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Monday, March 30, 2015

Creative Construction of a Nymph

Put some funk in your subsurface bugs

Bleached PT fibers make this pattern a killer

I have been giving this topic a lot of thought lately as I have been filling some of my own boxes in between orders, and it also stems from several questions that we have gotten about substituting materials specific to nymphs.  If you are "Recipe Guy," you might as well not read the rest of this post because it will make you go absolutely MAD...  Well, maybe not that extreme, but you get the point right?

I know there are about a bazillion types of nymph patterns out there, but for the sake of making this article simple, I'm going to talk about the standard parts that make up a general nymph pattern: tail, abdomen/body, thorax, wing case, and legs.  Like any other pattern out there, there are no hard and fast rules about how you have to tie a nymph.  I'm going to list several of the materials that I like to use on nymph patterns, and I know I'll miss some here, so please list any that I didn't list in the comments of the article.  Most, if not all, or these materials can be found at

  • Pheasant tail fibers...  duhh
    Biot tail, dubbed body, and thin skin to win
  • Biots.  Great for making stonefly-ish patterns.  Try throwing some on your next batch of Hare's Ears
  • Barred fibers.  This includes partridge, coq de leon (both hen and rooster), wood duck, teal, guinea, etc etc.  If it looks cool, it makes a good tail
  • Synthetics.  Antron, zelon, shuck yarn, etc. etc.  All of these make good tails depending on the fly
Abdomen / Body:
  • Dubbing... Again duhhh.  Mix it up a bit and make a body out of dry fly dubbing, or make an
    This fly has a marabou abdomen. Suuuper buggy
    extra tight dubbing noodle so it makes a nice segmented body.  Dubbing is by far the most versatile material at the bench.
  • Marabou.  Yep... Take some long strands of marabou from one of your nice marabou plumes and tie them in by the tips.  Then twist up the marabou and wrap forward.  This makes for a very buggy body that tapers nicely from slim to chubby. Just make sure you counter wrap this style of body with some wire for durability.
  • Feather fibers.  Pheasant tail is the most commonly used material, but turkey, mallard, etc etc can be used exactly how PT is used.  Again - wire counter wrap for durability
  • Biots.  This is nothing new, but biots make great bodies for smaller nymphs.  Get creative with them too - like adding a biot on the back half of a hare's ear.  There is a 67% guarantee that it will work.
  • Dubbing.  This is the easiest and most versatile choice.  Dubbing on a thorax is nothing new,
    Picked out dubbing thorax and a yellow peacock herl body
    but branch out and try something new that might just give your fly an extra kick.  I have been tying hare's ears with Hare'e Ice Dub with very cool results.  There are lots of new dubbings on the market that make for killer nymph patterns.
  • Peacock. Peacock is one of the greats, but now there are so many different colors to choose from.  Spirit River has done a great job of bleaching and then dying peacock into some very interesting colors.
  • Beads. To make a more natural looking bug, you can put a tungsten bead in the thorax instead of at the head, or in the cast of Charlie Craven's Two Bit Hooker, you can use a bead in the thorax and at the head.  
  • Thread. If you are tying small sleek patterns that need a really thin profile, it's not a bad idea to just make the thorax out of thread.  You might even think about using multiple colors of thread to give your fly a hot spot.
Wing Case:
  • Feather fibers.  If you tie traditional flies like the hare's ear or the pheasant tail, you have used feather fibers for a wing case.  Basically any feather can be used as a wing case, but make sure you reinforce it with some cement so they are longer lasting.
  • Plastic sheeting.  This includes thin skin, skinny skin, fino skin, scud back etc etc...  In my opinion these are the best option because they come in many different colors, they are cheap, and they can be cut to any size or shape. 
  • Flash.  This can be used on its own or in conjunction with any of the above recommendations.  When I say flash, I mean tinsel, flash sheeting, easter egg grass, flashabou, krystal flash etc. etc.  
  • Dubbing.  Hare's ears get their buggy profile by brushing out the thorax to give the impression
    Daddy long legs fibers for the legs on this one
    of legs.  
  • Barred feathers.  Partridge, grizzly hen, coq de leon (rooster and hen), grouse, guinea, etc  This is really not anything new, but try throwing barred legs on something that wouldn't normally call for them and see what happens.  This is a great way to kick up your nymph from normal to hatch matching super fly.
  • Synthetic stringy stuff. Krystal flash, fluoro fibre, antron, zelon, kling-on, etc etc.  One of my favorites is a very small clump of antron fibers that I put little bars in with a marker.  Makes for killer little legs.
  • Rubberish legs. These are perhaps my favorite to put on patterns that have big bulky legs (like a stonefly, drake, or some of the bigger clinger mayflies.)  I use silicone, round rubber, and some of the life flex - style materials (span-flex, life-flex, daddy long legs etc) quite a bit in my patterns.

As you can see, you can build a nymph out of almost anything under the sun!  I have benefited greatly by paying attention to how fish react to my flies and making subtle changes to make them more effective.  

~ Cheech 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tyer's Block

5 ways to get rid of tyer's block

Yes.  That is a dime, and tying like this is NOT healthy

It's the tail end of winter, and midges are a must in my box if I want to be able to catch dry fly eaters this weekend.  I really like to create new stuff at the vise, but all of my creative juices are being used up at the moment with big bulky streamers like articulated complex twist buggers and shiny dangly sliders.  Midges were causing me to get something that we all dread - tyer's block.  Instead of packing it in and watching Storage Wars for the evening, I decided to spin up some #30 bunny midges while I tried to force myself to be more creative.  The result?  Nothing groundbreaking on the midge front, but now I have a dozen tried and true midge patterns to fish with! (and they all fit on a dime.)

Have you ever had a time where you sit down in front of the vise and you lose all motivation or inspiration to tie flies?  I have at times had to deal with sitting at my tying desk and staring at the clutter that has overtaken my work space.  Sometimes I throw a hook in the vise and hope inspiration will hit me betwixt the eyes, but more times than not, it doesn't happen this way and the fly that gets tied is an uninspired piece of junk that gets hucked into a corner of the desk that is the graveyard for junker flies.  See, for me... I HAVE TO TIE.  It's kind of like breathing - so I came up with 5 ways to get that motivation back to turn up the tunes and crank out the flies.

1- Revisit past effective patterns - I like to think back over the last year and think of all of the
patterns that worked for me.  From there I like to tie up more of those patterns along with some slight variations of those patterns.  This will often spur creativity by helping you remember how the fly fished, and possible ways to make it better.  The Stoneflopper is a perfect example of this for me.  I had tied a bunch of them and we did really well on them, but the glue I was using for the foam didn't keep it in place after a few fish.  Glue changed, and now that pattern is basically bulletproof.

Premo Grumpy Frumpy
2- Fill a box - Whether this means going through an old box and purging old chewed up patterns or buying a new box, the challenge of filling it up is always fun and motivating.  Since I got a few of the tacky boxes I made a goal to fill one of them up with my A-Team varsity starter dry flies, and that box came in handy for me more than once.  It's always fun to pull it out and make sure that I'm fully stocked on the yellow-red Grumpy Frumpy tied on an ultra premium hook with cree hackle.  Yep...  That's how my grumpy game rolls - and it's goooooooood.

3- Organize your work space - This perhaps doesn't apply to you OCD  types who know how many
That is a MESS
millimeters of each color of tinsel you have at any given time... For me, it is always a good thing to go through all my stuff and put it away just so I can remember all of the material, hooks, yarn, and used lingerie that I have amassed over the years.  There are times that I'll get a great idea for a fly just by remembering what I have to tie with.

4- Tie for an upcoming trip - Whether it's a trip coming up on the weekend or a trip in a few months, it's always a good idea to visualize the fish you are going to catch, and the bugs that are going to do the job for you.  It can be hard to tie bass poppers in January, but if you get pumped for that trip coming up  in July it becomes a lot more appealing.  It's March, and I'm throwing down a foam bug here and there to get ready for the summer.

Pink Humpy
5- Challenge yourself to learn a new pattern - This is typically what I do if I'm really super stuck.  A few years ago I went on a full grown rampage to tie the perfect Humpy.  I researched and tried all different types of hair and tying styles, and ended up with a nice little collection of fishable humpy pattern.  I wouldn't say they were perfect, but at least they were presentable to the fish.  Through researching and tying one of the old classics, I gained a new-found respect for the tyers of yesteryear who didn't/wouldn't use the comforts of synthetic materials like we have now.  This being said, I'll take foam any day (see the Grumpy Frumpy.)

These tips have helped me many a time, and they have turned a day of sitting and staring at my vise into a productive day of tying flies.

~ Cheech

Friday, March 13, 2015

Smith Creek: Middle Fork Fly Patch & Rig Keeper

More innovation from Smith Creek

We first tried some of the Smith Creek products last year and were impressed with the form and
function of these innovative designs. So when we saw these two new fly patch products a while back, we needed to give them a try.
Smith Creek Middle Fork Fly Patch

First off, I don't like to carry a lot of dangling things when I fish. Not only can things bust off as you traipse through the bushes, but some things will just get in the way. So the first thing I noticed with these two products is they have a very secure (read: won't just break off), fastening system with the locking screw/cable design. But they hold flies and rigs secure enough that you can also just throw them into your pocket. Anyway, let's look at these two products here...

Rig Keeper: This little gem is something I've been needing for a long time. When I nymph fish, I like to swap out a set of flies sometimes rather than just one at a time. This patch allows you to keep a rigged set of nymphs, dries/dropper, or dry/dry without having to stuff it in the fly box with tippet materials hanging out.
Smith Creek Rig Keeper

Middle Fork Fly Patch

Middle Fork Fly Patch: Granted there are a million different styles of on-the-vest fly patches, but this is probably the winner in terms of design and usability. Besides the awesome attachment cable mentioned above, there are a few cool little features going on here. First off, the patch has raised ribs on each end to protect the flies from being bumped and jarred loose. That, paired with the secure slits on the patch, and I didn't see any flies missing at the end of the day. Plus, it comes with a zinger so you can keep it always at the ready. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Recipe Updates... Arizona Prince and Belly Scratcher Minnow

Color combos for fish slayers

We posted a few simple (Cheech's hand) pics on social media last night and we have gotten quite a response asking for the new recipes for these color combos.  Ask and ye shall receive.  These have subtle changes in materials and hooks, but they are they exact same tying sequence.  

Arizona Prince:

Hook: Partridge Czech Nymph Hook #10 BUY HERE
Thread: MFC Premium Thread - Brown 6/0 BUY HERE
Bead: 3.8mm Tungsten - Gold BUY HERE
Biots: Stripped Goose Biots - Prince nymph brown BUY HERE
Dubbing: AZ Mega Synthetic - Yellow tan BUY HERE
Legs: Grizzly Micro Legs - Rootbeer BUY HERE

See the original post HERE

Belly Scratcher Minnow:

Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #4 BUY HERE
Beads: 3mm Tungsten - Gold (really doesn't matter) BUY HERE
Thread: MFC premium 6/0 - White BUY HERE
Tail: Micro Pulsator Rabbit Strip - Black barred chartreuse over white BUY HERE
Body: Cactus chenille - White BUY HERE
Head: Bruiser Blend Jr. - White (Top and bottom) BUY HERE
Eyes: Fish Skull Living Eyes - Ice (silver) 5mm BUY HERE
Wire: Articulation wire BUY HERE
Adhesive: Tear Mender BUY HERE

Colored with markers to make the top look like the rabbit strip.

See the original post HERE

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Zeph's Water Boatman

A Stillwater Sleeper

water boatman
Water Boatman (photo Tim Spuckler)
Until a few years ago, I had never fished nor really appreciated the lowly water boatman. I'd seen them in the water and knew the patterns existed, but just didn't realize how important they could be to trout on the prowl.

Combine a few trips where I got some good Water Boatman samples from trout and a couple of tips from a good friend who'd seen the same thing and I was a lot more motivated to whip up a good pattern for my stillwater box.

If you want some good info on the insects themselves, check out our friend Phil Rowley's excellent write-up of them here.

This imitation was patterned after some of the naturals we were seeing and I also wanted to include the magical fish catching dubbing that is Ice Dub from Hareline. Tan UV in this case. It's basically fish magnets chopped up and all shiny.

Anyway, the pattern is pretty simple and also incorporates more Loon UV Clear Fly Finish like we did on the previous snail pattern. Here's the top and side views...

Zeph's Water Boatman

Material List

Hook: Daiichi X Point X710 #14 - #12  -- Buy Here --
Thread: MFC 6/0 Black  -- Buy Here --
Shell: Fino Skin or MFC Skinny Skin, Black or Brown (color to match)  -- Buy Here --
Under-Body: Ice Dub, UV Tan -- Buy Here --
Body Coating: Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Thick & Flow  -- Buy Here --
Legs: Krystal Flash, Rootbeer  -- Buy Here --

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

El Sculpito Dos - Updated!

A small streamer with a bad attitude

The new and improved El Sculpito

Shortly after writing this article, I started on tweaking the Sculpito into something that could be done with more readily available products.  The major change is the head which is now made of Mega
Simi Seal.  There is also one change that I made after making the video, and that's the thread that I use for the head of this fly.  I was having issues with thread breakage when I wrapped the head due to having to cram it in between the barbell eyes so tight.  I switched to GSP and it fixed the problem.  GSP thread usually comes in black or white, so you may need to tag it with a marker.  The olive and tan El Sculpito is among our top selling flies on the site, and we see pictures from all over the country with fish that have been fooled by this pattern.

Here are the updated recipes:

Olive El Sculpito:
Hook: Allen B200 #4 -8 BUY HERE or Gamakatsu B10S #1-4 BUY HERE
Barbell Eyes: Brass Barbell w/eye - red (5.5mm for B200 #4-6  and B10S #1-2) (4.8mm for B200 #8 and B10S #4) BUY HERE
Thread: UTC 140 - olive (body) BUY HERE and Veevus 100D GSP - black (head) BUY HERE
Body: Arizona Mega Simi Seal - Dark Brown Olive BUY HERE
Tail: Rabbit Zonker Strips - Olive BUY HERE
Pectoral Fins: Silicon streamer legs - Olive gold BUY HERE
Head: Arizona Mega Simi Seal - Dark Brown Olive BUY HERE
Stripes: Black Sharpie

Tan El Sculpito:
Hook: Allen B200 #4 -8 BUY HERE or Gamakatsu B10S #1-4 BUY HERE
Barbell Eyes: Brass Barbell w/eye - yellow (5.5mm for B200 #4-6  and B10S #1-2) (4.8mm for B200 #8 and B10S #4) BUY HERE
Thread: UTC 140 - Tan (body) BUY HERE and Veevus 100D GSP - white (head) BUY HERE
Body: Arizona Mega Simi Seal - Golden Shiner BUY HERE
Tail: Rabbit Zonker Strips - Grizzly or Tan BUY HERE
Pectoral Fins: Silicon streamer legs - Speckled Pumpkin BUY HERE
Head: Arizona Mega Simi Seal - Golden Shiner BUY HERE
Stripes: Brown Sharpie

Tools used:
Turbo Dubbing Spinner BUY HERE or Stonfo Elite Rotodubbing Twister BUY HERE
Griffin Supreme Ceramic Bobbin BUY HERE
Dr. Slick 4" Tungsten Scissors BUY HERE
Dr. Slick All-In-One Dubbing Brush BUY HERE

Buy El Sculpito HERE

Version of El Sculpito

***Original Article***

It seems that articulated flies are all the rage right now, but there is definitively still a place in our hearts (and in fish lips)  for the one hook variety of streamers.  El Sculpito, like many of the patterns that I tie, is more of a concept than an exact recipe, and many of the materials can be added/subtracted to your liking.  When I started this concept, I wanted to make a pattern that wasn't too complex, and that would slither over rocks without hanging up.  I knew the tail was going to be rabbit, but the rest of the fly was kind of up in the air.  I used Arizona Mega Simi Seal (AZMSS) for the body (and eventually for the head too), because it has a wide variety of colors and isn't overburdened with flash.  By using AZMSS in the fly it eliminates the need to add flash of any kind and makes the bug even faster to tie.  Pectoral fins on sculpins are what really make or break them because the head and fins should have a wide, flat profile.  I had been tying some bass jigs and had a bunch of skirt material (sili legs) laying on the table, so on they went.  They looked really cool on the vise, but I didn't realize what they would do for the action of the fly in the water until I actually fished it (see below).  Then came the head...  Deer hair?  Nope, I want to keep it simple.  Wool?  Nope, even more simple.  I grabbed some Congo Hair and started cutting it up to make a super dubbing.  The dubbing consists of multiple colors of congo hair cut about 2 inches long and blended all up with combs and dog brushes (coffee grinders don't take to well to this stuff).  I attached the dubbing using a dubbing loop, and it actually brushed out really well and held its shape even in the water.  I have since moved to AZMSS dubbing for the head due to a wider array of colors available.  For the eyes, I have been using lead barbell eyes with CCG eyes super glued  to them, but if I want to simplify the pattern I add  Spirit River I-Balz eyes or Allen Fly Fishing barbell eyes.

This Splake found it hard to resist

Field tests have been completed, and not only did the fish munch it up, it swims great and slithers over rocks just as I suspected it would.  One of the coolest features was that the sili legs are somewhat buoyant, and make the back half of the fly kick up after it is stripped kind of like a jigging motion.  Many more variations to come.

~ Cheech


Hook: Allen B200 #4 -8 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Uni 6/0 (body) and Veevus 100D GSP (head) (Uni, Veevus)

Hook: Allen Fly Fishing B200  -- Buy Here --
Thread: Uni 6/0.  Bigger thread is important so I can cinch the dubbing loop between the eyes.
Tail: Rabbit strip.  Normal size for smaller patterns, and magnum for larger patterns.  -- Buy Here --
Body: Arizona Mega Simi Seal. Colors include Dark Olive and Dark Olive Brown  -- Buy Here --
Pectoral fins: Skirt material from (seriously, you should check this site out.)
Eyes: Barbell Eyes  -- Buy Here --
Head: Same as body, OR try our new Bruiser Blend with longer, more brushable fibers  -- Buy Here --

Shown in a smaller size with simi seal dubbing. (this is the one in the fish lip above.)

Original pattern with I-Balz and Congo Hair

Original pattern with I-Balz and Congo Hair

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Crotcha: A Hybrid Bonefish Fly

Gotcha or Crazy Charlie?

Crotcha Bonefish Pattern

So I'm a big fan of taking perfectly good fly patterns, dissecting them or adding to them to create variations -- mostly including my own home-baked patterns. In this case, we had some buddies headed to a few different salty locales around the world and so this concoction was whipped up to be a good combo of probably the two most popular bonefish patterns around.

Now I still don't really get all the differences between a Crazy Charlie and a Gotcha because you'll find images of each of them that look really close to each other swapping out materials and such, but this is a fun little tie that combines some of the aspects of each and then adds a few new-ish twists to round it off. And based on results of the first round of field testing, it does a pretty good job on the bones.

So grab some materials and get tying...

Material List

Hook: Daiich 2546 #4 or Partridge Sea Prince Hook #4  (BUY HERE) 
Thread: Montana Fly 6/0, Fl Pink  (BUY HERE)
Eyes: Beadchain Barbell Eyes  (BUY HERE)
Tail: Salty Snack Dubbing, Lt Orange  (BUY HERE)
Body: Veevus Holo Tinsel, Pink, Lg  (BUY HERE)
Vein: Veevus Holo Tinsel, Black, Md  (BUY HERE)
Ribbing: Krystal Flash, Black  (BUY HERE)
Body Coating: Loon UV Clear Fly Finish, Thick and Flow  (BUY HERE)
                        Loon Fly Tying Powder, Pearl  (BUY HERE)
Throat: Salty Snack Dubbing, Crab Tan; Senyo Barred Predator Wrap, Barred UV  (BUY HERE)
Legs: Silicon Streamer Legs, Speckled Shrimp (BUY HERE)