In the late 1930's, the Chenille Company created the "aught"( 3/0,6/0, 8/0, etc.) system to indicate the size of thread. This was based on a system where the number or "aught" was the base point and as the thread became smaller additional zeros were added indicating that the thread was finer. As an example, a thread with six zeros ( 000000) translated to a 6/0 thread. As other thread distributors were born after the early 1960's, they followed the same system which was assigning a standard that does not provide as accurate a measurement for the fly tier as denier. In 1988, Tom Schmucker of WAPSI Fly, Inc. in Mountain Home, Arkansas introduced a nylon thread simply called 70 UTC and 140 UTC based on denier, which is the method of measuring thread. This is the system that the garment industry uses for thread to sew clothing. Denier is defined as the weight in grams of 9000 meters of nylon, polyester, rayon thread, etc. There is a correlation between denier and breaking strength of nylon and polyester thread, the smaller the denier number the lower pound/ounce breaking strength of the thread. At the present time, about the smallest denier nylon or polyester for fly tying thread is 40, which would be used for tying midges. The one exception to this denier vs. breaking strength rule is that gel spun polyethylene thread is two to three times stronger that nylon or polyester of the same denier. This transition to a denier rating system will take several years to be completed. Danville and Gudebrod are committed to making changes as they order new labels. UNI-Products has already begun the transition.
As a fly tier and serious streamer fisherman I was very interested in the weighted Fish Skulls that hit the scene a couple years ago. I received my sample pack at the fly shop and tied two big baitfish streamers and crammed the weighted scull onto the front. They both looked great. I really liked the fact that I could wrap some schlappen or rabbit strip tight behind the hook eye and then mount the head from the front, pushing all the material back once the fly was finished. But there was only so much room for innovation. Besides, I have been really into articulated streamers weighted so they ride hook point up…and just couldn’t do that easily with the original Fish Sculls. Now the company has pushed the envelope a bit more with the Sculpin Helmets. These are about the same design, only they lay flat—like the head of a sculpin (think flat head catfish.) Plus they are making an Articulated Shank you can use to easily create a long, jointed streamer. Now, this I am into! When I received this sample pack at the fly shop I quickly cranked out two more with the material provided. I used a #10 TMC 8089 hook because they are big, but light weight—thus easier to counterbalance with weight to force point up. The rest of the fly I made as simply as possible; dubbing underbody, rabbit strips over the back and a couple rubber legs. My analysis? The fly tying world is full of gadgets that come and go…but, these are pretty cool.
I have always been a slow learner. Ask any of my grade-school teachers. Or my first platoon sergeant. But I get by…just takes a few attempts to get it right. Late season canyon fishing, among other things falls right in line. It always takes me over a month to grasp the reality that “the best time to be there is mid-day” means THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY! The tall rock walls make that mid-day window of winter sunshine very narrow. It took me over an hour to trudge down to a remote stretch of river the other day…an area I knew I would not have to share. I only intended to spend two or three hours down there in the canyon, and I knew to hit it mid-day. But I pissed around at the house too long, miscalculated the drive time in the snow…and ended up on the water by Too late. Nothing but shadow. And cold. And no bugs around. I caught three very small brown trout on small midge pupa sunk to the bottom of pools with split shot. After an hour I could not feel any part of my hands. Then I trudged back up through the snow pack. It took twice as long going up hill. I arrived back at the truck well after dark and my back was killing me. For three 7 inch trout. Was it worth it? I leaned back, stretched my aching back, fumbled for my truck keys in the dark… Nope. Not worth it.
Colorado around this time of year. It’s truly a Winter Wonderland- right up until you’re freezing your ass off in ice cold water and there’s no fish in sight. So is Winter Fishing In Colorado really worth it? Hell yes. A much better question to ask is “What are the ways I can keep all ten toes... and maybe even catch some fish?”. So let’s take a look at a few things that can make or break a winter fishing trip.
1. Gear: Picking the right gear is a must. Arms, legs, and so on can be covered by the classic long underwear/fleece combo, plus whatever jacket you like. If it’s snowing, don’t forget to put your jacket over your waders! Feet can have a thick pair of socks, a couple pairs of socks, and maybe even some foot warmers if it’s really cold. Now hands, those are the tricky part. Gloves have to be super flexible in order to handle the casting, and unless you want to be taking them off every five minutes, they have to be fingerless. Hand warmers prevent your hands from moving enough too. If you find a good way to keep your hands warm, please tell me.
2. Picking the Right River: If you go fish in the Winter, you want to make it worth the work. Go to a place where maybe you’ll catch a big fish, because working all day for a fish the size of your thumb will make you question your sanity. Unless you’re me of course. I already know I’m insane. Places like the Taylor and Frying Pan come up a lot because of their potential for monsters, and Winter is the only time of year you won’t be combat fishing on them. Pick your rivers wisely.
3. Flies: One of the differences of fishing in the Winter is that the big fish sitting on the other bank most likely isn’t waiting for a size two hopper. Midges are key, and the smaller the better (If you ask me, and only to a reasonable point. No size 60 hooks please). Do I fish size 32’s? No. Do I have friends that do, and catch fish on them? Yes. The smallest flies I throw will usually hang right around the magic number 24. Ever heard of the 20-20 club? Getting in is a matter of catching a 20 inch fish on a size 20 hook. Go out and put yourself in the club this Winter!
Fly fishing sometimes is located between a therapist’s office, and the Catholic “Sacrament of Penance”. The angler plays the role of both therapist and patient or, sinner and priest. Ex-girlfriend is dating again, and you found out about it? 2 hours on the water equates 20mgs of Prozac, 40 double-hauls replace 40 Hail-Marys. However, when your problems fade away, fly fishing adapts as well, returning to pure enjoyment. In the meantime, the 4 weight is there; along with weight forward floating line, #12 Caddis, and some pocket water, ready to work through your troubles with you. The rhythm of the cast becomes a melodic chant; the sound of the line pulling through the guides preparing the mind for meditation. Similar to Prozac or the rote of Confession, it doesn’t solve your problems for you; it’s only a starting point. The rest is up to you. I don’t know how to proceed but, I do know where I am hurts.
The sky never criticizes, and the water will never judge. The wind is too busy traveling to share your secrets with anyone and the fish are fearfully preoccupied with what the giant will decide of their fates, to care about your problems. I think it is better that way. I always felt that if the choices you made put you on a path of destruction or pain, and you followed through knowing the outcome, you lost the right to have any pity-parties. That is the time for you to work through your problems on your own time. Instead of complaining to whoever will listen, I will yell into the wind. No good can come from explaining pain to the person who hurt me, instead I will whisper to myself; all the while fishing through decisions and turmoil.
Sometimes the therapist is passive, forcing one to work through issues with no fish-tractions. This of course only frustrates the angler more, yet in time the issue fades and the dedicated angler overcomes the slump. They work it out by observing the issues at play: what possibly caused the fish to refuse the chosen flies, or which tactic to use to overcome weather conditions. In that, the priest shows the sinner a metaphor for life. Change out what isn’t working and push through. Pay attention to your gut. I personally believe that your mind registers observations that you don’t. That is where your gut feeling comes from, listen to it. I know what is coming; I will become an awkward footnote. Shane rode away when he saw his time was finished.
I learned this by chance. No one warned me of the therapeutic powers one unlocked when divining fish to hand, yet they were there. After the first cast, 4 years of post-service issues immediately began losing the battlefield advantage. Suddenly I had the ringmaster’s chair and whip to fight the beast off with. Life started improving, more current issues began to loosen their grip, and I started living. The ex and I learned together, and suddenly we felt even closer than ever before. Just over two years later, the curtain was pulled back, revealing the end of a relationship that never was. Immediately I was catatonic, only the primary functions survived. Work was my only escape, but it was an exhausting distraction. I tried to fish, and found instead bitter heartsickness. Everywhere there was a sign of us. We had a great day here; she caught her first over there… Suddenly my therapist had her picture hanging above the couch.
I stubbornly kept trying, looking and searching for the key. Slowly a “medicine road” showed up like the faintest of trails in the sparse brush of a desert. I had to make it [fly fishing] my own again. I had to take it with me down the road and open up new experiences. I needed friends and a world she didn’t exist in. I turned to the internet, and eventually found Twitter. I made a simple list I would accomplish. I started to enjoy my time off. By following the list, I was becoming whole again.
I met new people; the first of many was Shawn and Ena Bischel.I entered tournaments as the fly fishing “David” going up against spin tackle “Goliaths”.I made a connection with an awesome company called Diablo Paddle Sports.I went out and fished so hard and so often that people quit asking, “How are you feeling/handling/doing?”, and replaced it with a disinterested and near-rhetorical, “How’s the fishing?”Meanwhile, I pushed further forward; allowing for new experiences to be had and healing to continue.Eventually a disjointed group of webmasters convinced me to develop my Twitter account into something bigger.One accidental posting, a couple of repeat queries into the status of a website, and a request to write laid the ground work for a new direction, destination unknown.There was plenty of fishing involved, and it was forward progression, so I stuck with it.I’ll let you know where it ends when I get there and find out.
The beautiful thing is the fishing experience slowly turned off depressing, drove straight through healing, and turned back on fun. No longer did I think of her, like I used to. Even if she was there, I wasn’t fishing with her; she was fishing with me. It wasn’t the same, and I was glad for both the change and the company. Then the inevitable happened. I smelled the smoke long before I knew what was burning. Suddenly, I was being replaced. Sub-consciously it seemed, but replaced none-the-less. Slowly I understood (and eventually I saw) that even though the fishing was different, few things had changed for the two of us. I knew I was headed for a repeat heartache. I was stubbornly immobile, determined to sink the unsinkable rather than change course. She is a great person, we get along fine, and it’s easy. It wasn’t until I thought I had run aground that I snapped out of it. The jolt still hurt, and I knew the real moment (where I’m transformed from needed friend to awkward explanation) would set me back further. I had to get back to my Medicine Road, swiftly before the pain multiplied.
So here I am, back in the confessional. I bought a pipe (it’s new), I still follow my list, and I am determined to write more. I remain her friend, but I am trying to move her out of the “default friend” spot. It’s depressing, but after a year and a half it’s beyond necessary. I decided that 120 spent on strippers, was more desperate than spending the same on 3 months of eHarmony, which is a start at least. Finally, I am looking to relocate, somewhere I have never lived before like Colorado, Arkansas, or Washington… When you see me out there in the universe, be it at the Church of the Flowing Waters or the various social networks, and something strikes you as out of focus, remember that this picture is still developing. Keep checking back, I’m just grateful you took the time to look.
Go buy a frozen turkey today. No...seriously. This photo may have you wanting to hurl because you have eaten so much bird in the last few days...but you can get an 18 pounder for dirt cheap this weekend. And you know, come February you will be, like, "Dude! Wanna cook an 18 pound turkey!?"
That is about what it takes to set yourself up for success this winter--roughly a 20 dollar bill and a couple of hours some Sunday afternoon when your team is getting blown out on the television by division rivals. This season has enough unpleasantness...favorite lakes are frozen over, it is already dark when work lets out and everyone in the country gets to witness how bad my Cleavland Browns are... But you don't have to add to all that a fly tying debt spiral. Choose the one fly pattern you know you will be pulling out of your box the most and take an hour or two to save yourself a good deal of cash. Pick the pattern that you use the most and that is the easiest and fastest to tie, and that takes the least amount of materials. This should be easy, because the best winter flies are tiny and simple. You can choose the RS2, Poison Tung or Zebra Midge. Here is the ingredient list for the $17 (for fifty!) Zebra Midge:
Umpqua Feather Merchants U201 #20
Two 25 packs of Spirit River Brite Beads 2mm (5/64") Black Nickel (or Silver)
Small Silver UTC Ultra Wire
6/0 Black UNI-Thread
A good friend of mine recently moved out to the west coast...and is getting into steelhead. He also just started a new website. It will show his trials and tribulations of catching a steelhead in the traditional manner. Let me know what you think: Steelheading, The Hard Way
As cooler weather and colder water set in to stay, most local fly fishers make the seasonal switch to nothing but tiny flies. This is logical...the bugs that are out and getting eaten are all midges and the smaller of the Blue Wing Olive mayflies. I will often still use some bigger stuff, especially when searching a creek I haven't been on for awhile. I like to use a bigger, bushier hair wing dry (such as a Stimulator or Clown Shoe) with a midge pupa imitation (#20 Zebra Midge or Poison Tung) hanging off the hook bend about 12 to 18 inches. Most of the trout willingly take the subsurface midge, but every now and again one of the big boys (relative term, of course) will inhale the dry!
I like this type of fishing because the big dry is always easy to spot on the water and is always nicer to cast than a strike indicator.
"Jay Fullum is one of Fly Tyer magazine's most beloved authors. His regular column, titled "Creative Tying," is a favorite with our readers."--David Klausmeyer, Editor Fly Tyer
Seriously...this is a great addition to your fly tying book library. It will stand out amongst the more conventional tying how-tos. Jay Fullum goes into detail about some real cool (and cheap!) everyday materials you probably already have laying around down in the basement...you know, "organized" loosely on that unfinished wooden Home Depot shelving you got right after you moved in. Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. Jay has chapters on plastic bags, foam packing material, weatherseal, embroidery floss, fake fingernails, paintbrushes and hair brushes. Lots of stuff. I love it. But, the thing I may love the most about this book is what this book can do emotionally to a beginning tyer. It erases this notion that a good fly has to be made with very specific ingredients. These are not tiny magic spells we are creating on a hook shank...they are tools of the sport of fishing. That is all. And you can use whatever works for you at the time. So, yeah...order a copy.
Today is the day we celebrate all those 19-year-old borderline alcoholics with automatic weapons. Enjoy them. Don't thank them...they don't take praise or the spotlight well. But definitely appreciate them. Buy them a beer at the bar. Or take one out back behind the bar and let them get to second base. Hell, hire one! Trust me, they will work harder and longer for you than some trust-fund baby looking for direction...
When the creek and river flows get skinny the trout get spooky. They know they can be easily seen by predators (herons, raccoons...and fishermen). The upside is that the fish are still hungry and don't have quite as much food available as they did in the summer. This makes them relatively easy to catch so long as you are sneaky!
Wear drab clothing, be aware of your shadow and take advantage of whatever natural or man made concealment is available.
At Rocky Mountain Anglers we are approaching our fly tying classes a bit differently this Winter. We will be offering ONLY one-on-one classes and I will be very open to scheduling. The problems I have always found with the way Intro-Fly Tying has been taught is twofold. First: These classes have usually been group events (3 to 5 students) mainly to maximise the profits for the shop offering the class, not necessarily with the benefit of the beginning tier in mind. Second: We all are busy these days, so it is hard to make extracurricular things happen on the calendar. My intent is to get someone trained and as fluent as possible on the tying vise without delay. Hence the one-on-one classes with open scheduling...If next Tuesday morning before work is your only opening, then let's do it!
Fly Tying Classes are $25 an hour (We do gift cards!) but we are offering free classes with purchase of certain essential tying equipment....such as this Peak Rotary Vise (made here in Loveland, CO!) that sells for $149. RMA will honor two free one-hour tying sessions. With the perchase of a Dr. Slick 7-piece tool kit ($54) you get one free class.
Call Rocky Mountain Anglers in Boulder: (303) 447-2400
The Krystowski Minnow is one of my early original fly designs. I began tying this fly long before I was part of the fly fishing industry and a contract fly designer. It was at a point in my life when I had very limited time to spend behind a vise and, more influentially, when I had very little money to spend on tying material. I needed an all-purpose baitfish streamer that I could use for every occasion. I could not afford to have multiple fly boxes for every species of fish, but I was fishing everywhere and often. I needed a fly for river smallmouth, farm pond largemouth, Spring steelhead, Fall browns, wiper, walleye and northern pike. If I had a handful of Krystowski Minnows in my box I was all set. The fly needed to be cheap to tie, fast to tie and never fall apart...even after being chewed on by northern pike. I have old fishing buddies back in my home town who fish this fly over everything else. The fly is named after a family in northern Ohio who owned a small bass pond and would let me fish and invite me in for dinner. The earliest prototypes of this fly were fished in their pond.
Step 1: Begin with Gamakatsu B10S #2 hook. Create a ¼ inch thread base of black 6/0 UNI-Thread behind the hook eye.
Step 2: Tie in a clump of white Icelandic Sheep to “bottom” of hook shank.
Step 3: Tie in a clump of chartreuse Icelandic Sheep on “top” side of hook shank.
Step 4: Securely mount ex-small white painted lead dumbbell eyes to “bottom” of hook shank. It is important that you wait until this point to tie in the lead eyes. Because the eyes are ex-small (this fly fishes best as a light-weight streamer) it is crucial there be distance between the arbor of the lead eyes and the hook shank. This ensures the fly swims hook point up.
Step 5: Tie in a clump of black Icelandic Sheep on top. Be sure to leave several inches of the black sheep hair extending out past the hook eye.
Step 6: Take the black sheep hair clump that you left extending past the hook eye and part it evenly. Be sure to leave the thread at the rear of the fly head.
Step 7: Wrap each piece of the black sheep hair back separately (being sure to cross between the lead eyes) and tie off and trim.
Step 8: Wrap black tying thread thoroughly over entire head of fly, being sure to secure any loose sheep hair and give the entire head an overall tightening. Then whip finish twice for durability and trim thread.
Step 9: Cut fly down to 2 ½ inches long (trim up the end nice and tapered). Then apply multiple coats of head cement over entire head, to include the painted lead eyes. I prefer at least five coats of Hard-as-Hull.
Throughout most of the year I recommend using a white colored strike indicator when nymphing deep runs and pools (if, of course, bobbers are your bag). The idea is for the indicator to blend in with the foam and not spook fish. This strategy works so long as you can still identify what is your indicator!
This time of year there can be a lot of light brown and bright yellow leaves drifting down stream and congregating in back eddys. If you have a tendency to use white or yellow strike indicators...you could be in for a long and frustrating day. Be sure to have some really gaudy bobbers. They may be the only thing to stand out on the water.
Sometimes, when I am frustrated and am having a bad day, I will punch Samantha right in the eye. Not technically, but in some un-written guy code she belongs to a good friend of mine…but he is usually off running a Mexican roofing crew up in Cheyenne or somewhere. He leaves her alone and unattended. So, I slip in on a week day and look for her out back behind all the apartment buildings…minding her own business somewhere along the bike path. I already have my carp rod strung up and riding in the bed of my pickup truck—so I jump out and sneak up without her knowing. She is small. Petite, I like to think. And the carp that live in her water are numerous, but small in frame as well. But I am there because I have been shot down at other, larger and more challenging lakes. I am at Samantha’s Pond to somehow make myself feel better about myself in some weird, dirty-trailer court-domestic violence sort of way. So I sneak in while my buddy Patrick is away at work and I punch her in the eye! Then I cackle and punch her in the eye again! The small carp there are so gullible and they will eat a fly almost every time. It just ain’t fair. So I catch a few, reel in and do my best to apologize. It’s been a long day. You know I don’t mean it. Really…I love you. Now go wash up and put some ice on that eye…
Kokanee are a land locked version of the sockeye salmon. They are stocked in many Colorado reservoirs (including Elevenmile, Gross, Blue Mesa, Green Mt. and Dillon). The Kokes make an unsuccessful spawning attempt up inlet rivers this time of year. They move up the creeks and rivers in very obvious waves...hence the term "salmon run". Bright pink streamers, San Juan worms and egg patterns are the most commonly used.
Many fly fishermen have taken to wearing lanyards these days. They are a convenient way to carry the bare essentials for a quick trip to the local creek (some keep one permanently behind their car seat) or as an added convenience to be worn with a satchel/waist pack. I also like to wear one when the weather turns cold. I can adjust it to be worn over as many layers of clothing I happen to need that day. But, like all things fly fishing...you can take a simple thing and over-complicate the piss out of it! I have recently taken two old, broken lanyards of mine and Frankensteined them into one Ultimate Lanyard!
2. Fly Floatant
3. Foam Fly Box (light weight & color coded)
5. Heavy Leader-Building Material
6. Finer Tippet Material
7. Wetting Agent (fly sink)
8. Split Shot
9. Foam Fly Box (light weight & color coded)
10. Braided Spiderwire tied extra long to adjust to wear over heavy clothing
A friend of mine, a hard core carp angler (in the euro bait fishing style) invited me to come carp fishing with him next week, in a place that he said I was likely to be able to take one on the fly. Having never hooked a carp before, I eagerly accepted.
In anticipation, I started tying some carp flies today, and remembered your backstabber pattern. So I pulled up your blog and got the step by step on the screen and tied up a half dozen or so. As I was tying I couldn't see any reason why they wouldnt work for other species too, so I decided to take them out and give them a try. A few hours later and I hooked and landed my first fish on a backstabber...and what a fish it was. A big beautiful tiger trout, easily my best trout of 2011, and maybe ever (gotta measure the rod in the picture as a reference and see if it's at least 20").
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know about another backstabber success story!
Thanks for the note, Mark! Stories like this make my day...hell, they make my year! I'll take this over Umpqua royalty checks any time! (well...until bills are due...)
That is how he prefaced the trip once I had agreed to join him. There may be some sketch involved. Well…I ain’t scared a no ghost. I eat sketch for breakfast—I convinced myself. So, my friend Peter successfully convinced me to go on a wild goose chase of sorts. Parking along a road in a non-descript, but very particular, gravel pull-off and bush whacking strait down into a narrow canyon. There was a stream down below and if it held trout they could be big and plentiful and untouched. You know…could be. I could not pass on the opportunity. I had known Peter for over a year and never fished with him. Long time coming. Besides, he was a long-time Nederander and I am a recent Coal Creek Canyon Dweller. I felt like this invite had something to do with that. We were neighbors now. I was finally one of the cool kids shivering and smoking cigarettes out behind the BFI dumpster. I had to go. Sketch and all. Bring it.
True to plan, I met Peter at a pre-designated mountain bar and he jumped into my truck with an arm-load of fishing gear. “How many rods ya bringin’?”
“Just the one. A three weight?” I said.
“Cool. We good? Lets go!”
Sweet. Let’s do it!
And there was, no kidding, some sketch involved. A drive-by: yeah, that was the spot! Swingin’ a u-ey on a mountain highway. Skidding to a halt on a narrow gravel shoulder. Dashing across previously mentioned highway in half-donned waders and clutching rod parts. And then an Apollo 13-esk descent down an un-trailed rocky gorge into the promised land. Yes…plenty of delicious sketch. And the stream below was, also, as Peter had promised. There was hardly sign of any others before us, the trout were plentiful/good-sized/ gullible (they loved a #12 Banksia Bug!) and we each were able to get our fill…our fix…with still enough time to turn back and hike out before dark.
Then, back at the mountain bar we came to the realization that neither one of us had our wallets with us. I had a check book (bar don’t take checks…sorry) and Peter had his AmEx (Visa or MC only…sorry). So we scrounged our vehicles and came up with a five spot and some change. What’s yer cheapest beer? PBR? $2.50 each? Sweet! Even got enough for a tip! And we nursed those two and tried to guess how many trout we had landed…
The Frying Pan River is low and fishing well. It is at 90cfs last I checked (but click on it to see an up-to-date flow). This big rainbow was caught on a size 22 top secret midge with 6x, by Ben Schloesser. He was sight fishing the flats up from the bend pool. There were definitely a handful of other 20"+ fish out there, he said. Great fishing, beautiful day and light crowds (it was a Thursday).