Monthly Archives: March 2013

Atlantic Salmon fly, the Snaelda

I just recently watched the latest episode of Conway Bowman’s show, Fly Fishing the World. This episode was filmed in Iceland and featured guest host Sasha Savic. There is a good article covering the episode over at the Fly Fisherman website. I highly recommend watching the episode or at least reading the article.

Now, me, being all about the flies, keyed in on the quick glimpse of the fly being used on this episode. It was a fly called the Snaelda which is a highly popular salmon fly which originated in Iceland.

Here is a video from expert fly tyer Davie McPhail on how to tie a Snaelda.


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Filed under Salmon, Step by Step

New tools from JVice!

JVice has some brand new tools available. Not only do they have fantastic vises, but Jay Smit makes some really nice accessories and tools. The two he has just released are a brush maker and a combo tool that can act as a third hand. It can also be used as a hackle gauge and hackle pliers. The tools are not shown on the JVice website yet, but they are listed on the order form under “Ordering” on the website. If you head to the JVice website, be sure to check out the vises, I love mine! Photos show the tools in more detail below. In the video Jay shows how to use the brush maker.

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Filed under Step by Step, Tools

Clarence Roberts – fly tyer

ClarenceRobertsTwo weeks ago I posted about the classic Michigan dry fly, Roberts’ Yellow Drake. I planned on digging for more information about Clarence Roberts, but the digging has already been completed. Tom Deschaine has spoke with Clarence’s living relatives and wrote this nice article about the fly tyer, Clarence Roberts.

The one thing that comes to mind when you think of Michigan and fly fishing is the ‘Roberts Yellow Drake’ and Clarence Roberts. His fly was and is one of the most popular flies of Michigan lore.

It all started back in the late 1930s, when Clarence’s brother Cliff bought “the whole nine yards” of fly tying equipment from a Herters Catalog. When Cliff joined the Army Air Corp in 1942 he passed on all of his tying equipment to Clarence. Fly tying rapidly became not only a hobby but a passion with Clarence. He was good at it, and he loved it.

In 1949 the average family income was around $3,000. Game warden salaries lagged behind the average and Clarence had a growing family to feed and clothe. He decided to start tying commercially to supplement his income. Out of necessity, he became a prolific tyer. He would come home for lunch and tie flies and again, after dinner and any time he had some free time. He sold his flies to ‘Dad’s’, ‘Borcher’s Canoe Livery,’ ‘Dave’s Sport Shop’, the ‘Kur-Van Bait Shop’ and to dozens of hardware stores and gas stations. In his later years he sold flies out of his house. He raised 200-300 roosters each year for hackle and because of his game warden job, had easy access to road kill deer and other animals for hair and fur.

As a tyer he even found time for students. He taught fly tying to the late Bob Smock (another classic tyer from Grayling) and to his nephew Ray Schmidt along with others. He would often times have tying sessions in the basement of his house, a pot luck dinner kind of affair. The sessions were attended by people such as George Griffith, Ernie Borcher, Jerry McClain, Earl Madsen, Fred Bear and others. After dinner the guys would get together to tie flies and shoot the
breeze, play cards and sip a little whiskey.

Although Clarence has been attributed with several very famous historic fly patterns designed for Michigan waters, his most famous is the ‘Roberts Yellow Drake’. Bob Summers a highly respected tonkin cane rod builder from Traverse City, Michigan, shares with us the story of the fly’s creation. In a recent interview, Bob told me that he and George Griffith had been long standing friends and fishing buddies for over twenty-five years. Bob said, “On several occasions George would tell the story how he and Clarence were fishing together. George hooked a log with a big streamer pattern that he was fishing with. When he tugged on it, it popped back and he caught himself in the eye. George couldn’t see too well after that so Clarence came up with this fly (Roberts’s Yellow Drake) that had white stuff sticking straight up from the hook so George could see it better on the water. George told me this story more then once.” I asked Bob if he could date the event and he said, “we’re talking late 50s …‘57 to‘59, somewhere in there.”

Roberts’ Yellow Drake has multiple uses. It is tied in sizes 2-18 and is used anytime there are yellowish flies on the water. It’s also a major player during Michigan’s famous ‘Hexagenia’ hatch. The fly pattern is so famous that it is carried by and used by most every trout fisherman in Michigan. By changing the thread color fishermen have found that it can be used most any time of the year for most any hatch that is going on. The fly is so effective that it is carried by Michigan fishermen to other parts of the country, as their ‘go to fly.’

His nephew, Ray Schmidt calls Clarence the “deer-hair master” and rightly so. In Michigan we tie with deer hair; it’s abundant, inexpensive and it floats well. Clarence’s fly, the Roberts’ Yellow Drake, is the epitome of a typical Michigan fly. It is tied parachute, and with deer hair tied parallel to the hook shank. Both of these features were developed in Michigan. Clarence tied more flies with deer hair than any other material.

Due to a medical condition Clarence took an early retirement from the Department of Natural Resources in 1971, after 29 years of service as a game warden (conservation officer). Shortly after his retirement he and his wife Lucille moved to Stuart, Florida. He liked to fish the surf and still tied flies, but just for his own use. He did some gardening and pursued his new interest as a lapidarian (cutting and polishing gem stones). After more than ten years of retirement Clarence took ill. He and his wife returned to Michigan to be near their families. He passed away on April 8, 1984. Lucille remained in Michigan until her passing on May 25, 2010.

Clarence A. Roberts, family man, expert fisherman, game warden and a prolific iconic Michigan fly tyer, will always be an important part of Michigan history.

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Filed under Deer Hair, Michigan

Hendricksons for Pennsylvania creeks

To my delight, Thom Livingston at Yellow Breeches Outfitters in Pennsylvania has sent me the flies he will use for the first major mayfly hatch of the year on the limestone spring creeks, the Hendricksons. This includess the Dark Hendrickson Palmered Variant; The Light Hendrickson Palmered Variant; and a sequence of photos showing some quick steps during the tying process of the pattern.

Here is a brief paragraph to tell you a little more about Thom.

“I am a contract tyer for Orvis and Holly Flies. I started flyfishing in the late sixties on the Pennsylvania spring creeks, most notably the Yellow Breeches where I caught my first trout at the age of ten in 1954. I guess that would be called the dark ages! I’ve been tying flies now commercially since 1979. Mostly to local clients. Since starting working part time in local Orvis Shops I have been supplying the shops with local patterns. At the Yellow Breeches Outfitters I do the casting instruction, flyfishing class instruction, and the tying classes. At my demos I tie a lot of cdc patterns and the palmered variant patterns I am sending you.”

Recipe for Hendrickson (includes light and dark)

Hook:  Mustad 84031 # 12/14  Gamakatsu R10-B  # 12 (better hook up)
Thread:  Danville waxed 6/0 Tan for Lt Hendrickson /Brown for Dark
Tail:  Guard hairs from a ground hog- 2-3
Palmer Hackle:  Ginger
Abdomen:  Urine stained fox for Light / Mahogany Turkey Biot for Dark Tri-Hackle
(wings/legs):  1 Grizzly & 1 Dark Dun Rooster Hackle; 1 Very Dark Dun Saddle Hackle The barbs should be twice as long as the hook gap is wide.
Light Hendrickson - 1

Light Hendrickson – 1

Light Hendrickson - 2

Light Hendrickson – 2

Light Hendrickson - 3

Light Hendrickson – 3

Light Hendrickson - 4

Light Hendrickson – 4

Light Hendrickson - 5

Light Hendrickson – 5


Dark Hendrickson

Dark Hendrickson

different version of Light Hendrickson

different version of Light Hendrickson


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Filed under Trout flies

The Fripple – Curtis Fry

I’ve seen some searches pop up about The Fripple by Curtis and I’ve seen some questions about it. So I dug up the video on how Curtis ties the original. He has recently made some improvements and has released Fripple 2.0. I’ve included that below with a brand new video from Curtis about how to tie Fripple 2.0! Be sure to visit Curtis and Clark Pierce at FlyFishFood for all of their fly tying goodness!


Curtis says, “Fripple 2.0. So if you’ve seen the previous version of the fripple, this is a fairly decent upgrade, but it continues the whole cripples are tasty and easy theory. Tied on the Daiichi 1160, this style allows the butt to hang in the water to taunt the trout, while the wings and thorax float it nicely. Clear Cure Goo Hydro makes the body slice into the water with no tail to impede it.”


Recipe for Fripple 2.0

Hook: Daiichi 1160 #16 – #20
Thread: UTC Ultrathread 70 denier brown/olive (hotspot: fire orange)
Body: Rainy’s Stretchflex 1/8″ Olive
Ribbing: Silver UTC Wire, SM
Under-wing: Rainy’s Evazote Foam, Olive
Wings: Dun Medallion Sheeting
Wing-post: Snowshoe hare toe fur
Thorax: Baetis dubbing


Filed under Step by Step, Trout flies

Mysis Shrimp – Marc Procopio

Marc Procopio of has sent me another nice pattern with this one being his Mysis Shrimp.



Hook – Daichi 2151 #10
Thread – Fl. Fire Orange 6/0 Danvilles Fly master
Tail/Abdomen – Pearl Core Braid
Wing Case – Ice braid in various colors (Cream,Shrip pink, Fl. Hot Pink. Fl. Orange)
Thorax – UV Pearl Ice Dub in a dubbing loop
Eyes – Small Mono Nymph eyes (Black)
Antenna – 4 strands of Polar or White DNA Halo Fusion (2 pearl & 2 white Fibers)
1) The total Fly Lenghth is 7/8″ Long.
2) Keep the dubbing for the thorax sparse so the thread underbody shows through.
3) Tie them with several diffrent wing case colors.
4) Use a lighter to heat the end of the Pearl Core Braid and do your best to create a wedge by pressing it between your thumb and index finger. You can use your scissors to trim any excess….
5) Coat the eyes with Super glue or UV Glue for durability

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Filed under Saltwater

Rosenbauer’s Rabbit’s Foot Emerger

Tom Rosenbauer has been a fly fisher for over 35 years, and was a commercial fly tier by age 14. He has fished extensively across North America and has also fished on Christmas Island, the Bahamas, in Kamchatka, and on the fabled English chalk streams. He is credited with bringing Bead-Head flies to North America, and is the inventor of the Big Eye hook, Magnetic Net Retriever, and tungsten beads for fly tying. He is currently Marketing Director for Orvis Rod and Tackle.

This video is from the very professional Tightline Productions. The recipe I provided below is close to what is provided in the video, but there may be some slight differences.

Sizes:  14, 16, 18, 20

Hook  Type: Curved nymph/shrimp

Tail:  Shuck of brown Antron yarn equal to gape, tied halfway down bend. Shuck must be scored first with flat side of scissors or dubbing needle to give it a ragged look.

Body:  ½ Dark olive, ½ Dark brown rabbit fur

Throat:  Short CDC fibers equal to hook gape

Wing:  Bunch of snowshoe rabbit’s foot guard hairs from the middle of the foot. Equal to hook gape in length

Head:  Dubbed from dark hares mask dubbing


Filed under Trout flies

Tying with Herman Botes



Herman Botes is an experienced South African fly tyer and he sent me some quality photos and several of his fly patterns. You might have seen or heard about his Papa Roach somewhere before. It has become a very popular fly. But his other flies should not be overlooked.

Herman Hamer

Herman Hamer


Hook – # 14 light wire scud . Gamakatsu C12
Thread – Cream or yellow . Danville 70
Post – Flouro red Antron yarn
Hackle – 4-5 turns Brown Saddle hackle
Shuck – Dubbing fibres
Abdomen – Light yellow UV Ice dubbing & light yellow SLF fibres
Rib – Tying thread
Thorax – Spiky brown dubbing

Yip, its cheesy sticking your name to a tied variation of an infamous original likes the Klinkhamer. However, this specific pattern is so devastatingly successful that I just couldn’t help myself. I’m a hatch junkie of the highest order and autumn &
early spring will find me chasing BWO & PMD hatches in order to go one-on-one with difficult surface feeding fish. The challenge & defeats that these fish bring to the game is what draws me back time after time for another round. I had similar
challenges during the dusk hatches of the 3 smaller hydroschycidae species until this game changer made it on the scene. Unlike the mayfly hatches where you go through a lot of fly changes in order to find the correct stage of emergence /
footprint, this pattern distilled this caddis hatch into a single fly affair. The pattern even has the ability to turn shallow feeding fish into free risers and my biggest yellow of 9 lb’s was taken while prospecting likely lies at the onset of a hatch. This patterns dressing deviates from the Klinkhamer , because the scruffy dubbing prevents the abdomen from penetrating well below the surface film, creating a footprint somewhere between a Klinkhamer and a Parachute. There’s no pretty little extras or triggers to the pattern, which after all looks like a mess suspended below a parachute. I guess it falls in line with Charlie Craven’s apt description of caddis pupae which he calls the ugliest bugs in the fly fishing world – a cross between something that smashed into your windscreen and a ball of snot.




Hook – # 14 1 X short . Gamakatsu S10 2S
Thread – Black Danville 70
Tail – Brown cock hackle
Abdomen – Pale yellow nylon ‘floss’
Rib – Black tying tread
Thorax – Bronze peacock Ice Dub
Legs – Brown cock hackle palmered & trimmed
Wingcase – Amber Medallion Sheeting
Head – Rootbeer 11/0 Glass Bead

The big 3 may species on the Vaal catchment are BWO’s, PMD’s (actually a Baetis) & Trico’s. Unlike the states where trico’s are # 22 and smaller , our species are #16/14 and I’ve discovered nymphs as large as #12 in some of the smaller tributaries. This stout nymph, with its robust thorax, proud legs and arched back, captures the imagination of local tiers and we are constantly tweaking and testing patterns to solve the mystery surrounding the hatch. I don’t know of any pattern that has been significantly more successful during the trico migration than old faithful – the scruffy GRHE. That however does not stop us from continuing to come up with a hatch buster.
The TRIKE ( pet name for Tricorythidae) is my current pattern in its process of evolution. It incorporates a lot of the latest trends in tail water may nymphs imitations, like slim profiles, realism, lotsa flash & mercury glass beads. It will probably change some more in the future – it’s the nature of a fly tier.

Cartoon Caddis

Cartoon Caddis


Hook – # 10 scud hook
Thread – Chartreuse . Danville 70
Rib – 4x mono
Shellback – Vinyl Scudback
Abdomen – caddis green Ice Dub & chartreuse Superbright dubbing blend
Legs – Shredded Spanflex
Thorax – Brown thread
Head – Brown/Copper Tungsten 3 / 3.5 / 4 mm
Weight – 14 wraps 0.25 mm

I started fishing Marcostemum Capense larval imitations in the late nineties when articles of Keith Wellington encouraged a more imitative approach to fly fishing on the Vaal River. Naturally the big caddis imitation was the weighted fly in our truck & trailer rig. The tungsten, lead & slim profile evolved over time as Euro nymphing made bigger impacts on the way we approached our nymphing. This imitation follows the ‘KISS’ principal except for the legs which I added more for myself than the fish. I am of the opinion that as fly tiers we tie patterns as much for ourselves as for the fish.

Morphed Airhead

Morphed Airhead


Hook – # 10 Dry fly hook
Thread – Chartreuse Danville 70
Head And Wing – Thin white packaging foam
Abdomen – Light olive SLF & caddis green Diamond Bright dubbing blend
Wing – Bleached Elk hair
Head – CDC dubbing – light colour
Rib – Tying thread

This pattern started out as and a Gary la Fontaine original, called the Airhead, but over time morphed into its current state. The Airhead was well accepted by fish during the mating flight of Macrostemum Capense , which takes place at dusk, but I also wanted the pattern to be effective during daytime as a searching pattern. During late summer caddis moths end up on the surface as frequently as terrestrials and the pattern draws up fish with surprising regularity. The only problem was that the double layer of foam on the Airhead was just too much for the fish to stomach in the smooth surfaced heads & glides. My first change to the original was to tie it without the bottom foam strip and to dub the head with CDC. This is a similar change also made by Roman Moser to his killer pattern, the Balloon Caddis. I was happy with the patterns performance until reading Charlie Cravens comment on the reasons behind the design of his Mugly Caddis. By adopting Charlie’s messy design for the dubbed abdomen, the pattern can be fished as an emerger (clip the foam wings shorter), adult or spent cripple. The final result is a high-viz pattern with that “O crap, I’m in trouble” impression which fish find so irresistible.

Papa Roach

Papa Roach


Hook – : # 6 wet fly / 1x short hook
Thread – Olive . Danville 70
Abdomen – olive Grizzly Zonker
Thorax/Heart – Olive UV Ice dub
Wingcase – 2 x 2 olive Mallard flank feathers
Eyes – Large black plastic bead chain
Legs – Olive Flexifloss or Spanflex
Head – Dubbing to match abdomen

That’s pretty much the status of this pattern. I guess this is my signature pattern, because of its popularity. I created this unique dragonfly nymph pattern over a 2 year period and published it in the Complete Flyfisherman in August 2004. During my excursions to stillwaters I’ve had good success with my pattern, but it turned out fellow fly fishers has had stupendous success with this fly. The list of 10 lb plus stillwater trout, which have already been taken in different locales during this patterns short existence, is freaky to say the least. The fact that I’m continually turning out a steady number of patterns for fellow fly fishers is confirmation of the fly’s success.
It’s a fast tie as far a dragon nymphs are concerned and a few fly shops in JHB carry them in their fly bins. The commercial ties are completely wrong and based on these examples I’ll lay down a few ground rules regarding this pattern.

1. Use LARGE black plastic bead chain eyes – the BIG head is 1/5 of total body
2. Use standard wet or 1x short # 6 hook to tie the pattern – the fly is basically
an extended body pattern, with the hook acting as a keel. Don’t worry about short
takes – the fly is not meant to be stripped.
3. The thorax /wing case feathers must be tied in a tent like style that sheaths
and control the zonker fur strip – this is the unique style & tying step that sets
the pattern apart.
4. All the material & parts (with the exception of the head’s dubbing) is placed
ABOVE the hook shank, so the shank forms the flat base of the fly.
5. Select a Grizzly (contains guard hairs) Zonker strip with short fur fibers – remember
this is your abdomen already done & dusted.
6. NO, it is not tied in any other size – if you want to fish a smaller pattern, you
can pick from a host of other dragon patterns.
7. ALWAYS fish this pattern connected with a loop knot to the tippet and a slow
8. Remember this pattern look a whole lot better suspended in the water than in
your vise.

Lastly – stick to 10lb fluoro and hold on!


Filed under Trout flies

FlyFishFood at Wasatch Expo and virtual tying classes anyone?

Attention Salt Lake City tyers. The Wasatch Fly Tying and Fly Fishing Expo is coming up on March 29-30. Both Curtis Fry and Clark “Cheech” Pierce of FlyFishFood will be teaching tying workshops, so make sure you register in advance!

Curtis will be demonstrating flies that are effective while fishing lakes in the high country, and Clark will be demonstrating attractor flies of all shapes and sizes (like the pink baboon that is shown here)

Here is the link to register!

Virtual Classes anyone?

Curtis and Clark are thinking about offering virtual classes online like the ones they offer at shows like the Wasatch Expo. Would you be interested? If so, they would like to hear from you so they know if it will be of interest. Head to the FlyFishFood Facebook page or comment on this post to let Curtis and Clark know there is interest in online tying classes.


Filed under Fly fishing show

UV products for fly tyers with Dave McNeese

I recently had the pleasure of speaking to entomologist, fly tyer, and fly fisherman Dave McNeese. When Dave was young he traveled to New York to spend time with fly tyers like Art Flick, Elsie Darbee, Ray Smith, and Roy Steenrod. He has been doing scientific study on fish and insects since 1963. Dave has been instrumental in the study of the effect of UV products for fly tyers and is an expert in dying materials. He’s helped Bill Black of Spirit River tremendously with their UV2® line of fly tying materials. To read more about Spirit River UV2®, read my previous post on FrankenFly.

Dave says the UV factors in wildlife are used to a high degree. The structure of certain insect’s eyes that need pollen from a specific flower are guided by the UV signature within the flower itself. Predatory fish are like predatory birds as both use UV to hunt their prey. For example, the sparrow hawk can spot a mouse down on the ground in broad daylight by seeing the phosphorus in their urine trail they leave behind. In mayflies, females are amazingly protected by creation because they hardly have any UV, while males are often fed upon because of their color. Refraction is a big part of this. Light passes through and it develops other colors.

Jungle cock eyes are highly visible to steelhead because they contain a reflective polish for instance. Dave mentions you could actually replace synthetics in steelhead flies and use UV2® products instead because it will take care of the reflective color the synthetics show off. He has been testing this theory for years. One example is by adding a light colored material like a pinkish orange to the sides of his Hare’s Ear Nymph which has proved to be more effective in catching fish for him than a normal Hare’s Ear.

Some UV materials can be used sparingly, like Spirit River’s UV2® Enhancer. When working with Enhancer it’s best to mix small amounts into some natural dubbing or mix it with natural fur like beaver or otter for example. You have to keep in mind that the entire body of a mayfly does not glow. Only small parts will have a UV reflective aspect to them. This is why you should only need a small amount mixed in instead of using only the UV2® Enhancer by itself. Spirit River does have their own UV2® dubbing mixes that have a mix of 15 to 30% UV2® already in them.

Dave emphasizes that trout have incredible eye sight. Their eye sight is several times greater than a human’s. As a trout moves closer to its prey their color spectrum increases. This is good information to keep in mind when designing your flies.

Hopefully this gives you a basic idea of reflective UV in nature. This is the reason you see large lure companies developing more types of UV lures because they hire their own scientists to study and learn this information and relay that information when producing new enhanced products to catch fish. There is a world out there we don’t fully understand. If you’re not a scientist it’s difficult to obtain the information. Dave is lucky to be in contact with the leading entomologist at Oregon State University, Dr. Paul Hammond, who provides his expertise.

We are just now starting to scratch the surface in the fly fishing world with UV products and like “colors” it will take years of experimentation to learn what works and what doesn’t. It’s exciting to be in the beginning stages of this new development and I’m looking forward to where this might take us in the future.


Filed under UV