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Andrew Grillos Interview!


Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the world of fly fishing?

Growing up in Colorado, I always loved recreating in the outdoors. However, for some reason fishing never really clicked with me until I found fly fishing. I think fishing with a worm and bobber was just too boring for a little kid whereas fly fishing was so active and intriguing. I was hooked the first time I tried to cast a fly rod.

Did you have a mentor of any kind? Someone that you learned a lot from or was inspired by when fly fishing or fly tying?

My stepdad and I definitely learned to fly fish together. It was pretty much trial by fire for us, we’d go out and catch the bushes, bullwhip our flies off, and generally struggle. Somehow every time we went out we had fun and we slowly began to figure things out and eventually we experienced a little success! Our local fly shop was the St. Vrain Angler, in Westminster, Colorado and I recall getting a great deal of help and advice from the shop’s manager, Mike Briscoe. As any good fly shop employee should, he was always a great source of helpful info whether it was fishing or tying. I recall running into him when I was working at the Simms booth at the ISE show in Denver in maybe 2009 and we talked about all the things I had done over the something like 15 years since I had last seen him. It was great catching up with someone that was super helpful to a random kid that was obsessed with fly fishing at a young age. I also have to say I’ve never met Scott Sanchez but I remember seeing some fly articles of his from the 90’s and they were definitely an inspiration to me at a young age. I started tying foam dries over 20 years ago and his flies were some of my earliest foam fly inspirations.

What species do you fish for most often these days?

I’m pretty happy fishing for most anything that swims! Living in Bozeman is great as we’ve got so many great and diverse trout fisheries within an hour or two of home. I spend a lot of time on bigger water swinging flies for trout, I really enjoy the simplicity of walking out to the river with a spey rod and a Ziploc bag with a few flies in it. It’s definitely the opposite of a day of more traditional trout fishing where I’ve got my waist pack with way too many fly boxes. Of course I love steelhead fishing, whether it’s summer fish or winter fish. It’s a bit more of a production to chase steelhead since I moved away from the Pacific Northwest, however I still manage a few trips a year! I also love the visual aspect of carp fishing. When things get super hot in Montana in July and August we spend a fair amount of time chasing carp as well. It’s always fun when you can sight fish for bigger than average fish!

What would you say to other fly fisherman out there that aspire to be a guide?

A few years ago a young guy made contact with me through my website asking that very question. I gave him my best advice and have kept in touch with him ever since. He seems to be a well respected guide and is guiding year round now, splitting his time in the Northern hemisphere and Southern hemisphere. I do feel like he took my advice to heart and has done well for himself. As I recall the advice I gave him was to just focus on doing the best job you can at showing people a good time in the outdoors. Don’t focus on social media so much, there are way too many Insta-pros out there these days whereas the real guides are getting shit done day in and day out, head down, just working and showing their people a good day. Integrity and a good reputation are earned, not made on Facebook. Similarly, a big repeat client base is earned through hard work and consistency on the water, not time spent pushing yourself on the world. I felt like keeping more to yourself and doing a good job for your clients, outfitters, and other river users goes much further than just hyping yourself on social media.

What makes a good client to guide in your book?

Anyone with a positive attitude and realistic expectations was pretty much all I asked for. Whether it was a day with a total beginner chasing tiny trout in a small stream or a day spent swinging flies for winter steelhead, attitude and expectations are everything. If they were my own clients I always made sure to set expectations properly for our day from the get-go. The first year I was guiding in the Seattle area I was taking some trips for a Seattle fly fishing outfitter that set client expectations insanely high just to get them booked and take their money. It was not a good seutp and didn’t last…. It made life so much more difficult for me and made for generally unhappy anglers. Once he had passed them on to me I was stuck with people that were surprised that we weren’t going to catch multiple winter steelhead on their first day with a spey rod or I had to tell them that a good day in Puget Sound was catching a dozen sea run cutthroats that average 10 inches, not a few dozen sea run cutthroats averaging 16 inches and catching a few over 20! Again, attitude and realistic expectations make or break a day of guided fishing.

Would you describe a couple of your rod setups for the species you are most commonly fishing for? For example, the size and type of fly rod, line, and leader you use?

For a regular day of trout fishing here in MT I’m usually fishing a Scott Radian, 4wt or 6wt depending on where and what I’m doing. I love the 4wt for most dry fly or dry and dropper fishing. I usually fish a 6wt if I’m going to be nymphing or throwing streamers most of the day. For carp fishing I like the Scott Meridian 6wt. It’s got the power and accuracy to hit a target a long ways out if need be. As far as spey rods go I’ve got a bit of a problem, I have something like 20 spey rods, all Scotts, from 4wts to 9wts. I’m pretty well covered from swinging soft hackles for trout on the Madison to fishing for winter steelhead or kings in the NW. I love old and interesting reels as much as I like taking a brand new Hatch out of the box as well. If I need a new, high performance reel, I usually reach for one of my Hatches, however I’ve got some Ari T Hart reels, some old Hardys, and some other odds and ends that see regular use too. Also, I have to say my favorite trout reels of all time are my Ross San Miguel 3s. They’re just such a timeless, good looking, and smooth performing reel.

Could you describe some of the fly patterns you have available commercially?

Well, the Hippie Stomper is my most widely known fly pattern. Umpqua is currently offering 11 different colors of hippie stomper in sizes 8-18. It’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that I came up with a fly that’s pretty much become a standard in most fly shops. Unfortunately, it’s done so well there are at least 3 or 4 fly companies that have been selling Hippie Stomper knock offs at this point. As frustrating as it is knowing that they’re blatantly ripping off my fly that is officially produced through Umpqua, it’s more frustrating seeing how poorly these companies’ copies are tied. -Which I guess is a good thing in a way, most dealers know the originals are from Umpqua and buying the terrible quality knock offs is usually a mistake dealers only make once.

I’ve got a number of other flies that Umpqua produces, my El Camino stonefly is one of my favorite stone dries that I’ve come up with. It sits lower in the water but is still easy to see and fishes really well. My 64 Impala is a similiarly styled stonefly, only supersized to match the salmonflies on most Western rivers. I’ve got a mouse pattern that I dialed in while guiding in Alaska, the Bob Gnarly. It’s a nearly indestructible mouse that incorporates a styrofoam strike indicator as its core. My Laser Pointer is a dry fly that utilizes angel hair for the indicator on it, rather than some sort of neon yarn. It sparkles from far away, so it remains visible even though it’s a mostly dark/black dry fly. My Heavy Metal Worm is the combination of two really dirty trout flies, the wire worm and the rubber band worm. It’s sparse and heavy, so it gets down without much additional weight.

What are your two newest flies that are available commercially?

I had a good year with fly submissions in 2016, I’ve got 4 or 5 new patterns coming out for 2017. My Captain Crunch is a fly I tie mainly for trout spey however it’s proven itself for summer steelhead as well. It’s a killer sculpin-inspired mashup of a muddler, intruder, and flash fly. Also, there are few things more fun than having a steelhead boil on a waking/skating fly, and Umpqua’s started producing my Boilermaker, which is basically a waking green butt skunk. I’ve got a foamy, buggy, caddis-y guy that’s been really effective for me, the Party Animal. I also offered my El Camino stonefly in a Skwala color combo. They’re an interesting hatch that I never really saw until I moved from Colorado to the NW. The skwala hatch is a pretty big deal because it’s an early season hatch, typically around March, and it’s a great way to start the year out fishing size 10/12 dry flies. I was surprised to see how well the trout reacted to skwalas in the Yakima River in Washington for the first time. Beyond the Yakima, there are as a few other Idaho and Montana rivers that have notable skwala hatches as well.

Do you have any new flies you are currently working on?

Always! I’m constantly thinking of fly ideas and how to tweak other flies to make them better. I’ve got a really cool low-riding mayfly profiled guy already done and lined up for Umpqua’s 2018 offerings. I’ve been dialing in a number of different general nymph patterns I’ve been messing with for a few years. I was inspired by a couple spinner falls I fished two summers ago, so I’ve got a spinner pattern in the works. Of course I’m always messing with summer and winter steelhead flies just because they’re so fun to tie. They’re a little bit more of a niche market, but Umpqua’s currently got a few of mine in for review that I think are winners.

What is your process like when designing a new fly?

I’m usually trying to solve a problematic fishing situation that I might encounter or an angler might have while fishing. Most of my flies are intended on being as user-friendly as possible, whether it’s durability, floatability, or visibility, those are the three key factors that I keep in mind when tying dry flies. I usually will have an idea so it goes in my phone’s “fly ideas” list that I’m constantly updating. I’ll then tie a few initial flies to try to get the fly to look how I think it should. At this point I’ll go out and fish the fly and see if it does what I want. From there I’ll continue to tweak the pattern until I’m really happy with the fly’s performance and when I don’t think I can make the fly any better. I’m also inspired by materials rather than just fishing situations. I’ll see some material that I’m not super familiar with and I’ll instantly think of how I can use it.

Can you tell us about your time in Washington State chasing steelhead?

Steelhead are a fun and interesting fish to pursue for sure. Regarding winter steelhead, they’re super cool because you can potentially be fishing to a big, hot fish that’s never seen a fly before. Summer steelhead are more trouty in my opinion, they will move further to inspect a fly, they’ll hit a waking fly on the surface, and they can track surprisingly small swung flies. I’ve caught summer steelhead swinging tiny size 12 and 14 hairwings in pretty decent current. A big pet peeve of mine is hearing steelhead referred to as unicorns. There’s nothing magical about them! There’s just not that many of them around so crossing paths with them is a less frequent occurence! Being patient and present is the biggest key to steelhead fishing I think. They are a low numbers fish in general, it’s not like a day of trout fishing where you might be fishing over hundreds of trout. Depending on the river and the timing you might cross paths with one or two steelhead in a days fishing. Also, there are so many different ways to fish for them and I really don’t think one way is better than the other as long as the fish and the resource is treated with respect. I prefer fishing for steelhead with a swung fly whether it’s a summer run on a skater casting a long belly line, or a winter steelhead on a short Skagit head and a big nasty fly. However, I also enjoyed fishing a float and beads/yarn and spoons for them while in the NW. I learned so much more about the fish and where to find them by fishing gear. I think some of the most closed minded and least effective steelhead anglers on the river are usually the most uppity “swing-only” guys who have never gear fished and have never really tried to learn where the fish hold in any given situation.

What are some of the things you would think about when designing a fly for steelhead specifically?

Castability, profile, and movement are the key factors to me when tying a winter steelhead fly. It’s easy to tie a fly with a big profile, look at modern musky flies. They’re insane! What’s tricky about winter steelhead flies is tying a fly that will hold a decent 3-5 inch long profile in the water, will still sink quickly, and will be easy to cast. Basically going for the illusion of bulk.

Summer steelhead flies are kind of the opposite to me, small flies that are elegant and fun to tie and have color combos that are aesthetically pleasing. I love tying perfect little hairwings, there’s something really pleasing about tying what I think is a perfectly proportioned fly while keeping in mind that less is more.

If a fly tier was trying to design a skater for steelhead, how would that differ from say, a popper for bass?

Well, castability is the first difference that comes to mind. I think a steelhead would totally hit a bass popper waking across a greasy tailout, but it’s a matter of casting it out there and presenting it. I do believe steelhead are curious fish by nature and they inspect things by grabbing them with their mouths.

Could you describe one or two of your most memorable fish that you have caught?

How about highs and lows?

On a recent trip to the NW I caught what I’ve gotta say is my favorite winter steelhead I’ve ever caught. I’ve been lucky enough to have caught some steelhead bigger, but the hen I landed on my trip in January was just the most perfect specimen I’ve ever touched. It was maybe a day or two out of the salt with clear fins and basically zero color. It was just such a fun fight and special experience on one of my favorite rivers in the world. It came on a big cast in one of my favorite runs in the river. Relatively early in the swing I got a hard grab and the fish instantly did a huge cartwheel a few feet out of the water. Then is was warp speed into the backing, multiple long runs back and forth, and then finally dogged it out in close for maybe 5 minutes before I was able to tail her.

Another one of my most memorable fish was (unfortunately) caught by the worst person I ever guided in my 13 year career. The guy was just a horrible, unhappy, mean guy. I probably have enough from 6 days with him in Chile to write a book on how not to act at a remote fishing lodge… Anyway, we were fishing a fairly isolated canyon section of a river in Chile and I had my anglers casting streamers on sink tips. The guy in the front of the boat starts yelling about something so I look and there’s a huge fish following his streamer maybe 50 feet out. The fish followed his fly for at least 20 feet and then casually ate. Crazy guy actually kept cool and let it eat, hooked it well, and we landed a totally perfect 28” hook jawed brown. That might be one of the most perfect trout I’ve ever seen.

Do you have any advice for new fly tiers out there?

Focus on the basics first. Pay attention to proportions. Try not to make a bunch of unnecessary thread wraps, it just adds bulk and makes for a sloppy fly. As tough as it is, don’t crowd the eye of the hook. Tie lots of basic, standard flies and try to get them to look as good as the commercially tied ones at the fly shop. That practice will pay off more than anything. Admittedly, I spend too much time browsing flies on instagram and I just see so much garbage on there because people try to tie things that are well above their skill set. Don’t get me wrong, please push yourself, but I see too many flies that are tied lacking basic fundamentals that would clean up an otherwise terrible looking fly.

Do you have anything else at all you would like to add?

I’m really thankful to have made my living taking people fishing all over the world for as long as I did. I’m no longer guiding however I still tie flies like a maniac and I enjoy my time on the water now more than ever!

Thanks for the interest Paul!

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Filed under Interview, Panfish, Steelhead

Brita Fordice Interview!

brita
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got into the world of fly fishing?

I learned from my dad and grandfather when I was very young.   I grew up with a cabin we spent most weekends at on the Stillaguamish river in Washington state.  I learned to fly fish at the age of 8, and I never truly learned to throw a spinning rod until 2016…..    Spinning rods scared me. Too easy to knot up.

Did you have a mentor of any kind? Someone that you learned a lot from or was inspired by when fly fishing or fly tying?

I wouldn’t say I necessarily had a mentor, however one person that I highly respect that continues to challenge me in my fly tying even from a few states away is my old work colleague Andrew Grillos.  He is also the single best fly naming person I’ve ever met.

How long have you been tying flies?

I taught myself at ten.

What species do you fish for most often these days?

Sea Run Cutthroat and Salmon in Puget Sound

Searun Cutthroat

Sea Run Cutthroat

Would you describe a couple of your rod setups? For example, the size and type of fly rod, line, and leader you use?

I use a Sage 690 X rod with a RIO Coastal Quickshooter intermediate fly line or a RIO Outbound with a 5-10’ versileader and a 4 foot section of 10lb fluorocarbon tippet.

Have you designed your own fly patterns?

Yes.  All of the flies on my Instagram I’ve created.  I have specific Umpqua flies that are copyrighted.

What is your process like when designing a new fly?

There aren’t many things I will admit I am good at. And being self-taught with no formal casting instruction for 25 years I am by no means a perfect fly caster….   But the one thing that has always come very easy to me is tying, and I’ve worked hard at it. There are few baitfish in the world that I can’t look at the fish and duplicate it in a fly form. I have never used recipes, and it bores me to try to follow a recipe. I don’t cook well either for that reason 😉   It challenges me daily to find fish to recreate, and I love the physics involved in order to enable it to ride correctly in the water.

Saltwater Squid

Saltwater Squid

What are some of the things you are thinking about when designing a fly for steelhead specifically? 

“Texture and colors” are what I usually like to consider…  In that I always want lots of movement in the water, and different forms of movement.    I also want different colors that compliment the pattern, yet also give a “depth” to the fly pattern.

What type of fly tying vise do you use?

Beat up old Renzetti Traveler….  One day I’ll upgrade, but this vise won’t die and I love it.

Could you describe a couple of your most memorable fish that you have caught?

I generally look back on certain fish as being memorable not because of the fish necessarily, but because of the company too.   One fish was my Clearwater steelhead hooked on a skated muddler.   The fish wasn’t that great, but the whole weekend was amazing fishing with my friend and guide Brian Styskal.

Steelhead on Skated Muddler

Steelhead on Skated Muddler

I read that you are an encyclopedia of fly tying materials of classic and modern flies. Can you explain a little about this?

I joke with people that I’m a plethora of useless knowledge…   I spent decades ordering tying materials for the fly shop I worked at.    We were and still are the most eager shop I’ve ever encountered to special order tying materials for customers, which required me to memorize every catalog that came through over the years. I can look at virtually any synthetic and most natural tying material and tell you exactly what it is. I used to have people bring in boxes of materials consistently for me to look over and label what the fur and feathers were.

Do you still fish any classic flies?

Yes.   Most are renditions of classics and my own take on them. I love Alec Jacksons Spade fly, the Orange Heron, and Dec Hogans versions of the Akroyd fly. I tie a large number of Dee flies for my own use as well.

Can you explain a little about what spey fishing is for those that do not know? 

In general, it is a technique for casting that originally was developed on the river Spey with heavy rods that were upwards of 20 feet initially. It utilizes a water load as opposed to false casting in the air like a single hand rod. Spey casting allows an angler to cast a great distance with little back casting room, and allows more control over the speed of the swing of the fly.

Custom Bronze and Blue Spey Fly tied by Brita

Custom Bronze and Blue Spey Fly tied by Brita

I notice you tie various flatwing flies. Could you explain what that is?

This is a technique for tying that was developed and created by the legendary Kenney Abrames for stripers on the east coast. It is not one fly specifically, but a technique and fishing method. There is nothing I have ever found that fishes the way a correctly tied flatwing fishes. Many claim to tie flatwings… But there is a method to the madness, and without the correct order and specifically placed materials it just isn’t a flatwing.

traditional flatwing

traditional flatwing

Thank you for doing this interview for FrankenFly Brita, it was a pleasure!

Brita is a fly fishing guide at The Avid Angler in Washington. She also teaches classes there and works for Far Bank(Sage Rods) full time during the week. Be sure to look her up for your next trip to Washington!

Flatwing Sand Shrimp

Flatwing Sand Shrimp

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Filed under Fly Fishing, Foam, Interview, Poppers, Realistic, Saltwater, Steelhead, Streamers

Matt Grajewski interview!

Matt Grajewski

Matt Grajewski

Could you explain how you got started fly fishing and fly tying?

As a kid, my Dad would break out a fly rod and popper later in the evening to fish for bass. I still remember those evenings in the canoe, watching the popper and hoping a bass would eat it. That was the first fly fishing memory for my brothers and I, and probably why we have always gravitated toward making a fish chase down a fly.

My older brother, Eric, asked for a fly tying kit when we were young. I remember tying flies and ice fishing jigs. That’s where it all started. Little did we know back then what it would grow into.

Some time ago you partnered with Nick Granato to form Fly Obsession. Could you explain what Fly Obsession is and how that all got started?

Nick and I have always had a similar brain when it comes to tying and fishing. After a number of conversations, we decided to join forces. The goal was to write about the things we talked about. It’s not a “Top 10 nymphs for trout” or “How to rig an indicator” type of fly fishing content. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It just wasn’t the things we liked to do and talk about. So we talk about the things we love and hope one or two people dig it.
Visit at this link: flyobsession.com

Do you have any mentors that you look up to?

It may be cliche, but it really is my family. I learned more from my Dad than I will ever realize. I learned many lessons about life through our time in the outdoors. My parents both made a lot of sacrifices so that we could enjoy the outdoors. My Mom always fished and hunted hard, even when things didn’t go her way. Eric fishes harder than anyone I know and never gives up. My younger brother, Mark, is always willing to try something new. All of those experiences taught me a lot about fish, and life.

A few years ago there was a short film about you and your brothers called The Brothers Brown created by Third Year Fly Fisher. What do you remember most about that experience?

It was a lot of fun working on that film, and sharing all of the stories and memories with RT. A lot of which was off camera. The thing I’ll probably remember most was Eric’s bottom of the ninth fish. He had lost a couple of big fish during the filming, and we all really wanted him to land one of those for the film. We decided to stay and fish one more day and do a short float. We didn’t have anyone to row another boat so we all piled into one. It was crowded, but we made it work. Eric lost a giant early in the day. It was just bad luck. You can hear the silence on the film when that fish comes off. Finally, at the last good section of the float, he hooks a good fish. After a few tense moments, the fish makes it into the net. We have definitely caught a lot of trout bigger, but that is a fish I’ll never forget. You can see the excitement in the film after we land that fish.
Visit at this link: Third Year Fly Fisher

Do you still have a special place in your heart for the Au Sable River?

Absolutely, and always will. My love of trout fishing was born in the UP, but it was solidified on the big waters of the Au Sable. My parents bought that cabin in 1985, and we spent a lot of time on that water since. I am now passing my affection for that river onto my kids. It is really cool to watch them experience the river. Probably much like it was for my parents to share it with my siblings and I.

What species of fish do you like to fish for most often?

These days, that’s an easy one. Muskie. Particularly, lake muskies. I have fished for a lot of different freshwater species, and I enjoy all of them. But, there is nothing like muskie for me. I love tying big flies. I love the game of locating them each time out. I love how they eat a fly with bad intentions. Mostly, I love that they do whatever the hell they want. I respect that.

matt2

In your opinion, what makes a good muskie fly?

There are a couple vital elements a muskie fly needs, in my opinion. It must have triggering movement. I don’t want a fly that comes straight back to the boat. I want a fly that glides to the side, or drops down. It also can’t be hard to cast. Muskie fly fishing isn’t as physically demanding as it’s made out to be. Big streamer trout fishing is definitely harder on you. But, if you are casting a fly that is unnecessarily difficult to cast AND retrieve, you will wear yourself out. The biggest mistake I see with big flies is they have too much material. They become harder to cast, harder to retrieve, and harder to manipulate. I try not to make it harder on myself than I need to.

Do you have some tips you could give to tiers out there who want to begin tying streamers for muskie?

Achieve the profile you want, with the least amount of materials. There are a lot of great natural and synthetic materials available today. Materials that hold a good profile, but also shed water easily. Many of these do not have to be packed tightly on a hook to hold a profile. Blane Chocklett’s T-bone is a great example of that.

How is tying a fly for muskie different from tying a fly for big brown trout?

With big brown streamers, every material is in play. With muskie flies, I mostly stay away from materials that retain water or collapse easily. Otherwise, the basis is the same. Achieve the desired profile, without extra material. Your arm will thank you later.

What are your go-to streamers for muskie?

Yard Sale is my favorite and has produced more fish for me than any other fly. Jumpin’ Jack Flash is creeping up quickly, and I’ll always have some classic bucktail flies in my box. Tough to beat the beauty and productivity of a big bucktail fly for muskie.

Yard Sale

Yard Sale

What thread do you primarily use on your muskie flies?

GSP in 210 and 280. I go through a lot of it.

Is there a species that you haven’t caught, that you would like to attempt to catch one day?

I’ve always wanted to fish for Stripers, especially on the upper east coast. I hope to make that happen one day.

Do you tie commercially or sell your flies in some way?

I wouldn’t say I tie commercially, but I do small custom orders of big trout streamers and muskie flies. I cannot tie two flies that look the same. It’s just not in my nature. There are guys like Eli Berant, Rich Strolis, and Mike Schmidt that are your dudes if you want volume. Those guys can tie custom orders as good as anyone, but they also turn out flies in numbers with the best of them.

What are some of your favorite fly patterns to tie?

The Devil Dancer is my favorite pattern to tie. I love the classic bucktail and hackle flies, and it’s my spin on those that incorporates two modern materials. So they have some of the classic look, with the flash and creativity of modern flies. A good mix of both. Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Nut Butters are up there as well.

Devil Dancer

Devil Dancer

How many patterns have you designed yourself?

Not really sure as it’s tough to really lay claim on a design these days. So much of today’s modern streamer tying is a mix of other patterns. Especially with how many are posted on the internet. Back in the day, you saw a fly in a shop, or a new material that inspired you. Nowadays, there is inspiration everywhere and a shit ton of great tyers out there. For the creative fly tyer, I’m not sure there has been a better time to be alive.

Do you have any new patterns you are working on at the moment?

Always. My brain never stops. I recently got out of bed at 1 am to tie a fly that was in my head. I like the way it swims and some fish have shown some interest, but it needs more time in the water and fish feedback for me to be sold on it. You can’t beat fish feedback when testing a new idea.

new fly idea from Matt

new fly idea from Matt

Could you describe some of your main rigs you use when you go fishing, including rod, reel, and line?

Rods are pretty simple. 10 and 11 weights are my go-to rods. I get asked about which brand/model of rods a lot. My answer is they all catch fish. Find one that fits your stroke and price range, and that’s the rod you want. There is no one best rod.

As far as lines, I’ve used a lot and probably liked the Scientific Anglers Wet Tip Express the best. I think the line is the most important piece of the rig. Haven’t tried the Sonar yet. I also like the Airflo Sniper. My preference is a sink tip in the 25′-27′ range with a floating running line. I don’t like the coating in the intermediate running lines. They are not great in cold weather, and tougher to handle because they are usually smaller in diameter. That is a particularly tough on the those cold November and December days in Michigan.

Reels are even easier than rods. Anything that holds line. If you can get your hands on one that picks up line easily, that can help, but not necessary. A lot of fish are never put on the reel. The drag doesn’t matter.

Is there anything at all you would like to add?

There is a lot of division amongst fly anglers these days. It would be cool to see less of that. So many people fighting for internet fame, and/or bashing others. There used to be more of a camaraderie amongst fly anglers, and I would like to see that regardless of technique. I saw a shop recently selling decals bashing spin fishing. That stuff bums me out. Lets unite instead of fighting and make sure we continue to get the youth involved in the sport. That’s my two cents.

Thanks Matt!

Jumpin’ Jack Flash

Nut Butters

Nut Butters

Devil Dancer

Devil Dancer

Yard Sale

Yard Sale

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Filed under Interview, Muskie

Hopper Juan Ramirez interview!

Arkansas River Tailwater in Pueblo

Arkansas River Tailwater in Pueblo

Juan, for those who are not familiar with you, could you tell us a little about your fly fishing background and how you became interested in fly tying?

When I was in the 4th grade, we had an overnight camping trip at a local park which had a pond at it.  That was the first time I ever fished.  I guess you could say that I was hooked.  After working to get a “pole”, I tried to fish as much as possible.  Growing up on the Plains, just west of the Sangre de Christo Mountains in Northeastern New Mexico, my local fishing areas were the warm and muddy waters which held catfish and not the trout that were further upstream in the mountains.  I fished as much as I could.  I went through a few outfits that first year and I am still trading out rods and reels to this day.  I learned, very early, the lesson of catch and release.  After a summer of catching and keeping all the fish I could, there were very few fish left.  There were days where I didn’t catch anything.  From that summer on, I always released most of my fish.  After moving on to pike and trout at a local lake, I found bass in the same lake.  Man that was awesome!  I was still throwing minnows and spinners, but it was still fun.  After finishing high school, I ended up in Durango, Colorado.  Not a bad place to be if you fished.   At the time, I didn’t know how to fish a river, although a few years before I did fish the Animas River right in town and caught fish on spinners and that may have had something to do with the decision to go to college there.  Towards the end of my college years, I was pretty good at the throwing spinner thing and had some friends that fly fished.  I got a quick casting lesson and never looked back.  I moved back to New Mexico and started fishing the local streams with both spinners and flies.  Soon the spinning rod was staying home.  I learned how to fish the local lakes and was 1/16th of an ounce off of the NM state record for yellow perch. I guess I should have stopped fishing and got that thing weighed sooner rather than later.

Tying flies came naturally after getting into fly fishing.  I was mentored by a great fly fisherman and tier.  I made leaps and bounds with both tying and fishing.  Soon, I was guiding on the Cimarron River and learning a ton about the industry.  While in NM, I built a great base for my next adventure.  A move to Colorado Springs in 2006 placed me near some great rivers.  The South Platte River and the Arkansas River were nearby.  These 2 rivers have taught me a lot over the years.  Also being exposed to and able to tie with some of the world’s great tiers taught me what it took to be good at something.  Currently, I am guide for Anglers Covey in Colorado Springs, a member of the design team with Montana Fly Company, on the Pro staff of Regal Vises and on the Pro Staff of Deer Creek Flies based in the UK.  Throughout all of this, I have had the blessing of having an amazing wife who may never understand my craziness, but continues to put up with it.

What can you tell us about your home rivers, the South Platte and the Arkansas River? Are there particular hatches on these two rivers that are more productive than others?

Arkansas River

Arkansas River

The Arkansas River is my favorite.  It’s  a freestone and has many miles of public water.  It’s about an hour from Colorado Springs, but most of it is at least an hour and a half or more.  In the spring, it wakes up with BWO hatches as well as caddis and stonefly nymphs moving around.  Around April, things get really exciting as the bugs are really going.  By May, it’s still going strong and only getting better.  After run-off hits in mid-May, things settle down with great streamer and attractor fishing all the way into fall.  Fall brings back the BWOs and streamer time.  It’s such a great river; I just don’t have enough time to spend on it.  The Ark gets a lot of attention for the caddis hatch, but the BWO hatches are, in my opinion, much better and more consistent. Plus, they happen twice a year!

Cheeseman Canyon

Cheeseman Canyon

The South Platte River is unique.  West of Colorado Springs, there are about 9 stretches of water to fish, as well as 3 reservoirs to fish.  Stretches include the “Dream Stream”, 11 Mile Canyon, Cheeseman Canyon and Deckers.  Each one of these is world class and will teach you a lot.  There is open meadow water, canyon pocket water and spring creek like flats.  The best hatch here is the trico spinner fall.  It happens on all 4 stretches of the river.  I think 11-Mile Canyon has the best spinner falls though.  The fish really love eating the spinners and they happen from late June all the way through October.  In the summer, I’ve really started liking the PMD hatch.  It’s a pretty consistent hatch that happens after the spinner falls during the summer and I have found the fish will continue eating throughout the day, eating lots of PMD emergers.  The BWO hatches are great as well.  They are super small though.  Right now, they are about a size 24-26.  I love fishing emergers before and during the hatch.  Some fish will only eat nymphs and emergers as to not have to eat off the surface.

The other section of water that is great is the Pueblo Tailwater.  Several years ago they invested some time and money in the Arkansas River that runs below Pueblo Reservoir and through the City of Pueblo.  It has paid off as this is a great piece of water during the fall and winter.  Last year was fantastic during the summer and this year had its moments as well.  It holds some really nice fish and as long as the flows are steady, the fishing is usually great.

How did you get the nickname Hopper Juan?

When I first moved to Colorado Springs, I made the rounds in the local shops trying to fit in.  I did some things here and there and some people started to remember me and that was around the same time that I was pushing the hopper pattern and the blog.  Before I knew it, people were calling me Hopper Juan, the name of my pattern and my blog.  It has stuck and while there are not a ton of people that call me that, some still do.  I enjoy it and appreciate it.

The  Hopper Juan

The Hopper Juan

What are some of the best ways to fish a hopper?

I often start fishing the hopper in early spring.  I know that there are no hoppers out in February, but that is not what I am expecting.  On the Arkansas River above Canon City, CO, the water is low and clear in early spring.  In late February, the BWO nymphs are numerous and are just starting to become a more important food source for the fish.  After eating mostly midges during the winter, the sight of drifting baetis nymphs must be a sight. I still like to use a nymph rig for the deep dredging of stoneflies and midge larva, but as soon as there is a temperature rise and fish become more active, I like to fish with a dry/dropper.  The fish may move up to feed on drifting BWO nymphs in the riffles and adding a heavy dropper such as a Copper John or a stonefly nymph followed by a Randy’s Baetis or a 719 Baetis nymph may just be the ticket.  I can fish closer and have more control over my flies than a nymph rig.  Also, fish may be nosed up in warmer, shallower water picking off a few bugs in about 6” of water.  By putting a dry/dropper rig over those fish, you have a less chance of spooking them.  I would rather use a smaller caddis or mayfly dry at that point, but if you are already rigged up and only have one rod with you, then chances are that you don’t want to change out and chances are that you might get that fish to eat one of your bugs.

As early spring moves into late spring and early summer, I can still use the same rig to target fish eating BWOs and caddis nymphs. Over the last few years, I have hit more days where the fish were keyed into the BWO emergence and not the duns.  This is usually due to the fact that the bugs are out and so is the sun.  The fish can eat right below the surface without having to expose themselves up higher in the water column.   As the fish move into the upper third of the water column, you can see them feeding on nymphs and emergers, but they are too high to use a nymph rig and to deep to use a small dry like a Parachute Adams with a dropper that will not get down deep enough to them.  This is where I like a hopper on top followed by a tungsten dropper like a Glossy Back or a 2 Bit Hooker to get down in front of their faces.  I then follow that with a more impressionistic pattern like an RS2 or a Foam Back Emerger.  This set up works great and adjustments can be made by the length of your dropper tippet.

ATTHNLN4

In the early summer, when runoff has the flows higher, there is a time and place for the same set up.  When the South Platte is running higher than normal, a lot of those fish retreat to the banks where they can still eat without having to exert too much energy.  This means the pocket water that has been created by the higher flows and close to the banks.  Again, a hopper pattern followed by a heavy stonefly or heavy mayfly pattern thrown up against the bank where a 6”wide holding slot holds a fish can mean the difference between a couple fish and a couple of good fish.  I know a spot near Deckers that has always held a nice fish, up against a rock, where only a rig such as this one has been able to get the fish to eat.  The fly needs to get in front of their face in order for them to eat.  If they don’t see the dropper, they won’t eat it.  As the water starts to drop, the fish settle down into a more normal summer routine.  On the S. Platte, flows can move up and down like the stock market.  Fish move according to these ups and downs.  When flows are more stable, fish are more stable.  I like to fish those spots that most people miss because they are fishing a nymph rig.  Those slots behind small rocks are everywhere in the summer and the fish are in there.  The beautiful seams become more defined and knee-deep water is everywhere.  I can target those fish with the dropper; again making sure it is heavy enough to drop in front of the fish and matches something they are eating.  I love those slots about 6” wide and knee-deep.  I have pulled some really nice fish out of those places when a nymph rig would have been too much.  A dry/dropper rig is more precise and I have more control over it in those situations than a nymph rig.  Also, how many times have you seen a fish feeding in the hydraulic cushion in front of a rock?  The one time I tried to use a nymph rig, I ended up having the flies go one way around the rock and the indicator going the other way.  After breaking off the rig, losing everything and scaring off the fish, I decided never to try that again.

By late summer and early fall, I have already targeted the BWOs, Caddis, Stoneflies and PMDs with this set up.  The Hopper Juan was designed as a hopper and while it is not the answer for everything and doesn’t exactly look like a hopper, it makes a fine imitation.  As many of you know, here in Colorado and more specifically, the S. Platte, it’s not known as a huge hopper river.  Sure they are around and fish eat them, but it’s not like fishing in a Montana meadow stream.  I didn’t specifically design this pattern for a particular stretch of water.  I designed it to work as more of a problem solver pattern. Those situations I mentioned above led me to find a pattern that floated well and caught fish and held up well after a few fish.  While I do love plopping this pattern on the water and hoping for a fish to smash it, generally that is not the case.  I enjoy watching it float along perfectly on the water’s surface, only to be jerked down by a fish eating the offering below the surface.  Either way, as long as there is some action and fish are landed and released everything in my world is right.  The really good days are when you only fish the hopper and a dropper is not needed.

Juan's Golden iStone

Juan’s Golden iStone

This sometimes happens earlier in the season when fish are keyed into the Golden Stoneflies.  Again, more often than not, they like to eat the bug below rather than bug on the surface.

As fall gives way to colder water and lower flows, this set up again proves its worth by being able to hit the nook and crannies where fish are feeding.  Usually at this time fish are on the feed before spawning and winter.  Big nasty streamers are great fun during this time and are effective.  By late fall, the hopper/dropper set up is replaced by the standard nymph rig for fishing the deeper water where the fish are waiting for the baetis nymphs to start drifting again and the cycle begins again.

While I prefer to use a Hopper Juan for this style of fishing, please don’t think that this is the only way to fish it.  I generally use a size 8 to hold up most of my droppers.  When I tie the flies, I always finish it with a good waterproofing material such as Water Shed.  I cannot stress how important I think this is.  While foam floats great, once you put everything together; foam, elk hair, wing material, thread and a water absorbent antron wing, it tends to take on water and sink.  By adding a waterproofing agent, along with some floatant, it will repel water and keep on floating for a long time.  Without a good waterproofing, it tends to sink in rough water or if you have too much weight off the back end of it.  Again, you can use any fly you like to use in this system.  I often use an Amy’s Ant, a Chubby Chernobyl, a Club Sandwich or a Fat Albert in place of the Hopper Juan.  When fishing in smaller streams, I often downsize my offerings.  A size 10 or 12 works better and is better suited for the smaller fish.  I also like to use a Juanna Be Hopper Juan which will hold up a small tungsten dropper and allows the small Cutts and Brookies to get it in their mouth.

Whatever fly patterns you choose to use and whatever style of fishing you choose to do, just remember to have fun.  It’s the reason why we tie and why we spend time standing in a river waving a stick.

Could you list your own hopper fly patterns?

The Hollywood Hopper

The Hollywood Hopper

I currently tie 2 of my creations along with other patterns created by others.  The Hopper Juan was created in 2007 and the Hollywood Hopper has been around since 2008.  Both patterns were tied and fished with before they were revealed to others.  Before the blog world and Facebook, it wasn’t too hard to keep things quite.  With social media, a new fly pattern can become quite popular in a matter of days. Once I placed these online, things took off.

The Hopper Juan was created to solve a problem.  It was tied as a buoyant hopper and relied more on the dropper than having fish look up and eat it.  With more time on the water, more fish started eating it on the surface.  I still prefer to fish it in a hopper/dropper set up and it still catches fish pretty well.  The Hollywood Hopper was created to be more realistic and to offer myself another option to the Hopper Juan during the summer.  It has worked out quite well.  The Hollywood Hopper sits lower in the water and accounts for more of the pickier fish than other hopper patterns.

One other pattern I love is a spinoff of the Hopper Juan.  It’s called the Juanna Be Hopper.  It’s much smaller, used as a single hopper pattern or for the smaller streams and smaller fish.  Think Cutthroats and Brookies in the mountain streams.  I often tie this on a standard dry fly hook for fishing the smaller waters as the smaller fish can eat the pattern easier than if it had a bigger hook.  If I am throwing a smaller hopper to bigger, stronger fish, I often tie it on a TMC 2499-SPBL hook as the gap is quite wide and the hook is strong and holds the bigger fish better.

Do you ever use any classic hopper patterns?

I used to use the standard hopper patterns like the Schorders Hopper and Dave’s Hopper and the Whit Hopper.  I have had great days with each one of them, but over the last few years, I haven’t fished any of them.  I usually fish foam patterns.  Some of my current favorites are the the Morrish Hopper, Kyle’s King Kong Hooper and Trina’s Carnage Hopper.  A lot of people still love the classics and hate foam patterns, but I love it and I now only tie and fish foam patterns.

What hopper do you fish the most?

I would say the Hopper Juan.  I use it as a hopper/dropper set up as most of the time, the dropper catches the fish.  On the South Platte, there isn’t a ton of fish waiting around for hoppers.   I have had many great fish caught by running a hopper dropper set up with the fish eating the heavy dropper.  If it weren’t for the buoyant hopper, the dropper would pull the top fly under and it would not be an effective set up.  I fish the hopper/dropper in really tight windows.  Just this last week it caught a nice fish in fast water where I only had 2″ of calm water against a rock face.  A good cast placed the hopper in slow water and the dropper sank right to the fish’s level.

I carry several patterns with me during the summer and right now I carry the Hopper Juan, The Hollywood Hopper, Amy’s Ant, The Chubby Chernobyl and Kyle’s King Kong Hopper.  I would carry more, but why?  That’s enough for the waters I fish.

What are some of the other types of flies you like to tie?

I love tying the small stuff.  I enjoy tying RS2s and try to make them better each time I tie them.  That’s for me, not the fish.  Fish will eat ugly flies and they don’t care how beautiful your fly is, it’s just food to them.  I tie a lot of midges, BWOs, Golden Stones, PMDs and trico patterns.  Almost all of the flies I tie are trout flies.  I don’t stray too far from them.  I haven’t fished for other species much in the last few years.  There aren’t a lot of other options that I take advantage of nearby.  I guess I should make an effort to target other species a bit more, but haven’t yet.  I used to tie more pike flies, walleye flies and bass flies when I lived in New Mexico, but here, I have only tied trout flies.  I’d say I love tying Pheasant Tails, Parachutes and tying with CDC.  CDC isn’t a new material to me, but I have been using it in different ways the last year or so.  I love it!

Do you have specific flies you carry when guiding? If so, could you name a few?

#18 PMD Parachute Emerger

#18 PMD Parachute Emerger

If you see me on the water, you may think I was a member of the SWAT team.  I carry a bunch of things with me while on the water.  I have a Fishpond vest along with a Fishpond pack.  I carry a small 1st aid kit along with several fly boxes.  Most of the time I only work out of one or two boxes, but there are those days where I need every pattern in almost every box.  With more experienced anglers, I use more patterns as we can target more difficult fish and try to fool them.  With beginners, I often only use a few flies.  During the spring, I use a lot of caddis and mayfly nymphs along with eggs and San Juan Worms.  In the summer, I always have trico spinners down to a size 26.  I also use a variety of PMD patterns.  On tail waters during the summer, it really doesn’t change much from day to day, so I rely more on presentation than extreme fly selection.  Hoppers don’t get pulled out too much on guide trips but if I feel like the client can handle it, I won’t hesitate to tie one on.  During the fall, I switch to a lot of BWO patterns as well as eggs.  If I had to pick 2 flies to use year round on the South Platte, it would probably be a San Juan Worm and a #22 RS2.  Some days it doesn’t get to exciting on fly selection!

What would you say were your “go-to” flies or the flies you have the most confidence in?

#26 Chocolate Foam Back Emerger

#26 Chocolate Foam Back Emerger

I can say that I won’t ever be without RS2s in various sizes and different configurations.  I like the standard antron wing style as well as the mercury style and sparkle wing style.  Gray is my most used color.  Other go to flies are the Chocolate Foam Back Emerger in size 20-26, my Tungsten Glossy Back Baetis in Rusty brown as a dropper in a nymph rig as well as a hopper dropper set-up.  Size 14-20 are what I use.   BH Flashback Pheasant Tails are also one of my favorites of all time as are BH Prince Nymphs. The Wooly Bugger in black is one that I will always carry with me and if I only had one fly for the rest of my life, this would be it.

This summer, my solid go to flies were a #26 Trico Spinner and a #26 Foam Back Emerger.

Would you mind describing a couple of the rigs you use when fishing your main rivers? Including the rod, reel, line, and tippet?

I fish two rods these days.  My personal rods are all Hardy Zeniths.  My guide rods are Helios 2s.

For most of my fishing, I use a 9′ 5wt rod.  There are days where I like to use different rods, but it usually comes back to a 5wt.  I tell beginners that a 5wt is like a 30-06.  It gets a lot of things done and if I had to pick one size for my part of the world, it would be a 9’5wt.

A typical day on the South Platte or Arkansas River has me starting out using a 9′ 5wt to throw a nymph rig.  I use 2 flies, split shot and an indicator.  On the Ark, as we call it, I use golden stoneflies as an attractor followed by a caddis or BWO depending on the time of the year.  On the South Platte, I use an egg or San Juan Worm as an attractor followed by a midge larva or BWO.   When the adult BWOs are out, the 5wts can do the job, but I prefer to go lighter.  A 4wt rod is

#26 Trico Spinner -- #18 CDC PMD Dun

#26 Trico Spinner — #18 CDC PMD Dun

perfect for throwing dries.  During the Trico spinner falls on the South Platte, a soft light rod is great for making the close casts.  I like a 8’6″ 4wt. Zenith or a Scott G2 8’8″ 3wt (my 3rd rod choice).  On the Ark during the summer, I throw more attractor dries and hopper dropper patterns so the 5wt is used the most but a 4 or 6 wt is also a good option.  Later in the fall, I like to use the lighter rods, but often find myself using one rod.  The reason I love the Zenith rods is I can nymph with them and switch quickly to dries and not miss a beat.  These rods are great at everything.  In the past, I had a great nymphing rod, but it lacked the feel up close.   These days, I have the rods that can do it all and I don’t feel like I am left wanting a different rod in my hands.  I use Nautilus FW/FWX reels as well as Lampson reels.  These two companies make a great product and I have no reason to doubt their quality while using them.  I use Rio fly lines on most of my reels.  I also have some SA lines that I use on certain rods.  Recently, I have started using a Rio Perception line in 5wt.  So far I have been very impressed with it.  It feels great, cast great and I really do think it is a much better line than regular lines.  For leaders I use Orvis and Rio and I use Orvis Mirage and Rio Flouro and Powerflex tippet material.  I have used Rio for years and I am pleased with them as a personal and guide choice.

For those of us who are not familiar with fishing midges, could you suggest a technique you use?

In the Southern Rockies, the most common nymph rig is 2 flies with weight and an indicator.  I use this 99% of the time to nymph.  When fishing midges during the winter, I use an egg pattern or something “bigger”, say a size 18 PT nymph and a #24 midge larva or midge emerger. This is fished with weight about 8-12″ above the first fly and an indicator about 6′ between the indicator and weight.  In lower water levels, the indicator and weight are all adjustable as needed.  When fishing dries, I use a 9′ leader and a dry fly like Matt’s Midge or any of the small midge patterns that are unnamed out there.  We fish with nymphs a lot during the winter. It’s the only game in town for most of us.  I also set up a dry/dropper as needed to keep the presentation as small and natural as possible.  In low, clear water an indicator and split shot can spook a lot of fish.  I keep it small and simple.  I also try to keep the flies as natural as possible although when I think I have it all figured out, they love eating a #18 shinny Rainbow Warrior.  A little flash is good to have, but I also make sure to carry Disco Midges for those days when the fish love a little bit more flash.

Please tell us about your new Hopper Juan kits. What are they and where can they be purchased?

The  Hopper Juan tying kit

The Hopper Juan tying kit

As I was doing all these demos and tying this pattern, I always got the question “where can I find all the material to tie these?”  I would have to tell them that this shop carries this material and this shop carries this material and you might have to on-line to order this material.  Thinking about what I said, I figured as a tier, I wouldn’t go through that trouble to tie this pattern.  My wife actually suggested that I put together kits for the pattern.  I was able to get all the materials together and package them up and I was able to offer the tier a way to tie my patterns easier.  The kits contain 6 hooks, rubber legs, pre-cut foam bodies, indicator material and the over wings, I like to use.  One of the biggest problems I had with this pattern was that people didn’t want to shell out $15.00 for one size foam cutter if they could find one.  I pre-cut all the foam and include it in the package.  I wanted to make it easy on people and I wanted them to tie and fish my pattern.  The kits have made it easy.

Every year around Christmas break, I gather all my material and get to work creating the kits.  I take them to the Denver FFS and sell them there.  It helps to cover my gas costs and food.  I sell about 50 kits each year and this year I sold them all.  I will have more available at the first of the year.  I just need an e-mail request and I accept Pay-Pal.

What have you been working on at the bench lately?

Lately, I’ve only been re-filling my own fly boxes and that is limited to only a few patterns.  I’ve been guiding and doing beginner classes a lot this summer and with the beginners, I keep it simple.  Mostly San Juan Worms and RS2s.   Those are easy to tie and they work for me.  I usually tie to solve problems on the water.  While guiding beginners, there may be problems you run into, but I am usually more involved in teaching them how to cast correctly rather than trying to land a # 26 trico on a fish’s head. With that, I haven’t really been too creative.  I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time on the water and right now, I am just trying to keep up with the massive loss of flies from the beginners.  I’ve also been tying some custom flies for people here and there, but not a lot.  I also need to get my next batch of submittals over to Montana Fly Company for next year’s decision.  I have a few great patterns, but what works for me may not be what works for other people.  It’s always interesting as to what they think will be hot sellers.

Juan on the Arkansas River

Juan on the Arkansas River

What was the last fish you caught and what were you using to catch it?

This week I was at Deckers and I fished a hopper/dropper set up.   There is a spot where there is a large rock and if you hit it just right, there is a cushion of “soft” water.  If you can get your dry fly in that sliver of water, your dropper has a chance of getting in front of a fish.  I hit it just right and was rewarded with a nice solid fish.  It wasn’t the biggest fish of the day, but it was the hardest fish to get to.

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Filed under Hoppers, Interview

Mike Schmidt interview!

mikes

Many people know you for your big streamers, but you can also tie beautiful classic wet flies and good looking trout flies. When and where did you learn how to tie classic winged wet flies? Was this before you tied other patterns or did this come later?

A few years after I got in to tying flies commercially it started to feel like I was in a rut and just tying set patterns for customers. I needed something to keep it fun for myself and was a big fan of the artistic aspect of the winged wets, so I figured I would learn the style by tying one at the end of each night for myself. I started off teaching myself through pictures and a few questions on forums, but I was lucky that very early on Don Bastian saw my efforts and would email me directly to critique the work. As I applied suggestions and tips the flies got cleaner, and the critiques got shorter. Before too long I was tying quite a few and they were what I was invited to the first round of shows to demonstrate.

wets

You recently took a trip to Wyoming. What particular flies did you use while fishing there?

Our timing this year was a little off as we were on the down slope of the caddis emergences and just at the beginning of the hopper fishing.  Despite that the fishing was amazing. This year we ended up fishing a lot of hybrid patterns that crossed over between the caddis and terrestrial patterns. Rather than Fat Alberts and Chubbys the name of the game this year was stuff like smaller Turks Tarantulas and Madame X style flies.

Could you describe one of your go-to rigs for throwing streamers? Fly rod, line, leader, reel, etc.

There is a lot of stuff out there now including some fantastic gear that has come out in the last year. Right now my standard rig for streamers is the Orvis Helios2 6WT with a Tibor Backcountry CL, throwing a 250gr Streamer Express Long and a hand built leader of Maxima usually from 3-5’ in length. When I get in to the bigger flies I up it to the 8WT with a Orvis Mirage Big Game V and 300 or 350gr.

I know you’re a fly designer for Orvis. Which Mike Schmidt fly patterns are available through Orvis?

Right now they have Mike’s Meal Ticket in their streamer line up as well as a couple carp flies, the Gorgon Craw and Fuzzy Niblet. In 2014 they will add the Junk Yard Dog, and I have a few that I have been tweaking that I think will draw some interest for the 2015 season.

If you were going to fill a streamer box with your favorite streamers, what patterns would you choose?

Man… that is a tough one since there is so much great stuff out there these days. When I throw my box in the pack it is a mix of my patterns and other guys stuff. I know that most times I personally start off with either a Meal Ticket or a Red Rocket, based on whether I want a vertical jig or a swim retrieve, so those would make the cut. I would have to include stuff like the Junk Yard Dog, Strolis’ Headbanger Sculpin, Lynch’s DD and DDD, 6” and 8” Double Deceivers would be there (Cotton Candy without a doubt), Conrad Sculpin. I would also have a compliment of ‘experimental’ flies that are in the works and being tweaked.

Lynch-ddFly Fisher Tommy Lynch has designed some big streamers that you tie. Do you just tie one of his patterns or several? Which patterns?

I do fish a few different patterns that are similar in design and action to some of Tommy’s flies, but the only fly of his that I specifically tie is the Drunk and Disorderly.

What fly is your biggest seller?

For wholesaling it is not even close…the Cotton Candy Double Deceiver. For retail orders the biggest two have been the Meal Ticket and the Red ddandfinclipsRocket…they really go back and forth as to the most at any point. Recently though there have been a lot of Junk Yard Dogs going out the door…

You spend a lot of time at the vise and some say you’re like a machine. What keeps you motivated?

I do spend a lot of time at the vise. Tying flies started off as a way to keep me at my place rather than out finding trouble, and I never really looked back. I think what keeps me motivated  is seeing the final product…and lot’s of it! I truly enjoy the process of staging out materials for a big order of flies and then creating a group that looks as close to each other as possible; I guess it appeals to my OCD side. I am not going to lie though…I do also like to see the look on people’s faces when they see a pile of big streamers tied locally.

Take us into the mind of Mike Schmidt when you want to design a new articulated streamer. What is the process like?

Honestly it is remarkably similar to how Matt Grajewski laid out his process as Streamer Architecture over at Fly Obsession a few months ago. I view fly design as a problem to be solved; most commonly the problem boils down to wanting a specific profile and action out of the fly, then building the fly to achieve that desired result. If you know the size, profile, and action that you want the end result to display then that tends to narrow down what materials will work. Once I have a general idea of the materials that I think will behave how I need them to then I can get to business layering them in on the hooks. With a working prototype in hand it is time for water testing…fishing it to confirm durability, shape and action are as expected then making any tweaks to the pattern over time to refine it to the final version. Some flies you get right straight out of the gate and others may take seasons of refining to get them ‘just right’.

mschmidt

If I asked you to design a FrankenFly, what do you imagine it would be like?

I think it would have to be a big gnarly combination of a few different things…and definitely not be fishable. Something along the lines of an articulated dry fly body with knotted rubber legs and a DDD shovelhead. And rattles in the body.  And a marabou mohawk.

What type of thread do you use on your winged wet flies? How about for your streamers?

I love UTC Ultra Thread. I use the UTC70 on the winged wets as well as any nymphs or dries that I tie. For my streamers I jump up to UTC140 for the added strength. It is a great thread as it has good strength and durability, can be flattened out as necessary, and has some stretch to it so you can really bind materials down tightly.

Can you tell us about your trip to Sweden this year?

Simply put, Sweden was amazing. The people involved in the show could not have been more welcoming. It was great to be immersed in a different culture for a week and unwind with good friends over some single malt each evening. The food was different but very good; we had traditional items like pea soup and pancakes, stew, and fresh breads washed down with Punch…or as I called it, honey-shine. The fishing show was held at a massive interior venue and drew impressive crowds through the three days it was open. It was a sport fishing show so the fly component was just one piece with the rest of the show consisting of more gear and Esox baits than you will find at the largest Cabelas here…it was impressive. I did get to fish one day while I was there, though the weather kept us to a club location.  While it was fun to hook in to some big rainbows, I really want to get back over there to fish the northern part of the country for big browns and grayling. It is a long trip for sure but worth it…I will go back.

mike-switz

What made you decide to choose a Regal as your primary vise?

To put it simply…I love everything about it. When I decided to shop the market after having tied on another vise for a decade, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted my next vise to do and the Regal Revolution fit those demands perfectly. The vise is built like a tank and can be operated with one hand, there is no adjustment necessary. They have multiple sets of jaws designed for different applications but I generally stick to the Big Game jaws and they hold all my streamer hooks, from 4s to 8/0, like they are glued in place. Add on that they are a US company with great customer service and it was a no brainer.

Are there any classic flies you have a soft spot before besides winged wets?

I love the artistic side of tying so I am a big fan of Stevens/Marbury/Rangely style streamers, classic full dressed salmon flies, and the perfect combination of art and fishability in Charles DeFeo’s flies.

 

Junk Yard Dog

Junk Yard Dog

You just released your new streamer, the Junk Yard Dog this year. Do you have any new fly patterns currently in the works?

I do have a few that have been put through the paces on the water and are in the refining process.  Eventually they will feel done and I will have them available.

I know you are a huge Michigan sports fan. Any plans of moving to “Pure Michigan” permanently?

I grew up in Michigan and it still feels like home when I cross in to the mitten, but I do not think it’s in the cards for me to move back north permanently.

What’s next for Mike Schmidt?

Long term I have a few exciting opportunities in front of me that will keep me busy for the next few years…more to come on those as the time is right. In the short term I am plugging away at some good sized orders and lining up the materials to knock out some stock for my shortened show schedule that is coming up in a few months. Also, I recently picked up some new Canon optics that will allow me to start shooting more video, so I will be playing around with post production work. As I dial that in I will be working on how to best integrate those videos with other things I offer through Anglers Choice Flies.

Do you have anything else at all you would like to add?

Just that I am grateful for all the support. Without the interest of other anglers I would not be able to produce the flies that I do or get out to fish them nearly as much. Thank you!

Mike’s main website is Angler’s Choice Flies.

 

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Jay Zimmerman interview!

zcarp

Charlie Craven called you a warm water genius. Do you enjoy fishing for warm water species more than cold water species? What led you to fishing warm water more often?

At the end of every year I look back through my journal and it comes out about even (the time I spend chasing trout vs. warm water species.) I am lucky to have access to several different species within an hour of home. I chase large and smallmouth bass, crappie, perch, wiper, walleye, catfish, northern pike and carp. But I love trout, too. I don’t fish larger rivers or tailwaters much, though. I do the majority of my trout fishing in high alpine lakes and small, remote streams.

Can you tell me more about your fishing experience, how fly fishing entered your life and what you are doing these days?

I was a bored kid and found my father’s old fiberglass rods in the tool shed. They seemed cool. I was about 12 or 13. These days I am working for Charlie Craven in his fly shop (Arvada, Colorado) and working on my third book. This one is a fly tying instructional book on nothing but the best carp flies and how to tie them—most challenging, by far…but the most fun. I am getting a lot of coaching, mainly on photography, from Charlie. He may be the best fly tier and creator of instructional tying books out there, so it is working out in my favor.

zbassIs there a fish that you’ve caught that has really been memorable?

No…I guess not. I have such short-term memory, it’s hard. It is why I keep a journal and am so addicted to fishing, I suppose. Got to get back out there and refresh the memory, ya know?

Do you have a favorite species of fish?

Oh, man. That’s hard. Top three might be carp, smallmouth bass and brown trout…not necessarily in that order. No…northern pike, smallmouth and…ah, hell…

How did you obtain your fly tying chops?

Self-taught when I was a kid. Had no idea what I was doing. And I am still learning new shit every day. Yes, it helps that I am surrounded by some of the best fly tiers in the world…

Stuntman Eddy

Stuntman Eddy

 

What do you enjoy about fly tying?

I still find it unbelievably cool that fish will eat a lure or fake bug. It does not really seem like it should work at all. The fact that any one of us can sit down at a vise and tie a bunch of fur and feathers onto a hook and go out and catch fish on that thing…still blows my mind. It’s like some magic trick that’s actually real.

What is your thought process when designing a new fly pattern?

Each one is different. Sometimes it is purely a matter of necessity…I need a fly that will work for that stream or for that fish and I can’t find it anywhere so I have to make it. Other times it is attempting to fix a problem…I want a bass frog that floats, rides hook up and has no weed guards…but can skate across moss and shit without hanging up.  And other times it is taking a new material or technique and seeing how far I can push it.

Backstabber

Backstabber

I know you like to fish for carp and you have one of the best carp patterns out there in the Backstabber. I’m not sure if “best” sums it up. In my opinion, it has become the benchmark of carp flies. With that said, what makes a good carp fly?

Well, hell…thank you, brother. I don’t think there is an easy answer for that, but I will take a swing anyway. I think a good carp fly must be simple and suggestive—lots of movement. And it has to be exactly the right weight…too light and it will never get to the carp in time, too heavy and the plop into the water will spook the fish. This is more important in the shallow, still water mud flats, of course. Also, I want a fly that is about an inch and a quarter long and dark. I like black because I can see the fly better in muddy water. Seeing the fly and seeing it get eaten is the best way to detect a take, after all.

zcarp2Is there a specific hook you recommend for carp?

I am a big fan of the Gamakatsu SL45. I was the first to start using this hook for carp and it has caught on with many of the serious carp guys. The Daiichi 2451 is also good if you like the SL45 but want a bit longer hook shank. But there is nothing wrong with a good ol’ Tiemco 3769 nymph hook, either.

What are some of your favorite flies?

I think a Clouser Minnow may be my favorite fly of all time. One of my new favorites is a Crumpler Cricket…really buggy, sprawling crane-fly-esk legs…fun as hell to fish on small, wild streams.

The Curmudgeon Crumpler

The Curmudgeon Crumpler

What type of fly tying vise do you use?

I tie on a Renzetti presentation 4000 with the big base plate. Craven gives me endless grief about this (he likes the Dyna-King Pro) but I would rather use a rusty pair of vice grips welded to a piece of scrap metal than use one of those. He will call me names forever…

Would you describe a couple of your warm water rigs? For example, the size and type of fly rod, line, and leader you use?

My go-to carp rig is a Sage Z-Axis 9ft 6wt and Lamson Litespeed 2 reel with floating line and a 9ft 2x leader with the terminal 12 inches cut off and 18 inches of 3x fluorocarbon tippet, ending in a #6 black backstabber carp fly…
My go-to bass rig is a 9 ½ ft 7wt Sage TCX with a Lamson Litespeed 3 reel with floating line and a 9ft 2x leader with a #2 Texas Ringworm…

Clown Shoe Stone Fly on Boulder Ceek Colorado

Clown Shoe Stonefly

If you had to pick 5 dry flies and 5 under water flies to go trout fishing, which ones would you select?

Dry flies: Parachute Adams, Crumpler Cricket, Clown Shoe Caddis, Stimulator and the Missing Link.

Nymphs: Zebra Midge, Two-bit Hooker, Quasimodo Pheasant Tail, Juju Baetis and Banksia Bug.

Are you currently fishing or designing any new fly patterns that you could tell us about?

I am in the final tweaking phase of a new damsel nymph…I have been playing with it for about three years and am just now getting it right. I needed a damsel that was a tiny bit heavier than what was out there, but that would not hang up in the weeds.  

Could you explain how your weed guard works on your Texas Ring-Worm?

Texas Ringworm Sunfish

Texas Ringworm

The Texas Ringworm is the closest thing to a Texas-rigged soft plastic worm a fly tier can tie…it incorporates the long ferruled dubbing loop technique that I perfected to create a real “worm” look and action, coupled with hinged hard-mono loop that allows the big bass hook to actually lock back into the fly while you are casting and fishing it…but disengages when you set the hook. This fly won “Best in Show” at the 2011 IFTD Show. A proud day.

Where can people purchase your flies?

Call me at the shop (303-403-8880) it will be either me, Dave Cook or Charlie Craven picking up the phone. We can send you whatever flies or fly tying materials you need. Our shop has more tying materials than any shop you have ever been in…trust me!

Jay with Banjo (love this dog)

Jay with Banjo (love this dog)

Have you ever kissed a fish? If so, what kind?

When I was single I would make out with fish all the time…especially carp, the have nice lips. Sometimes you just gotta slip the prettier ones a little tongue, too. It feels wrong, but they rarely resist much. Maybe they kinda like it? Who knows?

 

 

 

 

Jay writes his own blog named the Colorado Fly Fishing Reports. So if you can’t get enough Jay, go there now! Jay’s two previous books are “In Neck Deep: Stories from a Fisherman” and “Top Ten Guide To Fly Fishing”. I want to thank Jay for taking the time to interview with FrankenFly, thanks Jay!

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Jay Smit of JVice interview!

Jay Smit on the Pongola River

Jay Smit on the Pongola River

Can you give a description of what JVice is?
The Jvise is a fly tying vise I developed for my personal needs.
http://www.jvice.com

 

Original Jvice

Original Jvice

What made you decide to go into the vise making business?
When my friends saw my vise they also wanted one. The nagging got too much and I got a friend who ran a CNC Engineering shop to do 100 sets of parts for me and I did the assembly, made the bases and developed a simple website for marketing.

 

First production Jvice

First production Jvice

How did you design the JVice?
In the beginning I wanted a rotary vice that would fit a wooden base approximately laptop size so that it could fit in a laptop bag for travelling to fishing destinations on weekends. I also wanted to be able to tie while sitting on the couch with my wife while she watched TV. This also came in handy at fly fishing venues where suitable tables for tying are not always available.
The Jvise has evolved a lot from that original model as I incorporated many ideas from friends and customers.

Is the JVice a true rotary vise?
Yes it is and it can quickly be stopped in any position with the big thumbscrew using only the left hand. With ones hand in the GooseNeck one can twist the vice jaws through approx 180 degrees while holding material in place. I have found this a very useful feature.

Why is JVice based in South Africa?
Because this is where I was born and educated and now live near Durban in KZN.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What species do you fish for locally in South Africa?
We have both Rainbow and Brown trout in our rivers and still-waters. We also have 5 species of Yellowfish, these are strong fighters and challenging to catch on fly. There are also Bass, Tigerfish and plenty to catch in the salt like Bluefish and Trevally.

 

940 Dave Evans

940 Dave Evans

Has producing fly tying products taught you anything particular about fly tyers as customers?
Yes, they are discerning and demand the best quality. I love dealing direct with my customers and advise them as best I can for their needs and budget. I have found them honest and very appreciative.

Have you learned anything by being in the fly tying industry?
Lots! I keep learning everyday and believe one can learn something from everyone, one must have an open mind and think out the box. ( once you think you know everything you may as well give up.)

Do you have any new products or revisions of products that you are currently working on?

Fly line spooler

Fly line spooler

I am working on a new version of the midge jaw that does not rely on spring steel to hold the hook and can be made from materials like knife makers stainless and Damasteel. There is also the Fly Line Spooler I showed you for winding fly lines back onto their original spools for easy identification and safe keeping.
Last weekend our club,Durban Fly tyers, went to instruct young disadvantaged children in the Kamberg area of the Natal Drakensberg. The problem was what would they tie on. I did a very quick entry level non rotary vise that would hold a hook securely. Tendela Jvise-800This was such a hit I am thinking of making a few improvements and offering it as an entry level $30.00 training vise.

Do you have any certain process you follow when designing new products?
I go into design mode, eat dream sleep what I am working on and often the best ideas come to me late at night when I should be sleeping. I like my designs to be robust, functional and practical. I usually dish out the prototypes to fly tying friends who thoroughly test them before I start marketing a product. I like everything to be serviceable, easily stripped and maintained.

 

830

830

If someone wanted to purchase a JVice from you, should they be worried about the price of shipping?
Unfortunately there is nothing I can do about the cost of shipping. I have approached DHL, UPS, and all the big players and the prices they have quoted me are all more than double the postal charges that I am using.
The other aspect is that if one orders a Jvice with G clamp and bobbin rest, even with the postage it is still much cheaper than other top level vises. The oak base unfortunately is heavy and pushes the shipping cost up a lot.
Having said that the Jvice kit with oak base still accounts for more than 70% of sales.

Do you still tie flies? If so, what do you like to tie?
I still tie a lot of flies, much more than I could hope to use and am Chairman of the Durban Fly Tyers.
Ds02bI like most forms of fly fishing and am fortunate that less than 3 hours from my home there is everything from mountain trout, yellowfish, bass, tigerfish and plenty of salt water species, so I tie everything from tiny size 30 dry flies to large salt water flies.

Can you explain the various jaws available for the JVice?
Originally there was only the standard jaw but Ed Herbst a Cape Mountain stream fisherman encouraged me to develop the midge jaws for tying really small flies and finally the Midge Jaw was born. This uses spring steel to hold the hook and one of my US customers did not like this and I turned down a standard jaw to a fine point for him, this worked really well. I did a redesign job on the standard jaw to give it a slimmer profile and introduced 5 hook pockets so it could take a full range of hooks all in one jaw. (The standard jaw also does this but gives less working room around small hooks)

What accessories do you highly recommend for the JVice?
A lot of the accessories are for specialist fly’s like tube fly’s and unless one is into tube fly’s I would not recommend this type of accessory. Most tyers buying the Jvice are experienced tyers and have all the goodies like dubbing spinners and hair stacker’s. But for beginners who don’t have them I would recommend them.
I normally ask what type of tying a customer is into, it’s no use selling a small stream fly fisherman a brush maker unless he also ties saltwater and bass fly’s.

Jay with yellowfish

Jay with yellowfish

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Hans Weilenmann interview!

HHW_Kolding_DFF_2013_2

 

How did you become interested in fly tying?

I have been a keen angler from the age of six, starting with a few lessons from my grandfather but pretty soon striking it out on my own as we did not live real close to my grandparents. My fishing was with floats, and ground bait, before moving onto spinning hardware and some such, or live bait for pike and zander.

My interest for flyfishing and flytying grew with the reading of books and magazines, such as Flyfisherman and Fly Rod & Reel. At the time flyfishing was not that common in the Netherlands, so in looking around how to get some lessons I joined the Casting Club of Amsterdam age 18, and started tying my flies at the same time.

Did you have a mentor when learning to tie?

Not really a mentor – though one experienced tier in the club provided some initial instruction and showed me how to tie a few basic patterns to get me started. My information came to me via books, mostly in the English language, and some magazines and the many, many catalogs I threw myself into. I was, and still am, a ferocious reader and I soaked up the information like a parched desert soaks up the rain when it decides to come visiting.

CDC & Elk

CDC & Elk

How does fishing and fly tying in the Netherlands differ from fishing or fly tying in the United States?

The Netherlands is a country without gradient. I happen to be a stream addict. Hmmmm…. what is wrong with this picture?

There is an abundance of surface water in the Netherlands, and there are many options to (fly)fish – though not for salmonids. The flyfishing is for what the British have termed “coarse fish” – such as pike, zander, perch, roach, bream, chub, ide and a more recent arrival from eastern Europe, the predatory asp.

For my stream fishing I travel into other parts of Europe (Germany, Denmark, the British Isles, Ireland, Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia) – and indeed further afield to North America or New Zealand.

What do you like about using Cul De Canard feathers? I notice you use it quite often in your patterns. When selecting quality Cul De Canard feathers, what should one look for?

CDC is a very useful material for a number of the patterns I tie and fish. Just as any other material it has its strengths and weaknesses. What I try to do in my patterns is to draw on its strengths and compensate for weaknesses – either by selective techniques or in combination with other materials.

Some years back I wrote an in-depth article on CDC, the material and the usage, which was published by Flyfisherman magazine. An on-line copy can be found here:
http://globalflyfisher.com/tiebetter/tying-with-cdc/

Would you rather use natural materials in your flies instead of using synthetics? If so, why?

I am first and foremost a trout and grayling angler, and most of my patterns reflect this – though of course I do branch out and tie pretty much every category in the known universe.

While I am certainly not dogmatic in this, for most of my tying I tend to prefer, and rely on, natural materials. Feathers are hard to replicate in man-made materials in any case, but natural hair (guard hair or underfur) offers a myriad of textures often in a mix of coarse and fine and different shades, and staple lengths. Nature has very few solid colors, and many subtle shifts can be seen when observing the natural materials up close.

I do use some synthetics in my trout and grayling patterns, but when I do this is almost always in combination with natural materials. I will reach for man-made materials to provide me with qualities I cannot fine in natural materials, be it textures (tinsels, flash), or specific uses such as tying saltwater patterns where many man-made materials come into their own.

Diving CDC & Elk

Diving CDC & Elk

Besides your staple pattern, CDC & Elk, is there another fly you have a lot of confidence in?

If I have to pick a single pattern to complement the CDC&Elk this would be its sibling, the Diving CDC&Elk. They are effective fished single, but at times fishing them in combination they redefine “lethal”.

If you had a small fly box that only held 10 flies of any kind. What flies would you fill it with to go trout fishing?

This is in fact how I do my freshwater trout and grayling fishing (I have been known to fish for days out of a single tiny Tiemco hook box, crammed full of CDC&Elk and a couple nymphs 😉 ) – drawing from a small number of mostly generic patterns.

This K.I.S.S. approach has served me well across several decades and many bodies of water across three continents.

My staple set holds:

CDC&Elk – see video

Bruce Salzburg’s Crippled CDC&Elk – see video

Bob Wyatt’s DHE 2.0 – see video

Diving CDC&Elk – see video

Z-Dun – see video

Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail nymph – see video

A rather generic GRHE nymph – Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear – see video

Jack Gartside’s Sparrow – see video

Jaap van der Heijden’s Jacobpattern – see video

A generic Woolly Bugger – see video

Could you tell us about your website, Flytier’s Page?

I set up Flytier’s Page (flytierspage.com) to provide a gallery by and for flytiers the world over. It has a very focused aim – to provide a platform for flytiers around the world to present a set of flies they like to be identified for. In order to deliver a consistent quality of images I do all the fly photography.

From its humble beginnings in 1997 it has grown to be a serious collection of patterns, submitted by several hundred tiers.

Flytier’s Page has been recently expanded to also provide a substantial list of my video flytying tutorials.

Yellow Sally Flymph

Yellow Sally Flymph

How would you describe a Flymph?

As the word Flymph was coined by Pete Hidy, I will defer to him for the definition:

“A wingless wet fly with a soft, translucent body of fur or wool which blends with the undercolor of the tying silk when wet, utilizing soft hackle fibers easily activated by the currents to give the effect of an insect alive in the water, and strategically cast upstream or across for the trout to take just below or within a few inches of the surface film.”

(Hans shows how to tie a Flymph in this video.)

In your opinion, what defines a good fly tier?

Now there’s a simple question… without a simple, unambiguous answer ;-)For me a good flytier is comfortable tying the breadth of patterns with competence, and is in control over the materials.He or she is a person with a sound understanding of techniques, properties of materials, their uses/strengths/weaknesses. He or she has a historical perspective, appreciation and respect, yet approaches novel techniques and materials with an open mind. Keen to push the boundaries of his or her tying, to improve with each fly tied.

 

Klinkhamer Special

Klinkhamer Special #30

Do you fish with small flies often? Flies that are sizes ranging from #18 to #28?

I would not consider #18 a small fly, though of course #28 does qualify 😉

 

Do you feel there is any advantage in using really small flies?

I generally explain it like this – while I quite enjoy tying very small patterns, I do not particularly enjoy fishing them – but when you need to, you NEED to!

When you design a new fly pattern, are their specific steps you follow?

Lowrider Biot Caddis

Lowrider Biot Caddis

There is no set sequence, but here are two common scenarios:

1. I ‘see’ a pattern in my head, and then apply materials to a hook to produce a tangible replica. Then test and fine-tune as needed.

2. I look at, and handle, specific materials, ‘see’ a promising use for it or them – and a pattern comes from it.

I very rarely do patterns to imitate a specific insect – my patterns are invariably of a generic, impressionistic nature.

What fly tying vise do you use?

I have worked my way through a number of tying vises until a friend, Lawrence Waldron, made me ‘my’ perfect vise in 1989 – this model vise has become known as the LAW Bench vise. Now well into its third decade of use, and I am loving every minute tying on it.

Even though you have been tying for many years, are there any things that you have learned or discovered recently that have made your tying better or easier?

There are, actually. For the past ten or so years I have been using ever more the split thread technique in a range of pattern styles, using a range of natural and synthetic materials, be they fur, feather barbs or loose dubbing. The split thread technique is really cool, really useful, and should be in every tier’s toolkit.

Olive George

Olive George

Have you been working on a new fly pattern or video recently?

*chuckle* all the time – both areas.

I am quite enjoying doing the tying videos – I think tying videos are the next best thing to getting one on one instruction, and in some ways provide a superior view into the subtleties of material manipulation and techniques.

My channel on Youtube (hansweilenmann) has, at this time of writing, some 130-odd HD resolution videos, and many more in the pipeline. The same set can be viewed via Flytier’s Page

Do you have any advice for less experienced fly tiers out there?

– Every tier starts out knowing nothing, and then builds out from there. You are not alone in this. Start absorbing.

– Lay a solid foundation by mastering the basic techniques, and build on them.

– Sound techniques enables you to build well proportioned, durable, effective working flies – techniques count for way more than fancy tools or expensive materials.

– Make it a priority to be the master over your materials, lest it becomes the master over you.

– Each fly ever tied has room for improvement, see this as a challenge and an opportunity.

– Practice does _not_ make perfect – only perfect practice does. (Otherwise you just get very skilled at making the same mistakes 😉 )

– Be fearless, be critical, keep an open mind and learn every day, and above all have fun!.

Do you have anything at all to add?

We live in the Golden Age of flytying. Never before, in the history of our sport, has the availability of materials been better, but more than that, the availability and real-time nature of information on techniques, materials and patterns has made, and will continue to make, this the finest time to be a flytier and flyfisherman.

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Pat Cohen – a few questions

Red Eyed Gilla Killa

Red Eyed Gilla Killa

I’ve been wanting to post some information about Pat Cohen’s fly tying on FrankenFly for some time now. Pat ties amazing deer hair flies and most people identify him with that. I sent him some questions and concentrated more on some of his other creations because I think they deserve more attention. If you still want to see some of his deer hair work, don’t worry, they’re here too.
Above is Pat’s newest fly, the Red Eyed Gilla Killa. It will be available at Pat’s online store soon!
superflylogo

How did you become interested in tying flies?

I started fly fishing in 2008…By the end of the summer I had become completely obsessed with fly fishing. 2009…Christmas…My Father bought me a Wapsi starter fly tying kit…January of 2009 I tied my first fly..I guess it seemed like a natural progression from fishing to making my own flies. I think originally I started because the closest store that I could buy flies at was 45 minutes away. I knew nothing of tying flies though..In fact 9 times out of 10 if you looked at the end of my line it had a bead head woolly bugger on the end of it..I tied crystal woolly buggers till my fingers hurt…It was the only fly that I knew that would catch Small Mouth Bass…haha…that seems like a long time ago now…

 

Most people know you have amazing deer hair skills. Where did you learn how to tie with deer hair?

I actually am completely self taught. I did not have an instructor. Once I got away from woolly buggers I started to get into top water bass fishing…but after a few fish the fly would fall apart..I decided that there had to be a better way to make them..at that time I had no idea how to make a bass bug..In fact..the first time that I tried to make a hair bug I used bucktail and couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong…I watched a couple of youtube clips and heard the phrase belly hair…a light went off…I was instantly off to the fly shop…If there was a mentor of sorts to my tying it would have to be Tom, who has become a great friend of mine. He ran the fly shop and pointed me in the right direction when I told him I wanted to tie bass bugs. He showed me the materials that I would need and off I went…My first few bugs were very rough…I started by spinning hair and basically making Tap’s bugs…From there, for whatever strange reason, I became obsessed with hair bugs and top water fly fishing…I developed my own techniques as time went on to get the look and the durability that I wanted out of a fly….

display

 

I have just recently watched your deer hair DVD and learned a lot about working with deer hair. Could you briefly explain to the readers why you always stack deer hair instead of spinning deer hair?

I stack hair for a few different reasons…Most importantly, stacking gives you total control over all of the hair all of the time…Every bit of hair that goes on a hook is where you want it because you put it there..This enables you to get patterns, stripes, bars, spots..whatever….Spinning hair does not allow this at all…Stacking hair also gives you the opportunity to get more hair on the shank,…The more hair, the more dense the bug..the less water it absorbs, the better it floats and the more durable it becomes…

 

I don’t think people realize that not only are you good with deer hair, but you tie other flies that are equally impressive and well designed. How did you gain your skill set in this area?

Again I am a completely self taught tyer. I learned mainly through trial and error…I think as my obsession with this whole thing grew, I read everything that I could get my hands on, asked questions…and tried new things….I think my skills have developed as the need to create other patterns developed..I tie at the shows so I am around some of the most talented tyers in the world…there is always somebody doing something new..it’s exciting…if you keep your eyes and ears open..you will always learn something new at an event…Social media has opened the doors to many new things as well…There is so much going on in the fly tying world…how can you not learn more…

 

You have recently made the jump into tying flies full time. Can you tell us about that?

Well….it started as a hobby..something I used to decompress from work….then I started demonstrating at shows…then people started buying my flies…I showed up in a couple of magazines…then bam…I don’t know what really happened…The requests for flies through facebook got overwhelming…I had a website built…the website took off amazingly well…It got to a point that I could not keep up with retail orders and work a full time job…Commercial fly shop requests started rolling in…I was no longer happy at my job..so I took a leap of faith 6 months ago and have not looked back…I am grateful for all of the success…not a day goes by that I am not thankful for what I am able to do at this point…I tie flies 13-14 hours a day, 5-6 days a week right now, and travel all over the east coast in the winter doing demos at shows and classes at fly shops and clubs…
SF-ShagginDragon

SF Shaggin’ Dragon

Your SF Shaggin’ Dragon is a great looking pattern and I’ve seen it in a list of go-to patterns for carp. What process did you have to go through to design this pattern?

The patterns that I create are basically my take on what I see…Fly tying is problem solving…A lot of trial and error goes into all of my flies…It starts with an idea…goes to prototype,,,gets the snot fished out of it and changes are made along the way..The Shaggin’ Dragon came for a need of a dragon fly nymph imitation that had some weight to get down, but would make a minimal splash upon entering the water. Just a little flash…when carp are mudding I like to give them something that will get their attention…This fly just produces..hands down…it’s my go to pattern in lakes.

carpncrunch

Carp-N-Crunch

The Carp-n-Crunch looks like another good carp pattern. From the photo it’s hard to see how the hackle is tied and what the body is. Could you explain more about this fly?

This was the first carp specific pattern that I ever made…The body is made of palmered peacock herl, then a rib of wire to give it some segmentation and to strengthen the herl…The legs are tied in, then the hackle is palmered in the v of the tied in legs..This fly has lots of motion due to the schlappin and rubber legs…it’s a great fly for carp and the smallies seem to chow it down as well…

 

If a fly tyer who was new to carp, wanted to design an effective pattern, what should they keep in mind when creating a new pattern?

The fly has to have a little weight…but it has to be done in a way that lets the fly land soft in the water…you want subtle,  natural movement…schlappen, webby hackle, rubber legs…shaggy dub, wiggle dub..EP tarantula brushes…all of these products make great carp flies…they are opportunistic scavengers…but they are very selective and very smart…look in your waters to see what’s around that they could be eating…natural muted colors are best in my opinion..olives, tans, browns, rust, black….I would use different flies in rivers vs lakes for carp…keep that in mind as well…think outside of the box with carp flies..but .it can be as simple as a general attractor type nymph, like a clouser swimming nymph…
Hell Yeah Grammite

Hell Yeah Grammite

Could you touch on a little information about some of your other patterns, like the Hell Yeah Grammite, SF Hex, Sili Craw, and Pimp Shrimp? What species should be targeted with these patterns and how did you decide to put these flies in your pattern arsenal?

Hell Yeah Grammite, next to crayfish, is a Smallie’s favorite food….I wanted a hellgrammite with lots of motion so I made an articulated one….
Hex….Carp love hex nymphs…designed to ride hook point up, lots of natural movement with the wiggle dub…perfect for the whiskers…
Sili Craw…again…a great small crayfish for carp and smallies…a little flash…good for dirty water, small enough to not scare off a feeding carp and lands soft enough to not spook them…the smallies love crayfish as well..
Pimp Shrimp….this started out as a Steelhead fly…there are so many Mysis Shrimp in the Great Lakes…for whatever reason I didn’t see anything that was being offered in the shops around there for that..I figured Steelhead had to be eating them..I was right..it’s a great fly if you want to nymph them up in the late winter…It also does damage to finicky carp…and the panfish love it….

 

Is there anything at all you would like to add?

Thanks a ton for inviting me to be part of your website…
check www.rusuperfly.com for more patterns..and new things are always being added….

 

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Rich Strolis interview!

March 23+

 

I notice you mention how much you love throwing big streamers these days. When did you realize that’s what you really enjoyed when fishing?

*My first fly caught fish when I was a young little rambunctious energy filled hooligan fell to a Muddler Minnow.  I guess you could say that I have always had an affinity for streamers.  I can honestly say that as an angler I have really come full circle at this stage of my life.  I ran the nymph scene for several years and became very adept at fishing nymphs in all manners, as well as targeting all sorts of surface oriented feeding fish as well.  I would have to say the last 10 or so years I have really gotten the bug for big stuff.  Exclusively more so in the last couple years.  Where I used to resort to streamers after fishing everything else or only during high water, now I fish them from the get go no matter what the conditions.

After big streamers, what would be your second fly type choice?

Smaller streamers.  Come on Paul, that’s an easy one now.  Well, in all seriousness if I had to pick a different style it would be tough to pick as I put nymphs and dry flies about even.  So I guess it would come down to what the water told me.  If a good fish was working the surface, I’d throw a dry.  If the water showed no signs of this, then it would be a nymph of sorts.

How did you know you were ready to start selling your own flies?

36 Dozen Streamers

36 Dozen Streamers

It just sort of happened.  When I was guiding often, I prided my trips on using my own recipes and concoctions when we were out there on the water.  On my home waters of the Farmington River, the trout see everything, to say they are educated at times is an understatement.  I always felt having something that the fish didn’t see day in and day out gave me an edge.  My customers agreed by the end of our trip and some started asking if they were for sale.  I started small and then it just blew up literally overnight.  When you have a full time career on top of the custom fly/guide business, it can be problematic to juggle the two at times.  There have been some times when I’ve had to shut things down for a bit as it has gotten overwhelming, you might be seeing that again really soon I’m afraid, I might have some changes in my career that are going to require a great deal of my time, so something will have to give.

When and how did you begin fly tying?

I began when I was about 11-12 after asking for a fly tying kit for Christmas.  My gracious Aunt Diane bought one for me and the rest is history. I remember teaching myself how to tie by Dick Stewarts beginning fly tying book.  It’s kind of amazing when I look back at how I began tying.

Did you have a fly tying mentor of any kind?

I would have to say even though he probably doesn’t know it, the fly tyer who influenced me the most was a local shop owner and commercial tyer named David Goulet.  Dave, would offer up little bits and pieces of things on occasion while talking in his shop that always stuck with me.  In the realm of fly design he in my opinion is one of the most under-rated designers of our time.  Many of the patterns we fish today in our area originate with Dave, and he is what I would call an unsung hero of the fly tying world.  I learned a great deal about the “Why” for materials, behavior, limitations, etc., that I owe entirely to Dave.

How many of your own patterns do you have now?

You know I couldn’t tell you off the top of my head, but probably dozens.  Heck I have a few kicking around in my melon that still haven’t been put to iron yet.

Do you have any advice for fly tyers out there wanting to improve their skills?

Practice, practice, practice.  Take a single fly and tie a dozen of them in a row.  When they all start coming out the same, it’s time to move on to the next.  Consistency is key in tying, plus, once you tie the same pattern a bunch of times in succession, chances are pretty good you’ll have the recipe memorized.  Also, when buying materials, take the time to inspect what your purchasing.  This holds true with natural materials more so than synthetics as every natural piece, hair, fur, feather is different.

Do you have a thought process when designing big streamers?

12 dozen Ice Pick Streamers

12 dozen Ice Pick Streamers

I either go with the concept of how do I want the fly to react in the water or in other words it’s action.  Or, I am trying to emulate some sort of food form to a degree.  The most important concept, and often most difficult one for newer tyers who like to tinker with ideas is the ability to think in reverse.  When you are designing a pattern it is very much like building a house.  You need a good foundation or otherwise the structure will fail.  The same holds true with fly design, if you are trying to make a large profiled streamer with fewer materials, you better have a good foundation in place to achieve your idea.  I see an influx of patterns posted daily all over the net that you can tell had very little thought behind them and are just experiments at the vise.  Some of them look nice, but at the end of the day they may collapse, turn into a giant noodle or may have little or no movement to them when wet.  Great flies not only look good, they perform and cover all of those facets.  It is something that prospective fly designer needs to take into consideration.  I also believe that some of the best fly designers are also fantastic fisherman too, the two are symbiotic influence the other.

How do you decide which materials to use when designing your streamers?

The materials that I choose for the streamers that I tie are typically based off of a three tiered system.  Shape, size and action.   Every material has a limitation in all of these areas, some materials rate high in all three categories and provide fewer limitations.  Others need to be combined with other materials to get the balance that I may be after. What I always try to incorporate in my patterns is inherent motion, I like flies that move on their own without being manipulated as they give off the impression of being alive. What you will see in many of the flies that I come up with, many of the same types of material may be used in different ways as a direct result of this “lifelike” attribute.

Can you tell us anything about any new flies you are working on?

I have about a half dozen ideas floating around right now, but unfortunately I have had no time to set aside to play with them.  My goal these days is to come up with one really good pattern a year.  If I hit that target good things usually follow.  I’ve got a couple of dead drift streamer ideas kicking around if that gives you any idea of where my head is these days.

When you have 10 or more of the same fly to tie, do you have any suggestions on being more effecient when tying this many?

Staging, it is a key ingredient to successful and efficient large quantity tying.  This is especially the case with multi-piece flies like the articulated streamers that I tie.  For instance, I may tie all the tail portions for a group of articulated flies first.  But to stage things even more, I may pull all the materials first as well, marabou for the tail, flash, body material, wings, hooks etc., even cut the wire for the connection.  After I tie the rear section I affix the wire and beads and set them aside.  It is a much smoother process than doing the whole fly at once.  After I do all the tail sections I connect them and finish them off.  You can do the same thing with any pattern, but to a lesser degree.  Take a weighted nymph for example, the staging process would merely be beading all the hooks and adding weight then setting them aside for completion.  After I have done this for the entire allotment, I begin the tying process.  A few years back when I had more free time (something I just can’t seem to remember these days), I would take an entire 100 pack of hooks and pre-bead and weight them, then all I would have left to do is tie the pattern later.

What can you tell us about your new big meaty streamer, the Juggernaut?

Juggy Junior

Juggy Junior

It’s more than a handful, and probably the top end size for trout to be honest.  This guy has been leaked a little bit just stir up some interest a little bit.  The fly itself comes in right at 8 inches long and is a culmination of a few of my patterns in one.  The ice pick and hog snare had major influence on this particular pattern, and it is very evident when yuou see it.  I was looking to have a pattern in the same size of the Double Deceiver that was also reminiscent of a larger baitfish.  You all probably realize I really got a thing for fox fur, so it was paramount that the ingredient made its way into the flies construction.  In the end I came up with a three sectioned fly that has a nice tapered design with a bunch of movement without sacrificing bulk.  This fly should be a homerun, and already have a two part smaller version tied and in the works, probably call that one the “Juggy Junior”, for those who get the shakes by the size of the Juggernaut.  Both flies have lots of promise and will most likely be in the store soon, the big guy however will probably have the highest price point I offer to date, so buyer beware.

Are trout always the target when you are designing flies?

For the most part yes, but I have found that several of my streamer patterns have crossed over into the warmwater and saltwater scenes rather nicely.  I am a big trout chaser by heart, and living practically within a few minutes drive of a great trout fishery with several other good rivers within a 3 hour radius, it is safe to say I am a trout fisherman to the core. I do spend some time on the flats of Cape Cod, but my time there is limited.  I have a bunch of other pattern ideas for the salt and for the warmwater scene, pike and smallmouth especially as I have some pretty good fishing for both species rather close as well.  You may find me chasing Snot Rockets when the streamer bite for trout is off this year, it seems my affinity for streamers has gripped me pretty bad and I am having a tough time wavering these days.  I have nightmares of big browns chomping chicken sized flies, but who knows, my friend Pat Cohen has really talked up Carp fishing to me, and I think I may have a new sickness after this year so stay tuned.

What size of thread do you use on your streamers?

I am a huge fan of the UTC 140 thread and I use it pretty much 99% of the time.  It has good stretch and strength and it lays out nice and flat.  On occasion I will use some 210 for some of the bigger flies I tie, as I try to use the largest thread possible without compromising the pattern.   The new Veevus threads are really awesome and I find myself turning to them more for my bugs these days, but sticking with the UTC for the streamers.

In your opinion, what is the definition of a good fly tyer?

Boy this is a great question, a good tyer to me is one that can tie a pattern in succession with all of them looking virtually identical, while also being versatile in the pattern department.  What I mean with versatile is basically being able to tie a wide variety of patterns in all different styles; a 26 midge, winged wet, bucktail streamer to a complex multi-sectioned streamer.  What makes a GREAT fly tyer in my book is a tyer that can do all of that quickly, efficiently and  has a great creative sense to build upon old patterns or make new fresh patterns while also having a great understanding of how the materials behave and are utilized properly.  That same tyer should have a strong ability to convey that at the vise to others.  That was one of the biggest reasons I got into doing tying videos.   I have seen some of the best tyers in the world, some are phenomenal tyers and unbelievably fast, but are not the best at explaining or instructing others on the steps taken in the construction of a solid fly.

What hooks do you like to use?

Headbanger Sculpin

Headbanger Sculpin

I use a wide variety of hooks these days, I am a huge fan of Gamakatsu Hooks for all of my streamers but this may be changing soon.  You just might be seeing me substituting some Partridge hooks soon, as they have some really awesome hooks as well.  Gamakatsu has some really sticky sharp hooks, the percentage of error per thousand of hooks is ridiculously low from my experience as I have found less than 6 bad hooks in tens of thousands of hooks that I have tied on.  For bugs I use a bunch of different brands;  TMC, Dohiku, Partridge, Daiichi are a few.  My thought process for hooks goes hand in hand with my fly design, the hook is my canvas much like a painter.  A certain style or shape of hook is used to accomplish what I am trying to build into a fly.  For the most part, there are a slew of great hooks out there, find what you like and roll with it.

Do you have any plans of designing another nymph or even a dry fly in the future?

Absolutely, like I said earlier it will just come down to setting some time aside to do so.  I still enjoy targeting rising fish, and nymphing a good riffle even though I do both a little less these days.  There are some ideas rolling around in my melon these days, more along some hatches that I haven’t had a lot of time targeting.  Big stuff, Drakes, Hexes, etc….

What is your favorite classic fly?

Toss up between a Muddler Minnow or a Grey Ghost.

I know recently you battled with adding the color black to your Headbanger Sculpins, because there wasn’t a fish skull to match. What are your thoughts on color choices when you are designing your flies?

Black & Red Headbanger Sculpin

Black & Red Headbanger Sculpin

In the streamer realm, I think color is one of if not the most important ingredient to one’s success.  A lot of the time on the water when throwing meat so to speak, it isn’t always the pattern, it is more often the color that the fish key in on.  There are always exceptions to both but having a variety of colors in your arsenal is very beneficial from my experiences.   If you look at a lot of the streamers I tie and fish, they are multicolored for a variety of reasons.  Just about all of the food forms that we are trying to replicate with streamers are multicolored to begin with.  A fly with multiple colors will look a little more lifelike in the water column than a pattern that is one solid color.  Now, solid colored flies do produce well from time to time, but multicolored flies seem to really fit the bill a bit better.  Have a mix of both, and take a couple of your confidence patterns and expand your selection by having those flies in a few different color combinations.

Is there anything at all you would like to add?

Thanks for the interview, but like everything I have going on these days, I gotta get back to the vise to complete a rather large order for Tim Bull down at the ToadFly in Arkansas.  The sooner I get these guys done the sooner I get out on the water to chase Toads.  Later Paul…..

Thank you for taking the time to do an interview with FrankenFly Rich!

Don’t forget to follow Rich’s blog, Catching Shadows.

 

Juggernaut

Juggernaut

 

 

Weightless Hog Snare

Weightless Hog Snare

 

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