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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.