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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

La Ranita "Little Frog" Popper

The Ultimate Simple Frog Pattern

Continuing on with the theme of the year of the bluegill (#theyearofthebluegill), this is a small frog style pattern that is fun to tie and throw at the 'gills.  This is a very simple version of a bluegill popper that can be tied without a fancy popper head.  This can be tied in all different color combinations, and is effective for anything that eats miniature frogs!

Material List

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Hook: Daiichi 1560 - Traditional Nymph Hook - 10     
Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 70 Denier - Olive     
Tail: EP Fibers - Olive     
Body: Bruiser Blend Junior Dubbing - Brown Olive     
Wings: Solid and Krystal Tinsel Chenille - Olive     
Legs: Rainy's Evazote Foam - Olive - 1/8"     
Head: Silicon Streamer Legs - Olive Gold     
TBD: Bruiser Blend Junior Dubbing - Dirty Chartreuse     

Other tools from the tutorial:

Monday, February 25, 2013

Early Season 'Gills

Bluegill can actually be picky eaters

bluegill taken on a chironomid fly pattern

I remember, as a kid growing up, throwing simple setups of a hook, worm and bobber to catch loads of small bluegill from a local pond. We even experimented and were surprisingly successful with just leaving the worm off and having them strike a bare hook. Apparently, our soda-can reel and lack of worms didn't dissuade the fish much and we had fun catching these small guys all day. However, there are times -- especially early in the season and/or just after ice-off -- that you might need to put a little more thought into catching these fun panfish.

Anyway, the genesis for this whole early-season bluegill strategy started a number of years go. We were cajoled into hitting a great bluegill and bass fishery just after ice-off. I was pretty sure it was going to be slow as these fish are, after all, a "warm water" species. And true to form, an hour into the day of fishing produced very disappointing results using the standard table fare of buggy colorful "they'll hit anything" patterns.

Eventually, arriving at the other side of the lake to see how my friends were doing, my buddy and his crew were surprisingly getting into good numbers of fish. But again, to my dismay these little fish weren't too interested in my bluegill flies.

I eventually broke down and asked for the secret sauce. It turned out to be a simple matter of looking at the water and realizing there were scads of chironomid shucks on the water. Turns out the bluegill were gorging themselves on these juicy chironomids to the exclusion of anything else. So I quickly rigged up an indicator and dropped a couple of bead-head chironomid patterns and started picking up fish. It also turned out that they didn't like their food if it was just sitting there, so imparting a little action to the flies was almost a must. We term this style of chironomid fishing (with an indicator) as "mooching". And finally, the last piece of the puzzle was to present the flies at the right depth to the fish right along the reed-lines and structure where they were holding. They were not inclined to venture out of hiding too far. So: match the hatch, little movement and right depth/location were the keys.

bluegill taken on a chironomid fly pattern

With this simple strategy in play, the rest of the day was incredible. Using mostly chironomid patterns suspended from strike indicators, we caught large numbers of bluegills and even a few nice Bass.

bass taken on a chironomid fly pattern

 Since then, I'm looking forward each spring to heading out and fishing the colder waters for some nice bluegill. This technique has transformed my approach to early season bluegills and I hope it can be useful to you too!

bluegill taken on a chironomid fly pattern Sand Hollow Utah

Here's a quick video on tying up one of our favorite early-season bluegill chironomid patterns:

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pink Hoppers?

Why does pink work so well??

I had a few days in the past couple of years where my usual hopper patterns weren't fairing so well. I had tied up a variety of both pink and red hopper patterns and in one instance, they would not touch anything that wasn't red or pink. I guess I haven't given it much thought other than to say it's a good idea to carry crazy colored hoppers in your boxes. Any ideas??

And a video to boot:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Imagination Station

tired of tying flies that look like Uncle Ken's Wooley Bug?

I have heard it a million times.  "Can I tie that in olive?" "Can I do that one without a bead?" "Can I change the marabou for pheasant tail?"  In the world of fly tying, the people who make the rules aren't even people at all.  They are fish.  They swim, eat, poop, and try to stay away from stuff that will kill it.  When assessing what is proper table fare for a fish, the only way to get them to eat something out of the ordinary is to serve it up for them.  

Put more simply, there are no rules in fly tying; only observations that might make one fly more effective than others.  I am an artist at heart, and the major draw to fly tying is that I can create new things.  I started to learn how to tie14 years ago while sitting at a call center answering calls.  There was a guy that had his grandpa's kit, and would tie some of the gnarliest flies I have ever seen.  I had some interest because I liked fishing, and the rest is history.  Had I started with a class, maybe I would have learned proper techniques that followed the "rules."  I think that techniques are important, but I also think that everyone will find what works best for them...  Really, it doesn't matter the method in which you lash junk to the hook, as long as it looks good when you whip finish it.  A good example of this is my Uncle Ken who shows off his expertise  HERE  while he ties his world famous Wooley Bug.

This being said, some of my best creations have come because I took the time to really try to get imaginative.  I will at times envision ideas at night or while I'm at work, and I rush to the vise as soon as I can to try them out.  Some are ugly pieces of junk, others have mightily impacted my fishing.  

  • Example #1:
    • The Grumpy Frumpy.  I wanted an attractor fly that shared characteristics of my favorite flies.  I also wanted the fly to be very durable.  This fly was a work in progress for several months, and the end product was a fly that had characteristics of a humpy, royal coachman, cripple, and madam X.  I then adjusted colors and sizes and realized that it was even good at matching hatches.
Grumpy Frumpy - Peacock
Hook: TMC 102Y #13 - #17
Thread: UTC 70 - chartreuse
Tail: Flytyer's Dungeon shuck yarn - brown
Body: Peacock
Overbody: Rainy's Evazote - olive
Wing: Poly yarn - white
Hackle: Brown
Legs: Medium round rubber - natural
Marks on legs: Black sharpie

  • Example #2:
    • The Cheech Leech.  I knew that eventually I'd have a fly named the Cheech Leech, but the fly had to be worthy of the name...  I really didn't fish a lot of articulated streamers, but I knew that if I created one, it would have to have some unique characteristics.  I wanted a fly that would shed water while casting, but would not lack movement when it was in the water.  I also wanted a fly that would have unique movement due to the consistencies of natural vs. synthetic materials.  I ended up with an absolute fish catcher, and a fly that had synthetics in the back and naturals in the front, allowing it to almost shimmy when it is retrieved.  Again, this fly was a work in progress, and it paid off because I thought outside the box.

See the HD Video for recipe and tying instructions.

Sometimes the creative process is based on the need for a pattern that matches a bug, or a certain movement in the water.  Other flies happen purely by accident.  Most of my creativity comes from staring at my tying table listening to the Marley family belt out reggae tunes, and other times I end up doodling a bunch of ideas onto paper (this may or may not have happened at church...)

My final words of advise at the tying desk are to experiment with everything.  Lash it on the hook and get it wet.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Real. Easy. Hopper.

An easy one that doesn't suck

grasshopper fly pattern tutorial foam attractor

A few years ago, I started messing around with some pre-cut hopper bodies from Wrightway sports. I liked the idea of pre-cut bodies because they already had some of the natural shape and I didn't have to spend time trimming the foam to size. For whatever reason, I tied up almost a full box full of these hoppers and they served me well for several seasons, catching many a trout. Anyway, if you can get your hands on some of these bodies, they're easy to tie. I have gotten comments as to the durability and my main advice there is to make sure you use super glue and/or at least cut a slit on the underside of the foam body to add some grip to the situation. You'll also find this pattern come up on Youtube as it's one of the most popular hopper patterns on there, so enjoy!!

Hook: TMC 5263 #10 (although I now use the Mustad C49 S for most of my hopper patterns)
Thread: UTC GSP 100 Olive
Body: Pre-Cut Bug Body (Wrightway or Rainy's)
Legs: Silicon skirt material
Wing: Swiss Straw (tan or brown)
Wing Case (Pronotum): 2mm foam cut to shape
Indicator (optional): Poly yarn

And the video...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Fly Tyin' with Uncle Ken

The Wooly Bug: A secret trout weapon

Here's the latest original pattern from Uncle Ken. You'll catch a trout on it...guaranteed!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Flies for Froggin'

A little Toad-on-Toad action

STP Frog® from River Road Creations
 Bass on topwater: one of the craziest takes you can imagine. After a good topwater day, I'll have line burns on my fingers and a pretty sore arm. And frogs are one of my favorites to throw.

largemouth bass on frog popper

Frogs are fun to tie up and there are a lot of different styles you can choose from. Here are just a few...

Rainy's frog body, tube style

With the Rainy's body frogs, I usually spray them with the airbrush and coat them with some Clear Cure Goo. They have a great shape and the foam isn't too heavy to throw with a decently powered fly rod. I tied them with regular hooks or on tubes.

Tube body, weedless on regular bass hook

Weedless Frog Failure
Here is a proto-type one-timer pattern I worked up a few years ago. Threw it a few times and had a hard time getting it to land right. Chalk it up to experience, but it looks cool and keeps me company at the vise when my dog isn't.

The STP® Frog is also one of my favorite frog patterns to throw. They're lightweight and have a good profile on the water. They also carry a good "splat" factor as they hit the water.

STP Frog® from River Road Creations

And here's a video on how to tie it up:

Monday, February 11, 2013

Down on the Patch

Harvesting for the caddis and terrestrial tying season

I've had some whacky ideas floating around in my head lately and this style of picture-story photography is something I've really been wanting to try out. This is the first in a (hopefully) series of a few "mini-scenes" I've been toying with.

Down on the Patch
I went back and forth on the "patch" color, but ultimately decided on green. As you might see, they harvest the hair, set it out to dry and then prepare it for tying in the "natural" dried color. Not sure what these diminutive dudes would do with the bigger-than-life hair stackers (in reality the ones pictured here are the smaller mini-sized stackers as the normal sized ones were too big) but I figure it adds to the theme of tying with hair.

Anyway, kinda silly but hope you can enjoy it.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sulky Holographic Tinsel

Tinsel you can get at the craft store

So my buddy Grant Bench is a fly tying material connoisseur. He's always sliding me new materials to try out and for all I know he's dealing with black market goods coming from illegal sweatshops in a polar bear killing facility in Yemen. But yeah, he's got the hook-ups.

This Sulky tinsel was one of his suggestions. I went to the craft store that same day and bought a few to try out. I'll say this stuff is the bees knees for ribbing or adding flash to flies. It's small in size, but yet flat and very shiny. Plus, it's strong stuff -- it won't tear or munch too easily. The spools here come in 250 yard amounts.

And, even better, it looks good on a fly body. I found a good use for entire body wrapping and especially ribbing all sorts of flies. So it's a winner!

Holo-Buzzer with Clear Cure Good finish

FlyFishFood  Review
Sulky Tinsel

Shiny, small and tough.
A spool is 250 yards and will set you back $5. Don't know how that compares to tying spooled tinsel like UTC
Buy some and you'll have plenty to last and you'll find yourself using it all over the place

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Holodeck Fantasy Midges

The Holo-Buzzer is a tractor-beam of hotness

Well, maybe not a tractor beam, but at least it gets the phasers set to stun. Either way, I've been on an extended chironomid binge as of late. My sights are set on an annual trip to the chironomid mecca of the Western US (luckily most folks don't know it's a mecca just yet). Here's a monster taken on a chironomid pattern by my buddy Herb Patterson (who, by the way, can catch a fish out of a mud puddle -- if given the chance or inclination)

rainbow trout on chironomid buzzer fly pattern midge
Angler: Herb Patterson
I've had several of my best chironomid days at this reservoir: the fish are large and they will plow through the chironomid buffet faster than Uncle Ken at the Golden Corral on steak night. Often times, you can sight fish to these cruising brutes as they partake of the buffet mere inches below the surface. In cases where the fish are feeding just below the surface, an un-weighted fly is the way to go. But those times where the fish are holding a little deeper, I'll tie on a weighted variation such as this one:

chironomid buzzer fly pattern midge

rainbow trout chironomid buzzer fly pattern midge

And here's a little video to show you how it's all done.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Peacock King

Time to expand your cluster patterns.

I was about to tear into my burnt hot dog, Grandma's potato salad, and some pork and beans when I heard the shrill laugh of my half drunk Uncle Ken.  He was a lifetime oilfield roustabout who had lived in the same single wide trailer for his entire adult life.  He had a small patch of land with some sheep, dogs, chickens, and most importantly - a peacock.  Uncle Ken was the king of fishing the lakes up on diamond mountain (believe me, he told me) and his Zebco 33 / UglyStick combo was the best rig money could buy (he told me that too).  He knew that I liked to wave my fairy wand (fly rod), so he walked around the picnic table, uncomfortably too close, to tell me a "secret."  He told me that he had recently discovered a method that would catch fish on any lake, any time, and that he was going to let me in on the secret.  "It's a secret fly that nobody else knows and nobody else can tie.  I'm wondering if you could tie some up for me."  See, Uncle Ken had been collecting peacock feathers for years and to his knowledge, he was the first person ever to think of tying it on a hook.  He staggered over to his $60,000 truck and produced the typical 20 year old plano box that had more rust inside of it than I had ever seen.  He began to dig, and after a few minutes, he pulled out a box with the secret fly.  As he looked at me eyeball to eyeball, he whispered "It's called the Peacock King." He looked over his shoulder and then handed me the treasure.  I looked down to see a #8 Griffith's Gnat.  I assured him that it might be hard, but that I could probably figure it out.  Uncle Ken got his two dozen Peacock Kings out of that transaction, but I got a great story to tell for a lifetime, and now, out of principle, I call Griffith's Gnats Peacock Kings (I apologize Mr. Griffith).

This being said, I absolutely LOVE fishing midges in the wintertime, and there are times when a good midge cluster will out-fish most other things in my box.  It's also a great fly to use as an "indicator" in a double dry tandem rig where the smaller fly needs to be a #63 micro fluff midge.  I typically like to stick with #18 clusters, but I have had days when a #10 cluster cleaned house because the fish mistook it for 45,000 midges in a cluster.

I rarely fish the standard Griffith's Gnat anymore.  See below for Cheech's cluster.... situation.

 Orange Asher:

Hook: TMC 101 #18
Thread: UTC 70 denier burnt orange
Body: UTC holographic tinsel orange
Hackle: Grizz

I coat the body with Clear Cure Goo Hydro before wrapping the hackle.  Cure once the fly is complete.

 Three Bead Cluster:

Hook: TMC 101 #18
Beads: X-Small clear glass bead
Hackle: Grizz

Yes, Whip finish every section of hackle for a more durable fly.
 Purple Asher:

Hook: TMC 101 #18
Thread: Veevus 16/0 black
Body: UTC holographic tinsel Purple
Hackle: Grizz

I coat the body with Clear Cure Goo Hydro before wrapping the hackle.  Cure once the fly is complete.
Trailing Shuck Cluster:

Hook: TMC 101 #18
Thread: Veevus 16/0 black
Tail: Light dun antron
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Grizz