The Gray CDC Emerging Dun is a biot-bodied CDC and synthetic-winged mayfly emerger originally developed as a spring creek fly to imitate Blue-winged Olives. Parks’ Fly Shop ordered it in much larger sizes than standard as an emerger for the various species of Green Drakes present in the Lamar drainage. It is most useful in this purpose in sizes 12-16.
Hook: #12-20 1xl or standard-length dry fly or light nymph hook (nymph hook used here).
Thread: 8/0 olive-dun.
Shuck: Gray crinkled synthetic yarn (Sparkle Emerger Yarn, Zelon, etc.).
Abdomen: Gray-olive turkey biot wrapped over a thread underbody.
Wing: Natural gray CDC (medium dun if natural unavailable) and same material as tail.
Head: Gray dubbing.
The Gartside Soft Hackle Streamer is a classic marabou and soft hackle streamer developed by Jack Gartside. This version is made using chickabou feathers, which allows for the pattern to be tied in much smaller sizes.
The same tying procedure used here also works on the large Alaskabou series and similar marabou steelhead and coho salmon flies. Just use large (#2/0 to #2) steelhead hooks, swap the chickabou for much larger marabou plumes, and add more flash.
Hook: 2xl nymph, #10.
Thread: Black 6/0.
Body Material: Olive-dyed chickabou (3 plumes total).
Flash: Rootbeer Krystal Flash.
Hackle: Brown-dyed grizzly hen.
I hope everyone reading this is healthy, employed, and not contemplating locking your children in the closet until the virus abates.
The effects of COVID-19 on summer fishing in southern Montana and the Yellowstone area remain to be seen, but they certainly call for some flexibility in my operations. Here are some changes I’m making, effective immediately.
Temporary Changes to Operations Calendar
For right now, I am not accepting bookings for March through May, 2020. People are not beating down the door anyway, but I think it’s in the best interests of both client health and my own to write off the spring season as a wash. Think about coming out in 2021 if you would like a pre-runoff trip or, if my funds allow a new boat purchase, a Missouri River power boat trip.
I am still accepting bookings for trips from June through the rest of the year. I expect bookings to be limited to nonexistent in June, but am holding out hope for my peak season from July through September to make it so this year isn’t a wipeout. That said, for financial planning and worry purposes, my wife and I are working under the assumption that I won’t have any trips this year beyond the pair I had last week.
Temporary Changes to Cancellation Policy
For all current bookings for the 2020 season as well as new bookings for the season as they come in, I am making the following changes to my cancellation policies to allow greater flexibility and alleviate client concerns about booking trips they may not be able to travel to take.
- My normal 30-day no questions asked cancellation policy remains in effect. Cancel with 30+ days notice, the full deposit will be refunded.
- From 30 days to 72 hours prior to the trip, upon cancellation any deposit made may be held for a trip later in the 2020 season or during the 2021 season, rather than forfeited if I am unable to rebook. If things continue to be really ugly into the summer, I may revisit this policy and make it more lenient yet.
- I will handle cancellations within the 72hr window on a case-by-case basis. Basically, if somebody gets sick or your flight gets canceled, I will do the right thing.
Effects on My Livelihood and Business
Simply put, I expect a severe reduction in trips and income this year. As of March 1, my bookings were looking excellent and I was on track for a record season. That’s all out the window now. I’ve only had three cancellations thus far, but I expect more to mount. A bigger issue at the moment is the utter lack of new bookings since the beginning of March. All in all, I would be surprised if I run more than fifty trips personally, with a handful of trips in which I have other guides working for me. I had expected to run twice as many trips before the double sledgehammer (the sickness and the economic blow) of coronavirus hit with full force. This is going to hurt rather severely.
I intend to keep YCFF operational in 2021 no matter what 2020 brings, provided nothing else catastrophic happens to reduce my finances. My wife’s work has already laid-off 20% of her division. If those cuts hit my wife, as well, I may have to start thinking about “eating my seed corn,” in other words selling off boats, client fishing tackle, and other large-scale business assets in order to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I will gut my retirement savings, sell off my personal fishing tackle, sell my daily driver car, and take advantage of any applicable government programs before taking this extreme step, however.
Effects on the Fishing
Here’s a brighter note: I expect the fish to be happy and the fishing to be outstanding this season. I anticipated a good year before the virus reared its ugly head: we have good snowpack, a good outlook for continuing moisture through spring, and have had good water years every season since 2017. 2019 offered generally the best fishing since 2014, and the best hopper fishing in close to a decade. All signs pointed towards this trend continuing. Combining these conditions with what will certainly be reduced fishing pressure compared to the past few seasons, no matter how the virus and economy shake out, the fishing in 2020 is likely to rank at or near the best for my entire career. If your funds and health allow, contemplate a trip. I’ll be grateful and I bet the fishing will be good.
How You Can Help and Conclusion
I posted a video appeal on how to help my business and Parks’ Fly Shop as part of my March 25 Fly Tying Video. Rather than repeat myself, I’ll ask that you watch the video. In short, staying liquid this summer and especially through next winter is going to be my biggest challenge, and if you can book trips to help me do it, I’ll appreciate it.
Keep an eye on the blog for future updates. I’ll also be sending out an early spring newsletter with most of the same information above, as well as a fishing report. Sign up for the newsletter, if you haven’t.
Josh Garris’ Yellowstone Nymph is a simple, buggy fly similar in most respects to a Walt’s Worm or Sexy Walt (no relation, just ask my wife) that works well in fast, bouldery water in Yellowstone Park as a caddis pupa as well as sowbug or caddis on the Land of Giants stretch of the Missouri River.
After the tying video, I’d appreciate it if you keep watching for an update on how Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing and Parks’ Fly Shop are handling the coronavirus and how you can help us get through it.
Hook: Standard scud, #12-18.
Bead: Black brass or tungsten to match hook size.
Thread: 6/0 rusty brown. Use 8/0 on #16-18.
Tail #1: Tag end of tying thread.
Tail #2 and Rib: Pearl Krystal Flash (#12-14) or Midge Flash (#16-18).
Body: Spirit River (now Hareline) Buggy Nymph Blend in Hare’s Ear, or similar tan/brown/gray coarse dubbing.
Head: Tying thread and head cement.
The Buttcrack Baetis by Duane Redford is a small, rather unusual mayfly/midge attractor nymph popular these days on Colorado’s West Slope but worth fishing on any clear, heavily-pressured water where the fish eat small, slender bugs.
Hook: Standard scud, #16-22.
Bead: Copper or gold brass or tungsten to match wire color and hook size. Here, the #18 hook is matched with a 5/64″ bead. The bead is optional.
Thread: 8/0 or 10/0 in preferred body color. Here, brown. Purple and shades of olive are also good.
Tail: Coq-de-Leon or similar speckled game bird or chicken feather fiber.
Rib: Copper or gold wire, small to extra small.
Abdomen: Tying thread.
Wing Case: Split strip of .5mm or 1mm foam, usually white.
Flash: Mini flat braid or similar braided mylar in pearl or root beer colors.
Thorax: Ice Dub. Here rusty brown. Change color to match overall colorway of the fly.
This is my version of the Floss San Juan Worm (Sexi Worm, Flexi Worm, Flexi Floss Worm, etc.). This is an excellent pattern for low, clear water. In my neck of the woods, it works well on the Paradise Valley spring creeks in late winter and early spring.
Hook: #14-18 scud.
Bead: Gold brass to match hook size.
Thread: 8/0 red or to match body color. Other good colors are pink, worm brown, and red/black/brown.
Head: Red Flexi-Floss or similar spandex “leg” material, tied in front of the bead.
Tail: Same as head, tied in behind the bead and wrapped down the shank.
Body: Micro Tubing to match body color. Use “midge” tubing on #14.
Body Coating: Head cement, optional.
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.
As you can see, things are looking good right now in most of our operations area, with drainage basins in our operations area ranging from 92% to 127% of normal. By far the most important basins for our operations are the Upper Yellowstone basins in Montana and Wyoming/YNP. These are at 113% and 111%, respectively. The low spots are the Madison in Montana and Madison/Gallatin in YNP.
Because the winter has been warm and we’ve got warm, rainy weather in the forecast for the next week, I expect these numbers to all drop over the next week. Beyond that, long range NOAA outlooks for the 6-10 day forecast period suggest above normal precip and below normal temperatures (aka good chance it’ll be snowy), while the 8-14 day outlook suggests an equal chance of above, below, and normal temperatures with a greater chance of above normal precip. Very long range outlooks extending through the spring suggest greater likelihood of above normal temperatures as well as above normal precip.
We still have a good six weeks of “snowpack building time,” and the above outlooks do not look likely to drastically change our overall snowpack numbers, though I do expect them to decline a few points. We’ve had a warm winter, so the medium-elevation snow will start melting as soon as it gets rained on.
In regards to most of our operations area, in particular the Yellowstone Basin inside and outside Yellowstone Park, 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…
The Madison/Gallatin Basin inside Yellowstone Park is a different matter. It would not surprise me to see this snowpack drop to 85% of normal by the end of next week, with the bulk of the drop in the lower-elevation Madison portion of this shared basin. The storms have generally been going either just north of the park or just south of it, leaving the Madison Basin inside the park just off the storm track. This below average snowpack could become a problem if the forecast warmer than average weather for the next three months materializes. The Madison outside the park should be fine, particularly upstream of Ennis Lake, but the Firehole, Gibbon, and Madison inside the park might suffer due to low/warm water this year as they have not since 2016. The Firehole in particular may wind up getting too warm by around June 20, whereas it has fished well through June the past few years. We’ll have to wait and see on this. If you’re a Firehole-lover, I suggest doing some snow dances.
It’s pink season here in Montana. We tend to fish pink/rainbow scud and sowbug patterns in late winter and spring, not least because such patterns have a lot of crossover with eggs and in any case are a big mouthful for trout putting the feedbags on after a long winter. This one is a variation on the popular Arkansas sowbug pattern, the Trout Crack.
Hook: #14-18 scud.
Thread #1: Fluorescent fire orange 8/0.
Thread #2 (Rib): Fine mono thread (or old 5X-6X tippet).
Body: Dubbing blend of a couple colors of pink Ice Dub, perhaps some pink acrylic, and rainbow Wapsi Sow-Scud. The precise material isn’t important. Simply make a blend of rainbow Sow-Scud with some reflective/flashy pink dubbing.
Wing Case: Pink Midge Tubing or D-Rib.
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.