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Friday, June 26, 2015

The Project Cicada

Another Go-To Crunch Bug

Project Cicada (v. 2)
I had a friend ask the other day "why retool or re-design a Cicada pattern when you have a good one already in the 'Sickada'?". I guess I rarely look at any pattern without thinking of how I can improve or change it -- sometimes just for given conditions or purposes and other times...just because I can. So earlier this spring, after a long tying session whipping up a bunch of Project Hoppers, a few ideas and techniques there carried over to improving an already good Sickada pattern. So rather than just revamp what we had before, I wanted to give this pattern more of the "Project" moniker because it's indeed been a longer term project fly.

Some of the bigger differences are the technique to make the body (much easier now) and using the heated-foam technique for shaping the body a bit more realistically. The overall profile and wing method is relatively unchanged, although we throw in some para-post wing material to aid flotation and keep the fly balanced.

First version of the Project Cicada
As a far as design goes, the first version of this pattern sported cow elk wing and a foam indicator, but I found that once the wing became water-logged, the fly had a tendency to turn on its side every once in a while. And while that didn't cause many rejections, from what I saw, I wanted it to land right-side-up more consistently. (As a side-note here, there are some that say an upside-down Cicada style pattern is still just as effective because the bugs often land that way on the water. Something to consider).

So in order to keep the CG (that's center of gravity for you non-nerds) more in line with the hook weight and dimensions, I swapped out the foam and deer hair for two colors of parapost wing material. And speaking of hooks, that's one of the key elements of any bigger foam pattern. You need a hook with a big enough gap to accommodate a bit of foam "belly" on the pattern, while being heavy enough to offset the weight of the materials but not be so heavy that the fly sinks. We searched and tested with many different hook types. We'll recommend the two listed below from Partridge and Gamakatsu respectively to be some of the better choices for terrestrial or big foam fly hooks.

Also, one other change we made here was to scale back the brightness of the orange color. Our buddy Colby, a guide on the Green River in Utah, had sent a few photo and video samples of bugs along with what we also concluded to be a recommendation to tone down the orange a bit. So we went with a more subdued color scheme here.

And finally, as we normally do, the pattern was submitted to some pretty hefty field-testing and
scored really well. In fact, I was surprised to see how many fish would reject a hopper pattern but yet move several feet (and in one case a full eat-and-a-miss only to circle back around) to eat this pattern. And this was in conditions where not many cicadas were actually out and about.

Plus it's a fun pattern to tie.

Material List

Hook: Partridge Attitude Extra #4 or Gamakatsu L10-2H  (BUY HERE)
Thread: Veevus Fly Tying Thread 10/0, Orange  (BUY HERE)
Body: Crosslink Foam, 6mm, Black  (BUY HERE)
Wing: Thin Wing, Lt. Dun  (BUY HERE)
Over-Wing: Para Post Wing Material, Dark Gray & Fl. Orange  (BUY HERE)
Wing Cover: Crosslink Foam, 1mm, Black  (BUY HERE)
Legs: Centipede Legs, Speckled Orange  (BUY HERE)
Eyes: Mono, melted and colored

Tools etc:

Monday, June 22, 2015

Top 10 Summer Dry Fly Patterns

Feed them the floating protein...

'Tis the season to be throwing dry flies, and in many cases, BIG dry flies.  We have been having a blast throwing flies that consist mostly of foam and rubber legs, and it's a blast to see the wide variety of "eats" on these flies.  Some fish are so confident that they simply rise to a juicy hopper like it's a delicate mayfly, while others launch their whole body out of the water because they eat the fly so aggressively.  We though we would give you a rundown of what has frequented our boxes this summer.

Here is our top 10 in no particular order (Click the name for the story)

Blingnobyl Ant -
This fly is pretty unconventional in regards to colors, but many a summer fish has tried to eat it and digest it all in the same motion.

Grumpy Frumpy-
Still Cheech's favorite dry fly of all time.  It often gets tied on after other patterns get the nose from the trout.  They usually end up with a sore mouth/lip/tongue.  We fish the yellow/red version 90% of the time.

Purple Haze-
This is kind of the new-blood version of the Parachute Adams.  It's just different enough to make the fish think it's a brand new invention that they must eat.  We are good with that.

Moodah Poodah-
After a great day on the water and after bad service at a restaurant... Curtis came up with this fish getter.  It floats high and gets crushed.  Time to seek out another Golden Corral soon.

Project Hopper-
After two years of research and development procrastination (kind of), the project hopper is being fished hard.  The fish like it...  a LOT.

Developed during a late night session at Cheech's Mom's house.  This thing floated for over 2 weeks.  She wanted to name it the Unsinkable Molly Brown.  #nope.

Amphibious Damsel-
Designed as a dry fly, but fished either dry or wet.  This bug is a must have in the summer if you are going to fish lakes or slow moving rivers.

One of the most realistic Cicada patterns that has come off our vises.  Curtis put his time in on this one and it scores well with the East German judges and the trout as well.  Plop it down and hold on.

Callibaetis Comparadun-
Another pattern that is a must for fishing lakes or slow moving waters.  The two stage wing on this bug makes it very realistic.

The Butt Head-
A Stimulator variation with a CDC underwing.  We use this one a lot when we fish with people new to fishing because it's very visible, and it gets eaten.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Complex Twist Mouse

Pushing water in a lake near you

Chug Chug Chug... SLURP.

News flash...  Fish eat mice.  You already know that, but we might underestimate how important a mouse might be for a large predatory fish that makes a living sucking down protein all day (or night... yes, most definitely night.)  We have all seen the pictures on the internet where a fish is gutted and is filled to the brim with mice, but how do they get there?  Good question, but I kind of have a theory.  Mice have two things going for them that make them excellent fare for fish.  1- They aren't the brightest creatures in the world and scurry about like me looking for the cotton candy section at a convenience store.  Fast and furious, 100 mph all the time.  This speed and determination often ends up in them taking a wrong turn at Albuquerque and boom... they are in the water.  2- They are excellent swimmers. If you have ever seen a mouse swim you will understand what I'm saying.  They use their whole body to swim with their heads sticking up out of the water, and they push quite a bit of water like a wake.  Because of this, it's critical that your mouse patterns have the ability to push water.  

I have been tying a variation of this mouse on and off for about 10 years, and I'll be honest that I got inspired by such mice like the Morrish Mouse by Ken Morrish, and the Cheeky Mouse by Nick Jones.  Those are great patterns that are highly buoyant and push a lot  sh#& ton of water.  I had gone back and forth on the body of my fly, but after tying the Complex Twist Bugger, I decided that I'd use the same technique on the body of my mouse.  The tail is what usually gets me because rabbit is one of the best fly tying materials on the planet - it also has a bad habit of being overly clingy... to the inside of your hook bend.  The fouling of the tail leads to the mouse not having the "right" profile of a swimming mouse.  I devised a system using stiff monofilament and a lighter to help combat this tail fouling issue.  It works so well that I have used it on gurglers, frog legs, etc.  Jazz this fly up as you see fit, but just make sure that you leave plenty of foam at the head of the fly so it pushes a bunch of water.  If this fly doesn't produce for you, Curtis will buy you a Mt. Dew.*


*Curtis may or may not buy you a Mt. Dew.  He's kind of weird like that.


Hook: Gamakatsu B10S - 1/0 (BUY HERE)
Thread: Danville 210D - Black (BUY HERE)
Tail: Zonker rabbit strip - Grizzly, light brown, or gray (supported by 40# mono) (BUY HERE)
Foam: Evazote foam 1/4 - Black (BUY HERE)
Body1: Polar chenille - Copper olive (BUY HERE)
Body2: Schlappen - White (BUY HERE)
Body3: Schlappen - Brown (BUY HERE)
Legs: Magnum predator legs - rootbeer (BUY HERE)
Head: UV ice dub - Brown (BUY HERE)


Thursday, June 18, 2015

Allen Exterus Packs

A Great Lineup of Fly Fishing Packs

Exterus Ebb Series Large Sling Pack
I've used a lot of different styles of fishing packs over the years. Up until most recently, in order to accommodate my big DSLR camera and lenses, I had been using a camera/lens specific sling bag that I had adjusted in order to double as a fishing bag. It wasn't until earlier this year, when I upgraded my camera outfit to a much smaller lighter weight mirrorless setup, that I could once again consider a more standard style fishing pack.

Before going much further, let me clarify my requirements. First off, I hate traditional vests and haven't worn one for over 20 years. I like to have nothing in the way of my arms when I cast yet I like to have easy access to my gear. I also don't like the idea of a back-pack style system because you end up having to remove it to gain access to your stuff. So most of my packs over the years have either been hip or fanny pack style or sling back style (or just slap stuff in my cargo shorts pockets style with a lanyard).

Enter the new line of Allen Fly Fishing packs: The Exterus Ebb Series. I decided to give these packs a try because I no longer needed the big camera bag and wanted something more modular and designed for fly fishing. I ended up going with the Large Sling Pack, the Lumbar Pack and the Chest Pack. One thing I didn't mention is that I like to use different pack setups depending on where and how I'm fishing. I don't believe in a "one size fits all" solution. I like the sling bag for more all-day type river or stream trips where I can store more than a couple of fly boxes. The lumbar and chest packs are nice for quick small stream trips or when planning for less time on the water. I also like to combine the chest pack with the sling pack to use as more of a belt or hip mounted pack rather than the chest. It allows me to have quicker access to a fly box or two without slinging the sling bag around to the front.
Lumbar Pack

Chest Pack

As far as design goes, the packs are full of useful features and accommodate more storage than you'd think. I won't go into all the nooks and crannies where you can store or clip things to, but you'll be happy with the variety of pockets, straps and holders. If you haven't fished with a sling-style pack, you really need to give the two sling pack options from Allen here a try. While maintaining the same concept of a backpack hanging off your back, you can easily sling the bag to your front-side without having to take it all the way off and set things down. The bottle holder on the bottom is also great because you can access your bottle there without so much as moving a strap. Super-convenient!

For reference, you can check out the full lineup of packs here:

Cheech sporting both the lumbar and chest packs

All models feature the molded "protected" fly box pockets that you've come to see across most pack manufacturers. I actually use these often for storing my smaller camera. It's padded and protected in there.  All packs we've used are relatively lightweight given their storage capacity and seem to be put together well. I can't speak to durability as I've only had them for a few months, but so far no major wear or tear issues. I can, however, say that I took the sling pack to Mexico and it served as a carry-on computer bag, camera bag and on-the-water gear bag. Super versatile and it was comfortable to boot!

Cons: To be fair, we can't do a review without pointing out a few issues we found. First off, and this isn't restricted to just these packs, but the zippers end up getting caught on pack material as you zip up from time to time. Not a big deal and it's only on a few occasions.

But overall, these are well-made packs and work like a champ.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Vedavoo Limited Edition Gear

Quality gear made in America

The Bench Basin...  Keeping the trash where it should be.

By the raise of hands, who likes gear that falls apart?  Neither do I.  Several months ago we reached out to well known manufacturer of bulletproof gear - Vedavoo.  Vedavoo is synonymous with creating functional gear that will last a lifetime of use, and we are excited that they agreed to make some of their gear with our logo on it.   When I talked with Scott, the head cook bottle washer at Vedavoo, he was excited about making our gear for us even though they were "slammed" with orders at the time.  Being so busy with orders is a sign of a very well made product, and we were more than willing to wait a while for our stuff to be made.  Upon the arrival of our Vedavoo products, we were super impressed with the amount of detail that went in to each piece.  We can appreciate what it takes to make a quality product in any sort of quantity here in the USA.  Similar to tying a custom fly, you can't just buy any piece of junk sewing machine and expect to start cranking out the type of stuff they produce.  It takes years of trial and error to dial in this kind of quality, and we are more than happy to offer some limited edition pieces to our followers.  Huge kudos goes out to Scott and the crew at Vedavoo for the quality items that they are making.

We have brought in three items, and we hope to expand our line in the future.

1- Pinch Pouch  (BUY HERE)

This is a great way to keep your tying tools in one place when you travel.  It's also a great way to
store leaders, tippet, or any similar items in your fishing pack or vest.  I'm going to be excited to not have to have my razor scissors banging all around my bin when I travel now.

2- Bench Basin (BUY HERE)

I wish I would have had this last weekend as we were doing a tying demo at a very nice lodge.  This is a portable waste basket that keeps you in the good graces of whomever is cleaning up the place where you are tying.  

3- Tying Apron (BUY HERE)

My wife is sick and tired of me coming upstairs looking like I just groomed 48 German Shepherds.  I'm also sick and tired of looking down and seeing flashabou in my burritos.  This apron can be left in the tying area with all of the fluff and fuzz on it.  We made sure this was  in digi camo in case you need to hide from the mafia too.  If you are single, you will definitely lose cool points for sporting this thing, but for the married tyers...  the benefits are endless;)

~ Cheech

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Project Hopper

Welcome to Project Hopper

The Project Hopper is just that - a project.  This fly has been in the process of being made for about 2 years now (as of 2015) and will probably still be tweaked and modded based on fishing situations.
Different hooks

When you leave your car in anticipation of hitting the water in mid to late summer it's always a good thing to see hoppers flying around on the trail to the river or lake.  You are sure that the fish will be shamelessly slamming these big morsels of steak floating awkwardly downstream.  One summer I got schooled by a lack of selection in my hopper game, and the problem was that I thought I had my hoppers all figured out.  I didn't.  Up to this point the Stoneflopper was about all I needed when a hopper situation came up, and this day was going to be a good Stoneflopper day.  The problem was that the fish would come over to the fly only to give it a good stare down and a window shop before returning to their feeding lanes.  The Stoneflopper was getting the shaft...  Hard.  Time to start a project.

These types of situations really motivate me to come up with a better solution, and I realized that my hopper game had a lot of innings yet to be played.  I immediately began trying to catch hoppers to analyze their colors and how they sat in the water.  Luckily Curtis has a little fairy net that he uses to catch adult mayflies and such...  I began to realize that even similar looking hoppers could have different colored back legs, and I found green, blue, red, and variations of all of these colors.  As I began my testing I knew that the back leg would play a key part in the process so I made a mental
Knotted rubber = no go
note to not skimp on them.  I have seen some great hoppers with knotted rubber legs, but it takes a special type of black magic to get the knots to sit at the perfect tension to create a 90 degree angle out of the rubber.  After a few poor attempts with rubber legs I decided to get really creative with the leg, and I didn't just want to slap on those pre-molded hopper legs...  Foam and monofilament made some great legs, but in recent testing I'm confident that the mono legs impeded some hookups, so I changed them to centipede legs.  The body is pretty basic, and I was basically just cutting a big hunk of foam down to the shape
I liked the bottom profile
that I wanted.  River Road cutters took about 15 minutes out of the process of tying this fly.  Once the legs and body were made, it is about as simple as a fly gets.

After the first prototypes came off the vise I wanted to test them on the same fish that were snubbing the Stoneflopper, so back to the river we went.  Luckily, we found the same exact fish holding in his territory and he was actively scanning for food.  I made a cast that caught some wind and got pushed 6 feet out of it's feeding lane, but this fish rushed over without hesitation and tried to swallow my hopper whole.  We knew we had a winner.  That fly was actually much more durable than we thought it would be, and the monofilament leg sections stayed put for about 5 fish before they both got ripped off.  That being said, the pattern still produced after the legs were gone.

Hopper Eating Tiger
Test number two came at a lake that was loaded with picky tiger trout.  These fish were notorious for rushing over to your fly and rubbing their nose on the bend of your hook before turning away.  They were hopper eaters, and they were EXTREMELY picky.  I started out with the Stoneflopper and the window shopping commenced.  I then tied on the Project Hopper and made a point to present it to the same fish that snubbed the Stoneflopper.  They ate it.  They ate it a LOT.

Durability...  The first thing that people ask is how this fly holds up to being fished a lot.  My answer at first was that this pattern was such a pain in the butt to tie that they should only have a few of them in their box as a last resort, but now that the process is simplified and improved a bit, there is no reason not to have a box full of them.  With the improvements made to the back leg, they should last much longer than expected.  Sure, there are flies out there that are much more durable, but this one is surprisingly more durable than you would think.

Modifications...  Feel free to mod this fly as you see fit!  As you can see in the images, there are many mods that you can make from a different hook, to a different shape for the body...


Hopper Eating Brown

Getting closer with mono legs

This just ain't right...

And one with some Hoppize:

MFC Hoppize for the win

Material List

Add to Cart   View in store

Hook: Daiichi 1710 #6     
Thread: Danville Flat Waxed Nylon Thread - 140 Denier - Tan     
Body: Rainy's Cross-Link Sheet Foam - Tan - 6 mm     
Legs: Rainy's Cross-Link Sheet Foam - Tan - 2 mm     
Pronotum/Wing: Rainy's Cross-Link Sheet Foam - Tan - 1 mm     
Legs: Speckled Centipede Legs - Speckled Yellow/Black/Red - Medium     
Legs: Speckled Centipede Legs - Speckled Tan/Brown - Medium     
Wing: Nature's Spirit Stimulator Deer Hair - Gold     
Antennae: Speckled Centipede Legs - Speckled Yellow - Mini     
Indicator: Rainy's Cross-Link Sheet Foam - Golden Yellow - 1 mm     

Other tools from the tutorial:
Barred Rubber Legs - Natural     
Barred Rubber Legs - Neon Red     
Daiichi 1710 - 2X Long Nymph Hook - 6     
Zap-a-Gap Brush-On Super Glue     
Hopper/Caddis/Ant Foam Body Cutter - Complete Set     
Double Edge Razor Blades     
Hoppize Realistic Grasshopper Eyes - Black - Medium (3.5mm)     

The marks were done with fine point sharpies (brown and marigold)
For the River Road Cutters, here are the sizes that I use for each part of the fly:
  • Body #8
  • Under wing #8
  • Legs #12
  • Indicator #16