Monthly Archives: December 2016

Soft Hackle Emerger – 12/31/2016

Soft Hackle Emerger 12/31/2016 Photo Album

The origin of my favorable relationship with the Craven soft hackle emerger is best described in my 01/19/2012 post, and a table presents the materials required. More recent posts of 12/29/2014 and 12/10/2015 describe the evolution of the Craven soft hackle emerger to its current state as my prime subsurface option before and during blue winged olive hatches.

Nice Soft Hackle

The 2016 season did not change much in the realm of baetis or blue winged olive fly choices. I continue to default to the soft hackle emerger more frequently than the RS2. I prefer the additional flash from the white fluoro fiber. On one early season trip to the Arkansas River I stopped at the Royal Gorge Angler, and Taylor Edrington convinced me to buy some other blue winged olive nymphs, because he believes that a thick thorax and wing pad is a triggering characteristic that induces trout to bite. The soft hackle emerger exhibits a thicker thorax, and when I tie the version with a bead, it certainly presents more bulk near the front of the fly.

26 New Craven Soft Hackle Emergers

I continue to believe that the soft hackle emerger without a bead is effective when adult blue winged olives are visible, since the nymphs and emergers are closer to the surface of the stream, and I desire a shallow drift in these circumstances. For this reason I tied three new versions without a bead and 23 beadhead models. This production brings my inventory of beadhead soft hackle emergers to 40, and my fly box contains 25 with no bead.

Trout Candy

I anxiously anticipate the arrival of blue winged olives in a few months, and I will be ready with an adequate supply of imitations.

RS2 – 12/24/2016

RS2 12/24/2016 Photo Album

My post of 01/21/2011 chronicles the origin of the RS2 and also supplies a material list. Over the last couple years I migrated away from the RS2 toward the Craven soft hackle emerger, but I continue to carry an adequate quantity of RS2’s in my streamer wallet, as I visit western rivers and streams.

Two New RS2’s

I prefer to fish the RS2 deep using a strike indicator and split shot hours before an expected blue winged olive emergence, and I impart movement to the fly by jigging it or executing poor downstream mends. These actions create momentary acceleration of the fly, and this seems to induce a feeding reaction from trout. If I sense that the fish are tuned into emergers close to the surface, I generally switch to a Craven soft hackle emerger, and sometimes I also shift to a dry/dropper presentation, since I no longer need to probe the depths of the river.

I also believe that the RS2 is a serviceable imitation of small midge larva, and for that reason it is a good choice when mayflies and caddis are not prevalent. Any fly that covers numerous food sources is a productive offering in my opinion.

Total Output and Ingredients

When I surveyed my fly boxes, I counted 23 RS2’s. I established a goal of 50 to enter the 2017 season, so I settled into my stool at my fly tying bench and cranked out 27 new flies. Hopefully I will encounter some strong baetis hatches, and my RS2’s will continue to attract trout to my line.

2016 Top Ten

Every year I produce a top ten list of my fishing trips during the previous year. The exercise prompts me to read all of my blog posts, and I thoroughly enjoy reliving my adventures. The task of reading my posts for the past year was more time consuming than normal, since I made 102 trips to rivers and streams in the last twelve months. This surely represented a new high water mark in my fly fishing career, and it is a testament to a full year of retirement, although I was also motivated to prove that my January surgery was not a hindrance to my pursuit of trout on a fly.

What a year it was! The fish counter reveals that I landed 1,275 trout during the past year, and this was also a new record. I set a goal to fish more frequently on freestone rivers during the period when flows recede but remain high, and I succeeded in this mission with fantastic days on the Yampa, Eagle and Arkansas Rivers. I hoped to spend more time on lakes during the run off season, and I did make a trip to Urad Lake, but I admittedly fell short in the lake fishing department. Chasing the green drake hatch was another 2016 goal, and I made a concerted effort to meet this popular mayfly, but I can only report three trips where the green drake was a significant factor.

Thrilled to Hold This Creature

Other than a trip to Pennsylvania in June, all of my fishing took place in Colorado, and I discovered that my home state has much to offer. I enjoyed my share of large fish, but the salient characteristic of 2016 was days highlighted by large quantities of fish. I narrowed the 102 outings down to fourteen standout days. The four that did not make the cut were outstanding days as well, but I had to stop somewhere.

Here then is my list of top ten fishing trips of 2016:

10. 08/04 South Boulder Creek – I enjoyed one of my best days ever on South Boulder Creek from a fish count perspective, and the day was punctuated by a one hour period in the afternoon when I landed eight trout on a green drake dry fly.

Attractive Water Ahead

9. 05/13 South Platte River – This day was a huge fish count boost, but more important was discovering that a section of the river that is highly pressured contained an abundance of fish.

8. 11/04/2016 South Boulder Creek – Twenty-six fish landed in November is a significant accomplishment, but even more impressive is the fact that twenty-five ate a dry fly.

7. 07/27 Upper Frying Pan River – I had a great day with my new angling friend John. The upper Frying Pan River was devoid of competing fishermen, and I discovered a hot combination of flies that fooled a ton of small fish. It was a blast.

6. 08/02 Piney River – Lots of splendid fish in a remote backcountry setting. What more could one ask for? I landed numerous cutbows and cutthroats, and these trout were absolute jewels.


5. 05/20 South Platte River – Another great day on the South Platte River, and most of the landed fish were in the 13 – 16 inch range, and they did not enter my net without a stiff battle.

4. 06/23 Yampa River – A twenty fish day and a dense pale morning dun hatch that lasted for hours highlighted this early season edge fishing expedition. Wading was a challenge at 1200 cfs, but the trout were bunched along the bank in slack water locations, and they responded to my flies.

3. 09/13 North Fork of the White River – How could this only rank third? Hot fishing in the Flattops that featured the most colorful cutbows, cutthroats, and brook trout one could imagine.

Best Brook Trout on Tuesday

2. 05/12 South Platte River – During a time when I usually refocus on stillwater, I experienced a huge day on the South Platte River. The hares ear nymph regained its status as the top producing fly in my box, and I landed a ridiculous quantity of fish, and many were of decent size.

1. 06/28 Yampa River – Another edge fishing adventure on the Yampa River resulted in sixteen trout landed. Nearly all were fat brown trout staked out in prime slack water locations along the bank. The two that got away would have made this day a runaway winner.

Quite a Fish



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.

Hares Ear Nymph – 12/11/2016

Hares Ear Nymph 12/11/2016 Photo Album

The hares ear nymph earned comeback fly of the year honors in 2016. Of course it never fell very far from the top, but I definitely favored the salvation nymph over the hares ear in 2015. I suspect the hares ear never stopped producing, and instead I elected to allow other flies to occupy my line more than usual. At any rate I enjoyed some fabulous days throughout the season with a size 16 beadhead hares ear nymph dangling from my line.

A Killer Beadhead Hares Ear

If you read back through my hares ear nymph blog posts from 2010 and 2011, you will realize that this workhorse fly was my unquestionable number one up until the summer of 2015. I increased my beginning of the season quota from thirty to one hundred during this period. There were several seasons when I consumed my entire inventory, and this forced me to tie more during the season. When the weather is suitable for fishing, I detest sitting at my tying desk producing flies.

During the summer of 2015, however, I fell in love with the salvation nymph. The new favorite was akin to a new car with lots of flash, and the trout agreed with me. During numerous summer fishing trips, the fish attacked the salvation nymph like sharks attracted by the scent of blood. I nearly depleted my salvation nymph supply during 2015 and increased my beginning inventory to sixty.

The Edge of the Pile

I began 2016 with a similar mindset, and I preferentially knotted the salvation nymph to my line to the detriment of the hares ear nymph. Fortunately in many instances I fished the hares ear and salvation in a two fly combination, and during these instances I discovered that the trout showed a distinct preference for the hares ear. This was significant, because during most cases I positioned the hares ear as the top fly. Historically the end fly of a two fly system produced more fish, because it displayed more movement compared to the top fly, which is constricted due to line tension above and below.

From the Top

Trout choosing the hares ear over the salvation during two fly presentations was a strong sign that the old standby was returning to most favored status, but the true clincher was two spectacular days of fishing on the South Platte River in May. I landed nearly 120 fish on May 12 and May 13, and 90% of these catches consumed the beadhead hares ear. These two days restored my confidence in the beadhead hares ear, and it returned to the top of my list. For the remainder of the season a beadhead hares ear was nearly always present on my line, and it rarely disappointed.

Excellent Clarity

The salvation nymph continued to produce fish, but its prime time was centered on mid-June through August; whereas, the hares ear attracted fish consistently throughout the season, and it was particularly effective in the late fall time period of October and November.

Unwilling to risk depletion of my valuable stock of hares ears, I tied seventy-two, and when added to my carry over supply of twenty-eight enables me to enter the 2017 season with one hundred in inventory. I cannot wait to observe the salvation vs. hares ear face off again in 2017.