Unwind a bit, Getting it Right

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

Despite having tied flies for some 50 plus years, I still marvel at the artistry some tiers achieve.  The J. Stockard Pro Tyers produce some beautiful flies that in my mind are the envy of us amateur tiers. Looking back to the early 1960s when I started tying, things have changed quite a bit. Today the patterns we tie are significantly different due to the increased use of synthetics, specialized hooks, new tying tools and the expansion of fly fishing into species other than trout and typical warm water targets.

Back when I started you learned from the few available books at the time or if you were lucky like I was, from some old timers who shared their 40+ years of experience tying fancy wets and Catskill style dry flies. You can still get some hands on tying experience at clubs and fly fishing shows as well as learning from the plethora of books out there, but it’s the online video that has taken over the role of fly tying professor. Despite the change in how one learns to tie flies or tie new patterns, the fact remains that fly tying is a locus of some basic tying skills and techniques, a variety of material handling techniques, the proper application of quality materials and the dexterity and ingenuity of the tier. The pro tiers who produce those artistic, well-proportioned and beautiful flies like the fly at the left by Pro Tyer Luke Stacy have taken that locus to its pinnacle.

Continue reading → Unwind a bit, Getting it Right

Fly of the Month – Hughes All-fur Wet Fly

by Matt O’Neal of Savage Flies: Find him on his YouTube channel at Savage Flies

hughes allfur wet flyDave Hughes didn’t originate the All-Fur Wet Fly, but he did make it a very popular fly among fly fishers. This fly is kind of a mix between a nymph and a wet fly. Hughes is an angler that studied insects, wet flies and read many books. He put all of this to use and taught many wet fly classes and wrote his own books. The wet fly is certainly one of Dave’s go-to style of flies that we all know by now, catch a lot of trout. So watch Matt’s video below to see how to tie this awesome fish catcher, the Hughes All-Fur Wet Fly.

Matt O’Neal of Savage Flies, who has a terrific YouTube channel where he shows how to tie many different flies, including Hughes All-Fur Wet FLy. Be sure to check it out and give him a follow! Watch his video below to see how to tie this interesting dry fly pattern.

Hook: #12-16 standard wet or 1x heavy
Thread: Orange
Tail: Hare’s ear (guard hairs from Hare’s Mask)
Body: Hare’s ear dubbing (underfur with a few guard hairs from Hare’s Mask)
Hackle: Squirrel body fur (in split thread or a dubbing loop)

Stonfo Dubbing Loop Clips
Stonfo Thread Splitter

Pine Squirrel Woolly Bugger – Revisited

Guest Blogger: Mike Cline, Bozeman, Montana

My first post for the J. Stockard blog back in July 2014 was about the Pine Squirrel Bugger, a non-traditional adaptation of the woolly bugger style. In the intervening six years I’ve tied 100s to fish with, donate and swap. Over the years, the Pine Squirrel Bugger has continued to produce on SW Montana trout. When I look back at what I wrote in 2014, it is evident that my buggers have subtly evolved somewhat since then.

Probably the biggest improvement has been the use of barbless hooks from Firehole Outdoors. When I went with the Firehole Sticks, I first used models 718 and 839 in size 6 and 4. But that changed when the models 811/860 were released. The straight eye streamer hooks are a perfect match for the Pine Squirrel bugger. The heavy wire hook has eliminated the need to use any lead-free wire in the fly. On a short, stout tippet and sink tip lines, these flies get down quick. The tying steps haven’t changed much in six years. I did abandon the use of super glue on the body as it tended to foul the Pine Squirrel hair during wrapping and I haven’t noticed any loss of durability on the water.

The most important adaptation has been using Finn Raccoon fur for the tail instead of Marabou. The Finn Raccoon is very supple and has a built-in contrast between the guard hairs and under fur. It is available in a wide variety of colors so is very adaptable to the bugger style. More importantly, I find it far more durable than the fragile marabou. These buggers catch fish and I found that after just a few fish, the marabou had lost much of its bulk. Not so with the Finn Raccoon.

In 2017, I wrote about the importance of color contrasts in fly design and how fish respond to contrasts in flies. As such, most of the Pine Squirrel buggers I tie today have contrasting colors of Finn Raccoon in the tail. Typically a dark color on top and a lighter color below. Big Hole River trout are noted for their preference for flies with bright yellow in them. As such I started tying a few Pine Squirrel buggers with fluorescent yellow or orange fur for the under tail. This creates quite a contrast in the water. Seems to do the trick no matter where I fish them. In addition to creating the bi-colored tails with Finn Raccoon, I begun adding grizzly, dyed grizzly or Cree hackles to each side of the tail flat-wing style. This creates a barred look and adds to the overall contrasts in the fly. Had to do something with all those bugger packs.

Although the wire wrapped, zonked Pine Squirrel bodies haven’t really changed, I did experiment with two modifications. One was the use of two colors of Pine Squirrel. I wrapped the rear 2/3rds of the body with one color and then used a different color for the forward 1/3. Usually the forward section was somewhat darker than the rear section. I thought this gave a good impression of sculpin coloration. The second modification adopted a technique from a very popular fly out here in SW Montana, the Sparkle Minnow. This sculpin imitation is essentially tied almost 100% with flash material making a bright, sparkly fly that gets recommended for clear sun shiny days on Montana streams. Instead of using Pine Squirrel for the forward 1/3 of the body, I’ve used several wraps of an EP Minnow Brush or palmer chenille to create a bright, sparkly front end for my Pine Squirrel bugger. The few times I’ve been able to fish these, they have produced.

For the angler that likes to fish unweighted streamers, it’s hard to not fish a woolly bugger style fly. The Pine Squirrel bugger is a proven fish taker. They’ve been a popular contribution to a number of streamer swaps as well. To that end there is no better investment a tier make than a few zonked Pine Squirrel skins and a few patches of Finn raccoon.