Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Olives & Hughes

The Wisconsin trout opener is just three weeks away, and I've been spending time filling my fly boxes with tiny flies.  March is the time for "Go Small or Go Home," unless of course you feel like chuckin' some streamers.  The average hook sizes for dry flies that work during the month of March seem to be #18 and smaller.  I use to think that casting anything smaller than a #16 was for crazy folk, but my fly tying must be improving because now a #18 hook seems too big.  I never thought I'd be purchasing #22 dry fly hooks, but that's exactly what I'll be doing this week.  Now I just have to get better at seeing these minuscule flies on the water.......

This past week provided some exciting moments in my tiny world of fly tying.  I completed the third week of a free fly tying class sponsored by my local TU chapter and learned to tie a couple different olive nymph patterns.  There are usually some good BWO hatches in March and April in the Driftless area, so I tied up a small supply of these tiny nymphs.  I also played around with a couple different BWO emerger patterns that I came across.  I really like fishing emergers and cripples.  If I were a feeding trout and had the choice between a hatched insect and one that appears to be stuck in the film, I think I'd automatically go for the emerger or cripple, though I'm not exactly sure what that says about me..... 

I've yet to determine whether trout actually show a preference for emergers during a hatch, but I like fishing them anyway.  Here are two of the prototypes I've been tying lately:
Olive emerger
Olive emerger

The flies aren't perfect, but I'm sure they'll catch trout this season.  Just as importantly, I like the looks of them.  I'm finding out the more I fly fish, the pickier I become about the flies I use.  There are some flies I just won't tie or fish with because they simply don't appeal to me aesthetically.  I prefer to use flies that look fairly natural, as apposed to fluorescent monstrosities with rubber legs.  Apparently, I've got a tad bit of dry fly snobbery in me as well.  I'll happily fish nymphs if they're working, but I usually use them as a dropper behind a dry fly.  I've also been turning my nose up at streamers lately.  Even though streamers will catch a lot of trout during the spring season when there's not much insect activity on the water, I enjoy my day more by hooking fewer trout on dry flies or emergers.  Regardless, I inevitably end up casting some solo pink squirrels and wooly buggers each spring because, ultimately, my fly pickiness is inversely proportional to the pickiness of trout.

Another exciting fly tying event occurred this past week when I had the opportunity to observe two hours of fly tying by a master.  Dave Hughes was in town for the Badger Fly Fishers spring opener, and he was gracious enough to stop by our class and demonstrate a couple soft hackle patterns.  Though I haven't fished soft hackles before, and despite my previously described snobbery, I may try them out this season because they're pretty looking flies that are pretty easy to tie. During his demonstration to our class, Hughes tied up a March brown spider and a March brown flymph. Along with those #22 hooks, I may also be investing in some partridge hackle.

Dave Hughes tying his March brown spider 
When I first started fly fishing, I quickly began devouring as much information about the sport as I possibly could.  Out of all the books I read pertaining to all things fly fishing, the two most informative books were by Dave Hughes.  I highly recommend Reading Trout Water (previously entitled Reading the Water) as well as Handbook of Hatches because they make complicated information very understandable.  So needless to say, I was very excited to meet him and watch him tie up a couple of his favorite patterns.

It turns out that Dave Hughes has a generous and self-deprecating nature, which are traits possessed by many of the best fly fishermen I know.  So I'm guessing he makes a pretty good fishing partner on top of being a good tying instructor.

With just a few weeks left before the big season opener, I'll be spending many more enjoyable hours in front of my vise.  

Tiny midges are in my future..... 


  1. Hi,
    Liked your comments on Erin's. There is a lot of good stuff here. I like your insight into Hughes self deprecating nature. I think it's a good trait. It's like a confidence. Not like stuffy, with an attitude. More like I'm ok with where I am.

    1. You're right: "self-deprecation" and "quiet confidence" are quite interchangeable. I hadn't thought of it that way before. Thanks for the feedback!