Bright Sunny Days, Clear Water and Red Flies

Red Copper Top - Summer Steelhead Fly

Red Copper Top – Summer Steelhead Fly

As we head into the fall the color red has been on my mind.  My box really doesn’t have much red as I am usually all about the purple, black and blue.  I am one to worry about such things, and the thing I worry about most is not having the right fly.

As we all know, with Steelhead fishing, selecting the right fly is the absolute most important thing one can do beyond the basics like waking up alive enough to fish another day.

In my real life I spend a good bit of time working with data and I have been trying to come up with an analytic fly selection model that takes into account all of the variables; water temperature, air temperature, sediment composition, flow, change in flow, water clarity, barometric pressure, light, light direction and YOUR LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE IN A PARTICULAR FLY!  I have not yet solved the aforementioned problem but until I do, if it is sunny, summer and the water is clear I think this fly will be a good bet.


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Green Butt “No Skunk”

I am such a fan of the Lady Caroline and wanted to come up with a hybrid cross version that would fish higher up on the Lower Deschutes where the fish seem to like more buggy and natural looking flies. This is tied on a gold Alec Jackson but could be tied on a TMC 7999 standard as well. The only real variation from the “standard” is the dubbed body, a white Guinea collar and a folded Bronze Mallard wing.  Currently this creation inspires great confidence but is as of this time unproven.


Green Butt “No Skunk”

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Trout Counting and Investing

Coastal Chrome Steelhead

Coastal Chrome Steelhead

I just had my first epic day of the non-winter fishing season, it had very little to do with the number of trout brought to hand. It has become a bit of a tradition in our household to take a Sunday every once in a while and make a family day out of it. Wake up, go for a run, come home and lounge; generally have a lazy morning. Once the sun starts to rise a little higher in the sky we throw a couple of rods in the car and wander to one of our favorite spots with no particular agenda or timeline, some days we don’t even fish when we get there.

Today, I decided to bring my shiny new Tenkara rod that had only been blessed with one fish since Christmas. I wanted an opportunity for my wife to try out her awesome gift. I was having trouble explaining the concept and now was excited to show her how much fun it is to enjoy the simplicity of the new (old) rage of Tenkara.

We forgot sunblock which was a mistake, the sun came out and it was a perfect 70 degrees with only a breath of wind. The blue wings started coming off and a normally quiet river began to boil. We had an absolute blast passing the Tenkara around even while our dog was splashing around in the river in the very spot we were pulling out one fish after another. This was the exact same spot I spent nearly 10 hours the prior month without ever seeing a fish.

I ran into a friend and he asked how the river was fishing. Without thinking, I said: “it’s fishing awesome, I have already lost count”. After thinking about that for a moment that probably sounded a little different than I intended. I was not trying to brag, I typically lose count at about two fish, maybe three. I have come to really appreciate getting skunked, I feel it is a critical part of my fishing investment portfolio.

I think once you enter the brutal world of fishing for Steelhead especially with a fly rod you need to invent a bit of an alternate reality to convince yourself to keep going back. When it comes to trout fishing I do my best to apply this same mindset and superstition on the days that I am working harder than I feel I should be.

I put in 20+ days in the last two years in search of a Steelhead without ever bringing one to hand, many of these days were guided, a few of them even involved a little gear fishing, gasp!

I hooked up a few times and landed tons of trout but just never made the connection. I knew deep down that I was putting in my casts like coins into a slot machine. I regularly joked that they were the fish of 20,000 casts and the number would increment on the next trip. A good friend also pointed out that you can do everything right but if there are not actually fish where you are fishing, it can be difficult to catch a fish. I thought that was quite prophetic.

Last month, a last minute trip materialized and we were able to sneak out for a few days fishing the tail end of the winter steelhead season.

My first hook up on day one confused me so much I just stood there staring at my line thinking it was snagged until it moved from one side of the river to the other literally almost hitting my guide in the head as it passed. I continued my blank stare amidst his shouting until the fish went airborne.

While I was not personally really keeping track, my guide made note that in about 18 hours of fishing over 3 days we brought 10 fish to the boat and touched many more. Ok, it is possible that I was keeping track, it had been a long winter after all! The fish that broke the slump was the biggest fish of the trip, possibly in my life and put up a fight that matched it’s size.

This has all affirmed my deep belief that slow fishing and fish less days are the most important investments you can make. This last Sunday on our favorite tailwater when the sun peaked, the fishing slowed down. Instead of becoming frustrated, we enjoyed a nice walk while watching the bald eagles flying overhead. When we had enough sun, we packed up the Jeep and slowly made our way home, enjoying the day and listening to our favorite NPR show.

Sunday was a solid investment, I plan to buy a few more stocks in a similar day here very soon.

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How to make furled leaders – Simple

Furled Leaders

Uni Thread Furled Leaders – Traditional and Tenkara

I have been researching furled leaders for the last few years. Every time I commit to figuring it out I am always overwhelmed in the complexity of the instructions. What I found is that the process is elementary simple but is quite difficult to explain.



I have boiled the process down to these summary instructions:

1. Wrap 6/0 uni thread around two fixed objects ~2.1-2.2x longer than your goal length.
2. Connect to a drill and spin clockwise until it begins to curl up on itself when tension is removed.
3. Fold the leader in half, and spin counterclockwise until it again begins to just start to curl on itself.
4. Insert a paper clip or similar in each end and let unfurl slowly
5. Tie a loop in each end, perfection loop is the easiest to begin with but work towards the shorb loop as it is much cleaner.

What you will end up with is a level leader which is perfect for making nymphing butt sections or level Tenkara leaders. I came up with this very simple method when I wanted to build some level furled leaders for my new Tenkara rod. I built up some 10′ levels in high-vis and drab colors and they work amazing. You can literally cast them by hand and they take only pennies to make. Once you get the concept you can move onto building a simple wood jig for making tapered versions.

Furled Leader Resources I found valuable:

How to Make a Shorb Loop PDF

 Furling Illustration

Here are the specifications for the jig I built

It may be obvious to everyone but me but 88″ doesn’t equal 9.5′.  It took me a while to figure this out.  The dimensions will build you a ~7′ leader that you can then add about 2.5′ of tippet material.


Other Notes and observations:

  • For a level Tenkara or Nymphing butt sections, I like to build a 3 wrap 6/0 that is about 9-12′.
  • You can loop thingamabobbers on just like you would on mono and they NEVER move!
  • Multicolored leaders look very cool and are not much more challenging but I will do a video on the tricks soon.
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Seed Bead Rubber Leg Stimulator

Seed Bead Head Stimulator

Seed Bead Head Stimulator

I will close the series on enhancing your flies with Glass or Plastic “Seed” beads with this improved Stimulator dry-fly.  As we begin to think about Salmon Fly season mere months away, this is a perfect pattern for bringing a monster from the depths.  Using these beads has been used historically on wet flies but I find they also work as great heads (and butts) on dry flies as well.

I did not video this one as it is simply a standard Stimulator with a bright red glass bead threaded first onto the hook before tying.  Keep the thread wraps to a minimum when finishing off the head behind the bead for a nice clean look.  I also added some rubber legs and an angel hair over-wing for some additional spice.  This is a great classic pattern that is great as a top fly in a hopper dropper rig or tied small (down to 18 or even 20) for tail water searching action.  My other favorite color is purple abdomen with peacock ice dubbing thorax.

Hook: TMC 200R Dry Fly Hook
Thread: 8/0 Black
Bead: Small Red or Orange Glass “Seed” Bead
Tail: Fine Deer or Elk Hair
Rib: Fine Gold or Silver Tinsel
Abdomen: Orange Dubbing
Abdomen Hackle:
Furnace Brown Hackle Gap Width or slightly smaller
Wing: Coarse Cow Elk
Over Wing: Angel Hair Trimmed Just Longer than Wing
Thorax: Yellow Dubbing
Hackle: Grizzly Standard Dry Fly Length

Hope that helps.



Posted in Fly Pattern

Czech Seed Bead Caddis Emerger

Seed Bead Caddis Emerger

Seed Bead Caddis Emerger

This is an adapted version of a traditional Caddis Emerger pattern using Czech glass seed beads. It can be tied in many colors and combinations to meet the needs of the water you are fishing. Most of the beads that you can buy are still pretty big so size 14 is about the smallest I have been able to tie in this style. I have also tied this in larger sizes using bright green beads for Deschutes River Steelhead. It is a great representation dry and even more so when wet.

Thread: Veevus 12/0
Hook:  TMC 2457 Emerger/Scud Hook (or similar)
Abdomen: Small Dark Colored Czech Seed Beads + Olive Hare’s Ear Dubbing Rib
Wing: Hungarian Partridge Feather
Thorax: Olive or Dark Hare’s Ear Dubbing (Picked )
Wing case: Olive, Black or Brown Mottled Thin Skin
Wax: *Optional




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Hard Top Hares Ear

Hard Top Hares Ear

Hard Top Hares Ear

Seed Bead Version


Early in my fly fishing career the Hares Ear was one of my most successful flies.   This fly is simply one of the best choices you can make in a searching situation.  When we started adding beads to this fly I just never liked the profile, it still worked but it just never looked right to me.  A few weeks ago I woke up in the middle of the night and tied this, it solved a number of problems and retained that nice heavy weight that is so key to it’s success.  I think the use of Pheasant Tail is also key, there are so many variations and opportunities with this classic pattern.  I have included a number of tricks that can be applied to this style specifically and a number of other patterns.

 Hard Top Hares Ear

Hook: 3x long 1x heavy Nymph
Bead: Gold Bead
Thread: Rusty Brown 8/0
Tail: Pheasant Tail
Rib: Medium Gold Tinsel
Dubbing: Light/Dark/Olive/Black Hares Ear Dubbing
Wing Case: Pheasant Tail
Wing Case Shell: Clear Cure Goo Fleck + Clear Cure Hydro
*Optional: Seed Bead Head (colors from Black to Red)


YouTube Video Link



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Magic Green Caddis

Magic Green Caddis

Magic Green Caddis

This fly is my favorite Mckenzie Green Caddis pattern.  The name “Magic” green Caddis came one rainy day in the spring fishing below Hayden Bridge on the McKenzie, it is a flashy fly and was bringing trout to the top in a heavy down pour.  I tie this in purple (purple ice dub) as well with a grizzly hackle.  I honestly don’t remember where or how I came up with it but the CDC plus the hair wing is the trick.  There are a few tricks included in this video, one is the inverting of the fly when whip finishing.  This helps when you have a large head and are having trouble getting those last few wraps on there.

 Hook: 1x long dry fly size 14-18
Thread: Veevus 16/0 olive (minimum bulk thread)
Body: Olive Ice Dub
Underwing: Olive CDC
Wing: Select Deer Hair Stacked
Hackle: Furnace Brown 1.5x hook gap
Wax: Natural Beeswax or Wilson’s Wonder Wax

*Head cement optional

Youtube video link:



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Against Better Judgement – Chasing Deschutes River Steelhead November 30th 2013

Deschutes River Steelhead?

Deschutes River Steelhead?

I actually laugh when I read stories or fishing reports talking of a bad day on the lower Deschutes river that go something like this; it was a tough day of fishing, we hooked 3 landed 2.  This is quite inconsistent with my and many others experiences this year.  For the record, I have consistently hooked 0 landed the same.

Fish of 16k casts is my new joke, I sure wish I knew how many casts I make in a day so I could make that joke a bit more accurate.   However, being persistent in nature I have every intention of proving the fish gods wrong.  We considered going east to the John Day but the flows just didn’t look promising and given the short days and shorter schedule we opted for the old stand-by.

I was up at 5 a.m. to make a half gallon of hot soup and a full gallon of coffee, preparing for the 20 degree weather I expected to be stepping into.  I roll the garage door up to hook up the boat and it feels, well, warm.  I check my phone, 45 degrees at 5:30 AM at 3600′? The last day of November 2013?

We put in at Warm Springs at around 8:30 there is only one other trailer in the parking lot, slow day for Fish’s Shuttle Service.    ‘Doc’ checks the boater pass website on his phone and it says 28 sold.  We saw 4 boats all day and are still confused on the math, even if you multiply by people in the boats the math is still off…   There are dead Salmon everywhere, smelly dead, cut in half salmon lining the shores and rocks for miles.  It is the end of fall, the beginning of winter and the end of life for many of these creatures who have traveled so far.

We put in and were fishing about 10 minutes later.  I catch my requisite whitefish in the same damn spot as always, it is always my first fish of the day (often my last) usually within the first three casts and today is no different.  Today’s catch is smaller than normal but still in the same spot, I yell down at ‘doc’, do Steelhead share holes with whitefish?, “not likely”.

Once he is well below the boat I pick up my Spey and follow him through the run.  I tied on a fresh new (ESsL) Egg Sucking squidro Leech), it came to me in a dream as do most of my other grand but hopeless ideas.  After tying it on, I held it below the surface, another fine creation destined for greatness I thought.

Cast step, Cast step a mantra we continued through the first 300 yards of our day.  No fish, it was indeed early and the overcast sky’s were promising.  Today we would fish high and push through the lower section to the take-out.

At this time of year, once we get past October 31st we are limited to the “river right” half side of the river as the rest is closed.  This creates some challenges as much of the good lower swing water we are used to is on “river left”, however, there are so few boaters on the river the competition is limited.

We continue the day, swinging absolutely beautiful, perfect, water.   There is no pressure today, it is beautiful and warm with slightly overcast sky’s.

The conditions are perfect for my new ESL that I was determined to fish ALL day.  One of the boats we share the river with passes by and waves.  I have learned this year that the proper response to the query “doing any good?”, is; “it’s sure a nice day, isn’t it?”.

Today was no different, I can’t believe that I have had a 65+ degree days in both October and now the last day of November.   It is possible that I was made fun of because my repeated attempts to show off my new propane heater system were refused because it was simply unnecessary.

We fished the fast water and deep into the frog water because we are all being told the Steel are in the slow water this year.  We throw downstream belly’s to get through the slack water in hopes of finding this magic new holding water.  At the end of the day, it was a truly nice day.  A day, that I lost sleep over looking forward to.

As soon as I came home I started tying a new creation that I spent the day dreaming about whilst “practicing my casting”.  I love this place, I stood waist deep almost all day with Salmon living their last days.  I counted 9 Blue Heron’s and an Osprey with an over-sized payload.   This rare opportunity, provides an experience that few are able to observe.  We reflected and discussed what was going through the minds of the Salmon as they were slowly working their way up stream to their ultimate fatal fate, taking their last breaths.

While today, I did not catch an elusive Deschutes River Steelhead on a swung fly, I did catch my first Deschutes Dolly Varden (Bull)!  I was quite confused about what I had hooked, while it had the color of a Whitefish, it put up a significant and aerial fight.  I thought it was a brown, but was rewarded with something even better, knock one more off the bucket list…  Today, as I like to say, I caught more fish; than I would have on the couch.

Hello Dolly

Hello Dolly







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Gold Bead Hare’s Ear Grub

A simplified version of the classic Hare’s Ear.  I think this is a great first fly to learn, it is simple, quick and deadly effective.  It is a great Caddis imitation as it does not have the traditional pattern.  The pattern can be varied in color and size to meet your specific needs.

Hare's Ear Grub

Hare’s Ear Grub


Hare’s Ear Grub

Thread: Rusty Brown 8/0
Hook: TMC 2457 Scud Hook 12-18
Bead: Appropriate Size Gold or Silver
Body: Hare’s Ear Dubbing
Rib: French Gold Tinsel

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