Monday, July 28, 2014

The Amazing Soft Hackle Fly

A Soft Hackle Fly
The soft hackle fly dates back almost 500 years with the early patterns of Dame Juliana Berner. It is believed that soft hackles were refined in the sixteenth century but were somehow were lost in time. However, in 1975 Sylvester Nemes wrote a book entitled The Soft Hackle Fly which helped to revive its neglected history.

Soft hackles are fun and easy to tie. They are very effective for trout, steelhead, bass and other types of fish. All that is required to tie this fly is a floss or wool body, dubbed thorax and a partridge or pheasant soft hackle.

A variety of colors can be used to suggest caddisflies, mayflies and other insects. It is a versatile pattern that can be used in almost any water type and it is a good searching pattern. The effectiveness of this pattern is not only due to the soft hackle feather, but it is also due to the thorax behind the wing. Without it the hackle would fold around the body and the fly would lose its tantalizing motion.

The easiest way to fly fish the soft hackle is to use a simple downstream swing with a few mends or to let it swing freely and let the current ply the soft hackles. A fish will set the hook firmly if you keep the rod tip pointed at a low angle. Short takes and misses will occur if the rod is held high. 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Head and Tail Rise

Fish taking Nymphs in a Head-and-Tail Rise
The Head and Tail Rise is similar to the bulge rise (see my 7-22-14 post: "Identifying Trout Rises"), but as it porpoises, the head, back and tail are visible. Fish are usually taking dry flies when they rise in this fashion, but they may also be taking nymphs. In lakes, fish often take rises in this manner as they cruise and devour insects that are emerging, resting on top of the surface or laboring to emerge.

For rising fish in streams, remember that moving water misconstrues the actual feeding station because the disturbance has moved downriver with the water. To place the fly where the fish actually rose to the surface, cast the fly ahead of the fish so that it will drift over it. In lakes, simply cast the fly three to four feet ahead of a cruising fish.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Instructions for Tying the Zonker Fly

Zonker Fly Variation
This fly was developed by Dan Byford in the early 1970’s. It's effectiveness is enhanced by the rabbit strip that is used for the wing. The soft, flowing rabbit fur wing (Zonker strip) helps to suggest the movement of minnows. The wing color can be varied for different types of fish, and a red throat can be added to suggest gills. It's an excellent bass fly that works well in both lakes and streams. It's effective for trout, bass and other species. 

Hook: Mustad 9575 size 2-8
Thread: 3/0 monocord
Underbody: yellow wool
Body: Braided Mylar tubing
Tail/wing: Gray rabbit fur strip
Hackle: Grizzly

Step 1. Cut a section of Mylar about hook length and remove the cotton string. V-cut both ends of the rabbit strip.

Step 2. Wrap a wool underbody and slide that mylar cover over it. Leave the thread hanging in place.

Step 3 and 4. Secure the mylar with tight wraps and tie in the rabbit strip with the tips toward the rear. Reattach the thread 3/16 inch from the eye and tie in the front hackle. 

Step 5. Make 3 or 4 turns of hackle and wrap back over it to form a 45 degree angle. Pull the rabbit strip over the top of the hook and tie it off. Finish the head and cement.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Identifying Trout Rises

Trout taking Emergers
Many fly fishers are often unsuccessful because they fail to find out (1) what type of insect is hatching, (2) how trout are feeding on it and (3) what type of fly and presentation to use. If fly patterns are randomly selected and haphazardly cast, hooking fish becomes a matter of chance. However, if you understand rise types it will eliminate guesswork and enhance your chances of success.

This can be done by studying fish activity under the water and near the surface. Close attention to rises is critical to fly selection. For example, a bulge occurs when fish porpoise and expose their arching back. This signifies that fish are probably taking nymphs or emergers just under the surface.

If they’re taking nymphs, use a 9 foot leader and small #12 fly pattern and cast the fly above the intended target. Then let it deaddrift down to the fish’s location. For emergers, make the same type of cast, but as it drifts down retrieve the fly with short, steady strips. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Varying the Fly Body Size May Improve Your Luck

Using the same hook size and varying the body size may help to improve your luck in high or low water conditions. For example, in high, off-color water a large dark fly can be more effective because fish can see it better; however, in low, clear water a smaller fly may work better because it won't spook the fish as easily.  

It is not necessary to tie the fly on a smaller or larger hook for each varying water condition. You can simply use the same hook size, say a No. 6 hook for steelhead, and just increase or decrease the body size.  

For example, in the fall steelhead can be reluctant to take a full bodied fly on a No. 6 hook. But, if you just reduce the size of the body you tie on the No. 6 hook, the fish will often take that smaller version of the same pattern. 

Below are examples showing the different body sizes on a No. 6 hook: 

Fully dressed - No. 6 body

Low water - No. 8 body

Modified low water - No. 10 body

Fully reduced - No. 12 body

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Finish Your Fly Off With a Neat Head.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Fly Heads

In order to finish the fly, a neatly tied head will ensure that it will stand up to the constant abuse that can occur when casting. Skimpy, loose, messy or bulky fly heads will eventually fall apart. This can be aggravating and a waste of your time.

Begin by leaving enough room to tie the head, say at least 1/8th inch. Make sure that any loose materials are trimmed and/or removed. Start building the head by wrapping tightly over the material towards the eye and then wrap back over it. Depending on the hook and thread size, it may take 6 to 12 wraps back and forth. Try to build the head so that it tapers toward the eye. 

A whip finish is the best knot to use to tie it off. Half hitches will also work, but they’re usually not as neat. 

Finally, pull on the wings and other materials at the head to make sure they are tightly secured and then coat the head with a good head cement. Well tied flies can last for many years.

Monday, July 14, 2014

How to Tie the Adams Irresistible Fly

The Adams Irresistible is a high floating dry fly pattern. It was developed by Joe Messinger, a well-known bass fly fisher who also developed the famous Messinger Frog. The Irresistible is a great trout fly that can represent adult caddisflies, large mayflies and other insects as well. Its durability, floating quality and high visibility makes it an indispensable pattern.

Hook:  Mustad 7957B sizes 14 - 6
Thread:  Black 3/0 Monocord
Tail:  Deer hair
Body:  Clipped deer hair
Hackle:  Coachman Brown and Grizzly

Step 1.  Tie in the deer hair tail.

Step 2. Tie in several clumps of deer hair, tamping it tightly back.

Step 3. Trim the body so that it has a conical shape tapering to the back of the fly.

Step 4. Tie in the hackle feathers and, one at a time, spin them forward 2 to 4 times each to form the dry fly hackle. Finish the head and cement.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Practical Fly Fisher

The Practical Fly Fisher

If you like my blog posts, you may also like my book, The Practical Fly Fisher. A major portion of the book offers fly tying instructions for all levels of abilities.with a special chapter on methods that will challenge tiers whom have mastered the art. Techniques are shown for tying and fishing wet flies, nymphs, dry flies, soft hackles, spiders, streamers and bucktails. Other chapters such as equipment, fly casting, reading water, stream strategies and entomology are aslo included. 

My book in available on Amazon and Kindle (see the Amazon Buy Now" link to your right). An autographed copy is available by clicking on the "Buy Signed Copies of New Book" link above. 

"Doug's new book, The Practical Fly Fisher, is a direct reflection of the life of an avid fly fisherman and teacher, and his knowledge and easygoing style have helped him teach people with all levels of abilities. His writing includes insights into solving problems as well as humorous and down-to-earth stories. Last, but not least, it conveys his message that we should connect ourselves with the past in order to appreciate where we are today." 

by LEE CLARK, coauthor of Fly Tying with Poly Yarn 
and the originator of Clark's Stronefly.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tying a Surgeon Knot for Fly Fishing Leaders

The surgeon knot is used for the same purpose as the blood knot, which is to tie leaders together. However, the surgeon knot has a couple of advantages over the blood knot. It can join leaders of widely varied diameters (say four-pound to a ten-pound leader) and it is easier to tie. A drawback may be that you waste more leader in the tying process, which is why it is not highly recommended for building leaders. 

Step 1. Overlap two different segments of 6- and 8-pound test. 

Step 2. Tie two overhand knots in succession.
Step 1

                                   Step 2

Step 3

Step 3. Moisten the knots and slowly draw the ends of the two leaders together. 

Step 4. Trim the short ends off and once again pull the knot tight to test its overall strength.

Monday, July 7, 2014

When fly fishing, cover the short water first.

Deschutes River Steelhead
Back in the early 80’s Steelhead fishing was nothing short of fabulous. If you knew the techniques and covered the water thoroughly it was not uncommon to hook and release seven or eight fish in one day.

On one trip my three friends and I were camping out for several days. It was billed as a Cast and Blast trip where we hunted chukars in the morning and fished for Steelhead in the evening. On the second day, I decided to forgo hunting and concentrate on hooking a few Steelhead. I wasn’t disappointed. I hooked and released five fish and kept a hatchery fish for dinner.

When they returned from the day’s hunt, two of the guys said they had never hooked a Steelhead before and wanted me to give them a few lessons. I walked close the shoreline and flipped out eight to ten feet of line just to prepare for my first cast and “Wham!” A good sized Steelhead grabbed the fly and started jumping. 

I was almost as surprised as they were, but rather than call it a stroke of luck, I referred to an old fly fishing adage, "Guys, before you step into the water, be sure you cover the short water first." The following week, I sold two complete Steelhead outfits to them. Sometimes good luck comes in unexpected ways.  

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Spotting and Stalking Steelhead when Fly Fishing

Steelhead I caught on the Sandy River

Spotting fish is a technique that is overlooked by many anglers. This is unfortunate because fish often hold in water that is literally right under their feet. To be effective, the angler must approach the stream with stealth, wear Polaroid glasses and clothing that blends in with the environment. Before you begin your stalk, make sure that your outfit is properly rigged and ready to go. 

Contrary to some studies, keeping a low profile will not always conceal your presence. Over the years I’ve learned that if you approach the water quietly and slowly to within a safe viewing distance, say five to ten feet, fish will not necessarily spook. After five minutes or so they tend to forget that you are there. 

As you scan the water, look for surface mirrors to spot fish and plan out your first cast. Don’t always expect to see the actual shape of a fish. Instead, look for telltale clues such as a white mouth, steel gray shape, fin movement or the slash of a fish’s side. Quite often a fish will take the fly on the first cast. If not and if he doesn’t spook, continue to make good presentations.

A typical leader setup is 5 to 6 feet in length with a split shot attached 18 to 20 inches above the fly. Once you’ve spotted a fish, cast above the area using a roll cast. As the fly swings down, follow the path of the line with the rod tip so that you are in direct contact with the line movement. Then make several mends to keep the fly moving naturally toward the fish. If the line stops, hesitates or changes direction, set the hook with a firm rod lift. Sometimes you’ll hook nothing but a ten pound rock, but more times than not your line may start moving! 

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fly Fishing with the "Deadly" Mickey Finn.

Mickey Finn
The Mickey Finn is an old attractor pattern that has withstood the test of time and is still very effective for Brook Trout, Bass, Panfish, Steelhead, Salmon and Shad. The creator is unknown, but John Alden Knight, angler and author, popularized it in 1932. Its history is curious. It was originally called the Red and Yellow Bucktail but was later dubbed the Assassin by Joe Bates Jr. Eventually, the name was changed to the Mickey Finn after a famous actor died from drinking a lethal drug, the Mickey Finn.

Hook: 79580 Mustad sizes 10-1/0
Thread: 3/0 black Monocord
Body: Medium flat silver tinsel with a ribbing of medium oval silver tinsel
Wing: Small bunch of red bucktail or calftail between top and bottom bunches of yellow bucktail or calftail.

Step 1. Tie in flat silver tinsel and oval tinsel and wrap the thread up to the eye.

Step 2. Wrap the flat tinsel forward and tie off. Then spiral the oval tinsel forward 6-7 times leaving spaces between wrap.

Step 3. Arrange the hair in the proper color sequence.

Step 4. Pinch the tri-color wing and secure it tightly with 8-10 wraps and complete the head.   

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Landing a Steelhead the Hard Way.

Fly Fishing on Oregon's North Fork of the Trask River
My friend Bob Wiley and I were fishing the upper Trask River on the Oregon Coast. We hiked into a good piece of water just below the deadline and began to fish with homemade Glo Bugs. The water was slightly off-color, and Glo Bugs work well in this condition. We quickly started casting and hoped for action.

We weren’t disappointed as Bob quickly hooked and lost one. I hooked one solidly but it started to surge downriver. I tightened the drag and, as I started to put pressure to turn the fish, my rod suddenly broke in half at the ferrule. I quickly grabbed the tip section and handed the butt section to Bob and yelled, “You start reeling and I’ll play the fish."

Well, the next few minutes were like a Three Stooges movie. When the fish started jumping, we started yelling, stumbling and bumping into each other as we tried to maintain our balance. Somehow, after 8-10 minutes the fish submitted to our awkward technique, and we finally slid a nice bright eight-pounder onto the bank.

Catching steelhead is sometimes a matter of luck. You can do everything right and lose a fish, or you can do everything wrong and land one. That’s why it’s called fishing. 
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