Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Yellow Wing Butterfly: Video Step-By-Step

I had a few requests for more fly tying videos, so here is #2. I didn't plan on making this video beforehand, but I wanted to tie a few butterflies, so I let the camera roll for the heck of it. I'm still ironing out the kinks when it comes to making and editing these videos. I hope to have a good system in place soon and will be able to post video step-by-steps with more frequency. Thanks for watching!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Flies for Andros Bonefish

A selection of flies for big Bahamian bones
There are two types of fly boxes that resemble boxes of jewels. A box full of Atlantic salmon flies bursts with bright, contrasting colors. A box of bonefish or permit flies sparkles and glimmers in the light. In either case, just looking into the fly box can become hypnotic.

I just finished an order of flies destined for Andros Island, the largest island in the Bahamian archipelago. Andros is known for its large bonefish. I've tied plenty of bonefish flies in the past, but none as consistently large as these. Most were size 2 or size 4. There are a few 6s mixed in for calm days or shallow flats. Big flies for big fish, I suppose.

My client culled his list of flies from Drew Chicone's website. Until tying this order, I was unaware of Chicone's work. He is a very talented fly tyer and designer. Chicone's blog, Salty Fly Tying,  is full of useful tips and tutorials that can be appreciated by all tyers, not just those tying for flats fishing.

Chicone listed seven patterns he considers essential for Andros bonefish. Most are fairly typical in terms of construction and profile, variations on the Crazy Charlie and Gotcha templates. I've tied plenty of Gotchas and had already tied and fished Bob Veverka's Mantis Shrimp. A couple of the others took a little more thought.

Oliver Owens, a tyer and guide from Hawaii, created the 90 Percenter. The 90 Percenter is a unique fly in that the wing is fanned out horizontally. The profile gives the impression of a crab. The soft, arctic fox wing is very mobile and should move well without much action imparted.

The other fly which required some extra thought was Mauro Ginevri's Avalon. The Avalon is a shrimp imitation, originally intended for permit fishing in Cuba. It's a "keel fly," meaning the small loop of monofilament and beads act as a keel, increasing the fly's stability. The beads also acts as a rattle. It's a very unique fly which requires the tyer to follow very specific instructions in order for the fly to fish properly. I'd like to try tying it in darker colors to use as a crayfish imitation.

Though my experience with bonefish is very limited, I really enjoy tying these flies. Learning new styles and techniques can be beneficial to any tyer, even if the flies aren't intended for his or her home quarry. The lessons we learn, while taking on new and varied projects, get stored away in our memory banks, returning when we least expect them to. That is one of the aspects of fly tying I find most appealing. 

90 Percenter (Oliver Owens)

Avalon (Mauro Ginevri)

Bone App├ętit (Drew Chicone)

Bonefish Scampi (Henry Cowen)

Mantis Shrimp (Bob Veverka)

Tranqu-Hill-izer (Drew Chicone)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Farmington Frog Gurgler - aka "Bluefishing for Trout"

It ain't easy being green

"What are you fishing for, bluefish?"

That was one of the snarky questions I was asked the last time I fished this fly. It was nearing sunset and I was targeting aggressive brown trout. These particular trout weren't interested on feeding on insects like their smaller brethren. After ten minutes of casting, a large brown boiled at my Gurgler Frog. A few minutes later, I had another vicious rise. 

"You see?" I replied. "Sometimes these picky trout actually go after stuff like this."

"They're probably not interested in eating that fly. They're probably just trying to get it out of their territory." 

"Why would I care about the reasons why a trout takes a fly so long as he takes it? Aggression, hunger, boredom...it doesn't really matter to me." My opportunity counter the other angler's antagonism had arrived...

...but I didn't say it. At one time, I wouldn't have hesitated. Now, I'd just prefer to be left alone to fish, waste my time, disturb the pool, or whatever. 


The truth is, the Gurgler Frog doesn't always work. It doesn't even work most of the time. Obviously, it's no Prince nymph or Parachute Adams. But when it works, it is FUN. When trout decide that it's frog time, it's probably the most fun I have while trout fishing. When it's really on, I guess it is like fishing for bluefish. I've had afternoons where cast after cast was met with explosions from good sized brown trout. Most rises don't result in a hookup, which probably gives plausibility to  "territorial aggression" hypothesis. Sometimes I do hook up, though. Whether or not they eat the fly, the extremely volatile rises are entertaining enough to keep fishing the frog pattern. 

I find the Farmington Frog Gurgler most effective at the beginning of the season, when trout are just starting to rise to the surface for hatching insects. I discovered that it works well when an afternoon Hendrickson hatch is winding down, but before the spinner fall starts. I've also fished it during the Hendrickson emergence and have caught large fish who weren't interested in rising for insects. A Hendrickson spinner fall is too good to pass up, so I usually go back to dries when that happens. 

Another good time to fish this (or any other Gartside Gurgler pattern) is right before sunset. The trout let their guard down and can be willing to throw caution to the wind. To my surprise, I haven't had much luck with Gurglers after dark. 

I try to make as much commotion as possible, which means that it probably shouldn't be fished in close proximity to other anglers. I make it land with a  big "Splat!" Then, I throw a big upstream mend and pop it across stream, letting it pause for a moment between pops. The strikes usually happen while the fly is resting, though I've had browns chase it clear across a run while I stripped it quickly. As always, it pays to experiment. 

Is it the best way to catch trout? Definitely not. Might it offended the delicate sensibilities of purist crowd? Possibly. Will fishing it make you look like you're a little off your rocker? Probably. Is it a really fun way to catch trout? Hell yeah!


Farmington Frog Gurgler

Hook: TMC 8089 #6
Thread: Olive 3/0 or 6/0
Tail: tuft of olive grizzly chickabou; a few strands of pearl krinkle flash
Legs: 4 olive grizzly saddle hackles; 2 on each side of the shank, concave side facing out
Shellback: Green closed cell foam, folded over on itself to form a lip in front (w/optional black and brown dots)
Body: Chartreuse or pearl Estaz
Froggy Arms: Olive speckled centipede legs, knotted

A trout caught by Ron Gaul on opening day 2015.
Proof that trout eat frogs!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Atomic Dog is a Winner

Hopefully it wins first prize with the fish in a few weeks

The Atomic Dog a winner, but not in the sense that it has caught a pile of fish yet (it's too early in the season for that). But the fly did manage to tie for first place in the Skeena River Fly Supply Snow Runner tying contest. The contest was held on speypages.com. The rules dictated that an original fly be tied with snow runner as a material. I had purchased some snow runner from SRFS to tie this fly regardless, so I figured I would enter it in the contest. I'm glad I did! 

If you haven't checked out Skeena River Fly Supply, I highly recommend you do so. They have some unique materials and a good selection of tubes. Due to their location, their inventory is highly steelhead-centric, but there is plenty for tyers of Atlantic salmon, saltwater, and trout flies. I'm looking forward to getting my next shipment and will post some more flies tied with SRFS materials. Thanks again to Jaap Kalkman and Skeena River Fly Supply for sponsoring a great contest! 


I can't wait to get out there and try these flies. I think we have about two or three more weeks before the striper fishing turns on. Where I fish, the sea run brown trout usually come in a little after. I think we'll start to see them by the middle of May and they will continue to trickle in through most of June, so long as it doesn't get too hot too quickly. They're phantoms that don't run in real numbers, so the only way to know if they're around is to go out and pay dues (lots of dues)...I love it! 

Black and White Dogs

Atomic Dog (Black)

Thread: Black
Tube: 1" 3 mm plastic tube; 1.8 mm plastic tube,  nested inside
Rear Body: Black flat braid
Weight (optional): Lead tape, wire, or non-lead alternative
Base Wing: Black bucktail tied on top of the front portion of the body
Front Body: UV Black Ice Dub (heavy & loose) over bucktail butts, picked out
Wing 1: Black marble fox tail and light blue Flashabou
Wing 2: Black marble fox tail and UV pearl Angel Hair
Wing 3: Black snow runner topped with micro mirage Lateral Scale
Wing 4: Black snow runner topped with several strands of peacock herl
Underwing: Black marble fox, tied to the under side of the tube
Topping: Black hackle, tied flatwing style
Sides: Jungle cock
Head: Large ball of Black UV Ice Dub, tied loosely over wing butts and picked out
Throat: Fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber
Collar Hackle: Black schlappen
Cone: Black turbo cone (small)

Monday, March 30, 2015

Atlantic Salmon Flies from Maine

Tales from a bygone era
Last fall, I bought several used books to help me get through the long, cold winter months. I added every reasonably priced Atlantic salmon fishing book I could find to my Amazon cart. I got an awful lot of books for my money. Despite the common subject, it was a diverse selection of books. Given the number of salmon fishing books I already own, a few were redundant. They were given to friends. Of the eight or so books I bought, my favorite was the simplest book of the bunch. It's not necessarily better written than the rest, but the subject appealed to me the most. 

Published in 1996, Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine, by Paul C. Rzasa (1939-2010), is a collection of stories and information about the subsequently closed Atlantic salmon fishery in Maine. A couple of years ago, I posted a brief interview with Topher Browne on this blog. When asked if there was one destination he'd like to fish for Atlantic salmon more than anywhere else, he answered "Maine." I was slightly taken aback by his reply. Had I been asked the question, it would not have been my first choice. 

At least in post-colonial times, I can't imagine Maine's salmon rivers ever equaling the Miramichi or the Restigouche (in terms of run size and fish size, respectively). Even in its heyday, Maine's most prolific river, the Penobscot, was probably no match for the Restigouche, which is one of the world's great big-salmon rivers. The draw is that Maine is the only state in America with a run of wild Atlantic salmon. Their genetic integrity is still intact. It has been that way for about two hundred years. 

Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine definitely didn't make the state sound like salmon fishing utopia. Nevertheless, Rzasa caught plenty of salmon in his home state. I have a couple of older friends who have both told me they used to "knock 'em dead" on the Penobscot decades ago. Rzasa wrote about catching salmon in the Downeast rivers, too. It wasn't just the Penobscot. A salmon fisherman had options back then. 

Now I understand why Topher Browne answered my question the way he did. There was a brief period of time in my salmon fishing history when I could have fished the Penobscot in autumn. I drove past it on my way to Canada. I wish I had at least stopped for a day or two. Who knows when I'll have that chance again, if ever? I still want to visit Iceland and fish more Russian rivers but, after reading Atlantic Salmon Fishing in Maine, I agree with Topher. If I could fish for Atlantic salmon anywhere in the world, it would be in New England. 


Atlantic Salmon Flies of Maine

Here are a few patterns that were devised specifically for fishing in Maine. The vast majority of the flies I found were designed for the Penobscot fishery. From what I gather, the Penobscot River had the earliest run of salmon, so it's no surprise that many of the Penobscot flies I found were big and brightly colored. I found a fair number of fall colored patterns, as well. 

One distinct trait I found in Maine's salmon flies is the use of the color pink as an accent color. There is no shortage of flies with pink components. Given how infrequently pink is seen in Atlantic salmon flies from the rest of the world, the high percentage of partially pink flies from Maine definitely stood out to me. 

Sidewinder (sz. 2) - Colburn Special (sz. 4)
Ruhlin's Riot (sz. 2/0)

Sidewinder (Gayland Hatchey & Gary Dinkins - Veazie, Maine)

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and fluorescent yellow floss
Tail: Fluorescent orange hackle over golden pheasant crest
Butt: Fluorescent yellow ostrich herl
Rib: Oval gold tinsel
Body: Peacock herl
Wing: Fluorescent yellow calf tail 
Collar Hackle: Fluorescent yellow
Cheeks: Fluorescent orange hackle tips
Head: Black

Colburn Special (Walter O. Colburn - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Tail: Black monga tail over green monga tail (sparse)*
Body: Fluorescent green floss, butted in the middle with black ostrich herl
Wing: Black monga tail over green monga tail (sparse)*
Collar Hackle: Yellow (sparse)
Head: Black

*Often substituted with grey squirrel tail dyed green

Ruhlin's Riot (Dick Ruhlin - Brewer, Maine)

Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tail: Red hackle fibers
Body: Fluorescent green wool
Wing: Yellow bucktail, fine
Collar Hackle: Yellow
Head: Black

Down East Special (sz. 2) - Pinkent (sz. 8)
Verdict (sz. 4)

Downeast Special (Phil Foster - Farmnington, Maine)

Tag: Flat silver tinsel
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Butt: Black ostrich herl
Body: Gray chenille or wool
Wing: Fitch tail or red squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Bright orange
Head: Black

Pinkent (Robert Ent - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Oval silver tinsel
Body: Rear half - fluorescent pink wool; Front half - bronze peacock herl
Wing: Grey squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Orange and yellow
Head: Black

Verdict (Jerry Clapp - Bangor, Maine)

Tag: Flat gold tinsel and fluorescent pink yarn
Tail: Golden pheasant crest
Rib: Flat gold tinsel
Body: Black floss
Wing: Black squirrel tail
Collar Hackle: Hot orange
Head: Black

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Post #150 & Giveaway: Atwells Avenue Cosseboom

Buona Festa di San Giuseppe

Happy St. Joseph's day to all my Italian and Italian-descended friends!

This is post #150. If you would like to win this fly and a few others, leave a comment or send me an email. The comment doesn't have to be about anything specific. I'll pick a random winner at the end of the month. Thanks for reading! 

Atwells Avenue Cosseboom

Hook: Dai-eech 2441
Tip: Flat tinsel - Italian white gold
Tail: Pesto green floss
Rib: Flat tinsel - Italian white gold
Body: Pesto green floss
Wing: White veal tail 
Collar Hackle: Sangiovese Red
Head: Dark black

Monday, March 16, 2015

Atomic Dog

One from the Mothership

The Atomic Dog is the next step in the evolution of the Samurai Dog, a fly that made last spring for my friend John and me. John really killed it with the Samurai Dog, catching a pile of striped bass, smallmouth bass, and trout (including a 5lb. brown trout from the upper Farmington River). According to John, he tied the fly on in spring and didn't take it off until summer. I didn't fish the Samurai Dog nearly as much as John did, but I managed to do pretty well despite my busy schedule. I caught several stripers and lost a good sized sea run brown (a leader length away...gah!!).

I wanted to retain the basic characteristics of the Samurai Dog, which is essentially a Temple Dog x Samurai hybrid, but add a few enhancements. The new pattern has a base layer of bucktail to keep the wing propped up more, a grizzly hackle tied flatwing style, an underwing to fatten up the profile of the fly, and a fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber throat.

I recently heard someone extol the virtues of fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber, especially in flies for striped bass. John mentioned how the local spin fishermen do well on pink Sluggos. I figured a little pink couldn't hurt. 

This fly is fished when alewives and herring are present. I wanted to bulk up the fly to give it a better herring/alewife-like shape. It's still small for an alewife imitation, but the fish in this river seem to like smaller flies and baits. Maybe its relatively small size makes it especially vulnerable? 

The only sea run brown I hooked last year took a Samurai Dog on the dangle while I pumped my rod up and downstream. The most difficult aspect of where I hooked the trout is that fish have to be hauled in directly upstream, so the angler fights both the fish and the strong current. A weak take or poor hookset is the kiss of death. It would have been better if the big trout took the fly on the swing or strip, but beggars can't be choosers. I decided to add the flatwing hackle to give the fly a more snake-like movement when held stationary in the current. I'd rather a fish take on the dangle than not take at all. 

I have high hopes for this fly. I'm counting down the days until the ice clears, the flow in the river drops, temperatures warm up, and the anadromous fish begin to run. May can't get here soon enough! 

Below is the dressing for the Atomic Dog and a link to the George Clinton song of the same name. 


Atomic Dog

Thread: White
Tube: 1" 3 mm plastic tube; 1.8 mm plastic tube,  nested inside
Rear Body: Pearl flat braid
Weight (optional): Lead tape, wire, or non-lead alternative
Base Wing: White bucktail tied on top of the front portion of the body
Front Body: UV Pearl Ice Dub (heavy & loose) over bucktail butts, picked out
Wing 1: White marble fox tail and light blue Flashabou
Wing 2: White marble fox tail and polar ice Angel Hair
Wing 3: White snow runner topped with micro mirage Lateral Scale
Wing 4: White snow runner topped with several strands of peacock herl
Underwing: White marble fox or skunk tied to the under side of the tube
Topping: Natural grizzly hackle tied flatwing style
Sides: Jungle cock
Head: Large ball of Pearl UV Ice Dub, tied loosely over wing butts and picked out
Throat: Fluorescent pink Fluoro Fiber
Collar Hackle: White schlappen
Cone: Silver turbo cone (small)