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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


I Like the Ice Dub Look



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.


Nice Side View



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


A New Pool Toy


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.


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.


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.


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.

Chernobyl Ant – 02/24/2016


A Size 8 Chernobyl Ant

Chernobyl Ant 02/24/2016 Photo Album

If I created a hall of fame filled with the most productive flies, the Chernobyl ant would hold an honored position at the top of the list. I documented much of my history with this fly on previous posts, and the reader is encouraged to click on the below links to learn why I revere this foam terrestrial/attractor.

Chernobyl Ant – 02/01/2011

Chernobyl Ant – 02/13/2014

Chernobyl Ant – 01/06/2015



When I performed an inventory of my Chernobyl ants a few weeks ago, I discovered 23 size 10 versions in my bins and boat box. I was satisfied that this quantity was sufficient for the upcoming season; however, I counted only two large size eight imitations. During 2015 I often utilized two beadhead droppers from my Chernobyl ants, and the size 10’s tended to ride very low in the surface film as a result of the weight of two flies. I decided to go big for the new season, and I tied fifteen new size eight foam ants. These larger flies should be much more visible, and they will probably do a superior job of floating a double nymph dry/dropper configuration.


Creeping Down

I learned during the late summer and fall season that trout began refusing the Chernboyl ant. For some reason the fish seemed to get more discriminating in their choice of surface terrestrials as the season progressed. In response to these snubbings, I experimented with substituting a Jake’s gulp beetle, and I was pleased to discover that the smaller terrestrial was quite effective. The Chernobyl allows me to spot fish and also to determine that they are looking to the surface for their food supply. The more realistic and smaller Jake’s beetle enables me to close the deal when fish are more selective.


Ten New Size 8 Chernoyl Ants

The only significant change to my Chernobyl ant tying approach is the usage of a Tiemco 5262 or equivalent hook. The heavier weight of this hook serves as a keel for the large foam ant, and this causes the fly to land right side up nearly all the time. I learned this trick from Jake Chutz, the designer of Jake’s gulp beetle. I tied all of the new size eight Chernobyl ants on the heavier 5262 hook.


Parachute Ant – 02/03/2016

Parachute Ant 02/03/2016 Photo Album

It has been several years since I replenished my parachute ant supply, so I was not surprised when I performed a quick inventory and discovered 5-10 size eighteens in my fly bins. In addition to a dwindling supply, I was not pleased with the quality of my ties from two or three years ago. For these reasons I jumped into parachute ant production over the last couple weeks of January.


A Bright Green Joins Pink

I do not utilize ant imitations frequently, but I would not want to venture onto a stream anywhere without an ample supply in my fly box. I have discovered that a black size eighteen parachute ant covers nearly all ant scenarios, It is small enough to mimic naturals, yet with a highly visible wing post I can follow it reasonably well in poor light and riffled currents. The parachute hackle causes the fly to land upright and to ride low in the surface film like a natural ant, and in the rare occasion where flying ants predominate, the wing serves its purpose.


Nine of Ten New Parachute Ants

Over my many years of fly fishing I have discovered two main situations where an ant ends up on my line. The first is during blustery days, and these are more frequent than one would desire in the western half of the United States. I have vivid memories of days on the upper Colorado River near Parshall when I was not having much success with a dry/dropper or a single dry fly presentation. Periodic gusts of wind caused a brief flurry of rises, and I reassessed my approach only to guess that the wind was blowing terrestrials into the river. I swapped my subsurface beadhead nymph for a parachute ant behind a large visible foam attractor that enabled me to follow the small terrestrial. This ploy yielded several fifteen inch brown trout that sipped the low riding parachute. Trout seem to have a strong craving for terrestrials and especially ants. The scene that I described on the Colorado River has transpired on other streams, and my success is probably only limited by my inclination to test other flies before resorting to an ant.


Zoomed on Green

The second application of a parachute ant is the fussy fish situation. We have all been there. We sight a fish sipping something from the surface film in a fairly consistent rhythm. In my case I abandon my usual “three casts and move on” style of fishing, and I dwell on a sighted riser. I generally cycle through a series of fly changes in an attempt to dupe the selective fish in front of me. The menu usually includes a mayfly and caddis. If neither of these fool the reluctant fish, I default to a parachute ant. There are few experiences in fly fishing more rewarding than duping a difficult fish after numerous fly changes with a tiny parachute ant riding flush in the film. These scenes remain permanently etched in my memory bank.


Orange Wings

During the latter stages of January I churned out twenty parachute ants. They are all exact size eighteen replicas with varying wing colors. I made ten with a bright pink wing, five contain a bright green wing, and five more present an orange wing. Hopefully these will cover the many varied lighting situations I encounter in the upcoming season. All my parachute ants are tied using the detailed tying steps that I learned from Tom Baltz at the Fly Fishing Show in 2012. Tom’s method assures an excellent visible wing post and symmetrical hackle while maintaining the all important narrow waist of a natural ant. Check out my black parachute ant – 01/11/2012 post to follow the documented steps and the recipe for these valuable assets in my fly fishing arsenal.


20 Parachute Ants

Jake’s Gulp Beetle – 10/22/2015

Jake’s Gulp Beetle 10/22/2015 Photo Album

Jake Chutz is the Sales Manager for Montana Fly Company, and he invited me to join him for a day of fishing on the Elk River near Fernie, BC in August. We floated the river from Hosmer to Fernie on 8/8/2014, and we used a Jake’s gulp beetle nearly the entire time. I landed twenty fish over the course of the day, and all but one or two succumbed to the size 10 foam terrestrial. The west slope cutthroats loved the fake beetle, and quite a few of my landed fish measured fifteen to seventeen inches.

This was my first introduction to Jake’s gulp beetle. My fishing partner, Jake Chutz, was the designer, so he obviously knew it was an effective imitation. During the morning and late afternoon we fished a beetle with a deep purple dubbed body, and during the middle of the day we switched to a version with a red body. Both seemed to produce equally based on my unscientific observation.


A Different Angle

At the end of my trip to British Columbia, Jake allowed me to retain the size 10 gulp beetle with a purple body, so I stuffed it in my front pack. I gave it a try on the East Fork of Brush Creek when I returned to Colorado, but it did not produce any results. I essentially forgot about my gift fly until I visited the Big Thompson River on September 30. The resident trout began to refuse my Chernobyl ant, and I pondered what sort of adjustment to make. Jake’s gulp beetle leaped into my mind, and I knotted my sole size ten to my line. Much to my amazement the Big Thompson trout feasted on my lonely beetle with confidence. Since it was the only one in my possession, and I wanted to use it as a model to tie more, I was extremely protective and checked the line for abrasions frequently. This is something I rarely do, although I probably should.

I landed twenty-eight fish that day on the Big Thompson, and most gulped the beetle. On subsequent trips to Clear Creek, the same scenario played out where fish rejected the large Chernobyl ant but did not waver in their approach to Jake’s beetle. On two separate occasions I sat down at my vice and produced three size 12 gulp beetles, so I was adequately prepared for my remaining fall fishing trips.


Ten Size 12's Completed

After a long and unseasonably warm fall in Colorado, some cooler temperatures and rain arrived on October 21. This forced me to take a break from fishing, and I used it as an opportunity to kick start my production tying in preparation for the next season. What better way to begin my tying than to crank out twenty Jake’s gulp beetles. I made ten size 12 beetles with a peacock dubbed body, and today I expanded my inventory with ten size tens. Half of the size tens have a peacock dubbed body, and the other five have a red body. The red body worked on the Elk River, so I needed to have some to test in Colorado. I’m also hopeful that the red body will be an answer to the phenomenon of a trout rising to a red strike indicator.


Red Dubbed Underbody

Since I did not have tying instructions, I developed my own through trial and error. Here they are if readers wish to try:

1.  Place a size 12 or 10 Tiemco 2457 hook in your vice. Jake told me to use a heavy nymph hook as it acts as a keel so that the fly lands properly.

2. Attach black thread and wind it a good distance down the bend of the hook. This is important. If the tie down is too far forward, the fly will have too much bare hook shank visible after the foam is folded forward. I also coat the thread with head cement before proceeding.

3. Take a strip of black foam that is cut so that the width equals the hook gap. Create a V in the end that you will tie down.

4. Place the V portion of the foam on top of the thread wraps so that the non-tapered portion lines up with the beginning of your thread wraps on the bend, and then wrap the thread around the V portion of the foam and bind it securely to the hook. When you reach the end of the foam, wrap back to the starting point. I’ve started tying a whip finish knot at this tie down point, but do not cut the thread. Also I coat the entire foam tie down area with head cement. These are all steps that help prevent the foam from twisting around the hook shank after extended use.

5. Dub over the tie down area and the hook shank with a thick clump of dubbing. I use peacock and red, but you can exercise your preference. You want the area from the tie down point to approximately two or three eye lengths back from the eye to be very wide and fat like a natural beetle. Dub a thinner amount over the last three eye lengths and then return to the spot that is three eye lengths behind the eye with your thread.

6. Tie in two sets of fine rubber legs on either side of the hook shank where the thick dubbing tapers to thin.

7. Fold the foam forward over the top of the body and use your scissors to snip a slit on both sides at the point where the legs are tied to the hook shank. Be careful not to snip too deeply as you need a decent amount to remain to securely tie down the foam. I snip the side closest to me, and then fold it back to its original position and snip the opposite side across from my first slit.

8. Once the slits are created, fold the foam back over the top of the body and tie it down through the slits with three or four solid wraps.

9. Carefully cut off excess foam so that it ends just over the hook eye. Make sure your legs are out of harms way when you cut the foam..

10. Carefully create tiny notches where you made slits by cutting out a tiny amount of foam in front of the slit. Again make sure the legs are not in the way.

11. Turn the fly upside down and shape the small foam head by making angled cuts from the end back to the notches. Avoid snipping the legs as you do this.

12. Position the fly right side up, and tie in a narrow section of brightly colored foam as an indicator. I prefer bright orange.

13.  Move the thread underneath and make five wraps between the eye and the point where the foam is tied down underneath the head.

14. Whip finish and coat the thread wraps with head cement.

15. Trim the legs and indicator to the proper length.


Size 10's


Cathy’s Super Beetle – 03/08/2015

Terrestrials are top producers among my dry fly collection, and in fact I love to use them as visible surface attractors while I probe the more shallow parts of the river with one or two nymph droppers. I frequently prospect the rivers of Colorado with four different grasshopper imitations: the Letort hopper, a parachute hopper, the Charlie Boy hopper, and the increasingly popular pool toy. A Chernobyl ant is a mainstay attractor and supporter of beadhead nymphs, while small parachute ants have worked for me when sight fishing to selective risers.


Side View

The main category of terrestrials missing from my fly inventory is coleoptera or beetles. I suspect that contrary to its name, the Chernobyl ant actually imitates a large beetle, so the frequent usage of a large foam ant probably fills the beetle void. There are frustrating times, however, when fish rise to inspect my Chernobyl ant, but then turn away and drop back to the depths of the river. Once the trout refuse my Chernobyl ant, I am usually unable to induce a take from the trailing nymph. I’ve often wondered if a smaller beetle imitation that more closely resembles naturals might be a strong second option when fish reject the Chernobyl ant.


A Better View

As I browsed through my notebook of flies that I copied from the various fly fishing magazines, I spotted a pattern named Cathy’s Super Beetle. This foam terrestrial was designed by Cathy Beck, and I liked the simplicity of it, so I decided to tie a few to test during the upcoming season. The fly did in fact prove to be quite easy to tie, although I never like dealing with super glue. Nevertheless I produced eight super beetles and placed them in my new boat box. They feature black foam bodies over under bodies of black peacock. I made five with white antron yarn as an indicator, and then I created two with a pink poly indicator wing and one with a visible orange poly tuft. Speckled silicone legs add life-like movement and the final step involves folding the foam back over the front of the fly to create a beetle head.


Pretty in Pink

Perhaps these super beetles will thwart the selective trout that refuse my normally productive Chernobyl ants. I’m quite excited to toss them on local waters during the approaching spring season in Colorado.

Charlie Boy Hopper – 01/24/2015

As I mentioned in a recent post on the pool toy, I became reacquainted with the Charlie Boy hopper during 2014. Several winters ago I tied approximately ten in my ongoing quest for an effective imitation of a grasshopper that also floats well, is visible, and supports a size 14 beadhead nymph. The Charlie Boys fulfilled the need for visibility and buoyancy, but I was dissatisfied with their fish catching capabilities.


Fish Eye View

If you read the pool toy post, you will learn that my dwindling pool toy supply caused me to fish a tan Charlie Boy simply as a sophisticated strike indicator, and I was surprised to discover that the old Charlie Boy was in fact a strong attractor. I landed quite a few nice fish that succumbed to the allure of Mr. Charlie, and in fact two of the foam specimens were mauled by a series of teeth cuts.


Three Life-Like Charlie Boys

With this new perspective on the Charlie Boy hopper, I manufactured another ten to replenish the supply that I created in 2012. Hopefully the foam hopper proves to be a lasting winner, and not just a one season flash. Stay tuned.


Accumulating a Bunch

Pool Toy – 01/17/2015

I’ve written several posts on the pool toy hopper imitation, and you can read them at Grillos Pool Toy and Pool Toy 02/14/2014. I’ll avoid being redundant by resuming my commentary where I ended on my post from 2014.

I made another four last winter to put my supply at around fifteen, and I carried three or four along with me on my trip to Argentina, but they never got wet. During the spring, summer and fall season I did indeed cast a pool toy as a top fly in a dry/dropper configuration more frequently than in the previous year. This resulted in a few more success stories, however, I still feel that a Letort hopper or parachute hopper would out fish a pool toy if used a comparable amount of time.


Top View

The pool toy does offer great buoyancy and visibility, thus, it spends more time on my line admittedly as a sophisticated indicator. Because of its ability to remain afloat while a size 14 beadhead nymph is suspended two feet below, the pool toy was used fairly frequently. This resulted in the loss of quite a few flies mainly in situations where a fish grabbed the nymph, and in its valiant efforts to escape broke off both flies.


Yellow Underside

By the end of August my supply of pool toys dwindled to the point that I began opting for a tan Charlie Boy hopper to preserve my few pool toys for September. Guess what happened? I rediscovered the tan Charlie Boy and experienced some hot hopper fishing in September and October on this forgotten fly that was exiled to the end of my fly bin. Days on the Arkansas River and Yampa tailwater stand out as two examples where the tan Charlie Boy yielded numerous good sized fish. In fact, the tan foam bodies became so mangled that I had to replace them.


Zoomed in on Pool Toys

The pool toy was effective enough to merit a decent supply for another season, so I tied thirteen over the last couple of weeks including eight tan, two gray and three yellow. I have approximately 15-20 in inventory, and I’m anxious to continue experimenting with the pool toy in 2015.