Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 01/15/2018

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 01/15/2018 Photo Album

Yesterday I finished tying my twentieth Jake’s gulp beetle, and this action advanced my supply to thirty-five. My 10/22/2015 post provides a nice description of my introduction to this fly as well as excellent step by step tying directions. I no longer create notches as outlined in steps 10 and 11, and the effectiveness of the fly does not seem to be compromised.

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A Beginning

What can I say about this fly? Since my introduction on the Elk River in British Columbia, it secured a position as one of my most productive dry flies. If a large terrestrial such as a fat Albert or Chernobyl ant generates a plethora of refusals, the next fly out of my box is a size 12 Jake’s gulp beetle. In 2015 I tied size 10’s and versions with red and purple bodies, but experience taught me that an ample supply of size 12’s with a Ligas peacock dubbed body are more than adequate. On rare occasions during 2017 even the size 12 beetle proved to be too large for Colorado trout, and my next step down was a parachute black ant. Quite often this proved to be the answer, but I am also quite bullish on the hippy stomper, and I will assuredly insert that in my terrestrial downsizing progression.

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Twenty Completed Beetles

South Boulder Creek trout seem to relish Jake’s gulp beetle more than trout in any other Front Range stream. 09/19/2017 was an example of trout repeatedly crushing the foam beetle for several hours. 09/21/2017 was a similar experience, although early refusals caused me to switch to an ant. The improved visibility of Jake’s gulp beetle caused me to give it a second chance, and the move rewarded me with a span of hot action. A superb day on South Boulder Creek on 10/17/2017 reminded me that change is a constant in fly fishing. For some reason Jake’s gulp beetle was not in favor; however, a size 18 black parachute ant set the world on fire.

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Necessary Tying Materials

Overall Jake’s gulp beetle continued to attract significant interest from western trout, and I continue to view it as one of my top five dry flies. It is very buoyant and highly visible and catches fish. That combination earns high praise from this fly fisherman.

Chernobyl Ant – 02/12/2017

Chernobyl Ant 02/12/2017 Photo Album

When I counted my supply of black Chernobyl ants the other day, I discovered that I possessed 28 size 8 or 10 flies, and twelve size 6 versions. This quantity is actually fairly close to my desired beginning inventory, so I merely produced two additional size 8’s and three more size 6’s. The high number of remaining Chernobyl’s is indicative of my tendency to migrate away from the popular black foam attractor toward the fat Albert in the spring and summer season and toward Jake’s gulp beetle in the fall.

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Size 6 Top View

During the previous season I discovered that the size 8 and 10 ants did not easily support two beadhead nymphs, so I tied fifteen size 6 versions. This solved the problem of a sinking top fly, but the fish seemed to avoid the larger foam ant, and consequently I opted more frequently for a large buoyant fat Albert. The fat Albert did a superior job of supporting two size 14 beadhead nymphs, but it also surprised me with its fish attracting capability.

Late in the season even the smaller Chernobyls generated refusals. I concluded that the fish were drawn toward terrestrials on the surface, but they were discouraged from gulping due to the abnormally large size. I adjusted to this circumstance by choosing a size 10 or 12 Jake’s gulp beetle, and the fish awarded this move with a solid thumbs up.

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Foam, Chenille and Rubber Legs Do the Job

In summary the fat Albert and Jake’s gulp beetle appropriated fishing time from the Chernobyl ant. Despite this turn of events, I continue to value the Chernboyl ant as a key weapon in my fly fishing arsenal. During my long history with this fly I refined it to the point where I am satisfied with its durability and performance. One critical modification was attaching the foam on the downside of the bend, and then folding it over the top to prevent spinning around the shank. Last year I began utilizing heavier hooks such as a Tiemco 5262 or equivalent. The extra weight served as a keel that enabled the fly to land in the desired position most of the time. Long legs seemed to contribute to the foam ant landing upside down, so I now limit the rubber leg extension to one body segment in length. The pinching effect of the thread tended to pull the legs in, so that they extended in a tight parallel manner at ninety degrees from the body. I disliked this look, so I began making narrowly spaced thread wraps around the body to attach the leg material. Given this history of refinement I do not expect to abandon the Chernboyl ant anytime soon.

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Three Size 6 and Two Size 8

Pool Toy Hopper – 02/11/2017

Pool Toy Hopper 02/11/2017 Photo Album

Evidence that I made a more significant commitment to the pool toy hopper is documented by the seven decommissioned foam imitations in my refurbishment canister. During 2017 I knotted this buoyant and visible terrestrial imitation to my line quite frequently, and as expected, it accounted for a considerable number of fish. I continue to believe, however, that a simple yellow Letort hopper would outperform a pool toy or Charlie Boy hopper, if I dedicated an equal amount of playing time to the grasshopper imitation created in Pennsylvania. Unfortunately the Letort hopper does not possess the buoyancy that I crave in my dry/dropper configurations, so I cling to the pool toy and Charlie boy hoppers as my surface fly during summer sessions. The pool toy seems to attract more fish than the Charlie boy, and I dislike dealing with the super glue that is fundamental to Charlie boy construction.

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I Like This One

During 2017 I stumbled across a competing foam attractor that stole line time from the pool toy. The fat Albert proved to be a superior indicator fly that was effective in supporting two size 14 beadhead nymphs. In addition it duped quite a few Colorado trout as either a golden stonefly or grasshopper fraud. It even fooled a wily Pennsylvania brown trout on Penns Creek that presumably mistook it for an eastern golden stonefly. I shifted my loyalties from the fat Albert to the pool toy during the prime summer months in Colorado, but then I reverted to the fat Albert in the fall season, and it did not disappoint.

Despite my newfound love affair with the fat Albert, I decided to hedge my bets, and I increased my pool toy supply by fifteen for the coming season. I counted twenty carry overs from the previous seasons, so this puts my inventory at thirty-five, and this is assuredly the greatest quantity of pool toys to occupy my fly bins.

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Associated Materials

The retired flies in my canister served as my starting point. The bodies of these handicapped flies were intact; however, all were missing legs to varying degrees. I managed to attach my thread at the midpoint to attach replacement hind legs, or in other cases I tied down the thread near the eye and added front appendages. This process also tightened the foam to the hook shank and increased the stability of the flies.

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Seven Refurbished Pool Toys

After I refurbished the seven misfits, I moved on to constructing new pool toys. I tied the freshly minted foam hoppers on size 8 hooks, and I generated three with tan bodies, four with light yellow and one with a tan ice dub body. I am anxious to give the ice dub version a test. Hopper season cannot come soon enough.

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Eight New Pool Toys Ready for Action

Fat Albert – 12/18/2016

Fat Albert 12/18/2016 Photo Album

No, this post does not refer to the character described by Bill Cosby. The fat Albert is a large foam fly that captured my attention during the 2016 fishing season. You can read the story of my introduction to the fat Albert in my 3/27/2016 post, but in summary I tied some during March, and they became a significant contributor to my spring, summer and fall success.

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Ready for the Water

Early in the season I experimented with the fat Albert as the top fly on a three fly dry/dropper arrangement. The large three layer imitation appealed to me as an indicator fly due to its buoyancy. The yellow version was extremely visible, and it easily supported two size 14 beadhead nymphs. Initially during trips to the St. Vrain, Big Thompson and Arkansas Rivers it served entirely as an indicator, but my hunch was correct, and it fulfilled that function quite well.

As the weather warmed, and trout looked to the surface, it suddenly became a main attraction on several occasions. During an April 20 trip to Boulder Creek I was astonished when five brown trout smashed the fat Albert in the late afternoon. Grasshoppers were in their infancy, and golden stoneflies were not evident, but the trout did not seem to care.

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I transported a few with yellow underbodies to Pennsylvania in early June, and during an evening session on Penns Creek, a wild and chunky brown trout crushed the fat Albert in some riffles above a pool. My friend, Jeff, was certain that the aggressive brown viewed the fat Albert as a tasty golden stonefly. Unfortunately I lost the fly in my attempt to land the angry battling fish, and I did not have more yellow versions along on the trip.

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The fat Albert served mainly as an indicator fly on several successful visits to the South Platte River in May and June, but then as the season progressed, I opted for a pool toy or Charlie boy hopper ahead of the fat Albert. Eventually I gave the fat Albert another audition, and it did not disappoint. During many outings in September through November the fat Albert led the charge, while I drifted a hares ear and salvation nymph below. The nymphs were clearly the main producers, but occasionally the big yellow foam attractor duped fish as well, and the average size of the surface feeders surpassed the nymph munchers.

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16 Completed and Ready for 2017

Clearly the fat Albert found an admirer in this fly fisherman, and for this reason, I produced sixteen new facsimiles with yellow bodies. I counted four carryovers in my boxes, so the addition of sixteen placed my inventory at twenty. I am not ready to give up on the pool toy and Charlie boy, but the fat Albert clearly caught my attention and earned a lot of playing time on my leader during 2017.

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 11/08/2016

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 11/08/2016 Photo Album

Similar to October of 2015 I enjoyed superb success using a Jake’s gulp beetle in the Front Range streams near Denver during recent visits. The preferred version is a size 12 beetle with a peacock dubbed body. In 2016 mild autumn weather lingered into the first two weeks of November, and this circumstance allowed me to continue fishing much later than normal. The combination of extended fishing and the effectiveness of Jake’s gulp beetle stressed my supply, so I visited my fly tying bench today and produced six additional foam terrestrials.

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A New Jake's Gulp Beetle

Fortunately I documented the tying steps in detail in a previous post, and this eliminated the need to reinvent the wheel. When the weather eventually reverts to normal Colorado November conditions, I plan to continue tying Jake’s gulp beetles until I accumulate twenty peacock body size twelves for the 2017 fishing season.

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Six Ready for Action

 

Fat Albert – 03/27/2016

Fat Albert 03/27/2016 Photo Album

What does a Fat Albert imitate? Surely not a character in a Bill Cosby comedy skit. In today’s world even a mention of Bill Cosby is probably politically incorrect. During my fishing trip to Rio Manso Lodge in Argentina in December 2013 two fishing guests from California were in our group, and I fished with each of them during my one week stay. Todd was the other occupant of our boat on Lago Roca on the last fishing day, and he deployed a Fat Albert on his line for much of the time. Todd registered a very successful day of fishing on December 7, 2013, and accolades for the Fat Albert made a huge impression on my thinking. It was not readily apparent what the Fat Albert was imitating, but when it was fooling twenty inch fish with regularity, who cared?

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A Fat Albert Parade

Since I was nearing the end of my production tying of tried and true patterns, I decided to create some Fat Alberts to test in North America. I searched on line for tying instructions and found several YouTube demonstrations. I possessed all the necessary materials, so I sat down at my tying desk and produced ten foam attractors. I varied the underbody colors between green, orange, yellow and tan ice dub. For the foam overbody I stuck with brown, tan and yellow for the first versions. but then I created some prototypes using medium green and light green.

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Close Up of Some Fat Alberts

These flies are now secured in my boat box and ready for action in 2016. In fact, I used the Fat Albert on two trips to the North Fork of the Saint Vrain in March. It did not produce any fish, but served its purpose well as a buoyant surface indicator. Hopefully as the water warms up, and as the fish look more toward the surface for their meals, the Fat Albert will quickly prove its worth.

Hopper Juan – 03/26/2016

Hopper Juan 03/26/2016 Photo Album

How many grasshopper patterns does one fly fisherman need? I assumed that I settled on four effective imitations that would suffice in nearly all circumstances. I began my hopper search with the yellow Letort hopper, and this simple tie that originated on the limestone creeks of my native Pennsylvania served me well for many years. Next I added the parachute hopper, and this handsome fly demonstrated superior effectiveness late in the summer and in early fall. The parachute hopper with its knotted pheasant tail legs offered an incremental level of realism over the Letort hopper. The parachute hackle allowed it to land upright on nearly every cast, and it proved to be adequate as the top fly in a dry/dropper set up with one beadhead nymph suspended.

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From the Side

Both of these flies, however, contain dubbed bodies which tend to absorb moisture over time and thus require frequent reconditioning. Drying a fly takes away from fishing time, so I went in search of foam grasshoppers that also presented a decent level of realism. My first discovery was the Charlie Boy hopper. Initially I was dissatisfied with the performance of the Charlie Boy as a fish attractor, although it performed admirably as an indicator on a dry/dropper arrangement. Recently the Charlie Boy staged a comeback, and it spent a fair amount of time on my line in 2015. While the Charlie Boy was in my dog house, I produced some pool toy hoppers. These flies were even more buoyant than the Charlie Boy, but they also seemed to fall short in the fish catching category compared to the Letort hopper and parachute hopper.

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Great Clarity

I assumed that I was locked into these four hopper imitations, when I stumbled across another pattern that caught my attention. I am an avid member of the Instagram family, and a participant named @hopperjuan_fly_fishing liked one of my posts. I checked his profile page and discovered that his name was Juan Ramirez, and he had a web page called hopperjuan.blogspot.com. I browsed his blog and determined that he was the creator of a fly named the hopper Juan. The hopper Juan was another foam grasshopper pattern that intrigued me, so I took the plunge and tied some. Conveniently I found a video on Mr. Ramirez’s web site that demonstrated the tying steps, so I followed along and produced six Juan’s in size six and eight.

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Three Size 6 and Three Size 8 Hopper Juans

This means I now have five different options for hopper fishing. More importantly I have an additional large buoyant foam pattern that can suspend multiple beadhead droppers for my favorite technique for fishing in western streams. Who knows, perhaps this could be my preferred approach in eastern and mid-western streams as well. I probably need to allocate more time to drifting dry/dropper flies in other geographies.

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Chubby Chernobyl – 03/02/2016

Chubby Chernobyl 03/02/2016 Photo Album

Prior to my fishing trip to Argentina I purchased a box of flies from Royal Gorge Anglers. I provided Taylor Edrington with a budget and asked him to fill the box with an optimal selection that fell within my dollar range. The fly box that he shipped to me contained some dragon fly imitations along with an assortment of streamers and large foam attractor flies. Several of the foam attractors were very large single layer Chernobyls with long dangling rubber legs and huge polypropylene white wings protruding from the back of the fly. Taylor informed me that these were chubby Chernobyls.

My guide did not select them for fishing in Argentina more than once or twice, so I returned to Colorado with several large foam beasts to chuck on western streams and rivers. I used them a few times over the next couple years, but for the most part they earned tenure on my line during periods of frustration caused by poor lighting conditions. When sun glare or shadows made it nearly impossible to see my hopper pattern or Chernobyl ant, the chubby Chernobyl made an appearance on my line as the surface fly that typically supported a pair of beadhead nymphs. Of all my flies, the chubby Chernobyl is the most visible.

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Antron Wing and Beige Antron Body

My young fishing friend, Danny Ryan, holds the chubby Chernobyl in high regard, and during a trip to the South Platte River in October he deployed one on his Tenkara rod for nearly our entire time on the water. Danny enjoyed a fabulous day of fishing, and the chubby Chernobyl was part of the formula. This opened my eyes to the possibilities of the popular fly, so I decided to produce a batch as my next large foam attractor.

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I Like the Ice Dub Look

 

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Chubby Chernobyl Materials

I watched several videos on YouTube and eventually chose the one produced by Intheriffle, as it was very clear and seemed to simplify the steps more than the others. Using this educational tool, I produced ten size six chubby chernobyls. The YouTube tier used tan ice dub for the body, but I did not possess that material, so I substituted beige antron yarn for the first four. They turned out nice, but I am fearful that the antron yarn will absorb water, and they do not seem to produce the psychedelic pop that ice dub yields.

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Nice Side View

 

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Climbing Over the Bump

After making the first four, I made a trip to Charlie’s Fly Box and purchased a bag of tan ice dub, and I manufactured two chubbys that utilized this material for bodies. These really stand out, and I suspect they may be superior fish attractors. Next I combined some silver ice dub strands with some light gray poly dubbing and mixed my own custom ice dub. This clump was applied to two chubby Chernobyls with gray bodies, and then finally I experimented with black versions with a peacock body and yellow poly wings. I am anxious to test these in situations when I would normally toss a conventional black Chernboyl ant. I like the large size and visibility for supporting beadhead droppers, as this is my preferred method of fly fishing.

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A Parade of Ten Chubbys

Charlie Boy Hopper – 03/02/2016

Charlie Boy Hopper 03/02/2016 Photo Album

Having restored my supply of pool toy hoppers, I turned my attention to another large foam grasshopper pattern, the Charlie boy hopper. I began tying these in 2011 in an attempt to discover a visible yet buoyant replacement for my reliable Letort hoppers. My initial batch was poorly tied, and consequently I did not develop confidence in Charlie boy hoppers. They occupied space in my fly storage bin and did not see much use until late in the 2014 season. I depleted my pool toy supply to a dangerously low level, and quite a bit of hopper season remained, so I substituted one of my largely forgotten Charlie boys. In my mind I was simply using it as a strike indicator.

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A Charlie Boy Fresh Off the Vice

All of a sudden I had a hot fly on my hands, and this motivated me to tie up more for 2015. During the past summer and fall I tested the Charlie boy more frequently, and I can report that it is an effective fish catcher primarily in the August and September time frame. In addition it is extremely buoyant, very visible, and can support two beadhead nymphs in a dry/dropper setup.

Since all my foam materials were arranged on my fly tying countertop, I decided to knock out some new Charlie boys for 2016. They are not difficult to tie, but I dislike working with superglue, and the quick dry adhesive is a critical component of the Charlie boy. My plastic container of Zap-a-Gap was over a year old, and when I attempted to apply it to the first work in process, I was dismayed to discover that it did not adhere. Fortunately I bought Jane a small vial of superglue as a stocking stuffer for Christmas, so I searched for and found it. I suppose I should feel guilty about giving myself a gift, but it remains available for Jane to use should she have a need. At any rate I discovered that the new brand applied easier to the foam, and this greatly improved my attitude about tying Charlie boy hoppers.

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A Clump of New Charlie Boys

Once a tier gets over the superglue paranoia, the fly is actually an easy, straightforward tie with fewer materials and far fewer steps than a pool toy. A hook, thread, two pieces of foam, rubber legs and deer hair are all that is required to make a fairly realistic fly that floats well and contains the key triggering characteristics of a grasshopper struggling to escape from the current of a stream. 3/0 thread is recommended to allow increased pressure when snugging down the deer hair wing.

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Zoomed In on the Leaders

Over the last two seasons I concluded that the Charlie boy and pool toy perform best in the late summer and early autumn season. This makes perfect sense, since this is when the large land bound natural hoppers are most prevalent, and the dense population of adults increases the likelihood of an errant flight path that results in a water landing. I have concluded that the yellow Letort hopper produces fish in the early season, as it is most likely taken for a golden stonefly. The Charlie boy and pool toy are not strong imitations of a stonefly even if they were tied with yellow bodies.

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One Charlie Boy, Three Looks

As a result of my new affinity for the Charlie boy, I churned out ten new size ten versions and stashed them in my boat box. I made all of them with tan foam since I have not met with success using any other color. I have a few leftover yellow and green models from my earlier efforts should the need arise. Bring on the hopper season and dry/dropper fishing.

Pool Toy Hopper – 02/28/2016

Pool Toy Hopper 02/28/2016 Photo Album

Three prior posts on this blog thoroughly documented my introduction to the pool toy hopper as well as the evolution of my experience with this fly. If the reader clicks on the link in the previous sentence, he or she will encounter two additional links to access previous posts.

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A New Pool Toy

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Yikes Up Close

Not much has changed with this fly. It remains a large visible buoyant terrestrial that I select when I wish to fish a dry/dropper arrangement. I particularly appreciate its buoyancy when I elect to fish two trailing nymphs as it continues to bob along on the surface despite the weighty attachments. Occasionally a fish will fall for the large hopper imitation, but most of the time the pool toy hopper serves as a sophisticated strike indicator.

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Fish View

One locale where I experienced decent success with the pool toy is on the North Fork of the White River as well as the South Fork of the same drainage. This September pool toy success story seemed to repeat itself on each of my trips to the Flattops. Also it seems that large foam hopper patterns reach their peak effectiveness in August and September, and this probably makes sense since this is when the majority of large juicy grasshoppers get blown into the rivers and streams.

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Twelve Tan Pool Toys

I often choose a pool toy earlier in the season when fish refuse my Chernobyl ant pattern. I get easily frustrated when fish rise to my top fly and reject it, and this circumstance usually coincides with trout totally ignoring my trailing nymph droppers. In this situation I am more interested in a buoyant indicator that will not attract attention, and the pool toy serves this purpose.

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Four Views

Unlike previous winter tying sessions, I settled on a standard combination for my pool toy hoppers in 2016. I made ten with tan and medium olive foam, and I settled on olive barred sexilegs from Montana Fly Company for the legs. I did vary from my established pattern to produce two versions with a pink top foam layer. These should be extra visible under difficult lighting situations.