Iron Sally – 12/14/2018

Iron Sally 12/14/2018 Photo Album

Sparkling, shiny, flashy and twinkling are apt adjectives for this fly. Any fly fisherman who gazes upon this jewel will be transfixed by its glamorous attraction. But even more important than attracting anglers is the ability of the iron sally to also attract fish.

Two New Iron Sallies

A good starting point to learning about my history with this fly is my 02/04/2014 blog post. My post of 12/18/2017 describes how my experiment with the iron sally in 2014 evolved into a full blown mainstay fly in my subsurface arsenal. During 2018 the iron sally once again surpassed my expectations, and I selected it for a position on my line much more frequently than prior seasons. Three of my most productive iron sally days were 06/28/2018 on the Eagle River, 10/11/2018 on the Arkansas River, and 10/24/2018 on the Colorado River. The iron sally graduated to one of my top five producing nymphs. It was very productive during golden stonefly and yellow sally hatches during the summer, but it also generated solid action during fall trips.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 12 and 14
BeadGold Brass, 2.4MM
TheadTan or beige
TailAmber/Gold goose biots
AbdomenGold ultra wire small
Abdomen TopBlack crystal flash
Wing CaseSection of turkey tail feather
LegsBlack crystal flash
ThoraxAmber/gold dubbing

In an effort to establish an adequate quantity for the 2019 season, I tied five size 12 nymphs to bring my total to 37. During several fall outings I tested a smaller size 14 version, that a friend purchased and donated to me, and the results of these sessions provoked me to tie five of the smaller stonefly imitation. I sense that the the iron sally’s rise in popularity has only begun.

Iron Sally Earrings for Jane

Salvation Nymph – 12/09/2018

Salvation Nymph 12/09/2018 Photo Album

The story of my introduction to the salvation nymph is contained in my post of 12/30/2011. Between that time and now it evolved into my second most productive fly after the beadhead hares ear, and for several years the salvation actually surpassed the hares ear in productivity. Check out the link to the 2011 post to see a materials table and my description of the steps required to manufacture this killer fly.

Look at the Back

I often fish the salvation nymph and hares ear nymph in a two fly combination beneath a large foam attractor fly, and this lineup frequently generates hot action. Upon completing my hares ear tying I inventoried my salvation nymph supply, and I discovered that my various storage boxes contained sixty-eight. Ironically this matched precisely my stock of hares ear nymphs, before I replenished. I adhered to my goal of storing one hundred salvations to begin the new season, and consequently I cranked out thirty-two new models.

Looking Great

I added one improvement to my salvation nymph process during my recent production tying project. Jane gave me a Solarez UV resin kit last year for Christmas, and the salvations became my first Solarez application. I applied the liquid resin to the entire back of the salvation nymph, and I was very pleased with the shimmering translucent effect. All thirty-two of the newly produced flies received a thin coat, and I am hopeful that this finishing touch will make the salvation nymph even more productive. It will be fun to continue the salvation experiment in 2019.

Love the Solarez

Hares Ear Nymph – 12/09/2018

Hares Ear Nymph 12/09/2018 Photo Album

The beadhead hares ear nymph continued to be my number one producing fly. The fuzzy classic subsurface pattern produced year round, and it was particularly effective in the March through June time frame. During recent years I landed a fish on nearly every cast for consecutive hours on the South Platte River on the hares ear. The mainstay fly of my box produced everywhere, but for some reason the South Platte River residents were particularly attracted to it.

For a material list and a description of some of my tying deviations from the classic pattern check out my post of 11/05/2010. This description summarizes my interaction with the hares ear quite well, and I have very little to add here, eight years later. It is unusual for me to not tamper with a fly in minor ways, but I hesitate to tinker with overwhelming success.

Nice Close Up

I followed my customary practice and counted all my beadhead hares ear nymphs in my various fly containers, and I tallied sixty-eight. Actually I counted sixty-nine, but I lost one on my last outing of the year in November. With this information in my possession I visited my tying station and cranked out thirty-two additional versions to increase my total to one hundred in preparation for the 2019 season.

My tying method remains consistent with the 11/05/2010 post with only the addition of two intermediate applications of glue. I dab a small amount at the base of the tail to prevent unraveling at that end, and I apply a small amount, after I tie in the wing case strip but before adding dubbing for the thorax. These steps seem to extend the life of the flies, and most of my shrinkage is attributable to branches, rocks and aggressive fish. Unraveling is largely confined to the thread wraps behind the bead, and this is actually a good problem, since most of the time it is attributable to repeated attacks by hungry fish.

Batch and Materials

Prince Nymph – 11/17/2018

Prince Nymph 11/17/2018 Photo Album

In all likelihood the prince nymph is ranked among the top five nymphs by fly fishermen in the United States and perhaps only surpassed by the hares ear nymph and pheasant tail nymph. In my view the prince nymph lost a bit of its luster over the last three years, as I replaced it with the ultra zug bug, and the simplified version of the prince nymph proved to be very productive. Historically I found the goose biot wings on the classic prince nymph difficult to mount, and they were always the first component to fail during stream usage. The small slippery white biot wings inevitably became loose, and eventually I found myself fishing a peacock nymph with no wings. The white wings are probably the key triggering characteristic of a prince nymph, so fishing without them failed to take advantage of their attraction.

12’s, 14’s, and 16’s

Mounting the brown biot tails was also a bit challenging, but I managed to master that step; although when I tied the ultra zug bug, I eliminated that complication as well. I simply tied in brown fibers from a pheasant feather as the tail, and the pattern design eliminated the white biot wings. The simple zug bug was very productive, and I valued it as one of my mainstay nymphs.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2487 for size 16; Tiemco 5262 for size 12, 14
BeadGold sized to fit the hook
ThreadBlack 6/0
Tail2 brown goose biots curving away from each other
Wing2 white goose biots tied with the tips pointing forward over the bead and eye of the hook
RibFine gold or copper wire
Abdomen4 or 5 strands of peacock herl twisted with a section of thread
LegsTwo clumps of brown pheasant fibers tied on both sides of the thorax area
Wing PositionFold the white biot wings back over the body of the fly and tie down behind the bead with the tips split and forming a V
ThoraxPeacock ice dubbing over the thread wraps behind the bead.

But this piece is about the prince nymph, and I discovered two scenarios during the 2018 season, when the classic prince seemed to represent a favored food of Colorado trout. During the grannom caddis activity in April and May, a prince nymph in size 16 seemed to outperform the ultra zug bug, particularly when adult egg layers were active. Perhaps the natural iridescent peacock body or the white V-shaped wing explain this effectiveness, but in any event I like to carry a supply of the smaller prince nymphs in my fleece wallet.

During the 2018 season I also discovered that knotting a size 12 prince nymph to my line during green drake season produced some fairly consistent subsurface action. My total supply of these larger nymphs consisted of five, and I depleted them during fishing outings on the Cache la Poudre and South Boulder Creek during the time frame when green drakes were present. I suspect that better green drake nymph imitations exist, but field success counts a lot in my experience, so size 16 and 14 prince nymphs continued to earn slots in my fly containers.

Materials and Flies

Given the two situations outlined above, when prince nymphs provided a boost to my fly fishing fortunes, I decided to replenish my depleted supply. I remembered a series of tying tips in Fly Tyer Magazine that applied to tying prince nymphs, so I searched through my pile of old issues and found the piece that remained in my aging memory bank. One tip provided guidance to enable consistent mounting of the biot tails, so they split evenly and remain on the same plain. A second tip outlined the steps for locking down the white goose biot wings. I applied these recommendations and whipped out some quality prince nymphs in size 12, 14 and 16. I am fairly certain that the wing procedure greatly enhances the durability of a classic prince nymph.

My prince inventory now consists of five size 12’s, 15 size 14’s, and 20 size 16’s. I will no longer be reluctant to offer prince nymphs due to fears of depleting my supply. Hopefully these flies will continue to produce in the caddis and green drake situations as well as during general searching periods.

Craven Soft Hackle Emerger – 01/09/2018

Craven Soft Hackle Emerger 01/09/2018 Photo Album

I experienced frustration on three memorable days during 2017 during relatively dense blue winged olive hatches. The last such episode occurred on 11/01/2017 on the Eagle River. During this incident I experimented with a size 20 Craven soft hackle emerger trailing behind a Jake’s gulp beetle. The beetle was deployed to enable visibility, and I applied floatant to the small soft hackle emerger. The approach was not an overwhelming success, but I did manage to induce two trout to eat the trailing wet fly, as I fished it in the surface film. At the time I vowed to tie more soft hackle emergers without beadheads, in case I needed to employ the same presentation in the future.

Love Fluoro Fiber

10/26/2017 on the Frying Pan River and 04/19/2017 on the South Platte River presented similar frustration. The common thread to all these incidents was wind. I suspect that the strong wind lifted adults from the river surface faster than the fish could react, so they adapted by snatching emergers from the film or just below the surface of the water.

Close Up

During December I adhered to my promise, and I tied several batches of Craven soft hackle emergers. I added six beadhead size 20’s to my collection along with four size 20 and ten size 22 with no bead. I am optimistic that the models with no bead will enable me to land more fish during blue winged olive hatches that coincide with blustery conditions. Check out my post of 01/19/2012 for a material table. Tying instructions are available in Charlie Craven’s book Charlie’s Flybox. If the reader searches on soft hackle emerger in the upper right corner search box, he or she will discover three additional posts that describe the evolution of this fly in my fly fishing arsenal.


RS2 – 12/29/2017

RS2 12/29/2017 Photo Album

The RS2 has been a staple of my fly boxes since I moved to Colorado in 1990. I became aware of it, when I purchased and read Fly Fishing the South Platte River by Roger Hill, and he gave the fly designed by Rim Chung many glowing recommendations. Up until this winter I nearly adhered entirely to the classic pattern. The only exception was a substitution of brown pheasant feather fibers for the tail instead of muskrat guard hairs. I landed many fish in the intervening twenty-seven years on this fly, but during the last couple seasons I encountered situations where I should have been attracting more attention from trout during the periods prior to strong blue winged olive hatches.

Muskrat Guard Hairs Are Obvious

I made a mental note to research some alternatives prior to tying a new supply, and I fulfilled my vow several weeks ago. I searched the internet and quickly stumbled across a close cousin of the RS2 called the sparkle RS2. I liked the idea of maintaining the basic concept with the addition of some extra flash, so I produced three conventional RS2 nymphs and ten sparkle versions. For the sparkle RS2’s I substituted white fluoro fibers for the tail and a clump of white antron fibers for the emerging wing. The only material that remained from the original pattern was the muskrat dubbing. I am quite excited to try these enhanced RS2’s, as I believe the extra flash of the fluoro fiber and antron will cause the small baetis nymph imitation to stand out more during the time period prior to an emergence. I also experimented with a black crystal flash rib on five of the sparkle RS2’s, and I like the ribbed look that this addition created. I learned the crystal flash ribbing concept from the ultra zug bug pattern by Scott Sanchez.

Traditional and Sparkle RS2’s

The thirteen new RS2’s brought my total inventory to sixty, as we enter the 2018 season. Hopefully this supply will be adequate for spring, summer and fall blue winged olive hatch periods in 2018.

Crystal Flash Version

Iron Sally – 12/18/2017

Iron Sally 12/18/2017 Photo Album

If you are interested in learning how I was introduced to this fly, check out my 02/09/2017 post. It includes links to older posts and also describes how the iron sally produced one of my best days of 2016 on the Yampa River.

Fish Candy

As I stated in my last post, I should probably attach an iron sally to my line more frequently. I believe that I gave it more line time in 2017 than in previous years, and I enjoyed some success. The day that stands out the most is 07/03/2017 on the Eagle River. In fact during that special day I observed a yellow sally hatch that surpassed any others during my many years of fly fishing. Whenever I encountered a yellow sally emergence in the past, they seemed to pop off the water sporadically and over a three to four hour period in the afternoon. On July 3 they appeared in blizzard quantities, but I spotted very few rising fish. I continued fishing a hares ear and iron sally through the dense 2.5 hour stonefly emergence, and I was rewarded with eleven fish, and they displayed a strong appetite for the flashy gold nymph.

Completed Batch of Eleven

When I tallied my supply of iron sallies, I discovered thirty in my various storage compartments. My impressive although infrequent success with this fly prompted me to produce an additional ten to bring my season beginning inventory to forty. With this significant quantity in my coffers, I expect to select the bright attractor nymph more frequently in 2018.

Pheasant Tail Nymph – 12/17/2017

Pheasant Tail Nymph 12/17/2017 Photo Album

When I first moved to Colorado in 1990 and throughout the 90’s, the beadhead pheasant tail nymph was my number one producing nymph pattern. You can check out the materials list and read more about my early success with the pheasant tail in my 01/11/2012 post. Over time, however, it got displaced by the salvation nymph, as the flashy nymph seems to be as effective during the pale morning dun period, but also produces exceptionally well during other time frames when an attractor nymph is in demand.

Nice One

I continue to carry a decent supply of pheasant tails in my fleece wallet, however, since I encounter situations where the smaller and darker nymph is relished by western trout. Although not a western stream, my day on Camp Creek in Wisconsin provides a glimpse of the results that a pheasant tail generates on occasion. Judging from the number of references to the pheasant tail in social media and in magazine articles, I am certain that it maintains a strong following, and this can only be attributed to a high level of effectiveness.

23 Refurbished

Historically I never entered a new season without at least eighty of these simple nymphs in inventory; however, my heightened reliance on the salvation enabled me to reduce my beginning inventory. I counted fifty-seven in my various fly bins, and I deemed that quantity to be adequate. Despite this determination I emptied my canisters of damaged and unraveling flies, and uncovered twenty-three pheasant tail nymphs that accumulated over the past seven years. The pheasant tail fibers tend to be somewhat fragile despite counter wrapping with copper wire, and I suspect that most of the crippled flies were victims of trout teeth. I spent a day or two refurbishing all twenty-three flies, and I am now confident that I am more than prepared for 2018 with eighty imitations in my possession.


Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/16/2017

Emerald Caddis Pupa 12/16/2017 Photo Album

My post of 01/01/2012 provides a nice background story to how I became acquainted with the emerald caddis pupa, and it also provides a materials table. I continue to admire this fly and its fish attracting capability. Unlike the bright green caddis pupa or go2 sparkle pupa, the emerald version seems to entice fish throughout the season, not just during the heavy grannom period. For this reason I give it more opportunities on the end of my line. During the early season before snow melt and then again in the fall, I elect to pair the emerald pupa with a beadhead hares ear nymph, and it often results in a sagging net.

New One on Display

I am convinced that the emerald green color is an outstanding fish attractor. I have seen caddis larva with body colors that approximate the emerald green, so that might explain some of its effectiveness. I also caught several recently hatched adults and noticed the emerald green color on the tip of the abdomen on otherwise charcoal gray bodies. My logic dictates that trout are conditioned to seeing this color on tasty morsels, and they are readily drawn to my pupa imitation.

Three Refurbished and Five New

I counted twenty-eight in my various storage containers, so I situated myself at my tying station and cranked out seven more to bring my total to thirty-five. This quantity is in line with my starting inventory for previous seasons, and I look forward to swinging and drifting the emerald caddis pupa again in 2018.


Bright Green Caddis Pupa – 12/11/2017

Bright Green Caddis Pupa 12/11/2017 Photo Album

The bright green caddis pupa has been a solid occupant of my fly box since my early days of fly fishing in Pennsylvania and New York. My 01/10/2012 post provides some background information on my introduction to this fly as well as a materials table. The 12/16/2014 post expands on the eastern story and then extends the history to my move to Colorado. I invite you to check them out.

Macro View

Fast forward to 2017, and I continue to select the bright green caddis during my frequent fishing trips in Colorado and beyond. Over the last two seasons I modified the bright green caddis pupa abdomen by utilizing chartreuse diamond braid instead of a blend of bright green craft yarn and olive sparkle yarn. I like the additional flash provided by the diamond braid. I renamed this fly the go2 sparkle pupa. Old habits die hard; however, and I am reluctant to totally abandon the dubbed body version. I suspect there are situations where the shiny green body might alarm the trout, and they may display a preference for the more subtle bright green dubbed imitation.

Displayed on Deer Hair Stubs

My inventory of bright green caddis pupa yielded a total of 41 in my various storage compartments, so I produced four additional flies to increase my stash to 45 for the 2018 season. For some reason I failed to encounter significant caddis activity during the spring in recent years, and consequently the bright green emergent pupa was not in high demand. I hope to change that during the coming season.