Fly Tying: March, 2019

Simi Seal Leech

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Last year club member Dave Kilhefner educated me about the term “guide flies”, those flies which can be created with a minimal number of materials.  A minimal number would be three or fewer materials, according to Dave.  That magic number of three doesn’t generally include the hook or thread, or weight (which is often optional). I watched Brian Silvey tie one of the flies that he designed— Silvey’s Caddis Pupa.  The recipe he provides has at least two materials that he usually doesn’t include when he ties that fly for himself and his clients.  Obviously that “guide” version is quicker and easier to tie, and in Brian’s view is still just as effective as the complete version. 

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This month we are going to tie the ultimate “guide fly”, one that has only one material ! The fly is called the Simi Seal Leech.  There is a gentleman in Arizona named John Rohmer who is the owner of John Rohmer Materials (azflyfishing.net).  He has come up with a material that he calls “Arizona Simi Seal”, which refers to a material that simulates natural seal fur, which at one time was very popular for fly tying but is pretty much unavailable today.  And John Rohmer’s Simi Seal Leech is created using only Arizona Simi Seal (again, not counting the hook, thread, or weight if you want to add it).  Don’t think that this material can only be used for this one fly, as it is very versatile and can easily be used in many nymph and streamer patterns.

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A sample of “Canadian Brown” Simi Seal showing the complex blend of fibers.

Simi Seal is a blend of natural and synthetic fibers that come in 50 different color combinations.  Of course John’s advertising on the packaging encourages you to “Try Every Color”!  And the 50 colors of Simi Seal is really just the tip of the iceberg because he also has other tying materials for sale, with names like Arizona Diamond Dub, Arizona Minnow Hair, and the list goes on.  All of these are apparently created in the basement of a secret warehouse that is located somewhere in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona using a specially built blending machine.  If my math is correct the number of Rohmer’s dubbing blends of different types totals 258!  That blending machine must really get a workout!

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Simi Seal Leeches can be tied weighted or unweighted.

The Simi Seal Leech pattern is most productive in still waters but certainly has proven to  also be effective in rivers and streams.  The pattern is called a leech but its movement can simulate many life forms in the water, including baitfish, dragonfly nymphs, damsel nymphs, crawdads, etc., depending on the color, how it is weighted, and how it is retrieved.  Weighting with a bead head can produce an attractive undulating motion.  Some fish respond well to a fly with weight wrapped evenly along the shank of the hook resulting in a more level motion as you move the fly through the water. Unweighted versions of the Simi Seal Leech can be very effective especially when fished over weedbeds.  Rohmer has found that dark patterns are effective in low light conditions, especially early morning and late evening.  And he likes adding rubber legs when fishing for browns or bass. 

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Simi Seal Leeches can be dressed heavily or sparsely.

We had a terrific turnout of 15 club members for our last fly tying session.  Join us for our next Fly Tying Night on Wednesday, March 27th to tie up a variety of Simi Seal Leeches.  The club’s Fish-A-Longs for the months of April, May and June are all scheduled for stillwater locations so the Simi Seal Leech will be a good pattern to have in your arsenal. We will also demonstrate how you can easily produce your own version of a “simi seal” dubbing material.  We meet at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn and will be starting at 6 pm.  Hope to see you there!

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Fly Tying : February, 2019

Fall Baetis  (Quill Body Baetis)

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Most reports indicate that steelhead fishing has been less than stellar so far this winter.  If things should suddenly turn around and the fishing picks up, hopefully you are stocked up with enough winter steelhead flies to carry you through the season.  But as far as Fly Tying Nights go, we are moving on to trout for the next few months. 

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Our next scheduled Fly Tying Night comes a few weeks before the club’s scheduled Fish-A-Long on the Crooked River in March. If you look at the numbers of fish, this river is one of the most productive trout waters in Oregon. When reading the fishing report from the club’s trip last year to the Crooked River, one thing you will notice is that everyone caught fish! That is a testament to the recovery of trout numbers in the Crooked River after a disastrous die off in the winter of 2015-16 due to a low snow pack and low water flow.  The numbers of redband trout per mile was estimated at 8,000 fish per mile by a ODFW survey as recently as 2013.  In 2016 the numbers dipped down to 350 fish per mile, while an encouraging survey completed in June,2018 showed that the numbers have bounced back to an estimated 3,500 fish per mile in the 8 mile stretch below Bowman Dam.

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If you stock up on zebra midges and blue wing olive patterns you are going to be well prepared for most days in the winter and spring on the Crooked River. I listened to a gentleman named Mike McCoy give a presentation where he talked about fishing the Crooked River.  Mike is from Battle Ground, WA and, besides being an avid flyfisher, he owns a highly thought-of company called Snake Brand Guides which supplies guides and reel seats for fly rod builders.  Mike’s go-to fly for the Crooked is called a Fall Baetis.  In spite of the name “Fall” Baetis, the hatch of blue wing olives (baetis) that we come across on the Crooked hatch is strongest from late winter into early summer.

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We will be tying up some quill body baetis flies following Mike McCoy’s recipe.  The pattern has that characteristic segmented segmented body that looks so good on flies. The quills we will be using are stripped peacock quills, which have a flattened shape and a unique color shading that helps to produce the desired segmented body appearance. At our Fly Tying Night we will be discussing which parts of a peacock feather you can use for these flies and how to strip them, as well as sources of commercially prepared peacock quills.  For those tyers that find using the quills a little frustrating there will be a chance to learn alternative ways to achieve a segmented look on the bodies of these small flies.

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Careful wrapping of the quill results in a beautifully segmented body.

Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, February 27 for our next Fly Tying Night where we will be learning to work with peacock quills to tie up some quill body flies.  They will be perfect for the club’s outing on the Crooked River but will also be effective on all waters where blue wing olives are present. (And that is everywhere!)  We’ll be starting at 6:00 pm sharp.  Hope to see you there!

Fly Tying: January, 2019

The Popsicle

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“Popsicle” Alaskabou Fly

If you have not already done so, it is time to get out on the water to take part in the annual search for winter chrome. While forecasts for winter steelhead have been mixed in their degrees of optimism, we need to be prepared when the word comes that the fish are in the rivers. Our last monthly Fly Tying Night was directed toward the beginning tyer and this month we will be following up with an effective steelhead pattern that will be suitable for both experienced and beginning tyers.

Fly patterns for winter steelhead continue to steadily evolve as people experiment with ideas for what is going to work the best to entice fish to be curious enough, or angry enough, to take a swipe at a fly. Sometimes it is important to have a look at some old stand-by patterns and remember that they should still be worthy to occupy space in your fly box and deserve an opportunity to prove their value. My first successful experiences in the quest for winter steelhead were all the result of using variations of a fly called the Popsicle, appropriately named for the three-toned orange, red and purple frozen treat from childhood days.

 

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“Tequila Sunrise” Alaskabou Fly

Today George Cook is probably best known as a casting instructor and fly fishing industry representative, but earlier in his career he spent many years as a guide. Cook is generally credited with coming up with the Popsicle back in the 1980’s during his guiding days up in Alaska. Fly tyers have long recognized the value of marabou because of its animated action in the water. Using marabou for salmon and steelhead flies was being done as early as the 1940’s, if not before. But by combining colorful combinations of marabou along with synthetic flash materials, George Cook carved his name into the list of noted salmon and steelhead fly innovators.

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“Showgirl” Alaskabou Fly

The Popsicle and all of its near relatives were part of a group Cook’s steelhead and salmon patterns that became known as the “Alaskabou” series of flies, with the Popsicle probably being the best known example. All of the Alaskabou flies originally employed three colors of marabou as the main ingredients, along with some flash material, usually flashabou or krystal flash, or both. With the myriad colors of marabou that are available today, the number of possible color variations of Popsicle type flies is limited only by the tyer’s imagination.  These flies can be tied weighted or unweighted and are generally fished on the swing.

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Collection of Alaskabou Flies

For this month’s Fly Tying Night we’ll be tying up some Popsicle steelhead flies, and perhaps some other Alaskabou color variations as well. These are not difficult flies to tie and therefore should be suitable for beginning as well as experienced tyers, and will give you a chance to develop your skills working with marabou. Join us at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, January 23rd. We’ll be starting at 6:00 pm.

 

Fly Tying: November, 2018

Fly Tying 101: Beginning Fly Tying—Tools, Tips, and Techniques

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Fly fishing is a great pastime and there are few things in the sport as satisfying as landing a fish on a fly that was created by your own hands. Do you have an interest in fly tying but you don’t know where to start? Do the terms whip finisher, dubbing loop, bobbin, and hair stacker make your head spin because they sound like part of a foreign language? Or have you attended a previous Fly Tying Night and went away discouraged when you came to the quick realization that you were in way over your head?

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It has been almost two years since we have offered a night of fly tying specifically aimed at folks that are really novices, including those that have never tied a single fly. So we will be going back to the basics in November, covering the standard tools and techniques that you will need to get started on a very interesting and rewarding hobby. Everyone should walk away with at least one fly that is ready to be field tested on the water. And who knows, with the holiday season just around the corner, you may end up with some great ideas for this year’s Santa Claus wish list.

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So join us for an evening of beginning level fly tying on Wednesday, November 28th. We’ll be meeting at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn at 6:00 p.m. Bring your own fly tying tools if you have them. If you don’t have any equipment come anyway. Our friends at The Royal Treatment will loan you everything you need. Hope to see you there!

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Fly Tying: October, 2018

The Chum Salmon Slammer

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It has been a club tradition for a number of years to head to the coast for our November Fish-A-Long where we go after Chum Salmon. It is hoped that by our November 10 outing we will have received enough rain (but hopefully not too much!) to draw these fish into our coastal rivers. The Kilchis River is our normal destination, although the Miami River also has a run of chums. If you have some extra time this fall, there are many more opportunities to catch chum salmon in Washington waters. In fact, the WDFW website has a note indicating that Chum salmon are the most abundant wild salmon species in Washington state. Be sure to check out the Washington regulations if you are planning to head up there.

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Chum salmon are sometimes regarded as the “ugly stepsister” of all of the species of Pacific salmon. They can be chrome bright while still in the ocean but soon begin to develop characteristic markings as they prepare to enter freshwater. After entering rivers chums are readily identifiable by their characteristic olive green coloration with purplish vertical striping and blotches along their sides. Chum salmon are sometimes referred to as dog salmon, with research showing two possible origins for that name. One explanation is that name comes from the impressive mouthful of sharp teeth seen in the males as they approach spawning time. A second explanation is that the reference to dog salmon comes from the habit of Native Americans feeding the flesh of the chum salmon to their dogs. Chums are not known for their aerial acrobatics but they fight like bulldogs and are not brought in easily, so don’t go light in selecting your gear.

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Spawning males have impressive teeth!  Carry appropriate pliers!

This month we will be tying up a fly called The Chum Salmon Slammer. Rich Youngers, formerly of the Creekside Angling Fly Shop in Salem, is credited with coming up with the design for this fly. The name of the fly indicates that it was designed specifically for chum salmon but there is no reason to think that it would not be effective for any of the species of Pacific salmon, as well as steelhead. The fly is normally tied in chartreuse. There is an old saying in regard to chum salmon… “it’s no use if it ain’t chartreuse”, regardless of the specific fly pattern. However, many anglers report that if the chums aren’t responding to chartreuse flies it is time to switch to something that is hot pink. So hopefully, we will have both the time and materials to tie up both chartreuse and pink “Slammers”. And if something happens with the weather and it messes with the Kilchis Fish-A-Long, all is not lost, as these flies can also be used as dandy steelhead patterns.

Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, October 24. Even if you are not planning to attend the Kilchis River fish-a-long the Chum Salmon Slammer would be a fly to have in various colors in your steelhead fly box. We’ll see you at 6 pm !

Fly Tying: September, 2018

The October Caddis  (Anderson’s Bird of Prey Pupa)

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After taking a timeout from our monthly fly tying nights it will be great to get back to the vise to work on adding some new creations to our fly boxes. We certainly had more than our share of scorching hot days this summer. As the days get shorter and the sun moves across the sky in arcs that become progressively lower each day, the temperature will be dropping to more comfortable levels for both fish and flyfishers. As the waters cool down the fish will be sensing the change in the seasons, modifying their feeding preferences to match the continually changing insect hatches.

On many of our rivers and streams caddis flies provide an important part of the trout’s diet. The different caddis species tend to become smaller in size as the summer progresses culminating in sizes 16 and 18 on many waters. That is until fall when the October Caddis hatches. There is no mistaking what you are looking at when you see a large bug, almost the size of a golden stone, with a characteristic caddis-type fluttering flight in September and October. It has got to be the October Caddis (also called Fall Caddis or Orange Sedge). In the western United States you can expect to find October Caddis on most freestone rivers and streams and also some tailwater rivers.

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Adult October Caddis

I came across a timely article by Don Roberts in the September/October issue of the Northwest Fly Fishing Magazine. Roberts refers to noted flyfisher and author Gary Lafontaine who was once asked about what insects provide the best opportunity to catch big trout. His response included three bugs: the October Caddis, the Salmon Fly, and the Hexagenia mayfly. And in LaFontaine’s opinion the October Caddis “is the most important of the three — and the contest is not even close.” I’m sure that could be arguable, but it makes you think that the October Caddis should at least be given a close look by flyfishers.

Judging from recent reports it seems that this year’s caddis hatches have seen a pleasant return to decent levels on the Deschutes. One can only hope that will continue into the fall months and the arrival of the October Caddis. Don’t expect a snowstorm type hatch like you sometimes see with their smaller cousins, but what the October Caddis lacks in numbers it makes up for in physical size. Who doesn’t like plopping some really big bugs onto the water after flipping those little #18 caddis that you struggle to see in the last light of the day’s fishing?

Caddis flies undergo a life cycle called a complete metamorphosis of four stages— from egg, to larva, to pupa, and then adult. It is possible to catch trout on October Caddis larva patterns in the months leading up to the hatch of the adults. The larva build cases, usually made of an assortment of pebbles. Beginning in February the larvae will be available to trout until they begin to pupate in mid-August.  One of the more effective October Caddis larva patterns is the Cased Caddis, originated by John Hazel back in 1978.

The larvae can also be found in the water  without their cases, as they frequently emerge to build new cases as they grow.

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October Caddis larva outside its case

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October Caddis larva pattern

 

 

 

 

 

 

After pupating, October caddis usually begin hatching in mid-September, and adult flies will continue to be available to trout through the end of October. A good imitation for the adults is a size 6-8 Stimulator or Sofa Pillow type fly tied with a pale orange or yellow body with brownish wings and hackle.

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A typical adult October Caddis pattern

In order to cover all of your bases a well-equipped flyfisher should have fly patterns to cover the larva, pupa, and adult stages of the insect. But the question becomes to which stage of the life cycle of the October Caddis should you focus your attention. According to author Roberts, the pupa is the stage of the life cycle when the October Caddis is most vulnerable to hungry trout. While fish do take the larva in or out of their stony cases, and random adults are taken as they touch down on the water’s surface, it is the pupa stage that is when the insect is most preferred by fish. It seems to be difficult for trout to pass up what Roberts describes as “a nice squishy parcel of protein”.

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Anderson’s Bird of Prey October Caddis Pupa

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October Caddis pupa natural

 

I can personally attest to his opinion about the importance of the pupa stage of the October Caddis. I recall a fall day on the Deschutes when there were adult October Caddis naturals on the bushes and water in the evening but they, along with my adult imitation, were being ignored by the trout I was targeting. I was puzzled about why fish were passing up such a big meal. I had no success until I tried nymphing with a pupa pattern, and the trout certainly found it to their liking.

A fine pupa imitation of the October Caddis Pupa is Anderson’s Bird of Prey tied in a size 6 or 8. If you are going to fish it alone keep it along the bottom near the bank using your usual nymphing techniques. Another good option to increase your chances of success is to fish the Anderson’s Bird of Prey as a dropper beneath an adult imitation. You can try adding a slight twitch or strip to your presentation to briefly skate the adult and at the same time cause the pupa to rise in the water column. And don’t forget, if you are fishing on the Deschutes this is also the time of year that steelhead, hopefully, will be around. So rig your gear appropriately!

Our next Fly Tying Night will be Wednesday, September 26 at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn. We will be tying up some Anderson’s Bird of Prey flies that should be just in time for the October Caddis hatch. We will be starting at 6 pm sharp. Hope you can join us!

Fly Tying: June, 2018

Silvey’s Caddis Pupa

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It would be a shame if each of us did not make it over to the Deschutes sometime during the trout season. In fact a number of trips would be more to the point. Dave Hughes refers to the Deschutes as his “river of renewal”. I know that, for me, just catching that first glimpse of the river on each and every trip never fails to lift my spirits.

When the salmonflies and golden stones have finished their annual show on the Deschutes it is time for anglers to move on to the insects that fill up the rest of the trout season. Some of the more dependable hatches involve caddis flies, with hatches that can often be very prolific, and at times almost mind-boggling. I recall one evening getting off the river at Beavertail with Gil Henderson after a day of fishing. As we loaded our pontoon boats piggyback style onto the top of his GMC Yukon, it was all we could do to keep from inhaling the swirling snowstorm of caddis flies that surrounded us during an epic hatch.

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Caddis flies undergo a complete metamorphosis which involves the following stages:
egg —–> larva —–> pupa —–> adult

A commonly used larva pattern is the basic Green Rock Worm, which can also be tied in different color variations depending on the caddis species. A reliable go-to dry fly pattern for the adult caddis is Al Troth’s Elk Hair Caddis. But what do you use for the pupa stage, when the insect is transitioning from a stream bottom dweller to the flying adult insect? One pattern that has gathered a lot of fans is Brian Silvey’s Caddis Pupa. I came across a Youtube video of Jason Osborne from Northwest Flyfishing Outfitters where Jason mentioned that if he could only use one fly on the Deschutes it would be Silvey’s Caddis Pupa. Of course we are not just talking about a fly that is only to be used on the Deschutes, as caddis flies are more numerous and widespread than mayflies in western rivers and lakes. In one of his recent newsletters Joel La Follette of The Royal Treatment Fly Shop mentioned Silvey’s Caddis Pupa as one of only a couple of flies that he would not go anywhere without.

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So what is it about Silvey’s Caddis Pupa that makes it so effective? Mark Bachmann of The Flyfishing Shop seems to think it has to do with the body material called “pearl core braid” that Silvey started experimenting with a number of years ago. As the pupa is emerging air bubbles develop between its layers of skin helping the emerging insect rise to the surface. The pearl core braid material used in the abdomen does a very good job of simulating the reflective appearance of the bubbles. And the pearl core braid comes in a range of colors that can be used to imitate a variety of caddis species.

You can fish the Silvey’s Caddis Pupa any number of different ways.  You can nymph it, fish it on the swing, or fish it as a dropper.  Casting it out in the current and then letting it swing and rise back toward shore does a good job of imitating a natural pupa rising to the surface to emerge as an adult. Brian Silvey says his favorite way is to fish it as a dropper under a dry fly.

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Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn for our next Fly Tying Night on Wednesday, June 27th to tie up some Silvey’s Caddis Pupae. As always we will be starting at 6:00 pm. Hope to see you there!

(Note:  We will be taking a couple of months off from fly tying.  This will be our last Fly Tying Night until we start up again in September.)

Fly Tying: May, 2018

Bill Schaadt’s Shad Fly

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Much of the time we focus our attention and energy to those anadromous fish whose numbers are dwindling and the forecast for success seems marginal at best. This year our chances to hook up with an elusive steelhead seems to be no different. Perhaps we should be taking advantage of fishing for shad, an anadromous fish whose numbers each year apparently are in the millions in the Columbia and Willamette Rivers.

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When we say shad we are talking specifically about the American Shad, a species of shad that were originally native to the North Atlantic from Newfoundland to Florida. The American Shad are members of the herring family and are mostly plankton feeders, spending three to five years in the ocean before returning to their home rivers to spawn. At this time they usually range in size from 1 to 5 pounds, but will sometimes reach up to 8 pounds in size. After spawning about half of the fish will survive to return to the ocean to repeat the process again. Historically the American Shad was an important food source for the founders of our country and are still regularly consumed on the east coast. In 1871 American Shad were introduced to the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento River systems and they spread from there up and down the Pacific coast. The shad became so successful that the Columbia River system now has the largest shad run in the world, an estimated three to five million fish yearly. Unlike some introduced species, at this time there seems to be no documentation about harmful effects of the shad numbers on other native species of fish. Some depleted populations in eastern rivers have needed to be replenished with eggs from Columbia River shad. While still regularly eaten on the east coast, American Shad are often released by west coast anglers or are retained to be used as bait for crab or sturgeon fishing.

In June Nick Wheeler will be speaking to our club about fly fishing for shad, a species that is generally overlooked by most flyfishers. Nick, working out of The Royal Treatment Fly Shop, has become somewhat of a local guru regarding shad fly fishing. Before moving to Oregon, Nick learned about shad fishing in his native California rivers and later transferred that knowledge to our local waters. He now ties the shad flies used by Water Time Outfitters guide Rob Crandall, who seems to be the only fly fishing guide that is taking advantage of the shad fishery in the nearby Willamette Falls area. Some of our club members have been clients on Rob’s shad adventures and they all seem to come back with stories regarding the epic number of hookups. Following a trip with Rob, club member Linda Becker reported “numerous multiple hookups” and how she eventually “got tired from catching fish”. We should all experience that feeling once in a while! Of course that was fishing from a boat. For June’s Fish-A-Long we will be relying on Paul Brewer and Dave Kilhefner to find us a location where we can reach the shad from the bank.

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At this month’s Fly Tying Night we will be tying up a fly designed for American Shad in preparation for the club’s Fish-A-Long in June. Nick Wheeler shared with me the pattern that has been proven time and again to be the most effective fly for shad in our area. Being the gentleman that he is, Nick is not taking credit for the design but I think it is fair to say that he has taken a pattern that was first introduced by Bill Schaadt in California and tweaked it to make it a real deadly fly for our local waters.

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Curiously enough, Bill’s last name “Schaadt” is pronounced “Shad”. How appropriate is that!? Bill Schaadt (1924-1995) was a larger-than-life figure in the world of fly fishing and could be the topic for an entire article just by himself. In fact he was the focus of a Sports Illustrated article called The World’s Best in 1974 (si.com/vault/1974/12/02/619297/the-worlds-best).  Schaadt is also featured in an acclaimed film called Rivers of a Lost Coast which documents the rise and fall of steelhead fishing on California’s north coast rivers.  The movie is available in the Clackamas County Library system and can also be viewed online through Orvis. In 2014 a book came out called I Know Bill Schaadt. It is a tribute comprising tales from thirty people who knew this unforgettable fly fishing legend.

 

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After much experimentation and testing Nick has found what works best!

 

Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, May 23rd to tie up some Bill Schaadt shad flies. As always we will be starting at 6:00 pm.  The flies are easy to tie and should be suitable for tyers of all levels of experience.  Nick Wheeler will be on hand as the celebrity guest tyer for the evening.

As far as equipment, techniques, and locations we will be looking forward to Nick  sharing all of his knowledge about catching American Shad during his presentation June 19th.

 

Fly Tying: April, 2018

The Balanced Leech

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As many fly fishermen have discovered, it is not so much which fly you choose to use, but the presentation of that fly that determines your success. Last October we featured a weighted jig fly called Dave’s Devil that certainly can be effective. I observed the rising and diving action of that fly to be just the ticket to success for Dave Kilhefner one day at Rocky Ridge Ranch. In researching material for the Dave’s Devil article I came across a lot of information that indicated on some days, in some places, a different presentation may be the key to success.

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And that brings us to this month’s featured fly, The Balanced Leech, a pattern similar to Dave’s Devil in that it is also weighted and tied on a jig hook, but with one innovative difference. Instead of a rising and diving action, the Balanced Leech is designed to sit and move horizontally in the water.

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Extra time on the hands of some fly tyers simply gives them more time to tinker around with new ideas. The Balanced Leech came from the efforts of Jerry McBride of Spokane, Washington about 2005. Jerry was trying to improve his success with his usual stillwater patterns by fishing them under an indicator. After varying degrees of success, it was pointed out to him that most stillwater life forms, with the exceptions of chironomids, sit and move horizontally in the water, not vertically. Jerry used his background as a mechanical engineer to apply the principles of physics to get his patterns to remain horizontal when fished under an indicator. Basically, McBride used an ordinary straight pin to hold a weighted bead slightly out in front of the fly that is tied on a jig hook.

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A Balanced Leech under construction; a straight pin with a tungsten bead for weight,  along with a glass bead             as a spacer.

The result is kind of a teeter-totter effect with the eye of the jig hook being the pivot point and the cantilevered bead out in front balancing the weight of the materials behind the eye. Jig hooks are preferred because the leader is allowed to hang vertically in the water under an indicator, while the fly, tied on with a non-slip loop knot, sits horizontally in the water column. An added bonus of using a jig hook is that the flies will ride with the hook point up, thus reducing the chance of snags.

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The exact positioning of the bead head can be a bit of trial and error experimentation. Too large of a bead, or the bead being positioned too far forward results in the fly sitting with its nose down. Too small of a bead, or the bead being not far enough forward, results in the fly sitting with its tail down. There are a number of other factors that come into play when determining the optimal positioning of the bead, including the length of the hook shank, the size of the bead, the type of bead (tungsten or brass), as well as the type and amount of other fly tying body and tail materials. With a little practice a fly tyer will be able to figure out the proper balance of materials before starting the tying process. While some physics is involved you have to keep in mind this is not rocket science. You can test the balance of a finished fly by hanging it from a loop of leader material. If the finished fly is close to being balanced that is good enough. Any slight tilting up or down will be evened out by the support provided by the water when the fly is being fished.

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Hanging a completed Balanced Leech from mono leader to check its balance

You can fish the Balanced Leech slowly with an intermediate sinking line. But you will get the most out of its design by fishing it with a floating line under a strike indicator. Why fish with a strike indicator, you ask? Well, here are some reasons:
1. You can suspend the fly at any depth that you choose. If you are finding fish consistently at, say a depth of six feet, you can set the depth for your fly at six feet with your strike indicator and keep it there in the zone.
2. You can choose to move the fly slowly or not at all.
3. Slow and short strips of the line will provide motion to the indicator, which will transfer that same degree of motion to the fly, which still remains at the desired depth zone.
4. Wave action can provide some interesting motion through the strike indicator. Some flyfishers report that the balanced leech under a strike indicator has proven to be most effective when wind drifting across a lake in a float tube or pontoon boat. At such times the fish can find the tantalizing random jigging motion created by the wave action to be irresistible.

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So there you have it… another option to add to the arsenal in your quest for those elusive fish. Once you have figured out how to tie a balanced leech you can extend the same principles to other stillwater patterns like damselflies, dragonflies, and minnows, etc. The list goes on. You should continue to use your favorite patterns that you have had success with in the past. Just try tying up a few of those same favorites as balanced patterns. It certainly is worth a try on your next stillwater adventure.

 

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Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn for our next Fly Tying Night on Wednesday, April 25th to tie up some Balanced Leeches. As always we will be starting at 6:00 pm. Hope to see you there.

 

 

 

 

Fly Tying: March, 2018

The Smurf Emerger

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For the past few months we have focused our attention on large streamer or steelhead patterns. Partly because steelhead fishing has been less than stellar, perhaps it is time to begin focusing on trout patterns again. This month we will be looking at a small mayfly that is so widespread we should be able to put it to good use on almost any northwest stream or river.

At our March Fly Tying Night we will be tying up a blue wing olive emerger pattern called The Smurf Emerger. Credit for this creation goes to John Smeraglio of The Deschutes Canyon Fly Shop in Maupin. When John last spoke at our meeting in April of last year he gave us the details of the fly, including the recipe. It has few materials and is an easy pattern to tie, as long as you have good eyesight or have some kind of magnifiers for the smaller sizes. Club member Lane Hoffman has shared with me that it is an easy to tie pattern and is very effective, especially in the smaller sizes.

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Adult Blue Wing Olive

First, a little background about Blue Wing Olives. Mayflies come in a great number of of sizes and colors, with around 2500 species worldwide, and about 700 species in North America alone.They can be divided into four major groups based on the behavior of the nymph stage of each species: the Swimmers, the Crawlers, the Clingers, and the Burrowers. The Blue Wing Olives, or BWO’s as they are known affectionately by flyfishers, fall into the Swimmer category of mayflies. This is important to flyfishers because the nymphs use their tails to help them swim around and that frequently carries them out into moving water where they can be easily taken by trout.

Blue Wing Olive is a common name for a large group of mayflies within the Baetis family, made up of over 150 species. They are present in all kinds of waters and it would be difficult for a flyfisher to collect aquatic life samples by screening any stream or river without collecting some BWO’s. Individuals of all species exhibit similar looks and behavior, with small differences that would be important only to an entomologist (insect geek), but not to the average angler. And the name itself for the BWO group can be confusing at times to the angler because not all mayflies that fall into the blue wing olive category have blue tinted wings or olive colored bodies.

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Blue Wing Olive Nymph

On our western rivers we can find BWO’s hatching strongly from September through April, but extending through the end of spring. Along with midges, the BWO’s are the flies that the trout fishers can rely on during the colder months of the year. If you are seeing mayflies size 16 or smaller chances are they are some variety of blue wing olive. Pheasant tails and hare’s ears are good nymph imitations. Baetis cripples, CDC cripples, and soft hackles, along with the Smurf Emerger are good BWO emerger patterns. The adult BWO is well matched by Sparkle Duns, Comparaduns, and Parachute Baetis patterns.

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Adult Blue Wing Olive Emerging

Fishing Tips:
The emergers can be presented just as you would a dry fly, although the emerger may rest just under the surface film. You can cast upstream and let it dead drift past you and finish the cast by letting it swing across the current. I have had decent success in some waters fishing the emerger as a dropper off a dry fly or even off a nymph. Moderate to slower moving water, including eddies are good places to fish BWO patterns. And don’t forget those foam lines which seem to concentrate the insects, and therefore also concentrate the fish.

Fishing BWO imitations may appeal to many of you because it doesn’t require you to get up early and you don’t have to fish until dark. The peak time for BWO hatches is mid-day through early afternoon. And curiously, the best BWO hatches seem to be on overcast or drizzly days.

Tying Tips:
When trying to match a blue wing olive hatch, the size of the patterns is critical. BWO’s get up to size 16 at the most, and the majority are 18’s and 20’s, with some species being 22’s. The smaller sizes can be challenging but you should have a variety of sizes in your flybox. Whether it is a nymph, emerger or adult, start tying the 16’s and work your way down as you master the process. Finer thread sizes will make the tying of smaller flies less frustrating and you will be happier with your finished product. I have become fond of Veevus 14/0 thread.

 

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Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, March 28 for our next Fly Tying Night. We’ll be meeting at 6:00 pm sharp to tie up some of John Smeraglio’s Smurf Emergers. Hope to see you there!