Fly Tying Vid: Soft Hackle Spider

Fly Tying Vid: Soft Hackle Spider

This is a basic soft hackle pattern using a nontraditional material as both thread and body material. While the pattern itself is good, particularly in lakes, the key purposes of this video are: 1.) To demonstrate the method by which I use feather barbs from game bird or large hen hackle feathers to tie soft hackles of any size. 2.) To show the thread discipline required to tie such small flies with such a heavy thread.

Hook: 1x strong, 1x short wet fly hook, #12-18. Here, MFC #7077.

Thread/Body: MFC Midge Body Thread, here golden olive. Veevus makes a similar material, and Kreinik (a crafting company) has a material called Blending Filament which is probably the root material for both fly fishing-specific versions.

Hackle: Waterfowl or hen hackle fibers stripped from the feather, tied in facing forward, and spun around the hook shank.

Fly Tying Vid: Thunder Egg Variation

Fly Tying Vid: Thunder Egg Variation

This variation on the Thunder Egg was Walter’s best steelhead pattern on small coastal rivers in Washington when he lived there from 2004-2006. It is really more of a “Great Lakes style” pattern: fast-sinking and quick & cheap enough to produce that you don’t worry too much when you lose one in the rocks.

The basic pattern also works as a trout fly, particularly when you’re trying to anchor something smaller and lighter, either an unweighted egg or a smaller nymph.

Hook: Egg hook #6-10, or scud hook #8-12.

Thread: 6/0 to match desired egg color, here light pink.

Tail: Two strands of pearl or pink Krystal Flash doubled back on themselves.

Eyes/Weight: Nickel brass dumbbell eyes. Desired size to match desired egg size. Original pattern used pink or orange-painted lead eyes.

Egg: Speckled chenille, here pink, wrapped in X-wraps around the eyes.

Fly Tying Vid: Dornan’s Micro Water Walker Hopper

Fly Tying Vid: Dornan’s Micro Water Walker Hopper

Will Dornan’s Water Walker is a red-hot hopper/stonefly/attractor dry pattern in the Rocky Mountain West, probably the single hottest pattern in this category in the Bozeman and Livingston Montana area in 2019. In many respects, it functions as a “less chubby Chubby Chernobyl” that attracts trout that have seen one too many big fluffy hoppers, yet is still buoyant enough to float a nymph and is visible to anglers fishing from drift boats.

This “Micro Peanut” version worked better than any other for me on guided trips in 2019, and was my second-best or third-best hopper pattern overall. It worked particularly well in the month of August.

Hook: Kumoto K100W, #12-16.

Thread: 6/0 light brown.

Underbody: Whitlock’s SLF Blend, brownstone color.

Body: 2mm foam strip, mustard color.

Legs: MFC barred sili-legs, size small, amber color.

Underwing: 6-8 strands of rootbeer midge Krystal Flash.

Overwing: 1/2 or 1mm razor foam, tan or cream color.


Fly Tying Vid: Centered Parachute Ant

Fly Tying Vid: Centered Parachute Ant

The Hi-Viz Centered Parachute Ant is a parachute ant variation with the parachute post and hackle moved to the middle of the hook shank, for a thinner head section on the fly and better balance on the water. It’s our #2 ant on float trips, both in this color combination and red and black with a March Brown-dyed grizzly hackle.

Hook: Standard dry fly, #12-18.

Thread: 8/0 to match front body segment. Here, rusty-brown Uni.

Head and Abdomen: Fine acrylic dubbing. Here rusty brown acrylic yarn chopped up in a coffee grinder. Other good colors are a red head with a black abdomen, all black, or all medium brown.

Parachute Post: Hi-viz Para Post Wing, Widow’s Web, or similar.

Hackle: Dry fly saddle oversized by about one hook size. On this cinnamon version, use brown. On red/black, use March Brown-dyed grizzly.

Center Segment: Tiny tuft of UV Ice Dub, regular Ice Dub, Polar Dub, SLF, or any similar bright, flashy dubbing wrapped around the hook shank at the base of the parachute post. Here, UV cinnamon Ice Dub.

Early Snowpack Update: Looking Good So Far!

Early Snowpack Update: Looking Good So Far!

As readers should know from previous posts on the subject, winter and early spring snowfall and how this snow melts from April into June are the most important drivers of summer water conditions in our area. I make reports on the progress of the snowpack through the end of the spring runoff in late June or early July, with the reports getting more detailed as the season progresses and we start to get a firm handle on what to expect.

In general, we like to see snowpack between 100% and 120% of normal, with 105-110% absolutely ideal. With snowpack at this level, waters drop out of the spring runoff at about their normal time (between early June and July 10 depending on the water in question), but flows remain high enough and therefore cool enough through late July and early August for the fish to remain aggressive and happy. With higher snowpack, the fishing once the water clears is great, but we start late and miss much of the prime summer tourist season. In 2011, we weren’t able to begin floating the Yellowstone until July 28, for example. If snowpack is dramatically low, we get an early start and have good fishing until about mid-July, but mid-July through late August can be tough fishing and we may need to start and end early.

As of right now, here’s where we’re at. Our approximate operations area is circled in red. I have also added in the drainage basins for the Upper Yellowstone system in Wyoming and Yellowstone Park (including the Lamar and Gardner Rivers) and the Madison/Gallatin basin in Yellowstone Park, including the Firehole and Gibbon Rivers.

early february snowpack in Montana

As you can see, things are looking good right now, with drainage basins in our operations area ranging from 98% to 111% of normal. By far the most important basins for our operations are the Upper Yellowstone basins in Montana and Wyoming/YNP. These are edging right into the “sweet spot.” The only basins that we would like to come up are the Jefferson and Madison basins outside YNP. Considering we run less than five guided trips in these basins each year, this isn’t a huge issue for us so far.

The upcoming weather forecast for the remainder of this week looks like we’ll see the heaviest snowstorm of the winter so far from Wednesday (tomorrow) evening through Friday morning. The longer-range outlooks through February look cold and wet, as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if everything is up in the 115% of normal range by the middle of next week. Considering the long range late spring and summer outlooks are calling for warmer-than-normal temperatures, we’ll take it.

I should note that assuming the “average to somewhat high” snowpack numbers we’re seeing so far continue, we should have good to excellent water conditions for this summer, the fourth year in a row things have run average to a bit above. This will be the first time in my career (20 seasons counting 2020) that we’ve had this many years of solid water conditions in a row. We had great fishing and healthy fish last year, with the Yellowstone seeing probably its strongest average size range in at least ten years. Will this trend continue in 2020? I wouldn’t bet against it…


Weekly Fly Tying Video – Skidmark Streamer

Weekly Fly Tying Video – Skidmark Streamer

Weekly fly tying vid, a variation on the Skidmark Streamer. This is a pattern I just saw on Facebook last week and said “this will work.” I couldn’t find any additional info on it (and had to be really careful about doing image searches on Google for “skid mark fly,”), so I thought I’d do a video to popularize it. This is a simple Zonker-style pattern that ought to work in infinite color combos, using infinite techniques, for all sorts of fish.

The version here is chartreuse and white. It’s intended for crappie and bass in eastern Montana.

Hook: Clouser-style, or really any relatively short, stout hook with a wide gape. Here #6, but depending on the wing and body materials used, could run from #1/0 all the way to #10-12.

Thread: Lime green 6/0 here. Change to match body colors.

Eyes: Brass (or lead) barbell-style. Here MFC gold brass, size small. Change eyes to suit the fly. For most trout flies I suggest using eyes with painted pupils.

Body: UV pearl medium Polar Chenille, trimmed on sides and top. Adjust your trimming to the fly size. You could also sub in Red Heart Scrubby Sparkle yarn, CCT Body Fur, full-size Polar Chenille, or a sparse dubbing brush of Ice Dub, depending on fly size.

Wing: Here, Niceec chartreuse and white faux-fur yarn used like a Zonker strip. Sub in standard rabbit or Finnish raccoon strips on large flies, squirrel on medium-sized flies, or pine squirrel or mink on small flies.

Fly Tying Vid – Pink Warrior Nymph

Fly Tying Vid – Pink Warrior Nymph

The Pink Warrior is a color variant of Lance Egan’s Rainbow Warrior that works well as an alternative fly to the Pink Lightning Bug on Montana’s Missouri River in “pink fly season,” late November through early May. Fish it as a dropper with something heavier and larger, for example the AMEX Czech Jig I posted several weeks ago.

Hook: 1x short, 1x strong scud hook, #16-18.

Bead: 3/32″ or 5/64″ nickel brass or tungsten.

Thread #1: Hot pink 8/0.

Tail: Pink-dyed mallard flank.

Abdomen: Pearl-pink Flashabou. Either double one strand around the tying thread or use two strands.

Wingcase: Ends of Flashabou.

Thread #2: Fluorescent fire orange 8/0.

Thorax: Blend of pale pink and hot pink acrylic with hot pink UV Ice Dub, or similar multi-tone pink dubbing.

Head: Fire orange thread.

Fly Tying Vid: Faux-Fur Slumpbuster Jig

Fly Tying Vid: Faux-Fur Slumpbuster Jig

The Slumpbuster is a well-known streamer pattern by John Barr. This version is tied on a jig hook using a new faux fur yarn available under many brand names. I have seen three: Sirdar Alpine, Lion Brand Go for Faux, and Niceec Fur Yarn, but there are probably others.

The main purpose of this video is to show the tying properties of the fur yarn. Three techniques are demonstrated: using the material like a Zonker strip, wrapping it as on a bunny leech, and clipping it from the “hide” for insertion in a dubbing loop.

Hook: Kumoto K2322, #6-10.

Bead: 3/16″ copper slotted tungsten.

Thread: 6/0 to match body. Here, light brown.

Body: Gold tinsel chenille (or dubbing, Diamond Braid, etc.).

Wing: Faux fur yarn tied like a Zonker strip, here Sirdar Alpine in tan with white tips.

Collar: Same material as wing, wrapped as a collar.

Head: Same as wing, clipped from core and spun in a dubbing loop.

Barring: Black Sharpie.

Fly Tying Vid: Brown Roach

Fly Tying Vid: Brown Roach

The Brown Roach is an old pattern from the Missouri Ozarks originally tied on a jighead. Here it’s on a jig hook with a tungsten bead, with a couple other slight tweaks. Sometimes derided as a “pellet fly,” this pattern works just fine on wild or holdover trout that either have never seen a pellet or have long since stopped eating them. I think it suggests a cased caddis or possibly a sowbug. The basic pattern is also good in other colors for various species. Try it in black, white, chartreuse, and yellow for stocked trout and panfish, or in other earth tones for wild and holdover trout.

Hook: Lightning Strike barbless jig, #12-16.

Bead: 5/32″ to 7/64″ matte brown tungsten jig bead.

Thread: 6/0 rusty brown.

Abdomen: Brown Australian possum inserted in a dubbing loop in “noodle” form.

Rib: Brown Flashabou or similar.

“Hackle:” Dark brown pine squirrel inserted crosswise in a dubbing loop, trimmed to length, spun, and wrapped forward.

Head: Tying thread.