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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Adult Blue Wing Olive Emerging
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.
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.
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!
What a surprise we have had at the end of February with the arrival of cooler weather and a mix of snow and rain. It has made fishing a little challenging, but as spring quickly approaches things should change.
The weather was little unsettled last month, but we still had our meeting and Mark Bachmann, of the Fly Fishing Shop our only Gold Founding Sponsor, gave a great presentation on fishing for Trout with a Spey rod. He reviewed the equipment, techniques, water and flies to attract the big ones that hang out in the middle of the river. As usual it was an informative and enjoyable presentation.
This month we welcome Todd Alsbury from Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife. Todd is from the North Willamette Watershed District and will bring us up to date on the activities in the district as well as the status of our various species of fish. Todd always brings an informative program so do not miss it.
As you know we had to cancel the February fish-a-long because of inclement weather. That should not be a problem this month as we are heading over to the Crooked River in pursuit of Trout. There is a possibility of high water so be alert for any updates as the trip approaches.
Do not forget fly tying on fourth Wednesday of most months. Look for the notice each month as to time, location, and type of fly that will be tied.
Coming up is the N W Fly Tying Expo on 3/9-10/18 in Albany Oregon. It will host large number of fly tiers and fly fishing vendors. In addition they have programs and lessons you can sign up for online. Check it out.
In addition the annual Sandy River Spey Clave is coming on 5/18-20/18 at Oxbow Park. It is a annual event brought to us by the Fly Fishing Shop in Welches, Oregon. Lessons are available on Friday afternoon at a very reasonable cost. Go to the website at flyfishusa.com to sign up. If you have any interest in beginning or improving your spey casting you do not want to miss this event.
Our sponsors are our lifeblood so stop by and say hello and thank them for their support. Better yet buy something or book a trip with them.
Back in October the guest speaker at our club’s meeting was Kevin Erickson who gave us a fine presentation that centered on his new book, “Feather Craft: The Amazing Birds and Feathers Used In Classic Salmon Flies”. It was readily apparent to most of us that we have neither the skills nor the patience to produce the quality of flies that Kevin is crafting. Amazing stuff! (I clearly remember him saying that the completion of a Jock Scott fly required 32 different materials. Whew!) At the conclusion of his talk Kevin graciously offered to come to one of our Fly Tying Nights to lend us a hand in improving our fly tying skills. After explaining to Kevin that our tyers are not quite ready for classic salmon flies, we decided to focus on the Muddler Minnow as a fly that would teach us some new skills that haven’t yet been emphasized in our monthly fly tying sessions.
Although perhaps not as in favor as it once was, the Muddler Minnow, or Muddler as it is commonly called, is still the“go to” fly of some flyfishers and the Muddler should occupy a spot in your fly box. I have come across a few testimonials to the effectiveness of the Muddler. At a fly shop I met a gentleman that has had terrific success fishing only Muddlers, in various colors, for steelhead on the Deschutes. And famed flyfisher and author Gary Lafontaine is said to have only fished Muddlers in a variety of forms and sizes for one year and reported that he had landed as many fish as if he had fished his usual array of patterns. And the historical importance of the fly to the tradition of fly fishing in this country was emphasized in 1991 when the US Postal Service included the Muddler Minnow as one of only five flies in its fly fishing stamp series.
The Muddler Minnow has played an important part in my fly tying history as it was the first fly that I ever watched being tied. My dad, brother Steve, and I were fishing at Diamond Lake when I was probably 10 and my brother was 8 years of age. A hot tip told us that a couple of fly patterns were very productive late in the day. We wandered over to the resort and found an elderly gentleman outside tying flies and selling them as fast as he could tie them. We were both fascinated watching the man fashion Muddler Minnows and another pattern from miscellaneous materials sitting on his fly tying bench. We purchased a few and had great success fishing the flies on a very slow troll far behind the boat on unweighted monofilament line using spinning rods, with the fishing getting better and better the darker it got late in the evening. (Fishing flies in this manner was a welcome relief after trolling Ford Fender flashers around all day.) I guess there is reason to think that the same success could be had at Diamond and other lakes, using a flyrod and a Muddler Minnow some 60 years later. At least it ought to be worth a try.
The Muddler Minnow was first tied by Don Gapen of Anoka, Minnesota back in 1937 for use in pursuing brook trout on the Nipigon River in Ontario. Gapen’s family ran a couple of fishing resorts and Don later started the Gapen tackle company that is still a family owned business today. Their online catalog shows that they still carry the Muddler Minnow but they also have some lure offerings with intriguing names such as the Ugly-Bug, the Bait-Walker, and the Walk-N-Lizard. It looks like a lot of their products are aimed at the pike and muskie fishers in their area.
When you look at the original Muddler Minnows you will notice that they are kind of scraggly, almost messy looking, compared to what we commonly see in fly boxes today. The heads of Don Gapen’s Muddlers were largely left untrimmed as is seen in the photos below.
Tied by Don Gapen himself
A Don Gapen style Muddler
It is interesting to note that the Gapen family today still sells Muddler flies that resemble the original version and have testimonials that state that they fish just fine. One reviewer says, “Just like movies, the original is usually the best. I tie and fish both original and modern muddlers and found the original out performed the modern on many occasions.” A lot of us that tie flies today like them to look nice and neat in our fly boxes. Maybe we are trying to tie for ourselves and not for the fish.
Credit for the appearance of today’s Muddlers generally goes to famed Montana tyer and flyfisher Dan Bailey. The dense and neat heads that he developed back in the 1950’s require a process of spinning and packing the deer hair, followed by a trimming done with scissors or a razor blade. Muddlers today typically employ mottled turkey quill segments for the tail and wings and gold or silver mylar for the body. Often there is an underwing of squirrel hair and a collar of deer hair. The variations and colors of Muddlers today is limited only by the tyer’s imagination, but the one thing that all Muddlers will have in common is a head of spun deer hair. A densely packed head provides plenty of flotation but the flies can be tied weighted or unweighted according to the targeted species and water conditions.
Some Variations of Muddler Minnows
From its name the Muddler Minnow will mimic a variety of small “minnow” fish like shiners, chubs, and dace. Weighted and fished along the bottom the muddler is a great sculpin or tadpole imitation. But the Muddler is a versatile fly that is said to mimic a variety of other life forms like grasshopper and crickets. Tied in a variety of sizes, Dan Bailey often used the Muddler as a late summer grasshopper imitation on his favorite Montana rivers.
A Muddler Minnow Variation Called A “Spuddler”
Nothing can be ruled out when deciding what is the proper way to fish a Muddler. Quick and irregular strips may be effective at times, but on some days and for some fish a simple down and across swing may be just the ticket. Gary Lafontaine reported that while a retrieve using rapid wild strips was effective for bass, a smooth strip with less action was much more effective for trout. Unweighted Muddlers can be very effective as a waking fly for steelhead while a weighted pattern fished at or near the bottom using rests between short strips can be a fine sculpin imitation. So it sounds like anything goes when fishing a Muddler. Good advice is probably “If what you are doing is not working, try something different.”
Take advantage of having Kevin Erickson on hand for our next Fly Tying Night. Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, Feb. 28th for an evening of hair spinning, packing and trimming. As always we will be getting started at 6:00 pm sharp.
Hope to see you there!
If the turnout at last month’s fly tying night is any indication, there seems to be a good amount of interest in winter steelhead fishing. As we move into the season it makes sense to continue our focus on winter steelhead patterns. But this month we will vary it up a bit by tying a tube fly.
Famed steelheader Lani Waller has become a a big promoter of fishing with tube flies. Waller was not the originator of using tube flies for steelhead and he freely admits that the system he uses is a result of experimentation and refinement by himself and others over a number of years. Waller has been fly fishing for over fifty years and his name became synonymous with fly fishing for steelhead when he came out with a set of three videos on the topic for Scientific Anglers 3M back in 1984. His evolution in steelhead angling made a quantum leap in 1997 when he was fishing with guide Bob Clay on the Kispiox River, a tributary of the famous Skeena River in British Columbia. Waller was reluctant to try the tube flies that Clay offered for fear that the small hooks on the tube flies would not hold up to the strong 20 plus pound Skeena system steelhead. But during a week of fishing Clay landed one hundred percent of the fish he hooked while Lani landed sixty percent of his hooked fish. That certainly turned Waller into a believer. When I first read that story I figured that if tube flies got Lani Waller’s attention they were definitely worth looking into.
So what is a tube fly, anyway? Well, tube flies differ from traditional flies in that they are tied on some kind of tube material instead of being tied on the shank of a metal hook. Tubes today are often made of different kinds of plastic or metal onto which are fastened the usual array of thread, feathers, hair and flash materials that normally go into the tying of a fly. The angler then ties a short shank hook onto the tippet material which has been threaded through the tube. The hook can then be pulled into a soft plastic junction tube that has been attached onto the back of the tube fly.
And who came up with this revolutionary idea? Well, that depends on who you talk to or where you look. The vast majority of sources that I came across give credit for the first tube flies to Minnie Morawski, a fly dresser who tied flies for the Charles Playfair Company in Aberdeen, Scotland back in 1945. Minnie was apparently using the hollow quills of bird feathers for her tubes. But then I found references to a British angler named Alexander Wanless who actually published a book with colored drawings of some tube flies in 1932. It is possible that Wanless is less often credited for the earliest tube flies because he was mostly a spin fisherman and the idea caught on later with the fishermen that really embraced the tube fly…the fly anglers. In the USA, tube flies were first used in patterns that were trolled behind boats. Although it undoubtedly happened earlier, the first documented use of tube flies in this country for casting for salmon or steelhead was in the Puget Sound area in 1985 (Fly Fishing for Pacific Salmon by Ferguson, Johnson, and Trotter). Traditional flies tied on hooks surely remain the most common type of artificial fly, but tube flies are now used worldwide for nearly all species of fish that are sought by fly anglers.
Tube Flies (the two flies on the left) from the 1932 book by Alexander Wanless
You may wonder why would anyone bother with tube flies in the first place. Well, there is a definite upside to tube flies due to a number of advantages that are often quoted in a variety of resources:
1. More fish landed— The short shank hook results in less leverage for a fish to throw a hook (see the example above of Lani Waller on the Kispiox)
2. More hook-ups— The positioning of the hook in the junction tube toward the rear of the fly can help eliminate short strikes by fish nipping the tail of the fly
3. Longer fly life— A strike by a fish will often cause the hook to be pulled free of the tube, causing the fly to slide up the leader away from the jaws of the fish
4. Easy to change out hooks— If a hook becomes dull or damaged it is easy to swap it out for a brand new laser sharp hook right out of the package
5. Easy storage of flies— Without the hooks on, it is easy to store a bundle of tube flies together without them getting all tangled up
Don’t be intimidated about tying tube flies. If you have tied a traditional fly before, you can tie a tube fly. The same basic skills are used to tie materials onto a plastic tube instead of tying onto the shank of a metal hook. Join us for our next Fly Tying Night and give tube flies a try. We will be meeting at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 6 pm. Hope to see you there!
For some of us the dropping temperatures and the falling leaves are signals that the annual approach of winter steelhead fishing is just around the corner. Instead of traveling to the Deschutes for our steelhead “fix” we are able to stay closer to home and fish local waters like the Clackamas and Sandy rivers. So now is the time to get ready by checking those fly boxes to make sure you have a full arsenal of winter steelhead patterns.
When asked to give me the name of a likely winter steelhead fly candidate for our November Fly Tying Night, two of my regular sources of information, Josh Linn and Dave Kilhefner, both mentioned the fly with the promising name of “Metal Detector”. When searching for a grab by a steelhead it makes sense that you can hardly go wrong with a fly called the Metal Detector.
Northwest guide Marty Sheppard is credited with coming up with the Metal Detector series of flies. Marty and his wife Mia have been the owners since 2003 of Little Creek Outfitters, a guide service based in Maupin. They specialize in swinging flies with both two handed and single handed rods and regularly guide on the Deschutes, Grande Ronde, John Day, and Sandy rivers.
Marty, along with his friend Josh Linn, experimented with a variety of materials in hopes of coming up with a large profile fly that was also easier to cast than some of the flies on the market at the time. The key turned out to be using materials that don’t soak up a lot of water. This makes the Metal Detector flies lighter and thus easier to cast than many flies. And we all know that heavy flies and sink tips can turn a promising day of fishing into an unpleasant chore. Marty Sheppard’s fly was originally tied with bucktail but now is also tied with finn raccoon. Both materials are buoyant, absorb little water, and don’t clump together when wet. Polar chenille, while also absorbing little water, is included in the body to give a translucent glow from the inside out. The flies are finished off with some flash and a marabou collar which provides added movement in the water. Trailing stinger hooks are used to help ensure the greater chance of a hookup.
Metal Detectors are usually two toned flies with favorite color combinations being black and blue, and red and orange. Black and blue is especially good on overcast days, dark conditions, or when the water is off color. The red and orange flies are preferred in bright sunlight or when the water is especially clear. It is interesting that all of the Metal Detectors I found in fly shop bins were tied on metal shanks, while Dave Kilhefner says that Marty actually ties his own on tubes.
Join us at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, November 29th to tie up some Metal Detectors for the start of winter steelheading. It would be helpful if you brought your own super glue along with your vise and fly tying tools. As always, we will start at 6:00 pm. Hope to see you there!
While sitting in my pontoon boat last Spring at Rocky Ridge, I was smugly thinking I had cracked the code there. I had already released a number of nice fish caught on a variety of patterns and was therefore feeling pretty good about myself. That is until I started paying attention to how Dave Kilhefner was doing. It quickly became apparent that Dave was out-fishing me, and everyone else, by a big margin. Every time I looked over he was either playing a fish, or netting a fish, or releasing a fish. When I finally kicked over close enough to talk, I had to ask… “OK, Dave, whatcha usin’ “. A “Green Devil” was all I was able to make out from across the water. That didn’t do me any good because I didn’t have any “Devils”. In all truth I didn’t even know what a “Devil” was. So all I could do was give him a nod, as if to indicate that I knew exactly what he was talking about. It wasn’t until lunchtime when Dave got out his vise to tie up a few more “Devils” (the others were shredded) that I was able to see that he was talking about a marabou jig pattern. He thought that just calling it a “marabou jig” was simply too generic of a name. Dave wanted a name with a little more pizazz, hence “The Devil”. And then after reading the article about last month’s smallmouth bass fishing on The John Day River where he had good success with a “White Devil”, I thought OK, that is enough; it is time to look more closely into this Devil jig fly. I know Dave would not take credit for being the originator of marabou jig flies because they have been around forever, but for the purpose of this article I am going to give the Devil even some more pizazz and call it “Dave’s Devil”. I think it is appropriate to at least give Dave some credit for bringing jig flies to our attention.
Like most things involved with flyfishing it is possible to get started with jig flies at different degrees of immersion. Where you fit in would be based on your level of interest and the amount of time you have available:
1. “Get It And Go” Level— You can just go down and purchase already-made jig flies and off you go fishing.
2. “One Step Further” Level— You can purchase plain jig hooks that come with weighted heads and then use your fly tying skills and materials to create your own jig flies.
3. “All In” Level—At the far end of the spectrum are those folks that are fishing junkies (Dave would be included here). These are the people who take things one big step further and purchase equipment to melt lead down and then pour it into jig head molds containing bare jig hooks, thus creating their own weighted jig hooks. This is followed up with the final steps of tying the fly.
TIPS FROM DAVE
I asked Dave a number of questions regarding jig flies, so…
Why use jig hooks? They give a lot of motion to the fly. They sink better than bead heads. And they are weighted so that the hook point rides up, helping to avoid snagging the bottom and/or dulling the hook on rocks.
What kinds of fish have caught on your jig flies? Trout and steelhead mostly. But they also work well for bass and salmon.
I see that jig hooks come with the eyes at different angles. Which do you prefer? The 90 degree eyes work better when pouring lead into the molds.
90 Degree Eye Jig Hook
The 60 degree hooks work well with slotted tungsten beads for Czech style nymphing. It’s the hottest new thing.
60 Degree Eye Jig Hook
What size lead heads do you prefer on your jigs?
1/32 oz. or 1/64 oz. for Devils for trout; 1/16 oz. for steelhead if using a rod that can handle it (8 wt.). Jig heads also come in 1/80 & 1/100 oz sizes and these are great for tying fur nymph jigs like Hares Ears and Red Fox Squirrels.
What color of Devils do you prefer? olive-green or white
(On the internet people also seem to like black and brown for trout. Brighter, more garish colors can be useful for bass/crappie/panfish.)
Two of Dave’s favorite colors
What colors do you use on the head of your Devils? Coloring the head is really not necessary. But I use orange or pink for “fly box appeal”. I use an orange head for the green Devils and a pink head for the white ones. There is really no logic at all to this.
(People on the internet are all over the place on this subject. Everything from “Painting is a waste of time; an unpainted lead jig head is just fine”, to “It is essential to color the jig head”. Sounds like a good topic for experimentation.)
Are there other ways to create weighted jig heads than buying them or pouring your own? You can tie lead eyes above the “elbow” of a bare jig hook. Or you can tie lead eyes onto the top of a standard woolly bugger type hook.
(Also…On the internet I saw one guy crimping and super gluing a lead split shot onto the elbow of a bare jig hook. Might be worth a try.)
How do you like to color the heads of your Devils? Because you only need one coat to get the perfect color, and for its superior durability, powder-coating is the way to go. (There is lots of info on the internet on how to do this.)
Are there alternative ways to color the heads? Cheap…Base coat with white nail polish then paint colored nail polish over it; then add a final coat of clear like Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails.
(I went with fingernail polish in preparing for our next Fly Tying Night. I found out that the white undercoat was essential in order to get the final colors to come out bright. Also a downside of using fingernail polish is the vapors/fumes. Some of us don’t have a lot of spare brain cells so make sure you have plenty of ventilation. Also there is a lot of internet chatter about the pros and cons of enamel, lacquer, and vinyl spray paints for jig heads.)
Colored jig heads ready for the final fly tying materials
I see that some people heat-treat the heads after coloring them? Do you bother with the heat treatment step? If so, how do you do it? Powder coating is the most durable finish but you have to bake it in the oven to take advantage of the durability, but powder coating doesn’t give off fumes like nail polish. It’s easy, just hang the jigs on the oven rack and bake at 275 for 30-40 mins. Baking is good for nail polish, too, but it creates some fumes so you have to air the place out and you don’t want your wife home while it’s going on 😉 .
The Devil you gave me had a body made of chenille. Do you ever use other materials for the body? Sometimes I make them like hares ear nymphs.
Do you ever add flash to your Devils? (in the body? in the tail?) I started to experiment but didn’t follow-up on it much. I think some rubber legs would be good to try.
How do you like to fish “The Devil”? In lakes I like to fish them like a woolly bugger, but give them more time to sink/drop before stripping and retrieving. Fish in lakes seem to like to take them when they are falling. In streams or rivers I dead drift them under an indicator.
Anything else of interest or importance? Use a short leader, 4-6’. That makes them easier to cast. Don’t go too heavy with the weighting of the jig head; heavier heads are hard to cast and you run the risk of breaking your rod.
So there you have it. After watching Dave wear himself out pulling in fish I think the jig flies are worth a try. Join us at the Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn on Wednesday, October 25 to tie up some “Dave’s Devils”. I will have some weighted jig hooks, chenille, and marabou for some basic patterns. Bring other materials if you want to dress them up a bit. We will start at 6 pm. Hope to see you there!
You can add as much as you want to your Dave’s Devil.
After a hiatus from the tyer’s table it will be good to get back to our monthly fly tying sessions. Heading into the fall months of the year the thoughts for many of us turn to swinging flies for steelhead on the Deschutes. In spite of the dismal prediction we are hearing about the outlook for steelhead on that river, it’s important to think positively and keep telling yourself that this year you may just have to work a little harder to find the fish that has your name on it. And always remember, just getting out on the water is a reward in itself!
Instead of looking at some hot new pattern I thought it would be good to look closely at a truly classic steelhead fly and some of its history. An Oregon attorney is credited with being the creator of the Green Butt Skunk. As happens in the world of fly tying, existing patterns continually evolve as new fly tyers add their own innovations in an effort to improve the effectiveness of the fly. That is the case with Dan Callaghan. It is thought that Dan most likely came up with his idea for the Green Butt Skunk in the 1950’s, tying it for the steelhead on his favorite river, the North Umpqua. He added some chartreuse chenille to an already existing steelhead pattern, The Skunk. If you are not familiar with The Skunk, just visualize something close to a classic Green Butt Skunk, minus the green butt. Adding the green butt apparently turned an already good steelhead fly into an iconic pattern used today by steelheaders in all parts of the world.
The true origin of the original Skunk may have been lost to time but the earliest mention of the fly seems to credit a Seattle gentleman named Wes Drain back in the 1930’s. Some sources say the name came from the general black and white color of the fly and some say that early examples used hair from a skunk. Apparently Drain’s original recipe actually called for a wing made of skunk hair, white over black. What better source of both black and white hair than a skunk! You can imagine that a single skunk skin would have provided early tyers with a lifetime of material for Skunk flies. But thank goodness we have a variety of other wing materials to use today because I can’t imagine where in our house my wife would allow me to keep a skunk skin!
The original Skunk fly
But being an innovative fly tyer was far from being Callaghan’s only claim to fame. A lawyer by trade, he lived in Salem his entire life. After discovering fly fishing for steelhead on the North Umpqua, Callaghan made it his life’s mission to do all he could to protect that river. He was one of the founders of both The Steamboaters and The North Umpqua Foundation, two organizations that are focused on protecting the North Umpqua River. Callaghan was a very accomplished photographer, and after his death in 2006 Callaghan’s wife helped to publish a book called Dan Callaghan’s North Umpqua, a collection of 156 of his photos taken over a period of fifty years. He was also a member and supporter of many conservation and flyfishing organizations, too many to list here. But if you ever feel like you have too many things going on in your life to participate in or support conservation and flyfishing, check out this link, to read more about Dan Callaghan’s dedication and accomplishments:
Another tribute to Callaghan was conceived by his good friend Steve Bukieda, along with Joel LaFollette to honor his memory. The plan was to display some variations of the Green Butt Skunk as a way to honor its creator. It came to be known as “The Dan Callaghan Collection – 101 Green Butt Skunks”. An idea that started out to be a modest display of a few variations of the Green Butt Skunk soon snowballed to the point that the number of flies had to be cut off at 100. The 101st fly in the display is one that was tied by Callaghan himself. LaFollette accompanied the impressive 3-panel display down to Salem for its official unveiling at the state Capitol. It was later auctioned off for $6,300, with the proceeds going to the North Umpqua Foundation to protect fish habitat. The winners of the auction chose to remain anonymous and wanted the collection to be displayed in a place where it could be enjoyed by the public. If you haven’t already seen it, stop in at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn where it is on display. If you are like me, you may have seen the collection there but never examined it very thoroughly. Upon looking closely at the names of the tyers, you will undoubtedly recognize many of them. It’s almost a “Who’s Who” list of noted Pacific Northwest fly tyers and steelheaders, as well as recognizable names from outside the area. It is interesting to see in one place how 100 other tyers have their own take on Dan Callahan’s fly. Indeed it is certainly an appropriate and impressive tribute to the man who brought us the Green Butt Skunk, arguably the most recognizable of all steelhead flies.
Joel LaFollette and Mary Kay Callaghan, Dan Callaghan’s wife with “The Dan Callaghan Collection– 101 Green Butt Skunks”
A few Green Butt Skunks should be in the flybox of every steelheader. Join us for our next Fly Tying Night on Wednesday, Sept. 27. As always, we will be meeting at The Royal Treatment Fly Shop in West Linn at 6 pm.