2013 Year In Review

2013 was an awesome year for us, and looking back I think we can say it has been our best year of fishing yet. The bass fishing was on fire this spring up at the cabin, and each of us added personal bests for multiple species. We fished quite a bit with both fly and spin gear, and were truly blessed to have the opportunity to catch some great fish in awesome places. A huge thanks to everyone who reads our adventures and tight lines in 2014! Here are a few of the highlights, in no specific order…

Driftless Trout

We didn’t make it down to the Driftless many times this year, but we did bushwack into an awesome creek deep in the remote “backcountry”.

Rugged country in the Driftless "backcountry"

Rugged country in the Driftless “backcountry”

Driftless brown trout on a frenchie ptn

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

A small spring that gurgled out from the bluffs

September found us on the South Branch of the Root river for our annual Driftless fall camping trip. This trip is one of our favorites, and this year we hit a good trico hatch and caught plenty of wild browns.

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

South Branch Root River wild brown with some great colors

Another wild brown Braden got on the MTMN

Another wild brown Braden got on the Trout Snatcher

Braden got this Driftless brown on a micro tubing mayfly nymph


I caught my first few trout on a fly in Colorado, so I was excited to go back in 2013. High, cold water and snow made things a little tough, but we managed to scrape out a few fish, including some fat rainbows, a cutthroat, and a grayling

mountain lake in coloradobraden's colorado rainbow troutcutthroatSAMSUNG

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.


In January I added a few new species to my list and reached a big goal in my fly fishing ventures, catching a fish in saltwater on a fly rod! I caught a few little seatrout on Sanibel Island on a Schminnow while wading a grassy flat. They weren’t monsters, but they were fish! Braden also hooked a few, but they unfortunately popped off before he could land them.

Small spotted seatrout that ate Norm's Crystal Schminnow

First fish in the salt!!

Sanibel Island spotted seatrout on the fly

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

A pod of three dolphins swam over and checked us out while boating in a bay.

sunset on the GulfOne of the more memorable (and crazy) catches of the year also came in Florida on a small citrus grove pond, where we got chased out by a gator!

Don't harass the gatorsgator staring us down in FLIMG_3765

Bass Opener

2013 was easily the best year of bass fishing we’ve ever had. With the late spring and colder, cloudy weather, Opening Weekend here in Minnesota was just awesome. The fish were in the shallows and hungry, still fat with eggs. Noah put three fish over 4.5 lbs on the board in the first afternoon of fishing, beating his personal best on almost three consecutive fish! The fishing was amazing, and we caught lots of fish on both fly and spin tackle.

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a "Stupid Tube" rig

Noah stuck this nice 18 incher on a “Stupid Tube” rig

Five pounder

Five pounder

Another pig!

Another pig!

Hungry little guy

Hungry little guy

3 pounds 11 ounce bass on a fly rod in Minnesota on meat whistleBraden's bass up at the lakesunrise on the bass lake 3


The walleyes were also in the shallows searching for a meal around low light. I landed my first walleye on a fly rod and my personal best, a 23 incher that hit a Meat Whistle right after dark….

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 " fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

First walleye on the fly! A nice 23 ” fish that slammed a Meat Whistle up in the shallows.

We also did some trolling in deeper water and Noah launched floating Rapalas on a shallow flat after dark. Both methods produced some gold...

Grandpa's walleye

walleye after dark on a Minnesota lake tossing floating rapalas100_4779

Toothy critter

Toothy critter

Boundary Waters

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness on the MN/Canada border is one of the best fisheries in the Midwest. We trekked up there at the end of July for a week of canoeing, camping, and fishing in the rugged wilderness. To put it lightly, the weather was less than ideal, with record low temps approaching freezing, heavy wind up to 20 mph, and a constant cold drizzle all week. Whitecaps hammered the lake we were on, leaving us shorebound for most of the trip. We toughed it out, however, and caught some awesome fish. Noah landed a MONSTER of a 36 inch pike that will probably go down as the best fish of 2013….Noah's monster Boundary Waters pikeNoah's 36 inch pike on Basswood LakePike!

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Boundary Waters bronzeback on the fly

Lake Fishin’

We fished up at the cabin a few times this summer…

27 incher

27 incher


Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert

Nailed this largemouth on a chartruese meat whistle at the culvert


Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

Grandpa caught this nice crappie while trolling for walleyes

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

A Flash Bugger streamer fooled this nice bluegill

Braden stuck this huge 20" largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth.

Braden stuck this huge 20″ largemouth right up in the shallows! Definitely one of the best fish of the year and his personal best bucketmouth!


Lake Pepin

In the spring we made the trip down to Lake Pepin on the Mississippi River to chase some walleyes. It was a great day of fishing, and we boated lots of fish, including some white bass, plenty of walleye and sauger, and a few smallmouth…



We did quite a bit of duck hunting this year. Braden and I also got into bowhunting and hunted a few times this fall….morning in the duck blindoctober goose mn

Ice Fishing

We ended the year with some hardwater fishing on the “crappie hole”, a small local lake that has produced some slabs for us in the past…

bluegill and crappie dinner icefishing sunset on the ice bass through the ice

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

Fooled this crappie with a TUNGSTEN Slab Spike ice fly

bradens crappie in the dark

On the fly tying side of things, our flies are now available on We’re offering hand-tied flies and ice flies including some signature patterns that we tie and fish.

2013 was a great year for us. We all learned lots as anglers and spent plenty of time in God’s awesome outdoors. A few personal records were broken, and we caught some great fish. Thanks for the support and tight lines in 2014!

3 Brothers Flies

Wood Duck Soft Hackle

The duck feathers from early season hunting have been begging me to tie a few flies, so when they came out of the freezer a few nights ago I had to sit down and stock the boxes. Wood duck feathers are some of my absolute favorites to tie with. The chocolate brown feathers on a hen wood duck are awesome for Baetis-style flies, and since Baetis are hatching right now on the streams, I decided to go with a BWO theme. I’ve been wanting to tie a soft hackle with the tiny feathers on the shoulder of a duck’s wing, so I tied up this little soft hackle emerger that ended up faintly resembling a BWO…

Wood Duck Soft Hackle

Wood Duck Soft Hackle

  •  Hook: Nymph or wet fly hook of your preference
  • Bead: Gold brass
  • Thread: Brown 8/0 UNI (I used black on this one)
  • Tail: Chocolate brown hen wood duck breast/neck feather fibers
  • Body: Brown thread
  • Rib: Fine gold copper wire
  • Thorax: Natural red squirrel
  • Hackle: Dark brown duck soft hackle feather (not sure what it’s called but I used the small feather on the top side of the wing close to the body)



Ice Flies, Early Duck Season, and TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes

Here is a recent order of ice flies that just came off the vise. While it’s hard to think about winter right now, ice fishing will be here before we know it and I’m really excited to chase a few panfish and walleye through the ice this season! Some TUNGSTEN Slab Spikes are in the works and will be available later this fall…

Slab Spikes

Slab Spikes

The first week of duck season here in Minnesota was pretty good. We hunted opener with our cousin and had some great action with lots of woodies and a few mallards hanging around the small rice-filled lake we hunted. We also got out a few times during the week and found some wood ducks on the swamp. Definitely need to shoot some clays, though :)

Morning in the duck blind

Morning in the duck blind


2012 Year In Review

2012 was probably the best year we’ve had as fly fishermen. It was our first full season fly fishing southeastern Minnesota’s Driftless Area. We fished a ton, camped, and caught some great trout. Here are a few pics and highlights from the season.

Driftless Trout

80 degrees and wet wading in mid-March!


Noah with a nice brown trout


We found a great new brookie hole...

Fat brookie that crushed Braden's hopper

Another trout on the hopper

Camped on this awesome creek during the fall C&R season

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Smoky Mountains were amazing. We fished Great Smoky Mountains National Park for almost a week in late October. Endless miles of beautiful, trout-filled streams cascaded through the park. While the weather didn’t cooperate on the first few days, we still got some awesome small stream fishing. I landed a 17 ” rainbow, the biggest I’ve caught on the fly.

Lake Taneycomo


The warmwater fishing was great this year. We started throwing big, heavy flies for bass and it payed big. I caught my first pike on the fly, and Braden and I also caught our first smallmouth on a fly rod. Noah terrorized the local panfish population with his glass rod and some Noah’s Minnows. Highlights include a camping trip to the St. Croix River, lots of fishing at the cabin, and finding some small, quiet rivers loaded with fish.

First pike on the fly

Bucketmouth that slammed a big yellow deer hair bug way back in the weeds

Braden caught this smallmouth on his Braden's Crayfish fly

Braden's first smallmouth.

Bass-filled granite quarry

Early morning mist on the St. Croix River


We duck hunted a few times in central MN with our cousin Andrew. It was a blast…

Ice Fishing

We brought in the new year with some hardwater fishing on Gull Lake.

Tight Lines in 2013 and thanks for reading!

DIY Fly Fishing: How to find CDC feathers on a duck

Duck season is in full swing in many parts of the country right now. Hunting has slowed down here in Minnesota, but I had a pretty good season and bagged a couple ducks. A nice collection of CDC from mallards, wood duck, and teal is sitting on my tying bench, ready for the long winter. CDC is pretty quick and easy to grab off a bird, and is an outstanding feather for dry flies.

Cul De Canard (or CDC) is one of the best feathers on a duck for fly tiers. It is found near the duck’s preen (urogypial) gland, which releases oils that a duck uses to help waterproof his feathers. Contrary to popular belief, CDC gets its great natural flotation properties primarily from the structure of the feather, not the oils. Micro-barbules extend from the fibers of the CDC feather, increasing surface area and trapping tiny air bubbles when on the water. This makes it a great material for tying flies that float well but hang low in the surface film.

Harvesting CDC

CDC is relatively easy to find on a duck. The preen gland is on the lower back just above the tail feathers. Feel around just above the base of the tail feathers, where you will find a bump. That is the preen gland. Lift up the cover feathers and there you go, CDC. Pluck all the feathers right around the gland, including the oily feathers on the bump, stopping when the feathers become just regular fuzzy down. Put them into a plastic bag, where the oils will distribute throughout the feathers. A mature mallard will usually yield roughly sixty or seventy plus useable feathers up to two inches long. Any waterfowl that ends up in your bag at the end of the hunt will be good for CDC. I favor the smaller CDC from a wood duck, especially for tiny flies that require a thinner feather shaft. Geese also have some great CDC, with some giant feathers up to three inches long that are great for larger flies.

CDC! Pluck all the feathers right around the preen gland

It’s probably a good idea to freeze the feathers to get any critters out before putting them on the shelf.  A cycle of one week in, a few days out, and another week or two in the freezer should remove any troublesome bugs. Any cold resistant eggs that survived the first session will hatch in the break, and then die in the next freeze. I have been doing this with all my fur and feathers that I harvest for a couple years now, and I haven’t had any problems with bugs.

Uses of CDC

CDC, one of my favorite materials for tying dry flies, is very versatile. The flowing fibers of CDC on a dry fly might suggest a trailing shuck, a crippled wing, or simply movement. It adds a nice trigger and floats like a cork. CDC is a great material for fooling picky trout on flat water. Feathers from a wild bird are almost always better than what you can get commercially. There is much more variety in feather types, and the quality is usually quite good.

CDC Comparadun- One of my favorite CDC flies is a comparadun-style BWO or midge, which works very well in the tail of pools when trout are slurping tiny midges. The comparadun-style wing has a great silhouette and floats fairly well.

Emergers- A down-wing is deadly on emergers (F-Fly), producing a very life-like fly that floats low in the surface film. CDC makes a great wing on an RS-2 style fly, adding some motion and life. Stick it in a dubbing loop and wrap it like hackle on a parachute to create an excellent emerger.

Bodies- You can also wrap it as a body, such as in Hans Weilenmann’s CDC and Elk. The fibers make a good dubbing, too.

Nymphs- One application that is gaining popularity and often overlooked is using CDC on nymphs. Once the feathers get thoroughly wet and the barbules collapse, it produces a very tantalizing motion to the fish in the water. It’s great for a soft hackle collar on nymphs, or to add some motion to a wing.

Rainbow trout from Missouri’s Lake Taneycomo that took a tiny #20 olive CDC Comparadun

I should also add that floatant is usually a bad idea with CDC flies. The paste or liquid stuff collapses the barbules on the feather, leaving it unable to trap air. If the fly starts to sink, just dry out the fibers really well and false cast a few times. CDC is usually best in slower water, but if you must add floatant for fishing broken riffle water, use a powder like Frogg’s Fanny or something similar. In most situations, the feathers float very well without floatant and rarely need it, and a good drying is all you need to get it floating again.

So, next time you bag a few ducks, or you have a friend that hunts, grab some CDC. It just might become a standard in your dry flies. A supply of CDC from about two mallards should easily last you the winter of tying.

Tight Lines,


The DIY Fly Fishing Series

We make a lot of our gear here at 3 Brothers Flies. We tie our own flies, build fly tying tools, harvest and preserve fly tying materials, and tie our own leaders. It is common to over-analyze fly fishing and gear. Sometimes simpler is better. This DIY fly fishing series shows that a lot of fly fishing gear can be built by yourself for very little money and time.


The Deer Woods

I love this time of year in the woods. A lot of the leaves have dropped, and there is a nice chill in the air. Hunting season is here, and deer opener is right around the corner. The fishing is pretty good too. This weekend we headed up north to check on deer stands for a possible deer hunt. We walked miles of old logging trails through deep woods searching for grouse and squirrels. The grouse are on the low end of their cycle, so by this time of the season the few birds around are pretty smart and wary. I shot one red squirrel, and we flushed two grouse way out of range in front of us. I also got a chance to do some fishing. I caught a few small bluegills while fishing for bass. Even though we didn’t get much action, it was great to be in the woods. The scenery is great this time of year. I’ll let the pictures do the talking…..

Lots of old logging trails to walk

A few small bogs in the valleys broke up the dense woods...

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