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Friday, August 29, 2014

Last Minute Streamers with Hawgfish

Hey bro... can you fish today.

Cheech showing off Hawg's Fish

I had been up basically all night finishing the last two finals of my life (yes for that fancy book learnin'), and around 11:00 when I woke up, there was a text from none other than Mr. Hawgfish himself.  Something to the effect of  "Hey bro, can you fish today?"  Well...  Yes. Yes I can, just as soon as I take care of some work emails...  Out the door after whipping up a few extra special morsels for the fish.  We only had a few hours to fish, but the conditions were excellent for hucking big meat at willing fish.  It's always fun to fish with people who are streamer fanatics because you can be sure that all of the good stuff int the river gets covered.  Couple of hookups and a ton of window shoppers later we had to head back to town, but it was just what I needed to celebrate not having to ever take a final exam again.  Thanks again Mr. Hawg.  preciate' ya bud.  If you all are interested in seeing obese fish on a regular basis, check out his Facebook page (Hawgfish) and his Instagram account (@hawgfish).

**  The above picture is Hawgfish's fish that he needed a good model to hold.  The fly is the (click for link) Mongrel Meat, destroying mongrels one at a time...

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fish Skins for your Devices

Skin It!

Fish Skin Background
Ok, so we've decided to release a series of fish skin photos that can be used as phone or tablet backgrounds etc. These are all free o' charge but please keep them to personal use only. We're going to create these as a standard page on the website here so we can update it as needed.

Click here to get the full list of available skins.


-- Curtis and Cheech

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chimera: Callibaetis and Damsel Flavor

Another face of the shape shifting fly

Chimera in a damsel or callibaetis color scheme
As I've written about before here and here, the Chimera pattern was designed to be an attractor pattern where you can whip up a few in different sizes and colors, using the same basic materials, and cover a lot of insects to imitate. This summer has been a good round of testing results for the damsel/callibaetis flavored version.

Obviously, the design isn't a slim-looking damsel body and it's a bit bigger than most callibaetis you'll see, but I'm a big fan of trigger points on flies and this one seems to have a few of them.

Brook trout taken on the Damsel Chimera
As with the other versions, I find this one fished best under and indicator on stillwaters. Once I find and set the depth with the indicator, I usually impart a small amount of action to the fly with a slow "mooching" motion. Sometimes a quick jerk and rest will also do well. And don't forget to throw this one on rivers. It can pass as a stonefly and makes for a great attractor pattern there too.

Regardless of where you fish and what you fish for, snag some materials in various colors (see list below) so you can mix and match the colors and sizes to fit your needs. 

Another Brookie on the Chimera

Material List:

Eyes: 50 lb Mono, Melted
Top Coat: Clear Cure Goo Hydro or Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Thin  -- Buy it --
Additional Tools: Ultimate Dubbing Brush, Hareline Touch Dub Wax

And the video here:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Top 5 Fish Camp Tips

Roughing it to up your fishing game

Kodiak tent lights up the mountain
Camping, when it comes to fishing trips, usually elicits a variety of responses from people who like to fish. Some people I know absolutely hate sleeping outdoors while others see the camping as part of the whole experience.
I was lucky enough to be raised in a camping family and have had the opportunity to camp all over the western US. So naturally as I began to venture off on longer fishing trips, being able to just throw down a camp and sleep wherever gave me quite a bit more flexibility rather than depending on hotels or limiting myself to one-day trips.

In the past few years, Cheech and I have been committed to spending more time on the water which usually means a lot of nights up in the hills or next to the lake in order to get an early/late start. We started to really dial in some things that we felt helped make things easier and get rid of excuses to not camp.  If you are more of a trailer or hotel person, this isn't for you but you might find it helpful anyway. If you want to go the economic route and enjoy nature a bit more, here's a quick compilation of fish camp hacks.

Fishing a calm section of water at dusk
1. Camping = More time on the water. The main and probably most important idea here is that by camping close to your ultimate fishing destination you will typically get more time on the water. When possible, even for a quicker one-day trip, we try to leave the afternoon or evening before so we can get on the water in the evening (great time for hatches) or early morning (before the river or lake becomes a zoo). I've actually found some of the best fishing we've had in the past few years has come during those early morning or later evening times I'd normally not be on the water.

2. Organize your gear. In order to accommodate #1 above, you can't be spending a load of time throwing your gear together an hour before you go. If you have a truck or SUV and can secure it, I'm a big fan of keeping a lot of basic camping and even fishing gear at the ready. Those handy lockable truck bed organizers or even just a simple Rubbermaid container (again in a lockable vehicle) can be kept in the vehicle. If you prefer not to store things there full time, just having them in bins or big bags at the ready in your garage or a closet will help to expedite the process. In my case, I have all my camping gear on a shelf in the garage. It's loaded into the truck within a couple of minutes and I'm ready to roll.

3. Get a "Go Bag". Similar to #2, I have a "Go Bag" that contains some basic cooking devices, dry good food, a water filter, lighter/matches, bottled water, knives, lights and some other basics, that could be used at any time. It's similar to an emergency kit. That way, I don't have to scrounge up small things from all over the place. Then you put those things into an actual backpack, duffle bag or these cool ditty sacks from REI.

Cheech ties during a late night session at fish camp
4. Power Up! I almost can't believe I'm saying this, but it's pretty dang nice to have a good source of power when camping. Goal Zero is a company down the road from my house here in Utah. They have some incredible outdoor solar-powered products that work great for camping. Not only that but they're good for emergency situations in your home. That said, we ended up getting a small solar powered generator kit called the Yeti 150. Along with that, we got some of these daisy-chain style LED lights to string in the tent, outside in the cooking area or wherever. They put out a lot of light and don't take up much energy. Plus, you can recharge the Yeti battery during the day with your solar panels so that Cheech can run his infernal fan all night long. All tolled, the Yeti has a USB charger, a car charger output, the Goal Zero accessory port for lights etc and a regular 120 V outlet. We can set the solar panels on the roof of the tent to charge it all during the day if needed.

5. Comfort is king. I'd say comfort (or lack thereof) is a big reason why people stay away from camping. If you're not comfortable, you don't sleep well and you'll be all grumpy the next day. Nobody likes a grump. So in order to take the comfort level up, I'm pretty much a car camping kinda guy. I have a bad back and can't do a lot of backpacking. Plus, I hate backpacking mummy bags. I like big comfortable sleeping bags that'll keep me warm even in the winter. So my ideal setup these days is a good tent I can stand up in and move around (Kodiak canvas springbar style), a nice sturdy cot with an insulative pad and a decent sleeping bag. If you've never slept on a cot with a good thermarest or thick foam pad, you're really missing out. It's really the next best thing to a legit bed. And in the cases where the tent didn't make the trip, I setup the cot and just sleep under the stars in comfort. All in all, with being able to stand up and move around in the tent, have a place to sit, store gear there and even tie some flies, it's a pretty slick setup that lends well to longer fishing trips.

In addition to these fishing-related tips, you can find a lot of fun camping hacks here and here

*** Note from Cheech - Get some comfy ear plugs.  I learned the hard way that Curtis snores like a congested mule.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Synthetic vs. Natural Materials

Substitute for your benefit

The Foam Dragon has a heavy dose of foam

One day I was driving around town and realized that I was pretty close to a fly shop that I hadn't visited in years so I stopped in to check it out.  I did the typical stuff a sick minded fly tyer does by checking out the tips on the patches of deer and elk hair, looked for any premo patches of calf body hair, and looked to see if they had any hackle capes that I couldn't live without.  Well, no dice on finding any gems to add to my tying collection, but I did get an education that day, albeit an unwarranted one...  A shop employee had just finished a batch of some pretty cool looking flies and when I asked them about them he preached a beautiful sermon about only using natural materials in flies because of this, and because of that...  I just kind of nodded my head and carried on even though there was plenty of flashabou in the flies.  I almost asked what animal we get mylar from...

Before I go on a rant about "natural only," I will say this - I think there is definitely a place for natural materials on the bench, and I use them a LOT.  Hackle, deer elk and moose hair, peacock herl, pheasant tails, the list goes on...  If tying with natural materials only is one of the motivating factors for tying flies, have at em'!  BUT...  (There is a big but here) When it becomes less practical to tie with natural materials it's perfectly fine to use synthetics.  Here is a list of some of the synthetics that will make your life easier.

Foam seems to be the biggest offender in this debate.  Let's see here...  you can buy an 8x10 sheet of foam from a craft store for about 99 cents, it's super buoyant, it's durable, and it can be tied into about a bazillion shapes.  In my mind it's the fly tying super material, yet some guys look down on tying and fishing with foam.  I will say that I have met many a fish that will turn their nose up at a 100% foam fly, so I try to mix it up with some patterns.  For example, the Stoneflopper is a fly that has a lot of thick foam in it, but the body is built out of scraggly AZ synthetic dubbing that breaks up the hard lines of the foam.  I also try to substitute foam for spun deer hair as much as I can because it's more durable, and it's less time consuming.  There are a lot of really good foam popper and diver heads on the market, or you can form your own topwater bugs out of sheet foam (Check out the bearded lady).

The Grumpy Frumpy has a section of yarn for the wing and tail

We have heard it called antron, darlon, zelon, klingon etc.  There are many consistencies of synthetic yarns of this type, and they are all pretty good for tying.  Whether its for making a trailing shuck on a mayfly or caddis, or a parachute post on a dry fly, these yarns have the properties that you need.  One of the products that excels for both parachute posts and trailing shucks etc. is Hareline's sparkle emerger yarn.  For a shuck, you use less, for a parachute post, you use more...

This is an area where synthetics go crazy, and there are many different types of chenilles available for tyers.  There are very think chenilles meant to replace a dubbed body on a nymph, all the way to long fibered chenilles meant for bulkier streamer patterns.  Curtis ties the Foammerger with EZ magic dub as the body, and it is one of our top flies for picky fish.  I like to substitute palmer chenille into flies that call for hackle for a more flashy effect.

Streamer fibers
The Bearded Lady has synthetic fibers for a tail
I call these "streamer fibers" because they are typically longer fibers used to tie streamers from.  Some of the popular names are EP fibers, Congo hair, Super hair, and my two new favorites; Flash 'n Slinky, and Steve Farrar UV Blend.  There are not too many animals that are regularly harvested that have long flowy hair that is readily available.  Yes, there is Yak, but there is even a synthetic Yak now that really fishes well.  The idea is that these materials allow a tyer to have consistency in long fibered materials for tying bigger flies.  They are also very durable.

Hare's Ear with AZ Synthetic Dubbing
Dubbing is probably my favorite tying material of all time.  You can do so much with dubbing, and there seems to be a dubbing for everything these days.  I love some good ol' hare's ear or squirrel dubbing still, but when you start mixing in flashy synthetic stuff it really changes the game!  I use everything from AZ synthetic dubbing which is 100% synthetic, to super blends like Dave Whitlock's SLF dubbing, which consists of natural and synthetic fibers.  Try tying a hare's ear out of SLF RSF Abdomen color and watch fish crush it! Substitute dubbing at will...

I know that the number of people who absolutely detest synthetic materials is fairly small, but if you get a better feel for synthetic materials you will be able to substitute them more freely in your tying.  Synthetics can help you tie faster, and they can add more durability in your flies too!


View tutorials for the flies listed,

Foam Dragon
Kicked up Hare's Ear
Grumpy Frumpy
Bearded Lady

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

You Have Too Many Flies: 5 ways to cope

Don't resist the urge to purge

Row of chironomids in the "2nd team" box
Most fly fishermen I know carry a lot of flies when they fish and, as I wrote about a while back, you really only need one fly anyway. But even with that said, it's always good to stop and reevaluate our fly position.

When I tied my first fly some 25 odd years ago, I had no idea how absolutely hideous it really was. Adding insult to injury and taking a page from Uncle Ken, it was tied with the nastiest selection of materials (ones that came in my handy kit) and although a dry fly, it sunk like a rock. It caught zero fish.

As a result, in the intervening years, as I've spent more time behind the vise, I have collected more flies across more boxes. Not surprisingly, the flies, if graphed as a function of ugliness, would show an inverse relationship to the time dedicated to the craft. This usually results in a pile of flies (or in my case, sometimes boxes of flies) that, given my standard today, would not make the cut to the varsity team. Yet, for years I kept thinking "oh, I'll get in the middle of a killer baetis hatch and those nasty-looking comparaduns will come in handy". No, never happened like that.

So over the years, I've traditionally done major restructuring of my boxes from time to time, pushing the "2nd team" flies into their own boxes that stayed in the closet or my gear bags and reevaluating my varsity team flies. Some of those 2nd team flies actually went into the trash. Some I gifted to some friends who were just beginning to fish. It's therapeutic and it made room to tie other flies without infinitely adding to the collection.
brown trout hopper fishing
The Tomsu Hopper is on the varsity team

With that said, I have since gone through this and other fly box purges and re-org's, here are a few points I found to be helpful:

1.  Let's face it, most of us can benefit from slimming down and dialing in the fly selection. Whether it's opening up space in our packs or vests or just being more mindful of what we're carrying with us. Don't be afraid to lessen the load if you like. But hey, if you're cool with carrying 10 boxes of mayflies in every shape, phase and color, great. Otherwise, read on...

2.  If you tie flies, going through an annual purge or re-org can help you identify areas you need to improve in your tying. I'm often blown away at how crappy I tied a certain batch of flies from a year or two ago let alone 10 years ago. I know it's borderline OCD, but I'll often replace a given section in a box with new flies, of the same basic pattern, I feel looked better to me, had a new twist added to them or some more durable material/method. This more active quality evaluation will push you to tie better looking and better tied flies overall. I think it also helps creativity as you will be thinking more often about improvements in design and construction of the flies as well.

3. One thing I do as I go through the fly boxes is to do a quick inventory on what flies actually did the best on the water. I'll usually opt for tying more of a good performing pattern using them to replace flies in the box that haven't gotten results. Whether they work or not, it may actually be more an issue of whether you'll even have an opportunity to fish them. If you're not going to use them, don't carry them. You'll end up with fly boxes that have a higher concentration of varsity team patterns. On the flip side, though, always make room for the field tester flies. If you remain committed to the same varsity team to the exclusion of everything else, you might be missing on some good opportunities.

4.  Another big move I've made in organizing my boxes is to tie and stock more "cross-functional" flies. If you have a pattern that can act like a Mayfly and a Caddis at the same time, you just saved a bit of space in your box. Patterns, like the Chimera, that can double as different bugs to the feeding fish are a good example. The Mercer's missing link is another great example of a cross-matching pattern.

5. As you narrow down and finely hone your fly boxes, I'm strongly convinced you'll end up being a more successful fisherman. In the end, you'll be fishing with your "confidence" flies, you'll be fishing flies you know that work and your tying skills should come along with all that. As Michael Scott would say "it's a win,".

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Twitchy Chicken

A simple stonefly with maximum movement

***Update.  On a recent fishing trip to some high mountain lakes we fished this fly as a damsel fly, and it produced some very picky fish.  The recipe I was using is listed below (Links provided for each material):
Twitchy Chicken eating Brook Trout

Hook: Allen N202 #10
Thread: MFC premium thread - 8/0 chartreuse
Tail: Turkey biots - dark olive
Body: Arizona mega synthetic dubbing - bronze peacock
Ribbing: UTC sm ultrawire - green
Hackle: Whiting coq de leon hen saddle - speckled fl. green chartreuse


Twitchy Chicken golden stonefly

This pattern is derived from a pattern that I learned a long time ago from Dennis Brakke.  He was an excellent stillwater angler who we highlighted a few months ago.  I remember seeing a pattern similar to this sitting in piles on his workbench waiting to go out to customers, so I knew that it had to be a killer.  He tied his version with a pheasant "church window" feather, and on my version I use Whiting coq de leon hen hackle.  I don't even know what he called his fly, so I'll just call this one the Twitchy Chicken due to the amount of soft hackle that is crammed into it.

This pattern skips all of the fancy (and maybe unnecessary) parts of a stonefly nymph, and highlights the parts that will trigger a fish into eating.  In my opinion, a stonefly MUST have a forked tail and legs to trigger fish.  Not much else.  (Yes, that means that some of my flies are over-done, but I'm cool with that.)

~ Cheech

Hook: Dai Ichi 1260 #10
Thread:  UTC 140
Tail: Turkey Biots
Body: Wapsi sow scud dubbing
Ribbing: UTC sm ultrawire
Hackle: Whiting coq de leon hen saddle

Video Tutorial:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Amphibious Damsel is Back

Ring the dinner bell

Foam bodied damsel had to make do
For those that read the blog and watch our videos or see photos posted here and there, you know we're really dorky fans of throwing adult damsel imitations to insanely wild surface feeding fish. If you've never seen full-on search-and-destroy damsel adult eating surface action, you've not lived. To paint the picture, you'll see fish after fish tracking these blue (and olive) flittering bugs from under water. Then, with perfect timing, they'll launch themselves out of the water on an intercept course to engulf the dainty insect in the air. Nothing but net!

I won't recount the story of the Amphibious
Adult Damsel
damsel (read about it here)
, but it's Cheech's creation and in the past year has become a staple in my fly box for these types of situations. The only problem is that the material to tie them was no longer produced and my last batch of bodies was depleted earlier this spring. So we went on the hunt and came up with a source of our own. After various dye sessions, I got the light blue color I wanted and we're now geared up with these custom bodies on the store.

The key, I've found, with adult patterns is that the bodies need to be slim -- just like the naturals. I've had times where the fish would refuse a decently colored and sized foam body that had a thicker profile and they would smash the Amphibious.

Braided Damsel Bodies
Another key, as we've been experimenting, is the ability of an adult pattern to float but get yanked underwater from time to time. The effectiveness of the Amphibious is, I'm convinced, due to the fact we can drive it into the water just like a female diving to lay eggs. The braided material on the body is perfect for that. Slim enough to float yet, not so buoyant that you can't get it to dive with a quick tug.

Anyway, the damsel hatches are winding down for the year, but there's still time to get some tied up and head out for some awesome fishing.

Damsel Party on the Boat
Here's a recap of the recipe and video:

Material List

HookAllen D102BL #10 -- Buy Here --
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 Denier Black or Blue  -- Buy Here --
Eyes: 50# mono burned ends
TailAdult damsel body braid --Buy Here-- (Stripes made with black sharpie)
WingMedallion sheeting - buggy light dun, clear or white  -- Buy Here --
LegsGrizzly hackle. Try the new Hebert Miner Capes for these. Awesome price!!
Floatation2mm tying foam, Blue.  -- Buy Here --

Friday, August 1, 2014

5 reasons you should tie your own flies

No More Excuses.

This Brown ate the Project Hopper that I have been working on for over a year.

Do you tie your own flies?  Uncle Ken does.  Talking to fly anglers and asking if they tie flies can warrant many different responses from "Yep, I tie everything I fish," to "I only buy the more difficult flies, and I tie the rest," to "Tie???  Man, I would rather spend my time fishing!"  I understand those answers except for the last one even though I seem to hear it a lot.  In my opinion, every fly fisher should tie at least some flies.  The guy that is too cool for school, and would rather spend time fishing truly doesn't understand that fly tying isn't something that has to take up much time at all.  I don't meticulously plan my time to go to the tying dungeon, or take time off work just to tie.  It just happens 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, sometimes hours on end...  It just depends.  Regardless of how busy you are, you can always find a few minutes here and there to tie some zebra midges (you should NEVER buy zebra midges, brassies, etc due to the fact that my 5 year old can tie them).  Basically, whenever someone tells me they are considering getting a vise and tools I give them a strong pitch to start tying their own.  Here are 5 reasons why

1- Customization / Creativity

This Hare's Ear got some new materials to spice it up.
Have you ever been out on the river fishing a hatch and you realize that your flies are either a few shades too light, or a few shades too dark?  If you tie flies you can remedy that problem for your next trip.  What's that?  You need an Elk Hair Caddis with a brown elk wing and an orange body with a bright green egg sac?  Coming right up... remember, there are no rules in fly tying. You might be able to find a fly in a bin that is a close match, but it's a better bet if you tie your own flies.  One summer I realized that I was getting denial after denial on hopper patterns...  I knew my flies were good, but the fish were just very skittish and they would turn away if they got too high in the water column.  I went on a mission to create a sunken hopper and came up with the Snorkel Hopper after several attempts.  Check it out HERE.  It was a summertime game changer for me, and I was able to go get revenge on those window shoppers.  Creativity is probably the biggest driving factor for me to tie flies.  The fact that I have an open canvas to put whatever I want on a hook draws me to the vise again and again.

2- Economics

This bugger cost me $0.20 to tie.
The biggest debate in the fly tying vs. fly buying debate is the cost of flies.  Is it really possible to save money by tying your own?  Absolutely - but there is a catch - you probably won't break even until you have tied several dozen flies.  The other issue is one that I face every time I walk into my local shop.  There is so much cool tying stuff that I end up buying way more than I need.  Let's put this into perspective though...  Suppose you have reached the "break even point" by tying enough flies to make up for the cost of your vise and tools,
or maybe suppose that your rich Uncle in Kenya left you a huge inheritance that included a Griffin Mongoose vise and tools (believe me, it could happen... they emailed me about it.)  Anyway... I digress.  50 hooks will cost roughly $7, Chenille costs $1.50, Hackle will cost you $60 for the initial purchase (enough for 1500+ flies), marabou costs $3.00, thread is $2.  So for enough stuff to tie 50 flies, plus enough hackle for 5 years worth of tying, the cost is $73.  Subtract the hackle for the next round of bugs, and your cost is $13.  To buy 50 Wooly Buggers at a shop at $2.25 each, you are looking at $112.50.  See where I'm going here?  Sure your time is worth money, I get it, but we aren't compensated every hour of the day.  There is some nerdy maximum utility economics junk that I learned in college that could apply, but I don't want the hate mail that would surely come If I went down that road.  Long story short - tying flies doesn't need to be expensive.  Just don't forward that last sentence to my wife.

3- Durability

The Chimera pattern is both creative and durable.  The fish love it!
Several years ago, Curtis and I were working on a small film project fishing small streams with big dry flies.  A certain fly manufacturer (not to be named) wanted us to use some of their flies in the shoot so they sent us a bunch of them.  I tied on a big bushy parachute fly that looked great and floated high until it got smacked by a HUGE 8" brookie.  I set the hook and battled this thing for what seemed like hours (4 seconds) and got it in to find out that the parachute hackle had come unraveled.  This happened to 4 of 5 of those flies that I used, and I was DONE with them.  I realize this is an extreme case, and not all store bought flies will fall apart, but you can seriously improve your chances of making your fly last longer if you tie it yourself.  You can ensure that every wrap is tight, and that bits of glue are added in all the right places.  I recently tied some home grown Unsinkabeetles for a buddy that was fishing a great cicada hatch.  He told me that he had a mixed bag of Unsinkas he bought at the store, and ones I tied for him.  He told me that the store bought ones did OK with durability, but the flies I had tied were holding on like champs.  If you tie your own flies, they will last longer.

4- Satisfaction of catching a fish on your own fly

This might not apply to all fly anglers because we all fish for different reasons, but there is something cool about being able to catch a fish on something that you made with your own two hands.  I really like the fact that I can go to the river and catch bugs, take them home, and then tie up some creation that looks like the bug that fish eat.  There is also major satisfaction when your bug works just a little bit better than the bugs that come from fly shop bins.

5- Instant gratification 

The Butthead.  Created on a whim before a fishing trip.
If you tie flies and you have a great idea for something that you think will work, you don't have to wait until somebody else comes up with it.  You can sit down at your vise and start throwing stuff on a hook immediately.  Projects like this might take some time to test, but you at least get to start working on it instead of just hoping that someone will create it.  Also, if you don't have a fly shop nearby, tying flies is a way to get the flies that you need without having to wait for shipping, or for your next trip into town.  There are times when I'm about to go to bed the night before a fishing trip, and I get a great idea for a fly.  Off I go to the vise at midnight.  Most fly shops don't appreciate midnight visits.

In all, if you must buy flies... do what you need to do to enjoy fly fishing.  BUT, if you are debating on whether or not to tie your own, hopefully these points will steer you toward the insane addiction, gentleman's hobby of tying flies.  If you want to learn how to tie, we have a great resource in our Fly Tying 101 section of the site HERE.

If you want to take the jump you can get all the stuff you need to get set up HERE.  If you want to keep buying flies we can help you with that too...

~ Cheech