Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Season of Small Flies

     By the end of July we find ourselves immersed in the season of small flies. Every day is different. The river changes, rising & falling. Though evening sedge hatches are a constant, they are in flux. Hubcap bright days of 100 degree temperatures push the emergence, & the fishing, right up against dark. Mild, cloudy days are golden. Low light brings everything on, & in low light the trouting can be good all day. The major hatches of drakes & PMD have passed, though there are still some around & the bigger trout have good memory of them. There are some olive stoneflies. Smatterings of small mayflies. Several species of small sedges in all stages & in numbers beyond imagination.

Pinky - an all-purpose soft-hackle - when wet it looks like everything.
 There are a lot of spent insects, & many kinds, present in the water.

Trout are grazing the top of the water column & finding all they want.

This is, simply, the best time of year to swing small soft-hackle flies. Now is when the flies & the method really come together with the natural condition of things. This is a good time to fish those new designs we’ve been wanting to try out. And old stand-by, all-purpose simulators like the Hare’s Ear, Pheasant Tail, Turkey & Starling, Leisenring Black Gnat, Partridge & Orange, or any of the old Partridge & Whatever combinations in #16 will turn the trick.

Or maybe two to a cast will turn the trick even better. 

You can put away the bobber & jig. Time to flyfish, in the classic sense. High summer & it's time to swing.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird: 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Black Quill Emerging Nymph

     The Black Quill (Leptophlebia) isn’t a mayfly that is usually considered among the great hatches of large western drakes, still, it can be important to trouters angling the rivers of the Columbia drainage – the Flathead – & also the Columbia mainstem above Lake Roosevelt, my home water, where it is, by far, the most prolific large mayfly species, producing the best dryfly fishing of the summer season. We usually begin to see Black Quill at the end of June – emerging through the day on overcast days, though generally evenings right up against dark, into early August. We anticipate this large mayfly, as it brings up some of the biggest trout of the year. 

Black Quill nymphs are active, long-legged crawlers & can also swim. Nymphs are #8-#10, uniformly mahogany-brown with bright yellow banding between the abdomen segments, a stand-out feature. Also prominent in mature pre-emergers are the large, elongated, black wing-pads & unfurling wing. Like March Brown, the wings of Black Quill begin to unfurl from the holsters prior to emergence, the unfurling wing aiding in buoying the emerger to the surface. The wings are striking, dark slate, almost black.

 In season, a heavily dressed western hairwing or Wulff style dryfly tied in appropriate colors gets the nod, & on evening excursions in summer I usually carry an outfit rigged with one. Yet, day in, day out, I take a lot more fish swinging the nymph. As trout are feeding wide open on sedges & digressing to eat the occasional big mayfly during the hatch period, I often swing the Black Quill nymph rigged tandem, a wee sedge pattern trailing. When it is too dark to see the dryfly on the water, I switch to the nymph, which is just as exciting as the dryfly, I think. A big UC redband wangs it at the end of a swing in the dark &, no question, the game is on. Adults are the same color as the nymph, conveniently, both top & bottom, so I believe the pattern is taken for a drowned spinner as well.

Though the Black Quill may be regional in importance, the elements of its design, particularly the emerging wing, are applicable (possibly fundamental) to many aquatic insects. Rabbit fur, when wet, serves to simulate the heavy wing-pads & wings of Black Quill (& also Green Drake), but CDC, marabou, hackle fuzz or fine poly work for smaller patterns. The winging of Black Quill & other half-wing designs can be dressed with floatant & the fly fished on the surface as a cripple or stillborn. Let your imagination fly on winging material.      

Black Quill Emerger   

Hook: #10 TMC 200R

Thread: Rust brown UNI 6/0 - BQ are robust, create a cigar-shaped thread build-up as components are tied in

Tail: 3 dark brown goose biots, divided – the tails of naturals are thick & prominent, spread in a defined trident, a keying feature, I think

Rib: Yellow ‘D’ rod wrapping thread – after ribbing over the abdomen, wind to the hook eye & back to the base of the thorax to provide build up & under-color through the thorax area. (Rod wrapping thread holds its color when wet or greased & serves as excellent, almost indestructible ribbing – metallic wrapping thread, available in a number of colors and diameters, is less expensive & superior to most tinsel offered for fly tying – try a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear ribbed with metallic gold rod wrapping thread.)      

Abdomen: Mahogany brown fur dubbing, tightly dubbed on a loop of the tying thread

Thorax: Dyed brown hare’s mask with guard hairs, twisted, shaggy, on a loop of the tying thread – spread winds slightly so that the yellow under-color winks through - or, as an alternative, the dubbing may be twisted into the yellow ribbing thread using the split-thread technique, & wound through the thorax area

Wing: Black rabbit, about a quarter-inch segment cut from a strip – measure the guard hair tips to extend to the tail, then tie in with the fur butt over the thorax, then fold back the tips & tie down spread over the top of the thorax

Hackle: Reddish-brown hen ~ & finish.

Flyfish NE Washington with Steven Bird:

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: