Monday, January 2, 2012

Winter Tying

Happy New Year and all the best for 2012!  

Although I typically don’t make New Year’s resolutions in 2012 I am trying to get a handle on my winter tying efforts in a resolution-like manner.  Most of you probably make similar commitments or promises each year.  You know, review the fly boxes, figure out what patterns need to be replenished, which patterns you would like to add and then set about some sort of plan to get them all tied before the 2012 season starts.  Concentrated, week before the trip, binge tying has predominated most of my tying efforts in previous years. 

Where I live in Alberta we are known for our long cold white winters.  Open water fly fishing is few and far between.  Perfect conditions you would think for some concentrated organized fly tying.  Unfortunately this has not been the case.  My show and seminar speaking schedule starts in earnest in January and doesn’t wind down until mid-April only to be replaced with stillwater schools and workshops.  Finding time to tie flies has been tough.  This year I have allocated bench time to get a handle on some of the white spaces in my fly boxes.  So far it seems to be working.

Two patterns that made my list are a result of their positive impact during my last trip to Manitoba in mid October.  I met up with producer and creator of The New Fly Fisher Colin McKeown to host a stillwater episode for a new show, The Orvis Guide to Fly Fishing which begins airing on the World Fishing Network (WFN) later on this year.  We spent the better part of a week battling high winds that made things more than challenging.  The rainbows and browns we were targeting where, for the most part, willing to chase our flies.  Although the water temperatures were higher than expected due to the warm summer and early fall large fall fish were beginning to strap on their feedbags prior to freeze up.

Colin battles a large brown near a beaver lodge

At this time small baitfish representing both mature and juvenile fat head minnows and backswimmers worked.  The shoreline shallows were choked with fat head minnows.  One of the best patterns during my October trip was Crystal P-Quad a variation of Mark Olinger’s P-Quad.  The P-Quad received its name from the four primary materials used in its construction, pheasant tail, partridge, peacock herl and pintail fibers.  Pintail isn’t always easy to obtain and I find teal flank fibers make a great substitute along with bronze mallard.  The original P-Quad has worked well for me as both a searching fly and when trout are fixated on scuds.

Mustad 3609B #8-#12
Thread: 8/0, Olive or Red
Tail: Pheasant Tail Fibers
Rib: Small gold or copper wire
Body: Peacock herl
Wing: Teal Flank
Hackle: Partridge

Our most successful version of the Crystal P-Quad included a small olive glass bead at the head.  The grey phase partridge and teal flowed over the olive body and tail mimicking the mottled look of the natural baitfish.  Our glass bead headed version dragged up some impressive browns and rainbows as we explored proven forage fish hangouts such as cattails and beaver lodges.  A slow 3-5 inch strip pause retrieve or steady hand-twist worked consistently.  If a trout was in the region we often hooked up within the first five casts.  

Glass Bead Crystal P-Quad

Hook: Mustad 3906B #8-#12
Thread: 8/0Olive
Tail: Stillwater Solutions Long Marabou Olive, Mixed with a few Strands of Olive Crystal Flash
Rib: Small Copper Wire
Body: Stillwater Solutions Soft Blend Dubbing, Olive
Wing: Teal
Hackle: Partridge, Grey Phase
Bead:  Olive Glass Bead

Most of the boatman and backswimmer activity was over but the browns, rainbows and tiger trout the Parklands region is famous for still chased down our boatman and backswimmer patterns.  A new pattern in my box was the backswimmer equivalent of my Water Floatman, the Greater Water Floatman.  The fly's name sake came from the greater water boatman the naturals are sometimes referred to in England.  Since the backswimmer facelift made for a larger version of my Floatman the name made sense.  I tie the shellback along the underside of the shank so the fly rides in the water in the same fashion as the natural backswimmers.  The Greater Water Floatman is a simpler tie as compared to another of my favorite backswimmer/boatman patterns the Ultimate Boatman I mentioned in my previous blog entry.  

Greater Water Floatman make nice snacks for large brown trout

 It performed so well that it made my winter tying list in sizes #8 and #10.

Greater Water Floatman
Hook:  Mustad R-50 94840 #8-#10
Thread: 6/0 Black
Shellback:  Booby Body Foam, White, Medium, Tie in the Shellback Along the Underside of the Hook Shank.
Body:  Stillwater Solutions Crystal Chenille, Peacock Green, Medium
Legs:  Stillwater Solutions Midge Stretch Floss, Olive
Tying Note:  Apply the markings to the shellback using a Prismacolor Spring Green marker along with black and red Sharpie markers. 

Join me in the Parklands for 2012!

As you probably know if you have been reading some of my previous blog entries the Parklands region of SW Manitoba has become one of, if not my favorite, stillwater haunt in North America.  For the past three years I have been hosting spring and fall trips to this region.  My trips include all food, accommodation, seminars and time on the water with me.  I run both weekend and weeklong excursions.  My spring 2012 trips have already sold out completely.  I didn’t even have a chance to promote them.  My fall trips slated for September 13-17, 2012 and September 17-23, 2012 still have space available.  Please view the informational brochure on my website if one of my fall trips interests you. If my spring trips are any indication these trips will book quickly. 

Falcon's Ledge offers first class facilities and fly fishing-Photo Courtesy of S. Higa
My last stillwater seminar of 2011 took place at Falcon’sLedge located in Altamont Utah.  Falcon’s Ledge is a first class Orvis Endorsed lodge.  The food and accommodation was nothing short of spectacular and provided a perfect backdrop for my workshop.  My students and I had access to all of their private lakes.  Each lake was fishable from shore which provided a unique instructional perspective for me as I could easily move between students to work with them in a one on one setting to help with their stillwater presentation techniques.  

Dave Danley from Falcon's Ledge with a nice plump rainbow
Dave and Spencer from Falcon’s Ledge made a point of saying that the trout on the lodge’s lakes showed a particular affinity for any red fly or having red as key component color.  The maroon/claret pheasant tail body and red holographic Mylar shellback of my Red Back Pheasant chironomid pupa pattern was a consistent producer and took a severe mauling.  As a result this pattern is also on my winter tying list.  You can also pick up this fly through the Stillwater Solutions fly program.

Red Back Pheasant
Hook:  Mustad C49S #10-#14
Thread: 8/0 Black or Maroon
Rib:  Gold Wire, Fine
Body:  Stillwater Solutions Bleached Pheasant Tail, Maroon/Claret
Shellback: Holographic Mylar, Red
Thorax:  Peacock Herl
Gills:  Stillwater Solutions Midge Gill
Bead: Gold

I will be returning to Falcon’s Ledge again in 2012 for another stillwater workshop on May 18-20.  At this time chironomids, damselflies and Callibaetis mayflies should all be on the menu.  My seminar subjects will have a definite slant towards imitating these insects including both sub surface and surface tactics and techniques.  For more information on booking please visit the Falcon’s Ledge website.

The landscape surrounding the private lakes at Falcon's Ledge is unique
Good luck with your winter tying efforts.  I hope to see some of you at my seminars and workshops in 2012 or if you are planning attending any of the shows listed on my Calendar please drop by and say hello.

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