Monthly Archives: December 2014

Craven Soft Hackle Emerger – 12/29/2014

The Craven soft hackle emerger has risen from an experimental fly to a fly I select ahead of the trusted RS2 during blue winged olive emergence periods. I first tied a batch of these flies during the winter before the 2013 season, and I experienced quite a bit of success with them. Consequently I produced enough to begin 2014 with 50 in my storage bin. As a testimony to their improved status in my selection ranking, I consumed roughly half of my beginning inventory over the past summer, and as a result I decided to tie 26 new soft hackle emergers to bring my stock back to 50 for 2015.

A Completed Craven Soft Hackle

Despite my increased confidence in the soft hackle emerger, I recall several situations where the circumstances seemed perfect for the soft hackle wet fly, yet I was disappointed with the results. During one outing on the South Platte River in Eleven Mile Canyon in April a dense hatch of blue wings evolved, but the soft hackle did not entice the numerous feeding fish to devour my offering. I fished it using a dead drift, but I also imparted movement with numerous line manipulation techniques.

Soft Hackle Emerger Without Bead

I gave these situations some thought and concluded that perhaps I was fishing the soft hackles too deep. Quite a few mayflies were emerging from the surface of the river, but because of the strong wind, they tumbled and skittered across the surface before the trout could respond. Perhaps the trout were tuned into blue winged olive emergers or wind blown cripples just below the surface. My weighted offering may have been drifting beneath the fish’s field of vision.

Another View

For this reason I tied ten new emergers with a tiny nickel bead, and the remainder were tied with no bead. In addition I completed ten on a Tiemco size 20 2457 hook with no bead. These are very small and hopefully will cover situations when the smaller broods of olives hatch on Colorado rivers. If I need to go deep with the emerger pattern, I can always combine it with another larger beadhead nymph as the top fly.

29 Craven Soft Hackle Emergers

Zebra Midge – 12/23/2014

My previous post on the zebra midge largely covers the effectiveness of this diminutive subsurface fly, and I have little to add here in late December 2014.

Black Zebra Midge

I counted 18 in my fly bin, so I decided to tie an additional two to bring my total to 20 as I approach the 2015 fishing season. In addition my supply of dark olive zebra midges dwindled to only a few in my fleece pocket, so I produced an additional three of that variety.

Olive Zebra Midge

How can fish see these tiny morsels as they drift in the large rivers of Colorado? It remains a mystery to me, but I do know that they produce, and I will continue to tie them to my line in likely midge feeding situations.

Breckenridge – 12/19/2014

The first day of skiing at the start of a new season is always a challenge, but Friday December 21, 2014 proved to be a difficult day. Every year when I’m poised for my first run, I wonder if I’ll remember how to perform this slippery sport.

Nice Vista

On Friday I experienced the normal misgivings and muscle fatigue that accompany opening day, but the frigid temperatures and cold wind made the day even more of a shock to my physical well being. Jane, Dan and I arrived at the Breckenridge parking lot by 9AM, and the temperature in the parking lot was 14 degrees Fahrenheit. By the time we rode the gondola to the Peak 7 exit and climbed aboard the six person express lift, it was probably single digits, and a stiff wind was present most of the morning particularly at the high elevation areas near timberline.

Jane and Dave Cruising

We spent the morning on Peak 7 and Peak 8, and then after lunch we ventured to the six chair and then transitioned to Peak 9. After lunch the sun appeared more frequently and the temperature rose a bit, but my comfort level was severely dependent on two sets of toe warmers and hand warmers. During one of our rides up the express chair that begins at Beaver Run, we spotted a striking visual image as the sun reflected off the drifting snow on several ridges on the west side of Peak 10. Somehow in my effort to capture this vision on my camera while keeping my hands reasonably warm, I dropped my ski pole. I did not realize it had slipped away until I prepared to ski off the chair at the top of Peak 9.

Nice Sun Reflection

Another skier on the chair behind us approached me and informed that I dropped the pole just before support pole number 29. We immediately skied to this area, but we were unable to locate any sign of a ski pole, so we continued to the Beaver Run base and did a second ride to the top. On the second trip down the slope, I carefully inspected the entire area beneath the chairlift, but once again I failed to spot a ski pole.

Mechanical problems plagued the Superconnect high speed quad, so Jane and I decided to abandon a trip to Peak 8 and the gondola, and instead we skied to Beaver Run and boarded the red bus for the parking lot. Before doing this, however, I used the unexpected detour to Beaver Run base to check in at the guest services hut. Two ski patrol members were in the hut, and they reported that no one had delivered a Rossignol ski pole, but they invited me to inspect the barrel full of singles that was visible in the corner. I ended up swapping my Rossignol single for two non-matching poles that were slightly shorter than my original and, therefore, and better fit for my height.

Despite the frigid temperatures and adverse wind chill, I had a fun day on the slopes of Breckenridge. I once again proved to myself that I could ski, and I began the long process of conditioning my body for the rigors of downhill skiing.

Hare Nation Update – 12/18/2014

First I imagined a fly that combined the best features of a hare’s ear nymph and a salvation nymph; my two top producing flies in 2014. Next I tied a single prototype, named it hare nation, and posted a photo of the new composite fly on this blog.

Hare Nation Nymph

As I prepared to tie thirteen beadhead pheasant tail nymphs to bring my inventory back to 60, I looked at my hare nation and decided that it was similar in appearance to a pheasant tail but offered some notable enhancements.The hare nation was tied on a size 14 2457 Tiemco hook, and excluding the space consumed by the bead, this yields a fly that approximates a size 16 which is the size range of pale morning dun nymphs. I tie my standard beadhead pheasant tail on a size 16 Tiemco 2457, and I have noticed on several occasions during pale morning dun hatch time periods that the larger nymphs outperform the smaller ones.


The hare nation contains legs in the form of brown pheasant feather fibers, whereas, my pheasant tail nymph pattern skips legs. Finally the hare nation uses flashy black peacock ice dub and the shiny flashback black and flashabou for the overbody and wing case. I suppose I could add legs to the pheasant tail pattern and tie them on a larger hook, but the most significant difference between the two is the durability of the synthetic materials compared to the brittle pheasant tail fibers.

Completed Cluster of Hare Nations

Perhaps I’m in love with the idea of creating and naming my own fly? At any rate I tied thirteen hare nations and added them to the 47 beadhead pheasant tail nymphs in my fly bin. I still have plenty of the old style pheasant tails as backup in case the hare nation does not yield superior performance and meet my expectations.

Emerald Caddis Pupa – 12/17/2014

Nice Fly

My relationship with the emerald caddis pupa began many years ago during several fishing trips to Pennsylvania, and you can read the background story at beadhead emerald caddis pupa – 01/01/2012. It continues to be a productive fly in my arsenal, and I always plan to have adequate quantities available.

Unlike the bright green caddis pupa which seems to peak in effectiveness around grannom hatch time periods, the emerald version is productive all season long. In fact, I’ve had success with this fly during late afternoon time periods when the water seems dead after a significant hatch. I attribute this to the emerald color. I’ve seen caddis adults bearing emerald tips on their abdomen, so I believe that the color is a significant triggering characteristic.

Six Completed Emerald Caddis Pupa

For 2015 I plan to have 30 emerald pupa in my beginning inventory, and this required me to produce an additional six. I experimented with two different dubbing materials for the collar behind the gold bead. One choice was hares mask fur, and I am quite pleased with the unruly buggy look of this modification. I’m hoping this appearance will convey the illusion of movement and emergence even more than the gray rabbit fur that I have traditionally applied. I have completed six new flies, and I’m ready to explore rivers and streams with emerald caddis pupa.

Great Scraggly Caddis Look

Bright Green Caddis Pupa – 12/16/2014

While still living in Pennsylvania early in my fly fishing career, my father and I rented a small cabin along the Beaverkill River in New York during the middle of May. During one day early in our week we encountered a dense grannom emergence, and I managed to catch some fish on a dark cahill wet fly, but I felt like a better imitation would have resulted in more fish landed.

When I returned to the cabin that evening, I pulled out my recently purchased Caddisflies by Gary Lafontaine and researched what patterns imitate grannom pupa. This was my introduction to the bright green emergent caddis pupa. I must have had fly tying materials with me, as I remember producing some caddis pupa as well as some egg laying adult patterns, and the next day I arrived at the river prepared. That following afternoon I was armed with the bright green caddis pupa, and I experienced one of the best days of fishing in the east prior to my relocation to Colorado. I recall two doubles where I had two fish on my line at the same time.

Great Proportions

After I moved to Colorado, I continued to knot a bright green caddis on my line whenever I spotted a fair amount of adults in the air or in the streamside vegetation. I discovered that the sparkle yarn pattern was just as productive in the west as it was in the east.

Historically I’ve experienced the most success with the bright green caddis on the Arkansas River in April and early May when the grannom hatch is at its peak. I fish the pupa on a tandem nymph rig with a split shot and impart various types of movement to the fly in the hours before emergence or egg laying, and this approach yielded a significant amount of success. Unfortunately due to unusually cold high murky water conditions during the spring of 2014, I never encountered the caddis pupa friendly conditions that I seek.

I did have some decent success on the Eagle River in early July during the post runoff time period. During one outing with my friend Todd I was landing quite a few nice fish over a short period of time so I gave him some to test. Todd quickly became a huge fan of the bright green caddis pupa.

Twelve Bright Green Caddis Pupa

I counted my stash of bright green caddis pupa and discovered that I had 28 carry overs in my bin, so I planned to tie an additonal twelve to bring my inventory level to 40. I’m happy to report that this goal has been reached, and I anxiously anticipate a more productive caddis season on the Arkansas River.

Hare Nation – 12/11/2014

In my 12/04/2014 post on the hare’s ear nymph I concocted a fly in my mind that I called a Hare Nation. I envisioned combining the best features of two of my most productive flies into one. I selected the hares mask dubbing for the abdomen and soft hackle legs from the hare’s ear nymph, and then borrowed the flash back black and flashabou from the salvation nymph along with the black peacock ice dub for the thorax.

A Completed Hares Ear

Very Nice Top View

I am happy to report that the hare nation is no longer a figment of my imagination. I tied one the other night. I like the look, but the final product strikes me as a close replica of a flashback pheasant tail nymph. That isn’t really all bad, as it may attract more fish during pale morning dun hatch periods.

Better Top View

What do you readers think? Should I tie more hare nations?

Ultra Zug Bug – 12/07/2014

My history with this fly goes back to the Scott Sanchez fly tying book I purchased at the Fly Fishing Show several years ago. In 2012 I was flipping through the book looking for new ideas, and I encountered Scott’s recipe and instructions for ultra zugs and decided to give it a try. I tied a few ultra zug bugs, and at the time I viewed them as simple replacements for a prince nymph. I dislike mounting the white goose biots as wings on the prince nymph, so the simplicity of the ultra zug appealed to me.

Until this year I rarely fished a prince nymph, and thus an ultra zug, except for the April and early May time frame when I’ve had decent success with the peacock bodied subsurface flies during the caddis hatches that occur frequently on Colorado streams. My theory is that the dark peacock body is a reasonable imitation of egg laying female caddis flies. Unfortunately the spring of 2014 featured abnormally high and cold conditions, and I did not fish during the heavy presence of caddis as I was accustomed to in previous years. For this reason my ultra zug bugs remained dormant in my fly box for most of the summer.

During my trip to the Flattops Wilderness in September after hiking two miles into the backcountry to fish the South Fork of the White River, I came to the realization that I was running out of my salvation nymphs. The salvation had advanced from an experimental fly to the new number one workhorse fly in my arsenal. With another month of prime fishing remaining in the 2014 season, I did not want to deplete my salvation supply, so I rummaged through my zippered fleece pouch and spotted several ultra zugs.These flies had an abundance of flash, a scraggly look, and the peacock color that trout relish. Could these be a replacement for the salvation for the remainder of the day?

15 Ultra Zug Bugs with Better Light Setting

I tied one on my line, and it instantly became the hot fly. I always avoid tying flies during fishing season, so I continued opting for the ultra zug over the salvation for the remainder of the season, and guess what I discovered? The ultra zug yielded fish on par with the hares ear and possibly matched the salvation nymph in productivity. Was this a fall phenomenon, or is the ultra zug an all season attractor similar to the hares ear and salvation?

In order to answer this question, I decided to tie another thirty this winter so that I have fifty as I enter the 2015 fishing season. Quantity will not be a deterrent to tying an ultra zug to my line, and I intend to test it throughout the season and not limit it to early and late season situations.

Ingredients for Ultra Zug Bug

The beauty of the ultra zug is its simplicity. Excluding the hook, bead and thread only three materials are required to construct this fish catching machine. I start with a brown tail made from pheasant feather fibers, and then I tie in a strand of crystal hair. Next I dub a tapered body of synthetic peacock, and then I rib the body with the crystal hair. Finally I spin small clumps of the peacock dubbing around the body just behind the bead, and then I whip finish. I can crank out two of these flies for every single hares ear or salvation nymph. The synthetic peacock dubbing creates quite a bit of sparkle and the crystal hair augments the flash even more than fine wire. Once I whip finish the fly, I pinch the dubbed collar with my right hand, and then I pull the excess fibers with my left and tear them away. This shrinks the dubbed hackle to the proper length and also strokes the fibers into a nice sheath around the body of the fly.

Ultra Zug Bug

I’m excited to give the ultra zug more time on my line. It is a great looking simple fly, and I’m betting the fish will give it a thumbs up.

Hare’s Ear Nymph – 12/04/2014

Once I moved to Colorado and learned the effectiveness of nymph fishing, I discovered that a hare’s ear nymph was a magnificent producer in all seasons and all times of the day. Adding a beadhead to the hare’s ear nymph simply enhanced the fish catching appeal of this traditional fly. For the last four years I entered each new fishing season with an inventory of at least 100 beadhead hare’s ear nymphs; a testament to my trust in this productive fly.

During 2014 I noticed a shift in my favorite nymph option as I began to knot a salvation nymph to my line more frequently than a hare’s ear, and in the late stages of the season I selected an ultra zug bug ahead of a beadhead hare’s ear. I can recall numerous occasions when I fished a beadhead hare’s ear and salvation nymph in tandem, and the fish seemed to demonstrate a distinct preference for the salvation. Perhaps the position of the fly had an impact on their relative effectiveness, and I generally placed the salvation on the point with the hares ear presented as the top fly. I have always believed that the point fly tantalizes fish because it exhibits more movement as it is only attached to a leader on one end. Nevertheless I gradually concluded that the salvation nymph was outproducing the hare’s ear, and consequently I developed a higher level of confidence in the new flashy kid in my box.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Clump of Hare’s Mask with Lots of Guard Hairs” type=”image” alt=”PB270001.JPG” ]

These evaluations are never very scientific, and I pondered why fish would shift from preferring one fly compared to another. Are trout going through some sort of evolutionary shift in appetite? This theory is highly unlikely. Did I shift the timing of my fishing to seasons or times of the day when fish seek a different food source? The Arkansas River has historically been a haven of hare’s ear gobbling brown trout, and I did not fish that river as frequently in the early season as in previous seasons. This may have been a factor. Could it simply be that much of the success stems from how much confidence a fisherman has in a given fly? Confidence yields time on the line, and time on the line results in more hours in the water in front of fish. In all likelihood all three flies are attractive to fish, and the relative success depends on how frequently I attach them to my line.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Completed Hares Ear” type=”image” alt=”PB270004.JPG” ]

This discussion of hare’s ear effectiveness begs the question; what does a hare’s ear nymph imitate? I believe that it is a general nymph imitation that effectively represents various mayfly nymphs. In addition, the soft hackle legs, tan-gray color, and buggy guard hairs also make it effective during periods when there is an abundance of subsurface caddis activity. A salvation nymph is more narrowly an imitation of mayfly nymphs, but the one advantage it possesses is more flash and tiny rubber appendages. Perhaps the additional flash attracts more fish particularly when paired with a beadhead hare’s ear on the same line. In an effort to test this theory, I tied a few new hare’s ear nymphs this winter with a strand of pearl flashabou in the middle of the wing case. I have not resorted to the following pattern yet, but the idea is floating in my mind. I may combine the best qualities of a hare’s ear and salvation and call it a hare’s nation. I envision the buggy hare’s mask dubbing for an abdomen, but then I would use the flashback black and flashabou for a top layer and wing case that covers the entire fly. For the thorax perhaps I would use black peacock ice dub and then finish the fly with soft hackle legs instead of the fine silli legs.

I counted my remaining stock of beadhead hare’s ear nymphs and discovered that I had 51 in inventory. Given the shift in preference from hare’s ear to salvation, I decided to tie 29 and bring my season opening total to 80 rather than the historic standard of 100. In addition I tied 15 for my friend in Kansas City.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”A Gift for Dave Gaboury” type=”image” alt=”15 Hares Ear Nymphs for Gift.JPG” ]

Will the salvation nymph continue to outshine the beadhead hare’s ear nymph in 2015? Will the ultra zug bug become my new hot fly? Can the beadhead hare’s ear rebound and return as the pre-eminent fly in my fly box? I look forward to spring so I can begin to determine the answers to these questions.

South Platte River – 11/29/2014

Time: 11:30AM – 2:30PM

Location: Cheesman Canyon

Fish Landed: 0

South Platte River 11/29/2014 Photo Album

I’ve never been a huge fan of winter fishing, but the mild weather of Thanksgiving weekend in Colorado induced me to overcome my reluctance. The high temperatures for Thursday through Saturday ranged from the mid-60’s to the mid-70’s, and Jane suggested that we take advantage of the weather and hike into Cheesman Canyon. I signed on to the late fall trek, and we arrived at the Wigwam parking lot at 11AM on Saturday morning. I put on my waders and wading boots and prepared my Sage four weight while Jane grabbed her lunch, stadium seat, and book. We were on our way on a pleasant .5 mile hike to the rim of Cheesman Canyon.

The temperature was in the low 60’s as we began, and when we began the descent to the river in the brilliant sunlight it felt more like 70. The flows in the South Platte tailwater were 125 cfs and crystal clear. As we traveled upstream on the red gravel trail, we passed quite a few fishermen. Our destination was Cows Crossing, but as we approached this ninety degree bend in the river, it was clear that the large rock that Jane loves to frequent was covered by shade. We shifted our destination and found another nice large flat boulder bathed in sunlight, and Jane made this our base camp.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Jane’s Spot Along South Platte” type=”image” alt=”PB290013.JPG” ]

I began my quest for a late November fish by moving fifteen yards downstream from Jane, and I tied on a Chernobyl ant with a trailing ultra zug bug and orange scud. I stood on some large rounded boulders and began covering some very attractive water, but I saw no signs of fish. I began to doubt the effectiveness of the dry/dropper configuration in the cold flows of the South Platte River, but when I approached a nice current seam just below Jane’s position, I observed a pause in the foam attractor and set the hook. Much to my surprise I was attached to a tiny rainbow trout that measured four inches, so I quickly removed the ultra zug bug and allowed the small gem to return to the icy flows. I gave my camera to Jane before I began fishing, so she actually captured me netting the hungry little fish.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Landing a Tiny Rainbow Trout” type=”image” alt=”PB290019.JPG” ]

I moved on above Jane to the large bend at Cows Crossing and found a place where the river was shallow enough to cross, and I then continued fishing upstream along the opposite bank. I prospected some nice current seems, riffles over moderate depth and deep runs; but none of these typically productive stream structures produced any action. In fact I was surprised that I did not see any fish since the flows were low and clear.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Forward Cast” type=”image” alt=”PB290021.JPG” ]

At 12:30 I returned to Jane’s base camp and enjoyed my lunch in the company of my lovely wife. Jane noticed that the shade was rapidly advancing toward her rock perch, so she announced that she might move before I returned. I meanwhile decided to walk farther up the trail and around the next ninety degree turn that is called Rainbow Bend. I discovered that this area was quite popular with other fishermen and passed four fishermen working the slow moving deep pool just above the bend.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”Two Fishermen in Clear Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB290024.JPG” ]

Eventually I moved above the last fisherman and approached a nice wide pool. I abandoned the dry/dropper approach and configured my line with a hot pink strike indicator, split shot, ultra zug bug and zebra midge. I noticed quite a few minuscule midges buzzing about above the river, and this observation caused me to experiment with the midge larva. I began drifting the nymph combination through the pool, along the juicy current seams and through the tail out, but none of this focused fishing attracted any fish. Meanwhile another fisherman that was originally below me circled around my position and then entered the river forty yards farther upstream.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Loop Is Forming” type=”image” alt=”PB290030.JPG” ]

Aside from the lack of action and absence of any signs of fish, the most frustrating aspect of this Saturday outing was the constant need to remove moss and scum from my flies. I estimate that scum removal was an every other cast event. After exhausting the prime pool that I optimistically claimed, I advanced upstream a bit, but after an hour of casting and moss removal, I began to think more about the snacks I packed for the return trip than the likelihood of landing a fish.

I clipped my flies to the rod guide and trudged back along the trail to our base camp. As Jane suggested, she was no longer there, so I hiked another .3 miles until I spotted her bright blue long sleeved shirt on the beach next to another juicy pool. She was now in the sun and sheltered from the wind by a huge boulder. Seeing no competing fishermen in the pool, I decided to make one more attempt to land a substantial trout from the South Platte River. Well, I have to admit that a nine inch fish would have exceeded my expectations at this point.

[pe2-image src=”” href=”″ caption=”The Top of the Pool” type=”image” alt=”PB290027.JPG” ]

Alas, after another half hour of fruitless casting, I decided to call it quits, and I waded back to Jane’s resting place. I acknowledged that she probably had the right idea about Saturday November 29. It was a rare opportunity to enjoy a pleasant hike through gorgeous scenery and bask in the warmth of the late autumn sun. Catching a fish was really secondary.