Iron Sally – 02/09/2017

Iron Sally 02/09/2017 Photo Album

You can check out my introduction to the iron sally on my posts of 01/20/2013 and 02/04/2014. This is a fly that I should probably knot on my line more frequently. It is intended to imitate the nymph stage of a yellow sally stonefly; however, it also works as a subsurface imitation of golden stoneflies. The iron sally nymph takes longer to tie than most of the nymphs that I stock in my fly box, and this historically translated to fewer flies in my beginning inventory. Because I detest tying flies during the season, when I prefer to be on a stream, I too often shy away from the iron sally in an effort to preserve my quantity on hand. Preserve for what?

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On 06/28/2017 I experienced my best day of fishing in 2016 on the Yampa River, and the iron sally was the star player. During the afternoon I spotted several yellow sallies, so I featured the iron sally as a dropper beneath a fat Albert foam top fly, and the Yampa River residents went crazy. Not only did the iron sally produce quantities of fish, but the size of the landed trout was abnormally large. The memory of this day induced me to get serious in 2017, and I whipped out fifteen new sparkling imitations to go with the thirteen carryovers from last year.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Iron Sally Jewels” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2562.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I will begin the 2017 season with twenty-eight, and I expect this larger quantity to buffer me against the higher demands of more time on my fishing line. A few days in my future that approach 06/28/2017 will make me a very happy fly fisherman.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”15 Iron Sallies Completed” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2561.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Mercury Black Beauty – 02/03/2017

Mercury Black Beauty 02/03/2017 Photo Album

Historically I relied almost entirely on a size 20 zebra midge for my subsurface midge larva imitation, and it served me reasonably well. I should probably resort to subsurface midge flies more frequently. On the infrequent occasions when I knotted them to my line, they generally surprised me with their productivity.

During a trip to the South Platte River in 2015, my friend Danny Ryan impressed me with a midge larva/emerger imitation, that he designed and created, and as a result I produced some of them for 2016 and then replenished my supply for 2017. Danny asked me to low key his fly, so I will honor that commitment, and avoid further details in this post.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Zoom” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2543.JPG” image_size=”2048×2048″ ]

When I attended the Fly Fishing Show in Denver in January, I watched Pat Dorsey tie flies, and his main focus was midge imitations. He swore that the tiny midge facsimiles were tremendous producers all year round, but particularly in the winter when midges represent the main source of nutrients for trout. I was especially attracted to the mercury black beauty, and as a consequence I took a seat at my fly tying bench and generated an initial supply for 2017. I made ten size 18’s and ten size 20’s. I added a flashback strip of pearl flashabou to all the 18’s and half the 20’s.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”20 Completed” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2538.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I tried the size 18 flashback mercury black beauty on my initial fishing trip to the South Platte River on January 30, but it failed to interest the local trout. I have not given up on the new fly, however, since the cold icy conditions did not lend themselves to a fair trial.

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 01/22/2017

Emerald Caddis Pupa 01/22/2017 Photo Album

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Opposite Side” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2429.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

After a trip to Las Vegas and Death Valley I am back in winter fly inventory replenishment mode. My progress was also interrupted by the time consuming task of researching and purchasing a new car. Before I departed on our road trip, however, I produced five emerald caddis pupa to increase my inventory to thirty.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Raw Materials” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2427.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The emerald caddis pupa continues to be a season long producer, and I have little to add to previous posts. My 1/1/2012 post provides a material list and a bit of background on how I became associated with this fly. My 11/19/2015 post chronicles the development of the sparkle caddis pupa pattern by Gary Lafontaine. If you do not have any of these flies in your box, do yourself and favor and tie some. They work.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Emerald Caddis Pupa on Gray Sparkle Yarn” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2431.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]


Go2 Sparkle Pupa – 01/11/2017

Go To Sparkle Pupa 01/11/2017 Photo Album

The go2 sparkle pupa is a hybrid fly that I contrived during the early 2016 season. The story begins with a bright green caddis pupa that is designed to imitate the pupa stage of the grannom hatch. My 01/10/2012 post on this blog outlines my early association with the bright green emergent caddis pupa. Additional background is available on the 12/16/2014 and 12/01/2015 posts. In more recent history I attended the Fly Fishing Show in Denver and observed Rick Takahashi, as he tied a go2 caddis, and while the steps were fresh in my mind, I produced ten for the next season.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Example” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2410.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I fished both these flies on a regular basis particularly in the early spring, when the caddis hatch in abundant quantities on the Arkansas River as well as other streams in Colorado. Up until the last year or two I preferred the bright green caddis pupa over the go2 caddis, and I enjoyed decent success. During 2015 and 2016, however, for some reason I fished the go2 caddis more frequently, and I was impressed with its performance. Unfortunately during a trip to the Arkansas River in April  I used my last go2 caddis, so I was forced to visit my tying bench during the season.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Macros View” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2423.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I believe the salient triggering characteristic of the go2 caddis is the shiny bright chartreuse diamond braid body, and a light bulb flashed in my brain as I began to construct new flies. Why not borrow the bright green diamond braid from the go2 caddis and incorporate it into the bright green caddis pupa? I immediately implemented this idea and produced five bright green caddis pupa that featured the diamond braid body as a substitute for the craft yarn, that I previously employed. On a trip to the Arkansas River on 5/4/2016 the fish responded with a convincing vote in favor of my hybrid version, and I made a mental note to tie more for 2017.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”20 Go To Sparkles” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2422.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Over the past two weeks I tied twenty new hybrids, and I named them the go to sparkle pupa. I love the flash of the chartreuse bodies on these flies, and I am certain that they will add a new dimension to my early season caddis pupa fishing on Colorado streams.

Ultra Zug Bug – 01/03/2017

Ultra Zug Bug 01/03/2017 Photo Album

My relationship with the ultra zug bug began on January 31, 2012. I was searching for some new patterns to tie, and I stumbled on to the ultra zug bug in a Scott Sanchez fly tying book. Initially I viewed it as a faster simpler pattern to replace the prince nymph; however, in recent years I discovered that it is a productive fly throughout the season. You can browse my success stories in my posts of 12/07/2014 and 11/04/2015. Detailed tying steps are documented on the 11/04/2015 entry, and a material list is included in the January 31, 2012 post.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Head On” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2405.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I have little to add in early 2017 other than to affirm that the ultra zug bug continues to be a top producer among my arsenal. The peacock nymph seems to be particularly effective during the early season prior to run off, and then it gains popularity again in the fall. Do not assume that it will not catch fish during the summer months, however, because it will. I suspect I relegate it to the second team during this time period, as I opt more frequently for the hares ear nymph and salvation nymph.

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Perhaps I will utilize the ultra zug bug more frequently in 2017, since it is quite easy to tie. I counted my remaining zug bugs and determined that I possessed 32, so I visited my tying bench and cranked out an additional 18. 50 ultra zug bugs seems like a solid starting point for the new season, and I am now prepared to tempt trout with this sparkling nymph imitation.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Focused on the Pile” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2408.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

Soft Hackle Emerger – 12/31/2016

Soft Hackle Emerger 12/31/2016 Photo Album

The origin of my favorable relationship with the Craven soft hackle emerger is best described in my 01/19/2012 post, and a table presents the materials required. More recent posts of 12/29/2014 and 12/10/2015 describe the evolution of the Craven soft hackle emerger to its current state as my prime subsurface option before and during blue winged olive hatches.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Nice Soft Hackle” type=”image” alt=”PC200040.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

The 2016 season did not change much in the realm of baetis or blue winged olive fly choices. I continue to default to the soft hackle emerger more frequently than the RS2. I prefer the additional flash from the white fluoro fiber. On one early season trip to the Arkansas River I stopped at the Royal Gorge Angler, and Taylor Edrington convinced me to buy some other blue winged olive nymphs, because he believes that a thick thorax and wing pad is a triggering characteristic that induces trout to bite. The soft hackle emerger exhibits a thicker thorax, and when I tie the version with a bead, it certainly presents more bulk near the front of the fly.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”26 New Craven Soft Hackle Emergers” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2391.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I continue to believe that the soft hackle emerger without a bead is effective when adult blue winged olives are visible, since the nymphs and emergers are closer to the surface of the stream, and I desire a shallow drift in these circumstances. For this reason I tied three new versions without a bead and 23 beadhead models. This production brings my inventory of beadhead soft hackle emergers to 40, and my fly box contains 25 with no bead.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Trout Candy” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2393.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

I anxiously anticipate the arrival of blue winged olives in a few months, and I will be ready with an adequate supply of imitations.

RS2 – 12/24/2016

RS2 12/24/2016 Photo Album

My post of 01/21/2011 chronicles the origin of the RS2 and also supplies a material list. Over the last couple years I migrated away from the RS2 toward the Craven soft hackle emerger, but I continue to carry an adequate quantity of RS2’s in my streamer wallet, as I visit western rivers and streams.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Two New RS2’s” type=”image” alt=”PC170006.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I prefer to fish the RS2 deep using a strike indicator and split shot hours before an expected blue winged olive emergence, and I impart movement to the fly by jigging it or executing poor downstream mends. These actions create momentary acceleration of the fly, and this seems to induce a feeding reaction from trout. If I sense that the fish are tuned into emergers close to the surface, I generally switch to a Craven soft hackle emerger, and sometimes I also shift to a dry/dropper presentation, since I no longer need to probe the depths of the river.

I also believe that the RS2 is a serviceable imitation of small midge larva, and for that reason it is a good choice when mayflies and caddis are not prevalent. Any fly that covers numerous food sources is a productive offering in my opinion.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Total Output and Ingredients” type=”image” alt=”PC190004.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

When I surveyed my fly boxes, I counted 23 RS2’s. I established a goal of 50 to enter the 2017 season, so I settled into my stool at my fly tying bench and cranked out 27 new flies. Hopefully I will encounter some strong baetis hatches, and my RS2’s will continue to attract trout to my line.

Hares Ear Nymph – 12/11/2016

Hares Ear Nymph 12/11/2016 Photo Album

The hares ear nymph earned comeback fly of the year honors in 2016. Of course it never fell very far from the top, but I definitely favored the salvation nymph over the hares ear in 2015. I suspect the hares ear never stopped producing, and instead I elected to allow other flies to occupy my line more than usual. At any rate I enjoyed some fabulous days throughout the season with a size 16 beadhead hares ear nymph dangling from my line.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Killer Beadhead Hares Ear” type=”image” alt=”PC100024.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

If you read back through my hares ear nymph blog posts from 2010 and 2011, you will realize that this workhorse fly was my unquestionable number one up until the summer of 2015. I increased my beginning of the season quota from thirty to one hundred during this period. There were several seasons when I consumed my entire inventory, and this forced me to tie more during the season. When the weather is suitable for fishing, I detest sitting at my tying desk producing flies.

During the summer of 2015, however, I fell in love with the salvation nymph. The new favorite was akin to a new car with lots of flash, and the trout agreed with me. During numerous summer fishing trips, the fish attacked the salvation nymph like sharks attracted by the scent of blood. I nearly depleted my salvation nymph supply during 2015 and increased my beginning inventory to sixty.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Edge of the Pile” type=”image” alt=”PC110028.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

I began 2016 with a similar mindset, and I preferentially knotted the salvation nymph to my line to the detriment of the hares ear nymph. Fortunately in many instances I fished the hares ear and salvation in a two fly combination, and during these instances I discovered that the trout showed a distinct preference for the hares ear. This was significant, because during most cases I positioned the hares ear as the top fly. Historically the end fly of a two fly system produced more fish, because it displayed more movement compared to the top fly, which is constricted due to line tension above and below.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”From the Top” type=”image” alt=”PC100025.JPG” image_size=”2048×1536″ ]

Trout choosing the hares ear over the salvation during two fly presentations was a strong sign that the old standby was returning to most favored status, but the true clincher was two spectacular days of fishing on the South Platte River in May. I landed nearly 120 fish on May 12 and May 13, and 90% of these catches consumed the beadhead hares ear. These two days restored my confidence in the beadhead hares ear, and it returned to the top of my list. For the remainder of the season a beadhead hares ear was nearly always present on my line, and it rarely disappointed.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Excellent Clarity” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2308.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The salvation nymph continued to produce fish, but its prime time was centered on mid-June through August; whereas, the hares ear attracted fish consistently throughout the season, and it was particularly effective in the late fall time period of October and November.

Unwilling to risk depletion of my valuable stock of hares ears, I tied seventy-two, and when added to my carry over supply of twenty-eight enables me to enter the 2017 season with one hundred in inventory. I cannot wait to observe the salvation vs. hares ear face off again in 2017.


Salvation Nymph – 11/29/2016

Salvation Nymph 11/29/2016 Photo Album

Perhaps some of my readers are wondering why I have been inactive for two weeks? The short answer is that the weather in Colorado finally shifted to temperatures more typical of late November. I was never a strong proponent of fishing in cold temperatures, and now in my mid-sixties, that is more a certainty rather than a preference. Given this aversion to cold aching fingers and the loss of feeling in my toes, I shifted my attention to fly tying.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Salvation Nymph” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2254.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

For the last two weeks I visited my comfortable fly tying bench on a daily basis, and I produced eighty-five size 16 salvation nymphs. With the addition of twenty carry overs from 2016, I now possess one hundred of these shimmering nymphs, and I can restock my fly bins with the knowledge that I likely have enough to get me through the 2017 season.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”From the Top” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2255.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

If you review the archives of my blog posts on the salvation nymph, you can read about my history with this favorite. In short it has gone from a recommended purchase at Conejos River Anglers to a mainstay in my fly box, and this explains the significant increase in inventory from sixty to one hundred. For some reason I tend to lose more salvation nymphs than any other fly, and many of these fly separations occur with trees, rocks, and branches and not fish. My only explanation is that I tend to fish it as the last fly on a dry/dropper or nymph configuration, so it tends to encounter foreign objects in advance of the flies positioned higher on my leader.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Belly” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2257.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

When I composed my salvation nymph blog post last fall, I was crowning it as the champion producer, as it seemed to dethrone the long time number one beadhead hares ear nymph. However, during the spring, summer and fall of 2016, the hares ear staged a frenzied comeback, and I now suspect that it regained the top position on my fly ranking. During a few outings in May I experienced unbelievable success using solely the hares ear, and the strong appetite of Colorado trout for the hares ear extended through the summer and fall seasons.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Quite a Jumble” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2275.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The salvation nymph seems to excel during the June through August time frame, and these months coincide with the pale morning dun hatch in most Colorado rivers and streams. I suspect that the hares ear imitates a myriad of subsurface food items including caddis emergers, stonefly nymphs, and various mayfly nymphs; and this may explain its ability to produce success throughout the many seasons. The salvation does exhibit more iridescence, and therefore, it can attract fish during the periods when pale morning duns are not prevalent, but overall I am inclined to knot a hares ear on my line more frequently.

Of course it is not unusual for me to fish both in a deadly combination, and many times when I offered them both, I was surprised to discover the top fly, the hares ear in the lip of my netted fish. Generally I believe that the last fly catches more fish because it demonstrates more movement, so attracting fish from the upper position is quite a statement of effectiveness.

[peg-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”85 Salvation Nymphs and Ingredients” type=”image” alt=”IMG_2273.JPG” image_size=”1536×2048″ ]

The pile of sparkling salvation nymphs represents many hours of focused tying, and I am pleased to have this effort behind me. I will now shift my attention to beadhead hares ears, and I plan to produce another batch of one hundred. There may be another significant gap between posts on my blog.

San Juan Worm – 02/15/2016

San Juan Worm 02/15/2016 Photo Album

Fishing with worms is woven into the fabric of my fishing existence. I have fond memories of my brother and I trailing my dad with a coffee can and picking worms from the rich black soil as he turned over sod and dirt with his garden spade. We accumulated enough garden worms to fulfill our fishing needs during the early season in Pennsylvania, and they were always very effective in April and early May.

As the season advanced my father and brother and I would visit my grandfather at his house near Boyertown after a heavy rain storm. My heartbeat literally pounded against my chest from the adrenaline rush that resulted when we gathered coffee cans and flashlights and charged into Pop Pop’s back yard. Here we discovered fat juicy nightcrawlers sprawled along all the flower beds and in my grandfather’s large vegetable garden. I am sure the worms were also present in the grass, but it was much easier to spot them in bare soil. Brother Jim and I took turns executing the messy task of picking the nightcrawlers. It took some practice, but fairly quickly we learned to recognize which end was the head, and once this extremity was identified, a very quick gooey snap was necessary to pinch and slowly extract the retreating worm. Collecting nightcrawlers was an exciting nighttime adventure.

When I began fly fishing in Pennsylvania in my early thirties, it took some time before I became proficient enough to catch fish on a regular basis. I trusted my worm drifting skills and knew that the tried and true methodology produced success. Fishing with flies however was largely an unproven technique. With this view of the efficacy of flies compared to worms, I formulated a compromise strategy. I knotted a bait hook to the end of my tapered leader and then impaled a worm to my hook. I added a split shot and lobbed this fly fishing/bait hybrid configuration to all the likely holding spots, and this method landed a decent amount of fish. I liked the feel of playing a fish on the long rod, and being able to pick up line and toss to the next hole was more efficient than reeling up line using a spinning reel.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Wapsi Flesh Ultra Chenille” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0569.JPG” ]

The next step in my fly fishing evolution was our move to Colorado. Shortly after I arrived in 1990 I began to investigate the rivers and streams along the Front Range as well as more distant destinations. It did not take long for me to discover that the closest river to my home near Castle Rock was the South Platte, and fortunately the area downstream from Deckers was a premier trout fishery. I began to make frequent forays to this beautiful stretch of river, and in an effort to accelerate success, I also read as much as I could about the gold medal tailwater fishery. The books and magazine articles that I studied repeatedly mentioned San Juan worms, pheasant tail nymphs and RS2’s. Naturally I accepted this advice willingly and began to add these flies to my fly boxes.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”24 Finished San Juan Worms” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0570.JPG” ]

These were the halcyon days of the South Platte River in the Deckers area, and I can remember numerous visits when large brown trout and rainbow trout chomped on tan, flesh and chocolate brown San Juan worms. The most fortuitous aspect of this discovery was the ease with which I could generate a dozen San Juan worms. All that was required to produce a San Juan worm was a hook, a spool of thread and a section of ultra chenille. Meanwhile the South Platte River trout seemed to relish San Juan worms in April and May more than any other time of the year. These months coincided with elevated releases from Cheesman Dam in response to snow melt descending from the Rocky Mountains. The elevated flows scoured the river banks and flushed natural worms into the South Platte, so the hungry trout gorged on the delectable morsels, and my simple ultra chenille imitations represented a close approximation.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Blend of Old and New Flesh Chenille” type=”image” alt=”IMG_0571.JPG” ]

Unfortunately the South Platte River was greatly impacted by the Hayman Fire in 2002 and remains a shadow of its status in the 1990’s. For this reason I fish there infrequently, but I discovered that San Juan worms continue to tempt trout in many other western waterways. The worm pattern is particularly effective during high murky water conditions, and for this reason I decided to replenish my dwindling supply. I possessed a small remnant strand of flesh colored ultra chenille, and my efforts to locate replacement material were thwarted last winter. Undeterred I once again embarked on a search, and on a trip to Charlie’s Fly Box I was elated to discover a skein of Wapsi flesh ultra chenille. This was a close match to my remaining sample so I purchased a spool. I produced ten flesh worms, five tan, five red, and four bright pink; and I am now prepared to tempt trout during spring conditions with an array of tasty worms.