Fly Tying

Top Flies for Panfish

Big panfish eat few flies consistently, while smaller fish swallow everything that moves. In order to catch big panfish you’ll need a box that can adapt to water conditions and fish location. Here are the flies that help me catch more big fish in a variety of conditions:

  Pink Punch

The scruffy collar pushes water and the cone head gets it down, making this fly a good option for murky water or aggressive fish. The pink color makes it irresistible to crappies, and the ice dub gives it a translucent minnow effect.

Thread: Pink or Black 8/o UNI
Hook: # 12-8
Bead: x-sm Silver Conehead 
Tail: Pink Marabou or pseudo marabou
Body: Pink Ice Dub in a dubbing loop
 

pink punch crappie streamer

 

the flashy veil and weight of the cone head make it perfect for murky or deep water

the flashy veil and weight of the cone head make it perfect for murky or deep water

   Noah’s Minnow

The Noah’s Minnow is a great fly for picky panfish. The marabou tail twitches in the water driving the most skittish fish to bite. The natural colors and bead chain eyes make it a natural option to throw. I created this one in 2010 and have put it through many renovations, but this is the “finished” product (for now).

Thread: Black 8/o
Hook: # 8 to #12
Eyes: Black or silver bead chain
Tail: Marabou, crystal flash (opt.)
Body: Wrapped marabou, same plume as tail
Extra Weight: 3-4 wraps of .025 round lead free wirethe final fly
 fly fishing for big bluegills

  Flash Bugger

The minnow-like characteristics of flashy estaz followed by the flowing marabou make the flash bugger a killer fly for panfish. It is really easy to tie and extremely productive in murky water or for aggressive fish. My favorite color combos would be pink\blue, pink\chartreuse, gray\blue, chartreuse, olive, and brown (tail\body).

Hook: #8-12
Thread: 6/0 UNI
Bead: 1/8″ copper
Tail: Marabou (any color)
Body: Eztaz (any color)Flash bugger
A nice perch on the flash bugger

A nice perch on the flash bugger

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

 DNA Mini Clouser

The DNA Mini Clouser is a great for big bluegills and crappies. The profile and shine of the DNA Frosty Fish Fiber looks almost exactly like a small minnow. They’ve got cool transparency that makes them look really nice in the water.

Thread: Black 6/o UNI
Hook: #8-12 wet fly
Eyes: Black or silver bead chain
Over wing: Chartreuse DNA Frosty Fish Fiber, tied on bottom of shank
Under wing: White DNA Frosty Fish Fiber, tied on top of shank
 

 

 

 

  Panfish Gurgler

This fly is bullet proof, doesn’t sink, and pushes a big wake – a great combination for big bluegills. Both fish and fisherman can track this fly in low light conditions. It will produce any time in shallow water, but the hottest bite is sunset.

Hook: # 12
Thread: 6/o UNI
Tail: Any color of marabou
Body: Palmered hackle
Back: Any color of thin foam
Legs: Centipede legs
Marker: black permanent
the Panfish gurgler a great fly for topwater crappies.

The Panfish gurgler, a great fly for topwater  panfish.

 
 
 

  Soft Hackle Telico

When the fish are less aggressive, you’ll need a subtle fly. The soft hackle will entice the picky fish, making it a must-have for a versatile panfish box. Also add a bead to get it down to deeper fish. This fly has saved several of my trips from being skunked.

 
Hook: #14 wet
Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
Bead: 3/32 gold copper bead
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

Tellico Soft Hackle

Tellico Soft Hackle

 

Tellico Nymph

Bead Head Tellico Nymph

 slab bluegill on the fly mn
 
 
bluegill dinner fly fishing

All the flies combined

Tight Lines,
Noah
 

3 Tips for Fly Fishing the Trico Spinner Fall

 3 tips on how to fly fish the Trico spinner fall with less frustration, more trout, and more triumph

There are hardly any hatches that bring as much frustration and triumph as the Trico hatch of summer and early fall. Massive spinner falls of these minuscule mayflies, sometimes stretching down to a #26, bring trout to the surface like lumberjacks eating pancakes. It can be an agonizing hatch, filled with long leaders, uncivilly early mornings, tiny bugs, perversely difficult trout, fine tippet, and often a good dose of tears. But there’s not much in fly fishing that’s as rewarding as fooling a good trout on a Trico dry fly.

Wild Minnesota Driftless brown on a Trico

Wild Minnesota Driftless brown on a Trico

Tricos start to hit streams in mid July and provide consistent and reliable match-the-hatch dry fly fishing until late September. Male duns (hatched mayfly adults) emerge in the evening, followed by female duns in the early morning, but it’s the spinner fall that attracts the most attention, and for good reason. Trout stack up and feast on these tiny dead mayflies, which congregate above the water in sprawling mating clouds that sometimes darken the air like a thick fog on a cold fall morning. It’s an awfully sweet sight for a fly fisherman, yet it also brings plenty of challenges. Spinners tend to appear when the air temp hits 68 degrees F, an affair that usually happens at a horribly uncivil hour of the morning in the hot summer months. But even with the severe shortage of sleep, you’ll have to hold back on the caffeine as jittery hands have a hard time tying on the #20-24 dries that Tricos demand. Trout sipping Tricos also have nasty habit of sitting in calm slicks and glassy runs, affording them plenty of time to scrutinize an artificial fly and its presentation. Long leaders and finely executed drifts are a must, though you’ll certainly get a few refusals even with what looks like a perfect presentation.

Tricos are a game of challenges and stealth and strategy. But that’s partly what makes them so rewarding. There’s nothing quite like the triumph of devising a strategy, making a perfect drift, and catching a trout on a tiny dry fly.

The Trico spinner fall is my favorite mayfly event of the trout season here in Minnesota, though it’s certainly not because I catch lots of fish. The tiny bugs have beat me more than a few times, and I haven’t come close to cracking the code (if it is indeed possible), but I have learned a few things over the past seasons and usually manage to catch a few trout each time I hit a good spinner fall. Here are a few tricks and tactics I’ve learned over the past few seasons that have lessened the frustration and increased the triumph over the Trico spinner fall…

 

#1. Double Dry Fly Rigs

Double dry fly rigs are mainstays in any good Trico strategy. Tracking tiny Trico dries, both for detecting takes and keeping a tidy drag-free drift, is a large part of successfully fishing the Trico spinner fall. Drag a fly over rising trout and you’re sure to get a refusal. Rip the leader across the pool on a misjudged strike and you’ll send any nearby risers straight into the undercuts. A buoyant, visible dry fly tied twelve inches up the leader lets you track and manage your drift, something that, unless you have eyesight better than a blue heron, is quite difficult to pull off with minuscule, low-riding Trico spinner patterns. Sometimes trout will even take the bigger dry.

Small hi-vis beetles, Ausable Bombers, Stimulators, and any other bugs that float like corks and stand out like ducklings are viable options. There is, however, a very real danger of tossing a fly that’s too gaudy and spooking wary trout. Foam hoppers or anything else that splats on the water makes a poor lead fly, while flies with lots of hackle and a soft landing are better options. Leader twist is also a potential problem, as big, air resistant bugs don’t tend to cast well on the long, fine leaders necessary for Trico-sipping trout. For these reasons, I like to fish dries in the #12 to #16 range, preferably something on the smaller end. Lately I’ve been fishing a #14 Pass Lake, an old Wisconsin pattern with a distinctive white, trude-style calftail wing and a pheasant tippet tail that vaguely resembles a Trico and draws a few strikes itself. Tie it to 5x tippet on a leader that’s as long as you can handle, and drop a Trico spinner twelve to sixteen inches off the bend on 6 or 7X, using clinch knots for all three connections. Micro-drag between the two dries can also be a concern, so make sure the trailing tippet is long enough to allow a good dead drift (single dries are nearly always the most fool proof way to obtain a better drift and avoid this, though double dry rigs have their share of advantages).

Whatever bug you decide to tie on, a double dry fly rig can be a very valuable asset in your Trico strategy.

 

#2: Sunken Trico Spinner

#20 wide-gap Sunken Trico Spinner... (buy a few here or check out the recipe)

#20 wide-gap Sunken Trico Spinner… (buy a few here or check out the recipe)

One of my absolute favorite tactics for fishing spinner falls is dropping a Sunken Trico Spinner off the bend of a dry fly or nymph. It’s an especially deadly strategy for pressured creeks where trout see dozens of sloppy presentations and artificial flies. Sunken spinners are nothing new to the Trico scene and have proven themselves on many tough trout streams. Like any hatch, fish get wise to the whole (dry) fly fishing game, but sunken spinners will often fool fish that are hesitant to take a fly on the surface.

Along with taking cautious fish, sunken spinners will still provide good action long after trout have stopped rising to the morning spinner fall. This is one of my personal favorite tactics for late summer and early fall. Tricos are one of the most prolific and dependable hatches on Driftless streams (and many other regions), popping of quite regularly during the summer and fall months, and trout become accustomed to seeing sizable numbers of these bugs on a daily basis. Plenty of them get churned underwater and drift through the system long after the duns and spinners have quit their aerial activity. On any given moment in early September, you’re likely to find at least a few drowned spinners flowing through a trout stream, particularly in the lower stretches. And trout don’t ignore them.

Sunken spinners are nearly always on my nymphing rig during Trico season. I like to hang them 14“ behind an attractor nymph, usually something like a Trout Snatcher or Squirrel and Copper. Fish them as you would any prospecting nymph rig, casting to any likely riffles and pools. Back eddies and foam lines are particularly productive spots as they collect tons of bugs – and feeding trout. And while they’re certainly quite effective right after the trout stop rising, don’t forget to toss them during later hours.

 

#3: Double Trico Spinner

Frustrated with hooking trout on tiny Trico dries? The Double Trico Spinner is tied on a #16 hook for more hookups and more trout...buy a few here or check out the tying recipe

Frustrated with hooking trout on tiny Trico dries? The Double Trico Spinner is tied on a #16 hook for more hookups and more trout…buy a few here or check out the tying recipe

If you’re anything like me and occasionally have trouble hooking trout on #22 dries, a Double Trico Spinner is a good change of pace from the tiny bugs. Tied on a #16 dry fly hook, the Double Trico sports two full sets of Trico bodies and wings, offering a bit of extra room for hooking fish. It has saved plenty of frustration on days when the tiny dries prove to be too difficult. And while it’s not the most imitative Trico pattern and won’t perform as well on especially persnickety fish or during sparse spinner falls, most of the time the trout don’t seem to mind the extra body on the hook, making it a great pattern for days when the fish just aren’t sticking.

Glassy, calm flats and runs aren’t ideal spots for the Double Trico due to the extra inspection time they afford the trout. Instead, focus on faster water and foam lines and swirling eddies, where the trout are far more eager to sip an artificial. Trico fish have a habit of sitting in perversely difficult or calm spots, but there always seem to be a few that hold in more fishable areas. These are the ones I’m usually after.

Trailing a standard Trico Spinner 16“ behind it is also a good strategy. The smaller dry gives the fish a more precise option, and if they take the Double Trico you’ll have a much easier time hooking them.

————o————

Despite the many challenges and frustrations, Tricos are one of the most fun and rewarding hatches of the season. There have been many mornings filled with frustration, and occasionally triumph, but all the time I’ve spent standing in a cold, meandering stream, watching the morning fog lift from the water, and tossing tiny dries to hungry trout has been very memorable and rewarding. Next time you find yourself on a trout stream in the dawn hours of a summer morning, remember a few of these tips. Some challenge and frustration is inevitable, and perhaps imperative to a rewarding experience, but hopefully these tactics, flies, and tips will increase the prospects of triumph over the Trico hatch.

Tight lines and good luck on the water!

Conner

 

————–o————–

(All the Trico patterns mentioned are available over on the Fishing Gear shop. Also, check out the fly box page for tying recipes. Tight lines and thanks for the support!)

Crappie On the Long Rod

Jeff Samsel recently did a cool post for Crappie Now Online Magazine featuring a few of our flies. Head over there for a great read on fly fishing for crappie, including the best presentations, strategies, and flies for crappie on the long rod…

http://www.crappienow.com/home/cn/may2014/#p=14

 

Noah's Minnow (Get some here)

Noah’s Minnow (Get some here)

pink punch crappie streamer

Pink Punch – our top producer for crappies in rivers and muddy waters (Get some here)

Also, check out the panfish flies page for the fly recipes and more good bugs for panfish.

Tight lines,

Conner

 

 

Top Flies for Driftless Area Trout: Guides, Fly Shop Owners, and Trout Bums Pick Their Favorite Patterns for Driftless Spring Creeks

 

Under-the-radar flies that will help you catch more fish in the spring creeks of the Driftless Area…

The Driftless is an amazing and unique fishery, and it arguably holds some of the most fascinating spring creeks in the world. Though standard trout flies catch their share of fish, a few unique patterns have sprung up from the special set of circumstances a spring creek brings a trout fisherman. A few guides, fly shop owners, and avid trout bums have graciously agreed to share some of their favorite trout patterns for the spring creeks of the Driftless Area. Some are standard trout patterns that have been tweaked for local waters, but most have been tied, tested, and developed specifically for the trout of the Driftless Area.Top flies for the Driftless bros small

Dave Anderson, On the Fly Guide Service

Dave Anderson is a veteran guide on the streams and creeks of southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Area. After guiding on local Driftless streams for over a decade, he has great knowledge of the bug life and the most productive flies on the area’s unique streams….

Really, most guys do not need a ton of flies in the Driftless to be successful outside of hatch specific patterns. Right now (August), I’m still fishing scuds, but it is a #14 with a very specific dubbing: ice dub and corgi fur.

Another scud...Fly and pic from Dave Anderson, On the Fly Guiding, ontheflyguiding.com,

Another scud…Fly and pic from Dave Anderson, On the Fly Guide Service, ontheflyguiding.com

  • Hook: TMC2487 or TMC2457 #14-16
  • Thread: Orange 6/0 (8/0 on #16 and smaller)
  • Tail:  (optional) pearlescent or orange krystal flash strands, silver flashabou
  • Dubbing: Orange or sulphur orange, gray, olive, pink/ Ice Dub UV Pink Shrimp
  • Shell Back: Small piece of plastic to cover the dubbing  or twisted krystal flash strands
  • Ribbing: Fine copper wire
  • Weight: Turns of .15 or .20 weight
Black Wet Fly - Fly and pic by Dave Anderson, On the Fly Guide Service

Black Wet Fly – Fly and pic by Dave Anderson, On the Fly Guide Service, ontheflyguiding.com

The Black Wet Fly is a pattern that lots of local guys fish this time of year (August). It’s a local pattern and probably isn’t well-known outside of the area.

  • (Recipe by 3 Brothers Flies) Hook: #10-16 nymph
  • Thread: Black 8/0 UNI
  • Weight: A few wraps of lead free wire
  • Shellback: A few strands of Krystal Flash
  • Body: Black dubbing, dubbed to form a somewhat fat body
  • Hackle: Black dry fly hackle
PT’s are pretty standard fare, although with all of the flooding we have endured down here this past year, many of our rocks are stripped clean of the usual bugs one runs into. Tricos are going in places here, so really small black PT type nymphs would work if you weren’t fishing a dry. Most of the stuff I tie and fish isn’t real complicated, but it also has some very specific ingredients.
Dave also offers hand-tied flies specifically for the trout of southeastern Minnesota and the rest of the Driftless Area. Be sure to check out his site for stream reports and guide trips for the Minnesota Driftless.  

Driftless On the Fly

The guys over at Driftless On the Fly run a sweet operation guiding the waters of northeastern Iowa. Iowa is an often under-appreciated and overlooked fly fishing locale, but Jared Koenigsfeld and Ryan Rahmiller do an awesome job highlighting the great fly fishing opportunities found in Iowa on their website and blog. Here are a few of their best flies for the Driftless….

Fly and pic: Driftless on the Fly

Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

3$ Dip w/ UV Wing– The UV wing is what makes this guy special, almost any time of the day you can turn a fish with a midge and the added UV wing just gives it a little more flash like an air bubble on an emerging larva or wing. Top colors are Red, Rust, Black, and Olive and is sizes #16-22.

Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Price of Darkness – Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Prince of Darkness– We do have some stones in the Driftless of Iowa believe it or not, most of them are pretty small in the spring creeks. This fly just gives a new look to the standard Prince, black helps in dirty water situations. We use these especially in the Winter and Spring months, in sizes #14 & 16

 
Missing Link Caddis - Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Missing Link Caddis – Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Missing Link Caddis – Great searching fly through the Spring to Fall months. Perfect for that solo riser along your favorite stream that you just can’t see what he’s eating, this fly has it ALL! From its spent look to its upright wing there’s just something buggy about this fly that really gets the fish up to the surface. Our favorite colors are Olive and Brown in sizes #14-18

 
Indicator Beetle - Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Indicator Beetle – Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Indicator Beetle – Another great prospecting fly for the Summer and Fall months. Toss it along some high grassy banks in the peak heat of summer and you might be surprised to see the stream swallow your fly on impact. Works well as a dropper behind a hopper, solo, or even my favorite as a top fly with a real small nymph dropper, we prefer sizes #14 &16.

Hot Head Wooly Bugger - Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Hot Head Wooly Bugger – Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Hot-Bead Wooly Bugger – Its your standard Wooly Bugger but with a little twist, I never leave home with out these guys in my arsenal. In early Fall through late Spring, they can move some of your largest fish you have seen in your local water. Always vary your technique to key in on the action they are looking for, from low and slow to shallow and fast. Keep that a Florescent Orange bead and the body in black and brown, sizes #10-4.

 
Guide flies - Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Guide flies – Fly and pic by Driftless on the Fly

Guide Flies – Of course we use many standardized flies from day to day, which of most are what we call “Guide Flies”. The point being we want flies that are- simple yet effective, and that your able to tie 2 dozen in an hour or two without any difficulty before the next days trip. Keeping the same design, but a change in color or size allows us to do just that. Pictured here are Barr’s Vis-A-Dun in a Baetis, and a Shop-Vac. 

Ben Carlson, Jolly Fly Fishing

An avid fly angler and trout bum, Ben Carlson has been fly fishing the streams of the Driftless Area since he was a young teen. He is the head guide at Jolly Fly Fishing, offering guided trips on his beloved home waters, the famous Rush and Kinnickinnic Rivers. His experience on these two popular western Wisconsin streams gives him a unique perspective on spring creek fly patterns, of which he shares a few thoughts and patterns here…

I am a big dry fly guy and being a spring creek fishermen I love and live for my mayfly hatches… so here are three of my favorites. They are all spin offs of generic patterns modified for my specific streams (primarily the Kinni and the Rush). A few notes about my flies in general… I never tie a traditional catskill style full hackle dry fly, it is always either a parachute or comparadun. In spring creeks there is not a lot of whitewater, which means that it it relatively flat and the trout can see pretty well (which makes our job hard). So tying a parachute or comparadun leaves the fly flush to the water and resembles a mayfly in its most vulnerable stage, fully emerged but unable to move yet as it’s wings still have to dry. One of my fly fishing mentors is a man by the name of David Halvorson, he is a retired Doctor and loves his BWOs, and his BWO pattern was featured in a fly tying magazine a few years ago… So the first pattern I’ll share is what I call Doc’s Parachute BWO.

Doc’s Parachute BWO

  • Hook- 18-22 dry fly hook 
  • Thread – Olive 
  • Tail- Dun Colored Hackle Fibers
  • Abdomen- Thread wraps (thicker near thorax)
  • Wing Post- Mix of Dun and White Enrico Pulgisi Fibers
  • Hackle- size 20 or 22 Dun or Grizzly Hackle

On flies this small, I do not dub them as it throws off the silhouette, instead I use thread wraps that get thicker near the thorax for the body. As with any dry, presentation and the right shape will outperform perfect colors. I love the BWO hatches because they can be quite prolific, especially if you hit the weather right. A cool, cloudy, and drizzly day makes these bugs come off with fury and the trout to rise to them, and this is usually the only pattern I throw to match this hatch. Another reason that the parachute works well is the trout are usually centered on the back eddies and slower moving parts of the pool, allowing this fly to sit perfectly on the water.

Granny Smith PMD - Fly and pic by Ben Carlson, Jolly Fly Fishing

Granny Smith PMD – Fly and pic by Ben Carlson, Jolly Fly Fishing

Granny Smith Comparadun PMD – My second fly is the Granny Smith Comparadun PMD

  • Hook 16-20 Dry Fly Hook
  • Thread – Chartreuse
  • Tail- Anrton or Poly Yarn
  • Body- Thread Wraps Thicker near Thorax 
  • Wing- Summer Deer Hair

I have heard them called PMDs, PEDs, Light Hendricksons, and Sulphurs, but they all fall under basically the same scientific classification. This hatch, which happens in the early evening in the earlier parts of the hatch but moves later and later with the season, can be absolutely crazy, as the color of the bugs can change. On the Kinni, the insects literally change color during the hatch starting out a light yellow and moving towards a light green (hence the name Granny Smith). The fish will be sensitive to this change and also to how it sits on the water. These comparduns are what the big fish in slow or flat water will take, so basically anything outside the main riffle. Be careful not to tie with too dark of a green and keep the wings a light color, anything too dark and it resembles a BWO and the fish won’t take it.

My last fly is a Trico pattern, and it’s really simple:

  • Hook- Size 20-24 dry fly hook
  • Thread- Black
  • Body- Thread Wraps
  • Wing Post- Poly Yarn
  • Wing- Poly Yarn
  • Tail- 2 or 3 Poly Yarn Fibers

This fly matches both the duns and spinners that you will find during a Trico hatch. Tie the wing post as you normally would but instead of tying hackle around it tie on another piece of poly yarn spinner wing style around the post. The tail is very minute, I have even left if off before and still caught fish. Starting in mid July, anytime the air temp hits 60 degrees these bugs come off and although tiny provide some great dry fly fishing if you are willing to wake up early enough!

Brian Smolinski (b smo), Lund’s Fly Shop

Brian J Smolinski (better known as b smo) is the owner of Lund’s Fly Shop, a full-service fly shop near the Rush and Kinnickinnic Rivers in River Falls, Wisconsin. He also ties some sweet streamers and tubes with materials from his fly tying company, Misfit fly co. As the owner of a local Driftless fly shop, Brian has a great pulse on the top-producing local fly patterns….

b smo's Pink Princess - Fly and pic by Brian Smolinski, Lund's Fly Shop

b smo’s Pink Princess – Fly and pic by Brian Smolinski, Lund’s Fly Shop

b smo’s Pink Princess – This fly was a custom order I got at the shop. This unnamed customer/friend asked me to come up with a fly that would be a combination of two very popular patterns that have been the most productive for them. The prince nymph and the hot pink squirrel. I decided that a dubbed body would be easier to create the desired profile, similar to the Lund’s Pink Squirrels. I love the peacock color of ice dub, but prefer to mix some rabbit hair in with all my ice dub to get a dubbing texture I like. 

One can hardly mention fly fishing in the Driftless without the infamous Pink Squirrel popping up. The Squirrel has attained a legendary, almost mythical status in the Driftless Area, spawning fish stories of ridiculous proportions and more than a few variations on the pattern. As Brian mentioned, Lund’s Pink Squirrel utilizes a curved scud hook, a short tail of Krystal Flash, and a two-toned dubbed body, notably using dubbing instead of chenille for the fly’s iconic pink hot spot. He also mentioned that Lund’s rendition appears to outsell the original three to one…

Lund's Pink Squirrel - Fly and pic by Brian Slominski, Lund's Fly Shop

Lund’s Pink Squirrel – Fly and pic by Brian Slominski, Lund’s Fly Shop

Lund’s Pink Squirrel – (Recipe by Brian J Smolinski)

Lund's HOT Pink Squirrel - Fly and pic by Brian J Smolinski - Lund's Fly Shop

Lund’s HOT Pink Squirrel – Fly and pic by Brian J Smolinski – Lund’s Fly Shop

Lund’s HOT Pink Squirrel (Recipe by Brian J Smolinski)

Lund’s Pink Squirrel – I have lost track of how many times anglers have come into the shop and told me that they were getting skunked out on their favorite stretch of trout water, until they pulled out one of these beauties. They consistently seem to produce trout of all sizes on the Rush, Kinni, Trimbelle, and many other streams right around this area. With hundreds of new patterns coming out every year, this is a pattern that always seems to be a staple in our customer’s fly boxes. For the Lund’s HOT Pink Squirrel, use black dubbing for the abdomen, UV Fluorescent hot pink Ice Dub for the thorax, and gold wire for the rib. This varies from the original pattern tied by John Bethke. We’ve had these two versions custom-tied for us for a few years now and sold thousands of them. They continue to be one of the most productive nymphs for many anglers.  

Nate and Jim Martin, Spirit Streams Fly Fishing

Focusing on the Driftless trout of Wisconsin, the Spirit Streams crew offers guided trips and some amazing posts on the Driftless over on their site and blog. Here are two of their most productive trout patterns…

Coulee Crusader Caddis - fly and pic by Spirit Streams Fly Fishing

Coulee Crusader Caddis – fly and pic by Spirit Streams Fly Fishing

Coulee Crusader Caddis – The Coulee Crusader is a prolific trout-producing pattern throughout the year, but excels in May and June and in the evenings the remainder of the year.  Adult Stonefly and Midge variants can be made with this pattern.  Very productive.

  • Hook: Mustad 94840 or equivalent, #16 and #18
  • Wing:  Coastal Deer, Natural
  • Hackle:  Barred Grizzly
  • Dubbing:  Brown, Green, Gray, Black


Notes:  Tie in hackle parachute style, 3 turns.  Dubbing pile at wing and direct hackles back toward hook bend.

Red Storm - fly and pic by Spirit Streams Fly Fishing

Red Storm – fly and pic by Spirit Streams Fly Fishing

Red Storm – The Red Storm is a year-round lethal trout enticer. The pattern is based on the traditional Woolly Bugger but with a few key additions including the red collar. The red collar is the hot spot which attracts trout to the point of irresistibility. It is one of our crème de la crème fly patterns.

  • Hook: Mustad 9672 or equivalent, #10 or #12
  • Bead: Tungsten cone, gold, small
  • Tail: Black Strung Marabou Feather
  • Body: Chenille, small, black (it should have a sparkle to it)
  • Hackle:  Black Saddle Hackle Feather
  • Collar: Red Crystal & Tri Lobal Fibers

 ———————————-

Standard nymphing and dry fly strategies are adequate for most creeks in the Driftless. Trailing a smaller, more imitative nymph (such as a Shop Vac or $3 Dip) behind a more gaudy attractor fly (Pink Squirrels, Black Wet Flies, scuds) is an especially deadly tactic. Dry-dropper rigs are another great strategy, particularly in the summer months when the terrestrials are out in force. We’ve also found that Driftless fish are particularly susceptible to some slight movement or jigging action worked into the drift.

This is a great selection of bugs that will serve an angler well throughout the entire season. All these patterns are well suited to the conditions that the small, fertile trout streams of the Driftless bring to the angler and will take plenty of trout on the local spring creeks.

Tie up a few of these bugs and toss them on the local trout streams this season. You won’t be disappointed!

Great Waters Fly Fishing Expo 2014

Here are a few shots from the Great Waters Expo that took place up in Blaine this weekend. We had a great time wandering the booths and met some awesome people from the local Midwest fly fishing community….jasonstewartflytying

Musky guide Jason Stewart tying up a warmwater bug at the Great Lakes Fly Shop booth. John had a great spread of gear for fly fishing the northwoods and had plenty of his signature frogs in the fly bins too. If you’re ever in Duluth be sure to stop by and check out his shop

John Fehnel's signature frog. Great Lakes Fly Shop

John Fehnel’s signature frog. Great Lakes Fly Shop

More frogs....

More frogs….

Sneaky Bunny tied with a Holo-head. Lund's Fly Shop owner Brian Smolinski has some great stuff over at Misfit Fly Co...

Sneaky Bunny tied with a Holo-head. Lund’s Fly Shop owner Brian Smolinski has some great stuff over at Misfit Fly Co…

troutcupcakes

Trout cupcakes!! Robert Hawkins had these awesome cupcakes at the Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop booth…

bobmsflyshopWe had a great conversation with Damian Wilmot and Matt Paulson at the Superior Fly Angler booth. Damian is the owner of Fly By Night Guide Service, specializing in night fishing and steelheading on the Bois Brule. He also runs warm water fly fishing trips and grouse hunts – definitely an awesome adventure in northern Wisconsin! Matt Paulson of the Superior Fly Angler was twisting up some cool steelhead flies for the upcoming season. He runs a full service fly shop near the legendary Bois Brule River, a great stop for fly fishermen hitting the Superior tribs.

steelheadbugs

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Meat at the MPLS Fly table…

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Had a great time at the Jolly Fly Fishing booth. Ben Carlson runs guided trips on the Rush, Kinni, and smaller Driftless streams. Be sure to check out his site and blog...

Had a great time at the Jolly Fly Fishing booth. Ben Carlson runs guided trips on the Rush, Kinni, and smaller Driftless streams. Be sure to check out his site and blog…

One of the coolest booths at the show belonged to John Piacquadio from the Twin Cities Urban Fly. An artist and guide that frequents the urban waters of the metro, John had some sweet limited edition fly prints on display…

Carp fly!

Carp fly!

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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
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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,

Conner

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