Friday, February 28, 2014

Tying and Fishing the Hare's Ear

Hare's Ear 
The Hare’s Ear is an all-around effective nymph. It can suggest caddisflies, mayflies and many other species, and it is a good searching pattern. It can be fished effectively in most water types by stripping or dead drifting. You can also grease the fly so that it floats and represents mayflies and caddisflies that are hatching or insects that are blown onto the water. Twitching the fly across the surface can simulate these actions.

Good colors to use for the fly are natural brown, tan and olive. A hare’s mask is the best material for constructing the fly, and be sure to pick out the dubbed fur to give it a buggier look. A traditional mottled turkey feather is normally used for the wing case, but some variations use pheasant feathers, peacock herl and some synthetic materials. A gold bead head can also be used. However, I think that the fly is just as effective without additional materials.

Step 1. Tie in some sparse fibers from a hare’s mask and attach the gold tinsel. Then dub a body from the light tan section of the hare’s mask.

Step 2. Spin the dubbing forward over two-thirds of the shank and spiral up four to six wraps of tinsel.

Step 3. Depending on the hook size tie a one-eighth to three-sixteenth inch wide section of turkey quill flat over the top. Then, from hare’s mask dub a larger and darker amount for the abdomen. Don’t clip the guard hairs.

Step 4. Bring the turkey quill over the abdomen and tie it for the wing case. Then, pick out the dubbing and finish tying off the head.  

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Trimming Hackles: Pros and Cons

There are several schools of thought regarding hackle trimming. Some fly tiers say that a trimmed hackle will float higher than an untrimmed one because the ends lie flat, don’t absorb water and will take more abuse. By contrast, other tiers say that untrimmed hackles float just as well, look more natural when floating and improve the success of the fly.

Trimmed Hackle

Since I have used these methods with equal success I believe that it doesn’t make any real difference. Try each of these methods for yourself and see if you notice any appreciable difference. However, if you decide to trim the hackles, use a larger than normal hackle and trim the ends so they are equal to the gap distance.

Untrimmed Hackle

Reversed Hackle

Another method that’s supposed to help the fly float better is to tie in the hackle butt so that the hackles are pointing forward. Test this method and compare it to the other two. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

How to Fly Fish Pocket Water

Pocket Water (click photo to enlarge) 
The photo above shows examples of pocket water, and the arrows indicate the potential areas where fish could be holding. 

Pocket water is a prime lie for fish because it provides good cover, quick access to food and protection from predators. It has large and small boulders that break up the 2 to 4 foot depths into sections of white water, swirling eddies, current breaks and seams as well as small pools. 

Precise casts, line control and careful mends are mandatory. You should fish all possible lies and be ready for quick strikes. Shorter casts are best since too much line can spook fish. Noisy wading is also a deterrent. 

The method of high sticking, as discussed in my 9-15-13 blog post, "How to Tie Glo Bugs," is also effective. You can control the fly better, maintain less drag and have faster hook ups.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Fly Fishing Success with the Sun on the Water.

Chris Stewart with Steelhead caught on the
Deschutes in a riffle with submerged rocks and boulders.
One early afternoon on the Deschutes River, my friend Steve Dorn and I were riding in his jet sled looking for a place to fish. From past experiences we knew that with the sun on the water we had to be aware our position relative to the fish. If the sun is directly in the fish’s eyes it cannot clearly see the fly. Therefore, the casting position must be changed to give the fish a clearer view of it. You can move below the fish and cast upstream so that the fish has to turn away from the sun to see the fly as it floats by. You can also fish where the river curves, fish from the other side or nymph fish.

We finally found a likely spot at 1:00 in the afternoon. It was a 50 yard riffle with large submerged rocks and it mellowed out into long run with large and small boulders. It was ideal holding water and the sun was behind our position at about a 45-degree angle. We were using 9 foot graphite rods and No. 8 weight forward floating lines. The use of sinking lines may also be effective because the fly is fished closer to the bottom. If fish were holding there our chances would be good.

We weren’t disappointed because in the space of two hours we caught and released eight steelhead that ranged from 6 to 9 pounds. However, we didn’t realize that we had an audience sitting under the Alders on the other side of the river. Four guys had been shading themselves on the bank and they also had a boat. Secrets sometimes don’t last long on this river, so we took it in stride and gave it a proper name. It’s still called the Boulder Patch.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Deep Runs can have Good Holding Water

Typical Fly Fishing Pockets in Deep Runs
The arrows in the above photograph are indicating where fish will likely be found.

This water type is often passed up by anglers because they may feel that it’s not good holding water. But, contrary to this belief, fish will often hold off the main current in small pockets near the bank. Undercut banks have calmer water, protection from predators and easy access to food so don’t pass up this water type. Also, you may be able to entice a fish by swinging and stripping a fly on the bottom or at the edges of fast surface water.

Effective flies to use may be dry and wet caddis patterns, mayflies, and a variety of nymphs and streamers. Additionally, don’t wear bright clothing, keep a low profile and walk quietly when you approach.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Tying Bullet Head Flies

Bullet Head flies can represent numerous insects that have large heads, in particular salmonflies, grasshoppers, crickets and beetles. Selecting the correct type of hair is necessary for its effectiveness. Deer hair can be used, but it’s not as durable as elk hair, which is stiffer and not easily split by the teeth of fish. The flared hair behind the head can represent the legs or wings of different insects, and rubber legs can be added to enhance a lively action. Also, foam bodies make realistic segmented bodies, and if you’re having trouble forming the head of the fly, bullet head tools are available.

Hook: 9672 Mustad sizes 10-8
Thread: 3/0 Monocord
Body: Yellow yarn
Wing: Mottled Turkey
Head: Elk hair

Step 1. Tie in yellow yarn and wrap it up to 1/4 inch of the eye.

Step 2. Tie in the turkey wing so that it lays flat over the back and extends 1/4 inch beyond the hook bend.

Step 3. Cut a clump of elk hair and stack it to even the tips and cut the butt ends even. With the tips facing forward, wrap the thread over the hair to the hook eye and tightly secure it. Then wrap the thread back to the end of the body.  

Step 4. Using your thumb and first two fingers firmly pull the hair backwards 1/8 to 3/16 inch and tie it off so that it covers all the way around the hook. Then, make 5 or 6 wraps in the same exact place and whip finish to secure the thread.

Step 5. Cement the thread in back of the head. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nick's Nightmare

Nick's Nightmare
There are conflicting accounts about the guys who created Nick’s Nightmare that I’ll attempt to clarify. It was originally developed in a Southern Oregon College dorm room by Chris Stewart and Nick Marshall. They christened it at “Ennis Riffle,” a famous fishing hole on the Rogue River where Harry Van Luven, Zane Grey and other famous people fished successfully for many years. Maybe these early pioneers sprinkled some of their luck upon them, because they had fantastic success with Nick's Nightmare. 

Eventually this pattern found its way into my fly shop and I began to promote it. As interest grew, so did the curious questions about the name. Was it conjured up in a strange reverie, a session with the spirits or a simple flight of fancy? Whatever the reason, it soon became a very successful pattern on the Deschutes River and other streams in the Pacific Northwest.

Hook:  Mustad No. 36890, size 4-6 
Thread:  3/0 black 
Tail:  None
Body, rear 2/3:  flat medium gold tinsel
Body, front 1/3: fluorescent red chenille
Wing:  Black calftail or squirrel tail and pearlescent Krystal Flash 
Hackle:  Purple saddle

Tying Instructions:  
Tie in the flat gold tinsel first and wrap forward 2/3 the length of the hook shank. Attach the chenille and make a ball on the front 1/3 and tie off. Now attach the saddle hackle, spin it forward and tie off. Finally, pull the hackle back to a 45-degree angle and tie in a sparse calftail wing with a Krystal Flash overwing. Finish the head. 

NOTE: I think that overdressing a fly with too much flashy material detracts from the traditional concept of tying flies and is not a necessity to attract fish. However, a little flash can compliment the pattern and make it more effective. Nick’s Nightmare is a good example.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Fly Tying Tips for Tying a Royal Coachman Streamer

Royal Coachman Streamer
Saving steps in fly tying can speed up the typing process. One example is tying the body of the Coachman fly where you have to make numerous cuts when attaching the peacock and floss.

To begin, attach a red hackle tail and two peacock herls to the shank of a No. 9671 or 79580 Mustad hook, size 12-8. Spin the herls forward 1/8 inch and tie them off--leaving the ends pointed forward. 

Now tie in the red floss. Next spiral the 3/0 monocord forward over the peacock herls 1/8 to 3/16 inch. Then spiral the floss forward over the tied down herls. Secure and cut off the floss, making sure not to cut the herls. 

Finish the body by spinning the peacock herls 1/8 inch forward. 

Complete the fly by tying in and spinning several turns of brown Coachman brown hackle and attaching a wet fly wing made from two white saddle hackle. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Fly Tying Tips for Controlling Floss

The ends of the floss can fray and unravel when you cut and apply it. If you don’t learn to control the floss it may require extra time to attach the floss to the hook. There are several ways to prevent this from happening. 

First, secure the floss tightly in the spool notch and then cut it to the desired length. 

Next, wet your fingers and twist one end back and forth several times. 

Then drop the floss to see if the floss stays together. If it does, you’ve done it correctly and it should attach easily. 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Stalking Fish

Max Kalbrener Stalking Fish on the
Karluk River on Kodiak Island in Alaska
This method of stalking fish is a subtle and effective way to catch fish, but requires stealth and demands patience and persistence. You must wear clothing that’s consistent with the surrounding environment, usually greens, blues and grays. Polaroid glasses are also effective. To prevent the possibility of spooking fish, the use non-glare products and equipment is advised. You should avoid making noise and shadows as you approach the water. Also, since they have a blind spot behind them, you should move upstream to spot fish.

When stalking, you might not see the entire fish because they blend into their environment so well. Therefore, you have to look for some telltale signs such as the white of a mouth, a silver flash, a red stripe, a subtle movement or a gray rock that wasn’t there before. Also, if you gaze intently into the water’s surface mirrors you might be able to spot fish.

Your approach toward the water is critical. Some anglers contend that to prevent spooking fish you must crawl and keep a low profile. This is a debatable subject, but there’s another method that is easier and just as effective. It’s a slow, quiet upright advance to the water.

Before you begin your advance, have your outfit rigged and ready to cast. Then approach the water using a methodic, slow pace. Stop when you are about 8 to 10 feet from the water and begin to look for fish. If you spot one, wait for a few minutes and then cast 3 to 5 feet above its holding position. Often a fish will take the fly if your first presentation is good. If not, continue to cast until it takes the fly or moves. But remember, sometimes that big fish can turn into a ten pound rock.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Tying Dumbbell Eyes

The Boss
Bead chain segments are primarily used for double eyes on flies. They are also called dumbbell eyes, and help the fly sink better. Cutting them, however, can turn them into flying missiles if you don’t control their flight. This can waste time so here’s an easy solution. Find a zip-lock bag large enough to accommodate your hands and a cutting tool. This will allow you to see the cuts while the bag collects and stores the beads.

The Boss fly was developed by Grant King and was used to catch Steelhead on the famous Russian River in northern California. It’s also effective for salmon.

Materials to tie The Boss
Thread: Orange 3/0
Tail: Black calftail
Tinsel: Silver oval
Body: Black chenille
Hackle: Orange
Head: Dumbbell eyes

In order to secure the dumbbell eyes, figure eight them tightly with the thread at least seven or eight times. Then wiggle them with you fingers to be sure they are tightly secured. If not, tighten them up with a few more tight wraps.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Stonefly Nymph and the Entomologist

Floating the Deschutes River 
A basic knowledge of entomology is a valuable asset when trout fishing, but you don’t have to be a scientist to catch fish. A simple understanding of insects and their stages of development can really help you in matching the hatch. However, some folks carry this study to extreme. 

One May my friend Bill and I were drifting the Deschutes River hoping to hook some trout on stoneflies. As we floated down we passed one fellow who looked like he had just walked out of a fly fishing outfitter’s shop. In grand style, he flaunted an Irish fishing hat, an old briar pipe, and had all kinds of gizmos and gadgets dangling from his vest. He was almost up to his armpits in water, poised like a statue and intently waiting for a fish to rise under the overhanging alder trees. 

Bill looked over at him and shouted, “Hey, fella, are you having any luck?” The gentleman nodded, but kept his gaze fixed on a shaded area. 

“What kind of fly are you using?” I asked. He paused, glanced at us like we were rookies and in a low guttural whisper he said PTERONARCYS! This in layman’s terms means a Stonefly nymph. 

As we drifted away Bill shook his head and said in jest, “Ya know, Doug, if I started using that kind of language I think I’d find another sport. 

A Simply Stonefly Nymph

There are many ways to tie a stonefly nymph. Some are so real that they look like they might just crawl right off the tying bench, while others are models of simplicity. Both are equally effective if they are fished properly, but I've always preferred the latter because they take less time to tie.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Fly Tying Shortcuts and Tips

Use Fingers to Stack Hair

1.  A hair stacker is used to even up the the wing hairs and other materials. However, if you don't have one you can do the same with your fingers, but it will take a bit more time. 

Align Tips

To begin, snugly hold the hairs by the butt section with the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Then pull out the longer uneven tips and align them back into the main body of hair. Repeat the process until the tip ends are even.  

Paperclip Bobbin Cleaner

2.  A bobbin cleaner is mostly needed if you tie flies with waxed thread. If you don't have one handy, you can make your own out of a simple paperclip.  Just bend it out as shown in the picture. Unwaxed thread seldom clogs the bobbin. 

Dubbing Teaser
3.  The dubbing teaser is a tool that has a burred tip and is used to pick out hairs or furs to give the fly a buggy appearance. There are different types and styles, but if you don't have one, you can use a toothbrush with stiff bristles.  
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