Small Nymph Refresher–Mayflies

by Danie Erasmus

Mayflies make up a major portion of the small nymphs trout feed on and they become prey in a number of situations. Trout feed opportunistically on struggling nymphs that are swept downstream by fast water. Mayfly nymphs also exhibit a behaviour called dispersal drifts, when they let go of the river bottom en masse and drift downstream to find new habitat. These migrations peak in early morning and early evening, increasing their exposure to trout during those times. Nymphs are also susceptible when emerging, as many species swim to the surface to emerge.  

 Mayfly nymphs occupy a wide variety of habitats and water-types including riffles, runs, back-eddies and pools. In streams mayfly nymphs have adapted to either cling or crawl among the rocks, or to swim and dart from rock to rock in the fast current.  

 Clinger and crawler nymphs tend to occupy faster water in riffles and runs. These nymphs are flat, stout and wide so that they can cling to and live among rocks without easily being swept away. Effective fly patterns imitating these nymphs should have the same wide and stout profile, and should be heavily weighted. This shape is convenient for fly tiers as it allows for the inclusion of over-sized beads and lead wire to help these flies sink faster.  

 Swimming mayfly nymphs, such as those belonging to the Baetidae family, inhabit both fast and slow water. Nymph imitations of these should be slender, which means there isn’t room for a lot of weight to be added. However, you can cheat a bit and use oversized bead-heads with slim bodies, or the very popular Perdigon Nymph. To fish these flies effectively, focus on slower runs. 

Chan’s Early Season Stillwater Tip #4

Even fishing a lake while the ice is receding may require a variety of fly lines, so make sure your kit bag has the essential lines from the very first trip of the season.  Floating, hover, intermediate and faster sinking lines in type 3, 5 and 7 will cover any fishing tactic required in your trout lakes. Trout are not normally very leader shy in the early spring as the intense insect hatches have not begun. Carry spools of good quality 3X, 4X and 5X monofilament or fluorocarbon tippet. 

Chan’s Early Season Stillwater Tip #3

Early mornings and the last couple of hours before dark are often very good times to fish lakes during the ice-off period. It takes fish time to get accustomed to the brighter daytime light after spending months in the dark, and thus are often more active in lower light conditions. Plan one of your fishing days to stay for the evening bite. It may become a regular routine during the early fishing season.  Again, watch for the signs of moving fish which increase as light levels wane. Use patterns that have some flash or make noise when retrieved through the water. Palmer-hackled patterns like Woolly Buggers, bead-head leeches, bead-head scuds, and rubber-legged boatman and backswimmers are all good choices. Fan-cast each area that you fish. There may be a small group of fish concentrated over a tiny piece of real estate that aren’t willing to wander too far in search of food. If there is no action or interest after 15 to 20 minutes, move on to another part of the shoal or another part of the lake.  

Chan’s Early Season Stillwater Tip #2

Think outside the box regarding early season fly-patterns. The water is cold and there are minimal if any aquatic insect emergences. Trout will aggressively chase flies that are suggestive of such basic food items as scuds, leeches, dragonflies, damselflies, water boatman and backswimmers. Don’t be afraid to cast and quick-strip flies on intermediate to even type-5 full-sinking lines in water three-to six-feet deep. Attractor patterns such as Blobs, Boobies and Fabs can also work well at ice off, perhaps because fish often feed on readily available zooplankton which are often found in large clusters or concentrations. These brightly coloured patterns definitely work when fish are feeding on daphnia or cyclops, both common zooplanktons. Suspending orange or pink Blobs under an indicator can be an effective early season tactic. 

An Early Season Stillwater Tip from Brian Chan

Pay attention to the shallowest areas of the shoals or littoral zones. Trout come into water just a few feet deep to chase down scuds, water boatman, juvenile damselfly nymphs and leeches. Prime shallow-water feeding areas will have some remnants of green plant growth on the bottom and might be near stands of cattails or longstem bulrush. This makes ideal habitat for the prime aquatic invertebrate food sources. Watch for fish moving in openings within stands of bulrush and cattails. In many of the most productive lakes the trout are found in shallow water for another reason: the way the oxygen is most concentrated. The lake water is still stratified at ice-off and for a number of days after. Oxygen levels in the deep water may not be sufficient to support fish life due to the considerable anaerobic decomposition of plant and other organic matter during the iced-over period. The shallow areas of the lake are mixed by wind action and oxygen levels increase. This fishing situation is known as pre-spring turnover. Consider the direction of the prevailing wind and try fishing the downwind shoal areas. A warm wind increases the surface temperatures in shallow water and can dislodge scuds and other invertebrates and concentrate them in those wind-swept areas. 

A Case for Soft Hackle

These days, fly anglers have a wealth of flies at their disposal, but with such a focus on innovation, it’s easy to forget about traditional methods. The humble Soft Hackle is a prime example of this angling amnesia.

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Book Review: Designing Poppers, Sliders and Divers

Review by Al Ritt

It was with much anticipation that I waited when I heard Steve Schweitzer was writing a new book. I own Steve’s first two publications: A Fly Fishing Guide to Rocky Mountain National Park, and A Fly Fishing Guide to Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (co-authored with Mike Kruise). I’ve become accustomed to his detailed, thorough and insightful approach to any project he undertakes. His newest work, Designing Poppers, Sliders and Divers did not disappoint. If anything, it exceeded my expectations. While there are a great many fly tying books available to today’s fly tier, this book is unique. Rather than a listing of photos and recipes, or restated fly-tying basics that have been written about and published for years now, this book delves into the details of constructing fly/lure styles that few before have tackled.

I say constructed rather than tied because Steve includes intricacies of using materials and methods many fly tiers are not familiar or comfortable with. I also include the term lure as it was more commonly thought of in the past. Flies such as streamers, deer hair bass bugs and others that imitated large food sources than insects were referred to as lures in earlier times. There have also been many small lures similar to those used with bait or spin casting gear that were scaled down to be cast with fly gear; these were called “fly rod lures.” Designing Poppers, Sliders and Divers covers techniques to create flies/lures using cork, wood, foam along with more commonly used materials such as hackle, rubber legs, and more.

Steve organized this book into three main sections: Tools and Materials; Elements of Design; and Making Poppers, Sliders and Divers. Beyond these primary sections, Steve has also included a thorough and informative introduction covering the motivation behind the book, the history of fly rod lures and explanation of the book’s organization and how to get the most out of it.

Section one is a very complete listing of material used for construction of bodies, dressing the lure, painting, finishing and basic materials such as thread and hooks. Each tool/material is described and its properties and uses explained. Further, availability and sources for each are also covered including information (or references to more detailed information) on how to construct some tools.

Section two of the book goes into the components of these lures and how each will affect the appearance and function of the finished lure. Here you’ll be shown everything from how to achieve a scale or other pattern on the finished lure, to how construction affects a lure’s attitude and performance in the water, to methods of combining elements such as bodies, collars, rattles, eyes and more.

Section three of the book gets into the nitty-gritty of actually forming lure bodies from various materials such as various foams, woods and cork. This section also explores a variety of methods for securely attaching bodies to hooks, painting, adding texture/color/flash and finish coating each body style.

Steve also included many “road maps” to the index that make finding and using specific information much more convenient. There is a list of tables that compare various properties of materials or design criteria, so you may quickly evaluate what will be most relevant to your current tying needs. He has included a list of specific patterns included throughout the book of patterns with step-by-step tying instructions. A list of “DYI Projects” that covers making your own specialty tools and preparing your own custom components. And for flavor, Steve has included “Artesian Galleries.” These are inserts that feature talented tiers across the country with examples of their creations. To top it off, the “maps” include “Author’s Recommendations” which refer to detailed information in the book on material or tool sources and Steve’s recommendations of which products work best for specific tasks.

In summary, Steve’s written content is detailed, well presented, easy to use and clearly written. His photography is of very high quality and there are plenty of shots and illustrations that are large enough to adequately support his instructions and written content. This book is a “must have” for anyone interested in making or simply understanding fly-fishing lures and may be applied to larger lures as well. The book is printed in full color and put together with “lay flat binding” making it very useful for your work bench and easy to reference as you go. This may be Steve’s best book to date. Click here to check out the book’s website.

The Love of Lodges

Among the many “institutions” in our sport – those things that are inherently connected to it, like fly shops, fly-fishing guides, fly-fishing towns, fly-fishing literature and art – one of my favourites is the fly-fishing lodge.

by Jim McLennan (artwork by Cody Richardson Creations)

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