My Site was Down!!!

A Merry Christmas to all.


I’m sorry for everyone trying to access my site the last couple weeks. I had a crash and only got it figured out today.

If you find any broken links or missing pages, please let me know.

Remember Summer?

North Fork of the Coeur d'Alene River in July

Sunny days on the North Fork of the Coeur d’Alene River


All right. I’m already tired of the snow. To get out of the winter funk, I looked back to last July and better days. I feel better already.

Cortland Line Cleaner, Goodbye to the Old

Cortland Fly Line Cleaner

The original and still the best line treatment

Since my first fly line, I’ve used Cortland Line Cleaning pads. They included one with a new line to get you hooked on it, and in my case it stuck. Since I use a dry line 99% of the time, I usually start my day with a quick pass of the pad over the first 25 – 30 feet of line. A couple times through the day, I’ll notice the tip of my line starting to sag into the water, so another quick swipe and I’m back to floating like a cork. I love those little circles of felt with embedded paste floatant.

Every few years I’d buy a handful. They came three pads to a zip lock bag. Perfect to throw in a vest or wader pocket. Weighs nothing, works great. The ideal product.

Except they don’t make sell them any more. The last time I looked, they were out of stock everywhere. I didn’t panic because I still had three new bags so that would last a couple years. But now I’m down to my last new bag. (I know it doesn’t LOOK new, but after years of floating around my other gear, the printing is nearly rubbed off.) So I started looking again in earnest. This time I found a new product, the Cortland Pro fly line cleaner applicator. My wife wanted to know what I was yelling about. When I explained, she looked at me like I was an idiot, but refrained from saying more than, “that’s nice.”

Even better, they stock them at Walmart. I couldn’t wait, so ran into town to pick up a couple of the new plastic containers that hold two, instead of three of the pads. But at $2.00, I wasn’t about to complain. Getting into my car, I opened the package. That’s when the smile left my face. The new product may work fine to clean a line, but the pads are about half the thickness of the old felt pads. And the cleaner is a thin substance that doesn’t even soak to the edge of the pad. In practice, it doesn’t help nearly as much with floatation as the old pads.

My wife tells me to make my own pads. I might have to do that, but I have flies to tie, books to read and other pressing business. I didn’t want to have to re-invent the wheel. I just wanted to pick up another handful of the old pads. Just too much to ask, I guess.

You can see the difference between the pads in this picture.

Using the Cortland Pads

See the difference in the pads.

New and Old Fly Line Treatment

Side by Side, Old and New

Kelly Creek is Smokin'

Kelly Creek Drainage from Hoodoo Pass

Smokey vista from Hoodoo Pass

Back from my fall trip to Kelly Creek, Idaho. Once again it was great. Four days of blue skies and 65 degree temperatures. Of course, since it is October, the nights dropped into the low 20’s. The humidity was so low, that even along Moose Creek where I camp, there was almost no frost. Coming over from Superior, I stopped on the Idaho side of Hoodoo Pass to view the drainage. I knew that there would be smoke. Fires have been burning for two months. As you can see in the picture, the horizon showed the extent and range of the fires. I can’t imagine what it must be like fighting those blazes.

In recent years I’ve made my fall trip in September. So I was struck by several differences. The water was low. Without any rain for months there had been none of the usual spikes up in flow. So the discharge flow had steadily dropped from 1600 to 700 cfps. That is the lowest I’ve ever seen it.

Whether it was the low water, the cold nights, the time of the year, or maybe just me, the fishing was different also. Instead of the 25 – 30 fish per day I usually catch, this year it was 15 – 20. Still very good, when you remember the days are short. The water temperature was 40 degrees, so don’t try wet wading now! I didn’t start fishing until 11 am and quit by 4 pm.

The other difference was in which flies were effective. For the first time ever, I caught no flies on my Rusty Stim. That is usually my number one fly on Kelly. But this time, small and technical fishing caught the fish. My Biot Mahogany Dun in a #16 worked great, as did the Harrop’s Thorax Dun. Another good fly was a CDC emerger. I’ll tie one up for a step by step later. There was a spinner fall around 2:30 that I never did figure out, but it got fish up and feeding. Being fisherman friendly cutthroat, they took my flies pretty well even though I couldn’t match that hatch.

The scenery was incredible as always. The Kokanee spawn was nearly over. Some of the riverside trees were past their prime color, but the Aspen on the hill side were perfect. The crowds were gone (only three other rigs on the road each day). The food was great. I’ll have to post my favorite dinner sometime. As always, it was tough to pack up to come home. But isn’t that the way you want a fishing trip to be? If you are excited to leave, you picked the wrong place to go.

Hoodoo Colors

Wonderful Colors

My Rig on Hoodoo Pass

My Rig on Hoodoo Pass

Color on Hoodoo Pass

Color on Hoodoo Pass

Tamarack in Color

Tamarack in Color

pocket water

Pocket water

Cutthroat trout

Another great fish

Stars shine like diamonds in the night

Night Skies

Along the Road you can see the water

Roadside views

Dark Waters

Dark Waters



Kelly Creek water

Gin Clear Water

Afternoon Shadows

Short Days in October

Cold Mornings

Low of 23 degrees!

Beautiful Cutthroat troat

Beautiful Cutthroat at Kelly Creek

Fall Color

The hills in their prime color

Sunny Fall Days on Kelly Creek

Love those big pools!

October Caddis and Hoppers of Kelly Creek

I was looking through my pictures from Kelly Creek and came across these two photos. They aren’t particularly good shots, but I was going to sit down at the bench tonight and wanted to refresh my memory about the size of the hoppers I had seen there in the past.

Grasshopper from Kelly Creek

Kelly Creek Hopper


This little fellow was sitting on a tarp in front of my trailer door. I took the picture 9/31/11. The small squares are 10 to an inch, so he is about 3/4 inches long. The color is pretty accurate, so you can see he is a bright yellow-green shade.

October Caddis is the dessert of the bug season. After midges, March Browns, Mother’s Day Caddis, stone flies, the spring and summer series of mayflies and all the rest, the final course before winter is the October Caddis. And these mountain cutthroat are eager for a snack.

October caddis found at Kelly Creek Idaho

October caddis found at Kelly Creek Idaho


I scooped this guy out of the water for a quick picture on 10/19/2010. You can see that although we think of them as orange, they really are more yellow. No matter what color, they are tasty. I use my Rusty Stim pattern all the time at Kelly. Even though it is a rusty orange color, the fish let me know they like it. Maybe I’ll tie some up in a yellow to try this fall. That is the joy of tying your own flies. Tie some up and try them. The fish will be your judge and jury.

Bead Head Pheasant Tail Soft Hackle, a tasty little fly

Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph

Bead Head Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph


I use two nymph more than all the rest combined. The bead head soft hackle hare’s ear and the bead head soft hackle pheasant tail (BHSHPT). And the reason I use these is that they work day in and day out. They both look buggy and like something a trout would eat. So they take them readily. I rarely fish a nymphing rig, so I am usually fishing these as a dropper. The hare’s ear works best for larger nymphs and caddis. The BHSHPT is more of a May Fly pattern.

On the Clark Fork River near St Regis, the BHSHPT will out fish any nymph I’ve tried. I’m sure there are times like around stone fly emergence that other patterns may work better, but for a dropper fly, I’ll take this pattern over any other fly.

It helps that this is a simple pattern to tie. You can crank out a season’s supply during one ball game (unless there are too many great plays to divert your attention). That there are no hard to find materials and no gadgets needed is another big plus. I only tie it in two sizes, 14 and 16. You could go larger or smaller, but I haven’t found the need. That also simplifies the tying.

recipe for bead head soft hackle pheasant tail nymph

Recipe for Bead head soft hackle pheasant tail nymph


For the hackle, you could use partridge or any other soft hackle material you have around. I usually use either quail or starling – which is the feather in the pictures and the instruction pages. Although they aren’t as tough as partridge, I love the softness of the feathers and the life they mimic. When you watch them in the water, they look great.

beadhead soft hackle pheasant tail nymph when wet

When wet, this just looks buggy!

Speaking of in the water, look at the picture on the right to see what this looks like when wet. Doesn’t that look like trout chow? That could be a midge, mayfly or any little bug in the water. There is nothing about it to spook wary fish.

For the fine copper wire, look here to see where I get mine.

In this picture and the in the step by step photos, I am using bronzed peacock herl. I won this it a raffle years ago and still have years of feathers left. I love the sheen and the coloring of it. But regular peacock will work just as well.

As always, feel free to change it up any way you choose. You are the one tying it.

Return to Kelly Creek

blues and golds at Kelley Creek

Fall colors on Kelley Creek, Idaho

It’s the middle of July with temperatures in the mid 90’s and I am dreaming of October. I’ve set aside a week to go back to Kelly Creek again this fall. Is there anything better than cool nights, warm days, brilliant colors and solitary trout streams? The crowds are gone and the fish are hungry. Flies and mosquitoes have burned away or been frosted for the year.

Snow covered Lolo pass in September

You never know what the weather will bring in the fall

This is a picture of Hoodoo Pass taken September 27th, 2001. I was a bit concerned, driving through 6 inches of snow. Not certain what I would find on the river I worried that at the end of the trip I would be driving the long way back through Lewiston. Fortunately the weather held and although chilly, the pass stayed clear. It dropped down into the 20’s, but the days got up into the high 60’s.

Foggy fall morning on Moose CreekWith the frosty mornings, I never start fishing too early in the day. The edges of the stream has a little shelf of ice. And with the steep valley walls, it takes the low lying sun a long time to get down to the river. So I usually linger over a warm breakfast. Boy does that first cup of coffee taste good!

Larch changing in the fall

Larch needles show great color in autumn

You can see the frost from my campsite along Moose Creek that by 9 am, the sun still has a ways to go to reach the water. Often there is some fog to burn off before things start to warm up. Usually I make my way to the river by 11 am and fish till 4 or 5 pm. It gets dark early, so it’s nice to get a campfire going before full dark. Then time to start on dinner.

Compared to summer fishing, that is a pretty short day. But I don’t need a huge number of fish to make me happy. On a good day, I’ll catch over 30. On a poor day, maybe only 15. But when you consider the short day and the time spent hopping from hole to hole, the fishing is great.

I’ve been slipping down to my vise in the last few weeks, tying up a few new flies and topping off my box of favorites. Fall fishing at Kelley is not match-the-hatch for the most part. Last fall, on one day I only used three flies all day. My Rusty Stim on fast water; Harrops thorax dun on quiet water; and a bead head, soft hackle pheasant tail as a dropper when the others weren’t drawing any attention.


Kelley Creek in September

September 21st at Kelley Creek in Idaho


I think this is enough to keep me happy for a while. I have more pictures, so I may make another post before I my trip. We’ll see how the time goes….




Harrop's Hairwing Dun

Harrop's Hairwing Dun

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I admit to being a big fan of Rene Harrop. I am always amazed by his mastery of the bugs and hatches of his home water, the Henry’s Fork River. The way he breaks down the stages and life cycle of the different flies and creates or modifies patterns to match each phase of the hatch is truly impressive. I am just not that committed and scientific in my approach to fishing. That’s why I have a day job!

But I have been fishing this fly for about three years now. It has become one of my go-to flies. I trust it to pique the interest of fish, large and small. And hundreds of fish support my belief that this is a great fly.

Hairwing Dun Recipe I tie this fly in a #16 most of the time. I’ve tried 14 and 18, but not been impressed that it made any improvement. Of course this is a style of fly, so it could be tied to match PMD’s and any other bug you want. I have settled on the Super Fine Gray Olive as my dubbing of choice when I am using this as a searching pattern.

The original pattern calls for split tails, but one time I tied up a batch and forgot to split them. The fish, being always the final arbiter of such decisions, told me it didn’t matter, so I’ve tied them with a fan tail ever since.

I’ve used deer, elk, yearling elk, bleached and dyed hair. I don’t think it makes much difference except that it is much easier to follow the lighter colored hair, so I use that. I am always surprised at just how easy it is to track this fly and how durable it is, too. I’ve caught 30-40 fish on a fly without the fly failing.

Give this fly a chance. If it works for me, it will for you. You can find the tying instructions here.

Elusive Yellowstone Grayling at Grieb Lake

Yellowstone Grayling

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Two years ago I tried to catch a grayling at Yellowstone. I hiked 7 miles and got skunked. So it was with shaky confidence that I decided to try it again this year. While my son and daughter-in-law hiked the Mt Washburn loop, I decoded to give Grieb Lake another try.

The trail rolls through burn-scarred forest. It takes about an hour to cover the three plus miles. Grieb Lake is a lovely small lake. Many people make the hike just to see the lake, or use the trail as the first leg of a longer backpacking trip into the areas of the park off the beaten path.

When I pulled into the parking lot, there were three rigs sitting there. Before I collected my stuff to hike in, a guy with a large, heavy backpack with attached spinning rod returned. He reported that his trip was outstanding, but in two days he caught only one small rainbow. Hmm.

About a mile in, I passed a group of three men hiking out. Three days they had camped and fished. Grand total of fish – zero. Hmmmmmm.  But they did have a bugling bull elk walk between their tents.

Grieb Lake Swans

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As I approached the lake, I spotted an older couple sitting on a fallen tree. No fishing gear, just day hikers. They watched a pair of swans cruising the lake.  We shared our opinion of the weather and the normal trail chatter. I continued on around the lake; they went back to their car.

I had the lake to myself.

Now I have to say I don’t fish a lot of lakes. I’m more of a small stream kind of guy. The problem I have with lakes is that it all looks the same. Give me a current seam or eddy or riffle or plunge pool. But a lake, the fish could be anywhere.

Grieb Lake

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I circled to the far side of the lake. It was sheltered from the wind and there was a cove that looked inviting. For the next two hours I did lots of casting without any catching. I started with dries, then nymphs. Finally, I put on a cream soft hackle on a greased line. Then I spotted a rise.  Dropping my fly right on the center of the ring, I caught my first grayling. A pretty little fish with a great big sail.

Over the next hour, I caught an even dozen grayling and two small rainbows. Then the rises stopped and the catching stopped. With threatening clouds, I headed back. The pair of swans still paddled around the south end of the lake. As I started down the trail, I mentally checked another item off my fly fishing list of things I really want to do.

Catch a grayling – – Check.

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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