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.
This is a classic stillwater streamer suggestive of small perch. Given that the main forage fish in our NEWEST private fishery are perch, and they’re devoured by brown trout averaging over 20 inches, this is a neat one…
Hook: Standard 3xl streamer, #6-14
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Orange hackle fibers
Body: Olive chenille
Rib: Gold tinsel, Flashabou, etc.
Throat: Orange hackle fibers
Wing: Natural gray mallard flank feather fibers
Head: Tying thread and glossy head cement.
I developed this nymph on and mostly for the Gibbon, but it’s a good choice anytime you’re looking for a changeup from a conventional Prince. Fish it either under a big bushy dry or in a bobber or Euro-nymphing rig.
Hook: Any standard-length jig nymph hook, #12-18. Here, #16.
Bead: Gold slotted tungsten to match hook. Here 3/32″.
Thread: 8/0 black.
Shuck: Short tuft of crinkled ginger synthetic yarn.
Rib: Small to medium gold Ultra Wire, here Brassie.
Abdomen: 2-4 strands of peacock herl, depending on hook size and herl quality. Here 3 strands are used.
Wing: Tuft of cream or white crinkled synthetic yarn, clipped Serendipity-style.
“Hackle:” Brown dubbing blend of your choice, tied loop-style and if necessary trimmed to length. Here brown acrylic and pheasant tail Ice Dub are used, but squirrel, hare’s ear, or other nymph dubbings would also work.
Tis the season for this one on private ranch lakes as well as public lowland reservoirs in Montana. In a couple weeks these will be nailing it on Cascade and other small lakes in YNP, most of which are still inaccessible due to snow and marsh.
Hook: 1x short, 1x strong scud hook, #12-20, here #18. #18 is typically the best size overall.
Thread: 8/0 black except 8/0 white on pearl color.
Hackle: Gray speckled hen, partridge, or grizzly hen.
Abdomen: One strand holographic Flashabou doubled around the tying thread (or two strands secured in standard fashion), or pearl Flashabou on pearl. Good colors include black (presented here), red, chartreuse, gold, copper, purple, olive, and silver.
Thorax: 2-4 strands of peacock herl, depending on hook size.
The UDO Worm is a great oddball worm in its own right (see the third image at the beginning of the video), but more importantly it illustrates how adhesives can be used to “construct” flies.
Hook: Any curved shank scud, octopus, or bait hook featuring an offset shank, all the way from “huge” to “tiny.”
Weight: .010 or .015 lead wire, optional.
Thread: Red, 3/0 to 10/0 depending on fly size.
Body: Holographic red Flashabou over thread.
Coloration: Black nail polish.
Coatings: 1. UV cure resin, here Loon UV Thin. 2. Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails or similar clear nail polish. Omit UV cure on small sizes, consider adding an additional layer of it on the largest sizes.
Fly Tying Vid: Squirrel Tail Carp Clouser
This is my favorite pattern for carp fishing the upper Missouri River near Toston, Montana, about 2hr 15min from Gardiner. Montana isn’t exactly known as a carp-fishing mecca, and the Missouri is usually known only for its trout, but this stretch of river is shallow and clear enough to offer sight-fishing opportunities for carp averaging 4 to 12lbs. They make a great changeup for trout fishing in August and early September.
Hook: Clouser-style, #2-6.
Thread: 3/0 or 6/0 brown.
Eyes: Black bead chain, brass, or lead (lightest to heaviest). Tie a variety of weights.
Belly: Natural gray squirrel tail.
Flash: Black, medium brown, or root beer Krystal Flash, or a mix of two of the above. Keep the flash sparse.
Wing: Natural fox squirrel tail.
New tying vid: Caddis Cripple
While this color is intended for use on the Firehole River, where it matches the crucial June and September White Miller or Nectopsyche caddis, a few color tweaks makes this pattern match any caddis you wish, and it also makes a good low-riding attractor dry for summer. Tie them in olive-brown for the upcoming Mother’s Day Caddis Hatch, imminent on the Yellowstone & Madison!
Hook: Short shank dry, #12-20 (especially #14-16). Here, #16.
Thread: 8/0 to match or contrast overall color tones of the fly. Here, cream.
Body: Dubbing of your choice. Here, golden Arizona Synthetic Peacock. Keep the body sparse and rather scraggly.
Wing and Head: Widow’s Web or similar hydrophobic synthetic. Here, beige. Typical “realistic” colors are caddis tan and light tan. Typical “attractor” colors are white, polar bear, and beige.
Hackle: 4-5 turns of saddle hackle, trimmed under the hook. Here, barred light ginger.
Windshield Haze Drowned Mayfly Dun
I designed the purple Windshield Haze (formerly Purple Haze Soft Hackle or Drowned Purple Haze) to imitate a drowned BWO dun that got sucked under and is therefore easy prey for the trout. While initially intended as a fly for beginners to fish on a short (6″) dropper behind some sort of larger dry fly they could see, this fly’s effectiveness means I now have experienced anglers fish it early and late in the season, as well. I have experienced anglers fish it on a slightly longer dropper behind a small dropper, especially my Purple Hazy Cripple in #16. Since this fly is tied on a light wire emerger hook, it sinks slowly and only a few inches, so even a small dry can serve as an indicator, and you’ll often see the fish make porpoise rises to this bug, without having to wait for the dry to dive to indicate a strike. It has produced several rainbows in the high teens on guide trips this spring. I expect to try it in a wide range of colors this season, because whenever I’ve used it, this fly has rocked.
Hook: #14-20 curved shank emerger (or light wire scud) hook.
Thread: 8/0, here purple. Use thread to match or contrast the colors you choose to try the fly in.
Hackle: Hen hackle, here light dun (which is a good general mayfly color). Tie using the technique given on this video.
Wing: Light dun Darlon or similar pale gray crinkly synthetic yarn. Tie using a similar technique given in the link given just above.
Tail: Hen hackle, same color as used for hackle.
Abdomen: Spandex floss (Sexi-Floss, Wonder Wrap, Spanflex, Life Flex, etc.), here purple.
Thorax: Fine dubbing with a hint of UV flash, here Montana Fly Company UV Frog’s Hair in color “Adams.”
The Zirdle Bug is a red-hot streamer/nymph combo “junk fly” in southwest Montana, particularly on lower-elevation rivers like the Beaverhead, lower Madison, Jefferson, and Missouri, where crayfish are present. It roughly matches crayfish, sculpins and other baitfish, and stonefly nymphs. Fish it in a variety of ways: swung or stripped like a streamer, dead-drifted under an indicator, or dragged on a tight line. This one is sort of a tan-copper-brown-orange color, but you can tie them in a wide range of natural and attractor colors. This one is merely intended to serve as an example.
Hook: #4-10 3xl nymph/streamer, here #6.
Weight: .015-.035 lead or lead-free wire, here .035.
Thread: 6/0 to match or contrast the body, here light brown.
Tail: Krystal Flash. Here, root beer.
Body: Brindle chenille, here Amberstone New Age Chenille.
Legs: Medium round rubber, here Wapsi barred rubber in olive with chartreuse and orange specks.
Wing: Standard rabbit strip, here black-barred tan with orange tips.
Cinnamon Flying Ant
This is an excellent bug on the Yellowstone in August and early September and does double duty as a caddis or even (due to its rusty appearance) a mayfly emerger.
Hook: Standard dry, #14-18.
Thread: 8/0 rusty brown.
Head and Abdomen: Rusty brown acrylic dubbing. Here, it’s just craft yarn chopped up in a blender, but use whatever you like.
Wing: Light tan Widow’s Web or similar hydrophobic synthetic, tied in vee-style. You can also use white.
Hackle: Badger, 4-6 turns. You can also use brown, grizzly-brown, etc.
Reminder: Walter at the Wasatch Fly Fishing Show
I’ll be tying three sessions at the Wasatch Fly Fishing Show this upcoming weekend. Come say hi Friday morning, Friday afternoon, or Saturday afternoon. I’ll be tying spring, summer, and fall flies for the Yellowstone River and Yellowstone area.