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.

Watchful Eyes

Fawn looking through pasture fence

Click to enlarge

This young lady kept a close eye on me while I snapped her picture. When I went back in the house, she came down to the yard for a snack of flowers with her mother and brother.

Blue Birds Bathing

Bluebirds having a bath.

Bath Time!


Watching these guys take a bath is a blast. They enjoy it so much.

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.

Copper Wire for Fly Tying

Well used Christmas lights

A source for a lifetime of copper wire


You are thinking that these look like Christmas lights, right? You are correct. If you are like me, every couple years a strand or two get tossed out. Doesn’t work, wrong colors, Wife’s tastes have moved on- – whatever the reason. Well, I love this wire for copper ribbing. It is free, easier to use than a spool, nice and small for ribbing those tiny nymphs, and copper is a great color on flies. You can use it instead of gold wire on Hare’s Ears or other patterns.

So this is what I do. When I need copper wire, I dig out this jumble of lights that I have stashed in a bottom drawer of my tying boxes. Then I trim off about 6 pieces of wire around 6 inches long. I grab a pair of electrical pliers and strip both ends. I throw one on top of my bench and the others in a drawer. I’m good for a few months. Couldn’t be easier. And I love the wire. Fine diameter that wraps super. Below you can see the trimmed and stripped sections. Try this next Christmas!


Trimmed Wire

A length of wire trimmed from the string of lights


Stripped wire

Wire ready to use

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

Click to Enlarge

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

Click to Enlarge

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

Click to Enlarge

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

Click to Enlarge

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.

Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple II

Fly Tying Clear and Simple II

Click to Enlarge

When I started tying flies I didn’t know what I was getting into. After watching some fishing videos that included segments on tying, I decided to take the plunge. I picked up some supplies and a $10.00 vice at the White Elephant, a local discount hunting, fishing and toy store. I also got a copy of Skip Morris’ original book, Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple.

Volumes I & II

Click to Enlarge

Then I went home and worked my way through the book, starting at page one – ending on page 80. I tied all 15 of the patterns with excitement and wonder. They may have been the ugliest examples of the patterns, but they were mine. And they caught fish. I remember those nights with great fondness. During those weeks spent with Skip Morris, I learned more about fly tying than in any other time of my life.

So imagine my excitement when, as I cruised the library, I saw his new book, “Fly Tying Made Clear and Simple II.” I brought it right home and devoured it. There are 18 flies with full instructions in this volume. They cover Nymphs, Streamers, Emergers and Dry Flies. Additonal pattern recipes are listed in the back.

It follows the same logical, easy to follow format of the original. Start with a picture of the finished fly, a description of the history and use of the fly, the recipe in a shaded box, then step by step instructions of the details of tying the fly.


Click to Enlarge

After each step, if there are common problems at that stage, he pauses the instructions to review things that might cause confusion or mistakes. It is such a great idea to fix the problem right then, not after you have finished the fly. It really is just like having an instructor looking over your shoulder.

Problem Solving

Click to Enlarge

For people who like a curriculum, a clearly laid out path of instruction, these two books will start you on the road of fly tying. How far you go will depend on you and what your goals are. But if you work through these two books, I believe you would feel comfortable tackling any fly you want. You won’t be a master tyer, but the basic foundation will be laid by a master teacher.

Get the books. Work through them. Have a great time. Treasure your first few flies. Save some to look back upon to mark your progress. You will be amazed how quickly you improve.

Back to Mac

The old and the new computers

Well the big, beautiful, beast arrived yesterday. After years of Windows, I am switching back to Mac.

apple IIe

Apple IIe

I got my first computer, an Apple IIe in 1983. I’ve often joked that if I had bought either Apple or Microsoft stock instead of the computer, I would be a millionaire by now. But I loved that computer with typical Apple mania. It had a whopping 64 kb of RAM (that is kilobytes, not megabytes or gigabytes). The monitor was a green cathode ray tube. It was wonderful.

Then I upgraded to an Apple IIGS. That was a monster of a machine. It had a color monitor, 8 MB of RAM and could display 256 colors on the screen. With this machine, I learned about modems, message boards, and eventually email and the World Wide Web.

By the late 1990’s, Windows was dominating the market. Programs for Apple were hard to come by, so I got my first of a series of Dell PC’s. They have been good solid work horses. And since Windows XP, the OS has finally been stable. But the computer landscape never sits still. Where programs ruled the 90’s, this century is more about connections and the internet. Also, since the iPod, Apple has regained market share.

I’ve been running a hybrid home network for the last 14 years. When I abandoned my trusty, old Apple, my wife adopted it to learn about ebay, email and the rest of the Web. She has had her succession of Mac’s along the way. So by switching back to Mac, I will only have to maintain one operating system. Also the networking will be easier. And now 99% of what I do is word processing, surfing, spreadsheets and photography. All these things run smoothly on the Mac.

So to get back to the start of this post, my new 27″ iMac arrived yesterday. I spent 15 minutes setting it up (15 minutes to get it set up, plugged in, registered and my email running!). Now on to the process of installing programs, transferring files and getting comfortable with it.

It’s like Christmas in August.