Fly Tying: May, 2019

The Ice Cream Cone

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Early in my time with Clackamas Fly Fishers I got invited by a group of members to join them on their annual outing to the Owyhee River.  (I’ve got to give a huge shout-out to Ron Bouchard for organizing these trips. The fishing was at times amazing, but the trips getting there were equally memorable. I imagine Ron is still having flashbacks of the lady pulling alongside on the road and informing him that his trailer was on fire!)  

On the second annual trip for me in 2011 we had to change plans because of poor water conditions on the Owyhee and the destination was moved to Diamond Lake.  Pulling in to the parking area, near the area where we ended up camping, we saw huge clouds of mosquitoes in every direction and thought that there was no way that we could survive stepping out of Ron’s pickup, or at the very least we would be needing blood transfusions.  As we set up camp we discovered that what we thought were mosquitoes were actually midges, relatives to mosquitoes, but not of the blood sucking variety. 

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Swarms of Adult Midges

Adult midges are often mistaken for mosquitoes, so if you see a bug that you think is a mosquito, but it is not biting you, it is probably a midge.

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Adult Midge– It’s easy to see how they are mistaken for mosquitoes.

 

It was on this trip that I got my introduction to Ice Cream Cone chironomid patterns.  They were by far the most effective fly for me on the trip. If I had known more about chironomids and how to fish them I would undoubtedly have done even better. The midge hatches were of monumental proportions.  On the second day I was forced to head to shore with my pontoon boat to answer a call of nature. As I approached the shoreline I saw a layer of scum on the water that started about eight feet from the beach.  Upon close examination I could see that the scum was made up of insect shucks, the vast majority of which were chironomids. We were on the windward shore of the lake and the prevailing winds had piled the insect shucks onto the beach to a depth of about four inches. I had experienced some prodigious insect hatches before but nothing like this.

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A mass of chironomid shucks found lining the shoreline of Diamond Lake.

(As an aside… the midge hatch that we experienced at Diamond Lake, although memorable, was apparently minor compared to what happens annually in some areas of the country. In June of 2018, Cleveland had epic midge swarms that were so thick and vast that they were showing up on doppler radar and were described daily on the local TV weather reports!)

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Chironomid Background Info

Midges are small insects with two pair of wings in the order Diptera, along with house flies, mosquitoes, crane flies, and others.  The midges are generally non biters, although a small group of them are called biting midges, another name for the extremely annoying no-see-ums.  Midges go through a complete metamorphosis during their life cycle, that is, from egg to larva to pupa to adult. Fish will also feed on the larva (blood worms) and adults, but for this article we are going to focus on the pupa stage of midges, commonly referred to as chironomids.

 In stillwaters the chironomid pupae are one of the few insects that attract a trout’s attention by moving, not horizontally, but vertically through the water.  However, the movement is not a swimming motion. The pupae slowly rise to the surface as gases form underneath their body segment covering.

Chironomid naturals showing size and color variations.

As it reaches the surface, each pupa will break out of its shuck and work its way through the surface film of the water, emerging as an adult midge.  Getting through the surface tension of stillwater is no small feat for an emerging insect. At times the surface of the water acts like a stretched elastic membrane that provides a real challenge to an emerging insect. Cooler temperatures and windless days seems to enhance the surface tension of water, therefore making it even more difficult for emerging insects, and thus making them more vulnerable to foraging trout. Many anglers report that midge hatches seem to occur during the warmer parts of the day during the winter months, and conversely during the warmer months they occur most often during the cooler parts of the day.

Chironomids are generally curved in shape, so using scud-style hooks, sizes 8 -18, is a good way to imitate them. The bigger sizes would be effective in some alkaline lakes where the midges are famously large, but for most stillwaters you seldom would need anything larger than a size 14.  In streams the chironomids tend to be smaller so some anglers tie their pupa down to size 22 or even smaller, which is tough for those of us that are visually challenged. 

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Using a stomach pump is a good way to figure out what size and color of chironomids to use.

 

 

Chironomids come in a wide range of colors, including black, olive, red, maroon, brown, silver, and others. Nearly all color variations can have some red in them due to some residual hemoglobin that shows through the skin. The body is segmented, with some tyers insisting on having seven segments in the chironomid patterns they tie.  But are the fish really counting? At the head end of the pupa there will be some protruding gill filaments, that can be simulated in artificial fly patterns using any number of white materials like ostrich herl, antron. or poly yarn.

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A chironomid showing very evident wing pads developing and highly visible gill filaments.

The question often comes up about why bother fishing chironomid patterns at all.  Well, midges are available year round. They are arguably the most available food for feeding trout.  What they lack in size is made up for by the sheer numbers that are available. It is estimated that they make up at least 50 percent of the trout’s diet in stillwater habitats. 

Brian Chan, noted stillwater fishing guru, has written extensively on chironomid strategies.  Check out this link for some great advice about fishing chironomids in lakes and ponds:

10 Tips For Success With Stillwater Chironomids by Brian Chan 6/09/2015  on Rio Website

https://www.rioproducts.com/learn/10-tips-for-success-with-stillwater-chironomids

When fishing your chironomids at depths greater than the length of your rod, landing your fish will be made a lot easier by using a “slip strike indicator”.  Here is a helpful short video from In The Riffle:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2cbPXxvxRI

The Ice Cream Cone

If you do some searching on the internet you will find all kinds of chironomid pupa patterns.  And, surely, they all will work. But, as always, simple is a good place to start for a fly tyer. I have found the Ice Cream Cone, also known as the Snow Cone or Sno-Cone, to be both effective and easy to tie. The history of fly patterns is often up for debate, but credit for coming up with the Ice Cream Cone seems to go to Kamloops, B.C. guide Kelly Davidson back in 1992.  There are lots of variations, but the one common identifying feature of an Ice Cream Cone is a white beadhead. Using a white bead, either metal or glass, seems to be acceptable to trout in representing the white gill filaments.

  The body of the flies are often wrapped with thread or super floss, sometimes incorporating other flashy materials like flashabou, frostbite, or krystal flash for some added pop. The amount shine in the pupa body corresponds to gas that builds up in the pupa as it slowly rises through the water column.  At times the chironomids will appear to have an almost chrome-like segmented appearance due to the accumulation of gases.  One of Phil Rowley’s well known chironomid patterns is in fact called the Chromie.

Coating the whole fly with super glue or UV resin, though not essential, will greatly increase its durability and extend the life of the fly. You can fish Ice Cream Cones under an indicator or let them sink near the bottom and then patiently simulate the pupa slowly rising to the surface by using a slower than slow hand-twist retrieve.  When fish appear to be feeding just sub-surface, club member Lane Hoffman likes to grease all of his leader except the last six inches or so, thus leaving the  chironomid pupa pattern suspended just under the surface.  And don’t forget to try midge pupa patterns in streams, too.  Dead drifting them tied off the bend of a larger nymph can be deadly.  When the trout are feeding near the surface of streams, fishing them in a dry-dropper combination can be lots of fun.

Join us at our next CFF Fly Tying Night on Wednesday, May, 29th to tie up some Ice Cream Cones.  They will become an effective addition to your stillwater fishing patterns.  We will be meeting at the Royal Treatment fly Fishing shop in West Linn.  As always, we get underway at 6:00 pm.  Hope to see you there!

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Fly Tying: April, 2019

Euro-Nymphing Flies

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This month’s fly tying article is going to be a bit different.  Instead of highlighting one particular fly we are going to be looking at a whole family of flies.  

Background Info:

European nymphing?? It seems that the whole fly fishing world is euro-nymphing.  But it is not a matter of just getting on the bandwagon of the newest fad, because in fact, euro-nymphing is not really all that new. Although new to many of us, it has proven to be very effective since the 1980’s.  (Some flyfishing historians will argue that european-nymphing is simply another step in the development of high-stick nymphing techniques that have been evolving for the past 150 years!)

Perhaps you are on the fence in deciding whether to jump into euro-nymphing. Well, when you hear that the highly competitive USA fly fishing team has added euro-nymphing to its arsenal of methods, it should make you sit up and notice.  Back in 1989 the fly fishing world was changed when Polish angler Vladi Trzebunia caught more fish by himself than the combined total of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place teams at the world championships! A little closer to home, when Josh Linn, the “Fly Czar” at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop, tells me he recently had a 20-fish day on the Metolius I really start paying attention!  That is no easy feat on that river.  Now, I don’t get over to the Metolius very often, but I am not sure if I have landed 20 fish on that river in my lifetime. So we are in for a treat this month getting to have Josh as our guest speaker and also have him available as the guest tyer to share his knowledge at our monthly Fly Tying Night. (And at our meeting be sure to ask him about landing two fish at once. Also on the Metolius!)

So, what is euro-nymphing?  In its simplest description, it is a way to fish subsurface flies without using a strike indicator or adding extra weight onto your line.  it is a method of maintaining a tight connection with your fly, a method to dead drift your fly and to eliminate slack in your line, and a method to maintain control over the depth and speed of your drifting fly.  Some people call this Czech nymphing, some call it European nymphing, and some call it tight-line nymphing. You can call it whatever you want.

There are a number of variations of euro-nymphing styles (Polish, Czech, Spanish, French, etc), each employing both similarities and differences to the other methods. If you study them all and overthink too much, all of the information will soon put your brain on overload.  Before you blow a fuse and get discouraged, we’ll let Josh break down this whole European-style nymphing to the basics and teach us enough to get us started.

Euro-Nymphing Flies:

The types of flies for euro-nymphing will differ from many of the nymph patterns that you are accustomed to using.  They nearly all are heavily weighted for their size, usually employing tungsten beads to get them down to the desired depth.  Along with the tungsten beads tyers often add wraps of lead wire for additional weight.

You will notice that many of the euro-nymph flies are also sparsely tied and have a smooth and streamlined appearance. This aids in getting the flies down quickly to the fish zone.  Many of our standard nymphs have a bushy or rough look to them, which causes them to drop more slowly due to added friction as they sink through the water column. Many patterns employ a bright hot spot near the head or tail, or both. The appearance of many of the flies can best be described as “attractor” patterns since they do not seem to closely resemble any life forms in the river, (or on this planet for that matter). Suffice to say we are not trying to closely “match the hatch” when tying up many of the euro-nymph patterns.

Flies for euro-nymphing are rapidly evolving. Here are a number of euro-nymph patterns presently in use:

The Perdigon

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This fly was first developed by the Spanish competitive fly fishing team but really was made popular by the French team. Wraps of lead wire are often added behind the tungsten bead head.  The tail is generally coq de leon. Using different materials for wrapping the body accounts for the numerous variations of this fly.  It generally is tied with a very smooth and streamlined look, and needs to be coated with UV resin or clear fingernail polish.  It is interesting to note that the name Perdigon comes from the Spanish word “perdigones” which translates as “pellet” or “shot”, as in bird shot.  So the Perdigon is literally a weighted pellet with a tail, and it drops through the water like a rock.

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The Mic Drop

A Perdigon style fly with a body made of thread wraps ribbed with wire.

 

The Quilldigon

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Basically a Perdigon made with a peacock quill body.

 

 

The Frenchie

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Most of the credit for this fly seems to go to Lance Egan, a member of the USA fly fishing team.  He actually says his version is a variation of a previous pattern (perhaps borrowed from the French team?, hence the name). Using pheasant tail fibers in the body, it is sometimes described as a pheasant tail with a hot spot. Egan says he won one session of the world championships in 2006 using the Frenchie.

The Thread Frenchie

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As the name implies, this fly substitutes thread for pheasant tail fibers in the body.

 

 

The GTI Caddis

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Another Lance Egan pattern, GTi is a short for “Go To Imitation”.  It is a larger fly and makes a good point or anchor fly in a euro-nymph rigging.

 

The Red Princess  (or Czech Princess)

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Not as smooth in appearance as many euro-nymph patterns due to an added cdc collar.  (Club member Kevin Luettgerodt likes this pattern after recently landing a beautiful 18-inch redside on the Metolius.)

 

Join us on Wednesday, April 24th at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn for our next Fly Tying Night. Guest tyer Josh Linn will be guiding us in tying up euro-nymph patterns, including some of those shown above. We will be starting at 6 pm.  Hope to see you there!

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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.

Chum Salmon– Ocean Phase                       Chum Salmon– Spawning Male

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.