Sunday, July 6, 2014

Jimmy’s Inner Light Sedge Emerger

Inner Light Sedge Emerger tied by James Veenstra 
     There is always room for improvement. Everything changes. And there is outrageous fun & gratification in the process, sometimes. We are lately seeking a spotted sedge emerging pupa fly pattern that will stand out attractively enough to compete against the impossible numbers of naturals raining from the home water on summer evenings, something with just a hint more flash than the naturals, something with an ‘inner light’ winking from beneath the flowing hackle – hence the idea for the Inner Light Sedge Emerger with tinsel abdomen. 

I recently had the pleasure of fishing with Jimmy Veenstra, a talented fish bum from California, who wanted to tie some ILSE’s for his trip but had no green tinsel, so substituted caddis-green diamond braid for the abdomen, & the result turned out to be the fly-of-the-week. I see the braided material as an improvement over tinsel which turns dark in low light, while the sparkling braid is multifaceted, gathering & reflecting more light, hence more visible up near total darkness. The diamond braid material is extremely durable, & creates a pleasing segmented effect wound as an abdomen.

He brought a good fly pattern, & he also brought a sweet rod to swing it. Jimmy’s Meiser 2/3 trout switch is a gentle cannon able to reach out over the conflicted currents of the American Reach & touch someone. The lithe two-hander is a thing of awesome utilitarian beauty, the nearly perfect fly swinging tool, a coup stick for tagging big trout on big water.

Live big.

Jimmy’s Inner Light Sedge Emerger

Hook: #12-#14 caddis style

Thread: Camel

Abdomen: Wapsi olive pearl braid

Thorax: Brown hare’s mask with a bit of black mixed in – a few turns

Hackle: Brahma hen (brown partridge is a good substitute)

Head: Brown hare’s mask – a few turns in front of the hackle ~ & finish

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turkey & Starling Nymph

     Though I find the study of waterborn insects fascinating from an angler’s perspective, & I think I have a fairly good handle on the important bugs present in my home water, I’ve come to the conclusion that exact identification of an insect contributes very little to creating an effective fly pattern for meeting it on the water. And knowing the exact taxonomy of what is there will not necessarily get you a long way toward determining what the trout are preferring to eat during an evening offering a spectrum of choices. Tonight there was a blitz of spotted sedge coming off the river, & a lot of fish, backs & tails out of the water, revealing that they were feeding on emergers under the surface film –  & the sedge pupa emerger patterns have been working good – yet tonight they (the fish) wouldn’t touch a sedge imitation. A break, & a closer look at what was on the water revealed that the spotted sedge were masking a hatch of little black sedge, & also baetis (PMD), blue winged olive & a #16 gray mayfly whose identity I’m not sure of. While I sat watching the water, an olive stonefly landed on my ear. I picked it off, a #12. So, I determined that the classic ambiguity of the situation might be properly met with an equally ambiguous fly pattern, something impressionistic to simulate the emerging nymph stage of at least a couple of the insects the trout might be eating. This simple, all-purpose soft-hackle flymph (emerger) proved to be the mojo needed to turn the evening around. What were trout taking it for? I don't know. Never figured it out. In #16, I suspect it is taken for spotted sedge, baetis, or the emerging nymph of the unidentified gray mayfly. Main thing is, whatever the trout were eating, this one covered it nicely.   

Turkey & Starling Nymph

Hook: #14-#16

Thread: Wine UNI 8/0

Body: Mottled turkey tail – choose a secondary feather with close mottling – (6 swords for a #14) twisted with the tying thread (I leave the tag end of my tying thread long enough to twist with the feather swords)

Hackle: Starling ~ & finish

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:   

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Inner Light Sedge Emerger

     It usually takes a few seasons to develop a new fly design to the point I feel confident about it – & some never get there, the idea discarded altogether as ill-conceived. But I love it when one works out to take a place among the distinguished company in the box, as a member in good standing. It is only when one makes it to the stage that I am able to regard & fish it without reservation that a fly design is given a name, & a spot in the box that is more than temporary. The Inner Light Sedge Emerger is a version of the Bunny Sedge tied with a tinsel abdomen that I started experimenting with last season. The design showed some promise last year, though I didn’t fish it much, favoring the old stand-bys. This year, as the sedge emergence season gains momentum, with spotted & grannom sedges coming off the river as of this writing, I thought to include the ILSE in the rotation of usual stuff, & over the past couple of weeks it has emerged as the bait of choice. The trout’s preferences for imitation (of the same insect) does trend then change, but for now this one’s having its day (note: it's been mostly cloudy); swung & dangled.

Inner Light Sedge Emerger

Hook: #12-#14 Daiichi 1150

Thread: Camel UNI 8/0

Abdomen: Green mylar tinsel – coat with head cement

Thorax: Brown hare’s mask

Hackle: Brahma hen (brown partridge or grouse will substitute) – one turn

Head: Brown hare’s mask twisted in tying thread – split-thread, dubbing loop or twist-dubbed so that the ‘head’ (actually a continuation of the thorax) appears fairly shaggy – about three turns in front of the hackle ~ & finish

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird            

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Black Carpenter Ant

     I’ve come to think of the large black carpenter ant as one of the most important trout stream insects of late spring & early summer, as it is certainly true in the forested region I fish. The first ant flights of the season occur during the warmest days of May & continue into July – & altogether there may be a dozen major swarms during the course of the May-July hatch season.

The large, clumsy ants are weak flyers & a great many end up in the water on both lakes & streams, bringing up the largest trout to feed. The wings break away easily, & during the struggle on the water the ants often shed their wings, hence, in my own experience, a winged imitation is not necessary for fishing the water (though I do carry winged floaters during ‘hatches’ when a lot of ants are present on the water & fish are actively feeding on them – I’ll take dryfly action whenever it presents itself). If you’ve ever squashed one, you may have noticed that carpenter ants are juicy, & they must taste good too, because trout take the imitation readily through the hatch season.

(Smart trout feeding on tiny mayflies can sometimes be diverted to a well-presented #8 black ant.)

Carpenter ants in my neighborhood are a healthy ¾ of an inch long, they are heavy & don’t float for long, drown, & are tumbled throughout the water column. I’ve found that a wet version of the ant fishes at least as good as a dry in any circumstance, but for fishing the water when no surface activity is apparent, the simple thread-body version tied with a turn of soft hackle is still my favorite.

Black Carpenter Ant

Hook: #8 TMC 2312

Body: Black UNI 3/0 tying thread – build up thread to shape, beginning at the abdomen & working forward

Hackle: Dark bronze hen – one turn over the center of the thorax section – after winding the hackle I coat the entire body with a couple coats of thick head cement.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:      

Monday, June 2, 2014

UC Partridge & Peacock Soft-Hackle

  The Brown Hackle Peacock, descended from an ancient line, was the first soft-hackle fly I tied & fished. The simple pattern was perfect for a novice tier, & proved an instant hit with trout in the small creeks I fished as a kid in the 1960’s. That was the fly that provided the direction of my approach to designing & tying flies, & I’ve been tying & fishing variants of the herl-bodied, soft-hackle fly ever since – the pattern’s usefulness undiminished.

There are dozens of riffs on the basic peacock herl body design (everybody ties a slightly different version), every kind & color of soft hackle, variations of thread & ribbing, some with tinsel tags, some with tails. I used to carry a lot of variants, but in attempts to move toward an ideal (visualized more than practiced I admit) of zen simplicity, I attempt to refine & narrow down.

In the early 1970’s I started tying a version using a brown-phase roughed grouse shoulder covert as the hackle, & thought the mottled grouse hackle an improvement over the original brown hen hackle. The variant shown here is one of my staples for meeting the mixed hatches of the Upper Columbia, late spring through early summer when there are daily hatches of sedges & mayflies, & a major portion of the adults are a #16 – spotted sedge, march browns… lots of stuff mixed in the slick. And a #14 UC Partridge & Peacock, with its broad, enticingly ambiguous identity, serves to simulate a lot. Though I use spotted sedge emerging pupa patterns that look, to me, much closer to the naturals in appearance, the simple UC P&P seems to turn the trick as well as any of the more imitative patterns during spotted sedge hatches.

As tying material for trout flies, partridge & peacock herl possess time-proven mojo. As an all-purpose nymph, I rate the Partridge & Peacock right up there with the Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail Nymph & Leisenring’s Black Gnat.    

UC Partridge & Peacock

Hook: #14 Daiichi 1150 (I tie these in #8-#18, though #14-#15 seems to cover the broadest spectrum of summer insects on my home water.)

Thread: Rust-brown UNI 8/0

Rib: Copper wire

Body: Peacock herl, twisted with the tying thread – not too fat, 2, or 3 fine herls for a #14

Hackle: Brown-phase roughed grouse shoulder covert or brown partridge, one turn – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:

Friday, May 30, 2014

Soft-Hackle Damselfly Nymph

     Damselfly nymphs are an abundant, staple forage of trout in the NE Washington lakes I fish. With several hundred species found in North America, damselfly nymphs are one of the most important still water insects to imitate; & I can think of no other that has been given more attention by fly designers. The damselfly nymph is a darling of the Realists, with some creations approaching dead-ringer realism.

I fish damselfly nymphs a lot through the season &, over the years, have tried quite a few approaches to the imitation including several time-consuming articulated models. But, all said & done, my favorite is a fairly conventional soft-hackle style that has been popular with lake anglers in my region since long before my time. I tie several color variants of this pattern, including all-black (the old Black Leech) & an all-vermilion (Stepchild) which has its day, stepping in during the the lake turn-over period when nothing else seems to work.

Damselflies have a one to two-year life cycle & a long emergence season, April through September, with heaviest emergences May through July, so nymphs of all sizes are available to fish throughout the season. Nymph coloration varies according to water, & with quite a bit of variety within the same body of water – ranging from shades of tan, brown & every shade of olive – so I haven’t found color to be a critical factor in imitation. Immature nymphs are lighter in color, darkening as they mature. As there are always the larger mature models around, I generally fish a #8, representing the fully mature nymph, but also carry them in #10-#12, as the smaller sizes (in lighter colors) sometimes work better during mid-season when trout may be cued on an abundance of immature nymphs.

Though most often thought of as a lake insect, damselfly nymphs are plentiful in spring creeks as well, & a damsel imitation is a good pattern for prospecting & fishing the slow water, capable of serving as a 'big fish fly' on spring creeks.  

Soft-Hackle Damselfly Nymph

Hook: #8 TMC 2312 (or TMC 200R)

Thread: Olive

Tail: Clump of ‘marabou’ (chick-a-bou) (a 3/8 to ½ inch section) taken from the base of an olive-dyed grizzly hen hackle

Rib: Chartreuse wire

Abdomen: Mixed olive-dyed hare’s mask & Wapsi superfine sulfur-yellow dubbing – about 50/50

Back/Tail: 3 strands of olive/pearl midge flash tied in ahead of the abdomen, then pulled back & over-wound with the wire ribbing – leave the three ends just slightly longer than the marabou tailing

Thorax: Same dubbing as the abdomen

Hackle: Olive-dyed grizzly hen -- one turn (olive-dyed partridge is a good substitute)

Head: A couple of turns of dubbing ahead of the hackle – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:          

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bunny & Tinsel Leech

     Leeches found in Northwest lakes are smallish, an inch & under, for the most part. Simple mini-leech patterns have become staples for lake fishing in my neighborhood – a favorite alternative for midge anglers who like to fish small stuff – & tiny leeches can be fished all the ways that one might fish a midge larva.

I like to fish these when trout are fairly shallow – 10 feet deep or less – using a floating line with 15 foot fluoro leader. Dress the leader with a sink potion. The floating line is the indicator. Trout often hit the leech on the sink, so I watch the line for a tell-tale wake. A hand-twist retrieve with pauses is good. Several short, rapid strips, then a long pause, often turns the trick.

The Bunny & Tinsel Leech recipe given here can be tied with any tinsel coloration. Also makes an excellent bluegill fly.

Bunny & Tinsel Leech
Hook: #12 Daiichi 1150

Thread: Grey UNI 8/0

Underbody: Blue mylar tinsel (or choice) -- coat with Loon Hard Head or thick dope

Overbody: Pinch of black rabbit fur taken from a strip (guard & underfur), tied in as a wing & pushed down around the sides of the hook shank (tinsel should show through), extending back about twice the length of the hook

Hackle: Dark bronze hen (starling or dyed-black soft hackle can substitute) – & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: