As I stood preparing for what lies ahead I took careful note of my gear. I had slipped on my first layer of protective clothing. Next came a high performance pair of protective footwear. After that a second, heavier layer, again to protect me. Next came the outer layer designed not to let anything tough, tough as nails, and designed specifically for this task. Protective boots with cleats, High performance head gear, gloves and special glasses to protect my eyes rounded my preparation. You might think I was getting ready to do battle in the Roman Colosseum or out on the gridiron. No no, unfortunately it was not that dramatic! I was just going out for the third time to shovel the 20" of snow Mother Nature saw fit to dump on us this weekend! River time has been scarce the past few weeks, but the tying bench has been red hot. So here is the third and final installment of the Winter Tying Project. The Tacky Day Pack is full with all of my favorite winter patterns and I am set to go fishing for the next few months. As you can imagine the box is full of smaller flies, the biggest is a #16 that I will use as an attractor. Over the past several seasons one of my favorite attractor nymphs has been the Rainbow Warrior from Lance Egan. I first saw this pattern in George Daniels first book "Dynamic Nymphing". It was one of those patterns that just "spoke" to me as soon as I saw it. In the right situation I just knew this fly would produce. I have made a minor departure from the original using red Pheasant Tail fibers for the tail instead of the natural, but other than that this is the original pattern. Here is the recipe.
Hook: Dohiku #302 size 14
Bead: Silver Tungsten sized to match hook
Thread: Red flat waxed 6/0
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: UTC Pearl Tinsel
Thorax: Rainbow Sow - Scud Dub
Wing Case: UTC Pearl Tinsel
The next pattern I filled this box with is a Beatis pattern called the Cinnamon Toast. From the mind of Kevin Compton at Performance flies this little powerhouse is a must have if you fish rivers where the Beatis are abundant. There seems to be some debate as to the grouping of Beatis and BWO's as the same family of flies. About the best explanation of this can be found here on Trout Nut .com. I try to stay away from debates like this, for me if I can identify the size and basic coloration of the natural, that is good enough for me. What I do know is this fly catches fish! Here is the recipe.
Hook: HANAK Nymph Hook H230BL #16.
Thread: 140D flat waxed olive
Bead: Copper Tungsten 7/64
Tails: Coq de Leon Fibers.
Ribbing: X Fine Copper Wire.
Body: Brown-Olive Condor Substitute.
Thorax: Jan Siman Peacock Dubbing, Peacock Bronze
To see more great patterns from Kevin visit Performance Flies by clicking HERE.
The last pattern I chose to fill the Winter box with is my all time favorite Midge Pattern, the Frostbite Midge. Similar to the way I discovered the Rainbow Warrior I first saw the Frostbite Midge in the book Modern Midges. In the way the "Warrior" captured my attention the Frostbite Midge was an instant hit. I Anything tied with Peacock Hurl will catch Trout as it has become one of my favorite tying materials. Deadly on my home waters of the White Clay I can comfortably say this pattern has accounted for more fish for me locally than any other fly. Do yourself a favor and tie some of these up, you will be glad you did.
Hook: TMC 2499SP-BL #20
Thread: Red Flat Waxed 6/0
Bead: Copper Tungsten 1/16
Ribbing: X Fine Copper Wire.
Body: Red Midge Diamond Braid
Thorax: Peacock Hurl
Gills; White Z-Lon
Well, there you have it, my Tacky Day Pack box full and ready to fish. Some may say "I see empty spaces in there, that is not full". Well, one thing I am doing this year is leaving a few spaces open in each box so I can add patterns and re-arrange them when necessary. You never know when that next Pattern will "speak" to you. Till next time...
In my last few blog post's I have mentioned a specific fly several times. This fly has become a staple in my winter time fishing. My buddy "One Boot" Ed had a banner day on Maryland's tough Gunpowder during the first day of 2015. I have had several recent requests to do a step-by-step of the "Rainbow Warrior". The "Warrior", as we have come to call it, has served me well on stocked water as well as wild Trout rivers. I first came across this pattern in the great book "Dynamic Nymphing" penned by George Daniel. Mr Daniel credits Lance Egan for the pattern and I feel the need to personally thank him for such a great fly. Tied as big as a 12 or as small as a 22 this fly can be used strictly as an attractor or as a spot on Midge Larva.
Hook: TMC 2457 #12 to #22
Bead: Silver Tungsten sized to match hook
Thread: Red flat waxed 6/0
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Body: UTC Pearl Tinsel
Thorax: Rainbow Sow - Scud Dub
Wing Case: UTC Pearl Tinsel
Bead the hook and place the hook in the vise.
After attaching the thread wrap back around the hook bend. Tie in a small clump of PT fibers for a tail. The original calls for natural Pheasant, I have been using red and have come to prefer it for this application.
After tying in the tail, tie in a length of UTC pearl tinsel. UN-twist the thread (this is why I like flat waxed thread)and lay down a smooth, tapered under body.
Wrap the tinsel up the hook over the red thread. When you get approximately 2/3 of the way up the hook shank tie off the tinsel, but don't clip the excess off. This will be your wing case.
Dub a small abdomen with the rainbow dubbing. Fold the excess tinsel over the abdomen, centered and on top of the hook shank. Use the thread to build up the gap between the bead and the dubbing. Whip finish and clip the thread.
Here is a brace of Warriors ready for the box and the water. Check out this nice Gunpowder Brown my buddy Ed stuck on New Year' day.
Take a minute the next time you are at the bench and tie up a few Rainbow Warriors. I'll bet you already have all the materials in your stash. Based on the success I have had with this pattern you will be glad you did. Till next time...
As we move into full on winter time fishing (it was 6 degrees the other night!) this can only mean one thing; Midges, Midges and more Midges. Midges are a non biting member of the mosquito family. They are prevalent in just about every waterway that Trout inhabit. Available year round, they are a large part of a Trout's diet. As the water begins to cool Midges should become a primary focus of our fishing tactics and in the dead of winter December, January and February they may be one of the only active and available food sources. Under water flies will be well represented with patterns in the #18 to #22 size range. Top water or "dry" patterns will be in the #20 to #24 range. Most serious Trout fishermen will have a fly box dedicated to Midges only. As mentioned, you should carry your Midge box year round, I have caught trout on Midge patterns in February as well as in June. I would like to share with you six of my favorite, most productive Midge patterns. Try as I might I just could not get the pictures of the small flies to come out properly. For the sake of clarity the pictures of the actual flies were pulled from the internet. My thanks to the people who's picture taking ability is far superior to mine.
If you are going to become a serious Midge fisherman you need to wrap your mind around a few things. Sometimes as hard as it is to get them to eat a #24, keeping them buttoned up is another story. There will be times when you just cant stick them, by contrast there will be times when you stick them good and after a second or 2 the hook pulls. It is the nature of the beast. Even on the best of hook designs the gap on a size 24 hook is minuscule at best. One suggestion is to use a quality hook and be sure it is sharp. Offsetting the hook point a bit will help in this area as well. Also, when using a curved shank hook with a bead, go up one hook size. This will allow more room between the hook point and the bead and keep the hook gap open. If you roll the hook point clip it off and tie on a fresh fly. These patterns are usually simple and fast to tie. Don't fish with dull hooks! Small flies call for small tippet. It is hard to get a good drift with a size #24 fly on 4X. The next time you have a small hook, 22 or smaller, try to thread 4X through the hook eye. You will be surprised to find out it may not even go through. Get yourself a few spools of 6X and get comfortable casting and fishing a longer than normal leader. At the tying bench realize although there is not typically much detail in these patterns tying flies this small can be a challenge. It can take as long to put the bead on a #22 as it takes to actually tie the fly. Tie in a well lit area, pre bead your hooks and take your time. Just because they are small doesn't mean you should get sloppy. A well stocked Midge box filled with well tied flies is a thing of beauty. Tie flies and arrange boxes you can be proud of. You will be glad you did.
Books are great sources of information and can be used as future reference for years to come. As I get a little older I have come to appreciate books as a form of investment. An investment that I do not need to worry if they will hold their value. I am sure everybody has their favorites, and I am no exception. "Midge Magic" by Don Holbrook & Ed Koch and "Modern Midges" by Rick Takahashi & Jerry Hubka are two of the best. A copy of each should be on every fly tiers book shelf. These two books have more information and patterns than most people could digest in a lifetime. A quick search of the web provided many outlets to purchase each, or you could just click here. I believe "Midge Magic" is out of print so if you are interested I would suggest you get a copy ASAP before it goes by the way of my hair line, the 2008 Phillies World Series, and all of the good Metal music of the '80's...gone forever!
Well, here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. My 6 favorite Midge patterns. These 6 flies have proven themselves on both stocked and wild fish. An easy to moderate skill level is all that is required to tie them with a minimal amount materials. Tie these 6 flies and you can fish in most any water condition at any time during the year and have success.
1) The Zebra Midge. Possibly the most popular Midge Larva pattern ever. A bead, thread body and wire rib is all that is needed. You can add a dubbed collar if you choose, but may not be necessary. Tied in black, red and olive in sizes 18 to 22. Every Midge box should be well stocked with a bunch of these.
2) Al's Rat. Why is it the most effective flies are often the most simple to tie? Thread and dubbing are all that is needed. I will usually hang this as a dropper off of a tungsten beaded fly to help get it down. This fly is a great choice to add a third fly to your rig without adding bulk. It is rare that my wintertime doesn't have a Rat hanging off the back.
3) The Frostbite Midge. This is my go to fly on my home waters of the White Clay. Probably the most detailed of all the patterns on my list. The red Diamond Braid body on this fly makes for a great Blood worm imitation. I have more confidence in this fly than any other on the list.
The Rainbow Warrior. I don't know If this was originally designed as a Midge pattern or not. I do know the more I fish the more confidence I have in it. I first saw this fly in the great book "Dynamic Nymphing" by George Daniel. Instantly I had an idea where this fly would be successful in my personal fishing. Tied on a #20 this fly has proven deadly this winter tough waters like Maryland's Gunpowder.
We go on top for our next two patterns, and the Sprout Midge is one of the best! Tied parachute style, this fly rides in the film and is very easy to see. Tied with a foam post this fly is an excellent choice for "dry and dropper" fishing, but does quite well all by it's self. Personally, my success has been far better with body colors of light olive and tan. The black version just has not been as productive for me.
This next pattern is near and dear to my heart. My good friend, Rick, introduced me to this pattern one early March day on one of our favorite rivers. When I say "introduced" what I mean is he was banging fish and I, only 50 yards below him in the same run couldn't catch a cold. On the way home, with my tail still between my legs from the beating I had just received on the water, I finally asked him what fly. He told me "The CDC Puff" The next day we sat down at the bench and he taught me how to tie this simple, yet highly effective fly. The picture shows the body wrapped with some type of flash. I have a few tied like this but, over time, have come to prefer using just plain flat waxed nylon thread for the body.
Well, there they are. These 6 Midge patterns have served me well over the years and they will continue to do so. Are these the only flies in my Midge box? Absolutely not. I am always looking for that next "new" pattern, that is how lists like this grow and evolve. I do know I will never be on a Trout river without these 6 patterns! Pick up a copy of "Midge Magic" and or "Modern Midges", pick some patterns that speak to you and get out and give them a shot. Who knows, maybe in a year or so you will have your own "confidence list". Till next time...
As I write this it is a couple of days since New Year's Day. Many people, around this time, are thinking of the past Holiday season, the Winter ahead, Collage Bowl games or waiting on Summer. To me, New Year's day means one thing, up-holding a new 4 year tradition of catching a wild Brown Trout on the first day of the new year. The first 2 years were well before web sites and blogs. Last year I did blog about this tradition while I was writing for a different site. Well, it is a new year, the site is mine, but the tradition remains the same. I was fortunate that my company shut down between Christmas and New Year's giving me 11 days off to do what ever I wanted, and I wanted to fish! Balancing time between the holidays, family and the river is a delicate act at best. Our kids are older and working all the time and my wife is EXTREMELY understanding of my passion (or sickness) and I was able to get on the river 5 of the 11 days I was off. Not too bad considering one of the days I had to go to New York City to look at a new machine my company is thinking of purchasing and the last two days, Saturday and Sunday were a complete wash out with heavy rain.
I had spent a couple of days on the White Clay and one day on Valley leading up to New Year's day. You can read the White Clay post here. I had an OK day on Valley with a few fish landed spending a lot of time fishing a #24 CDC puff over some risers. Hooking and landing fish on a #24 is a challenge in itself and I can say I was not up to the challenge. I could get them to eat, but as soon as they fealt the hook, 2 head shakes and they were gone. It became a vendetta of sorts that I was gonna land a trout on a #24 that day. Finally, after several hours I did get one to hand only to have the hook pull and the fish flop back into the water as I was trying to take the picture. Oh well, it was still a fun and challenging afternoon on the water.
For the big New Year's day trip we had decided to hit the Gunpowder in Maryland. The Gunpowder or GP as it in known in the vernacular, is a bottom release tail water originating at Prettyboy Reservoir in northern Baltimore county. The reservoir system (Prettyboy and Loch Raven), the watersheds and the surrounding woodlands are owned by the city of Baltimore and they are responsible for about 60% of the municipal water for the city. Be that as it may we are attracted to it for it's scenery, wildlife (I saw several deer including a nice 8 pointer that bounded in the water right below me in an attempt to avoid some people trail running) and it's beautiful wild Brown Trout. I have not fished the GP since late last Winter and decided to fish a spot that always seems to give up a few fish. I had "One Boot" Ed with me and this would be his first time on this particular river.
This is the first thing you see when you step out of your car in the parking lot. No pressure here! After rigging up at the truck we decided I would walk down about a half mile and fish my way up, Ed would start at the truck and fish his way down. We would meet somewhere in the middle, compare notes, and finish out the day. We said our "good lucks" and I started the 30 min walk downstream. When I got to the spot I wanted to start the first thing I did was take a water temp; 34 degrees! so much for the theory of a bottom release tail water being warmer in the winter! I had decided to fish 3 flies under a indicator and let the fish tell me what was there preferred food of the day. I guess I could have used a stomach pump, but the rule of thumb is not to pump when the water is that cold. It is too stressful for the fish to regain the calories you take from them. My rig consisted of a #16 biot bodied BYO nymph, a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Al's Rat. I have become quite fond of this rig. It has served me well in the past and covers many bases of wintertime food availability. I am happy to say that shortly into my New Year's day fishing (less than 10 minutes) I was snapping a picture of a beautiful, little wild Brown. The tradition continues! (BTY he is not hooked in the pectoral fin. I didn't even realize the fly was laying there until I downloaded the image from my phone)
Nymphing my way up the run produced 3 more gorgeous fish, It was shaping up to be a pretty good day. An hour or two later I came around a bend just in time to see my buddy landing a fish. I snapped a couple of pictures of him landing it and hollered for him to hold it up.
This was one of several fish he had taken on his way down. I asked him what fly and was surprised to hear he had taken all of his fish on the Rainbow Warrior! An attractor pattern, the Warrior has served me well over stocked fish, I never thought to use it on a wild Trout river.
Giving Ed's success with the Warrior I decided to try an experiment. I tied up an "attractor" rig with a Green Weenie, a Rainbow Warrior, and a San Juan Worm. Not your typical "wild fish" rig, and I am sure people reading this, one guy in particular, is shaking his head at me. I had already had a good day fishing naturals and I wanted to see what happened. I broke the worm off in short order so I just fished out the day with the two flies. The first half dozen casts with the new rig produced 2 fish, proof positive that wild fish eat attractors two! Here are some pics from New Year's day.
Here are a few of the pics Ed sent me.
The ride home was a good time. It was filled with stories of "did you fish that log" or "did you see this" type of stuff. These conversations have become as important of a part of the day as the fishing itself. What good are all of these great experiences if you have nobody to share them with. I am fortunate enough to have a bunch of good friends to share with! Now the question... where to fish tomorrow.
After thinking it over and weighing the pros and cons of Valley vs the GP I decided to make the hour and 45 minute ride back to Baltimore County. I already knew the fish there were active despite the cold water temp. I already had an idea of what flies would be effective and based on a few conversations and what I saw on Facebook Thursday evening, it didn't look like Valley was fishing very well at the moment. So at 9:00 am it was Rt 1 south... again.
I arrived at the spot a little earlier than the day before. On the way down I thought up the rig I would fish and decided I would stick with the same rig all day. I rigged up my 4X Harvey leader with a #18 tungsten bead Rainbow Warrior and tied a #18 Flashback PT and a #20 Mercury Midge on 6X droppers. Unless I saw something drastic, like a pod of rising fish, I was dancing with who brought me and this rig would stay on the whole day.
As it turns out the fishing spot and the rig were both the right choice. I had another solid day. Not quite as god as the day before, but very good in it's own right. Forsake of one EPIC leader tangle that required a complete rebuild from the 3X section down the original 3 flies were never off of my leader.
All in all I had a great Holiday season. I received some cool presents from Santa, got to spend some time with family and friends and fished my ass off! What more could you ask for? Til Next time...