percentage of these flies. I concluded, that I allocated time to the flashier baetis nymph, but I did not sense that it outperformed the classic RS2 that served my needs for many years.

Corked Fly Upper Corner

Nevertheless I decided to replenish my sparkle wing supply with the intent of allowing another season of solid testing for effectiveness. I tied thirteen sparkle wing RS2’s to boost my inventory to twenty for the 2019 season. When creating a sparkle wing version I substituted white fluoro fiber for the pheasant feather tail, and I replaced the fluff used for the emerging wing with a small clump of antron or similar white sparkling wing material. Hopefully 2019 will be the year when the sparkle wing lives up to its reputation.

RS2 Classic – 01/15-2019

RS2 Classic 01/15/2019 Photo Album

Perhaps the most prolific mayfly hatch in western waters is that of the blue winged olives. These small insects emerge in dense quantities from the middle of March until early May, and then they once again become a prominent food source in the September through early November time period. The small mayflies typically range in size from 18 to 24, with the largest varieties prevalent in the spring and smaller cousins present in the fall.

Scraggly Up Close

If you read my post of 01/21/2011, you can view a materials table and read a brief history lesson on the RS2. Also my most recent prior post on this fly of 12/29/2017 does a nice job of updating my history with this fly and the advent of a RS2 variation, that I experimented with in 2018. Although the sparkle wing RS2 endured some time on my line during baetis season, the results were inconclusive. The classic RS2 seemed to hold its own, and I am reluctant to anoint the synthetic flashy cousin as a superior version.

The RS2 imitates the nymphal stage of the baetis mayfly, and I typically trail it behind a larger beadhead nymph in a dry/dropper setup or a deep nymphing rig. The two hour period of late morning and early afternoon just prior to an emergence is typically the most effective setting for the RS2. I often fish the small nymph in a dead drift, but very frequently my most successful technique is lifting and swinging particularly at the end of a drift.

Wing Fluff on Left

I rummaged through my damaged fly canisters and selected nine RS2’s and other random nymphs tied on size 20 and 22 hooks. I refurbished several and stripped the others down to the bare hook and produced nine new beadhead RS2’s. This restored my inventory to fifty. and I feel prepared for the upcoming 2019 blue winged olive seasons.


Beadhead Pheasant Tail – 01/11/2019

Beadhead Pheasant Tail 01/11/2019 Photo Album

The pheasant tail may rank as the all time most popular nymph among fly fishing circles. When I first moved to Colorado in the 90’s, this fly occupied a permanent position on my line. I matched it with a San Juan worm, and I enjoyed fantastic days on the South Platte River before the Hayman Fire.

From the Side

During 2010 I discovered the salvation nymph, and this stellar fly gradually supplanted the pheasant tail nymph. In spite of this circumstance I would never approach a waterway without some pheasant tails in my fleece wallet. I recall several instances during 2018, when pale morning duns were present, and the salvation nymph generated disappointing results. I resorted to a size 18 pheasant tail nymph, and the throwback nymph salvaged my day. The pheasant tail remains a very productive fly; and, in fact, the salvation nymph possesses a similar color scheme to the pheasant tail albeit with nearly 100% synthetic materials.

Materials Needed

I sorted through my unraveling fly canisters and collected eight pheasant tails or flies of equivalent size. I converted these into fresh new beadhead pheasant tail nymphs in the size 18 size range, and I added these to my already adequate supply. I continue to stock eighty of the classic pheasant tail nymphs, and I am certain that the stalwart fly will spend time on my line in 2019.

20 Incher – 01/06/2019

20 Incher 01/06/2019 Photo Album

Historically I did not select the 20 incher for my line often, but I probably should give it more stream time. It is an effective heavy fish attractor that commands attention particularly in deep runs, riffles and pockets. My post of 02/06/2014 provided a deeper narrative on my reasons for tying this reliable workhorse fly. I suspect that I have not tied additional quantities of this nymph since 2014, so I counted my supply and took my position at the vise and cranked out six additional models.

UV on the Wing Case

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262 Size 12 or equivalent
BeadBrass gold sized to fit the hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
TailBrown goose biots
RibGold ultra wire
AbdomenPeacock herl
Wing CaseTurkey tail feather section
LegsPheasant feather
ThoraxHares mask dubbing

I found six damaged and unraveling large nymphs in my storage canisters, and I converted these into more than acceptable refurbished versions of the peacock herl nymph. I made a few modifications from the instructions that I described in my 02/06/2014 post. I did not weight these six twenty inchers, as I assumed that a split shot or two could serve as the ballast, should I need to dive deep. Instead of copper wire I utilized medium gold ultra wire, and I was quite pleased with the look that this produced. On my 2014 versions I used Tyvek material for the wing case, but in 2019 I opted for the more traditional section from a turkey tail feather. To enhance the fragile nature of the turkey fibers, I applied a coat of Solarez UV resin to the wing case upon completion of the six flies. This layer of epoxy enhanced the natural look of the 20 incher in addition to adding durability.

Six Recovered 20 Inchers

Light Yellow Caddis Pupa – 01/02/2019

Light Yellow Caddis Pupa 01/02/2019 Photo Album

When I pluck a sparkle caddis from my fleece wallet, I typically opt for a go2 sparkle pupa with a bright green body or an emerald caddis pupa. The body color of these two flies seems to attract extra attention, and when combined with the trapped air bubble, make the sparkle pupa a very effective fly.

Macro Shot

Although less frequently utilized I also encounter situations that call for a caddis with a light body, and in anticipation of these circumstances I carry light yellow sparkle pupa. This fly is offered in Gary Lafontaine’s book,Caddisflies, and his material recipe documents a light yellow body with a gray collar or thorax. The need for this imitation typically arises during the summer period of August and September, when caddis with tan and light yellow bodies are present on western trout streams.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2457 or equivalent
Bead2.4 MM brass gold
ThreadYellow 6/0
Sheath/BubbleLight yellow antron
AbdomenMedium yellow antron
Emergent WingGray coastal deer hair
Head/LegsGray rabbit fur

I sorted through my used fly canisters and extracted eight versions in various states of damage, and I converted them to new models in the size 14 size range. The addition of these flies increased my inventory to sufficient levels for a fly that sees reduced usage compared to my other top producers.

A Completed Batch