Category Archives: Terrestrials

Parachute Ant – 02/26/2020

Parachute Ant 02/26/2020 Photo Album

I would never want to be present on a stream or lake without a parachute ant in my fly box. I recall numerous occasions, when fish were rising to unidentifiable food sources, and I cycled through a dozen flies without a favorable response. As a last resort I plucked a black size 18 parachute ant from my box; and, boom, the extra selective fish confidently sipped my ant. Imagine how good it would be, if I did not save it for my fly of last resort. I do recall several instances on South Boulder Creek, when I used a black parachute ant as a searching pattern, and it produced in fine fashion. In these cases the water was smooth, and I was able to follow the fly easily.

Better Focus

For a materials table, background on my introduction to this fly, and step by step tying instructions please refer to my earlier post of 01/11/2012.  This fly will not disappoint you.

I counted my parachute ants stashed in my fly box and boat box and storage compartments and ascertained that I possessed adequate quantities for 2020. I, therefore, do not need to adjourn to my vice to manufacture additional flies, but when I do, I’ll have my 01/11/2012 post to refer to.

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 01/20/2020

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 01/20/2020 Photo Album

Jake’s gulp beetle has earned the status of indispensable mainstay in my fly box. For some reason I did not use it as frequently in 2019 as during the previous two seasons, but I would not want to be on a stream anywhere in the world without it. Beetles are prevalent in nearly every ecosystem, and trout are keenly aware of their presence.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 2457 or Equivalent
ThreadBlack 6/0
Overbody2MM Foam
AbdomenDubbing (I prefer peacock)
LegsBlack Silli Legs
Indicator Narrow strip of orange 2MM foam

If you read my original post on Jake’s gulp beetle, you can learn about my introduction to this productive pattern. This post also contains step by step tying instructions; however, I no longer use the slit method outlined in steps 7-9. Simply apply pressure when wrapping the thread between the rubber legs, and this action will create an indentation that mimics the separation between the head and body of a beetle.

Angled View

For some reason I did not utilize the Jake’s gulp beetle as frequently in 2019 as previous seasons. 2019 was a year of late run off and high flows throughout the late summer and fall months, and I suspect that the beetle excels during low clear water conditions, when the telltale plop registers with wary stream residents. Check out my post of 01/28/2019 for additional information regarding Jake’s gulp beetle, and how I deploy them.

A Batch of Five Finished

When I recently counted my supply of beetles, I determined that I had adequate quantities of size 10 and 12. Last winter I tied five size 14 imitations, so I decided to increase that size to ten and produced an additional five. These are available for situations, where the trout refuse the larger beetles.

Chubby Chernobyl – 01/17/2020

Chubby Chernobyl 01/17/2020 Photo Album

My last attempt to tie chubby Chernobyls was in March 2016, and I manufactured eight during my first attempt. I experimented with various body colors and foam colors, but my output lingered in my storage compartments largely unused until this past summer. My friend, Danny Ryan, is a huge proponent of the foam fly with obscenely large wings, and he was the impetus for my first foray into chubbyland.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 200R, size 8 or smaller
Thread3/0, color to match body
TailRainbow crystal flash
Body filler2 MM foam, any color
UnderbodyIce dubbing
Overbody2 MM foam
LegsRubber legs
WingsMcFlylon, white

Nice Side View

On July 15, 2019 I resorted to a chubby Chernobyl with a tan ice dub body, and I was pleasantly surprised to stumble on to a hot fly. Unfortunately I lost the two flies that I made in 2016 on that day and the following, and the Steamboat Springs fly shop did not carry any with a comparable body color. Of course this dose of unplanned success caught my attention, so I resolved to tie an ample quantity for the 2020 season.

A Batch of Finished Chubbys

During previous tests of the large awkward foam chubby, I struggled with the large poly wing getting saturated with water. I was discouraged by the limp wing and the extra weight from the water that  it absorbed. I learned; however, from a guide to coat the wing and body with a generous amount of floatant paste, and once I applied this lesson, the wet wing problem seemed to disappear. During my July day on the Yampa I was mesmerized by the seductive disappearance of the large wing, when a trout snatched one of the trailing nymphs. Of course, the sight of a large fish rising to crush the visible foam attractor produced an even greater shot of exhilaration.

Materials in This Shot

I settled into my fly tying space and produced ten chubby Chernobyls for the new season. Five were tied with an olive-brown ice dub body, two displayed a peacock ice dub underbody. two were yellow, and one was gray. Surely these flies will dwell on the end of my line more than the previous batch, and hopefully the trout will vote in favor of their availability.

Chernobyl Ant – 01/15/2020

Chernobyl Ant 01/15/2020 Photo Album

My arsenal of large foam flies has expanded significantly over the years, but I continue to stock adequate quantities of the old original black Chernobyl ant. For the story of my introduction to this fly review my post of 02/01/2011.  Most fly tying instructions on the internet utilize two layers of foam for the classic Chernobyl; however, I continue to favor one layer, so I can wrap pearl chenille around the hook shank, and this creates a nice iridescent underside akin to that which I observed on numerous natural beetles. I possess a number of alternative flies with multiple layers of foam for those occasions, when I desire more buoyancy to float multiple beadhead nymphs.

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262, Size 8 or 10
ThreadBlack, 3/0
Body2 MM black foam
LegsBrown rubber legs
UnderbodyPearl chenille
Indicaor2 MM foam, yellow or color of choice

Premium Classic Chernobyl Ant

During 2019 I experienced surprising success with a chubby Chernobyl on the Yampa River, and you can read more about this day in my 07/15/2019 post. Prior to this day on the Yampa I relegated chubby Chernobyls to the back of my fly box and wrote them off as an overrated trendy fly. Catching multiple nice fish during high water conditions certainly changed my opinion and caused me to spin out quite a few chubbys this winter.

Three and Required Materials

Nevertheless, the classic black single layer Chernobyl ant remains a trustworthy fly that frequents my line on numerous occasions. One particularly productive outing, when trout displayed a notable preference for the large foam terrestrial was 09/27/2019, and these types of experiences reinforced my loyalty to the classic attractor. Small headwater streams with tight bankside vegetation continue to offer the scenarios where the Chernobyl ant shines. The simple fly is totally synthetic, and none of the materials absorb water, thus backcasts to dry the fly are unnecessary. Of course this is exactly the fly needed to dap and roll cast to wild trout in tight quarters, and my Chernobyl ants earn their keep in these situations.

Zoomed In

Because of my reduced usage and a historical overabundance, my fly boxes exhibited adequate quantities for the upcoming season. In spite of this condition I churned out three new size eight Chernobyl ants to maintain my skills. Practice makes perfect.

Pool Toy Hopper – 01/13/2020

Pool Toy Hopper 01/13/2020 Photo Album

The pool toy hopper is another fly designed by Andrew Grillos that has developed into one of my favorites. During peak summer fishing periods, when I adopt the dry/dropper approach; it is rare that a fat Albert, pool toy hopper or hippie stomper are not on my line. Two of these three flies are the product of Andrew Grillos’s ingenuity, and from my perspective he is the king of foam.

Ready to Hop

If you are interested in the story of how I was introduced to this fly, check out my post,  Grillos pool toy.  My more recent post of 01/22/2019 provides an update and a materials table. I have tried at least five foam grasshopper imitations, and I feel that the pool toy hopper provides the best profile, and the fish seem to agree especially during hopper season. I selected a tan pool toy from my fly box more frequently in 2019 than any previous year, and my count confirmed this, as my supply of tans was depleted to fourteen. With this knowledge in hand I approached my vice and produced an additional nine tan models and one yellow. I feel that I now possess sufficient quantities of pool toy hoppers to drive western trout crazy during the upcoming year.

Finished Batch

Fat Albert – 12/30/2019

Fat Albert 12/30/2019 Photo Album

Check out the story of my introduction to the fat Albert on my post of 03/27/2016. It was a momentous occasion and defined my relationship with the large buoyant hopper imitation. My post of 12/18/2016 describes my many positive experiences with the fat Albert during its initial season of deployment.

Angled View

Fly ComponentMaterial
HookTiemco 5262 Size 6 or smaller
Thread3/0 yellow
Overbody2 MM foam, brown then yellow
AbdomenYellow floss
WingWhite McFlylon
LegsRubber legs of choice
Indicator2 MM yellow foam section

At the risk of being redundant, the fat Albert possesses three valuable fly fishing characteristics: buoyancy, visibility and durability. These qualities cause one to occupy the top position on my leader quite often. When I grow frustrated with my inability to track the leading fly in a dry/dropper arrangement due to difficult lighting or water turbulence, I confidently insert a size 6 or 8 fat Albert in my lineup, and it improves my catch rate. In addition to serving the role of strike indicator, the fat Albert also attracts its share of aggressive trout to the surface, and quite often these top water feeders are larger than average.

An Army

I paused to assess my supply of fat Alberts, and I determined that sixteen were scattered among my various fly storage compartments. I settled down at my vice to produce four additional versions with yellow bodies to bring my total to twenty, as I head into the 2020 fly fishing season. I am confident that the fat Albert will frequently command a spot on my line, and it will certainly reward me for my vote of confidence.

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 provides 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.