Category Archives: Mike Cline, Bozeman MT

Variations on a Rock Worm

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

“Nature is so delightful and abundant in its variations that among trees of the same kind there would not be found one which nearly resembles another, and not only the plants as a whole, but among their branches, leaves, and fruit, will not be found one which is precisely like another.”  –Leonardo da Vinci

This sentiment would be an anathema to commercial fly tiers. When you see one commercially tied Royal Wulff, you can marvel at its form, proportions and intricate combination of materials. But when you see 100s or 1000s of the same fly, it is truly awesome at the ability of commercial tiers to eliminate variation and replicate a precise pattern seemingly infinitely—almost robotic. Their customers demand such precision. Such is not the case for the amateur fly tier. We are not beholding to precision in our tying unless we so choose. Thus I make the case for Variations.

“In music, variation is a formal technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these.” – Wikipedia. Let’s alter that–In fly tying, variation is a technique where elements of the fly are tied in an altered form. The changes may involve tails, bodies, ribs, thoraxes, eyes, wings, hooks, weight, materials, etc. or any combination of these. So to start my journey on variations, I chose the lowly rock worm or larva of 100s of species of Rhyacophilidae caddis flies or (Green Sedges). A nifty You Tube video gives us a good view of this larva’s behavior. more…

Crazy Fishing

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

One stop on our Helifish Trip made for some crazy fishing. As the crow flies (or as the R44 Helicopter flies), we were about 90 miles Southwest of Darwin just south of Point Scott and the Daly River. As we left the beach and flew inland over tight thickets of Mangroves that hugged the Moyle River, the terrain opened up into a massive grass covered floodplain. The Moyle below appeared as a narrow creek, much too small to be of any fishing interest. Baz, our pilot made a few passes around the headwaters checking for crocs. None to be seen, so we sat down at a fork in the river. This was soggy ground and not unlike tundra in the north. The river was flowing heavily with a tannic colored water and although it wasn’t much more than 10 feet wide, it was not something you’d try to wade in. When we landed, the river was about five feet below the steep, muddy banks but rising steadily as the tide pushed in. At high tide, even though we were a mile inland, the tide would probably reach the floodplain.

As we started to fish, it was immediately evident that Barra had moved into the river. In just about every eddy, a fly placed close to the bank would get a strike. Once hooked, my eight weight was more than adequate to tame the Barra, although many times that required slogging downstream along the muddy banks to subdue the fish. At the point where the Moyle begins, the water flows off the floodplain in a miniature waterfall. A number of Barra were caught here in the deep eddys. During the wet, the floodplains become breeding grounds for all manner of baitfish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. This year, the Wet was mild and the floodplains held less water than normal. In a normal year, the water in the photo above might be six inches deeper on the floodplain. The Barra move up these rivers to feed on the bounty flowing off the floodplain.

We hung around the Moyle for about an hour and connected with lot of fish and broke off a few as well. I even caught a Boofhead Catfish. I retrospect it was not only crazy fishing, but hard work as well. The footing was slippery and slogging through the soft, wet grass was very taxing in the extreme heat and humidity, especially trying to control a tough Barra in the narrow creek. I was whipped after an hour of hard fishing. The Pink Thing fly worked well here and I left a few attached to some big Barra.

As a streamer angler by heart, this was some crazy fishing. A small, ragging creek. Tannic waters, sloppy footing in the middle of nowhere. You could toss a large streamer just about anywhere and connect with a big fish, can’t get much crazier than that.

Plecopteran Purple

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana


The Society of Bored Fly Tyers announced today the existence of an experimental line of Plecopteran (stonefly) flies tied predominately in the color purple. The flies for the most part mimic traditional Plecopteran patterns like the Brooks Montana Stone, Parks Stonefly, Minch’s Stonefly nymphs, Stimulators and Flashback stones, etc. The patterns are scheduled to undergo field trials this summer on selected watersheds SW Montana. Trials may be disrupted if the National Park Service fails to open Yellowstone National Park in time for the 2020 park fishing season which should begin on May 23rd. There are key waters in the park that anglers rely on for early season stonefly patterns. However there are plenty of traditional stonefly waters throughout SW Montana outside the park for the trials to begin.

Once field trials are completed late this summer, a report will be published as to the efficacy of the patterns. Fly anglers and fly tiers are cautioned against hoarding purple fly tying material in advance of field trials. As it is not a common color in most trout related fly tying materials, fly shops and online suppliers generally don’t have a strong supply. Society experts caution that these are experimental flies with no track record of success. The flies may be completely useless and cause unnecessary frustration if anglers think they are a panacea Hoarding now may disrupt trials if the flies are successful and the secret leaks out. If the trials are unsuccessful, then overstocking with purple materials now may prove to be a waste of money. The society did ask that any fly tier desiring to participate in the field trials should begin to tie Plecopteran purple patterns now before supplies of purple materials dry up. Successful and unsuccessful patterns should be reported to the society during the summer. more…