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Friday, May 31, 2013

The Sickada: A Foam Cicada Fly Pattern

A more realistic body profile

cicada fly pattern foam

In honor of the epic 17-year Cicada emergence this year, I was on an R&D mission for a new fly design. First, I went back over a few older Cicada fly patterns I'd tied in the past. Then I looked at resources online as well as some field research looking at actual bugs. The one below was found and photographed recently here in Utah while I was hunting bugs waiting for Cheech to bring his fat butt upstream. This Cicada is a little more bland than some of the other bugs I've seen but it still fits the mold of what I was planning for the fly pattern.

adult cicada fly pattern

adult cicada fly pattern

adult cicada fly pattern

In the end, I fine-tuned a couple of different fly patterns I'd tied in the past (for both crickets and Cicadas) and ended up with this Cicada fly pattern concoction. Looking at the photo below (thanks, you'll see the more tapered underside profile with a definite striped segmentation. Coloration varies from mostly black to black/orange/yellow to the more traditionally known black and orange. The pattern shown above was tied to imitate the more yellowish insects, but colors can be varied according to the colors you see around your local streams and lakes.

I also wanted the fly to float well enough to support bigger sized droppers, so you'll see this Cicada pattern incorporates as much foam as possible.

UPDATE NOTE: While the original Sickada pattern is a killer fly, I've done much better on the newer Project Cicada shown below. It's an easier tie and is a more balanced floating pattern. 

And best of all, you can buy them here if you'd like: Project Cicadas
My "Go-To" cicada now

adult cicada fly pattern
Old version (orange and black variation)

**Material List

HookPartridge Attitude Extra #4 or Gamakatsu L10-2H  (BUY HERE)
ThreadVeevus Fly Tying Thread 10/0, Orange  (BUY HERE)
BodyTying Foam, 6mm, Black  (BUY HERE)
WingThin Wing, Lt. Dun  (BUY HERE)
Over-WingPara Post Wing Material, Dark Gray & Fl. Orange  (BUY HERE)
Wing CoverCrosslink Foam, 1mm, Black  (BUY HERE)
LegsCentipede Legs, Speckled Orange  (BUY HERE)
Eyes: Mono, melted and colored

**Or buy the flies directly from us pre-tied:  Buy Here

Tools etc:

And the video tutorial for the new Project Cicada...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Bluegill on Poppers

Aggressive topwater takes

bluegill on a popper fly pattern topwater
Big male taken on a popper over a weed bed.

If you've spent any time at all chasing the biggest-little-fish, the ubiquitous bluegill, you've no doubt seen their tendency to attack flies, fish and even an unlucky Go-Pro here and there. So when you can find them in a surface attack mode, it can be some killer fishing. The big guy featured above was taken from a group of fish that was swimming in and out of some weeds and were not shy about hitting whatever invaded their space. 

The fun thing about bluegills is when they're looking up, they aren't usually too picky about what they hit. I have found times where color and size can make a difference, so I usually come prepared with a variety of poppers and foam jobbies (like the foam dragon featured here and shown below). Really any dry fly can be a good bluegill pattern, but I usually fish with poppers because they can drum up the attention of fish that might be closer to the bottom.

foam dragon bluegill fly pattern popper topwater

I also like to spend a little extra time "prettying" up my poppers (not that the fish care). Rainy's makes some good foam popper bodies and you can do crazy stuff like airbrush them.

airbrushed bluegill popper foam
Some masking on the airbrush job

Not that there are any real secrets to fishing for bluegill with poppers and other dry flies, but leave the trout mentality at home. You may not see any fish feeding on or hitting the surface, but if you know there are bluegill in the area, don't be shy about throwing on a popper and giving it a whirl. Weedless poppers can also come in handy if you're fishing to weeds, moss or mats.

One common misconception is that you should use a smaller weight rod to go after these fish. And yes, while you can have fun catching them on 3 and 4 weight rods, the versatility you get from a heavier 5 or 6 weight rod (like the Sage Bluegill rod shown below) can sometimes come in handy when you tie on bigger flies or have to pull fish from the moss or weeds. I'm often throwing bluegill poppers into very weedy or mossy areas and need the bigger guns to get the flies where I need them. But that's just me.  

Not quite sure what it is about pursuing these little guys, but they grow on you. Maybe it's the way they expend every ounce of their energy for the first few seconds as they perform the side-ways back and forth "pull me in I'm a big plate" routine. Either way, especially with some topwater action, they're a fun fish to target and you can find them all over the country.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Comb-Over Minnow

When you need to go deeper and get jiggy

When you're tying flies that will imitate any sort of baitfish pattern, there are a few factors to consider. Among these factors is buoyancy, lifelike action/look in the water and also "castability". The Comb-Over minnow is an example of how to incorporate a few of these aspects.

A number of years ago, when the EP fibers first hit the market, I tied up a bunch of chub minnow imitations to fish on a local stillwater where the trout would actively hunt down the little chubs. I was all stoked to be throwing such awesome looking minnow imitations, so I whipped out a fly and hucked a cast into the water. Lucky for the fish, my fly would have been a much better floating dead minnow imitation than a life-like trout-attracting fly pattern. I had done a few things wrong with this pattern. First off, I had waaaay too much material. Second, I didn't stop to consider how I'd actually fish the pattern. Had I been using a sinking line or tip of some sort, it might have worked well but still would have been a chore to cast and the action in the water was listless, so FAIL. Lesson learned.

Anyway, you have a few choices on fly design here: You can incorporate weight to get the fly to the zone you want or you can thin it up enough so that it will slice through the water on its own (similar to the Low-Fat Minnow, which is an awesome pattern, BTW). This pattern uses just enough material to maintain a great profile in the water, it's tapered with some cool thinning shears but still needs some weight to get the jiggy action and depth I wanted.

Oh, and the "comb-over" part comes from a technique using Clear Cure Goo Hydro to lock some of the fibers over the barbell eyes to get it the tapered slick look of a nice gentleman afraid to embrace his natural hair tendencies. And don't forget the wicked sharp Lazer Trokar hook we're using on this one. Truth be told, the first time I saw this hook, it had "minnow" written all over it and I started to devise something to build around it. It's a fun one to throw!

Hook: Lazer Trokar TK 97 #2
Thread: Monofilament (7X)
Eyes: Barbell Eyes
Belly: White and Silver Arizona Diamond Dubbing
Back: Olive Arizona Minnow Dubbing and Peacock Diamond Dubbing
Head: Coated with Clear Cure Goo Hydro

Video Tutorial as shown...

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What kind of fly tyer are you?

I've been tyin' flies fer a hundred years...

Curtis demonstrating how to tie with hot dog fingers.

In reading various internet bulletin boards and working in a fly shop I always heard about the number of "years" someone had tied flies, or how many "years" someone has fished.  Of course this is important information to know so we can assess the ever important fly tying and fishing virtual resume that we all MUST have... (<--- that comment was a joke.  Queue rolling of eyes here.)  If years are so critical, I'm an expert at lawn care, motocross, sculpture, and sword fighting.  Regardless of how many years one has been doing something, it is all about how invested they become, or how passionate they are about it.  

The floor after two days of demo tying

For example, In fishing, there are people who have done it for 25 years, but only get out 3 or 4 times per year.  In contrast, there are people who have fished for 3 years, but put 150 days on the water every year.  Who has fished more?  I have a dear friend who (hopefully he doesn't read this blog...) "loves" to fly fish.  We typically go out once a year, and I'm convinced that he only fishes when we fish together, which is totally fine!  I know that when we head out, I'll give him a handful of bead head buggers and he will inevitably say "dry flies?"  Yep...  Just the kind that sink.  I know that I'll look over to see a huge rat's nest at the end of his leader with that "can you help me with this," look on his face.  I know that he might catch a fish or two in a lake that should produce many more.  I also know that he loves being out there, and those trips fulfill his fishing itch every year.  Fine by me.

Curtis' NOOB tying station

Tying is kind of the same type of thing, although within tying there are many types of tyer, and different reasons why they do it.  

  1. Tyer who does it out of necessity.  "I only tie flies because I don't want to buy them." I know guys who HATE tying, but do it anyway because its the only way to have the "secret" fly.
  2. Tyer who gets a wild hair about tying a bunch of flies about once per year, and after 6 buggers, heads to the fly shop to buy the rest.  
  3. Tyer who loves to tie, but only uses exact recipes and patterns of well established patterns.  "Uh, do you have that dubbing in #458596 mottled brown sunshine?"  "This pattern won't work without it."  "Will that pattern work if you tied it in olive instead of black?"
  4. Tyer who loves to tie, and creates custom flies either from collecting bugs or from ideas in a whacked out brain (ding ding ding...  that's me).  Still ties some of the old classics, but perhaps with a twist.  Loves the art of tying.  Yes it is an art.
  5. Tyers who love to tie due to the artistic nature of it, but don't fish at all (yes...  I know several of these people).  Some of the most beautiful flies I have seen tied never will be fished by the tyer thereof...   
  6. The pattern hoarders.  "I'd show you what I'm fishing but then I'd have to kill you."  People who have the top secret FBI flies that can't be shown to civilians.
  7. Material purists.  Tyers who only use natural materials to tie, or people who won't use foam at all.  "Wait, is that crystal flash in there somewhere?"  I actually think these guys have mad skills...
  8. Uncle Ken tyers.  Tyers who have been doing it a year longer than you, can spin deer hair on 8/0 thread, have invented "secret" flies that he won't tell you about, only to find out that they are old classics that have been around for a long time.  "Hey son, do you know if you can patent a fly...  I got this'n here that catches fish were ever there is water."

Some classics with a twist.

Production mode with Low Fat Minnows

All of the categories are fine with me.  There are no rules to tying, and as long as you have fun doing it, you are doing it right.  Truth be told, the number of years you have been tying is not indicative of how well you tie, or how much fun you have doing it.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Green Spot Pheasant Tail

A quirky variation on the standard

pheasant tail fly pattern tutorial material list recipe

I was asked the other day about some of the patterns I'd found to be effective so far this spring. I rattled off a few patterns and then remembered several good fish that I'd taken on this nifty little PT variation. Nothing super-fancy, but a fun tie and it has a good little hot-spot. Plus, it incorporates some cool green dyed pheasant tail fibers.

Anyway, here's the skinny on it...

Hook: Gamakatsu R10-B #16
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier, Black  -- Buy Here --
Thorax: Arizona Synth Dubbing, Peacock  -- Buy Here --
Legs: Coq de Leon or Hen Hackle fibers
Hotspot: Glo-Brite Floss, Orange
Coating: Clear Cure Goo Hydro

Tenkara Fly

Sakasa Kebari --

For those of you that have been hiding under a rock or living in a bomb shelter for the past few years and hadn't heard about Tenkara fishing, get busy with Google. Regardless, I think the Tenkara style is something that is worth consideration. And while I haven't personally bitten the bullet to get setup, I can't help but try out the "backwards" hackled fly patterns. This was a recent attempt that came out of a combination of new materials I received from the crew at Hareline that screamed "Sakasa Kebari".  The Sakasa Kebari (which means something like "Frozen Eyelashes" in Japanese) style Tenkara flies are a thing of beauty, while at the same time non-descript and fairly simple (my example here bucks the norm, just FWIW). 

In all seriousness, these reverse hackle style flies are as effective as they are cool looking. Google up Tenkara style fly fishing or go see our buddies over at Tenkara Guides if you're interested in this effective style of fishing.

So besides the purple turkey biots (Hareline) and the Furnace India Hen, I used a cool new (to me) product called "Glo Brite Floss". It's bright and ties more like thread than it does floss. That's what is used for the head section above the hackle.

Hook: Daiichi 1250 (barbless glass bead hook)
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier, Purple
Body: Purple Turkey Biot
Ribbing: One strand of Crystal flash
Collar: Chartruese Senyo Laser dubbing
Hackle: Furnace India Hen
Head: Glo Brite Floss, Purple

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Deep Dish Callibaetis

A breakthrough stillwater callibaetis pattern

callibaetis fly pattern stillwater deep dish

I think we've all had those days when the fishing was so-so until we dialed in either a fish holding location or found a bug the fish were really keying on. On a recent trout-hunting trip, the lake we were targeting was known for a veritable buffet of aquatic life for the fish to chow down on. The fishing started relatively so-so, with only a few fish to net in the first hour or two. They were definitely into chironomids (of course, how often are fish "not" into Chironomids?) and I wasn't in the mood to switch up much. However, I remembered a "new" callibaetis pattern I had been working on for the past week or so. [Queue lengthy blog detour into the background behind this pattern...]

This pattern was one of the more "error"-prone results of my trial and error tying sessions the week before as I tried to come up with a better callibaetis pattern. I ended up with easily a dozen "failure" flies sitting on my desk staring at me as I was on the verge of saving the fly for a future tying session. What's more, I had tied it not for this specific lake, but for some awesome (stay tuned) high mountain lakes I plan on hitting later this spring and summer where the callibaetis action is insane. So yeah, as I sat at the tying desk the night before this current trip, I wasn't too concerned about having callibaetis patterns to fish with. Nonetheless, I eventually dialed in the pattern and churned out 4 flies that I threw into my box. (I will say it bears some resemblance to the Masked Marauder and Aero Baetis, which I've been fishing all go figure...)

callibaetis fly pattern with a rainbow trout

And back to the story on the water...I grabbed my fly box and snagged one of the new callibaetis patterns. I tied it as a dropper below my trusty Gut-Bomb and let it fly. The first cast was met with a solid take as the slip indicator took off with pulsating jerks. The 22 inch Rainbow shown above had inhaled the fly. The fish below did the same thing...

The rest of the day produced similar results until I finally ended up losing the last of my 4 patterns to an aggressive fish. Obviously, I was busy tying the days that followed in order to build up my reserves. The next couple of trips to different lakes saw this fly producing the most fish out of all my normal spring-time patterns and so it now has a permanent spot on the fly rotation varsity team.

But I digress...the idea behind this pattern was to make a somewhat realistic representation of the natural that could be tied in a variety of colors and sizes with a focus on the two-toned nature of callibaetis, the pronounced gills on the abdomen and the sparkley-ness of the emerging insects. So you can't beat Ostrich for gills and mylar is pretty dang sparkly. Two-tone bodies are a breeze if you throw in something like thin skin or skinny skin. Add some dubbing to match and you've got a winner. Pattern recipe shown below.

Deep Dish Callibaetis

Hook: Daiichi 1150 #12 - #18 -- Buy Here --
Bead: 2.4 mm Tungsten, Black or Gold  -- Buy Here --
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier Tan  -- Buy Here --
Tail: Lemon Wood Duck Feathers  -- Buy Here --
Body: Tan Ostrich herl over pearl mylar tinsel (LRG)  -- Buy Here --
Over-Body: Holo-Tinsel, Copper, MD  -- Buy Here --
Thorax: Arizona Synthetic Dubbing, Yellow-Tan or Hare's Ear  -- Buy Here --
Legs: Rootbeer Crystal Flash -- Buy Here --
Wing-Case: Brown Fino Skin, -- Buy Here --  Black Holo-Tinsel  -- Buy Here -- coated with Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Flow  -- Buy Here --

And the Video...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bullet Heads For Bugginess

Break away from foam every once in a while

Buggy and natural colors

A few summers back I was fishing one of my favorite little streams with eager cutthroat and brookies, when I realized that my typical offerings were not producing as well as they should.  I typically fish big gnarly foam bugs (like this) due to their durability and their ability to float through the riffles between the pocket water.  The issue with foam flies is there typically aren't as many moving parts as a more natural fly.  I soon tied on a little bullet head stimulator variation made with moose, elk, and scraggly dubbing, and I was back into the fish.  This taught me a valuable lesson to either fish buggy natural flies more, or to add more buggy elements to my cookie-cutter foam flies.

~ Cheech

Mostly natural components 

This fly is more a concept than anything, but it DOES catch fish.  Nothing super groundbreaking here.


Hook: TMC 2312 (or any 2X long dry fly hook like a Gammy S10)
Thread: 6/0 uni. (it's perfect for cinching down hair)
Tail: Moose
Body: Scraggly dubbing.  I used Arizona Synthetic on this one... shocker.
Hackle: Color to match fly.
Head: Elk or deer.  The more you tie in, the bulkier the head.
Legs: whatever you like.  I'm on a sili legs kick right now.

VERY IMPORTANT!  Bullet heads should have a disclaimer that says "Contents under pressure!"  One tiny  prick of a trout tooth will cause the head to make a tiny deer hair explosion.  I always coat the head with a generous coat of Sally Hansens varnish to add durability.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Streamer Love

Small Stream Aggression

If you read the posts on the website here and on our other media spots, you'll see we post up a few streamers now and again. So Saturday, we had the chance to get out and do some field testing on a few new streamers as well as some old standby's like the Cheech Leech.

And while we normally equate big streamers with big fish, it's also important to note that even small stream fish can have a very big-fish attitude in the way they attack and devour streamer patterns. Check out this small guy that busted a larger "El Sculpito" pattern

Moral of the story...don't think small fish in small streams (or their larger friends) won't take to bigger streamer patterns. Plus, the small stream can give you more visual action to help you hone your meat-chucking ninja skills!

And here's a quick video to show what we're talking about...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Frisky Damsels

The Double "D", Mating Damsel

mating damsel fly rainbow trout dryfly dry

If you've ever fished during a damsel hatch, you've likely seen the aggressive nature of the fish pursuing the insects. If you've never witnessed this, it's high time you head out to most any stillwater and see what's up. Most often, especially on higher elevation lakes, you'll not only see the fish hunting down the emerging damsels, but you're very likely to see them slashing, slurping and propelling themselves out of the water to snag a tasty adult damsel. Even better, they seem to key in on the mating damsels as they can get the 2-for-1 lunch special. This pattern is a great one because it floats well, but still keeps to the slender profile of the natural insects. I like to fish it with a damsel nymph dropper for some added insurance, especially before the fish start to really key in on the adults.

mating damsel fly pattern

I will say that the fly tends to get torn up after a few fish, but I'm cool with that considering the downright demonic takes that the fish will often exhibit. So tie up a few extra and plan on some vicious hits!

Hook:  TMC 101 #10
Thread:  UTC Ultra thread 70 Denier Black
Body:  Rainy's 3/64" Damsel Foam
Wing:  River Foam®  Wing Material, Clear Speckled
Hackle:  Grizzly
Eyes:  Rainy's 1/8" Damsel Foam

And here's the video tutorial to boot...

Arizona Prince

Another change to the royal family

The Royal Family

Like most experimental flies that I tie, I'll whip up one or two and have them sit on the bench until either I remember where I put them in my box, or I run into a situation on the stream that calls for them.  The Arizona Prince was kind of both...  I was Czech nymphing a section  of stream this spring and broke off my last Masked Marauder when I decided to just experiment.  Like always, the trusty Masked Marauder had caught plenty of fish that day, and I was OK with ending the day experimenting with a new pattern.  Even though the Arizona Prince really isn't all that innovative, there is always some question when you replace peacock herl (arguably the most fishy material on the planet) with dubbing.  On it went, and I saw multiple fish move out of their way to eat it that afternoon.  After a few fish I made sure to get a good mental picture of the fly because I only had one of them...  Yep. I broke it off.  Luckily the pattern is really simple and I was able to get more samples tied.  I have fished it in many color combos since the initial test, and it is one fishy bug that has earned a spot in the starting lineup.

~ Cheech

This is the bug I was fishing that day.

Material List

Add to Cart   View in store

Hook: Daiichi 1120 - Heavy Wire Scud Hook - 10     
Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 70 Denier - Black     
Bead: Plummeting Tungsten Beads - Gold - 1/8" (3.3mm)     
Tails: Nature's Spirit Stripped Goose Biots - Brown     
Under Body: Lead Free Round Wire - .020     
Ribbing: Ice Stretch Lace - Tan - Small     
Body: Arizona Synthetic Dubbing - Peacock     
Wing: Nature's Spirit Stripped Goose Biots - White     
Legs: Daddy Long Legs - Brown     

Other tools from the tutorial:

Tan dubbing and a dark wing

Original angled view

Olive with pale yellow wing 

Chartreuse for bluegill

Who doesn't like blue?

Hot wing olive

Fire orange.