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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Fripple 2.0

A Mayfly imitation worth a look

The story of the Fripple goes back a number of years to a lazy day on the bank of the river watching the blue winged olives hatch. I noticed that the fish were not keying on the high-floating soon-to-fly-away able bodied adults, but rather on the bugs that we still struggling to leave the surface of the water.

This drove me to the vise and, after a few iterations over the following days, I decided on a spent-wing style imitation. The Fripple has provided me some great fishing over the years in all sizes and colors to cover anything from a drake to a PMD. 

Fast forward a few years and Fripple 2.0 is the mayfly focus these days for me. Coupled with my Aero-baetis, I've got two new solid confidence flies for hitting any mayfly hatch.

Here's a fella that, along with a bunch of his friends this day, slammed the fly all afternoon...

brown trout fripple baetis bwo fly pattern blue winged olive
Brown trout on the Fripple 2.0

Material List

Hook: Daiichi 1160, #14-#18 (+)
Thread: Danville 70 Denier, Olive (+)
Thread 2: Danville 70 Denier, Fl. Orange (+)
Body: Thread
Ribbing: Dyed Pearl Flashabou, Olive (+)
Thorax: Hare'e Ice Dub, Olive Brown (+)
Under-Wing: CDC, Brown Olive (+)
Wing-Post: Snowshoe hare toe fur, Gray Dun (+)
Wing: Medallion Sheeting, Buggy Light Dun (+)

Note: The video shows a slightly older variation. We no longer use the scud back and wire on the body as it tended to not float as well over time. We also swapped out the use of foam for CDC. Use the above recipe with the same techniques shown in the video.                  

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Great Pre-Hatch Baetis Nymph

Aero-Baetis FTW!

baetis nymph fly pattern tutorial
Aero-Baetis Nymph
I'm often reminded of a time I hit the river for some spring Baetis or Blue Winged Olive action a number of years ago. It was mid-morning and as I walked by one of my favorite dry fly sections of the river, there was a dude just sitting on the bank watching the water. I, at first, figured he was keenly observing the water to figure out what first to tie on. As I approached and spoke to him briefly, however, it turned out he was "staking out" his spot on the river for the hatch that was about two or three hours away. I passed by, finished up with a fine day of fishing and then ran into him again on the way back to my truck. Turns out the hatch hadn't quite materialized and he hadn't ended up catching more than a couple of fish all day.

I mention this because it uncovers a side of fly fishing we often forget about or overlook -- the hatch leading up to the hatch. Indeed this day the fish didn't come up to take dry flies as strongly as they normally would have, but the nymphing action was absolutely insane! Not only that, but I was catching fish anywhere from a few inches to a foot or two beneath the surface and could often see the takes. So it's definitely not your average bottom-bouncing Jedi-style nymphing. 

For these situations, I typically prefer a bead head and try to keep it simple yet still representative of the natural. The Aero-Baetis is the newest pattern in my arsenal to fufill this need. It's been really killing it on the river this year. One thing to remember is that the insects darken up just before they hatch and the wingcases become a bit more prominent. Here are some examples of the naturals and most of the inspiration taken for this pattern. 

baetis nymph fly blue winged olive
Provo River Baetis Nymph
Photo from

I usually fish this pattern from either an indicator or from a dry fly and adjust the depth accordingly. Even during a solid hatch, I'll hang this style of nymph as a dropper from the adult pattern and often find the fish taking it just as it hits the water fooling me into thinking they took the dry fly.
Anyway, it's a solid pattern worth a try....
Hook: TMC 200R #16 - #22 or Daiichi 1150  -- Buy Here --

And here's the video for the Aero-Baetis

Monday, March 18, 2013

Craft Store Recon

Places where I don't belong...

The nice oldish lady in the bead aisle at the craft store gave me a sideways glance and a funny look as if to say I was obviously lost and probably needed help finding the sporting goods store because I was invading her happy place. I wasn't lost but I was tempted to let loose with a good crop-dusting as I walked by her. The place needed more man-scents but I doubt it would overcome the Martha Stewart-ish smells that dominate craft stores.

Anyhoo...back on task. Whether you want to stick out like a sore thumb, try to covertly shop or show up in drag, craft stores are a gold-mine for the fly tyer. I have three decent sized craft stores within a few miles of my house (Hobby Lobby, Joann's and Michael's) and I usually do tying recon missions fairly often. They bring in and feature new products VERY frequently so you will usually find new things every time you visit.

Here's a quick run down:

  • Feathers: You'd actually be surprised that you can find decent marabou, soft hackles, peacock swords, ostrich and other feathers. Just be careful of the quality and price. The feather boa's (seen to the right) have some amazing marabou feathers and although the fibers aren't super-long, you can work with it.

  • Thread: This is one to be careful with. I know noob tyers will head off to the fabric store to buy massive quantities of ginormous thread. While there are definitely a few good tying threads (Coats and Clark Summer Brown!) don't go in expecting to find anything that compares to your fly shops. There are, however, metallic or decorative threads that will work great. The Sulky brand is a great one that a good friend of mine recommended. They are holographic tinsel, but in very fine and colorful sizes. Works great for ribbed bodies, tails or just adding some flash to a pattern.
  • Tools: If you look in the beading section, you'll actually find a number of very helpful tools. Anything from Bodkins to Exacto knives to tweezers and measurement tools. Mostly a lot of "enchanting elegance"

    Just be aware that you will typically NOT find good scissors there. Even some of the better sewing scissors and nippers just don't compare to the best fly tying scissors. Sure they'll be good for something, but I don't think you can get decent EDC (Every Day Carry) scissors there.
  • Foam: Yes, foam is awesome at craft stores. They sell it in all shapes, sizes, colors and it's a fraction of the cost of what you can find at some shops. However, there are a couple of foam types (Evazote and Crosslink from Rainy's) that I think are a step above craft foam. Just something to keep in mind.

  • Tons of other stuff too...I could go on and on. But hook & bead containers, beads, articulated fly connectors, wire, wing material (organza ribbon and such), lighting, foam blocks for tool caddies, tying station workcenters and yada yada yada. Just go check it out. 
Wing Material from some decorative leaf thingy.
Foam Blocks for tool caddies or cutting into poppers etc.
All variety of cutting tools for foam, feathers etc.
Beads and lots of 'em...
Beading wire for articulated flies, ribbing and such.

Hook and Bead Storage containers
Storage bins for materials and supplies

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Fly Tying Workstations: What's best?

Decide the style of station that suits you best

From time to time, we get asked what our tying stations look like and subsequently what we'd recommend to others thinking about either getting into tying or coming up with a better or more organized/efficient setup. This happens to be a loaded question and doesn't have a simple answer. The solution can vary depending on how much space you have, how many materials you have (or will have) and how mobile you want your entire tying work place to be. And no matter what you option choose, make sure you do what fits your style the best.

Here are a few suggestions to consider:
  • If you have the space available, look at more of a permanent setup from the get-go. Whether it's a man-cave in your spare bedroom or a hide-away roll-top desk or other "hidden" work station furniture in a main area of your house or apartment, a permanent setup will undoubtedly lead to more time at the vise. Many years ago when I was living in Seattle in a small apartment, I kept my tying collection in a variety of boxes, crates and containers and only got them out when I needed to tie. I would, no question, say those three years accounted for the fewest flies coming off my vise. If you wish to be mobile (i.e. go to tying nights with the guys or tie at the various tying shows and exhibitions), simply make sure you can quickly slap some materials and tools into a bag or something and take it on the run. You should not expect to be able to effectively haul your whole tying treasure trove from one spot to the next. Maybe this is true if you're limited to tying only certain flies and you don't become a material hoarder (like we are), but chances are, you'll outgrow any entirely mobile solution out there and collect far more materials than you'll ever need (but that's the fun part, right??). If you truly are limited in the space you have, then look at solutions that can be modular for storage purposes (see the cabinet setup below) as you can take things in and out from a "hidden" spot and then tie on a tying bench style work station temporarily.
  • Along with the first point, I might add, "think big" in terms of storage. The first storage container I bought, as I expanded my tying collection, was a tool bin drawer set from the hardware store. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. However, it didn't take long for me to run out of space in a specific drawer and I quickly realized while the storage was handy, the individual drawers were too small. You won't have just one color or style of rabbit strips, for example. And while some of them come in small bags, you can also get them in big packs. The solution I ultimately came up with was to buy a series of Rubbermaid style drawer units in a variety of sizes. In the picture below, you can see my closet has some custom shelving to accommodate the drawer units (and in my OCD style, I label them with my handy label maker). The nice thing here is that while some drawers are nearly empty (CDC doesn't take up that much space, but it has its own drawer), I can easily swap out drawers and units as I need to. This not only reduces clutter in my actual workspace, it also helps to more quickly glance and see what and how much of a given material I have.

  • Think of a "work space" and not a "tying bench". I know there are some really awesome custom-built wooden tying benches out there. Here are a couple of really nice examples

And while I'm not at all opposed to these types of units, you shouldn't expect that this style of "bench" would constitute your entire tying area -- hence the term "work station". This can be one component of a bigger whole and they work great for mobile non-permanent stations, but most tyers I know would not even come close to being able to fit all their stuff on only their bench or tool/material caddy. What I did was steal our kitchen table. As you can see below, it's a wide work area with a variety of tool caddies and material holding doodads. It's big enough to set out a lot of materials to work with and some extra shelving around the edges provides more access to my dubbings, wires, cutters, foams and chenilles (stuff that I don't store entirely in the closet). I also built a cool tool caddy with some foam core board, a plastic shoe box and some Clear Cure Goo. Works great having the tools elevated at an angle so I can see them better. I also utilize a lot of foam for my work surfaces. It's cheap, you can stick your flies into it and it is relatively disposable when you spill a bunch of super-glue or paint on it. The main point here is a "work space" is more modular and can change (i.e. scale larger) as you grow your collection. You can add tool caddies, material bins etc as you need them and change their placement as you need. The "bench" style solutions tend to not be as scalable and I've seen a number of tyers just plain out-grow them.

Main work area from a converted kitchen table.

Secondary work area for organizing flies, taking photos and airbrushing stuff.
Tying materials storage (closet) and material staging desk.

    • Don't forget good lighting. Likely one of the most underrated tools in your arsenal is the use of a good light -- or "lights" to be specific. Two or more light sources can help to illuminate your flies more fully and help you see details more clearly as you tie -- which may be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. ;)

    In the end, everyone will have a different "best way" for themselves when it comes to tying stations or work areas. Just do what you have room for, what you can afford and most importantly what fits your tying style. It's a fun hobby!

    Peak Hair Stackers

    I am a sucker for tying tools, and I have about everything I will need to tie flies for the next several centuries. This didn't make me any less excited when my Peak hair stackers came.  I like to work with deer hair and buck tail a lot, and without a good set of stackers this can be a very frustrating task.  I began immediately by tying a big ol' meaty bullethead, because it would be a good pass/fail test for the magnum stacker.  It performed brilliantly, and what impressed me the most, was the design of the stacker that allowed me to extract the hair without having to pull it out as far as a traditional stacker.  As you can see in the picture, you don't have to pull a sleeve out of the body of the stacker; you simply pull off the bottom, making it easier to keep the tips aligned.  In addition to the innovative functional design, they are shaped in hexagons so they don't roll off the desk while tying.  All of the above is all good, but one feature of this stacker truly makes it stand out above the rest - it is static free.  Static is the one thing that can make a hair stacker almost un-useable, and peak eliminated static by leaving the raw aluminum finish (which I think looks cool too).  The test of a regular sized stacker was a comparadun, so I pulled out my prized patch of Texas whitetail and got to work.  This is where static kills the effectiveness of a stacker.  The Peak really performed well, and I even rotated the stacker all around trying to get the hair to stick to the sides - it didn't.  Out came the hair with even tips - conclusion reached - the stacker is wicked awesome.  Yes, a hair stacker can be a very simple tool, but Peak really knocked it out of the park with these.  These babies will probably find a spot on my varsity team on the desk.


    FlyFishFood  Review
    Hair Stackers

    Pure aluminum.  These will last a lifetime.
    Magnum is $45, Regular is ~$14.  Sometimes you have to pay for the best.
    The magnum is in a league of it's own.  The regular stacker is great, but in the league of other top of the line stackers.

    Thursday, March 7, 2013

    Changing up royalty

    This Prince wants a change

    mylar prince nymph fly pattern
    Mylar Prince

    mylar prince nymph fly pattern
    Purple Mylar Prince
    The Prince Nymph is one of those flies that works in rivers, lakes, and for multiple species.  I typically have many of them in my box, and they have almost become one of those "last resort" flies that does the trick after I have almost tried EVERYTHING in my box.  The other thing that I really like about the Prince Nymph is that they can be tied in such a wide array of variations.  You can change the biot colors, or change them to other materials all together.  You can change the body from peacock to wire, mylar, dubbing, biots, etc.  The hook can also be played with; as you see we have tied this fly on a curved shank hook instead of the traditional straight shanked hook.

    These modifications can also be done to almost any fly out there, so don't be afraid to get a little crazy at the vise.  Remember, you won't know if the fish are going to eat it until you feed it to them.


    Material List

    Add to Cart   View in store

    Hook: Daiichi 1120 - Heavy Wire Scud Hook - 14     
    Bead: Plummeting Tungsten Beads - Black Nickel - 3/32" (2.3mm)     
    Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 70 Denier - Black     
    Tails: Stripped Goose Biots - Prince Nymph Brown     
    Wings: Stripped Goose Biots - White     
    Body : Pearl Tinsel - Medium     
    Ribbing: UTC Ultra Wire - Amber - Small     
    Head 1: Peacock Eye Sticks     
    Head 2: Arizona Synthetic Dubbing - Peacock