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

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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: