Friday, December 27, 2013

Northern Girl ~ A Winter Nymph

Northern Girl tied by Steven Bird
     
     It is true that pre-spawn rainbow & cutthroat develop a propensity to put brightly colored things in their mouths. Flies tied with purple, chartreuse, blue, & particularly ‘egg colors’, shades of pink, orange & red, are likely attractors in winter. Color preferences might vary according to location, yet pink seems to have universal appeal, particularly to rainbow trout. The Northern Girl is an enticing combination of attractive pink & the yummy natural nymph coloration hare’s mask provides. 

Northern Girl

Hook: #12-#14 TMC 200R

Thread: Wine

Rib: Copper wire

Body: Natural hare’s mask dubbed on loop of tying thread

Back/Tail: Section of pink yarn, tied in ahead of the body, then pulled back & held in place over the top of the hook shank while the rib is wound forward over it – trim to a short ‘tail’ (I prefer a regular pink yarn, not hot pink) 

Hackle: Furnace hen ~ & finish 

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:  http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com
    

Thursday, December 5, 2013

PULP FLY Volume Three ~ & A Word With Bruce Smithhammer



    Flyfishing is not merely a diversion or pastime, or even an escape, but rather, a portal of sorts, leading to a harder edged & brighter reality where more than the expected unfolds & reflection hints at fractal truths, ever revealed. Our activity, our aim to fish, is only the departure point to a deeper emersion in the crucible of experience. For me, artful writing evokes a similar affect. And that is a process shared among us, & well understood by the authors contributing to the Pulp Fly story anthologies. Pulp Fly Volume Three is out, with stories by Erin Brock; Alex Landeen; Pete McDonald; Miles Nolte; Tom Reed; Tom Sadler; April Vokey; Bob White; Steve Zakur; Jay Zimmerman & Bruce Smithhammer. I was impressed with the idea & the writing contained in the first two volumes of Pulp Fly, so I contacted writer/editor Bruce Smithhammer, & he agreed to an interview with Soft~Hackle Journal, which went thus:           

SHJ: This one might make you feel a little uncomfortable, but SHJ is primarily about fly tying so I have to ask you this one: Have you ever snipped anything from a pet for use as fly tying material? the kitty’s whiskers for mayfly tails? Be honest. And don’t worry this isn’t a purity test. The arctic fox-like tip of Foofoo’s tail, maybe?    

Bruce: It doesn't make me uncomfortable at all, actually. I've snipped materials from many animals, and I really enjoy making a game out of doing it surreptitiously. It's kind of a "counting coup" thing. Maybe some day I'll share the recipe for my 'Schnauzer Clouser.'

SHJ: This one might be uncomfortable too, but salient, I think: If all the fishing water were suddenly privatized, would you advise carrying fence-cutters?
Bruce: I would advise a lot more than just carrying fence cutters. I unequivocally believe that the very heart of our democracy, and the manifestation of the American experiment, are embodied in our visionary system of public lands. And that's not hyperbole. Only tyrants would seek to deny people of honest and healthy recreational opportunities on lands that are currently held in the public trust. And as such, they should be treated they way tyrants have been throughout history, with the citizenry rising up, wielding the swift hammer of justice and the unwavering values that prompted the beginning of this country to begin with. Take that as you will.

SHJ: Do you think letters of literate discourse & repartee on the internet will ever meet the artistic depth of civil expression enjoyed in the cafes & salons of old Paris or Vienna? or have they?    
Bruce: I think that as long as there are literate people, there will be literate discourse. "Civil expression?" I'm not sure the existentialists, the expressionists, etc. were all that 'civil,' to be honest. 

SHJ: It’s always been about the words. Beginning with Dame Juliana there has always been a strong literary tradition juxtaposed with our sport, as well as journalistic. I love an evocative fiction, but also a straight-forward, informative how-to article. And I cringe when I read new writers berating ‘mainstream’ publishers for presenting style they consider less than literary, while not seeming to realize that much of what they condemn was never intended to be ‘creative’ writing, but rather, informative writing. I can think of guys who are fly-designing savants yet are less than great shakes as writers, but I’m glad they publish. And that kind of stuff is approachable to kids just starting out & they learn from it. As for fiction & memoir, the greatest portion I’m seeing in books & sporting magazines is robustly creative & not clich├ęd, there seeming to be a sensitive avoidance of that on the part of editors these days. Anymore, I don’t think publication is difficult because publishers are reticent to take chances with new fiction, but rather, there is an incredible number of good writers working the genre & a fairly limited number of outlets for the work – competition for available placement is extremely competitive. Do you agree?   
Bruce: Do I agree? Not entirely, but it would take a short essay to explain why. Suffice to say that I do think there is a fair bit of risk-aversion in traditional media these days, for all the usual reasons. And that this isn't coincidental to the current state of things.

SHJ: What does the publishing landscape look like to you right now (self-publishing versus traditional publishing) & where do you think it’s going for new writers who are stretching the genre?
Bruce: Contrary to what a lot of people seem to be saying right now, I actually think it's a pretty exciting time in the publishing business. Things are changing rapidly, some old models are dying, some new ones are taking shape. Volatility breeds opportunity. Suffice to say that I think there are more opportunities than there have been in a long time for people to distribute their work to a potential audience, and a number of the old hurdles are falling by the wayside. "Circulation" for example, is now instantaneous and international, and doesn't have to be limited by how many units you can afford to print and mail, for example. But it still takes elbow grease, and knowledge of how it all works, to publish effectively. I've always believed that if what you want doesn't exist, then it's time to get off your ass and create it. This is why we (Michael Gracie, myself and our esteemed contributors) started Pulp Fly - to take advantage of new technologies to help writers get their work promoted and distributed. We bring a serious editorial eye, attention to detail throughout every level of the publishing process, and the promotion and wide-ranging distribution that we believe our writers deserve. And we're able to take risks that traditional publishing largely doesn't seem to be willing or able to take anymore. 

SHJ: Last one. Everybody’s dying to know: Do you think we’ll make it off the planet on time?
Bruce: Some of us already have. And that's already more than I should share...

Thanks for that, Bruce. You’re good off the cuff. Intuit informs me you can
be trusted to drive.

Remember, everybody, Xmas is coming, & if your knowledge of gear is not at least equal to the angler’s on your gift list, then you’d better play it safe, do the smart thing, & buy them a copy of Pulp Fly.  http://pulpfly.com/volume-three/



Saturday, November 30, 2013

Woodcutter ~ A Palmered Wetfly

Woodcutter tied by Steven Bird

     For a long time a simple dark-olive & brown Wooly Worm, no tail, was one of my staples, especially when fishing freestone streams, where it serves to simulate many of the larger nymphs: drakes, stoneflies, dragonflies, & also sculpin & crayfish. Good as the olive & brown Wooly is, I can never resist tampering with things &, one day, I was looking at some plates of  palmered Irish wetflies & thought the style might lend itself well to my old favorite. A few misconceived trials &, it eventually did – the result being somewhat more elegant laying in the box, as well as a reliable hard worker in the water. Though I designed the Woodcutter with local freestones in mind, the Irish fish this style in stillwater (‘loughe flies’) as well, & I can attest it does work to simulate dragonfly nymphs in lakes, trolled or stripped; & in a #10, it fishes for the big Traveling Sedge of Northwest lakes; so the Woodcutter is versatile.  

Woodcutter

Hook: #8 TMC 200R

Thread: Yellow

Tag: Copper tinsel

Rib: Copper wire

Body: Wapsi Superfine BWO blend dubbed on a loop of the tying thread – build up the underbody to a nice cigar shape with yellow sewing thread (or lead wraps) – when I want bulk, I save time & expensive tying thread by mousing with sewing thread – works for dubbing on larger patterns, as well

Palmer: Brown shlappen – 5 turns evenly over the body (Saddle hackle can be used)

Hackle: Two turns of speckled brown hen (I used Welsumer hen on the sample in the foto, but I also like brahma or pardo coq-de-leon hen for this one) - & finish.        

Welsumer Hen
Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sunset Baetis

Sunset Baetis tied by Steven Bird

I like this one for meeting red quills in low light conditions & June evenings, right up against dark when the bugs are thick & I want something that will stand out a bit from the crowd. Covers a variety of baetis & also western march brown. I fish it quartered, swung, dangled & lifted, downstream, but also fished upstream & dead-drifted, as the situation seems to call for.

Sunset Baetis

Hook: #12-#14 Daiichi 1150

Thread: Brown

Abdomen: Yellow floss overwound with copper tinsel – space winds so that the yellow shows as a rib – I spread a drop of Loon Hard Head on the body which serves to preserve the mylar tinsel & lend depth

Thorax: Dark peacock herl


Hackle: One turn of plover wing covert – & finish

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Larger Western Mayflies of Autumn

Lesser Green Drake tied by Steven Bird
Mahogany Dun tied by Steven Bird

      Wetfly takes on a couple of larger mayflies that are a significant autumn presence in the West: The lesser green drake (Drunella flavilinea); & the mahogany dun or blue quill (Paraleptophlebia bicornuta). Both of these mayflies occur over the spectrum of stream types; both are generally about the same size, #12-#14; & neither produces substantial hatches (that I’ve encountered), yet imitations of either are worthwhile, as they are in the mix, flavs into October, & mahogany duns into November or even later in southern ranges.

I think of the lesser green drake & mahogany dun as a ‘seasonal hatch’, their imitations worthwhile for ‘fishing the water’ throughout the season, in areas they are present. As nymphs, both of these species are crawlers; & both migrate to shallow water prior to final emergence. I think trout just as often see emerging, stillborn, or drowned spinner versions of  ‘flavs’ & mahogany duns, so, for that reason, I fish ‘winged’ patterns, which serve to cover those three modes: emerger/stillborn/spent adult. 
Profile of Lesser Green Drake Wing

Looking at the winged wetfly patterns here, & if you go back & look at Allen McGee’s mayfly patterns in the prior Journal entry, you'll notice that though the mayfly designs pictured are winged, they aren’t really “winged wetflies” in the traditional sense. The paired quill wings of ‘traditional’ designs are objectified & heavy, with little movement, tending toward somewhat less than diaphanous. The wings of mayflies, even drakes, are delicate, often transparent or semi-transparent so, to my mind, ‘less-is-more’ seems a good approach to simulating wings. Trout can see very well, & if they see too much, there is too much that can be seen as questionable & be rejected. But just a hint. An insinuation of a wing. Just a few fibers of light reflecting antron simulating a wing on a small fly, leaves little to dismiss as suspicious. The wings of mahogany duns remain colored through all stages, becoming semi-transparent toward the rear portions in the spinner stage. Both flavs & mahogany duns display & retain the most color &, in the case of flavs, veining, on the forward portions of the wings, & it is just the forward portion I'm attempting to simulate. 

Lesser Green Drake

Hook: #14 TMC 200R

Thread: Yellow

Tail: Black - three heavy feather fibers

Rib: Yellow latex 'floss' wound over the abdomen

Abdomen: Dark olive (BWO) Wapsi Superfine dubbed on yellow sewing thread – bodies on these are robust, build up with sewing thread

Thorax: Dark olive Wapsi Superfine

Wing: Stack: about a dozen natural mallard or gadwall flank fibers; a couple barbs of yellow marabou; 3 or 4 strands of olive or blue dun midge flash; top with a few fibers of olive-dyed mallard flank

Hackle: One turn of brown speckled game hen

Head: A turn of dark olive dubbing – & finish.


Mahogany Dun

Hook: #14 TMC 200R

Thread: Rusty brown

Tail: Ginger hackle fibers

Abdomen: Mahogany-brown goose biot

Thorax: March-brown Wapsi Superfine dubbing

Wing: Medium blue dun sections taken from a very soft secondary feather (I gather those dropped by molting gulls) – train opposing quarter inch sections straight out from the feather stem, fold together & cut from the stem for a matched pair

Hackle: One turn of ginger hen hackle – & finish.  


 Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Bird’s Riff On Carey Special

Bird's Carey tied by Steven Bird

     The old Carey Special is native to interior B.C. & stands as an indigenous pattern that has survived generations of popularity, while remaining mostly unknown beyond its native precincts.  And not unknown for lack of virtue as a getter, the pattern is a staple for lake fishing in my neck of the woods, but for the ambiguous nature of the fly itself, not being any one fly, but a pattern, a tying style, apparently too loosely defined to carry the name any great distance. You’ll find versions of it in fly boxes all over British Columbia, where it is extremely popular, & that popularity shading into Alberta, Washington, Idaho & Montana. Variants of the Carey are staples for lake fishing in Northeastern Washington & the dragonfly-rich lakes of the Okanagan region, both sides of the U.S./Canada border.   

The Carey Special was developed in the 1920’s by Colonel Tom Carey, a retired British soldier who, legend has it, came to the Okanagan wilderness of interior B.C. – Kamloops redband country – where he set up his tent at Arthur Lake, on a mission to develop the perfect trout fly. The perfect trout fly, the original version tied with a body of marmot fur & hackled with two to four cock ringneck pheasant rump feathers, was meant to simulate a dragonfly nymph. Carey called this version the Monkeyfaced Louise or The Dredge. As time passed more versions arose, with bodies of black bear or other fur dubbing, also deer hair, peacock herl, pheasant tail, colored yarns, fluorescent yarns, tinsel, chenille, all-black versions, steelhead versions – the pattern continually morphing, the only constant: the collar of pheasant rump hackle. The inspiration for the pheasant rump hackle may have come from an earlier B.C. pattern called the Pazooka (from local Indian slang, meaning ‘the medicine’). And I suspect the Carey design harkens back to the ancient designs of Britain.

There’s been many a battle won, I can personally attest, & regional popularity of the design does bear witness, yet, so far, Colonel Carey’s original mission remains unfinished, a victory never declared, the fly, never becoming one thing, only the ambiguous grail of a bright season at Arthur Lake. Yet the quest is not lost, as, somehow, the development of his design went fractal. So the nexus of Carey’s impossible mission has proven energetic if not attainable. Ah well. It’s the journey. It’s the journey. It’s the journey. The pattern continues to morph while still retaining its name – the name that Colonel Carey did not give it.

Everybody in the interior Pacific Northwest ties their own variant of the Carey Special. They are tied mostly tail-less, but also with a short, sparse tail of pheasant rump. And I’ve found that the Carey style does travel very well, a capable bait, particularly in still water & wherever fish are feeding on dragonfly or damselfly nymphs. A few of my favorite old-time Carey variants are tied with bodies of dark olive chenille; gold tinsel; peacock herl with a tail of golden pheasant tippet. The version featured here is my own take on it, trying to stay true to Colonel Carey’s original mission. This one fishes the local lakes, simulating dragon & damselfly nymphs, & also the big ‘traveling sedge’ habiting the lakes of my region.

Bird’s Carey

Hook: #4-#10 TMC 200R (Spending two or more years as nymphs, there are always the larger models available. I usually carry this in #6, & #10 to cover traveling sedge.)

Thread: Olive

Rib: Olive wire wound over the body – heavy, or medium for #6 & under

Body: Variegated brown wool yarn (mix of chestnut & darker brown)

Hackle: Cock ringneck pheasant rump feathers – take two of the soft, long barbed, church-window feathers from the base of the rump patch, one with brown tips & one with the greenish/bluish tips – one turn of each. Hackle should extend slightly beyond the hook bend. Work the hackle back & against the body with your fingers (or hold the fly under running water for a minute) – & finish.



     Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: ucflyfishing.blogspot.com

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Flyfishing & Writing ~ Scott Sadil


Evocative literature is a natural match for evocative fly patterns. Many of this journal's readers enjoy both, so I thought it might be a good idea to celebrate the first anniversary of SHJ with a nod toward some creative friends who produce both -- some of the folks Soft~Hackle Journal has been drawing inspiration from lately.

The first guy I tapped is Scott Sadil. Scott is a teacher, adventurer, wordsmith & soft-hackle brother who, it became apparent shortly into our initial conversation, harbors the observational skill of a heron. A skill we appreciate. The dude is a rare combination: a fine creative writer and a thoughtful fly designer & natural angler. Scott’s fly patterns hint at the intuitive/associative process we see embodied in the designs of those who spend a lot of time on the water pursuing the fishes & thinking about stuff, & his writing reflects that process at work.


I asked Scott for an excerpt salient to our game, and he gives us this from Fly Tales: Lessons in Fly Fishing Like the Real Guys

So much has been made of late for the efficacy of the wet fly swing by soft hackle aficianados like Sylvester Nemes and Dave Hughes that I’m surprised how infrequently I see other anglers employing this timeless and elegant technique.  This is, I confess, my favorite way to explore broken, seamy, or riffled water.  The mix of currents means your fly swims at different speeds, sometimes swinging, sometimes adrift on a slack line.  Practiced wet fly advocates fiddle with the angle of their casts, the timing of mends, the choice of dressing and hooks, all of which affect the depth and speed of the swing, the manner in which the fly is presented through the likeliest holding water. This is subtle to a point practically beyond words.  The wet fly swing invites the shrewd manipulations of rod, line, and fly that mark the presentationist’s game.  He feels his way through a run, recognizing through rod and line—and a kind of muscle memory—those unmistakable lies that can hold trout, a tactile familiarity that grows more pronounced each time a trout grabs the swinging fly.”  

Intrigued at the flies in the photos, I asked Scott about the pattern. 

Waking Muddlers tied by Scott Sadil


























It is a true waking pattern, not meant to ride on or even in the surface membrane, but to ride or ‘bounce’ up against it from below. This, to my mind, is one of the often overlooked aspects of the soft-hackled fly: like so many things fish feed on, it rises to the underside of the surface membrane and gets trapped there by the strength of the surface tension. Fish, I believe, are much more willing to take things held below the membrane than they are to stick their noses into air, a move that essentially asks them to penetrate a new universe. The Waking Muddlers are sometimes grabbed without evidence of the fish eating, so subtle is the inhalation by the slowly risen fish. Just as often, of course, the take is visible, or, if the fly is inspected without a take, you will see evidence of the fish, which dials up angler attention in a way nothing else in steelheading can.”    ~Scott Sadil

More from Scott Sadil at his regular column in California Fly Fisher magazine, & here: http://scottsadil.com/titles.htm  




Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Pheasant Dace Streamer


     The simplest way to achieve articulation & movement in a fly is to construct it out of materials which possess those qualities (cute as those hinging shanks are). And still truly masterful is achieving beauty through functional simplicity that is easily duplicated.  
Pheasant Dace Streamer tied by Steven Bird

I can think of no material more useful to a fly tier than a complete cock ringneck pheasant cape. A pheasant cape will supply you with an assortment of soft feathers in an array of colorations from cream to black, & with some imitative combinations. The very soft, marabou-like ‘rump’ feathers found at the base of the tail are great for use as hackle collars, tailing, & also a lively topping or ‘wing’ for streamer flies – a ‘soft-wing’, if you will. I like these better than marabou for a lot of applications. The feather fibers have a little bit more spine than marabou & hold shape better. Pheasant rump feathers are available strung, in natural & dyed colors.

I intended the Pheasant Dace as a generic, all-purpose minnow pattern to simulate dace, chub, trout parr, sculpin, or most any baitfish found in trout waters, & I’ve found that it travels well.

Pheasant Dace

Hook: #8 up-eye steelhead style or streamer hook (the heavy wire steelhead style weights the fly & gets it deeper)

Thread: Olive

Tail: Golden pheasant crest feather – cupped side up -- same length as the body

Body: Silver tinsel (holographic tinsel might be a nice touch – red tinsel can be wound over the front quarter of the body to simulate gills – I apply a drop of Loon Hard Head & paint it over the tinsel with my needle)

Topping: Constructed similar to a flatwing, the pheasant feathers trained back & then tied in horizontal, cupped side down. Materials stacked thus: 1) pinch of white bucktail to form a base or ‘spine’ to support the wing, extending to about the tip of the tail; 2) a natural ‘cream’ pheasant rump feather; 3) two strands of olive flash to create a lateral line; 4) a natural dark pheasant rump feather

Throat: A small clump of yellow hackle fibers

Cheek: Jungle cock nails – & finish


  
Fish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com              

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Miasmic October Caddis Pupa-Emerger

Miasmic October Caddis tied by Steven Bird


     It wouldn’t do to go into the Fall season without tying some October caddis pupa-emerger patterns. Writer-angler Gary LaFontaine considered this hatch one of the most important to those seeking big trout, & I agree with him on that one.

There are at least four subspecies of the giant Fall caddis (Dicosmoecus)  in the West; fairly similar in size & habit. Coloration varies somewhat, with abdomen coloration ranging from cream-yellow through shades of peach to deep pumpkin & rusty orange. In some watersheds nymphs exhibit an olive cast. Thorax areas of mature pupa I’ve sampled seem universally brownish with dark brown to black wing holsters. The wings of adults vary from spotted golden-tan to almost black. The one native to my homewater is pumpkin-orange, with black wings flecked with russet or gray, simulated very well with dark turkey tail. Mature pupae darken very quickly to the color of adults at the time of emergence. If you’ve not seen pupae at your target stream, but you’ve seen adults, then you have a good idea what color the pupae will be at maturity.

October caddis are case-builders, inhabiting all types of streams, slow to fast, more or less. We see them gathered along the edge of the stream in mid-summer, where they attach to stones or debris, seal off the case & pupate for about two months. At maturity, pupae chew through the door & crawl toward shore or swim to the surface to complete emergence. These are wide-spread, adaptable, tough insects. I am not an entomologist (I am a bait man), my observations are parking lot anecdotal & based on my own experiences astream, nonetheless, there by fortune, I’ve encountered & fished over October caddis from So. Cali to B.C. on a spectrum of water, observing at least a couple of emergence strategies (which I suspect have something to do with water speed & stream geology) including: crawling from the water onto streamside rocks & vegetation, & also emerging from shallow water, & possibly emerging from deeper water as well. I’ve seen the big sedges pop from runs that I know to be eight feet deep, but it is possible they drifted from shallower areas while undergoing final emergence. I’ve found evidence suggesting that some pupae emerge while clinging to the bottom, as they would on streamside rocks, & ascend to the surface very quickly as adults. And that seems to more closely jibe with the crawling onto dry land to emerge strategy. They don’t let a little water get in the way when it’s time to fly. The wings are strongly constructed & possess a waxy, water-repellent  coating which may aid in buoying them to the surface. 

October caddis emerge from late August through November, with peak season September & October, & I have seen them emerge from coastal streams through the winter months. With the rare exception, we seldom encounter big hatches of these. October caddis are what I call a ‘seasonal hatch’. They are a presence & available through their emergence period & trout are used to finding them in the drift. Trout eat all stages of OC, though, in my own experience, the adult pupa, the most vulnerable stage, is the most worthwhile to imitate, with the adult (dry) a middling second, though big fun when fish are in the mood, & I always give them a try.


Miasmic October Caddis Pupa

Hook: #8-#10 (I like TMC 200R or an up-eye steelhead/salmon hook 

Thread: Black

Rib: Copper wire wound over the abdomen

Abdomen: Pumpkin-orange antron/rabbit blend cut with a pinch of Wapsi sulfur yellow (has a chartreuse-y olive cast) superfine dubbing, applied to a dubbing loop of yellow poly/cotton sewing thread 

Thorax: puff taken from the base of a dyed-brown mallard flank feather arranged around the hook shank as a collar – should extend to about the middle of the abdomen – you can pinch away any excess – I use orange puff on coastal versions meant for steelhead & sea-run cutthroat

Hackle: Brown church window cock ringneck pheasant body feather

Head: Dyed-brown hare’s mask with guard hairs twisted on the tying thread

I weight mine with copper or lead wire under the thorax area. For a quicker build-up (& saves tying thread), I begin the fly with the yellow sewing thread used for the dubbing loop, tying in the copper wire for the rib, shaping the body & forming the loop before tying in the black thread at the hook eye.    

   
 Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com/ 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Soft-Hackle Yellowjacket – Sympathy for the Devil


     Late summer & fall, the terrestrial patterns come more into play. It’s grasshopper season, up until the first frost knocks them out of commission. And where grasshoppers are scarce, ants & beetles fill the bill for many of us – & that while the most ubiquitous insect of the season orbits our sweaty heads or fishy hands menacingly, or perhaps, landing on our exposed calf to incise a V-shaped chunk of meat & delivering a painful sting on top of the wound when swatted.

     I suspect it might be the devilish nature of yellowjackets, & our stand-offish attitudes toward them, responsible for the wasp’s lack of consideration as good bait. We don’t like to think about them. Most of us see no poetry of grace embodied in a fat insect sporting electric prison stripes, an aggressive attitude, working mouth parts & a stinger. That’s not to say we ignore the yellowjacket entirely, we don’t. The McGinty, a cute rendition in most of its incarnations, is still fairly well-known, though I doubt it gets nearly the play it got in the last century. In their writings, Ray Bergman & Roderick Haig Brown noted the importance of yellowjackets as trout food, & offer imitations, as have other observant writer-anglers  – yet the yellowjacket still remains largely unconsidered & absent from fly boxes, & that may be due to those nasty habits I mentioned, I don't know. I want to say I think them the most reliable trout stream terrestrial to imitate, while I (regularly) struggle to avoid those kind of empirical remarks reflecting no other but my own experience.    

     (The largest trout I ever caught on a dryfly was on a floating yellowjacket imitation.)

     Yellowjackets are common around water, particularly in late-summer through autumn, pretty much everywhere trout are found. They hunt other insects over the water & the wind knocks a lot of them down while they struggle to fly holding their prey. Periodic checks of stomach contents show evidence that trout like to eat yellowjackets & do so whenever the opportunity shows itself. I’ve often found multiples, indicating the wasps are fairly available in the water at times, particularly when it’s breezy. And yellowjackets have a long season, so no doubt trout are used to seeing them.

     Being heavy, wasps don’t float well, usually breaking the surface tension while struggling on the water, & drowning, making them available to trout throughout the water column. I suspect trout eat more drowned yellowjackets than they do live ones. Though I fish both wet & dry versions, the wet version presented here gets the nod as a staple pattern for fishing the water in fall, East or West, September into October. I tie these unweighted & fish them with a floating line, most often cast upstream & drifted, high-stick style, but also quartered & swung.

Yellowjacket

Hook: #8-#10 I prefer a #8 caddis style, which imparts the characteristic bend of a disabled wasp

Thread: yellow

Ribbing: black 3/0 uni-thread

Abdomen: I build a tapered ‘dumbell’ shape with yellow sewing thread, then tie in with yellow tying thread & wind to the tip of the abdomen well down the hook bend, form a little stinger, then tie in the rib & yellow floss, finish shaping the abdomen with the floss, then wrap the rib forward, seven turns, over the abdomen – once the rib is formed, I continue, solid through the girdle area & onto the thorax hump with the black thread. Coat the abdomen with two or three coats of Loon Hard Head for a durable, realistic abdomen.

Thorax: black rabbit dubbing

Wing: a tiny clump of puff taken from the base of a dyed-brown mallard flank feather, CDC or marabou – when wet, this reduces to just a hint of color, simulating the brownish coloration we see at the base of yellowjacket wings – the glassy puffs found at the base of mallard flank feathers are my favorite material for imparting the hint of wings or creating miasma – bags of dyed mallard flank are available at low cost & have a lot of uses

Hackle: soft grizzly, dyed yellow

Head: black dubbing in front of the hackle – & finish

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Wetfly Leader For Trout


    Pretty much always a good rule-of-thumb, ‘simplicity’ should ever be the core principle of rigging terminal gear for trout fishing -- & simplicity means minimal clutter. 

I've come to prefer store-bought tapered leaders over knotting my own together, as they turn over nicely, & fish cleaner with fewer tangles minus the multiple knot connections.  And the cost of a good tapered leader is not much of a factor if the leader is made semi-permanent with the addition of a rigging ring. These are catching on, & may be available at your local fly shop. The ones I’m currently using are the #2 rings from Feathercraft. These are tiny, about the size of a #8 hook eye – & smaller models are available, though I can’t imagine dealing with anything smaller than the #2 ring which is plenty obscure.     

Here’s my leader: a store-bought 7-1/2 foot tapered fluorocarbon leader, tapering to 4x (6 or 7lb test), as a butt, to which I fasten a #2 metal rigging ring. Now I’m never cutting into my tapered leader to splice in a new tippet – I tie the tippet to the ring, quick & easy. The 7-1/2 foot tapered butt is good for leaders from 9 to 12 feet, fishing 3 to 6lb test tippets, or down to as light as you like. If I want to go longer, say, 15 feet, I splice a 2 foot section of 4x or 5x to the ring, then splice the tippet to that.

If you generally fish shorter &/or lighter leaders, purchase a 7-1/2 foot leader tapering down to 5x, cut a foot from the 5x end – making a 6-1/2 foot butt, tapered to somewhere in the neighborhood of 4x – tie the ring to that, & add as light a tippet as you want to make an 8 to 10 foot leader.

To make a high-stick nymph rig, attach a second fly to the ring with a short length of tippet. And the ring makes a good stop for a bit of sink putty, if needed.

The extremely lethargic aside, anglers knowing they don’t have to cut back & re-splice the leader to freshen tippets are less apt to neglect that necessary chore, as, wah-la, it only takes a moment to tie to the ring – no cutting back & splicing, & no fly-snagging tippet loop-loops. 

I keep the rings stored on a snap swivel, which holds them for tying & drawing tight to a leader. I like a Palomar knot for attaching the ring, second choice, a Uni or San Diego knot – either of these is stronger than a clinch knot & won’t crinkle the leader. 

The tiny rigging ring is undetectable & does not interfere with presentation in any way that I can discern. The ring is so small & light that it will float on the surface film, so I use them with mono dryfly leaders as well.

I get impressive mileage out of my tapered leaders by adding a rigging ring, with one leader now in service for four years, cut back only a couple inches each year for a fresh knot – & that rig gets used almost daily in summer.

I’m not crazy about handshake loop line/leader connections on terminal rigs meant to fish trout with dryflies & soft-hackle wetflies. Loop to loop connections are clunky things. Double nymph set-ups snag on them, and they add bulk. More bulk means more stuff for trout to notice & be suspicious of. Noisy suspicious bulk: lines them down. I fish a lot of small soft-hackles pot-shooting surface feeding trout & want the softest delivery possible, so I prefer to nail-knot the leader butt to the flyline – which is better for high-stick nymphing too, as loop/loops hinge, & also deaden the transmission of subtle takes. (Short-line, high-stick nymphing is an intuitive art, in which the practitioner wants the cleanest connection to the fly possible.) And the nail-knot connection is practical with the semi-permanence a rigging ring provides. The leader butt will generally outlast normal wear & tear on the first couple of inches of flyline above the connection, so no need to freshen the connection any more often than you would with loops.

I like a fairly stiff material for the leader butt, which aids in creating open loops while casting, keeping double-nymph rigs from tangling; & a softer material with as much stretch as possible for the tippet section[s]. Pull & stretch the leader before fishing -- if it doesn't straighten out & remain straight until you wind it back on the reel, don't buy that kind anymore. Some that work for me are the Orvis Super Strong; Umpqua; & Cortland, the least expensive & usually available locally.            

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com   

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Black Hole Caddis Emerger

Black Hole Caddis tied by Steven Bird  

     In my last post we considered the addition of a color spot or ‘hot spot’ to create a stand-out feature that might make our nymph more visible & attractive to trout. But color is not the only way to gain visibility. Sometimes fussy trout demand a more subtle form of obfuscation in a stand-out nymph.

     The #12-#16 spotted sedge (Hydropsyche) emerging from June into August are the heaviest of the caddis hatches on my homewater.  Spotted sedge concentrate trout & afford a long season of opportunity to experiment with new patterns, a thing I look forward to doing every summer at the river. The yearly rounds of fishing & observing & tying & binge thinking have led to some interesting discoveries that, more often than not, serve to tilt or even shatter notions gathered from past years.

Trout prefer the emerging pupae of spotted sedge above all other stages; & drifted & swung soft-hackle nymphs work well. At maturity, the natural pupae are chestnut-brown with black wing holsters, & abdomens ranging from cream through shades of tan & darker to chestnut brown. Many individuals exhibit an olive coloration on the abdomen, making them nearly identical to grannom pupae at emergence. (Spotted sedge are often mistaken for grannom, though more abundant than grannom in the Columbia drainage.) Quite a few years of my search for better spotted sedge patterns were belabored with the notion that nailing the colorations of the naturals was a prime objective in creating a good pattern, right up there with correct size & shape. And I did nail the natural colorations, at least to my own eye, & came up with some decent fly patterns that have proven reliable, & even, at times, taken with stupid abandon by trout – yet still I’ve not found any one pattern to be reliable at all times & under all conditions. I discovered early on that no one imitation would prove the be-all-end-all I wanted. No perfect world. There are just too many nuanced variables influencing our quarry’s momentary whims. And always subthemes running through.

Oh, & those bag-like creations based on the theory that sedge pupae rise from the bottom inside a bag of gas?...  Phfft. But hold on, you who are gas-theorists, I don't want to lose you, stay with me, I think you might find some sparkling gaseous merit in the Black Hole patterns presented here.  

A longtime mystery to me was the reliable effectiveness of dark nymphs like the Partridge & Peacock or Leisenring’s Black Gnat, which seemed to trick selective trout feeding on emerging spotted sedge pupae as well, & often better, than any of the more ‘imitative’ patterns I could come up with. I hate to admit it now, but that was a mystery to me for years, & I couldn’t explain it, so I shoved it into the ‘Unexplained Anomaly Department’ of my mind, where it needled, while I blithely pursued the color/material problem while missing the important lesson contained within the overly-dark nymphs.  

     Then one day, at last, I began to consider the prevailing light conditions, & what trout might be really seeing. I finally got around to considering that spotted sedge emerge in low light – The Gray: early morning, overcast days, & most importantly, evenings, after the sun leaves the water, until dark. It came to me that I spend very little time fishing in light bright enough to show my natural-colored patterns off to best advantage. I reasoned that trout feeding on emerging pupae near & on the surface were, for the most part, looking up at a gray background & actually seeing very little color at all, but rather, acting on more subtle cues like size, movement, & profile. I laid a sheet of gray construction paper on the table & laid out my favorite sedge emerger patterns on it. In light, the LBG & the P&P stood out starkly, like ink blots, like black holes, while the natural colorations tended to blend into the gray background. With distance, the ‘naturals’ faded more into the gray background, while the dark patterns remained very visible, as silhouettes. I picked up the paper with the flies laying on it & held it under the table in the shadows – & noted that the dark patterns remained more visible, & still visible when the ‘natural’ colorations disappeared from view.

The observation led me to believe that the Partridge & Peacock & Leisenring's Black Gnat work as emerger patterns for spotted sedge because: they provide movement by virtue of their soft hackles, & the dark (black, lack of) coloration is readily visible as a sharp silhouette in low light. There is good reason the simple Black Gnat was Leisenring’s favorite fly. And we’ve all heard some version of that well-founded bit of angling wisdom: ‘If you’re not sure what color, black is always a good choice.’ I think fish are used to seeing their prey as a colorless silhouette, so are less apt to refuse a black imitation of the right size & shape than they might an imitation of the ‘wrong’ color. Black is a reliable form of obfuscation, perhaps the most perfect form.

When fishing over a heavy spotted sedge emergence, or any hatch, you need an edge. Your imitation is competing against bazillions of naturals & must get the trout’s attention without being offensive, & the harder profile a darker imitation affords is an unobtrusive way to accomplish that.

But, of course, a fly tier can’t resist sullying the purity of plain black.

Looking at my nymphs in the shadows under the kitchen table, I noticed that the wire ribbing glows, reflecting light to near darkness, & that got me wondering if flash might be applied as an effective body material for a nymph, beyond simply ribbing, a sort of ‘hot spot’. I wondered if I might somehow get hi-vis profile, flash & color into the fly through incorporating colored tinsel, which would be a quick & easy tie &, I determined, would reflect some color in any available light while providing a hard silhouette in lack of light. Flash as the body material for a nymph is not exactly a new idea, of course, the 24 Carat, a soft-hackle, & the popular Copper John are a couple that come immediately to mind. Experiments, some ill-conceived, some not, led me to the low-light sedge emerger variants featured here, which caught trout & show promise. I started to play with the metallic designs at the end of the season this year so haven’t had a full season to try them out, though results so far are encouraging & I plan to fish them a lot next year, along with some other tinsel-bodied nymphs (including a damselfly nymph & midges) designed to fish for insect species other than caddis.

Black Hole Sedge

Hook: #10-#18 Daiichi 1150 or caddis style

Thread: black

Rib: (choice) fine wire wound over the abdomen & thorax

Abdomen: (choice) mylar tinsel – weight through the thorax area with about six turns of copper or lead wire & shape the body with thread or floss before winding the tinsel – after winding the rib over the tinsel & thorax, I coat the finished abdomen with Loon Hard Head to keep the rib in place over the slippery mylar tinsel & form a sturdy light-diffusing miasma over the abdomen which serves to blend the tinsel & wire colors, creating a juicy segmented effect

Thorax: peacock herl (attractive in light, turns black as light dims)

Hackle: Black hen or choice 

Head: a few turns of black rabbit dubbing in front of the hackle – & finish.


Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hot Spot Pheasant Tail Nymph – Parti-Color Riffs

Pheasant Tail Nymph tied by Steven Bird

     Though I mention the Hot Spot style Pheasant Tail Nymphs in my last post on PTN's, it struck me that the idea of the design is a notable departure from the venerable takes of Skues & Sawyer, & the ancient designs before them. I think the Hot Spot version/idea deserves its own post, as it is a fairly significant nymph design, representing the shift in thinking away from older observations & theories concerning how & what trout see, & how they react to color. 

As with the PTN, the origin of the Hot Spot PTN is difficult to pin down, though the visible genesis of the idea hints that evolution rather than outright creation is at work. Some say the idea of a color spot or ‘hot spot’ began with George Skues’s version of the Pheasant Tail Nymph, which he tied with orange silk, resulting in an orange head.  Later, some unchronicled British angler liked the orange head, decided the orange head contributed to the fly’s effectiveness, so he expanded on that theory to include an attractive orange thorax, a “hot spot”, resulting in a variant of the Pheasant Tail Nymph that is now universally popular. The French & other European anglers are credited with picking up on the British pattern, experimenting with the color spot, & eventually incorporating the idea into other nymph patterns.   

We know that fish will react favorably (bite) when presented with certain colors they are not likely to see in nature. Colors that trigger an attack response -- ‘trigger’ or ‘attractor’ colors. ‘Firetiger’, for example, a color combination which one could argue looks like a yellow perch on acid, seems to have a universal appeal, effective where no perch exist & on a spectrum of species, including trout. It is a thing that is broadly known, though few can explain exactly why. And there is much in this that will remain unknown until fish start talking. In the meantime, we accept ‘attractor’ colors as the staple paint jobs of lures & streamer flies. And not coincidently (there is no such thing as coincidence) the basic colors of the ‘firetiger’ combo, red-orange/chartreuse-yellow, are colors essential for creating reaction baits designed to fish sea-run salmonids not really in the mood to eat. And consider the most popular salmon, steelhead & trout ‘attractor’ colors – the tried & true colors used wherever those fish swim – what do those colors have in common? Those colors reflect the basic unsullied color spectrum & its overlapping wave lengths – they are colors that will maintain visibility over greater distance & in lesser light than those colors we have come to think of as ‘natural’ colors, those muddied colorations which actually function as camouflage in nature. Simply put, trigger colors comprise the basic colors, the visible light/color spectrum, & are visible & attractive to fish over a greater distance in the low visibility conditions we often meet while fishing: off-color water; deep water; overcast days; tree shadows; early morning & late afternoon low light. And fluorescent versions of these same colors will remain even truer in lower light. 

So, won’t including psychedelic colors on nymphs meant as imitations of specific insects make them look clownish in the eyes of selective trout?...

I am still convinced that natural colorations get the nod, if conditions be such that our quarry has the advantage of visibility clear enough to detect the coloration of an average sized nymph at about a 4-foot distance or depth, the visibility we might encounter in a spring creek or mountain pond in good light. Trout living in slow, clear water are notoriously canny, & that due to their ability to see well in their crystal environment. Yet that’s not to say trout in such environments won’t eat a nymph sporting a parti-colored thorax, they will, but as with any imitation offered such fish, the imitation will, usually, need to approximate the size & shape of the current bill-of-fare & be presented well.  In recent years I’ve had good results fishing color spot nymphs over blizzard sedge hatches & selective trout on my homewater. Some evenings, the incredible abundance of naturals pouring from the river can be humbling if not downright discouraging to a flyfisher having to compete with them. It’s a matter of having to wait your turn. However, with the addition of a color spot to an imitation of the right size & shape, those turns come more frequently, the imitation standing out, more visible in the throng. If the color used is a known trigger color for our chosen water, a double advantage might be achieved with both increased visibility & the aggression trigger added to our offering -- a double whammy.  

Hold a traditional #14 Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail Nymph at arm’s length in early morning light & you will notice the coloration in the fly blurs to darkness at the distance. In slightly lesser light the fly may lose its color entirely, becoming a dark silhouette. This exercise serves to illustrate how the color of our nymphs might appear to fish in the low light conditions we often seek trout in. Trout feeding on mayfly nymphs in early morning or at dusk, or in water deeper than four feet, are looking for a dark silhouette of the right shape & size. Assuming our Pheasant Tail Nymph is the proper size & shape to fit the bill, what happens when we incorporate a color spot that enhances visibility & is a known reaction trigger of our quarry? Well, a look at the patterns currently popular with European nymphers seems to indicate they think good things will happen, as a fluorescent hot spot seems the ubiquitous addition to most European nymph patterns nowadays.

But that’s not to say American designers have been idle. Consider a very popular fly that’s been around for a long time, the Montana Stone, a staple, a stonefly nymph pattern meant to fish for P californica, the giant salmonfly. The Montana Stone is tied with a black chenille abdomen & shellback, yet sports an orange or yellow chenille thorax (& I’ve seen them in chartreuse), colorations not exhibited by the natural nymphs, yet it is a killer pattern where salmonflies occur, often out-fishing more imitative patterns. Why? My guess is that the Montana Stone is the right size & shape of the favored prey, & the addition of the color/hot spot increases its visibility in the deeper freestone runs where trout seek the big stoneflies, & may also serve as a trigger color. In any case, there is no arguing the effectiveness of the Montana Stone.   

The color spot is an added trigger. And, as any bass man can tell you, the quarry’s preference of a trigger color can change with the water, the season, variables of light, daily, or within the day, & for any number of ambiguous reasons known only to fish. Preference in trigger color, I think, tends to run in cycles, & I suspect light, & the angles of light, to factor heavily though not solely. I may be wrong, but I don’t think trout are as shifty as bass regarding trigger colors. (And remember, by ‘trigger color’, I mean those colors or combinations of colors not usually found in a fish’s diet, yet still able to provoke a strike reaction from the fish.)

The trigger colors attractive to trout & salmon are fairly well known, & interestingly, the taste for trigger colors (‘egg colors’ in steelhead circles) increases through their pre-spawn season. And, in my own experience fishing trout, I’ve observed what seem to be over-riding regional color preferences that I’ve not been able to explain or find research that will explain. Under similar light conditions & water clarity, the trout in one river system show a decided preference to chartreuse, while in another river, on the other side of the divide, they like pink. Why? It’s a mystery. And one reason why I carry Hot Spot PTN’s in a variety of color variants.


Though an infinite number of Hot Spot PTN variants are possible with dyed pheasant tail in the mix, I keep the working flies simple, using a basic soft-hackle PTN recipe, natural pheasant tail, just changing the thorax coloration. My thorax material is dubbing made from shredded synthetic yarn, which holds its color when wet. (I generally add some lead under the thorax of my nymphs.) 

“Whoa,” you might say, “this goes against all that stuff you preach about achieving obfuscation.” 

To which, looked at in the strictest sense, I might plead guilty. Call out the firing squad & I insist on a last cigarette. But then, I might stretch to argue that the inclusion of a trigger color may be considered an obfuscation of sorts, in itself, if we define obfuscation as creative flim-flam. So, ladies & gentlemen, I elect we broaden the definition as we gain insight into the way fish see, perceive, & react. Nothing is static, apparently. Not even the classics.

                
Fly Fish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com
        
           


Monday, August 26, 2013

Pheasant Tail Nymph – Soft-Hackle Riff

Pheasant Tail Nymph tied by Steven Bird

     The Pheasant Tail Nymph, tied with no other materials but pheasant tail & fine copper wire, was developed by Avon riverkeeper Frank Sawyer, who meant it to simulate Baetis species found in the limestone streams of southern England. Sawyer is generally credited as originator of the design, yet interestingly, Sawyer, in his writings & interviews, never seemed to contribute to that popular mythos, instead crediting an ancient Devonshire pattern, the Pheasant Tail Red Spinner, a dry fly, as the inspiration, noting that the fly fished well as a nymph once the hackle was chewed away. Also, as riverkeeper, Sawyer worked for Brigadier Carey who was a friend of George Skues & acolyte of Skue's nymphing methods & fly patterns. George Skues, widely known as 'the father of modern nymphing', was much older than Sawyer &, at the time of Sawyer's 'discovery', was already tying & fishing a soft-hackle version of the Pheasant Tail Nymph, very similar to the one pictured above. Skues tied his version with orange silk which produced the orange head still popular in our time. We in America love to build icons & hang laurels upon them, & fair to say that in many cases laurels are deserved -- there is no question that Sawyer's simple PTN has proven one of the greatest trout flies of all time -- yet, in his own comments, Sawyer, to his credit, points toward the truth of all fly development: We stand on the shoulders of all who came before us & nothing is static. 

Who was first? Well... like hare's mask, references to pheasant tail as a good body material for constructing flies date back to medieval times, so safe to say the name of the first person to catch a fish on a fly made with pheasant tail has long faded to obscurity. We are thankful nonetheless.

Since its creation, the Pheasant Tail Nymph has spawned quite a few variants. Probably the most popular version on our side of the water is the American Pheasant Tail Nymph, an Al Troth creation, like Sawyer's, but with a thorax of peacock herl.  The APTN is one of the most effective patterns I know for meeting baetis hatches, & covers a lot of other mayflies as well – march browns; PMD’s; calibaetis in lakes – the spectrum of  species exhibiting brownish coloration, & there are many. The dark thorax coloration peacock herl provides simulates the darkened wingcase & thorax of mature nymphs at hatch time, making this version a good emerger pattern. Though the APTN is tied with no hackle, I’ve found it to be very effective tied as a soft-hackle, particularly when meeting emergers.

Tying & fishing quite a few versions of the PTN has led me to believe that there are trout tickling qualities inherent in pheasant tail. The combined coloration of the wound swords create a blotchy, nuanced realism & illusion of segmentation, the reddish fuzz contributing breathing, obfuscating motion as well as realistic coloration. Like hare’s ear, a perfect material. (We are fortunate that Nature often repeats its subtle patterns in things fairly close to hand.) Because trout want to eat it, & because it resembles so many types of nymphs, I tie soft-hackle versions of the PTN to cover a variety of insects – mayflies; smaller stoneflies; caddis & midges. A Pheasant & Hare’s Ear version is a good pattern for meeting the prolific spotted sedge hatches of the Columbia drainage. The zen simple Starling & Pheasant is a good midge pattern at my favorite lake, but also works good weighted & rolled on the bottom to simulate smaller cased caddis. The Pheasant Tail Nymph is simple & multifunctional, & no fly box should be without an assortment of them in #12 through #20.
   
I also tie ‘Hot Spot’ versions that work as attractor patterns, using hot colors like yellow (my favorite), chartreuse, orange, red, purple or whatever, for the thorax. The Hot Spot versions work well for me in winter. A #8 version makes a good steelhead nymph. And those pursuing stocked hatchery trout in the local ponds & brooks will find the Hot Spot variants particularly effective on those fish. Also good tied with more subdued, natural thorax colorations, try olive, tan, gray or cream.
   
Soft-Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph

Hook: #12-#20 

Thread: rust-brown or dark-brown

Tail: 3 to 6 pheasant tail sword tips, about 1/3 the body length -- as an alternative, I tie some with barred bronze mallard flank to mimic the tails of natural baetis & march browns in my neighborhood 

Rib: fine copper wire wound over the abdomen & thorax

Abdomen: pheasant tail – 5 or 6 swords for a #12 – before winding, I twist these counterclockwise about half a dozen turns, forming a rope, which blends the colors better & makes a stronger, more segmented body (as fibers get torn out by fish, I just clip off the unwanted appendage & keep fishing) – they will last longer if the swords are twisted into a rope – I’ve found the E-Z Mini-Hook hackle pliers to be the perfect tool for grasping the bundle of swords when winding pheasant tail bodies

Thorax: peacock herl – 2 swords, twisted, for a #12 

Hackle: one turn of brown partridge, grouse or speckled hen, stripped on one side - I apply a bit of black dubbing in front of the hackle when tying versions to fish for baetis (PMD's), red quill, march brown, calibaetis & other species of mayfly emergers that develop a dark wingcase/thorax at maturity - & finish.
Grasping a group of pheasant tail swords with E-Z Mini-Hook hackle pliers.
   
    
Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: http://ucflyfishing.blogspot.com