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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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…
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?
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!
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!