Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Founding Flies by Mike Valla. Reviewed by Friend of the Fly

I often wonder about the origination of certain fly patterns and the reasoning behind their design. I acknowledge that the introduction of certain aspects of a popular fly had their place and time; hence it would be helpful if we could somehow delve into the mind of each flies creator, which might help us understand why they chose a particular material or technique. For instance, some may ponder the significance of the Royal Coachman's uncanny use of red floss or the Prince Nymph's impressionistic  looking white biot wings.

Well, seek no further. Mike Valla presents a profound analogy of 43 of some of the greatest and most influential American fly tiers in his 2013 release of TheFounding Flies: 43 American Masters: Their Patterns and Influences. Valla provides a clear and concise illustration of key fly tiers such as Ray Bergman, Cal Bird and Lee Wolff, covering a period from the mid - 1880s to the late 1960s. This is not only a historic account of fly tying, but a quite interesting depiction of each masters character and how their lives were affected by fly tying. Excellent quality photos of both original and replicated patterns are shown throughout each chapter. The book ends with recipes for 300 of the flies portrayed throughout the book.

Image from Copperfly Web site:
I would highly recommend The Founding Flies to any serious fly tier who is looking to progress in tying both old and new designs. The books historical account provides a solid foundation, which I think is crucial in any skill. Skimming through the book, I think that you will find that certain master tiers will be more relative than others. You will relate to some concepts and perhaps not agree so much on others. Nevertheless, Whether or not the ultimate fly has been produced, ultimately this book will aid in gaining a deep perspective on the evolution of fly tying, which I think will be beneficial in the creative stages of your fly tying. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lil Gold Stone Jig

Added another jig to my arsenal. Euro - inspired, the Lil Gold Stone is my replication of Little Golden Stonefly nymphs that are found in my local tributary throughout the year. I used a subtle, but similar technique for the shell-back that is used in Skip Morris's Brick Back Caddis. Hope you enjoy the unique video tutorial.

Lil Gold Stone


Hook: #8 - #10 Jig Hook
Thread: Black UTC 70
Tail: Dark Brown Pheasant Tail
Body: Amber Scud Dubbin
Shell Back: Brown Antron
Ribbing: 6LB Monofilament
Thorax: Amber Scud Dubbin with Black Hare's Ear
Head: Black Nickel Tungsten Bead

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Polish Woven Nymph

Tied up some Vladi styled Polish Woven nymphs after watching the DVD European Nymphing with Jack Dennis & Vladi. According to Bob Petti at the Global FlyFisher Web site, during the mid 90's, these flies drove the masses to their local craft stores in search of weaving materials, which make these flies so extraordinary. Is it possible that the trend was largely a consequence of Vladi Trzebunia and the Polish World Champion Team origination and utilization of the fly?

Polish Woven Nymphs
The objective of the fly is to reach the stream bottom, as it is primarily used as a point fly in a two to three fly nymphing system. In this regards, the inner guts of the fly are made-up of wrapped wire; beads of tungsted are often used at the head of the fly for additional weight. The magic of the fly seems to come from the segmented and color separated appearance that is the product of the Polish woven technique. For these flies I used DMC Six-Strand Floss, which is cheap and effective. The middle fly was wrapped with burnt orange and brown antron. Essentially, the colors and materials that can be used are endless and I highly recommend watching the aformentioned video to grasp the technique. Thanks Vladi!


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Euro Nymph Jigs

Competition fly fishing and books like Dynamic Nymphing by George Daniels have created a ubiquitous buzz when it comes to tying and fishing Euro nymph jigs. These jigs are utilized in Chech, Polish and French nymphing techniques, which are all explained in Daniels's book, which I highly recommend. These jigs are rather simple in design and generally are dressed sparsely in order to allow optimal penetration and depth control. Let's be honest, in essence these are essentially bait-cast jigs dressed with traditional or new fly patterns. With this thought in mind, I headed to my local Cabela's and purchased several packs of their Fisherman Series jig heads that were on sale. This is an inexpensive alternative to buying fly fishing specific hooks and beads. However, the downfall for some fly anglers may be the jig head's composition of lead.

What... Jig Heads?

Since this was my first stab at Euro nymph tying, I decided to incorporate basic and classic patterns such as the pheasant tail nymph, the prince nymph and the all-to-important hare's ear nymph. I like to leave a little thread hotspot at both the tail and head. Compared to the Euro-jigs I have seen, I would admit that my patterns are a bit Americanized with the added bulk. Nevertheless, fish these patterns alone or as part of a multi-fly set-up.

Pheasant Tail Euro-Jig

Pheasant Tail Euro-Jig Recipe:
Hook: 1/32 oz. Cabela's Fisherman Series Jig Head
Thread: UTC 70 Fire Orange
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Rib: Copper UTC Wire size BR
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Collar: Dun colored CDC

Prince Nymph Euro-Jig

Prince Nymph Euro Jig Recipe:
Hook: 1/32 oz. Cabela's Fisherman Series Jig Head
Thread: UTC 70 Fire Orange
Tail: Goose Biots - Brown
Body: Peacock Herl
Rib: Gold UTC Wire Size BR
Collar: Coachman Brown Rooster

Naked Prince Euro-Jig

Naked Prince Euro-Jig Recipe:

Same as above, but without collar.

Rainbow Euro-Jig

Rainbow Euro-Jig Recipe:

Hook: 1/32 oz. Cabela's Fisherman Series Jig Head
Thread: UTC 70 Fire Orange
Tail: Pearl Krystal Flash
Body: Wapsi Rainbow Sow-Scud Dubbin
Thorax: Ice Dub UV Purple
Beard: Grizzly Mallard Flank

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dave's Hopper Variant


Dave's Hopper is a dry fly staple of the West that originated from the hands of fly tier, and fly fisherman, Dave Whitlock during the mid 1950s. "The original Dave's Hopper called for legs made of knotted Yellow-dyed Grizzly hackle that were trimmed" ("Dave's", 2013).  Since then, the pattern has evolved and experienced many transformations. For instance, the legs are often substituted with either pheasant tail fibers or thin rubber strips. The biggest variation in my pattern is the use of a craft foam body, which replaces the original's poly yarn. I also have integrated a tape wing, which is essentially cut and shaped turkey feather fibers sandwiched with clear packing tape on both sides.

If your new to knotted pheasant tail legs, see my knotted pheasant tail post that includes a straight-forward tutorial. I like to fish this pattern with a small dropper nymph tied off the bend during the late summer.  I hope you enjoy the vid and will consider giving the pattern a try.

Dave's Hopper Variant Recipe:

Hook: TMC 200R #10-8
Thread: UTC 70 Yellow
Body: 2mm Craft Foam Yellow
Hackle: Coachman Brown Rooster
Rib: Tying Thread
Legs: Knotted Pheasant Tail Fibers
Head: Trimmed Deer Hari
Collar: Splayed Deer Hair

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Whitetail Nymph

The Whitetail Nymph

Every time I integrate deer hair into a fly pattern, my memories drift back to a time that included dodging many Whitetail deer on the lonely highways and roads of Northern Minnesota.  My perspective suggests that the whites and browns of the body and tail of this well respected deer coincide with life cycle color characteristics of many natural aquatic insects found in trout streams. Considering my observation, I developed a pattern that envelops both the characteristics of the deer and aquatic insects in their various stages. For instance, the white wrapping of thread and the combination of the black bead may replicate a peeking caddis still in the larval stage.

Image via
Caddis experts such as Gary LaFontaine point out that trout often take the  larvae that is still attached to its cacoon-like protective shell by a knudging of sort of the stream bottom. This activity is otherwise known as grubbing. The exposed larvae may also be a target when subject to a behavioral drift. Since this is a fly tying blog, I will not get into the specifics, but essentially, the drift entails both cased and un-cased caddis drifting to different destinations from approximately dawn to dusk.

Peeking Caddis Image via Colorado Skies Outfitters Web site

The spun deer hair splayed over the dubbed throrax of the fly could suggest a sculpin, which is a popular bait fish in most trout streams. "Trout and sculpins live in similar stream habitats. But more importantly they eat similar food--primarily aquatic insects, although sculpins do not feed on surface foods. Both trout and sculpins will eat each other at certain times" (Hafele & Hughes, 2000).  

Image via Samford University Web site

The deer hair and antron tail also tend to replicate emerging caddis legs trying to rid the caddis pupal shuck during the emergence stage. Nevertheless, I tie the pattern with a tan, cream, or olive body, which all have worked with success. Ultimately, the White Tail Nymph is a universal searching pattern that can work in various sizes using a dead drift or on the swing. Hope you will give it a try.

Emerging Caddis Image via

The Whitetail Nymph Recipe:
Hook: Nymph (#14-18)
Head: Nickel Bead
Hot Spot: UTC 70, White
Body: UTC 120, Tan, Olive, Cream
Hackle: Deer Hair
Wing: Goose Biots
Thorax: Natural Hares Ear Dubbin
Ribbing: Copper or Gold Ultra Wire
Tail: Brown and White Antron

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Flies from Russia


I am the recent recipient of some fly fishing flies by request, from Russia. Unfortunately, the buyer of these flies was neither a fly enthusiast, nor were they located in a locale of fly fishing popularity. In other words, I was not expecting the best of specimens by any means. One package (shown above) contained a handful of assorted flies from Tula Sport Fishing ( located in Moscow. Unfortunately, if you go to the Web site, there is no menu for the flies currently sold.  The flies are reminiscent of some of the first flies tied at my vice with the use of feather tips for wings, cheap rooster hackle, and oversized heads.

Can anyone say оранжевый (orange)?

Ala-Crushed Flies

The second pack from an unkown maker contained a set a crushed parachute flies, possibly an Adams, and what looks like a Bivisible fly (middle fly). Fortunately, I've been able to freshen up the flies to salvage whatever work went into their creation

A Good-Looking Russian Caddis

The two caddis-like flies shown above were my favorite of the bunch. The flies seem to resemble the Hemming Way Caddis originated by Mike and Sheraless Lawson. However, the Russian flies have a much more detailed wing that is also durable. Unlike the Hemingway Caddis, there also appears to be no use of dubbin for the body.

B2 Bomber - Like...Hmmm...

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Montana Nymph

With the onslaught of the dog-day doldrum, lack of insect activity, and sluggish fishing, I was looking for an alternative lure that might entice the deepest of trout. With research, I stumbled upon the Montana nymph.The Montana Nymph was devised by Lew Ortman of New York sometime during the 1950's. The design of the fly was influenced by the large stoneflies of North America and more particularly the large stoneflies that inhabit the big waters of Montana. According to Steve Collyer, a member of the FlyFishing.CO.UK Forum, the original Montana Nymph was tied with the following materials.

Silk: black gossamer
Hook: any size long shank or largish standard hook
Tails: black cock hackle fibres or black cock hackle tip, not too long
Body: first 3/5 black chenille
Thorax: yellow chenille
Hackle: black cock - over thorax only
Roof: black chenille
Wings: long slender black rook or crow primary - a pair over eye

Nevertheless, over time the pattern has evolved, which I think can be an attribute of advances in materials and fly tying techniques. Tying the modern day Montana Nymph is sequentially framed for your convenience.

Wrap led or non-toxic wire unto upper-half of hook

Tie down the weight and tie in a dubbin bump at the hook point

Tie in two goose biots

Tie in chenille - wrap forward to half-way point leaving a tag end

Tie in hackle and different color chenille

Bring secondary chenille,hackle and chenille tag forward - tie off

Top view

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Knotted Pheasant Tail Hopper Legs

I am pretty amazed at the complexity many tiers create when it comes to making their own knotted hopper legs from pheasant tail fibers. For instance, one fly tying forum member suggests using a hemostat or even some sort of fancy crochet device.  In essence, all you have to do is tie an overhand knot to replicate the jointed areas of a hopper leg. My solution merely encompasses a simple pair of hackle pliers. I modified the pliers, gluing small pieces of sandpaper to to the clamping area to improve holding strength on the tiniest of fibers. Clamp down on the thin end of about 3 to 5 fibers and use the thick end as an effective guide through your overhand loop as shown is the following three frames:

The most difficult part of this process is keeping the fibers together. Basically, the more you handle the fibers, the less chance you have of making your knot. The knotted legs can be used to make effective patterns such as the parachute hopper.

Parachute Hopper Recipe:

Hook: Umqua U203 Size 14/10
Thread: UTC Tan 140
Body: Hareline Dubbin
Legs: Knotted Pheasant Tail Fibers
Ribbing: Red DMC Floss #25
Wing: Taped partridge tail
Parachute: White Poly
Hackle: Grizzly Rooster Hackle

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Dancing Caddis

Gary LaFontaine, a popular fly fisherman and author of the all influential Caddisflies, changed the way we think about caddis presentations with his Dancing Caddis pattern. Essentially, the Dancing Caddis is a hackled dry fly pattern that utilizes an upside down deer hair wing. The orininal pattern is tied with a Swedish dry fly hook, which has an unusual kink located about 1/3 from the eye. LaFontaine (1981) stated: "An imitation tied on an upside-down hook could be effective for all types of adult caddisflies, the fly not only resting on the wing edges and body, but also skating on them". In essence, the fly is universal, in that its hookless underwater presentation is advantageous when playing the dead-drift or skating along the surface.

                                          The Recipe:

                                          Thread: UTC 70 Black
                                          Hook: Umpqua U208 #14/16
                                          Body: Hareline Dubbin
                                          Wing: Deer Hair
                                          Thorax: Peacock Herl
                                          Hackle: Coachman Brown Rooster Hackle

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Damsels in Distress

Damsel, near South Cerney by Brian Robert Marshell, CC-BY-2.0.

During the sunniest part of a July afternoon, on our local tributary, I have encountered smaller sized floating damsels, both red and blue. I watch in amazement as they swoop down like Apache helicopters, and pick on mosquitos, and adult midges that are either just above the surface or stuck in the surface film. What is intriguing to me is the notion or perspective gained of the limited presence of damsel or dragon flies  near running waters in fly fishing literature. Most literature on the subject is typically confined to stillwaters. For instance, in Dave Hughes's Handbook of Hatches (2005) he states "Damselfly adults are present on all stillwaters, all across the continent".  Is it possible that the focus on stillwaters is largely due to a lack thereof interest in damsel/dragonflies by trout in running waters? To answer this question I had to tie up a respectable pattern that would entice river-life trout.

Wind thread back to the barb of size 14 dry fly hook.

Tie in thin piece of 2mm foam near barb.

Tie in size 14 River Rd. Creations Cutter - Caddis/Ant body at point.

Tie in one peacock herl and hackle.

Wind herl and hackle to 1/3 from eye and cinch down foam.

Use the foam cutter to stamp out wings from thin packing foam, which are lined up. Use a drop of adhesive to ease the process.

Fold the foam over so it secures the wings and half-hitch your thread at the head. Markings are made with a black Sharpie.
Top view

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cutting Foam

I was becoming rather frustrated when it came to neat foam bodies on my foam flies. Not to mention, the whole process can be time consuming, especially when your limited to scissors, and steady hands.  My solution was to invest in a foam body cutter product offered by River Road Creations, Inc. I decided to choose their Hopper/Caddis/Ant complete set that generally sells for around $48.00 USD. The set includes fiver cutters (sizes 8, 10, 12, 14 & 16), a cutter caddy and a cutting pad.

Shortly after unpacking my cutters, I put them to the test. I started with 2mm adhesive backed foam and then progressed to 4mm or two sheets of 2mm adhesive backed foam stuck together. In both cases, I was pleasantly surprised when the cutters performed beyond my expecations.

The foam bodies are quite universal - they can be used to replicate various bodies, wings and even legs.

So...if your looking into improving your foam flies, I hope you will give the River Road Creations foam cutters a try. I am confident you will be happy with the performance of the cutters and the overall quality of your foam flies.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Terrestrials are Coming!

It's that time of year. Dry and hot weather means big meaty treats for trout such as grasshoppers and beetles. Here's a simple pattern that encompasses both. Is it a hopper or a beetle? You can add legs, but I think it fishes just as good without them. Zap-A-Gap is a key ingredient that helps stop the foam from twisting.

Parachute Grass-Beetle

Hook: Size 14 Umpqua U203
Thread: Olive 70 UTC
Foam: 2mm Tan (colored slightly with olive marker)
Body: Olive Hares Ear Dubbin
Parachute: Tan Antron
Hackle: Grizzly
Thorax: 4 Olive Goose Biots