Monthly Archives: May 2020

The Art and History of Fly Tying

Fred Klein Author, Fly tyer and fisher of early traditional flies. Fly fishing historian, author and speaker.

Native Fin, a brook trout fin wet fly pattern designed by Fred Klein for brook trout in Maine and the Pennsylvania Appalachian Mountains

My journey in pursuit of trout with the fly began 45 years ago with a new fly rod and instructions to cast and drift a fly. What a gift that was. The woods and waters of Pennsylvania, the Appalachian Mountains and beyond have brought a life of admiration for the wilderness,
forests, wildlife, and a thirst for “what lies beyond the next bend in the stream and over the mountain.” more…

Tough Bugs

Guest Blogger: Mary S. Kuss, Life-long avid angler, licensed PA fishing guide, founder of the Delaware Valley Women’s Fly Fishing Association

“Stream channelization, pollution, and insecticides have taken their toll on the mayfly life that, according to trouting literature, once flourished in our waters. The eager rise of trout to emerging insects, that magical event for which many trout fishermen live, is unfortunately rare. Many of the classic hatches have all but disappeared from public waters in the Poconos. If one were to follow a source such as Schwiebert’s Matching the Hatch in preparing patterns for use in our area, he might find a considerable number of them can be eliminated because so few of the naturals now exist in major streams.”

Don Baylor
Pocono Hatches
Pocono Hatches was published in 1980, and as you can imagine this situation has for the most part only gotten worse during the forty years since. Even so, the Poconos still have much better and more diverse hatches than the waters nearer my home in the Philadelphia suburbs. The best thing I can say is that there isn’t much channelizing of streams going on anymore.

Those of us who love fly fishing, of course, have adapted to the decline of the classic hatches. Attractor patterns have become increasingly important in our pursuit of trout and other gamefish. Yet there are still hatch-matching opportunities. We simply have to turn our attention to the insects that have also been able to adapt. There are a handful of aquatic insects that still live, and sometimes even thrive, in our altered streams. Here are some of my favorites.

Midges

Chironomids are by far the most significant hatch in the streams I fish. They are ubiquitous, abundant, and a frequent trigger for selective feeding. Midges are very important during the winter, when they are usually the only hatch available. A relatively warm day in January or February often brings on an emergence.

I like to keep my workhorse fly patterns simple and easy to tie. Although I believe firmly that a wise fly fisher always carries some change-ups, I rely on two midge patterns. For the pupa, which is often the most important, I use an Al’s Rat. This pattern could not be simpler. On a standard dry fly hook, form a double layer of brown size 3/0 Danville Monocord. Add a small ball of Muskrat dubbing as a thorax. Done. I once saw a photograph of a real midge pupa next to a wet Al’s Rat and the likeness was uncanny. For the adults, I like a Griffith’s Gnat. I tie both in sizes 20, 22, and 24. more…

Cahill Frenchie

Tim Cammisa of “Trout and Feather” has been fly fishing and tying for over 30 years.  View his YouTube videos and more information at: http://www.troutandfeather.com

The Cahill Frenchie is a pattern that attempts to bridge the gap between jig nymphs and emergers, if such a place exists! At first glance, the inclusion of pale yellow dubbing may appear to be a hot spot or trigger, but there’s more than meets the eye. Even better, this pattern can be varied to “match” various mayflies in the waters you fish. Before we get there, let’s briefly investigate the fly’s design, a variation of the ever popular Pheasant Tail.

As tiers push boundaries with Frank Sawyer’s classic PT Nymph, fish have responded. Hot spots in the form of thread and synthetic dubbing is typically found in the thorax, and a more resilient fiber, known as Coq de Leon, is a favorite for the tail. The name “Frenchie” tends to include flies tied in this style, deriving from their popularity in Europe, especially in competitive fly fishing settings. The one common bond: Pheasant Tail, which resembles many nymphs found in our waterways.

Investigating the pattern, I wanted to continue the effective contrast, a point constantly driven home to me by Fly Fishing Team USA member, Josh Miller. However, instead of a hi-vis thorax, I thought about the mayfly life cycle, as a nymph emerges to a dun, or adult. During this transition, the adult sheds its nymphal skin, and many times fish key on this emergence, as it’s a sign of vulnerability. The emergence takes place closer to the surface, so why the effectiveness of the pattern? more…