Parachute Hopper – 02/17/2019

Parachute Hopper 02/17/2019 Photo Album

Another erstwhile effective terrestrial fly relegated to dust collecting status over the last few years is the parachute hopper. In the 2000’s and early 2010’s this fly delivered some outstanding results particularly in the August and September time frame. I continue to believe that the parachute hopper imitation is the most realistic in the eyes of western trout. My parachute hopper post of 2013┬áprovides additional background on my experience with this classic pattern that utilizes all natural materials.

Love the Legs on This Parachute Hopper

Although my utilization of the gray parachute hopper diminished, as I gained confidence in foam imitations, I decided to count my supply as part of my comprehensive winter preparation for the upcoming season. I continue to resort to the life-like hopper during the summer, when the large bulky foam versions prompt repeated refusals. I would not wish to be on the water without a few of the old reliables in my fly box.

Same View

In my opinion the triggering characteristic of the parachute hopper is the knotted pheasant tail legs. I purchase pheasant tail feathers with pre-knotted legs rather than endure the tedious exercise of pulling fragile fibers through a small loop. I was pleasantly surprised to learn, that I purchased a new feather; and therefore, I possessed a more than adequate supply of legs. As was the case with the parachute green drakes, I adopted the technique of tying off the hackle to the wing post, and did the same for the whip finish. This method avoids trapping hackle fibers under the thread and results in a nice uniform spread of hackle fibers around the wing post.

Hopper Materials and Hoppers

I discovered twenty-six parachute hoppers in my various containers, and I deemed this quantity adequate to cover my needs in 2019. Part of my process includes checking the canisters of damaged flies, and this exercise revealed six parahoppers in varying states of disrepair. The most common maladies were unraveling hackle and missing legs. I clamped these idle flies in my vise and converted them into viable imitations. Perhaps 2019 will be a renaissance for parachute hoppers.

Letort Hopper – 02/16/2019

Letort Hopper 02/16/2019 Photo Album

Up until 2013 the yellow Letort hopper was my “go to” top fly in a dry/dropper configuration, and it maintained that status for a very good reason…it caught a lot of fish. However, I grew dissatisfied with the fly’s penchant for absorbing water in the large dubbed body, so I began to experiment with foam creations such as the Charlie boy hopper, pool toy hopper, and more recently the fat Albert. These large terrestrial patterns displaced the Letort hopper, as they performed better at supporting nymphs in a dry/dropper configuration, and they also attracted fish from time to time.

Refurbished Letort Hopper

For a material list and a glowing report on the Letort hopper’s effectiveness prior to my conversion to foam check out my 12/9/2011 yellow Letort hopper post. Another post simply titled yellow Letort hopper provides additional insight on this terrestrial fly. My love affair with the old classic provoked me to tie a large quantity, and my inventory remains quite adequate given my reduced usage. I often wonder if more time on the line could return this fly to its former glory, and occasionally I knot one on my tippet. The ploy yields a fish or two during the season, but I suspect that my commitment and confidence are lacking, and this results in diminished production from the old favorite.

Seven Recovered Letort Hoppers

I counted my large supply and determined that I possessed in excess of forty in my combined fly storage containers. I decided to sort through my six canisters with damaged and unraveling old flies, and I was surprised to find seven models in varying states of disrepair. I sat down at my tying counter and refurbished these hopper imitations, and in most cases I salvaged the body and tied on a new turkey wing segment for the underwing and a new deer hair wing. Perhaps 2019 will be the year that I recommit to the Letort hopper, but I suspect that will not be the case. I do feel that a size 10 yellow acts as a reasonable imitation of a golden stonefly, so perhaps I will select the Letort hopper more frequently during prime golden stonefly activity in late June and July.

 

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 01/28/2019

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 01/28/2019 Photo Album

The last four years have taught me to never approach a trout stream without a decent supply of beetles. My affection for Jake’s gulp beetle began with a trip to the Elk River in Fernie, BC, and the infatuation has not waned during recent seasons. The beetle floats high and makes a nice enticing plop as it smacks the water surface. The narrow orange foam indicator strip was a stroke of genius, and it enables me to track the low floating black imitation in all but the most adverse lighting conditions. A description of my introduction to Jake’s gulp beetle is found in my 10/22/2015 post along with an outline of the tying steps.

Size 10

Jake’s gulp beetle is a fairly fast and simple tie, and this reinforces my affinity for the effective terrestrial. Through trial and error I learned that the most effective color is a peacock dubbed body, and I focused my tying efforts on that color. Over time I downsized the size from 10 to 12, and I encountered several situations in 2018 where the twelve provoked mostly refusals. I responded to this pointed message from the trout, and I produced five new size 14 beetles. I am very anxious to toss these smaller tidbits to the fussy coldwater residents of western streams.

Jake’s gulp beetle was responsible for many days of torrid fishing particularly on small streams in the September and October months. My most recent post on Jake’s gulp beetle of 01/15/2018 provides links to several intense beetle days in 2017. There are few better feelings in fly fishing than plopping a beetle to likely fish holding areas and then experiencing aggressive surface slurps a high percentage of the time. Another of my favorite ploys is to progressively downsize my offering when faced with refusals by reluctant surface feeders. Typically I begin with a size 10 Chernobyl ant followed by a size 12 hippy stomper. If these flies fail to close the deal, I move to a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. I now have the wherewithal to migrate to a size 14 beetle, and if all else fails, I carry an adequate supply of size 18 parachute ants. Trout find such a buffet of terrestrials virtually irresistible.

A Jumble

When I counted my supply of Jake’s gulp beetles, I discovered that I possessed an adequate supply of peacock and red body versions for the upcoming season. I focused my efforts on refurbishing two size 10’s that lurked in my damaged fly canister. Upon completion of this task I manufactured five size 14’s and then closed out the beetle production with five size 12’s for my son. Can beetle plopping season be far away?

 

Chernobyl Ant – 01/27/2019

Chernobyl Ant 01/27/2019 Photo Album

The name Chernobyl ant conjures images of a small black ant wandering among the fields of Russia after the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. During its journey it encounters a heavy dose of radioactivity and immediately takes on a bright glowing sheen and then mutates to a specimen that is one hundred times larger than its original size. The Chernobyl ant story that lurks in my mind is worthy of a comic book saga and could potentially overshadow Spiderman.

The Chernobyl ant has been a mainstay in my fly boxes for over fifteen years, and I suspect it will occupy an elevated status for as long, as I continue fly fishing. The story of my introduction to the Chernobyl ant is chronicled in my post of 2/1/11, and little has changed regarding my confidence in the over sized ant imitation. I actually suspect the the willing eaters of Chernobyl ants regard them as large beetles and not mutated ants.

Head On

In recent years the fly fishing community seems to have abandoned the classic Chernobyl ant for a steroidal variation called the Chubby Chernobyl. These bizarre concoctions possess two large plumes of poly yarn on the upper shell of their bodies; but the view from beneath is likely similar to that of the classic Chernobyl ant. I find the Chubby’s to be awkward to cast, and they require a heavy dose of floatant applied to the wings to prevent them from getting waterlogged. On infrequent occasions I free a chubby from my fly box and give it a fair trial on the water, but the results never seem to suggest, that I should forsake my classic black version for a modern chubby.

A quick read of my post of 02/25/2018 reveals, that I made some minor tweaks to my tying process for this relatively simple foam pattern. Several years ago I began cutting a V in the end of the foam section, that allowed me to tie in the over body at a point on the downward section of the hook curve, and this enabled me to bend the foam back over the hook shank. This simple step resolved the problem of the foam spinning around the hook after several attacks by ravenous trout. I also strongly advocate a section of pearl chenille wrapped around the hook shank between the rear and forward tie down points. The iridescent chenille imitates the peacock sheen that is present on the underside of many beetles.

The Full Batch

To some extent my reliance of the Chernobyl ant has waned in recent years; as my confidence in the fat Albert, pool toy hopper and hippy stomper increased. Many situations remain, however, where I continue to choose the reliable Chernobyl. Small streams and low water quickly come to mind as prime examples of situations ideal for the mutated ant. The Chernobyl is lighter and makes a smaller disturbance on the water than larger multi-layer flies. Its foam structure and lack of poly elements makes it maintenance free, and this is important in tight quarters where false casting is not possible.

During recent seasons I also discovered that downsizing often encouraged otherwise reluctant trout to crush a properly presented Chernobyl ant. I carry some size eights to support multiple nymphs, but I always stock a supply of size tens in case refusals become the norm. The smaller sizes often result in more takes, but they are harder to see and sink more readily with beaded droppers attached, particularly in turbulent water.

Because of reduced usage my supply of Chernobyl ants remained adequate, but I added seven additional models to my storage bin. Two were refurbished, and the other five were created from a bare hook. The Chernobyl ant will certainly earn its place in my fly box again in 2019.

 

Fat Albert – 01/24/2019

Fat Albert 01/24/2019 Photo Album

My love affair with the fat Albert began during a trip to Patagonia in December 2013, and I tied a small starter quantity in March 2016. I began with a variety of colors, but over the intervening years I settled on a size six yellow version as my favorite. If you read my post of 02/25/2018, you will learn of my success with the yellow fat Albert on the challenging waters of Penns Creek.

For the most part I view the fat Albert as a strike indicator with a hook point. The large, visible, buoyant, and durable attractor is better than a strike indicator, when it comes to suspending two size 14 beadhead nymphs. A yellow fat Albert, beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph yielded numerous outstanding days during the past three years, and I expect this performance to continue.

Two New Fat Alberts for Dan

Although I clearly view the large foam hopper imitation as an indicator, it often surprises me by initiating a savage attack from a stream resident. In fact the trout that crush the fat Albert are generally larger than the cousins that focus on the subsurface nymphs. Surely the hopper or stonefly imitation represents a significant feast to these veterans of the underwater world.

Four Recovered Fat Alberts

I counted sixteen yellow fat Alberts among my fly box collection, and I decided to tie five additional models to bring the 2019 beginning inventory to twenty-one. I plucked three from my fly box and replaced missing legs to make them viable imitations, and then I manned my vise and produced two more from brand new hooks. Fat Alberts will once again appear on western rivers and streams, and I am certain they will fool trout and support nymphs in 2019.

Pool Toy Hopper – 01/22/2019

Pool Toy Hopper 01/22/2019 Photo Album

The pool toy hopper has evolved into one of my favorite weapons for fishing western rivers and streams. It is highly visible, floats like a cork, and drives fish crazy. Check out my post Grillos pool toy for more information about my introduction to this fly.

Getting Closer

During the early and late season I tend to favor a yellow fat Albert over the pool toy hopper. I tie the fat Albert on a size six hook, and it easily supports two size 14 beadhead nymphs in a dry/dropper system. During these periods of the fishing season, the top fly is more of a strike indicator than a fish attractor, and this explains my preference for the large high floating terrestrial. My post of 03/04/2018 provides more background on the difference between the pool toy hopper and the fat Albert.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262 Size 8 or comparable
ThreadTan 3/0
UnderbodyTan dubbing, or a color and material of preference
OverbodyAlternating tan and brown layers of 2MM foam
UnderwingSilver crystal flash
WingDeer hair
OverwingTan poly
LegsBarred brown sillilegs
IndicatorPink Poly

When natural grasshoppers become a significant presence, however, in June; the pool toy hopper takes center stage on my fly line. The pool toy possesses a narrower profile than the fat Albert, and when tied with a tan body and dangling sillilegs, it provides an accurate representation of natural grasshoppers.The pool toy tied on a size 8 hook also performs the task of floating a pair of beadhead nymphs in an admirable fashion.

A Batch of Five Completed

In an effort to maintain a more than adequate supply after another active season of fly fishing, I counted seventeen tan, ten yellow, three pink and one tan ice dub versions in my storage containers. In order to boost my tan supply back to twenty I approached my vise and slapped together five additional tan pool toys. Two were refurbished and three were produced from new hooks. Western trout need to be on high alert during 2019 with high floating pool toy hoppers on the loose.

Pool Toy Hopper – 03/04/2018

Pool Toy Hopper 03/04/2018 Photo Album

A pool toy or a fat Albert? I struggle with this question quite often. During 2017 I opted for the fat Albert early in the season and late, but leaned on the pool toy during the July and August time period. The comparison may not be valid, since I tend to tie fat Alberts with yellow bodies and pool toys with tan bodies. Also I construct fat Alberts on size 8 hooks, and my pool toys are built primarily on size 10 hooks. I point these differences out to suggest that other variables besides type of fly may factor into the effectiveness of these two large foam hopper imitations.

Fine Looking Hopper

2017 was the second year that I fished a fat Albert extensively, and I was quite pleased with the results. In situations where I yearn for a large buoyant visible fly to support a pair of beadhead nymphs, the fat Albert is my preferred choice. The size 8 high floating attractor with dangling sexilegs is easy to track, and when combined with a beadhead hares ear nymph and salvation nymph provides hours of productive prospecting.

Ready to Tempt Trout

Despite my recent preference for a fat Albert I am not inclined to abandon the pool toy. In situations where I attempt to match the grasshopper hatch, the pool toy is very effective. For this reason the pool toy occupies my line frequently during the months of July, August and the first half of September. My 1/31/2013 post chronicles my introduction to the pool toy and describes some of the questions that I confronted during my first attempts to replicate the Andrew Grillos pattern. My 02/11/2017 post describes the intrusion of the fat Albert as an alternative surface indicator fly in a dry/dropper configuration.

A Pair with Different Color Legs

I counted thirteen tan pool toys in my various fly bins, so I manned my tying bench and manufactured an additional seven to bring my total to twenty. Eight yellow versions occupied space as well, and I decided to increment that total to ten by tying two more. I feel that I possess an adequate supply of foam grasshopper patterns to entertain the trout population in 2018.

 

Fat Albert – 02/25/2018

Fat Albert 02/25/2018 Photo Album

Although the fat Albert is a decent fish attractor in its own right, it earns significant time on my line purely due to its visibility, buoyancy and durability. I particularly love the fat Albert as my lead surface fly, when I deploy a three fly dry/dropper arrangement. It is unsurpassed as a highly visible indicator fly that floats above the surface even with two size 14 beadhead nymphs dangling below. The yellow color combined with a white wing and its large size make the fat Albert easy to follow in riffles and difficult light situations. Often it is simply an indicator with a hook point, as I search the stream with a productive nymph combination.

Dangling Legs

There are incidents, however, where the fat Albert attracts the attention of opportunistic fish. One such memorable situation occurred, while I fished in Penns Creek on 6/1/2016. In this instance a brown trout crushed a yellow fat Albert likely mistaking it for a golden stonefly. I frequently deploy the yellow fat Albert during high run off conditions, as I edge fish, and I recall numerous instances where a large bank dweller ignored the dangling nymphs and pounced on the juicy foam attractor. Of course during hopper season in August and September, the fat Albert performs as a serviceable grasshopper imitation as well.

Eight New Fat Alberts

My 3/27/2016 post documents my introduction to the fat Albert, and a 12/18/2016 post chronicles the fat Albert’s effectiveness during 2016, its first full season of use. I counted twelve yellow fat Albert’s in my fly boxes, so I busied myself with the task of tying an additional eight to bring my 2018 starting total to twenty. Yellow has been my most productive color, although I must admit that I have not experimented extensively with the green and orange body versions, that I tied among the initial batch. I plan to visit Pennsylvania this year for my college reunion, and you can be certain that I will pack an adequate supply to test on wily central Pennsylvania brown trout in case large golden stoneflies are present. Twenty should be sufficient to lead my nymphs through pockets, runs and riffles during the 2018 fly fishing season.

 

 

Chernobyl Ant – 02/25/2018

Chernobyl Ant 02/25/2018 Photo Album

My post of 02/12/2017 sums up the status of the Chernobyl ant in my fly boxes. It remains an important weapon, but it ceded some of its importance to the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle. In addition I enjoyed moderate success with a slightly smaller and lighter hippy stomper in the late fall of 2017, so this rising fish deceiver may displace even more line time from the Chernobyl ant.

Nice Segmentation

My introduction to the Chernobyl ant extends back to my first trips to the Green River in Utah, and if interested, you can read about my early contact with the large foam ant in my post of 02/01/2011. In the initial days of tying the Chernobyl ant I experienced frustration with the single layer of foam spinning around the hook shank. This generally occurred after landing two or three fish. My 02/13/2014 post describes a significant modification to my tying methodology that eliminated the spinning shortcoming.

Three Brand New Chernobyls

As the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle pilfered line time from the Chernobyl ant, my need to restock my supply shrank as well. I counted an adequate supply of size eights, but I determined that additional size tens were required. It is difficult to totally abandon a fly that factored so prominently in past success. I backed off on the hares ear nymph several years ago, but it returned to the number one productive fly in my box, just as I sensed its effectiveness was fading. It is far too early to write off the Chernobyl ant, since it owns a solid history of success.

Parachute Black Ant – 02/22/2018

Parachute Black Ant 02/22/2018 Photo Album

Historically I resort to an ant pattern when a gust of wind initiates a flurry of surface rises, or a feeding fish rejects several of my fly offerings but continues to feed. In the latter case it is very gratifying to dupe a reluctant feeder with a small black ant riding low in the film. Both of these scenarios are described nicely in my 02/03/2016 parachute ant post, and this was the last time I tied a batch of ants.

During the past summer I experienced several days on South Boulder Creek, when a parachute black ant became a very effective searching dry fly. The most prominent example is 10/17/2017. In this instance the trouts’ posture toward beetles was very tentative; however, they sipped my black ant with utter confidence. On a visit to South Boulder Creek on 09/21/2018 the black ant provided a preview of its later season effectiveness, as it yielded the first four trout of the day.

Nice Narrow Waist

Naturally the increased deployment of parachute ants resulted in a higher rate of depletion due to break offs, snags, and unraveling flies. My elevated level of confidence in the ant pattern suggested, that I would opt to knot it on my line with increased frequency, so I counted my holdings. I learned that my various storage boxes contained sixteen parachute black ants that complied with my exacting standards, so I decided to augment the supply by fourteen to thirty. I searched for and found my 01/11/2012 post, where I created a materials table and documented the excellent tying steps demonstrated by Tom Baltz at the Fly Fishing Show. I modified these instructions for one change. I now tie off the hackle and whip finish against the wing post rather than around the hook shank. This method traps far fewer hackle fibers. I also suggest using a finer thread such as 8/0 to avoid excessive build up in the waist area.

Eleven Refurbished Ants

I searched through all my damaged fly containers and uncovered eleven that were unraveling or poorly tied. Over the years I came to believe that a narrow waist between two well defined bumps is a triggering characteristic when casting an ant. I stripped quite a few ants from the hook that did meet my higher standards. The fourteen flies that I tied originated from unraveling flies, or flies that I deemed unacceptable for my exacting ant specifications.