Monday, February 22, 2016

A Close Look At Freshwater Scuds

Brian Briscoe photo
   Upper Columbia flyfisher & photographer, Brian Briscoe, has embarked on the ambitious project of photo recording the various menu items found in the upper Columbia mainstem & drainage. Brian kindly shares his amazing work with SHJ. The scuds were collected from a B.C. lake & exhibited at the annual West Kootenay Fly Fishing Club Symposium last year. There is a lot to be learned from studying these photos. As scuds are important trout forage in most lakes & slow waters, Brian’s observations on shrimp form & behavior shed light on effective imitation.

Brian Briscoe photo
The shrimp in the photos are mature, at about ¾ inch in length. A size that seems to surprise Eastern anglers, though I’ve found ¾ inch models in the Washington lakes I fish, as well. As it is with aquatic insects, we see that colorations vary within a population, shades of olive, & many exhibiting an attractive flare of bright orange or pink at the tip.

Brian Briscoe photo
Brian makes a truly salient point regarding tying imitations of these, pointing out the fact that scuds straighten their bodies when in motion. They swim very rapidly in bursts, the body held straight. Only when not in motion do they assume the characteristic ‘C’ shape we see so often in popular imitations. These swimming scuds might be well-simulated tied on a long-shanked, drop-bend hook like the TMC 200R, the profile, to my eye, a near perfect match.
Brian Briscoe photo

Scuds are bottom dwellers, so imitations are best fished deep. I can see that the ‘C’ shaped profile might do well dead-drifted beneath a bobber, but if the imitation is to be delivered via a sinking line & dredged near the bottom, stripped, one might be better served with an imitation tied on a ‘conventional’ hook design affording a straight profile. To my own eye, a Carey Special design, stripped, might be a closer match than a ‘C’ shape scud design for simulating the swimming shrimp in the photo at the left.

Brian Briscoe photo
In improving one’s game, there is no substitute for observations garnered from time on the water, surely. Thankfully, & fortunately for fly tiers, those like Brian, whose curiosity leads them to record what is in the water, offer fly tiers a unique, valuable window, through the frozen image. Well done, Brian. Much thanks for sharing your work with us.

More on scuds in this excellent article by Phil Rowley:  

Brian Briscoe photo
Brian Briscoe photo
Brian Briscoe photo

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Modern Soft-Hackle Archive ~ Win a Book

Upper Columbia Flyfisher ~ Steven Bird
Indigenous Soft-Hackle Flies   

   I don’t believe the old saw ‘there is nothing new under the sun’ to be precisely true. As regards fly design, it is true that those who came before us were no less canny & did a pretty thorough job of covering nearly everything. More than once I’ve come up with a pattern I thought I’d invented, only to learn later somebody already tied it 100 years ago & nearly everybody in Britain ties & fishes it.

The stream & its trout often point us in the same direction.

For that reason, I’ve gotten into the habit of seldom naming flies, unless I’m fairly certain I have an original design, & even then I might just stick with giving the two main ingredients as the name, just to be on the safe side. In no case would I name one after myself. Not for lack of hubris, more out of caution, call it a superstitious fear of jinxing the pattern, if you like.

Nor would I give a fly a kinky sex name. Not a prude, but ladies & kids do use these things. ‘Sex Dungeon’? ‘Butt Monkey’? What is Kelly Galloup thinking?

“Think I’ll tie up a dozen Butt Monkeys & a few Sex Dungeons.”


Anyway. Getting to the point: Though most (certainly not all) of the flies featured in SHJ are my own designs, or ones I think are mine, I’d like to create an archive of the modern soft-hackle designs tied by SHJ readers. This journal averages over 100 readers a day, so I suspect there’s a lot out there. We’re all familiar with the flies designed by famous guys, but what about the great flies tied & fished by canny anglers who don’t write about it? So my idea is to have a contest of sorts. No, not a judged contest. I’m not a trout, so not qualified to judge. That we might approximate trouty behavior, we'll pick the winning presentations by seemingly random chance.  

Here’s how we’ll do it:

Email me a photo of a soft-hackle wetfly (hackle tied in-the-round) of your own design. No beadheads or fanciful experimental patterns, please. (Imagine beadheads on em if you like.) Share a pattern that you consider tried & true. Can be your personal variant of an established pattern. Wings?… let’s draw the line at half-wing patterns & leave full winged wets out of it. Along with the photo, include your name, a few lines about the fly, & a material recipe for the fly – no need for detailed tying instructions, just the recipe. Yes, you may present as many patterns as you feel worthwhile.                  

I’ll create a page, post it in the right-hand column, & keep it running, adding new entries as they come in. Then, on June 1st 2016, I’ll write the name of each presenter onto slips of paper & drop them into a hat (got a topper for the purpose), then have my lovely assistant choose two. 

The winners will be awarded signed, hard cover, limited edition copies of my book, Upper Columbia Flyfisher (Amato Books). (Destined to be a cult classic.)

Put ‘SHJ Fly’ & your name on the title line of your entry. Email entries or questions to: 

Looking forward to seeing the great patterns we’ve never heard of. After the drawing, we'll leave the Modern Soft-Hackle archive page as a permanent reference. If we get a lot of entries, this could be an amazing, unique reference. 

The Archive is located beneath this post, or can be accessed through the link located at the top of the right-hand column. Click on the photos for an enlarged view. 

An Archive of Modern Soft-Hackle Wetflies

Modern Soft-Hackle Designs by SHJ Readers

March Brown ~ Mark Hagopian 
 March Brown ~ Mark Hagopian

Thread: UTC 70d Rusty Brown

Tail: Coq de Leon 

Abdomen: Natural Pheasant Tail

Ribbing: UTC Wire Amber Small followed by DMC Light Effects Metalique

Embroidery thread in Cream (both counter wrapped)

Thorax: UV2 Scud Dub Shrimp Pink

Hackle: Hungarian Partridge back

Biot & Plover March Brown ~ Bill Shuck
Biot & Plover March Brown ~Bill Shuck

Hook: #12 Vintage Mustad 38932

Thread: Pearsall's Gossamer 6a, light orange

Hackle: Golden plover from neck area

Tail: Bronze mallard whisks

Abdomen: One tan & one sulfur turkey biot, wound together over the hook shank

Thorax: Natural hare's ear, twist dubbed

Spring Grey Tenkara ~ Bill Shuck
Spring Grey Tenkara ~Bill Shuck

Hook: #14 Daiichi 1530

Thread: Pearsall's Gossamar #3, primrose

Head: Thread wraps

Hackle: Waterhen covert tied Kebari style

Abdomen: Two strands of heron herl wrapped together

Thorax: Natural mole in dropped loop (or pre-spun on Clark block)

Coug ~ Spike
Coug ~ Spike

Preferred tied with 4 turns of non-lead weight, wound beneath the thorax. Kills Au Sable brookies.
Hook: #14 Umpqua U001

Thread: Scarlet Pearsall's Gossamer Silk

Tail/Abdomen: Danville's 4x300D Rayon floss

Thorax: Peacock herl, 2 strands twisted with loop of tying silk

Hackle: Dark gray dun hen

Fastwater Caddis ~ Allen McGee
Fastwater Caddis ~ Allen McGee

Hook: #14 Tiemco 2457

Thread: Camel UNI 8/0

Ribbing: Natural rabbit, touched on thread tag

Body: Red poly yarn (variations: yellow, green, black, brown, cream)

Thorax/Head: Hareline brown rabbit & golden brown Ice Dub, mixed

Eyes: .010 mono eyes, burnt, flattened & colored with red marker

Antennae: Pearl krystal flash - 2 strands

Hackle: Brown partridge

May-Cad Nymph ~ Allen McGee
May-Cad Nymph ~ Allen McGee

Hook: #16 Tiemco 5262, bent to shape

Thread: Tobacco brown Danville Flymaster 6/0

Tail: Ginger blood marabou fibers

Body: Hareline brown rabbit & golden brown Ice Dub, mixed

Winglets: 2 furnace hen feather tips

Hackle: Ginger hen

Glow Nymph ~ Allen McGee
Glow Nymph ~ Allen McGee

Hook: #14 Mustad 94842

Thread: Camel UNI 8/0

Tail: Brown partridge

Ribbing: Thread tag pinch-dubbed with olive Hareline rabbit dubbing

Abdomen: Chartreuse holographic tinsel

Thorax: Brown grizzly marabou

Hackle: Brown partridge

Jackdaw Pennell ~ Mark Hagopian
Jackdaw Pennell ~ Mark Hagopian

Hook: #14 heavy wire wetfly

Thread: Black

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet

Rib: Silver oval tinsel

Body: Black floss

Hackle: Jackdaw (or black hen)

Isonychia ~ Mark Hagopian
Isonychia ~ Mark Hagopian

Hook: #10 Orvis Tactical Barbless

Thread: Claret Pearsall's Gossamer Silk

Tail: Lemon wood duck, curved upward

Body: Claret Pearsall's Gossamer Silk - build up through the thorax area

Wing: Lemon wood duck, curved upward

Hackle: Partridge

Orange Kitty ~ Roots Girl
Orange Kitty ~ Roots Girl

Hook: #12 TMC 101

Thread: Tan UNI 8/0

Hackle: Amber dun hen

Tail: Bronze lemon wood duck flank fibres

Rib: Fine silver wire over abdomen

Body: Underfur brushed from an orange tabby cat (amber-tan rabbit may substitute) - build up with dubbing over the thorax after winding the rib

Patina ~ Roots Girl
Patina ~ Roots Girl

Hook: #14 TMC 900BL

Thread: Brown UNI 8/0

Hackle: Furnace hen

Body: Copper tinsel underbody, over-wound with tag of olive Danville's 3/0 monochord - thread wraps barely touching or separated slightly

Thorax: Peacock herl

Irish Woodcutter ~ Ken O'Farrel
Irish Woodcutter ~ Ken O'Farrel

Hook: #8 Mustad R50-94840

Thread: Yellow Pearsall's Gossamer Silk

Tag: Copper tinsel

Tail: Golden pheasant tippet

Rib: Fine copper wire

Body: Dark olive dubbing in loop of tying silk

Palmer: Burnt orange grizzly saddle over body

Hackle: Brahma hen

Little Black Caddis ~ Jim Briscoe
Little Black Caddis ~ Jim Briscoe

Hook: #14 Orvis dry fly

Thread: Black UNI 8/0

Hackle: Black hen

Body: Olive Uni 3/0

Tup's Indispensable ~ Neil Norman
Tup's Indispensable ~ Neil Norman

Hook: #14 Gamakatsu C13U

Thread: Primrose

Tail: Medium ginger Indian cock hackle

Abdomen: Primrose Pearsall's Gossamer Silk

Thorax: Red fox squirrel underbelly & lavender yarn

Hackle: Dove undercovert

Dove Bloa ~ Neil Norman
Dove Bloa ~ Neil Norman

Hook: #14 Gamakatsu C13U

Thread: Primrose

Body: Primrose Pearsall's Gossamer Silk touched with muskrat

Hackle: Dove undercovert

Monday, February 1, 2016

Grannom Sedge Emerger

     Time passing swiftly, I’m getting to work on refreshing my supply of spring & summer trout flies. Looking through the boxes it occurred to me that: even though I tie & carry a considerable assortment, only about a half dozen patterns account for most of the trout I caught last season. And one pattern in particular stands out, my log indicates, a simple olive sedge emerger, this one pattern accounting for about a third of the trout I catch in a season.

That says something about the importance of caddis as trout bait. And particularly the emerging pupa phase.

Admittedly, my home water is a caddis river, its mayfly hatches sporadic & mostly unpredictable. But isn’t that the case in a lot of places? And no matter, as, spring & summer, the sedges produce daily hatches serving to get trout up & going. Mayflies are the occasional steak dinner, while sedges are the daily ration.

On a lot of streams, East & West, grannom is the first reliable hatch of spring. Following grannom, in the West, are the more prolific spotted sedge, so similar they are often mistaken for grannom. The pattern featured here covers both of these species, & tied in sizes #10-#18, will cover many others one might encounter anywhere.

The version featured is tied on a Mustad 3366-BR, a hook I like a lot. This straight-eye sproat design is popular for tying North Country wetflies, traditionalists claiming it tracks & hovers like the eyeless hooks of old, the performance preferable to modern down-eye designs. The Mustad 3366-BR is very inexpensive, about five bucks for a 100 pack, & I don’t know why, but that is good. These are sized smaller than standard wetfly, a #10 equal to a #12 standard wetfly. I tie standard #12’s & #14’s on a #10, & #14’s & #16’s on a #12 3366-BR. These aren’t heat treated as brittle-hard as English hooks, so the barb can be pinched down without fracturing the hook point – & the ample barb leaves a generous fish-holding hump when pinched.

Grannom Sedge Emerger

Hook: #10-#18 (natural grannom is about #12 – nymphs are a size larger than adults)

Thread: camel UNI 8/0

Rib: olive-pearl krystal-flash, 2 strands, twisted, & wound over the abdomen as a rib – then wind solid through the thorax area, providing a ‘light’ base that will show under the thorax dubbing

Abdomen: light olive rabbit, touch-dubbed on a strand of light olive Pearsall’s silk, or light olive tying thread

Thorax: brown-dyed hares mask, short, loosely dubbed

Hackle: brown partridge, grouse or brahma hen ~ & finish.