I, like you, have many fly boxes for the many fishing places, seasons, and species that I seek throughout the year. With the exception of saltwater, these five flies are always with me and used frequently, sometimes with good results.
Why should you pay attention?, not because I’m the most successful fisherman; rather because I fish a lot, sometimes with good results. Last year I fished over 80 days, the previous two years was over 100 days each. I also don’t fish just one or two waters, but a wide variety of water including both freestone rivers and area lakes, sometimes with good results.
Disclaimer: most of my fishing is with my nymphs, even though I like working a hatch as much as the next guy (or gal). If there are no fish working, I don’t shotgun with dry flies, I just find that I am more successful fishing subsurface.
1. Grey Parachute Mayfly (almost an Adams)
I use medium grey dubbing for abdomen with darker grey thorax. I spread the tail for floatability.
Use a dun colored hackle, parachute style, over a short antron post. Post material is not important to me as long as it supports the hackle.
I tie this in many sizes from a # 22 (wide gape pupae hook) to imitate Blue Winged Olives to a # 16 for callibeatis, and up to # 10-12’s for green drakes. I also will use this pattern for caddis and stoneflies in the appropriate sizes, although I think there are better patterns for those species. For PMD’s I tie the same pattern in the appropriate color.
2. Bead head Bird’s Nest.
I follow the pattern first tied by California’s Cal Bird.
I use wood duck flank feathers for the tail and hackle and hares ear (from the mask) for the abdomen and thorax. This is a killer pattern for caddis pupae tied in the appropriate size. It also does well (again, in the appropriate size) for stone fly nymphs and emerging mayflies. I tie them both weighted and unweighted, the gold bead is a good way to tell which is which. For most caddis hatches this is what I usually fish after my dries are repeatedly refused.
3. Gold Ribbed Hair’s Ear.
Use the dark short hair from the mask of the hare for the abdomen, thorax and tail. Often when tied with a flashy tinsel type wing case for use in fast water, strikes will be elicited. These can be tied thin for mayflies to heavier ones for caddis and stoneflies. Tie them in any appropriate size from # 22 to long shank 10’s. I think the color and general bugginess makes this fly so special.
4. Brown Glass Head Leech.
This is a nice, simple, effective pattern that I am using more and more. This is especially true since I pumped a three inch long leech from the stomach of a Missouri River trout last year caught during a good PMD hatch. I get glass beads by the bucket full at Michael’s in Coeur d’Alene. I think that it gives the fly a little shine that catches the fish’s eye and maybe gives it a target. I use brown leech yarn for both tail and body tied in appropriate sizes. I feel some lead wire weighting is appropriate. Depending on the water, I fish this on either a sinking or a floating line. This leech pattern has pretty much replaced my Woolly Bugger arsenal, except when I want to imitate a sculpin or dragonfly nymph.
5. I saved the best for last, after debating whether or not to include it, as it is the most effective nymph I use. As B.Gates would say, “This is the killer app of nymph fishing.” It is most effective in moving water and is almost always my point fly on a two nymph rig. This fly is responsible for probably 50% of the trout I catch in a year.
The fly? Lightening Bug in both silver and green.
I use three barbules of pheasant tail for the tail. Then tie a thin silver (or green) abdomen (use crazy glue on shank first), tie a collar of hairs ear behind the silver bead head. This works well for any mayfly species, tied in the appropriate size. I first saw this pattern in an Orvis throw away four to five years ago and it has been a work horse for me since.
I forgot another I use a lot. We’ll make this one #5.5 I got this from Mike Dougherty a few years ago and it answers a need for those pesky midges that hatch just about everywhere. When I fish to rising fish where I can’t see any insects, this is what I use.
No tail, black turkey or goose biot (actually, I usually use the barbules on the other side of the feather, because they are longer) for the abdomen. Use a small dubbed black thorax and an appropriately sized (small) starling hackle. This is a soft hackle pattern that is fished in the film. If I can’t see the fly, I will use a pinch of biostrike on the tippet knot so that I can tell, usually, when there is sport at my fly.
I use this pattern in sizes from #22-18.
Usually, with one of these 5.5 flies, I feel that I at least will have a chance at sport. You can get the pattern for these flies from any complete reference book or off the internet. If not, bug me and I might share a sample.
Have a great fishing year!