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.
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.
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.
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.
New fly tying vid: Jigged Soft Hackle Caddis. Use this as an anchor fly in Euro-nymphing situations or when short-leash nymphing. I use the latter technique a lot on the Lower Madison River, which is very shallow and has heavy caddis concentrations. Tie this fly or something similar to your main leader, then rig an unweighted dropper to run about a foot above it. Use the smallest strike indicator you can and rig it only a couple feet above the jigged soft hackle. The heavy tungsten bead is the only weight in this system.
Hook: Umpqua C400BL, #14.
Bead: Black nickel tungsten, 1/8-inch.
Thread 1: Chartreuse 6/0 or 8/0.
Hackle: Speckled brown hen.
Thread 2: Gold-Olive MFC Midge Body or Veevus equivalent.
This video is mostly designed to show a cool material taken from the craft world, King Cole Chunky Tinsel yarn, and to show the technique used to twist up this material sufficiently to create a one-step bushy body. This is a good all-around baitfish pattern for a variety of fish.
Hook: Eagle Claw #630 size-4 (size 1/0 to 4 work).
Bead: 3/16″ copper brass bead.
Weight: .035 lead wire.
Thread: 3/0 brown.
Tail: Brown-grizzly and tan-brown barred marabou.
Flash: 3 strands of rusty brown Krystal Flash.
Body/Hackle: Single strand of King Cole Chunky Tinsel yarn, lopped, twisted, wrapped forward, and trimmed.
The pink AMEX is one of the most popular nymph patterns in winter and early spring on the Missouri River, and a good bet on any tailwater stream. It suggests both eggs and dead/dying scuds, and as such is a good “junk bug” attractor pattern on tailwaters.
While normally tied on a scud hook, I prefer to tie larger versions (#12-14) on jig hooks with tungsten beads, to cut down on hangups.
It’s also worth checking out the “Rainbow Czech,” which is generally similar except with the dubbing colors reversed and a full scud-style shellback. Both patterns bear some similarity to the Pink Squirrel nymph popular in the Driftless region of the upper Midwest.
We tied the May-Midge as something of an experiment prior to last season, intending it to combine attributes of midge patterns like the Griffith’s Gnat while maintaining the overall silhouette of tiny, sparse mayflies. Our goal with this fly was to come up with something that would fool the spooky, lazily-rising fish we often see in the morning in flat water in late summer and early fall. These fish seldom eat any one thing in particular, but are feeding on a mixture of midges and the duns of three or four species of mayflies, as well as the occasional odd ant, mayfly spinner, and other “schmutz.” The May-Midge proved extremely effective in this role this season, particularly in the Lamar Drainage, where it turned out several very large fish on lower Slough Creek that were turned off by larger and/or more heavily-dressed flies.
Note: This fly is intended for use in slow water, particularly big eddy lines or places with many complicated micro-currents. It should not be used in choppy water, as it won’t float well in chop.
Hook: #16-22 1x short, 1x fine emerger hook.
Thread #1 and Abdomen: Claret Veevus Body Quill (I called it wine in the video).
Tail/Shuck: Gray Sparkle Emerger Yarn or similar.
Thread #2: 8/0 or 10/0 wine.
Wing: White Widow’s Web or similar synthetic yarn.
Hackle: Grizzly saddle, tied sparse.
Thorax: UV Brown Ice Dub.
Other Colors: Light olive, black, copper, gray (use alternate abdomen material on gray, as there is no gray Body Quill). Change threads and dubbing to match desired fly color. Tail, wing, and hackle do not change.
Breakout Fly for 2019 and Tying Vid: Copper Matt Nymph
While caddis hatches on the Yellowstone River were sort of “meh” in 2019, the nymph fishing during caddis season was quite good. Usually we fished our nymphs as droppers, sometimes deep under bobbers. Either way, my most-productive caddis/attractor nymph was an old tie by Matt Minch, the Copper Matt. Essentially a version of his Bead, Hare, and Copper with a peacock herl head and heavier wire ribing, I’ve been using the Copper Matt in larger sizes for at least ten years, to no better or different results than with the “BHC.” This year I happened to tie a few in smaller sizes in my box, probably due to guiding on the lower Madison during heavy caddis hatches and having strong success with them earlier in the season. The smaller size (#16) seemed to be the ticket. The fish loved this one this year. Let’s hope they do next year. My new fly tying vid for the pattern is embedded below.
3 Tips for Creating Imitations of Impaired Insects
In this previous post, I talk about reasons to fish imitations of impaired insects, including both aquatic insects that are struggling or dead and terrestrial insects that have fallen into the water. In this post, I give three easy tips for creating imitations of impaired insects. Since all terrestrial insects are by their nature impaired, since no grasshopper or ant or whatever chooses to drop into the water for a dip, I’ll focus on aquatic insect imitations.
1. Tie Patterns to Float Low in the Water
Imitations of impaired aquatic insects don’t float high and perky. They float low in the surface film or even slightly underneath it. All flies tied to suggest these insects should do the same. There are a lot of ways of accomplishing this.
For mayflies, caddisflies, and midges, tying flies that either have hackle only above the hook (parachute and paraloop flies), have the hackle trimmed underneath, as in my Hazy Cripple series and most other cripple-style patterns, or lack hackle entirely, as in the Sparkle Dun or No Hackle flies, is the easiest way of accomplishing this.
Here’s an Improved Sparkle Dun, for example:
With stoneflies, use predominately natural materials such as hair and synthetic materials such as acrylic yarn rather than foam, or tie patterns whose back ends lack foam so they ride underwater while the front half is above. The Parks’ Salmonfly is a good example, as is the more-popular Sunken Stone.
Here’s a Sunken Stone:
2. Include Nymphal or Pupal Shucks or Elements Suggestive of Egg-Laying
Impaired insects that are emerging often get trapped in their nymphal shucks, and through natural selection the trout have “learned” that these insects are easy prey and won’t fly away anytime soon. Likewise, insects that are egglaying have to dip their abdomens in the water and often get sucked under in doing so. The Sunken Stone pictured above features a brown egg sack suggestive of egglaying for just this reason, and is a good example of how to accomplish this for stoneflies.
Both egg sacks and nymphal/pupal shucks can be imitated by using a tuft of sparkly synthetic yarn in place of a tail. On mayflies, this shuck is usually brown, but olive or gray are good choices for some insects. The shuck should be paler than but otherwise match the general coloration of the nymph. On midges, gray is almost always a good color. On caddis, amber or ginger are good colors most of the time, one reason my Clacka Caddis has a ginger tail regardless of the overall color of the pattern. Tan and olive can also be good. Match the general color of the pupa.
Here’s my Clacka Caddis, in pink, an attractor color. Note the shuck, and also the fact that the hackle is trimmed underneath as I note above:
3. Tie Wings Either Spent or “Damaged.”
Dead insects or living ones with bent, broken, or otherwise damaged wings aren’t going to fly away. Match these features with “spent” wings tied to either side of the fly or a short “butt” wing. All species of common aquatic insects except stoneflies can be tied with butt-style wings. All insects can be tied with spent wings, though their orientation should be slightly different with mayflies vs caddis and stoneflies.
Here’s a good example of a wing butt for a mayfly or midge, as illustrated by the short bit of white yarn protruding from under the hackle on my Purple Hazy Cripple. Note also the trailing nymphal shuck. The hackle is trimmed short under the fly as well, though this is not obvious from the pic:
The common feature of spent wings on all aquatic insect imitations is that they should be splayed out to the sides of the fly. With caddis, stoneflies, and midges, these should have a rearward orientation, with the wings protruding in a general “vee” shape. With caddis and midges, the wings should be at least roughly divided to either side of the fly at about a 45-degree angle. Here’s my version of a Caddis Cripple dry showing this feature, as well as clipped hackle to help the fly ride low:
With stoneflies, which normally carry their wings folded flat over their backs and only spread them to fly, there’s no need to “split” the wing, though you may if you like. Instead, simply splaying the wing completely over the top of the fly works fine. You can do this on an already-tied fly by mashing your thumb on top of the wing at its tie-in point to give it a crumpled appearance.
With mayflies, a truly spent fly, whether a drowned dun or an egg-layer that has dropped its eggs and died, lays with its wings at almost 90-degree angles to the sides. This is shown in all of the popular spinner patterns, as well as this image of the real thing:
That said, fishing imitations of spent mayflies underwater is very effective, and when spent mayflies are sucked under, their wings will splay backward somewhat. This can be matched by tying the wings back at 45 degrees as noted above for caddis and midges, or by using soft hackle that will naturally sweep back and pulsate in the current.
There are certainly other ways of matching impaired insects, but the above tips will put you on the right track, and are the three I use the most. Happy fishing and tying!