Category Archives: Clay Cunningham, Cody, Wyoming

Dry Fly Tails & Quill, Hackle Stem or Biot Bodies

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

For many years I used hackle, Coq de leon, pheasant, deer hair, moose hair, and a lot of other hair choices for the tails of my dry flies. When the artificial tapered nylon mayfly tail material became available in various colors, I switched to them exclusively for all dry flies. The material is buoyant and imitates typical dry fly tails extremely well. The survival of emerging duns long enough to molt and become “spinners” for mating is because they emerge in high numbers and many survive the feeding trout in very large numbers. This is the time when the water looks like it is “boiling” as the fish feed voraciously. Many of the massive numbers emerging eventually molt and become strong fliers and begin mating. Their life span then depends on the species I which often ends minutes after mating.

It is quite a mystery that when the water is virtually covered with emerging duns and I cast my dry fly imitation into the massive pile of crowded insects floating by that any trout would strike my imitation. My flies are not ugly or poorly tied, but even to my eyes they don’t look like the thousands of duns on the water during a hatch. Yet my artificial fly is frequently selected by fish. Why is that? more…

My ‘Go To’ Flies

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

As a twelve-year old in 1948 growing up in Pennsylvania and a beginning fly tier, most of my early flies were poor imitations of the patterns described in an old book given to me. As I recall at that time, my flies were tied with materials I collected from the chickens we killed for the dinner table and various hair and feathers I collected from my trapline and hunting for deer, rabbits, Ruffed Grouse pheasants and squirrel with my father, a coal miner who was a veteran of WWII in the Pacific. My supplies for fly tying were largely poor materials. Those materials combined with my amateur fly tying skills produced flies that were ugly and didn’t float very long, if at all.  So, I started raising Banty roosters. They are smaller and much more aggressive buggers that seemed to know when I was looking to collect their hackles and the fight was on. While Banty rooster hackles were better than the standard hackles found on our chickens or in Herter’s catalog at the time they were nothing like the hackles we have today. more…

Advice for Fishing and Hiking in Bear Country

Guest Blogger: Clay Cunningham, Cody WY, Former National Park Superintendent

Part of my career with the National Park Service included time as the Yellowstone Madison River sub-district ranger in the 1960s, the East District ranger in the North Cascades from 1970 to 1975, and the superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve from September 1980 until March 1989. During the past 32 years I lived and worked where black and grizzly bears and bison and moose live. This article is what I learned from research, observations of animal behavior, speaking to mauled victims and having been personally charged by a grizzly on three different occasions. I was never mauled by a bear.

Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, North Cascades National Park and all the national parks in Alaska have grizzly bears. Yellowstone, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota and both state and national parks in South Dakota have many wild bison. The bears and bison sometimes attack park visitors. Hunters in the areas surrounding parks have also endured attacks by a grizzly. The possibility of a grizzly bear attack is virtually guaranteed if you encounter a sow grizzly with cubs, and many grizzlies outside the park have learned during hunting season that the sound of rifle fire could mean an elk or deer has been shot. The grizzly moves in the direction of the rifle fire because it could find a dead animal or its gut pile to feed upon. more…