A winter’s worth of flies

me1aWinters like the one we’re just coming out of aren’t really all that bad, if you have enough inside jobs – like making wine or beer and tying flies.

Beer and wine basically do their own thing; all I need to do is make sure the equipment is sterilized and functioning and the ingredients have been added. After a month or six, you bottle and drink it.

The room in which I make the home-brew is the same one I tie flies in.

I haven’t actually tied flies methodically since the last century (makes it seem like forever ago) when I was learning the art. But last November, when we decided not to spend part of the winter in Palm Springs like we have the past few years, mainly golfing, I revisited the fly-tying bench in earnest. It wasn’t that I had deserted it; whenever I was planning to fish, I’d tie a few flies or repair some that had been abused.

But last fishing season, I re-arranged my flies into smaller boxes that would actually fit into my fishing vest pockets. That exercise led me to question why I carried so many flies (mainly, because I had tied them for most situations and, well, you never know.) But, many never get used – a lot for matching hatches, which requires you either to be on the river a lot longer than I am these days, or have good fortune on your side. I also became aware over the years, some of the flies I needed were missing, but basically being disorganized, by the time I came off the river, I’d forgotten already.

I wanted to give flies as Christmas gifts, so that’s where I started. Instead of committing to tying bunches at a time, I figured a couple or three a day would get me to my goal of four dozen before Christmas. I’ve kept it up, doubling my pre-Christmas output while champing at the bit for fishing weather to return.

I’d never thought in dozens before, because I’m a deliberate tier. OK, so I’m slow. But tying regularly again has helped with speed and moved me into some new-to-me materials and tying techniques.

I still prefer fur and feathers. In fact, I have enough materials to last two lifetimes. But, for this tying spree, I added some flashabou, CDC feathers, lots of spooled copper wire, dubbing blends with Antron and other synthetic sparkle.

CDC feathers replace neck hackle for Elk Hair Caddis hackling. They’re not supposed to need dry fly floatant. Had to go online to see how to use CDC and found tying straightforward.comparadun2

I was short comparaduns, so I found a CDC Biot Comparadun recipe in the Fly Patterns of Umpqua Feather Merchants 1,100 World’s Best Flies book that looks good tied.

After reading again for the umpteenth time Dave Hughes Handbook of Hatches, I re-focused on aquatic insect stages, particularly caddis, which I thought I had figured out, but had become lazy applying on the river. So, more green and tan caddis larvae and pupa using scud hooks in size 12-16 found their way to my new-fly collection.caddispua2

Updating the caddis selection also prompted me to use more flash, in patterns such as the Deep Sparkle Pupa and Emergent Sparkle Pupa.That led me to the the local fly-materials shop for more Antron and Antron yarn, in grey and tan, to go with brown and olive already in my kit.

I long ago accepted that you catch way more trout under the surface than on top. And I have friend Joe Coccioloni (Cutch) from Pincher Creek to thank for introducing me to nymphing. Since that day 25 years or so ago at the head of a long pool on the Crowsnest River downstream of Leitch Collieries, I’ve had standard stonefly, prince and Hare’s Ear nymphs, among several others, at the ready. From this tying binge, I’ve added Copper Johns and a couple of other stonefly variations I know work.goldenstone

Still, I’m like a lot of fly fishers who are enthralled by a splashy take or a gentle sip at the surface. My favourite flies remain Quill Gordon, Adams in various forms, and big – 6-12 – stoneflies based on seducer or stimulator patterns, using a few flashabou accent strands. And I had to tie the dry that’s been most effective over the years, a Chartreuse Wulff, size 14-16.

One skill I had allowed to go dormant is clipping deer or caribou heads. They’re picky, but are terrific on Dave’s Hoppers and Muddler Minnows. On the muddler, by the way, I used holographic gold tinsel instead of plain gold. I assume it will look as flashy to trout as it does to me.muddler

Temperature’s finally moving in the right direction: time to start planning a trip to the river, hopefully before the end of March. For now, flats in the basement under grow lights are ready for mid-March seed planting.

Oh, and the beer got bottled yesterday.