Monthly Archives: January 2016

Deer Hair Caddis – 01/30/2016

Deer Hair Caddis Olive Hares Ear 01/30/2016 Photo Album

Deer Hair Caddis Light Gray 01/30/2016 Photo Album

A size 16 deer hair caddis is one of my workhorse flies. In my previous post I described the experience that led to tying some size 18’s, and this was a deviation from my normal winter tying regimen.

Now that I completed the size 18 project, I refocused on the size 16’s that have faithfully served my needs since my earliest days of fly fishing. Generally I limit my color choices for the body to light gray and dark olive hares ear. I abide by the theory that caddis adults are on the water for a very short amount of time, and the fish recognize only a dark or light body.

Facing Each Other

I counted my stock of each color and determined that I had roughly 25 carry overs of each. In February 2015 I tied a batch of deer hair caddis, but they were all refurbished flies. I concluded that it was time to tie a fresh batch of ten dark olive and ten gray for the upcoming season. By tying them from scratch I assured myself that they would be relatively  consistent.

Ten Size 16 Deer Hair Caddis with Olive Brown Bodies

One of the most desirable developments in the realm of hackled flies is the availability of size 16 saddle hackles. I pulled out two Whiting 100 size 16 grizzly hackles, and these two feathers provided enough material to produce twenty deer hair caddis. As described in the size 18 deer hair caddis post, I tie these small caddis in a very sparse manner. I keep the abdomen relatively narrow; the deer hair wing does not flare more than a quarter inch beyond the hook; and three turns of hackle suffice for the collar. If I want a bushy look for prospecting and fishing frothy water, I opt for one of my stimulators. If I am matching a caddis hatch or prospecting smooth water, I knot a deer hair caddis on my line.

Close Up of Light Gray Caddis

Deer Hair Caddis Size 18 – 01/26/2016

Deer Hair Caddis Size18 01/26/2016 Photo Album

During a fishing outing on the Frying Pan River on September 15, 2015, I encountered some small caddis that provoked sporadic rises. As I did not carry size eighteen caddis imitations in my front pack, I was frustrated in my attempts to dupe the wily inhabitants of the tailwater below Reudi Reservoir. While on the river I resolved to tie some size 18 deer hair caddis during the off season in case I faced a similar situation in the future. Over the last couple weeks I honored my pledge, and I tied twenty-three with various body colors. I also experimented with a tan deer hair wing and a darker gray wing. I recall that the caddis fluttering above the river were tan, but I never caught any so that I could inspect the body color or wing color more closely.

Dark Olive

The deer hair caddis has been a mainstay for me since my earliest days of flyfishing in Pennsylvania. I tie elk hair caddis as well, but I possess a large array of natural deer hair patches that display many colors. I feel that these subtle shades imitate the natural caddis found along the streams. I also prefer a very sparse tie in the smaller sizes such as 16, and for this reason I applied the same style to my size 18 additions. If I want a high riding fluttering appearance, I generally opt for a stimulator, as it features the palmered hackle over the abdomen. When the trout are locked into smaller sizes along the edge of the river, and they reject the fully hackled stimulator, I knot a sparse deer hair caddis to my line, and in many instances it works quite well.

Dark Olive and Mustard

The sparse tie consists of only three materials besides the hook and thread. First I dub a body, and next I tie in a deer hair wing. The last step is to attach a neck hackle of the appropriate size, and then complete with three or four turns and whip finish. The hardest part of this fly is preventing the deer hair wing from rolling around the hook shank To avoid this pitfall, I make sure to have a solid thread base in front of the abdomen. In addition I like to add a dab of head cement to the thread base. Pinch an appropriate sized bundle of deer hair at the tie down point in front of the abdomen, and make one loose wrap followed by a second wrap. Once the second wrap is in place slowly cinch the thread down with strong pressure. Maintain a firm grip on the hair bundle and made two or three tight wraps forward. Do not worry about trapping some stray hairs between these wraps as it only serves to secure the deer hair, and the stray fibers will be removed by an angled cut.

23 of Various Colors

I produced twenty plus size 18 deer hair caddis, and hopefully this will allow me to avoid the situation that frustrated me on September 15 on the Frying Pan River. Spring cannot come soon enough.

Stimulators – 01/25/2016

Red Stimulator 12/27/2015 Photo Album

Olive Stimulator 12/27/2015 Photo Album

Black Peacock Stimulator 12/30/2015 Photo Album

Yellow Stimulator 01/02/2016 Photo Album

Yellow Stimulator Size 14 01/03/2016 Photo Album

Size 16 Stimulators 01/10/2016 Photo Album

During 2014 I experienced several superb outings when stimulators proved to be extremely productive flies. The most memorable was our trip to Idaho, and the stimulator was highly attractive to the cutthroat trout in the small tributary streams of the South Fork of the Snake River.

Red Stimulator

In 2015 I continued to opt for stimulators with various body colors, and once again they proved to be worthy occupants of my fly box. I seem to recall better results on stimulators in the early summer time period when run off subsided to levels that accommodated dry fly fishing. The large heavily hackled attractors might also excel during the summer and fall, but I probably do not give them the playing time on the end of my line that they deserve.


In preparation for the 2016 season I hunkered down at my vice during the latter part of December and early January and manufactured 20 plus stimulators. My favorite body colors are red, olive, black peacock, yellow, gray and tan. I split my production fairly evenly between size 14 and size 16; however, I tied these buoyant flies on 3XL hooks.

Countertop View

For the size 14 yellow versions I made some modifications in order to match the golden stoneflies that I observed along the Conejos River in July. These bugs approximated the size 14 3XL hook size, but they displayed traces of orange at the tip of the abdomen and in other areas. To mimic this color nuance, I tied a small orange section at the tip of the abdomen and also used orange thread and orange dubbing under the collar hackle. I omitted the palmered hackle over the abdomen on all of these flies, and for half of them I used the Letort hopper technique which translates to no hackle whatsoever. I purposely designed these larger flies to ride relatively low in the surface film. Hopefully I will encounter another golden stonefly egg laying event during the upcoming summer, and these new flies will fool an abundance of trout.

Two Styles and Materials

Green Drake Comparadun Size 12 Standard – 01/18/2016

Green Drake Comparadun Size 12 Standard 01/18/2016 Photo Album

I mentioned in a previous post that I tie four different styles of green drake, so that I am prepared for the various scenarios that western rivers serve me during my many summer adventures. This is not entirely true. The fourth component of my green drake menu is actually the same style of fly as the green drake comparadun described in my previous post. This version, however is smaller, and I build it with a different abdominal dubbing material.

Nice Profile

Several years ago I encountered some healthy green drake hatches on the Frying Pan River late in the season, and I was frustrated to discover that the large comparadun and parachute green drake imitations were ignored by the hungry denizens of the fabled tailwater. I searched through my fly box and chanced upon a smaller green drake comparadun that I tied many years before, and this fly saved my day.

After this experience I did some research online, and I also consulted several of the fly fishing books in my small library. I concluded that there are two hatches of green drakes on the Frying Pan River, and the later emergence is a smaller mayfly that is similar in color. These mayflies are named drunella flavalinea, or flavs for short. On the Frying Pan River they seem to overlap in September and October with a larger species. In my experiences the larger green drake emerges in the early afternoon, and then the flavs become active in the mid-afternoon time frame. Of course overcast skies scramble these timing windows, so a fly fisherman needs to be prepared for anything.

A Finished Batch and Key Materials

Based on my observation, the flavs are smaller and they possess a slightly lighter colored body. For this reason I tie some comparaduns on a size 12 standard length hook, and I dub the body with a dark olive antron yarn that I initially purchased and used for bright green caddis pupa. The color is a nice blend of dark olive, light olive and clear sparkle yarn fibers. On these comparaduns I abandon the maroon thread, as I do not notice the distinct dark segmentation that highlights the larger western green drake.

Up Close

I tied an additional ten of these smaller versions of the western green drake for the upcoming season. Hopefully I will once again encounter some dense western green drake hatches on the Frying Pan River or other western streams. These smaller imitations also produce decent results on South Boulder Creek in August and September.

Green Drake Comparadun – 01/11/2016

Green Drake Comparadun 01/11/2016 Photo Album

The third style of green drake that generates success for me in western streams during hatches is the comparadun. I tie these in size 12 and 14. Historically I used moose mane for the tail of these large comparaduns, but during my tying sessions last winter and this year, I modified my method to use dark olive microfibbets. A size 12 fly is difficult to support on the surface of the water, and I discovered that the stiff microfibbets serve as supporting outriggers for the fly if split at a wide angle. I use six fibers and split them so that they each protrude at a 45 degree angle from opposite sides of the hook shank.

Size 12 Green Drake Comparadun

I was not satisfied with my method of splitting microfibbet tails, so I searched online and found a method that solved my problem. When I attach the thread to the hook, I allow the tag end to remain and trail from the hook bend behind the thread ball that I create. When I tie the microfibbets to the top of the hook shank behind the wing, I wrap backward until I am a couple hook eye widths from the thread ball. At this point I pull the trailing thread forward and split the tail fibers evenly and then stretch it against the near side of the hook shank and lock it down. This causes the near side fibers to splay nicely. As I wrap back to the thread ball I use my left hand to position the far side fibers on the proper plain, and when I reach the base of the thread ball, I am careful to make sure that the tail fibers on both sides split and remain even. This method creates beautiful split tails that I believe will dramatically improve the flotation of these large comparadun dry flies.

Another personal touch that I favor is using thick maroon sewing thread to form a rib on the abdomen. I love the segmented body that this technique generates. For the deer hair wing I select relatively dark deer hair, and I spread it to the sides as much as possible to help support the fly in an upright position, although I sometimes feel that the versions that fall on their side are equally if not more effective as cripple imitations.

Five Completed Size 12

During 2015 I did not encounter as many green drake hatches as I did in previous years, so I did not have the opportunity to test the ribbed mircofibbet tail comparaduns extensively. Hopefully this will not be the case in 2016.



Parachute Green Drake – 01/10/2016

Parachute Green Drake 01/10/2016 Photo Album

Over the years I discovered that it takes a variety of green drake imitations to successfully dupe trout in Colorado during hatches of these large western mayflies. Once I finished tying five Harrop hair wing green drakes, I progressed to producing my other green drake favorites. Next on the checklist were parachute green drakes. These flies have proven themselves repeatedly, although there are times when trout prefer the bristly Harrop version or the slimmer comparadun style. The parachutes represent a critical component of my green drake arsenal, so I approached my vice and produced five size 14 imitations.

Angled View

During 2015 my best green drake action occurred on the Conejos River on July 22. During this encounter the Harrop style fly excelled during the morning time period when I used it as the point fly on a dry/dropper configuration as I prospected likely holding locations. However, once the actual hatch commenced, the parachute green drake became the favored offering that fooled surface feeding trout.

I experienced a second encounter with western green drakes on South Boulder Creek on August 26, 2015, and on this occasion the parachute style flies performed quite well until I depleted my supply. These examples reinforced my confidence in the parachute green drake and motivated me to replenish my supply for 2016.

All the Materials Needed

I adopted a new method of tying off the parachute hackle during my recent tying sessions, and this modification yielded a significant improvement in the appearance of these valuable flies. I reviewed a YouTube video that demonstrated how to tie the hackle off against the wing post, and I applied this technique to the five flies that I produced. This method yields very nice flies with a symmetrical hackle image. I am not sure this will make a huge difference to the fish, but the flies are much more pleasing to a fisherman.

Symmetrical Hackle

Hopefully 2016 will produce some fast paced green drake activity, and my array of green drake offerings will satisfy the discerning inspection of hungry cold water trout.