Month – December 2013

Lemon Wood Duck, and a Few Flies

Lemon wood duck feathers are one of the most revered natural materials among fly tiers. These lemon flank feathers have long been my absolute favorite natural material to tie with. My first exposure to duck flank came early in my fly tying career in a Fly Tyer magazine, and I was immediately intrigued by the almost surreal nature of the striking lemon color and vivid barrings. I’ve since run into them many times browsing through fly patterns online, most often beautifully tied salmon flies and Catskill dries, which only fueled my interest even more. They took on a prestigious ranking in my mind, and I longed to get my hands on a few, not to mention putting a drake woodie in the duck bag. When my 12 gauge Remington connected on a drake wood duck a few duck seasons ago, I was excited to say the least.lemon wood duck feather

The trout seem to find lemon flank feathers almost as attractive as fly tiers do. The dark barring gives it the appearance of the delicate mottling found on a natural insect, a characteristic that’s hard to replicate with synthetic materials, producing a beautiful and realistic fly. The striking lemon color, the vivid barrings, and beauty of the feather have captured my interest and sparked my fly-tying imagination. Not coincidentally, wood ducks are also my favorite bird to hunt, which may or may not be directly related with the prestige of the feathers on the fly tying bench :). Over the past few winters I’ve tried to add it to almost any pattern imaginable. Here are a few bugs I’ve tied with these awesome feathers…

Some lemon wood duck from a beautiful drake woody I harvested in MN's duck season.

lemon wood duck fly tying

A great drake wood duck, fully reflecting the glory of the Creator.

A great drake wood duck, fully reflecting the glory of the Creator.

Tellico Soft Hackle

Tellico Soft Hackle

A trip out to the Smokies inspired this little Tellico nymph variation. Yellow is huge on trout flies out there, so the lemon flank feathers fit nicely.

  • Hook: #14 wet
  • Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
  • Tail: Lemon wood duck flank
  • Body: Yellow GSP or floss
  • Rib: Copper wire
  • Shellback: Pheasant tail fibers, folded over body and rib
  • Thorax: Peacock herl
  • Hackle: Rust brown/white hen hackle

Minnesota Soft Hackle

This bug is unique because the materials all originate in Minnesota. Besides the hook and thread, we harvested all the materials ourselves. A red squirrel that we bagged up north provided the dubbing, and we grabbed some hen hackle from the chicken coop out back for the soft hackle. Hopefully it will entice some Minnesota trout.

  • Hook: #14 wet
  • Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
  • Tail: Lemon wood duck flank
  • Body: Red squirrel dubbing
  • Rib: Brown 210 denier Ultra Thread
  • Wing: Lemon wood duck flank, rolled
  • Hackle: Brown hen
CDC Wood Duck Emerger

CDC Wood Duck Emerger

Here’s another fly that has great ties to Minnesota, with all the materials harvested in the state. CDC is another one of my favorites, so I paired it with lemon flank feathers and deer hair to create this nice little emerger. I absolutely love emerger style flies like this, and I’m excited to get it out on the stream and see if the trout approve.

  • Hook: # 14 dry
  • Thread: 8/0 Black UNI
  • Tail: Cream antron, clipped to half the length of the hook shank, and lemon wood duck fibers
  • Body: Red squirrel dubbing
  • Rib: Brown 210 denier Ultra Thread
  • Hackle/underwing: Natural gray CDC, palmered
  • Overwing: Deer hair
  • Head: Red squirrel dubbing

Minnesota winter trout season is right around the corner, and hopefully we’ll make it down for some fishing, but until then we’ll be tying flies and hitting the ice for some hardwater panfish. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to check out our Facebook page and give us a “like” while you’re there to stay connected with all our fishing, hunting, and fly tying pursuits!

Tight lines,


Merry Christmas from 3 Brothers Flies!

Pike!Merry Christmas from all of us here at 3 Brothers Flies!

The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).

Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world – to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” “(John 18:37)

“And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger’. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’ ” (Luke 2:27).

Tight lines and thanks so much for reading! Have a great Christmas!

Tying Ice Flies for Winter Panfish: The ‘Gill Shrimp and Triggers for Hardwater Slabs

Veteran ice fisherman have long known that scuds (or freshwater shrimp) are a favorite food for big panfish and trout under the ice. Over the past few seasons, I’ve been testing and tweaking a few patterns to match the hatch and create a good scud imitation. Crappies and bluegills under the ice have a much slower metabolism than their summer counterparts, so ice anglers need to utilize a few key triggers in their ice flies and lures to entice unaggressive, neutral fish into biting. These triggers hold true for not only ice flies, but all lures for hardwater panfish.

The ‘Gill Shrimp

The ‘Gill Shrimp (or “Bluegill Shrimp”) came about after refining a few patterns and adding materials and triggers to produce a convincing ice fly. I knew I wanted a bug that imitated the slightly curved position of a lethargic scud and had plenty of movement incorporated into the materials. I also really liked the oversized black bead chain eyes as the scud’s large eyes are a very noticable feature on the actual bug. After a few somewhat successful renditions, I finally settled on a version that utilized chickabou feathers and gray UV Ice Dub in a dubbing loop to produce a very life-like pattern with lots of inherent motion.

  • Hook: #10-14 nymph or curved scud
  • Thread: Black 6/0 UNI
  • Tail: Natural gray chickbou and silver flashabou
  • Rib: X-fine silver wire
  • Body: Natural gray chickabou and gray UV Ice Dub in a dubbing loop, wrapped to eyes
  • Legs: X-small brown centipede

A Few Thoughts on Triggers

A few key triggers came into play when designing the ‘Gill Shrimp. Profile is one major element in producing a bug that panfish will recognize. Fail to imitate the natural profile of the insect, and panfish will be far more reluctant to take your offering. Crappies and bluegills see thousands of these bugs in their natural environment through their lifetime, so imitating the general shape and proportions of the natural is key to producing a bait that panfish will recognize as a food source. An especially effective tactic is designing patterns around the life cycle when bugs are most vulnerable, such as a mayfly emergence or crayfish molt. Just like a trout will key in on crippled mayflies or a bass will readily attack a wounded baitfish, panfish will eagerly grab a bait that imitates an easy snack. Though profile is important, it isn’t the all-controlling factor in producing an effective bug. As long as the ice fly matches the broad general profile of the insect, you can utilize other triggers to entice fish into biting instead of focusing on imitating the exact profile of the natural. By grouping your ice flies into three general profiles (bloodworms and larvae, nymphs, and scuds) you can imitate a variety of specific insects with one general pattern.

Hatching A Match. Another factor to consider when designing flies and selecting baits is transparency. Scuds naturally have a translucent grayish, olive, or tan color depending on the body of water, so the flashy Ice Dub and picked-out chickabou legs are a good choice for creating a translucent appearance. Micro tubing does a nice job imitating the somewhat mottled color pattern of a mayfly nymph, as the clear hollow tubing allows some light to sneak through and produces a two-toned effect. Find the transparency of the bug you’re imitating and select your materials accordingly.

gill shrimp ice fly panfish ice fishing

The eyes provide some serious bugginess

The large black eyes were the first component that I added to the ‘Gill Shrimp. The eyes on a scud are one of the more prominent features, providing a highly recognizable target for big panfish and trout to key in on when searching for scuds in the weedbeds. These identifiable elements such as the eyes on a scud or black spot on a shad can really get fish excited and push them into attack mode, so incorporating them into your ice flies and lures is an important part of triggering fish to strike.

A slab rainbow that fell for a 'Gill Shrimp (Photo credit: Kevin Jones from Idaho Pursuit)

A solid rainbow that fell for a ‘Gill Shrimp (Photo credit: Kevin Jones from Idaho Pursuit)

Movement and Bugginess. Movement is perhaps the most important element in designing productive ice flies, so adding materials that have lots of natural movement is vital to creating an enticing pattern. Mini rubber legs have long been one of my absolute favorite materials for tying ice flies. The extra small, supple appendages add tons of natural movement and to a pattern, which is just what I want when slab panfish aren’t in the mood for an aggressive jigging cadence. Great for enticing negative cold-front panfish, they quiver and twitch with the slightest twitch of the rod tip, an essential element when finessing a large bluegill or crappie. But here’s where things get interesting. While the ‘Gill Shrimp possesses rubber legs that protrude straight out from the sides of the body at a perpendicular angle, freshwater shrimp and scuds do not actually have legs that extend outward, but instead curl in toward their stomach. Even though scuds don’t have these outward legs, the extra movement adds a trigger that I think really makes the difference between a decent pattern and a deadly one. With this in mind, matching the exact characteristics of an insect isn’t nearly as important as creating a buggy fly, which brings us back to profile. While imitating the profile and characteristics of the natural bug is important, extra triggers such as rubber legs or chickabou allow you to imitate several general bugs with one pattern. Depending on presentation and the mood and location of the fish, an ice fly might be taken for a scud, aquatic worm, or mayfly larvae, as it provides features of several bugs that fish will recognize. Panfish encounter hundreds of varieties of insects and larvae, so imitating an exact bug isn’t nearly as important as incorporating triggers into your ice flies and lures that will excite slab bluegills and crappies.

So there are a few thoughts on tying ice flies and triggers for winter panfish. The ‘Gill Shrimp and Slab Spike, which were designed with these triggers in mind, have been solid producers for me (if you don’t tie, you can grab a few hand-tied ‘Gill Shrimp and Slab Spike ice flies here). Using these natural triggers to your advantage when tying ice flies and selecting lures for hardwater panfish will lead to more fish on the ice, especially during tough cold-front situations.

Also check out our post on tying ice flies for more thoughts on designing and tying productive patterns.

Tight lines and good luck on the ice!


Colorado Fly Fishing

In the middle of October the crew took a trip out to Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The Yampa River, known for its big rainbows and browns, flowed right through town. Our first stop was Steamboat Flyfisher to grab a few flies and some gear. The guys in the shop were super helpful and pointed us toward some great spots on the river. If you’re ever in the area, definitely stop in and give them a visit, they run an awesome shop.

We started fishing a stretch on the Yampa right in town. The water was a bit high and stained, so we rigged some nymphs and started hitting the pockets and runs behind the many boulders. Noah stuck a nice brown swinging a white conehead wooly bugger, but he popped off right at the net. After a few minutes of tossing flies without any results, we decided to move to a more familiar stretch.

braden's colorado rainbow trout

One of Braden’s fat rainbows

Next we hit a piece of water where I actually caught my first trout on a fly. The river split into a side channel and flowed past a big pond that held plenty of stocked rainbows. Braden pulled a few fat stockers from the pond on a dry, and I busted off couple strong rainbows in the river dredging an indicator nymph rig. My 6X tippet was no match for the hefty rainbows and heavy current, and more than a few fish shot off downstream and shredded my line. The 6X was the only tippet I had, so unfortunately none of the bigger trout made it to the net. I ended the day with two little ‘bows on a #16 Frenchie.

Dry fly rainbow

Dry fly rainbow

Monday brought snow and some nasty conditions on the river, but I hit the water anyway. The fishing was pretty slow, and I honestly wasn’t fishing very well. I briefly connected on a few good trout before they popped off.

We fished a new stretch a ways upstream from town on Tuesday. A slow meandering river and rising trout greeted me as I strung up my rod. The trout were steadily sipping olives in the slow water and riffles. I made a few casts with a BWO parachute, but quickly got refusals. A fly change later, I stuck a rainbow on a #20 CDC BWO Comparadun, but he popped off after a decent fight. I pricked a few more fish before discovering the hook was bent out. Braden put a fat 17 incher in the net before we called it a night.

Elk River

The snowmelt made some trouble for us on Thursday. A habitat improvement project blew out the river, so after an hour of flogging the chocolate milk we wandered up to the Elk River hoping to pull some rainbows from the icy water. The frigid water temps from the recent snowmelt made things tough, and I only managed one rainbow on a #12 Mercer’s Micro May. The river was gorgeous, though, with mountains and pines towering above the rushing water.

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

Mountain Whitefish! Noah stuck this whitey on a midge that he tied while fishing the Elk River.

The three of us hit the Elk again on Friday morning for the last day of the trip. Snow fell softly as we dredged the pocketwater with nymphs and split shot. Again, the fishing was pretty slow, but Noah stuck a nice mountain whitefish on a midge, his first on a fly. Later in the afternoon we hiked and fished a small lake up in the mountains that supposedly held cutthroats and a few grayling. The other two only fished a few minutes before deciding to hike in the thin layer of snow that blanketed the bank. I trekked over to the dam and pulled a gorgeous 17 inch cutthroat from the crystal clear water on a #12 Chickabou Bugger. A few casts later I hooked into another good fish. After a short fight, I put a grayling in the net! I was pumped! Cutthroats have been on my dream list for a long time, but I never imagined I’d catch a grayling, not to mention getting both within a few minutes! I released it back into the icy waters and decided to call it a day.mountain lake in colorado


Awful pic, but a beautiful fish

SAMSUNGIt was an awesome trip, and though the trout could have cooperated a bit better, it was great to fish out west! Winter is officially here in Minnesota, and its time to tie some flies or hit the ice for a few panfish…

Tight Lines,


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