By Ralph Wood
Red Fox Squirrel Nymph
Like everybody else, I have my favorite nymphs that get used a majority of the time. Along with the Hare’s Ear, PT, Pat’s Rubber Legs and various soft hackles is the Red Fox Squirrel nymph designed by Dave Whitlock. As long as I have those flies in my vest for a day of fishing, I feel confident that I can catch a few trout, bass, carp or panfish.
Whitlock developed the RFS nymph in the 1960’s as an impressionistic fly. It looks alive, and the dubbing has good movement in the water. You can change the profile and hook to imitate scuds, damselflies, dragon flies, mayflies and caddis. The red fox squirrel fur Whitlock used was a result of his inability to acquire otter, mink, seal and beaver, so he sourced locally either from road kills or by hunting. The soft texture of the squirrel fur holds air bubbles and after the body has been brushed out, the tinseled body provides the fly with muted flash.
RED FOX SQUIRREL NYMPH
Hook: Any 2X long shank hook. Sizes 4 to 16 (I prefer Tiemco 5262 or 2313)
Thread: 8/0 orange
Weight: Lead wire – diameter of hook wire, 8 to 10 wraps
Tail: Small tuft of red squirrel back fur
Rib: Gold oval tinsel
Abdomen: Belly fur from red fox squirrel mixed 50/50 with Dave Whitlock SLF
dubbing #1 or a fox tan Antron dubbing
Thorax: Back fur from red fox squirrel mixed with 50/50 Dave Whitlock SLF
dubbing #2 or charcoal Antron dubbing
Legs: On sizes 10 and up, use a partridge hackle – one turn only -- if you wish
or use rubber legs.
1. Lay down a thread base from the eye to the bend in the hook shank.
2. Wrap in 8 to 10 wraps of lead wire in the center of the hook shank.
3. Coat the wire with cement or Flexament.
4. Tie in a tuft of red squirrel back fur and then tie in the rib.
5. Dub the abdomen with the prepared dubbing mixture two thirds of the way up the hook shank. Rib with the gold oval tinsel and tie off in front of the abdomen.
6. Dub the thorax with the prepared dubbing mixture. The thorax should neatly blend with the abdomen and gradually get larger. The body should resemble a carrot.
There are several synthetic dubbing blends for this pattern in some of the online fly shops, or I am sure Tom at The Reel Anglers can order it for you. I prefer the Whitlock Blend, but I can’t see any reason why others wouldn’t work. The biggest problem is getting the natural fox squirrel hide or pieces of hide for the mixture. I got two hides several years ago in the Bay Area from a friend who hunted. Try some of the online tying supply shops such as J. Stockard or Feather-Craft, or Google fox squirrel hides. I think that the nymph is more effective with the blend than with the synthetic dubbing alone.
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
The Mallard Shrimp
I think every West Coast fisherman needs a couple of shrimp patterns in his fly box. For years, when I lived in Marin County, I spent many hours along the shores of Tomales Bay catching flounder, jack smelt, leopard shark, stripers, halibut and the occasional coho. The beaches at Bolinas, Stinson and Dillon were a surf perch heaven with the occasional striper thrown in for good measure. Shrimp patterns caught a lot of fish for me in those days.
Shrimp patterns were useful along the North Coast steelhead estuaries. I vividly remember one day just below Fernbridge on the Eel River, a Horner shrimp pattern netted two beautiful Jack Salmon and three steelhead in an afternoon’s fishing. We also used shrimp patterns in the Gualala and Russian River tidewaters.
In those days, the only shrimp patterns we were aware of were the Horner shrimp, General Practitioner, and a pattern Cal Bird tied for his own use. Recently, while rummaging around on the internet, I ran into a pattern called the Mallard Shrimp. It is quick to tie, uses a minimum number of materials and looks terrific. I confess that I haven’t tried the pattern yet, but I am looking for some decent weather and a break in the Covid-19 virus to drive out to the Stinson Beach area, see my son and try my luck. The serf perch should be in now and the run usually lasts until June, and that is also a great time of the year to catch flounder.
The Mallard Shrimp
Thread: 6/0 Tan
Hook: Mustad 3908C salt water or any 1X long heavy wire hook
Flash: One doubled strand of silver or pearlescent Flashabou
Feelers: Mallard, Gadwall or Pintail flank tip fibers
Body: You can use the fluff from the flank feathers or a white creamy dubbing
Eyes: Black mono eyes
Back: Fibers from a wrapped flank feather pulled back and
fixed with Loon thin epoxy
1. Wrap the thread from behind the eye of the hook to the bend and tie in the flash material (one strand doubled).
2. Tie in the tip of your flank feather. I like to use a fairly long feather and separate out the tip and save the balance to use for the back wrap.
3. Dub a ball at the point you tied in the feelers. If you use the fibers that you normally discard from the flank feather, use dubbing wax as the stuff is difficult to dub. The dubbing ball supports the eyes in a more upright position.
4. Tie in the eyes. You can melt the ends of a piece of 40-50 pound mono making a ball on either end. Use as is or dip the balls in black lacquer or paint and let dry. I used Stonfo plastic eyes V Type on the example.
5. Dub the balance of the body leaving enough room to wrap the flank feather 3 or 4 times. Use the same dubbing as the ball.
6. Tie the rest of the of the flank feather or new one if you donʼt have enough. Wrap (with the concave side of the feather facing the bend) 3 or 4 times. Whip finish and cut the thread.
7. Pull the wrapped fibers back to the bend of the hook. Make sure they are surrounding the hook although there should be a few more fibers along the back of the fly. Once you get the fibers the way you want donʼt let go of them. Using Loon UV clear thin finish put a line along the back from the eye of the hook to just behind the eyes of the shrimp. Hit it with the light. Now you can let go. You can put another line of Loon over the first line to get a shiny back.
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
A Modern Mickey Finn
As the old saying goes, “We are in a fine kettle of fish now!” With social distancing in force, we can’t access most of our lakes because the ramps are shut down, the parking lots are closed, etc. It is likely, as I write this, that fishing may be prohibited entirely as it was in the State of Washington (didn’t happen here as the counties will be allowed to determine what is open). Those of you who have farm ponds on your property are in the best position to fish without a hassle.
Now is the time for reading about our favorite pastime or tying flies to build up those boxes. Perhaps some of you fly tiers are looking for a challenge or just something different to tie?
I have been thumbing through Trout Flies for the 21st Century written by the late Dick Talleur and published in 2008 by Lyons Press. His book shows the use of more modern materials to update old flies: synthetic dubbing, foam, flash materials, stick on eyes and many others. None of this was around in the 1950’s as natural and dyed natural materials were all that was available. Often you had to dye your own stuff. Many times that turned out to be a mess! There also was an article on one of the web sites about revamping older streamer patterns with modern materials. I also remembered that there was an old, old article in Fly Fishing the West (no longer published) that used the Mickey Finn as an example for tying multiple different variations of a fly including nymph, dry and streamer patterns. So for fun I decided to go with that pattern.
I have always liked the Mickey Finn (still carried in some fly shops) and I carry the pattern in both my trout and warm water boxes. Recently it has been one of my go-to patterns for warm water bass and panfish. I decided to tie up a pattern using modifications of the body, wing and tail. I know that this pattern will work because the same color configurations are in this new pattern, but I haven’t given it a dip yet. I decided to tie this pattern in a semi-style of bass flies you will find in Mary Orvis Marbury’s book Favorite Flies -- a great source of old time fly patterns even though there are no tying instructions in the book. You have to figure out what the materials are and how to tie them on the hook. I digress. Sorry!
A Modern Mickey Finn
Hook: Gamakatsu B10S #1- #6 or use any bass hook you have
Thread: 6/0 yellow
Tail: UV yellow marabou
Body: Holographic silver ice dub
Wing: UV yellow marabout or yellow Arctic Fox fur
Flash: Hedron lateral scale
Hackle: Red dyed Mallard flank feather or red hen saddle
Head: Fish-Skull Fish-Mask (sized to hook)
1. Lay down a thread base from just behind the eye to the point of the barb.
2. Take the thread to the starting point behind the eye and lash down the marabou to the end of the thread base. Tail extends from 1 to 1 • times the length of the shank.
3. Dub the holographic ice dub on the thread (I use a dubbing wax on the thread to make the job easier. I prefer a hard wax rather than the sticky stuff.) Wrap the dubbing up the shank to the starting point. This is much easier than trying to use flat tinsel and oval ribbing which can be difficult to get to lay flat and not be lumpy.
4. Tie in the wing making it long enough to meld with the tips of the tail (I used a marabou wing and added a tail to give more motion to the fly. Arctic Fox will do the same thing.)
5. Tie in a small bunch of red marabou or Arctic Fox on each side of the wing. Don’t use too much. Cut whatever you intend to use, then only tie in half of what’s left on each side of the wing. Keep the stripe fairly sparse.
6. Tie in one strand of lateral scale on each side. You can use more but I prefer to keep the flash unobtrusive since the holographic silver body will have a lot of flash. I can always change it later.
7. Tie in a sized red Mallard flank feather with the concave side to the body. Fold the feather and then wrap it three of four times. Tie off and whip finish.
8. Using super glue or super glue gel on the thread head; slip the Fish-Mask over the hook eye making sure it sits straight on the hook. Add eyes to the mask with a small drop of super glue. I used a Fish-Mask rather than a thread head to keep the fly closer to the surface. I like seeing the fish swirl on the fly rather than have it out of sight, even though the tug is the drug!
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
In 1995 Barry Reynolds and John Berryman co-authored Beyond Trout, a Fly Fishing Guide (available on Amazon). The last chapter deals with fly fishing for carp. In it, Reynolds describes his first meeting with a carp, a fly rod and a green Woolly Bugger.
Two years later in 1997 Barry Reynolds, Brad Befus and John Berryman wrote Carp on the Fly, a Fly Fishing Guide (available on Amazon). The book revealed the entire package on carp: Where they lived, how to find them, what they ate, how to present the fly and the necessary tackle.
Carp are no longer the great untapped fly fishing resource they were in 1995 and 1997. As a sport fish they have smarts and lots of physical power. Carp have become known as a great fish at which to throw your fly. You can sum up a carp’s living circumstances as follows: They will live almost anywhere; they eat almost anything and, be it hot water in the summer or cold water in the winter, they will be active. Best of all carp can be found in almost all our lakes.
The fly we are going to discuss is called the Headstand and was developed by Lance Egan. Some of his trout nymphs have become so popular that you might have one of his designs in your fly box. This pattern is meant to be presented to tailing carp or to wary fish that are hunting for food along the bottom. The fly is gently twitched to show movement.
Hook: #8 Tiemco 2457
Thread : Tan 6/0
Tail: Gold variant rabbit strip fur
Eyes: Medium silver bead chain
Hackle: Brown rooster
Body: Rust Antron dubbing (Sparkle dubbing if you have it)
Legs: Barred pumpkin/green-orange Sili Legs
Wing: Peacock sword
Head: Fluorescent orange Antron Sparkle dubbing.
1. Secure the hook with the eye pointed down so you can begin your thread wraps at the rear of the shank. This way it is easier to mount the tail.
2. Cut a thick tuft of fur from the rabbit strip and tie on to the rear of the hook shank. Tail should be • inch long. Then trim the butts at a long angle and reposition the hook in the vise.
3. Build up a smooth thread base to the hook eye. Wrap the thread back from the hook eye and mount the chain bead eyes with figure eight wraps. Add Zap-A-Gap to the tie in point and wrap the thread back to the rear of the thread base typing in a size 12 to 14 brown rooster hackle as you go. Leave enough bare hackle stem for one srap so you won’t have fibers sticking out over the tail.
4. Form a slim dubbing rope with rust Antron and wrap a short tapered body to behind the eyes fatter at the front end of the body. Palmer the body with five wraps of the hackle. Tie off behind the eyes and trim the excess hackle.
5. Select a strand of Sili Legs and cut in half and tie on each side of the body. Trim the legs so they extend only slightly past the end of the dubbed body (they should be about • inch long.
6. Cut off about a dozen Peacock Sword fibers. (Try to keep the tips even and the fibers curved in the same direction). Turn the fly over with the hook point up and tie in the fibers behind the eyes extending as far as the outside bend of the hook. Trim the butts as close as possible and rotate the fly to the traditional position.
7. Dub the orange sparkle Antron behind, around and in front of the bead chain eyes. Whip finish and go catch a carp.
These are not easy fish to catch! They have a great sense of smell and can feel small vibrations in the water. They also have excellent audio sensitivity and have a high ranking for game fish IQ. They can hear you coming and will remember your fly and to top it off, they are picky. All in all, they are a worthy opponent.
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
March Browns are the first major sizable mayfly to make an appearance on our local waters. The Lower Yuba has a good hatch and our fish love them.
The nymphs mature in faster water as they have suction cups on their abdomens that allow them to hold tightly to the bottom rocks. When they are ready to emerge, March Browns migrate to the sides of the river and below riffles in calmer water. The adults emerge under water and while their wings are drying, they will drift some distances making them very attractive to the fish.
This pattern is based on Pete Hidy’s wingless wet fly, the flymph. It is useful when the duns are flying but the fish aren’t taking adults and you can see boils on the surface. The best way to fish this is to swing the fly on a tight line, quartering downstream through the area of the activity.
March Brown Flymph
Hook: Standard nymph #12 to 14
Thread: Red 6/0-8/0
Tail: Pheasant tail barbs
Rib: Fine gold tinsel
Body: Dark hareʼs ear dubbing
Hackle: Brown mottled hen
1. Start the thread behind the hook eye and wrap a base to the start of the bend. Tie in 4 to five pheasant tail fibers one hook gap in length. Then tie in the ribbing material on top of the tail mounting thread wraps.
2. Dub a rough body forward. Do not make it tight. If the body seems smooth, use a dubbing needle or velcro strip to roughen it up. Wrap the ribbing over the body four to five wraps.
3. Tie in the hackle with the shiny side facing up. Wrap two turns and tie off. The hackle should be sparse. Use the thread to fold back the hackle and then build a neat thread head. Hidyʼs flymph wraps the hackle over a base of dubbing which is approximately a quarter of the hook shank. Two complete wraps are made toward the eye and tied off. This makes for a more substantial thorax. This pattern is a variation of the original.
If you are looking for an additional emerger pattern, you might review the April 2019 FLYPAPER (Column is located on the website under FLYPAPER) for an excellent emerger pattern that also has been very successful for the March Brown hatch.
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
Booby Damselfly Nymph
This pattern is a British import. It is a funny looking fly with many having bright bodies and tails not that the natural colors donʼt work well. However, what really distinguishes the booby fly are large bulbous foam eyes. In 1987 Gordon Fraser, an English fly tyer and angler, wrote a book MASTERINGTHE NYMPH. His primary fishing grounds were Rutland and Eyebrook reservoirs,excellent British stillwater fisheries, and in the book he delineated his lake fishingmethods and flies. The first booby nymph was a small midge larva pattern. The eyes were foam but there was no tail or flashy chenille body. Here was a floating nymph used on the bottom with the help of a fast sinking line.
His was not the first buoyant pattern. In the United States there were floating deer hair bodied dragonfly nymphs and even a couple of damselfly nymphs. These patterns and the methods to fish them never really took hold. In England, however, the booby fly became the rage and eventually the pattern crossed the pond to the Colonies.
The Booby fly is a pattern type not standardized to any set colors or form. For the stillwater fisherman it can be tied as a damselfly nymph, dragonfly nymph, leech, caddis fly pupa, small minnows and even a few dry fly patterns. Different hooks are used for various types of patterns including scud hooks, wet and dry fly hooks, curved nymph hooks and light streamer hooks.
If this short article has engendered any interest, I would suggest that you pick up a copy of TYING and FISHING the BOOBY FLY by Michael Jensen published in Kindle format only.
Booby Damselfly Nymph
Thread: Olive 6/0 or color to match body.
Hook: Tiemco 200 #10 or Daiichi 1270 #10.
Eyes: Olive or white Booby eyes.
Tail: Olive grizzly marabou.
Rib: Small gold oval tinsel.
Body: Golden olive hares ear or synthetic.
Hackle: Dyed olive Hungarian partridge or natural brown Hungarian partridge.
1. Lay a thread base from the eye to 1/4 inch of the way back toward the hook bend. Then bring the thread to the center of the area.and tie on the eyes. You can use preformed eyes already molded or make your own from 1/4 to 3/8 inch foam cylinders. The molded eyes are very expensive at over a $1.00 a piece. Buy white cylinders, cut to length and color them with markers. Add a couple of drops of cement to hold the eyes in place. Donʼt use instant epoxy as it adds more weight than cement. Remember, you want this fly to hover off the bottom not sink.
2. Tie in the tail (about half a shank length-see photo).
3. Tie in the ribbing.
4. Dub the body, keeping fairly thin, to behind the eyes. Leave a small space to tie in and wrap the hackle. Rib with four or five turns.
5. Tie in and wrap the hackle. Two or three turns are sufficient.
6. Move the thread ahead of the eyes and whip finish. Carefully cement the eyes again both top and bottom. Use a black marker to put eye spots on the foam eyes.
Ralph Wood 2020
By Ralph Wood
The Burlap was originated by Arnold Arana of Dunsmuir, California in 1945. The fly was designed for the Klamath River but over the years gained popularity up and down the north coast. The Burlap, as with many flies of the era, lost followers as steelhead fly patterns began to make the transformation into the flies we know today.
My fondness for the pattern began in the mid-sixties as I began to learn the section of the Klamath River in the vicinity of Happy Camp. In those days most steelhead flies were tied on the Mustad 7957B, a down eyed hook, in sizes #2-#8. Now most steelhead lies are tied on Atlantic salmon fly hooks. The thread of choice was Belding Corticelli Nymo size A, which is a very stout thread making the heads on these patterns much heavier than they are today. Looking back on the flies I tied in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I am struck as to how bulky and rough they look today.
The first time I tied on a Burlap, a friend and I were exploring the area above the Happy Camp bridge in early November. I had made a few the night before we left San Francisco and I was anxious to try the pattern. As we drove along the river, I saw a good looking run beside a meadow with a small house, barn and orchard. I pulled in and asked the owner if we could fish the water bordered by his meadow. He allowed that we could, as long as we were fly fishermen and released all the fish we took. He then proceeded to walk us down and show us the most productive sections of the run. Such was my introduction to Lee Bagby and Rancho Rio.
Those were the days of fiberglass rods and shooting heads. My first cast was atrocious and Lee was kind enough not to burst out into gales of laughter. After a few hints I was able to get off a decent cast and
almost immediately was into a fish. The fishing lasted all afternoon and at night we camped in the orchard and fished again in the morning. The Burlap never came off my leader.
For the next several years I frequently fished Rancho Rio and the upstream waters from Cade’s Canyon, Cock Rock and the Allen Ranch (If you are curious about the area I fished, you can check out Steelhead Fly Fishing by Trey Combs published in 1991 by Lyons and Burford Press. There is a picture of Cade’s Canyon on pages 82-83.). As long as the water had two to three feet of visibility, the Burlap was usually my fly of choice.
Hook: TMC 7999, Gamakatsu T10-6H,
Mustad 36890 sizes #2-#8
Thread: Black 6/0
Weight: Optional (lead wire or non-lead wire)
Tail: Bucktail (Use brown section from center of the tail).
Body: Burlap (natural color)
1. Wrap a thread base to the bend of the hook.
2. If you are weighting the fly, do it now. Smooth out the lead body with thread.
3. Tie in the tail. If non weighted, extend the butts to 1 eye length from the eye.
If weighted, meld the butts into the rear of the lead wire.
4. Tie in the burlap, wrap forward and trim 1 eye length from the eye. Body
should be cigar shaped.
5. Tie in the grizzly hackle. Make four or five wraps, tie off. Build a head and
In reality, this is a steelhead soft-hackle and is fished as such.
Long swings across the river and hold on! The tug is the drug!
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
THIRTEEN MORE TIPS TO IMPROVE YOUR FLY TYING
1. USE ONLY THE BEST TOOLS AND MATERIALS
There is no way to place a value on the difference in performance between good and bad tools. You cannot tie a decent fly if your vice allows the hook to slip, your hackle pliers cause the hackle to break or slip, and the point of your scissors won’t clip an individual hair. By the same token, you cannot tie a proper dry fly without top quality dry fly hackle. Buy half necks to cut costs. Use hen necks or game bird skins for wet flies and nymphs.
2. USE THE FINEST POSSIBLE TYING THREAD
Most tiers tend to use tying thread that is entirely too heavy. A finer thread will make a stronger, neater-looking fly. Size 8/0 is adequate for most dry flies and 6/0 is about right for most streamers. Try Veevus threads that drop down to 14/0 for small flies. Very strong stuff.
3. ALWAYS TIE A FLY TO THE PROPER PROPORTIONS AND STRIVE FOR UNIFORMITY.
Each style of fly has certain basic proportions that should be maintained relative to the size of the hook. For example, in most dry flies the tail should be the length of the hook shank, the hackle 1 • to 2 times the length of the gap of the hook, and the wings about 1/4 longer than the hackle. Proportions, such as these, should be considered at each step of the tying process.
4. ALWAYS HAVE A GOOD BACKGROUND AND ADEQUATE LIGHT
A piece of light blue paper beneath your vice will greatly improve the visual contrast and allow for a greater degree of precision in your work.
5. DETECT “PROBLEMS” WHEN THEY OCCUR
Don’t wait until the fly is finished to discover that the tail is too long. If you are critical of each step, errors can be corrected as they develop, and the finished fly will be improved.
6. THE FLY IS NOT FINISHED JUST BECAUSE IT IS OUT OF THE VICE
Often the only difference between a good fly and an excellent fly is a little trimming after the fly is out of the vice. This does not mean to trim the wings, tail, or hackle to the proper length, but to look for stray hackle or tail fibers that protrude at odd angles, bits of dubbing that produce a lumpy body, or fibers caught under the thread wrappings of the head. Inspect each finished fly.
7. BE VERY CRITICAL OF EACH FINISHED FLY
Ask yourself, “What is wrong with this fly?” Compare it with a fly tied by an experienced tier. Ask for criticism.
8. WATCH OTHERS TIE AND ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS YOU CAN
Books are helpful, but there is no substitute for watching an experienced tier. (Show time is approaching. Watch the demonstration tiers and take notes.)
9. THERE ARE FEW RIGHT OR WRONG FLY-TYING METHODS
There are many different techniques for achieving the same result. Learn as many new methods as you can and use the ones that work best for you.
10. EXPERIMENT WITH NEW TECHNIQUES AND STUDY THE INSECTS YOU WANT TO IMITATE
You will usually find that the best fly tiers are not content to do things in the “old way.” They constantly look for new ways to improve their flies, new materials to use, and better imitations for specific insects. (This brings me back to item #3 in this list. Keep in mind that the proportions I speak of may not apply when you examine a natural insect. You may want to change the proportions for that particular imitation.)
11. DON’T WORRY ABOUT TYING SPEED
It is better to produce one perfect fly in 30 minutes than a dozen poor flies in the same length of time. Speed will come with time and practice.
12. DON’T BE SATISFIED WITH “GOOD ENOUGH.”
You must constantly try to make each fly better than the previous one.
Improvement comes only with practice. Tie as often as you can and make an effort to improve your results. I try to tie every day if possible. Get out of your comfort zone and try tying patterns that you feel are tOo difficult or require a technique that you have been avoiding.
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
Each fall I look forward to the emergence of one of our largest caddis species. The October Caddis (Dicosmoecus) is a juicy feast for the trout as they get ready for winter’s hardships. This is also an excellent pattern for steelhead waters such as the Trinity River.
Pupas and adults have similar coloration on their abdomens. My basic dubbing mixture is one-half rust brown rabbit, one-quarter burnt orange and one-quarter orange. You can adjust the coloration of the dubbing by adding or subtracting rust-brown rabbit. Hackles I use include natural and dyed hen, dyed Brahma hen and gadwall.
As the season gets colder, the October Caddis has a more difficult time flying and is more likely to wind up in the water. You can add wings to this pattern to imitate this phase. For sinking imitations, I use dark red squirrel tail fibers since the solid fibers sink well. For floating imitations I use deer hair.
Tying the October Caddis (Soft Hackle)
Hook: #6-#8 Mustad 36890, Tiemco 200 (Use shank length to adjust
Thread: 6/0 rusty brown Uni-thread or equivalent
Rib: small gold oval tinsel
Body: dubbing mixture
Hackle: #1 Orange brown hen
#2 Dark brown grizzly hen
#3 Gadwall flank (brownish cast)
Antenna: Fibers from turkey tail or peacock wing quill
1. Start thread behind the eye of the hook and wrap to a point just ahead of the point of the hook. Catch oval tinsel on the way down.
2. Dub with your prepared mix forming a cigar shaped body ending about a quarter of an inch behind the eye.
3. Rib and trim excess. If this is to be a winged pattern, tie in a sparse bunch of hair either deer or squirrel and trim excess.
4. Tie in and wind hackle-each separately. Use 3 to 4 turns for the hen hackle and 2 turns for the gadwall.
5. Tie in antenna (should extend beyond the tips of the wound hackle)
6. Use a small amount of dubbing mixture to cover the head.
7. Whip finish.
Fish as you would a normal soft hackle with the sinking patterns. If you are use a floating pattern, dress the deer hair wing with floatant and let it drift on the surface like a dry fly.
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
Lets talk about leeches.
For those who fish mostly lakes and ponds for bass, carp or trout they are a prime food item. They are also important food items in rivers and creeks. This article is not going to spend time on various wooly bugger patterns but rather a realistic type of pattern. Granted wooly buggers seem to be the go to fly for imitating leeches in both rivers and stillwaters. However, I feel that more imitative patterns yield better results in the long run, even though I do carry a full selection of wooly buggers in my kit just to be on the safe side.
Currently there are patterns that do a fair job of imitating leeches and tend to mimic the motion of leeches as they swim through the water. Many of them, however, in my opinion are too big and too bulky to do a great job. The mohair leeches are one of the patterns that I use consistently. Tied with Canadian mohair and then brushed out, they are slim, which imitates the body of a leech and the undulating swimming motion of leeches, especially if you use a tungsten bead head.
All leeches swim with an undulating motion either from side to side or up and down. As they swim, they elongate their bodies. They have pointed heads and a flattened rear (like a paddle). Most leeches swim near the bottom but there are blind leeches that do swim mid-water. Leeches swim at a speed of one foot every two or three seconds. They do not swim erratically but smoothly and rhythmically. Leeches range in size up to six inches but from stomach autopsies it appears that trout prefer to eat them in the two to three-inch size range. Most patterns are retrieved too rapidly.
Black is the most popular leech color, but very few are pure black. Most naturals are tan, olive, dark grey and brown. You will find stripes and bars of dark brown and olive. Most have spots of orange, gold, red or black. The overall color tends to match the environment; olive for weedy bottoms and olive brown or brindle for muddy bottoms.
If you have never watched a live leech, the next time you camp near a lake break an egg into the water at dark, and in the morning, there should be a couple of leeches saying thank-you for breakfast.
Hook: Tiemco 9395 4x long straight eye, or 3x to 4x hook of your choice.
Thread: 6/0 color to match body or tail
Bead: Small black chain bead, black tungsten to match hook size
Tail: Marabou (usually to match body but I do frequently use a contrasting color).
Body: Canadian mohair in olive, black, rust, etc.
Hackle: Optional-use small hen hackle to match body color. I normally do hackle this fly.
1. Crimp down barb and slip on the tungsten bead or tie in the bead chain.
2. Take thread to bend of the hook and tie in the marabou. If you wish, you can put in a little flash material of your choice. Don’t overdo it!
3. Advance thread to just behind the bead. Tie in the mohair and lash down to the bend. Hold the mohair up and brush to get the fibers to stand out. Wrap forward to the bead, brushing back the fibers with your fingers during each wrap.
4. If you want to have a hackle, leave a small space behind the bead. Tie in the hackle and make two wraps. Tie off, trim the excess hackle and whip finish behind the bead or chain eyes.
Go catch a fish!
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
Back in the nineteen-fifties wet flies were king. Very few semi-realistic or realistic nymph flies existed. Ray Bergman had presented a few in his magnum opus TROUT second edition published in 1952. William Blades in FISHING FLIES AND FLY TYING published in 1951 spent a chapter on nymphs and devised a way to use Ducco cement to make extremely realistic nymph patterns. Preston Jennings, John Atherton, Edward Hewitt, Charles Wetzel, Art Flick and others all contributed to the branch of fly fishing we call nymphing. But the patterns, although effective, failed to really inspire fishermen to try and fish these imitations.
The revolution that triggered the swift demise of the wet fly, I feel, was the 1955 publication of MATCHING THE HATCH by Ernest Schwiebert, Jr., at the time a college student at Yale. The public rapidly absorbed the book and the message within. The book has sold millions of copies over the last fifty years and became a seminal work on hatches both East and West at the time. Natural imitation became the watch word and wet flies began to disappear from fly bins across the nation.
I have not found in my research an exact time when the wet fly revival began anew. However, I began to see a few articles on wet flies in the fly fishing publications but most dealt with the beauty of the wet fly and the fun in tying these old patterns. So about fifteen years ago, I began to tie a few of these old-time flies just for the pleasure of it. That led to fishing some of these patterns in brook trout streams here in California and in the North Yuba for rainbows. They worked and worked well.
Then the books began to appear. Sylvester Nemes began his series of books with THE SOFT HACKLE FLY in 1975, Helen Shaw with FLIES for FISH & FISHERMEN in 1989, Dave Hughes wrote WET FLIES IN 1995 and Mike Valla published THE CLASSIC WET FLY BOX in 2012. During the same period, magazines like FLY TYER published articles by such tyers as Don Bastian showing how to tie these flies.
Why are wet flies returning after a hiatus of more than 60 years? Well, first they still work. They can imitate drowned insects, egg-laying adult caddis and, as I wrote in the April 2019 newsletter, as mayfly nymphs that emerge under the surface such as the Western March Brown.
I think that it is important to remember our roots. and the flies that have caught fish year after year.
Thread: 8/0 black
Hook: Mustad 3906B or any other 1x long shank wet fly hook. #10-16
Tag: Flat gold tinsel
Body: Peacock herl
Hackle: Dark brown hen
Wing: White duck or goose quill sections
1. Attach the thread one hook eye length from the eye and wrap to the beginning of the hook bend.
2. Tie in the flat gold tinsel (sized to hook) at the bend. Wrap down the bend approximately one quarter inch and back to the hanging thread. Tie off and clip the excess.
3. Tie in two to three peacock herls (depending on size of the hook). Wrap the herl counterclockwise around the thread to strengthen the body and wrap forward to the beginning of the thread base. Tie off the excess peacock herl and trim excess.
4. Tie in the sized brown hackle, fold and wrap two to three times, tie of and cut excess.
5. Cut a section from a right and left duck or goose quill. Match with the concave sides
together. Place the two sections together over the hook shank. You can tie these in
with the tips pointed down or up. I prefer the tips up. Now the tricky part. Pinch the
feather slips and the hook shank between the thumb and index finger of the left
hand. bring the thread up between the thumb and the shank and down the other
side. Make sure that the thread is in the proper position, pinch hard and pull the
thread down. Again, make sure that everything is to your liking then wrap the thread
forward and make a nice head. Do not let any wraps go behind the first wing set
thread wrap or you will ruin the set of the wings. Whip finish, clip the thread and the
fly is done.
In the COMPLETE BOOK OF FLY FISHING Joe Brooks stated “My favorite wet fly is the Coachman #12. I can readily believe that a trout will see that white wing sooner than any other color....I am sure that when I retrieve that fly in short jerks, it looks exactly like the small minnows so often found in trout waters.”
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
Fall River is the largest spring creek in California and is a fabulous fishery. I always look forward to matching wits with its educated trout. The small flies and light leaders that are normally used put the trout in a very advantageous position. I do realize that you can dredge the corner bends with big, ugly leech patterns and, in the evening, you
can throw mice imitations up against the reeds (there are a plethora of mice in the fields) and hook into some very large trout. However, my personal preference is for small flies and light leaders.
My love affair with Fall River began many years ago when Hat Creek was just being rehabbed into a blue-ribbon fishery. I went into a small fly shop in Burney and met the proprietor, Chuck Stranahan, who, at the time, was hunched over his vise. I was immediately struck by Chuck’s flies. They were well tied and each one out of the vise looked like the one before it. I later came to find out that both Chuck and I had the privilege of being instructed by Cal Bird. Many of Chuck’s patterns have been carried by Umpqua Feather Merchants over the years.
We fished together on both Hat Creek and Fall River and other streams in the area for several years until Chuck moved to Montana and opened Riverbend Fly fishing in Hamilton, on the Bitterroot River.
The story of the Twitch-Pause Nymph is outlined in Jack Dennis’s Tying Flies with Jack Dennis and Friends published in 1993 by Snake River Books and is available on Amazon as a used book. This is a guide’s fly. It is quick and easy to tie with a dozen
an hour easily in reach. I have never seen this fly for sale in any of the fly shops.
The Twitch-Pause Nymph has been one of my go to flies on Fall River for many years. When the micro-caddis flies are hatching, this pattern usually ends up on the end of my leader.
• Hook: Tiemco 3769 or similar in sizes 12-20
• Thread: 8/0 black or dark olive
• Body: Wool either Crewel embroidery yarn or any wool you have available in light tan, dark olive, lime green or cinnamon brown.
• If necessary, untwist the yarn into smaller strands to make a thinner body.
• Throat: Mottled hen back fibers, lighter shades with lighter body and dark shades with darker bodies.
• Head: Peacock herl
1. Wrap the thread from the eye of the hook to the bend. Return to eye.
2. Tie the wool on at the full length of the abdomen to the bend. This will ensure that the body will remain uniform.
3. Twist the yarn into a rope and wrap a segmented body to one eye length behind the hook eye.
4. Select 6-8 fibers from a hen back and tie in on the bottom of the hook. The length
should be slightly past the end of the hook.
5. Tie in two strands of peacock herl by the butts. Wrap the herl around the thread and make 2 to 3 wraps to form the head. Whip finish.
This is a very simple tie but a very effective caddis pupa imitation or micro-caddis pupa pattern depending on the hook size. The name of the nymph tells you how to fish it! Not only have I found this pattern successful on spring creeks but also on long deep pools in freestone streams, such as the dredger pools on the North Yuba. Use a long leader and cast gently.
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
When the weather is bad during the winter, I (when not tying flies) like to read and research the history of fly tying and fly fishing especially, when the subject leads to patterns that have survived over long periods of time and that can still be found in anglers fly boxes today.
Recently I was leafing through THE HISTORY OF FLY-FISHING IN FIFTY FLIES, (published in 2015 by Abrams Books in New York, NY and available on Amazon), when I came across the Tup’s Indispensable as one of the listed flies. I recognized the name from reading books by Skues, Leisenring and Sylvester Nemes but I had never tied the pattern.
This pattern was originally created in the early 1890‘s by R.S.Austin in Devon, England as a wingless dry fly to imitate the spinner of the British olive dun. Austin was a tobacconist who ran a sideline in fly tying. In 1900 he sent Skues an example along with tying instructions and some special dubbing material. Skues was very impressed with the results he obtained and published his findings in the English sporting press. The fly became so popular that Austin became sick of tying it. During this period of time, Skues found out that it worked as well as a wet fly (nymph) as it did dry. This was the beginning of the soft hackle Tup’s as portrayed in Leisenring’s THE ART of TYING THE WET FLY and Nemes THE SOFT HACKLE FLY.
Austin insisted on keeping his special dubbing secret. He did swear Skues to silence and requested that the formula not be given out until his death. Skues kept his secret and even kept it longer since Austin’s daughter, Agnes, tied the fly until she retired in 1934 and released Skues from his vow.
What was this mystery ingredient in the dubbing? The hair from a ram’s scrotum! The combination of orange dye used to check for breeding plus the urine, after being thoroughly washed, gave the dubbing that little something special. There are a great many dubbing mixes now available for the Tup’s but there appears to be little consistency in the color. The original was a mixture of cream and red seal, combings from a lemon-yellow spaniel and the ram’s fur. Dyed rabbit fur, sometimes with a little sparkle mixed in, seems to be popular today. Leisenring’s dubbing was yellow and
claret seals fur mixed dubbing spun on primrose yellow thread. Sylvester Nemes went from a light pink and orange fur mix in his 1981 book to a straight light pink in his 2006 second edition. I favor the first Nemes dubbing, but it is pretty much take your choice I guess.
• Thread: Pearsall’s Primrose yellow or Danville yellow 8/0
• Hook: Mustad 3906 #12-16, Partridge Spider #12-14 or Alex Jackson’s Soft Hackle Trout Fly #11-13 (illustrated fly is tied on a Partridge Spider #12)
• Tail: Short blue dun hen hackle fibers
• Abdomen: Yellow thread
• Thorax: Dubbing mixture (medium-pink, orange and red. The orange and red are for high-lights. Pink is the base color.)
• Hackle: Blue dun hen
1. Start thread behind the eye of the fly and extend to one third of the way to the bend.
Tie in the tail material so that the tips extend out from the bend about one-half the
hook length. Then holding the tail up and centered on top of the hook, wrap the
thread down to a point between the hook point and the barb.
2. Wrap the thread back to one-half the shank length with close touching wraps.
3. Twist the dubbing on the thread. You probably will need wax. Try not to get too
much on the thread. Dub the thread sparsely! You can build the thorax up by
adding more wraps.
4. Tie in the hackle by the tip. Fold the fibers and wrap 1-3 times depending how
sparse or heavy dressed you wish the fly to be. I suggest two turns are sufficient.
Whip finish and add a drop of head cement.
Make sure when you are mixing the dubbing that pink is the predominate color. Since I am not making a lot of flies, I use the finger mix technique to blend the dubbing rather than dragging out the coffee grinder.
Other hackles can be used including a mottled grey Brahma hen, dyed dark grey partridge or, if you can find it, some dressings call for a honey dun hen hackle.
This fly has been in fly fishers’ boxes for many years. Longevity gives the Tup’s Indispensable credibility, and with Leisenring, Theodore Gordon and Sylvester Nemes fishing this fly, it definitely has merit!
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
E. H. Rosborough devised the Casual Dress in 1960 as something new to try out on one of his fishing expeditions to the Upper Deschutes. After that successful trip, the Casual Dress became one of his staple flies.
Rosborough lived most of his life near the Oregon streams where he devised a series of nymphs and dry flies. His first published book (Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymph published in 1965) was a paperback consisting of 85 pages and 15 patterns. His fourth and last revision was published in 1988 and contained 25 patterns. Polly’s conviction was that a broken outline was critical to fish perception and thus to the acceptance of a fly. This became a major theory of imitation and led to a new way of looking at fly tying. The only edition of the book available on Amazon, at the time I checked, appears to be
the 1978 revision.
Hook: #2-12 2X to 3X long heavy hook
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Muskrat fur with guard hairs (taken from the darkest piece of hide you have.)
Body: A generous amount of muskrat fur with guard hairs mixed well.
Collar: Muskrat fur with guard hairs as dark as possible.
Head: 3-4 strands of black ostrich herl, lightly twisted.
1. Start the thread behind the eye and wrap smoothly to the bend of the hook.
2. Tie in the muskrat fur tail extending about one body length. I prefer that the guard
hairs be a little longer. (Follow the directions in step #4 to cut the fur from the hide.)
3. Use dubbing wax on the thread and twist-dub a thick body. When you are finished,
use a brush to rough the body up (old tooth brush works great). Leave enough room
for collar and head (1/4 of shank).
4. Cut a hunk of muskrat as dark as you can find on the hide, keeping the fur and tips
all facing the bend in the hook. Holding the guard hairs and tips of the hair tightly,
remove most of the underfur. Holding the fur so that the guard hairs extend to the
bend of the hook or slightly past make a couple of loose wraps. Using your thumb
and forefinger ease the clump of fur around the hook. Once you are satisfied that it
is fairly evenly distributed around the hook, tighten the thread and cut off the waste
5. Tie in the ostrich herl, and twist lightly. Wrap the head and whip finish.
The larger sizes produce well for bass and the smaller sizes appeal to panfish. Any
size will work in streams.
The Casual Dress is not representative of any species of aquatic life. It is more of a general food source although I suppose you could argue that it represents a dragon fly nymph. The way the fly is tied, with all the guard hairs in the dubbing, allows the body to pick up air bubbles giving it a silvery football shape as it drifts along in the current or is hand twisted in a lake.
Polly had some unique ways of tying. You will note, if you read the book, I have diverted from some of his dubbing techniques because they are more suited to commercial tying where you need to prepare more dubbing than you do tying just for yourself. However, if you can get one of his books, you will find a wealth of other material in it. Tying and Fishing the Fuzzy Nymph belongs in every fly tier’s library.
Ralph Wood 2019
By Ralph Wood
March Brown Wet Emerger
March Browns are the first of the larger mayflies to emerge after a long winter. They may appear as early as February in the valley rivers and as late as May at higher elevations. The Lower Yuba, Feather and the lower Sacramento river all have good hatches.
March Browns are in the family Heptageniidae. These mayflies are well represented with seven species from New Mexico to Alberta and all along the Pacific Coast. Rhithrogena Morrisoni are the prevalent species here in California. You can identify these bugs quickly by the beautiful brown mottling on the adults’ wings. The body of the dun varies between a chocolate brown and dark-olive brown on the back and a pale yellow or buff color on the underside.
March Brown nymphs are clingers. You will see what that means when you endeavor to remove one of the nymphs from a rock. The way the gills overlap creates a suction like abdomen that allows them to live in fast water. The nymphs are between a quarter of an inch to half an inch long. Due to their ability to hold to the rocks means that there are not a lot of dislodged, free drifting nymphs in the water column. When they are ready to hatch, the nymphs will migrate to shallower, calmer water.
March Browns begin their emergence beneath the surface. If you are lucky enough to have a good angle with the sun you can see them rising up with the wings waving in the current. This is the stage that seems to appeal to the fish the most.
This pattern was devised by Andy Burke and has been extremely successful. I first ran into it in 1999 and use it during the March Brown hatches in our valley rivers. It has become one of my staple patterns.
Hook: TMC 3761 or Mustad 3906B #10 to #14.
Thread: Tan 8/0.
Weight: Four to five wraps of .015 lead wire or lead substitute.
Tail: Ginger Z-Lon topped with three or four pheasant tail fibers.
Body: Light-colored hare’s ear dubbing.
Ribbing: Pearl or root beer Krystal Flash.
Hackle: Mottled brown partridge or hen hackle.
Wing: Ginger Z-Lon, topped with brown marabou.
1. Wind four to five wraps of the lead wire in the thorax area. Bind down the wire and apply a coat of cement.
2. Use one-third of a strand of Z-Lon and tie in as normal at the bend of the hook. Trim it to one-half the shank length and then tie in three to four pheasant tail fibers on top. The fibers should be equal to or slightly longer than the shank.
3. Tie in the Krystal Flash then dub a shaggy tapered body with light hare’s ear. Body should be slightly chunky. Rib the body with evenly spaced turns of Krystal Flash.
4. Prepare the hackle feather, tie in and wrap no more than three wraps or the fly won’t sink as well.
5. Tie in an underwing of ginger Z-Lon approximately one-half strand and trim it to body length. Then add a sparse overwing of brown marabou the same length as the underwing. Wrap a neat head and whip finish.
The tactics in fishing this fly are pretty straight-forward. Cast across stream, throw in a big mend upstream to give the fly a little depth and lead the swinging fly with your rod tip. You should taper your leader to 4x to minimize break offs.
By Ralph Wood
X - Caddis
This is at least a twenty-year-old pattern that I have been using for almost that long. It was devised by Jackie Mathews, spouse of Craig Mathews of Blue Ribbon Flies fame. Her premise was that if trout would take sparkle duns with their trailing shucks for emerging and crippled mayflies why wouldn’t they do the same for emerging and crippled caddis flies? All types of aquatic insects can experience problems during emergence for many different reasons. They may become trapped in their shucks or their shuck can still be attached and trailing off the body. Trout find these cripples easy
prey. They may not lock onto these cripples to the exclusion of regularly emerging caddis, but they won’t pass them up either. I find the X-Caddis a good searching pattern when there is no hatch activity and an excellent pattern to use during an emergence. The pattern works well when there is no hatch activity because cripples get caught up in the currents, drown and will drift along in the slack water for hours after an emergence becoming an opportunistic snack for a
trout, especially in eddies and side currents. I use this pattern more often than I use an Elk Hair Caddis because, without the body hackle, the pattern lies flat in the surface film and presents a better silhouette than a higher riding imitation. I save the Elk Hair Caddis for situations where the water is faster and heavier and I need a pattern that will float higher.
Hook: Tiemco 100 or equivalent, sizes #12 to #20
Thread: 8/0 to match the body color
Shuck: Amber Zelon or substitute (Keep this very, very sparse)
Body: Olive, tan, black or amber fine dubbing
Wing: Deer hair or bleached elk
1. Tie in Zelon shuck (should extend the length of the hook shank)
2. Dub body to just short of the hook eye. NOTE: almost all the dry caddis
patterns I see have bodies that are much too long. Take a look at a live insect
and you will see that the bodies are shorter than the wings.
3. Tie in deer hair or bleached elk wing extending to the hook bend. Make sure
that the wing cups the body extending down over the sides of the fly and
extends to the hook bend.
4. Whip finish and trim the butts Elk Hair Caddis style.
NOTE: Do not make the shuck too thick. It needs to be sparse, so it is translucent like
the natural shuck.
This fly is fished upstream dead drift, well dressed with floatant. Cast to rising fish or to selected spots where you might expect to find a receptive fish. I have found that a size #6 light wire hook with a dirty orange body has worked well for the October Caddis hatch on the North Yuba and Trinity rivers (pattern was published in the September 2015 newsletter).
By Ralph Wood
Pat’s Rubber Legs
Pat’s Rubber Legs is attributed to Pat Bennett, a guide out of Island Park, Idaho. It was tied as a searching pattern to represent a stone fly nymph.
I surmise that the pattern was an offshoot of the Girdlebug (an old time Montana pattern). Originally the pattern came from Dillon, Montana, but who first tied the Girdlebug is obscured in the mists of time. There is another rumor around that the fly was originated on the East Coast in the Appalachians.
The Girdlebug is not the most attractive fly: stubby black chenille body with white rubber antenna, legs and tail. Sometimes it is all about the white legs? Ernie Schwiebert in A River for Christmas and other stories published in 1988 has a short story called the River of the Girdlebugs that has a humorous tale of how the girdlebug got its name. Supposedly, the white feelers, legs and tail were pulled from a dance hall girl’s girdle.
Be that as it may, Pat’s Rubber Legs, tied with brown chenille, has been a standby fly in our area. It represents a Skwala nymph on the Lower Yuba and tied in other colors a generic stonefly nymph in other rivers. With the action of the rubber legs the fly has good mobility to attract fish.
As I have found out, this pattern also works in lakes. I was an unbeliever until recently, when in one of the pay-for-play lakes, the only thing that worked consistently was a Pat’s Rubber Legs in brown with a Flash Back Pheasant Tail as a dropper. My only guess about the reason it worked so well is that it might have resembled a dragon fly nymph to the trout.
Hook: Streamer 5 long and 2x heavy Mustad R75-79580 or comparable
hook, size #2--#10
Thread: Color to match body
Weight: 0.20-0.25 lead wire or lead substitute
Tail: Super floss or spandex-color to match body
Body: Small chenille in brown, black, green or variegated
Legs: Super floss or spandex
Antenna: Super floss or spandex
1. Cover hook shank with tying thread to get a good base. End thread at the bend of the hook.
2. Tie in two pieces of super floss at the bend and clip to hook gap length.
3. Wrap in 10 to 20 turns of lead wire at the abdomen and cover well with thread. Build up a ramp at both ends and leave the thread at the tail tie in point.
4. Tie in the small chenille and wrap thread to the rear of the abdomen.
5. Tie in the three legs starting at he end of the abdomen-leaving a space the width of the chenille between each leg. Note the legs in the photo.
6. Wrap the chenille forward and between the legs making the crossing between each leg below the hook shank. Leave enough space for the antenna and head.
7. Tie in two pieces of super floss for the antenna, build a thread head behind the tie
8. Whip finish. Cut the legs and antenna to desired length and you are done.
This fly has always been a must have pattern in my fly box. As mentioned, I am still
finding new uses for it.
By Ralph Wood
Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer
I am sure almost all of you have heard the name Jack Gartside. He is the creative fly tier responsible for patterns such as the Gurgler, Sparrow and Pheasant hopper among many others. One of my favorite Gartside flies is the Soft Hackle Streamer and is the subject of this column.
Jack was originally a teacher in Boston. He decided to leave teaching because, as he saw it, he was safer driving a cab than teaching in the Boston public school system. Jack invented some of his most innovative flies on a vice clamped to the steering wheel of a taxi cab while he awaited a fare at Logan Airport in Boston.
He believed in easy to get materials that could be made into a fly quickly. He was extremely innovative and the fact that several of his patterns have stood the test of time proves it.
This is a very alive streamer in which he combined marabou, flashabou and mallard flank in an unusual way for the times (somewhere in the 1970’s). The inner placement of flashabou gives the fly an internal light which has been very successful.
Soft Hackle Streamer
- Hook: Any regular wet fly hook in sizes #6-#2 (experiment). The example is tied on a Gamakatsu B10s #2 for bass.
- Thread: 8/0 your choice (usually to match the marabou).
- Body: None
- Tinsel: Gold or Silver flashabou
- Hackle: Marabou blood plume (Pick your color)
- Facing Hackle: Guinea, Mallard Flank, pheasant rump or any other long, soft hackle feather. The example is tied with a dyed blue guinea hackle.
1. Wrap the thread down from the eye to about the 2/3 to 1/2 mark on the shank.
2. Tie in a doubled-over strand of flashabou where the thread wraps end.
3. Take a marabou blood plume of your chosen color and strip the feather back from the butt up to the point that the stem is thinner. Tie in by the tip and wind forward to about one-quarter shank length from the eye to where you have advanced the thread. As you are winding constantly smooth the marabou fibers to the rear. Use a tooth pick to release the fibers that get wound under. Tie off the marabou, leaving room for the facing hackle.
4. Select a mallard flank feather, strip the fuzz off and strip up to the point that the stem begins to thin. Tie in by the tip with the shiny side facing forward and wrap one to two turns. Tie off the flank feather and build your thread head. Trim the flashabou a little longer than the marabou. Whip finish and you are done. I do like to take a comb to the fly to smooth all the fibers and any tangles.
As you have probably gathered by now, this more of design rather than a rigid pattern. You can mix the colors by tying in two marabou plumes at the same time (the example uses white marabou faced by blue marabou). Mallard flank can be dyed various colors as can guinea hen and these are available in fly shops such as the Reel Angler. You can also use webby saddle hackle as a facing hackle. Experiment and have fun!
Ralph Wood 2018
By Ralph Wood
There was a shout from across the pond “He’s huge and he’s got my bluegill in his mouth”. Then there was silence, a splash, and “He dropped it!”. “He was a huge bass!” Thus began my quest for a imitation bluegill pattern that didn’t take an hour to tie!
There are lots of imitation bluegill streamers around but, unfortunately, most of the good ones take some time to tie. I wanted a pattern that could be less of a problem in the vise but that worked either as well, or hopefully better, and could be tied with synthetic materials that would resist water logging.
Eventually I ran across Summer Bugs, a Warmwater Fly Box by Ralph E. Long. The book was self published in 2017 and can be found on Amazon. I can’t say that the book is a revelation or that the material is very new, but inside I found the foundation for the bluegill pattern that I wanted.
Little Gill Streamer
Hook: ##6 Tiemco 8099 or #4 Gamakatsu B10S Stinger
Thread: Black 6/0
Body: Pearlescent braid
Throat: Blue super hair, under small bunch of yellow calf tail half the length of the blue, under a small bunch of orange calf less than 1/2 of the yellow.
Wing: Olive super hair
Eyes: Pearl and black (not called for in the original pattern, but I like their look.). Coat head with Loon clear thick.
Stripe the wing with black marking pen.
1. Attach thread and tie in the braid at the bend and wrap forward to the eye.
2. Secure the blue super hair to the hook using firm pressure. (You might add a drop of Krazy glue to the wraps).
3. Tie in the yellow calf tail then add the orange calf adding a drop of Krazy glue, if you wish.
4. Tie in the wing, again you can use Krazy glue to the wraps.
5. Build a larger than normal thread head attach eyes and coat the head with the Loon thick and hit it with the light.
6. Stripe the wing with the black marker. (See photo)
The fly is fished on a floating line and standard leader of 10 or 15 pound test. As Ken Hanley says, “puppeteer” the fly to act like a wounded blue gill. I fish the fly near cover such as weeds, reeds and along sunken trees. I use a 9 foot leader to give the fly a little depth. The pattern, being made of super hair, has enough motion to give it life but still keep its flat shape intact.
For those of you who like to fish the Delta, stripers eat bluegills! There are discussions of forage items and even a sunfish pattern in FLY FISHING THE CALIFORNIA DELTA by Mike Costello (Available on Amazon). I have not tried this pattern there, but if I was to, I would kick the size up to 1/0 to 3/0 on a salt water hook.
Ralph Wood 2018
By Ralph Wood
In May of 2015 I wrote a piece on the Turkey Bead Head nymph and where the pattern came from for the newsletter.. At the time, I was working on several other different guide patterns that were quick and didn’t take a lot of expensive materials. The one I finally settled on was what I called the biot nymph. This pattern has shown its usefulness for several years now and has become one of my staples on the North Yuba, Truckee and Little Truckee during the fall months.
I have always been a believer that nymphs and wet flies should be tied with soft materials that have a lot of motion and absorb water to imitate a juicy item of food. This fly has none of these characteristics, other than some motion from the picked out black UV Ice dubbing, yet still is extremely effective. It is not a fly that holds up well for a long period of fishing but I think the results are worth it and it certainly is not difficult to tie.
I have no idea what bug this pattern represents to a fish. It could be a cased caddis, midge pattern or a mayfly nymph. All I know is it came out of the vise and it works!
Hook: Tiemco 2457 #12 to #16 or any heavy wire scud hook
Bead: Copper (sized to hook)
Thread: 8/0 black
Body: Rusty brown goose or turkey biot
Thorax: Black UV Ice dub
1. Slip copper bead over the point to the eye of the hook.
2. Tear a goose biot from its stem. If you hold the goose biot up you will see a notch. When you tie in the biot by the tip and wind it; make sure the notch faces the rear. When you do this you will see a rib of fringe appear and that is how I like the fly. Reverse the direction of the notch and you will get a flat body with no ridge.
3. Dub the thorax behind the bead, whip finish behind the bead. Roughen up the dubbing with a brush and you are finished.
This fly is easily destroyed but with a wire rib it does not seem to fish as well. I use a coat of super glue on the thread base just before I wrap the biot. That helps enhance the hardiness of the fly.
I usually fish this pattern as part of a dry and dropper combination. You can also fish it as part of an indicator nymph rig. I hope this pattern is as successful for you as it has been for me!
Ralph Wood 2018
By Ralph Wood
“If I were to make a selection of the most productive and consistent trout-taking patterns of terrestrials, I suppose it would have to be the ants. All round, I don’t think they can be beat”
Ed Koch, Terrestrial Fishing, 1990
Well, I’m not totally convinced that an ant pattern is the best terrestrial imitation. I would have to give the beetle imitation some credence. Overall, however, there appear to be more different patterns for ants than any other terrestrial. In fact, in 1963 Ernie Schwiebert published an article in Outdoor Life listing more than 30 patterns for various ants based mostly on color. In later years Ernie admitted he might have gone overboard a little.
You could trace the first terrestrial pattern back to writings by Claudius Aelian in about 200 BC and the first, to my knowledge, fishing fly; the Hippouros. A small fly that looked like a wasp, hummed like a bee and was eaten by fish when it landed in the water. Later, Dame Juliana Berners, in her second edition of the Book of St. Albans which appeared in 1496, included an essay titled the Treatyse of Fisshynge wyth an Angle included a wasp as one of her twelve flies.
There are many species of ants. California has more than 150 recognized species. The ant is important because it is a readily available food item for fish at every elevation, especially during mating swarms. This flying black Carpenter Ant pattern appeared in the May 1970 issue of Outdoor Life titled A Fly for All Season. This was one of the late Mike Fong’s earliest articles. I have used it successfully since then and it is a staple in my terrestrial box along with parachute, balsa and foam ants. I also tie it in rust to imitate flying Termites. I have made one alteration over the years by substituting antron for the fur body. The antron will imitate the body of the ant in the water, since ants have tiny hairs on their bodies and will collect bubbles when they fall into the water. The bubbles cause a halo that surrounds the body just like a real ant.
Flying Carpenter Ant
Hook: #10-#12 2X long (Tiemco #2312)
Back: Black deer hair
Abdomen: Black antron
Wings: Blue dun hackle points
1. Tie in the black deer hair along the shank with the long ends extending out the rear. I prefer to use deer body hair as it has the most buoyancy. If you don’t have deer body hair, use the hair from the bottom of a black dyed bucktail. Make sure that you have enough length to fold back over the fly to cover the body segments.
2. Dub on the black antron and shape the abdomen.
3. Wind the brown hackle just forward of the center(I will use the worst brown hackle I have or hen neck brown hackle as I don’t want to have the fly sit up above the film.).
4. Pull the hair over the top of the hook and tie down in front of the abdomen dubbing then tie down in front of the hackle. Trim the excess hair.
5. Wing the ant with blue dun hackle points; then shape the head with thread.
You can fish this pattern for trout in both running and still waters. The pattern also catches bluegill and bass. Especially if you use it under overhanging brush or trees on the lake or pond you are fishing.
Try it. I think you’ll like it!
Ralph Wood, 2018
by Ralph Wood
Pregnant Baggy Scud
In Brian Chan and Phil Rowley’s book Stillwater Solutions Recipes published in 2007, there is a sentence that caught my eye. Phil Rowley writes “Of all the prey items available for the still water fly fisher to imitate, scuds seem to receive the least amount of respect and attention.” It seems strange given the facts. In the year around diet of trout in productive stillwaters, scuds can be as much as 19% of their overall diet only exceeded by the 39% of chironomids trout eat during the year.
Scuds are most active in low light conditions (early morning or evening). Their habitat includes weed beds, debris areas and rocky shorelines. Resting, feeding and dead scuds tend to curl up in a fetal position. Swimming scuds have a straight position. Colors tend to follow the background surroundings: tan, olive, light olive, gray and various shades of green. Olive green is a very prevalent color on most lakes with imitations in sizes #10 to #16.
Pregnant Baggy Scud
Hook: Tiemco 2457 or 3769, #10 to #16
Thread: Olive 6/0 or 8/0
Rib: Fine copper wire
Shellback: 1/8-inch-wide plastic strip
Body: Olive seals fur or substitute
Marsupium: Hot orange dubbing (represents the scuds egg sack)
1. Tie in behind the eye and lay down a foundation of thread. If desired, weight shank.
2. Tie in ribbing material and bring thread to the eye of the hook.
3. Tie in the plastic shellback with the balance of the material hanging over the eye to the front. Return thread to back of the shank.
4. Form a dubbing noodle with the olive dubbing and wind to the middle of the shank. Then dub a small amount of hot orange to form the egg sack. Two to three wraps is sufficient. Then continue the olive dubbing forward to the eye.
5. Pull the plastic strip over the body to the back. Tie down with the ribbing and then rib forward to the eye. Trim the balance of the plastic with your scissors to form the tail. Roughen the body (I use a male Velcro strip on a popsicle stick, then trim the legs to a scud shape.
I use a plastic storage bag for the shellback. By using a ruler and a single edge razor blade you can cut out the 1/8-inch strips you need. I usually weight these flies.
Fish over weed beds and around debris (logs, fallen trees and brush). Situate yourself off the shoreline and work the area carefully allowing the fly to get to the bottom or suspend it over a weed bed with an indicator. Use an erratic hand twist retrieve or sometimes a strip retrieve of three to four inches. Don’t strip too quickly and keep the retrieve staggered to imitate erratic swimming.
Ralph Wood 2018
by Ralph Wood
Several of our GCFF members are avid bass fly fishers, including myself. As you probably are aware, the GCFF has several members who are excellent fly tiers, design bass flies and are willing to divulge some of their custom patterns.
Rocco Fasone is a long-time member of our club and spends a lot of time fishing for bass in our local lakes and ponds. Rocco had a fly pattern published in Fly Tyer magazine’s Winter 2017 issue in the Readers Favorites column. He has devised a bass fly that has been slaying the fish in our local lakes this year. Rocco states that while the fly was designed for bass it also takes trout. The thought process behind the flies origination was that the year prior, white had been one of the primary colors that worked well for him. So, he devised a fly that covered the white color with pearl flash cut from a pearl palmer chenille and white craft fur while adding a red Kristal Flash chenille gills. Rocco says that this pattern has been “knocking them dead” and has become his “go-to” fly.
Because the fly is easy to tie Rocco has named it:
Hook: Redding Fly Shop 2305 #4 or any other 2x heavy 1x long hook.
Thread: 6/0 white
Eyes: Red barbell eyes
Tail: Fibers cut from a pearl palmer chenille strand
Body: Silver opal tinsel (large)
Gills: Blood red Krystal Flash chenille
Throat: Fibers cut from a pearl palmer chenille strand
Wing: White craft fur
1. Mount the red barbell eyes on top of the hook which will force the fly to ride with the hook point up (fly pictured shows fly with point down because it is easier to photograph). Tie in the tail to extend from behind the eye to one shank length behind the hook bend. This will enable you to wrap a smooth tinsel body.
2. Begin the body by tying in the tinsel midway between the point and the barb. Wrap the body up to 2/3 of the hook shank, tie off and clip excess tinsel.
3. Tie in the red Krystal Flash and wrap to just behind eye. Clip excess. No more than two wraps.
4. Bring the thread in front of the eyes. Tie in the fibers from the pearl chenille so they extend to the end of the tail. This will be the bottom of the fly when fished. Tie in the wing in front of the eyes and then bring the thread and make a couple of wraps behind the eyes like a Clouser Minnow.
5. Turn the hook over in the vise, bring the thread in front of the eyes again and tie in the white craft fur wing just on top of the pearl chenille tie in wraps. The wing should extent about 1 1/2 times the hook shank. Again, just like a Clouser
6. Whip-finish and epoxy the head.
Rocco usually fishes the fly on an intermediate or a heavy sink-tip line. Move it like a bait fish. Cast toward the banks and the shallows.
Ralph Wood 2018
by Ralph Wood
Green Drake Biot Emerger
In 1991 Sylvester Nemes self published Soft-Hackled Fly Imitations in which he presented soft hackle fly patterns to match the hatching insects around Bozeman Montana. Included were flies to match the Mother’s Day caddis,callibaetis, green drake, PMD and others. In 2003 Rene Harrop published Trout Hunter which is a collection of magazine articles collected over several years, most of which were originally published in Fly Fisherman. Chapter two in Trout Hunter deals with emergers and was first published in 1982, nine years before Nemes wrote his book. So, the use of soft hackled patterns to match specific hatches here in the United States began before most people were really aware of how effective the technique could be. This pattern by Rene Harrop has been modified slightly to more closely imitate the green drakes in the Sierra Nevada around the Truckee area.
The Green Drake Emerger uses a two hackle technique. The first hackle represents the legs of the insect and the second hackle imitates the wing color. Does this approach really work? Guess we have to leave it to the fish but, keep in mind, that this Harrop pattern has become a staple on the Henry's Fork in Idaho.
The Green Drake Emerger is meant to be drifted or swung in the top of the water column as a pre-emerger, cripple, or a drowning adult. The hackle conveys motion and bulk as well as the legs and emerging wings of the adult.
Green Drake Biot Emerger
Hook: Tiemco 200 size #10
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Wood duck flank fibers(sparse)
Body: Turkey biot dyed brown olive
Thorax: Olive hare’s ear lightly overlaid with grey hare’s ear
Hackle: Olive hen grizzly or olive hen (three wraps) then two wraps of black hen.
Here’s to great fishing!
Ralph Wood 2018
by Ralph Wood
It was early April and the fishing in the farm pond was slow. The weather had warmed up for a couple of days and I wanted to see if the bluegill and bass were beginning to make their way towards spawning beds. Pat had picked up a few bluegill but I hadn’t had a hit yet. As much as I hate to admit defeat, I finally called across the pond to ask what was her successful fly pattern. She responded “Olive damselfly nymph #10”. A quick check of the 3000 flies I had brought with me to fish this small pond for a couple of hours showed no olive damselfly nymphs to be had. They were all at home in my trout lake boxes.
I finally caught a bluegill on an olive dragonfly nymph (see Fly Paper February 2015 for pattern) but still had no luck with the bass even though they were slowly moving along the shoreline feeding sporadically. I did finally begin to score on the bass with a B/H cinnamon crystal bugger but on the way home I vowed to tie couple of dozen damselfly nymphs in assorted colors for my warm water boxes.
This easy pattern has become one of my main standbys for many years now. As far as I am aware, the pattern first appeared in Randall Kaufman’s The Fly Tyers Nymph Manual published in 1986 by Western Fisherman’s Press. However, marabou has always been a material that works well with damselfly patterns. It’s doubtful that this was the first pattern composed entirely of dyed marabou.
Hook: Tiemco 200, 8-10, weight as needed
Thread: Olive 8/0
Tail: Olive marabou
Rib: Copper wire or use Pearsall's olive silk thread
Body: Olive marabou
Wing: Olive marabou
1. Secure thread at the thorax position. Select a bunch of marabou fibers. The recipe suggests a large bundle but keep in mind that the nymph is very slim bodied and too much marabou will inhibit the movement and bulk up the body. Less is more!
2. Tie in the marabou by the tips at the thorax and tie down along the shank to the hook bend between the barb and the point.
3. With your fingers tear the marabou to the proper length, clip the excess fibers at the thorax and tie in the ribbing material.
4. Select a smaller bunch of marabou and tie it in tips first at the thorax. Again, tie down on top of the hook shank to the tail.
5. Wrap the marabou strands to the thorax to form the body. Rib the body.
6. There should be at least a quarter inch of space for the wing. Tie in a good sized bunch of olive marabou. Trim off the excess over the eye and pull (not cut) off the wing fibers to 1/3 length of body. Build a thread head, whip finish and you are done except for head cement if you choose.
Olive is a great color as is brown, tan, and believe it or not claret or wine.
There a few other things that can be done with this pattern. The way a damsel nymph swims is a problem for fly fishermen. They swing back and forth with a sinusoidal motion rather than with an up and down motion. Philip Rowley suggests that you leave a long, sparse tail as that will tend to swing back and forth. He feels that the short tail in the pattern pulses rather than swings. I have both in my boxes and I lean to the original but you should try both.
Use a slow hand twist retrieve with plenty of pauses along and over weed beds. Remember, if the bugs start to migrate, they will migrate to shore and standing vegetation. You want to have a position where your nymph is heading to the shoreline not visa versa.
Damsel fly nymphs are an all year food for pond and lake fish. Don’t forget to use them all year.
Ralph Wood 2018
by Ralph Wood
The history of fly fishing and fly tying leads down many paths. This design can be tenuously traced back to the attempted Viking conquest of Paris, France by Rollo. Legend has it that Rollo was so big he had to walk everywhere, as there were no horses big or strong enough to carry him. He failed to capture the city but Charles III gave Rollo the part of France that came to be called Normandy in exchange for a promise that the raids would end. A later Duke of Normandy sired a son who became William the Conqueror. In 1066 William invaded England and defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. All very interesting, but what does this have to do with the fly design you say?
One of Williamʼs retinue was a huntsman named Charles Venables whose son later went on to fight in many battles for William. However after failing to capture Hispaniola, the son was imprisoned in the Tower of London. Here he wrote The Experienced Angler which was published in 1662 after his release. This pattern was contained in that book. And thatʼs what Vikings in Normandy have to do with fly tying. Like most anglers of his day, Venables had to deal with the weeds that infest British chalk streams. We deal with the problem with light wire hooks and modern floatant. Anglers of the 17th century had no such help. To keep the hook from snagging in the weeds, Venable proposed that the fly be tied to “float” with the hook point up. It needs to be pointed out that the word “float” does not necessarily mean on the surface; it also refers to a wet fly that drifts at a fairly constant depth, as if it was suspended in the water, rather than sinking down through it.
This type of fly design did not appear again for centuries. Venable was far ahead of his time. This is an adaptation of the design using modern hooks and tied on a vise. I think if you try it you will be pleasantly surprised at how well it works. This design can be translated into many different insects and many different sizes.
Hook: Tiemco 100 sizes 12-22
Thread: 8/0 olive
Wing: CDC puff (Gray or Slate)
Hackle: Blue dun
Thorax: BWO olive or olive brown
Body: Thread (silk or nylon-color to match natural)
1. Mount the hook in the vise upside down. That is with the hook point up.
2. Tie in the wing and hackle (leave a small space between the wing and hook eye). When tied in the hackles glossy side should face you.
3. Dub a small thorax immediately behind the wing. Then wind the thread to
the bend and back to just behind the thorax. I like to use Pearsallʻs silk thread because it holds its color when wet and I can use cobblers wax to darken the thread in some of the flies.
4. Wind the hackle back through the thorax. Three turns on a size 20 and four or
five on larger flies. Tie off the hackle at the rear of the thorax and clip the excess.
5. Spiral the thread forward through the thorax, the lift the wing and elevate it by making several turns of thread in front of it. Hold the wing out of the way while making the whip finish. Cut away the thread and trim off the fibers on the underside of the fly.
If you fish fast, broken water, you may want to wind the hackle the full length of the body. Try various colors. How about a pinkie with wood duck or mallard dyed wood duck wing fiber wings, brown or cree hackle, and a pink thread body with a pink fur thorax? The wings on other designs can be any bunched flank or other feather fibers depending on the insect you are trying to imitate. Experiment and have fun.
Ralph Wood 2018
by Ralph Wood
Skwala Stonefly Dry
Skwala stoneflies do not cover a wide area of California but, thankfully, the
Lower Yuba River has a substantial population as does the Truckee area.
The Skwala Stonefly is similar in appearance to the golden stone of early spring and summer but is smaller than the golden. The abdomen is a dirty yellow with a slight olive tinge (Why I use olive thread). Also, the wings are dark gray unlike the golden stone’s light brown. The hatch on the Lower Yuba can begin as early as December but usually doesn’t get started in earnest until early January. You can fish this hatch into mid-April before the fish begin to lose their interest!
The adults are best imitated by a Stimulator type pattern in size #10 3x long although I have noticed that in some years the insects are smaller and I will tie the fly in size #12 3x long. Early in the emergence a bushy pattern will work but, as the hatch progresses, it is important that your imitation sits low in the surface film. If you watch the female adult on the water, you will see that she looks like a black stick with moving legs. The low riding artificials should include the female’s prominent black egg sack.
There are a few things to remember when you are fishing a dry adult pattern. The adults hide out in the streamside willows and brush during the coldest part of the day. The egg-laying flights don’t start until the temperatures are warm enough for the females to fly. This normally happens in the early afternoon. By fishing a dry fly alongside the willows and brush in the warmest part of the day, you will be fishing effectively. You can tell when the fish begin to feed on the females. The rise is an explosion, especially early in the emergence in January. Later in the emergence, the rises will not be as explosive but will be heavy swirls.
This is a pattern I devised for the Skwala emergence on the Lower Yuba River. It has been very successful.
Hook: Tiemco #200 size 10
Egg sack: Black 1/8 inch foam
Ribbing: Small copper Ultra Wire
Abdomen: Yellow Sunburst Caliente or yellow synthetic dubbing mixed with a small pinch of pearl UV Lite-Bright
Abdomen Hackle: Black Saddle
Wing: Black Web Wing
Over Wing: Bleached Elk
Hackle: Black Saddle
Legs-Antenna: Medium Black Rubber
Thorax: Black Caliente or black synthetic dubbing mixed with a pinch of pearl UV Lite-Bright.
1. Cut piece of black foam 1/4 inch wide. Round off one end, this will imitate the egg sack. Tie the foam in over the hook barb with the rounded end extending back • inch. Clip off the waste foam. Tie in the ribbing and then dub the abdomen up to the 2/3 mark.
2. Tie in the black saddle by the butt (fibers should be no longer than the hook gape) and reverse rib back to the ribbing tie in point. Use the ribbing to tie off the saddle and then bring the ribbing forward through the hackle to the end of the abdomen.
3. Clip the hackle ribbing flush with the top of the abdomen and cut a piece of Web Wing about two inches long (the width of the hook gape). Round one end to represent a folded stonefly wing and taper the sides to a width of approximately • the hook gape (this will enable you to get the wing set properly). Tie in with the rounded end of the wing extending about 1/8 inch beyond the egg sack. Cut off the excess Web Wing. Stack a small bunch of bleached elk and tie in on top of the Web wing tie off. Trim off the excess.
4. Tie in black saddle hackle. Cut two pieces of black rubber leg, each about two inches long. Tie in one on each side of the thorax area from the end of the wing to just behind the hook eye leaving the center open for the dubbing and hackle. The rubber leg material should extend along the body to the bend of the hook in back and in front about abdomen length; trim if necessary. Dub the thorax and wind the hackle 4 to 5 times over the thorax and tie off behind the antenna.
5. Whip finish
Ralph Wood 2018