The McFlyfoam egg is my preferred tiny egg, useful in crystal-clear water for spooky trout. The video below shows how I tie it. Stay tuned for a big announcement regarding jet boat trips I’ll be offering for a substantial discount from April-June 2021.
Hook: #16-18 standard scud.
Thread: 75-denier GSP, white or orange.
Body: Mcflyfoam, here Creme Delight. My favorite colors are January, Creme Delight, and Apricot, with or without an orange hotspot.
1. Use 75-denier UTC gel-spun thread.
2. Use Mcflyfoam rather than traditional egg yarn (note that I like traditional egg yarn for my version of the Y2K Egg, for which I’ve also done a video).
3. Use heavy-duty scissors designed for synthetic materials, rather than standard fly tying scissors. You can also use good crafting shears.
4. Use somewhat less material than you see in many videos.
5. Tie this material on top the hook shank, rather than all the way around it, and use a minimum of thread wraps.
6. Use super glue to secure the egg and establish its final shape.
I made a thorough post on the Stillwater River Fishing Trips I run in my raft over on the Parks’ Fly Shop blog. Rather than repeating myself, check it out.
If you’re based between Livingston and Columbus, I can also run walk & wade trips over there. While it’s a long drive for me, it’s actually a bit shorter than the drive to most places within Yellowstone Park, and pressure near the road is lighter.
On my walk-wade Stillwater River fishing trips, I focus on the areas upstream from the town of Absarokee after mid-July, when this stretch starts getting a bit “bony” to float. The best fishing is in August and September, when there isn’t enough water for kayaks, much less fishing rafts. In many respects, the wade-fishing near the Cliff Swallow, Buffalo Jump, and Moraine Fishing accesses resembles fishing the Gardner River in Yellowstone Park, right down to the preponderance of 8-14″ rainbow and brown trout, with the occasional bigger one, cutthroat, or brook trout thrown in for good measure. Virtually all fishing will be dry-dropper.
If you’re interested in walk-wading this area, the Stillwater’s main tributary the Rosebud may also be of interest. It fishes similarly to the Stillwater, and it’s easy to fish one river half the day and one the other half.
Walk-float combo trips are also possible in this area. Most of the time, we’ll combine half the day on the upper Stillwater or Rosebud wading and the other half on the far lower Stillwater floating.
While I run an occasional half-day float on the lower Stillwater, the distances involved in getting to the upper Stillwater to wade mean any trips involving a wading component really need to be full-days. Normal rates & policies apply. Visit this page for more information on my guide service.
The Drag Sculpin is a pattern I use with one of the most effective (and easiest!) tactics for producing larger trout on the Yellowstone River: the “indicator drift, mend, and drag” technique which is most effective in July and August. I’ll cover this technique in more detail in a later post, but the basics are simple: fish a streamer with a small nymph on the dropper, aiming to run the fly on a “near dead drift” through good seams and soft spots behind boulders, especially just off steep shelves near the bank with turbulent water to provide cover and oxygen. When the water’s still up in midsummer, this is far more effective than stripping streamers away from the shore, since the fish hold in the “Y-axis” upstream to downstream slow spots and don’t like to move to chase food or smaller fish that get in their way. In essence, you’re looking for a “get out of my face” strike.
Drag Sculpin Intro
This is a basic jig-style pattern. The hard part will be finding the large 90-degree jig hook and large brass bead used. Even with the jig hook, you’ll lose quite a few. Thankfully, the pattern is quick to tie (when you’re not busy yakking into a video camera like I was) and uses a minimum of cheap materials.
The olive variation given here is without question the most consistent color for large streamers in the area, but other good baitfish colors also work: black, gold/tan, white, brown over yellow, etc.
Drag Sculpin Recipe
Hook: Eagle Claw #630, size-1. This is a 90-degree long-shank jig hook with few substitutes. You will probably have to order them online. NOTE: This hook tends to run dull, so expect to sharpen them before fishing.
Bead: 1/4″ brass. Here black, but gold or copper would also work depending on fly color.
Thread: 3/0 to match fly color, here olive.
Tail: Holo gold Ice Wing Fiber or similar fine gold flash. Gold or pearl will be the best colors regardless of the overall color of the fly you tie, except perhaps if you’re tying a black one.
Body: Gold, rootbeer, or pearl tinsel or other bright chenille. Here I believe I used Estaz, but it doesn’t matter.
Legs: Several barred rubber legs to match or slightly contrast the overall color tone of the fly. Here, mud brown barred chartreuse Wapsi Round Rubber.
Throat: Holographic red Flashabou or similar.
Wing: Magnum rabbit strip, here olive variant.
Head: Dubbing brush, here an Ep Foxy Brush in olive, though the precise material doesn’t matter. If the head appears too thick and full, trim it slightly flatter on top and bottom.
Dan Delekta’s Lil Spanker and Big Spanker are red hot “guide flies” in southwest Montana. In essence, the Delektable Spanker Nymph series consists of Pheasant Tail and Lightning Bug variations tied with long flash legs and CDC collars. This particular color variant tied jig-style was my top-producing nymph on guided trips on the Yellowstone and Stillwater Rivers from the middle of August through about September 20 during the 2020 season. To learn more about Dan Delekta’s flies, visit this page and peruse his catalog.
I am now accepting bookings for the 2021 season. In fact I am already about 1/3 booked during the month of July, so if you’re looking to book a guided trip, it makes sense to get on the phone soon.
Delektable Spanker Nymph: Recipe
Hook: 60-degree barbless standard jig, #12-18.
Bead: Slotted tungsten, here gold.
Thread: 8/0 To match or slightly contrast with body, here 8/0 light brown.
Tail: Speckled game bird or hackle, here medium pardo cod-de-leon.
Abdomen: Pheasant Tail fibers, Flashabou, or tinsel. Here holographic gold Flashabou.
Rib: Copper wire, here brown in Brassies size.
Wing Case: Tinsel, here medium opal Mirage.
Thorax: Peacock herl or flashy dubbing, here brown stone SLF dub.
Legs: Krystal Flash or Midge Krystal Flash, here tan Midge Krystal Flash.
We run both float and wade Boulder River fishing trips. Here’s a brief introduction.
Float Fishing the Boulder River
Rather than reinventing the wheel, I’ll point you towards this writeup I just did for Parks’ Fly Shop (for whom I also guide) about float-fishing the Boulder. Everything I wrote there applies if you book Boulder River fishing trips through my business, too.
Here’s some eye candy from a June “runoff window” float from the 2019 season that isn’t part of that writeup. Read on past the pics for info on walk-wade Boulder River fishing trips.
Wade Fishing the Boulder River
After it gets too low to float in late July, both the Boulder River and its main forks the East and West Boulder offer excellent opportunities for small-stream guided fishing trips through August. Unlike most small waters in the area, both the mainstem and the forks feature a fair amount of state land in their lower reaches. While some locals wade fish these waters, most travelers blow on by to wade fish Yellowstone Park, the Gallatin, or the Madison. This is a mistake. The Boulder and forks are a lot of fun in mid-late summer and offer great hopper fishing.
These are not big fish fisheries. While we see a very occasional 20-inch trout when wade-fishing the Boulder, most fish on the mainstem will run 10-16 inches and most fish on the forks will run 8-14. The focus is instead on solitude and numbers of fishing. We usually see a bunch on these waters, and they’re usually fat and healthy.
All accesses on the Boulder and its Forks on state land are large enough for 1-2 anglers for about a half-day guided trip. For this reason, we’ll almost never wade-fish one area. Instead, we’ll fish the mainstem in the morning, then either higher on the mainstem or one one of the forks after lunch, when the smaller, shadier water in these areas offer better fishing. Most areas on the Boulder and forks are fast-flowing and have slick bottoms, making them unsuited to beginner anglers as well as those with poor mobility, though some sections of the mainstem are good choices for beginners.
Hopper-dropper fishing is the bread and butter technique when wade-fishing the Boulder. By the time the river’s too low to float, medium and small hoppers like my Bob Hopper are best, trailed with a small Prince or slender beadhead mayfly nymph. Occasional hatches also occur, with Tan Caddis, PMD, and later in August the first BWO the most likely suspects. Hatches are most likely on the upper mainstem, while hopper fishing is good everywhere.
Enough chit-chat. Here are some pictures. Interested in booking a wade trip? Give me a call or shoot me an e-mail.
Pink Lightning Bug nymphs are among the top winter flies in the region, especially on the Missouri River where they’re effective from now through mid-May. Suggestive of eggs and scuds, and to a lesser extent mayflies and midges, spin up a few Pink Lightning Bugs to try in your home waters this winter. Trail one of these behind a larger pink fly such as the Amex Jig I posted previously.
Pink Lightning Bug Recipe
Hook: Standard scud, #16-18. #18 is usually best.
Bead: 3/32″ to 5/64″ nickel, in either brass or tungsten.
Thread: 8/0 hot pink or fluorescent fire orange.
Tail: Shell pink Antron yarn. Use 2/3 of the the bundle of fibers on #16 and half on #18. The tail should be rather full.
Abdomen: Holographic pink Flashabou doubled around the thread when it’s tied in.
Rib: Small to extra-small red Ultra Wire.
Wing Case: Medium pearl tinsel.
Thorax: Ball of pink dubbing slightly darker than the body and tail, dubbed loose for movement.
Weekly Fly Tying Video: Pennant Dun Mayfly-Style Attractor
I developed the Pennant Dun in early fall 2020 as a tiny, delicate, yet buoyant and visible mayfly-style attractor dry. Its effectiveness largely derives from its unusual wing and hackle design, which allows for a large wing on a small fly.
While I’m still working on other versions of the basic pattern that are more imitative, as well as using the wing/hackle method on larger attractor-style patterns (a variation of Mike Mercer’s Missing Link using this wing style is in the works, for example), the copper and purple versions of this pattern were good attractors on the Yellowstone River on early fall mornings, when there were a few midges and mayflies hatching, but no real specific hatches.
Hook: #14-20 standard emerger hook, here #18.
Thread: 8/0, here purple. Note that the thread will show through the body material, so sometimes it’s good to change thread colors after tying the body, depending on the effect you wish to produce. On the copper version of this fly, I use rusty brown thread under the tail and body, but fire orange for the hackle, wing, and head. I want the hot orange head, but it makes the body too orange if I use it for the whole fly.
Body: Veevus Body Quill, here claret.
Hackle: 1x oversized dun-grizzly, dun badger, or light dun.
Wing: Silver MFC Widow’s Web, trimmed into a pennant shape.
The other day I was thinking about common features of virtually all the mayfly dry fly patterns I use to imitate emergers, cripples, and duns, and realized all of them share at least two out of three characteristics, and many feature all three. Here are these features:
1. I exclusively tie/fish patterns suggestive of “impaired” insects.
Trout have evolved to eat bugs that aren’t going to fly away. For this reason, they prefer to eat cripples, emergers, stillborn insects, and drowned duns when possible. Your traditional Catskill-style dry flies that float on the foam on a glass of beer look cool, but they don’t look like they’re struggling. On the other hand, many popular patterns already imitate impaired insects. The classic Sparkle Dun suggests both emergers and cripples, while parachute dries look a lot like drowned duns, for example.
How do you make a pattern look impaired? Thankfully, there are some easy tricks. In fact, two of the three techniques below are easier than techniques for tying unimpaired insects.
Use trailing shuck material for a tail. See the Purple Hazy Cripple above for an example. On this pattern, the tail is either golden brown Widow’s Web or brown Sparkle Emerger Yarn.
Trim the hackle underneath the hook so the pattern rides low in the film, or use parachute hackle. It’s hard to see in the photo above, but the cripple has about 40% of the hackle under the hook trimmed almost to the shank.
Use the “cripple-style” wing. See above.
2. All of the mayfly patterns I use have slender bodies with slight segmentation and a faintly glossy appearance.
If you look at a real mayfly of virtually any species, they have very slender bodies with prominent segmentation and a somewhat “slick” appearance. To match this appearance on all but the smallest mayflies, here are the three best methods for creating bodies that look like this:
Use turkey biots, either with the fuzzy edge of the biot “out” or in. On the Soda Fountain Parachute dry above, they’re tied facing out. Alternately, use a rooster or peacock quill to create a similar body.
Use spandex (as on the Hazy Cripple above) or Hareline’s Micro Tubing (exremely fine surgical or bead-stringing plastic tubing that has been colored).
Use tying thread ribbed with Krystal Flash and then coated with head cement, super glue, or UV resin, as on the red Missing Link below. This is a great choice for patterns featuring crossover appeal to midges and mayfly spinners as well as emerger/cripple/dun mayflies. Photo courtesy Umpqua Feather Merchants.
The TJ Hooker fly is similar in some respects to the Zirdle Bug in that it’s a combination streamer and stonefly nymph. When it’s fished dead-drift, it looks like a stonefly, while when it’s twitched or dragged (or even mended) it looks like a small sculpin. This combination is ideal when float-fishing or Euro-nymphing on foot, because it allows multiple types of presentation in one cast. The version given here is heavy and mostly intended for Euro-nymphing in the fall (hence the orange bead, suggestive of eggs), but it’s also effective during the summer when tied with standard beads or no bead at all. Don’t hesitate to fish small ones as droppers under large hoppers!
TJ Hooker Fly Video
TJ Hooker Fly Recipe
Hook: #6-16 2xl barbed 60-degree jig hook, here a Kumoto KJ2322 #12. Note that this hook is rather oversized and a #12 looks like a #10 in similar hooks from Daiichi and probably most other brands. Feel free to substitute a 90-degree jig hook for use with brass beads, or even a standard 2xl nymph hook.
Bead: Here a 5/32″ orange slotted tungsten “jig” bead. Standard versions of the fly use gold or black beads. For lighter rigging, use a brass bead or none at all.
Weight: .010 to .025 lead or lead-free wire, optional.
Thread #1: Brown 6/0. Match the chenille color roughly when changing colors.
Tail: Marabou or chickabou. Here bar-dyed MFC Buggerbou in tan/brown is used. Feel free to change colors as desired.
Body: Chenille, here #0 Cascade Crest New Age Chenille in “Henry’s Lake.” Feel free to use your preferred color.
Legs: 2-3 strands MFC Sexi-Floss tied Girdle Bug-style. Here size small copper brown legs are used. Feel free to substitute.
Thread #2: Fl. fire orange 6/0 to create a hotspot. Standard versions of the pattern omit this.
Collar: A couple turns of Brownstone SLF dubbing to distinguish versions of this pattern with extra weight from those that don’t in my fly box. This step is purely optional.
The Baby Sculpin is a continuing evolution of a video I posted a while back in which I used Meyer’s Mini Leech as a starting point to create a small sculpin pattern. This is the “production” version for 2020, tied with a tungsten bead on a jig hook to reduce hangups. Small dead-drifted sculpins are excellent patterns for larger browns, both on summer float trips and in the fall when the browns are sitting in deep runs preparing for the spawn. Fish this one under an indicator from a drift boat or when fishing long, deep runs on foot, or Euro-style in pocket water.
Hook: 2xl jig nymph, #8-12. Alternately, use a scud hook if you don’t need the fly to ride hook-up.
Bead: Slotted tungsten to match hook size and to match or contrast overall body color. Here, black nickel 5/32-inch. If tying on a scud hook, use a standard brass or tungsten bead.
Weight (Optional): .015 lead or lead-free wire, just a few turns to hold the bead in place.
Thread #1 (Jig Versions Only): Clear monofilament tying thread. Use Thread #2 for the entire fly if tying on a scud hook.
Body Bump: Australian possum or other coarse nymph dubbing. Good colors are olive, brown, black, antique gold, and rust. Here, olive. Omit on scud hook versions.
Legs: 3-5 small Sexi-Floss or similar barred spandex legs. Choose a sculpin-esque color from tan to olive. Here, amber.
Belly/Flash: Pearl-gold Ice Wing Fiber or similar. Angel Hair can substitute.
Thread #2: To match overall body color. Here, olive-dun Uni 8/0.
Wing: Pine squirrel strip. Good colors are gold, tan, brown, olive, and black.
Collar (Optional) and Head: Same dubbing as “body bump,” tied using a dubbing loop.
Tying Note: If you’re tying this on a scud hook, tie in the legs as shown here, then tie in flash above and below the hook to shield the leg tie-in point and to hide the hook shank. Then tie the wing above the hook so it hangs free as on a Mayer’s Mini Leech. Then dub the head as standard. This version is much faster to tie but more snag-prone. As such, I usually use it as a dropper nymph in #12 hanging from a huge dry fly such as a Chubby Chernobyl, rather than fishing it deep.