dry flies

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

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

cutthroat

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,

Conner

Dry Flies and Driftless Tricos

The past few days have been a little chilly, but it was downright cold this morning when I hit the river before sunrise. I was freezing by the time I had waded a few yards upstream in my shorts, but the crisp morning air got me excited for the cooler fall days ahead. Fishing was a little tough this morning. I fished for about an hour and only pricked a fish, tangling a few rigs and losing a few flies in the process. I got my first trout of the morning indicator nymphing with a #20 pheasant tail in a sweet hole that brushed right up into a big logjam. Once I landed that first trout, things started to pick up. I managed a few nice browns in the riffles before coming upon a good run that flowed against the rip-rapped bank, very similar to the pool we found tricos in yesterday morning.101_5403

A few fish started rising against the bank and I spotted a few tricos floating downstream. The trico spinner fall was on again! I switched to a dry-dropper rig with a #20 trico spinner. I had a blast casting to selective trout in the run. Again, there were fish taking flies in the faster water along with slower eddies on the bank. It was a fun challenge to get the perfect drift through tough currents and hook the fish on the tiny dry when he finally ate it. I took half a dozen on the trico before the fish slowed down. Once the trout stopped rising, I tied on my dry-dropper nymph rig with the big orange stimmy as my dry, a #14 squirrel and copper, and a #20 CDC trico trailing a few inches behind the nymph.driftless brown on a trico

wild brown tailThe drowned CDC trico proved to be deadly. I kept hiking upstream and pulled wild trout from the riffles and seams. I think I’ve found the ultimate rig for this time of year in the Driftless. A small, dark mayfly nymph is always a good choice, and the fish get so accustomed to seeing tricos over the summer they eagerly sip the sunk trico, even late in the day. A big terrestrial dry for the indicator rounds out the rig and covers the other major food source in a trout’s diet during the late summer, terrestrials. Most fish ate the trico, but a few took the squirrel and copper in the fast water.

Wild brown with a trico stuck right in the corner of his mouth

Wild brown with a trico stuck right in the corner of his mouth

A few awesome pools flowed through the open stretch I fished.

log jam pool in the Driftless AreaI hiked way upstream to the confluence with a small spring creek where I found a sweet pool where the currents swirled together. I took a few trout in the big confluence pool on the nymphs. I ended up losing the nymphs and just fished the Stimmy. A feisty brown surprised me by smashing the big dry right in the riffle, a great way to end the morning.

The confluence pool

The confluence pool

This weekend was amazing. It was great to finally hit the Root and sample some of the excellent trout fishing it offers, especially the legendary trico hatch. There’s nothing like a solid weekend of relaxing and trout fishing in the Driftless.

Fall and hunting season is coming up quickly…should be a great season!

Tricos on the Root

September 1, 2013

Day 2 – I persuaded Noah to hit the river with me early Sunday morning. It was another beautiful morning in the Driftless as we hiked down the trail and started fishing. This time we headed downstream and hit some of the deep, turbulent pools that brush against the limestone cliffs. Both of us fished dry-dropper rigs in hopes of picking off a few browns, but didn’t have any luck. After fishing nymphs for a while, I noticed a few sporadic risers feeding in a slow tailout. I checked the river for bugs, and sure enough a few tricos were floating downstream. I quickly chopped of the nymph and tied on a #12 Pass Lake dry with a big white calftail wing followed by a #20 trico spinner twelve inches behind. South Branch Root River fly fishing The trout were still rising inconsistently, and the first few browns I floated my trico over didn’t eat. Noah and I moved downstream to a long, choppy run ending in an even longer slow pool. The fish were rising steadily by now, but not the finicky, slow water sippers you’d expect from a trico hatch. These trout were set up in the riffles, snatching the tiny mayflies with a splashy rise. Though most of these trout were smaller, it was a treat to cast #20 tricos to fast water where the fish didn’t have a ton of time to inspect your flies. There were, of course, a few stubborn risers sitting right on the bank sipping bugs in swirling eddies.

Small clouds of tricos fluttered over the river as I carefully crept up to the riffle. A good dead drift resulted in a rise and the first wild brown of the morning in the net. Noah quickly got in on the action and caught another trout in the riffle while I tied up another trico rig. The trout were hard, but not impossible, and a good dead drift with a reasonable fly did the trick. The good fishing continued under clear skies, and we stayed in the same pool casting to rising trout all morning. I switched flies a few times when I started getting refusals. I fished a CDC trico spinner, Double Trico Spinner, and CDC Trico Comparadun, and all caught fish. Noah stuck a few awesome wild browns on the trico spinner, and I ended the morning with nine trout, all on trico dries. The browns were small but feisty, jumping a few times before coming to the net. The fish stopped rising around eleven o’clock, so we headed back to camp for some lunch.

Braden also had a productive morning. He hiked upstream and caught ten wild browns up to twelve inches on a dry-dropper rig. Most of his fish took a brown #14 Trout Snatcher Nymph, but a few ate his Ausable Bomber. Interestingly, he didn’t have any rising fish or a solid trico hatch. I did notice the hatch was quite sparse and isolated, with fish rising consistently only in one pool over the morning. I’m not sure if the trout key in on different types of water when the spinner fall is spotty, or what the deal was, but the trout were just as eager to eat a nymph in stretches of the river just a few hundred yards away.

A nice wild brown on a MTMN

A nice wild brown on a Trout Snatcher

After lunch we toured Mystery Cave, the longest cave in Minnesota with over 13 miles of passages. The cave is the life source of the Root, providing the cold water and nutrients that are vital to its existence as fertile trout water. Upstream from the cave area, the South Branch of the Root is a warmwater stream, but it literally disappears in the summer as it takes a shortcut underground through the cave. It emerges several miles later in a few springs, greatly enriched and cooled from its trip. It was pretty awesome to see some of the water in the cave that eventually ends up flowing in the section of stream we had fished earlier in the day.

Pool in the cave

Pool in the cave

"Turquoise Lake"

“Turquoise Lake”

Cave bacon and limestone

Cave bacon and limestone

The three of us fished a bit in the evening, working our way downstream and casting to likely spots. Braden picked up two more browns in a riffle on a Trout Snatcher, while Noah and I didn’t interest any fish. I ventured up the same small creek I hit yesterday and pulled out one trout on a sunk trico spinner.

The red tail and spots are amazing on this brown Braden caught

The red tail and spots are amazing on this brown Braden caught

The fish started rising again just before dark. I tied on a #16 CDC and Elk, and tossed it against the far bank. A brown gently rose and sipped it as the light was fading behind the bluffs. I set the hook, and after a short fight landed a beautiful ten inch brown. Once it got too dark to see the dry I tied on a chickabou Wooly Bugger and started swinging it through the fast water. A heavy trout slammed it, but he popped off after a few seconds, so I decided to call it a night. I hiked back to camp in the dark and ended another great day in the Driftless.

11-3…October Caddis, A Small Stream, and Dry Flies

Whenever I think of fly fishing in the Smokies, I think of dry flies. Beautiful, pure wild trout eagerly grabbing a small, well-tied dry in some pocket water. I, like most fly fishers, find dry flies to be one of the most exciting aspects of the game. The thrill of watching a trout rise up to the surface and eat your fly just never gets old. As I looked at it more and more, I realized that the places more cherished, talked about, and dream-inspiring than any other fishing destinations revolve around dry flies. For me, the Smokies have always been a fly fishing dream, and maybe that is why.

On the last day of the trip, we experienced some dry fly action. The target was a small rainbow trout stream with some awesome plunge pools. The weather had warmed up enough to bring out a small hatch of giant October caddisflies. If we were going to get any dry fly action, this was going to be the day. Braden and I got in at a small stone bridge and started the climb downstream over the rugged terrain. Almost immediately, Braden tied into a small rainbow on a #20 pheasant tail.

As I waded downstream, I spotted a pool on the opposite bank that just screamed trout. A plunge pool flowed under some overhanging brush and rubbed against a large boulder, creating a nice dark hole. I got into position downstream and carefully placed my orange stimulator at the head of the pool. As the stimmy drifted through, a flash of silver rose from the depths, but the trout missed my fly. The next cast produced a violent slash, and a beautiful six inch wild rainbow was soon in the net.

Braden and I continued to pick up fish in almost every pool. A few trout took our pheasant tail or Greedo BWO droppers, but most crashed the dry flies. We could have gone forever. Around each bend, a seemingly-endless series of plunge pools full of good trout lies cascaded down the mountain. Casting was difficult in the canopy of rhododendrons that crowded the creek, but a well-placed cast was usually rewarded with a wild rainbow.

We moved on to another spot further downstream. A lot of the trout were a bit too small to take down my #12 stimulator, so I switched to a #16 tellico-style dry, which quickly got a splashy rise from a 4″ rainbow. The bows were wild and ruggedly beautiful, kinda like the streams they live in. Braden’s Adams Wulff variation got some attention, too. He caught around seven more in the last hour of the day, all wild rainbow trout ranging from four to ten inches. Braden found one particularly good pool at the bottom of a four foot waterfall, where he pulled out a few rainbows from the current seams.

It was a great end to an awesome trip. Winter is here in Minnesota. It’s time to tie some flies and restock the boxes. Ice fishing will be here soon, and hopefully we will get some solid ice this year.

Tight Lines,

Conner

 

 

 

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