Kelly Creek Idaho

Kelly Creek in North Idaho

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These pictures are a stroll down memory lane for me. I took them in mid-September of 2000. It was my second trip to Kelly Creek and this was my first digital camera. After reading stories of 20″ fish and fly fishing heaven, I had to try my luck.

Kelly Creek 2

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Since then, I’ve made it to Kelly at least once every year. It has never let me down. So in honor of my favorite stream, all the pictures in this post are from 2000.

I’ve learned that while there are 20″ fish, and I have caught some, most of the fish are smaller. Your typical fish is usually around 10 inches. 12-15 inch fish are not uncommon.

Kelly Creek 3

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I usually camp near the bridge at the south-east end of the road access. Then day hike up the trail and fish. Another day I’ll cruise along the frontage road, hopping from hole to hole. Sometimes I explore Moose Creek or the Little North Fork of the Clearwater. The picture on the right shows the trail above the bridge.

I remember a magical day, fishing my way up stream, catching dozens and dozens of fish and never changing my fly all day.

I’ve been to Kelly in June, August, September and October.  September is my favorite time. The crowds have departed. You might even have the river to yourself. That time in October I was tent camping and it got down to 21 degrees. Just a little too nippy for my thinning blood.

Kelly Creek 4

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This picture was taken 9/15/2000. You can see the Kokanee had made it up there to spawn. They add color and interest to the stream. And the bear love them. I’ve never had a bear problem, but have seen them from a nice distance.

Kelly Creek 6

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On the right, you can see the bridge. The road leads over to Cayuse Creek. It is smaller than Kelly and runs into Kelly upstream. There is a primitive landing strip at the camp ground at Cayuse, so if you know someone with a plane…

Kelly Creek 7

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Even in the heat of mid September, the mornings can be foggy and damp. The mist adds to the atmosphere of the river.

I can’t wait to go back to the river again this year. Each time brings new treasures to discover. The river changes a little every visit. Some holes disappear, others are created.

I’ve seen moose, bear, deer, mink, beaver, martin, coyote, elk, lots of different birds and of course, lots of fish. I find my pulse speeding up as I come down the hill from Lolo Pass. Not just the switchbacks in the road. It is the anticipation of another time at my favorite stream.

My favorite view of the drive is the top of HooDoo Pass, especially in September with the fall colors. This isn’t the best picture I have of it, but I had to stay true to the rule of the day. Only pictures from 2000. Tight lines.

Lolo Pass

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July Is Green Drake Time

Green Drake Dry

The first two times I fished a green drake hatch, I didn’t realize it until it was over. I was fishing a nice run in a pretty little river around the middle of July. About 2 in the afternoon, I worked my way down the run with no strikes. I decided the fish had all moved to deeper pools to escape the heat. When I looked back up the stream, I saw fish begin to rise. Suddenly there were a lot of rises. Big, slashing rises.

I started casting, hoping for the best. I changed flies. I changed sizes. I began to panic. How could the fish be feeding like crazy, but I couldn’t even get a mercy strike?

Finally the frenzy began to fade. The rises slowed and my discouragement grew. Then I saw a bug on the water. I moved downstream to some slack water where I could  scoop up the chunky fellow. I didn’t know what he was, but I desperately wanted to make his acquaintance.

That night I hit my books and the web to identify the mid-day meal that excited the fish. It was a Western Green Drake. I tied up a variety of patterns, determined to be ready the next time.

A couple weeks later I found myself on a different run, early afternoon,  sweaty and hungry. Then rises started. Aggressive, big fish rises. Thinking that rises that rabid had to be a Caddis hatch, I tied on an Elk Hair Caddis, but no luck. After a couple pattern changes, I began to get the feeling my luck was not going to change. The fish were probably laughing at me under the water.

That feeling of despondency triggered the memory of my last failure. Green drakes! Because the adult doesn’t stay on the surface very long, the fish target the easier prey of the emerger. So the peak feeding time occurs before the adult become visible.

I tied on a green drake dry and worked the center of the channel. On my third cast, I hooked up a 16 inch cutthroat. I caught three more before the hatch ended. I had matched the hatch for the first time.

I keep several Green Drake patterns in my fly box during the mid-summer months. In this post I have two of them.

Olive Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear Nymph

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Despite my preference for dry flies, this hatch is much better fished for the emerger. So this fly works great in the first stage, when the rises are just starting.

You can fish it alone, using the greased line technique, or as a dropper fly. You can also fish it as a wet fly on the swing.  All three methods work very well.

Like the basic hare’s ear nymph, it is a nice straight forward tie. I have just a couple of notes.

First, I use a hare’s mask instead of a packaged dubbing for all my hare’s ear patterns. I like the different markings to choose from. A mask dyed olive is a cheap investment and will tie a bunch of flies. You can see what it looks like below.

For the tail, I like the banded cheek hair with all the guard fibers left in. For the body and thorax, I pick out most of the guard hairs and mix the fibers with my fingers before dubbing. It only takes a few seconds.

Second, I like a shaggy look to this style of fly, so I use a dubbing loop for the abdomen. It works for me.

Third, you might ask why I use peacock instead of turkey tail or goose wing, or Swiss straw or any other material for the wingcase. The answer is easy. I learned this pattern from the book “Fly Patterns of the Umpqua Feather Merchants”. This is the recipe they cited. I’ve never felt the need to change it.

To see the step-by-step instructions click here.

Olive Dyed Hare's Mask

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The dry fly pictured at the top of the post, is a pattern I go to as the emerger begins to slow down. Even though I might not see the adult yet, the fish are expecting them and will begin to take them. I like this pattern. It may not be the best, but it floats well and looks like a bug. Here is the recipe.

Recipe for Nealley's Green Drake

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This pattern is credited to Alan Nealley. I don’t always follow the recipe strictly. The original used brown deer for the overbody and dark deer for the wing. It rides so low in the water, I need the lighter yellow deer to see it.

Also the original calls for pale yellow poly dubbing, but I prefer a light olive dubbing. Just a matter of taste.

This is a harder fly to tie than some, so if you have questions about the tying sequence, follow the step-by-step tutorial here.

Next time a couple more patterns. I promise not to be so long winded.

Another Rotten Day in Paradise

Did you ever have one of those days….

North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River

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63 degrees at 10 am. Blue skies, clear water and the hope of lots of fish. Paradise. I stopped at a bend of the river I hadn’t fished before. It had a nice choppy run, good current seams, a deep pool and tail out. Perfect. Even the start was good. Three fish in 5 casts. Then I decide to take the picture above. It wasn’t anything special, but I was trying out a polarizer filter and wanted to see how it worked on the stream. But I couldn’t see well through my polarized glasses and the polarized filter so I dropped my glasses on their lanyard, took the picture and reached for my sunglasses.

Except my sunglasses weren’t on their lanyard.

I looked down in disbelief. The lanyard hung in its normal spot around my neck, but the little plastic loops were empty. I scoured the river bottom, but I was standing in brisk current. No telling how fast and far the glasses would drift. So I scooted to the shore and deposited my rod and camera and went searching in vane for the missing glasses.

Now if these had been $6.00 Walmart glasses, I would have said, “No problemo. Fish on.” I knew I had two pairs of spare polarized glasses in my rig. But these were Maui Jim prescription glasses I got just ten months ago. After fifteen minutes, I felt pretty discouraged. I took my rod and camera up to the road and deposited them safely. I shrugged out of my vest and grabbed a spare set of polarized glasses. I spent two hours plodding back and forth between where I lost them and the next slow stretch that I figured might stop them.

No luck.

Although that was the worst part of the day it didn’t really improve all that much as it wore on.

I fell three times – but only once in the water.

Later, I forgot to clip my hat on my vest, so a gust of wind blew it into the water just as a car stopped to watch. I’m sure they had a good laugh as I staggered after it, determined not to lose anything else.

I was casting to a nice hole only to snag a low hanging limb. I decided to break off instead of sacrificing the hole. On my first cast re-rigging, I snagged the next limb down. So I crossed the stream, freed my fly and retrieved the first fly.

Still moving up-stream, I worked my way up a riffle, saving the honey spot till last. Just as I got there, three guys in pontoon boats floated through it at five minute intervals.

At the end of the day I saw a nice fish porpoising in that impossible-to-reach type of lie. Across the river, between two current streams, right at a narrow bend. I spent 45 minutes trying to fool him. To no avail. It was time to quit.

I climbed out of the river and made my way up to the road to find the temperature was now 84 degrees and I had a mile and a half walk to my car.

Did you ever have one of those days…

Dog Days of Summer Start Now

Trapper's Hot

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The temperature jumped from the 60’s to the 90’s without stopping in between. So Trapper has decided to sleep away the afternoons on our covered deck on the north side of the house. That way he can watch the squirrels try to get into the bird feeder, keep an eye out for deer, listen to the humming birds, and sack out away from any other less important distractions.

Hanging Out in the Heat

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Besides that, it is just too much work to chase Duke, his litter mate, all over the property. That would take just too much energy. He will wait until the sun goes down. And if it gets too late, well, that’s OK. There is always tomorrow. Maybe it will be cooler. If it isn’t cooler, he can always come back to the covered deck.

Too Tired to Move

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North Fork of the Coer d'Alene River

A jewel of a stream close to home.

North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River

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This little river is right at the top of my list of favorite rivers. It is proof of the saying, “Trout don’t live in ugly places”. I’ve been fishing here for about ten years and I still find new spots to explore. This week I ignored the newspaper, which said it was too high and off-color to fish, and headed up to give it a go. Every now and then I make a good decision.

Cinammon Creek Waterfall

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Even though the water was nearly double its usual flow for the first week of July, it is still only 500 cubic feet per second. And since the level has been continuously dropping for over two weeks, the water was its usual gin-clear color. The weather was perfect, the river was perfect, the crowds were gone and I caught a bunch of fish.

Surprisingly, not many flies were in the air. No real hatches, only the occasional caddis or PMD. Usually these wild cutthroat are eager takers of dry flies. In fact I rarely resort to nymphs or droppers. But they didn’t want to look up, so I put on a #14 Bead Head Soft Hackle Hare’s Ear and began to catch fish.

Native Cutthroat

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Only fishing from 10:30 to 4  pm, I caught around 25 fish. Four whitefish and the rest were beautiful, healthy cutts from 7 to 15 inches.

The funniest thing of the day was the behavior of a 13 inch whitefish. I brought him in quickly and released him without


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removing him from the water. He settled down to the stream bottom, then drifted up to beside my boot. He wasn’t stressed or hurt, he just thought that was a good spot! I took this picture of a frog while I was there. After that I looked down and the fish was still there. He is hard to see in this photo, but he is lying there.  I reached into the water, hoping to touch him, but he realized I wasn’t a tree and took off like a bottle rocket.

Scenic vistas

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Of course I go to the river for fishing, but that is only the offered reason. Like most times, the sites are not just of fish. I saw deer, moose, frogs, wrens, dippers, goldfinches, red-tailed hawks, beaver, bear grass blooms and much more. For my first wading day of the year, it was a very good day.


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For almost 50 miles the road winds along the river. It it so rare to have a paved road along such a superb fishery. Of course that means in the summer, the lower river is used hard by inner tubers, rafters and families. But the upper river is too small for that type of usage, so it is the playground of the fly fisherman.

Last pool of the day

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When you are ready to quit for the day, it is hard not to stop at one more pool or run. This deep pool is right on the road so is fished hard. But I have never failed to catch at least a few small fish every time I’ve stopped by. And in the fading light with caddis hopping around, sometimes 15 to 20 fish will take my CDC microcaddis fly.

Then it is time to pack up and head home. Until the next time.

Strange Visitor

Callibaetis Spinner

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On a typical May day, I saw a mayfly. The peculiar thing about this is that I live in a dry, pine forest. With 16 inches of precipitation a year, and half of that from snow, you don’t find mayflies. Nevertheless, last month one showed up. Sitting on a fence post, a callibaetis spinner managed to stop by.

You can see in this picture that the countryside here is more conducive to deer than mayflies. I just don’t expect to

Leaping Deer

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find them on grounds covered with pine needles.

I live 8 miles from the nearest lake, 2 miles from the nearest stream and 400 feet higher in elevation. Can a mayfly spinner make that flight. I don’t think so, but maybe with a good wind. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this fellow perched on my fencepost. I was pretty sure that this was a callibaetis, but was glad to have it confirmed by smarter people than me over on Fly Anglers Online.  Especially Roger Rohrbeck, who has the site. Flyfishing Entomology.

So anyway, even though this little fella had no business being here, this is a lesson to all of us to keep our eyes open. You never know what you may see.

Choosing a Background Color

When I began thinking about making this site, one of the first decisions I needed to make was deciding how I wanted to show my flies. What size, what proportions and what color background. A bright medium blue is by far the most commonly used color for the web and print. It shows off flies well and is pleasing to the eye. But I just didn’t want to be the same. So what to do?

I grabbed a fly, in this case my favorite Rust Stim. Then using a pack of colored paper, I took a bunch of pictures of that fly in the same lighting. I just replaced the paper behind the fly. From these pictures I narrowed it down to 4 or 5 colors. I showed these pictures to several people to get their input. I decided to go with the dark gray. I’ve used it until the last post, where I used a light, neutral gray for the Mahogany Dun background.

Here is a gallery of the original pictures. What do you think of the colors? Which would you choose for your pictures?

(You can click to enlarge the photos for a better look at the contrast of the fly against the colored paper.)