Slate Drakes – aka “Isonychias”

Fall fishing is a time of year when aquatic insect activity is minimal compared to the spring hatches. Therefore any hatch activity at all is usually met with anticipation and eagerness by the trout. Oftentimes windy weather and or rain will dislodge terrestrials from trees and bank-side vegetation; these include inchworms, ants, beetles, crickets, grasshoppers, bees, caterpillars, and spiders. This activity can be sporadic, heavier at some times than others from resulting conditions; consequently autumn dry fly fishing with terrestrial patterns can be effective. Beetles, ants, and my original Floating Inchworm pattern are my fall favorite terrestrial patterns. Among the buffet of terrestrial activity, there are still a few aquatic insect fall hatches that we anglers can take advantage of. One of my favorite mayflies in the spring, the Slate Drake, or Isonychia bicolor, also begins to emerge in the fall as the second brood of this species begins to hatch in mid-to-late September. Common in the Eastern United States on freestone waters, Slate Drakes can run almost to the end of October, often providing a near-exclusive aquatic insect match-the-hatch, dry fly fishing opportunity.

Floating Inchworm - extended body designed and tied by Don Bastian. The hook is a #16 Tiemco 2488, short shank,wide gape. This is a great fall terrestrial searching pattern.

Floating Inchworm – extended body designed and tied by Don Bastian. The hook is a #16 Tiemco 2488, short shank, wide gape. This is a great fall terrestrial searching pattern.

The first hatches of Isonychia bicolor in spring begin as early as mid-may and continue through July, sometimes sporadically, but there can be periods when these large, dark, slate-and-brown colored mayflies emerge in fairly heavy numbers, inciting trout to feed vigorously on the emergers and duns. The Slate Drake Spinner is also a significant element of this hatch and should not be overlooked. Typically these nymphs migrate to the shallows, but the nymphs living in large streams and rivers far from shore simply emerge from the water when their hatch time is ready.

A Slate Drake dry fly pattern in various styles is a good dry fly searching pattern whenever they are in season, but they are especially good in the fall when competition from other hatches is not as intense as the spring and early summer. Some traditional Slate Drake dun patterns include the White-gloved Howdy and Dun Variant. I like my BXB (Bastian Extended Body) Slate Drake Thorax Dun, Parachute, and Spinner patterns better than any other pattern style for this hatch. I’ve been fishing these patterns for nine years with wonderful success. Below is a photo of my BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, still wet after it was removed from the jaw of an eighteen-inch brown that confidently took it on Big Pine Creek in May of 2012.

BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern. The hook is a size #14 but the fly is actually what would normally be considered a #8 or #10.

BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern. The hook is a size #14 but the fly is actually what would normally be considered a #8 or #10. The length of the pattern not including the tails is a good 3/4″ to 7/8″ in length. This fly was knotted to 4x tippet because I was fishing a fairly heavy riffle section, and I expected to encounter big trout. I did!

And here is a photo of that trout:

18-inch brown trout taken on my Extended Body Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, Big Pine Creek, May 2012.

18-inch brown trout taken on my Extended Body Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern, Big Pine Creek, May 2012.

Here is a nineteen-inch brown I took fifteen minutes after the fish shown above:

19-inch brown taken on Big Pine Creek,May 2012, on my Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern.

19-inch brown taken on Big Pine Creek, May 2012, on my BXB Slate Drake Thorax Dun pattern.

This article started off with the intention that it would be only about Slate Drake nymphs, but it obviously morphed into a work to also include dry fly patterns. These insects are large, often requiring size #8 hooks. That size may sound too large to some anglers, but if you consider the actual body length of a Slate Drake dun and compare it to the shank length of a standard dry fly hook, that’s what you would need to use. Too many fly anglers dislike large drys; they don’t know what they are missing by not using them. Large imitative or attractor dry fly patterns like the Fan Wing Royal Coachman or Royal Wulff can really stir up some excitement on the water. I’ve read the words of some writers who say that the fall Slate Drakes are as small as a size #14, but I personally have never seen a Slate Drake that small in my life. I would not tie this pattern smaller than a size #12 standard hook length for fall fishing, and I have full confidence fishing my large extended body patterns that imitate the spring hatches of the Slate Drake. Though I generally dress them on a #14 Tiemco 2488 hook, these flies are the equivalent size compared to a standard dry fly pattern in a size #8 or #10. Some of the same line of thinking by other fly tiers and anglers expresses surprise at my devotion to size #14 Sulfur patterns for Spring Creek, when most other anglers fish #16’s. Heck, I’m just imitating the actual size of the bugs I see on the water. And it’s not that #16 Sulfur dry flies don’t take trout, but a larger fly is easier to see under most conditions, and floats better. Most importantly, it works!

Here are two similar Slate Drake nymph patterns; the first one was tied by my friend Bill Shuck, of Jarretsville, Maryland. Below that are photos of the same pattern that I tied. Bill made a couple modifications because he did not possess all the same materials that my recipe calls for.

This is essentially the Slate Drake nymph pattern conceived by my friend Dave Rothrock, but I made a few modifications to it in the interest of making it tie easier and faster.

Slate Drake Nymph - tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Slate Drake Nymph – tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Here’s a side view:

Side-view - note the bulge of the wingcase proflie

Side-view – note the bulge of the wing case profile. This is Dave Rothrock’s pattern design, with some tying modifications, but the use of poly yarn for the wing case is Dave’s accurate material usage to simulate the natural high wing-case profile of the Isonychia nymphs. This imitative design is a “strike-trigger” to the trout. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia / Slate Drake Nymph – Bill Shuck version

Here is Bill’s list of materials in order of tie-in::

Hook: Daiichi 1760, Size #10
Thread: Uni-Thread 6/0, black
Tail: Three natural grey ostrich herl strands, trimmed short
Rib: Pearsall's Gossamer silk thread, brown, doubled and twisted
Median stripe: Uni-Thread 6/0, white, doubled and twisted
Over Back: Medallion sheeting, dark dun
Abdomen: Blend of hare's fur, 50% claret/25% brown/25% black
Wing case: Black poly yarn, two strands
Thorax: Same dubbing as abdomen
Legs: Badger hen cape feather barbs

Bill wrote me in his e-mail with the recipe: “All typed out like that it seems like too much stuff to
bother with, eh?”
To which I replied, “Not when you consider how well this pattern works. The extra tying time 
pays off."

Today, Monday morning, two days after I initially published this article, Bill sent me another 
Isonychia nymph pattern, this is the same fly with the addition of a single strand of natural ostrich
herl wound as a rib. 
Isonychia nymph variation - tied with natural gray ostrich herl gills. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia nymph variation – dressed with natural gray ostrich herl gills. Tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Slate Drake Nymph - tied and photographed by Don Bastian.
Slate Drake Nymph – tied and photographed by Don Bastian.
Slate Drake Nymph - top view

Slate Drake Nymph #10 – 2x long – top view. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Isonychia / Slate Drake Nymph – Don Bastian version

Hook: #10 - 2x long nymph hook, or 3x long TMC 200R or Dai-Riki 270
Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #100 Black, or #73 Dark Brown
Tail: Three fibers of natural ostrich herl
Median Stripe: Danville Flymaster 6/0 #1 White
Ribbing: One strand of Uni-thread 6/0 Dark Brown
Overback: Black scud back 1/8”
Abdomen: Haretron Dubbing #16 Dark Brown
Gills: Abdominal dubbing picked out and trimmed parallel to body.
Wingcase: Black polypropylene yarn, two strands
Thorax: Haretron #16 Dark Brown
Legs: Natural mottled hen back, short and sparse
Head: Black
The main design of this pattern goes to my friend, Dave Rothrock, guide, and fly tier, from Jersey 
Shore, Pennsylvania. He uses a stripped cream hackle feather for the median stripe; the use of
thread is obviously a huge time-saver. I also use ostrich herl strands from anywhere along the 
stem, Dave uses only the tips, which are limited in number on any feather or bundle of ostrich
herl. I can make several sets of tails from just three strands of ostrich. I cut the tips at an angle with
my scissors, trimming only the outside edge of the barbs.

I also chose to change the dubbing to Haretron; my reason is that the increased density of fine fibers – 
under fur and the Antron – makes it easier to pick out the gills. Dave’s use of poly yarn for the wing 
case is a stroke of genius in imitative pattern design. Its bulk simulates the natural profile of the live
nymphs. This is a trigger-point for the trout and significantly contributes to the inducement of strikes,
if not being the primary reason that trout take this pattern with voracity.
Below is a photo of my Slate Drake Parachute Dun:
Don Bastian's BXB Slate Drake Parachute Dun.

Don Bastian’s BXB Slate Drake Parachute Dun.

Any of these pattern can be ordered by visiting my product pages at MyFlies.com: http://www.myflies.com/BXB-Slate-Drake-Set-P741.aspx

or the Slate Drake Nymphs may be ordered by visiting my Custom Order page: http://www.myflies.com/Don-Bastians-Custom-Fly-Orders-P750.aspx

If you get a chance to venture out for some fall fishing, most streams in the Eastern United States have Isonychia populations – be prepared, and have some of these patterns to fish with.

I meant to include these photos yesterday when I wrote this post…the wordpress format was having “issues,” giving me technical difficulties, and I forgot. Here is a soft-hackle Slate Drake Flymph tied and photographed by Bill Shuck:

Isonychia Flymph - tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Isonychia Flymph – tied and photographed by Bill Shuck.

Here is the recipe for this pattern:

Isonychia / Slate Drake Flymph

From Bill: “This was a pattern that I posted on the Flymphforum in April 2012. The vintage hook is one given to me be a friend in Virginia, and the European hare dubbing was dyed by another friend who lives in Holland, the same guy I hosted for two weeks this past spring and who gave me an excellent 5 wt. bamboo rod he made himself.

Hook: Vintage Mustad 3913B. Size #12

Thread: Pearsall’s Gossamer silk thread, #14 claret

Hackle: Medium dun hen saddle

Tail: Three moose body hairs

Body: European hare dyed claret, spun in a dubbing brush with claret silk thread

Nice that you got a bamboo rod for hosting your friend! Such a deal!

I close this with image of a half-dozen Slate Drake Nymphs:

Slate Drake Nymphs, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

Slate Drake Nymphs, tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

And one final shot, lined up in a row:

#10 3x long Isonychia - Slate Drake Nymphs. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian.

#10 – 3x long Isonychia – Slate Drake Nymphs. Tied and photographed by Don Bastian. These are dressed on Montana Fly Company Curved shank straight eye nymph hooks, #7002 Stimulator Hook.

Ray Bergman’s Advice – 1939

I was sitting here reading through a 1939 Ray Bergman Angling  Specialties catalog, which I am very fortunate to have. It is very fascinating and intensely interesting. The prices, merchandise, services he offered in a 4″ x 6″, 16- page  booklet is remarkable. Besides being a noted author and angling editor of Outdoor Life Magazine from 1934 to 1959, Bergman also operated a mail-order business selling Dickerson bamboo rods, flies, tying materials, leaders, and his own line, Nyack Brand, of fly tying hooks made for him in Redditch, England. This was basically a mom-and-pop business that Ray and his wife, Grace, operated from their home on Cedar Hill Avenue in Nyack, New York. I could write a long post about the catalog and its contents, but for now I just want to share something. Almost a full page of the catalog is devoted to written tips and advice on nymph fishing. One of them reads:

“For use on rising trout you miss or which refuse your dry or wet fly. Cast the same as you would when using the dry fly. Let the nymph float down naturally with the current, retrieving slack so that you can strike but not enough so that it exerts a pull on the lure. If you have trouble in striking a fish or if you fail to note when you get a strike tie a dry fly on the leader about four feet above the nymph. If this fly stops moving or if it makes any movement not natural to the float strike instantly.”

Bergman’s first book, Just Fishing, 1932, contains an account written eighty years ago, where he introduced his friend, Sparse Gray Hackle, a.k.a. real name, Alfred W. Miller, author of Fishless Days, Angling Nights, 1971, to this method of nymph fishing. The dry-dropper rig got real popular as a “new” method in the 1990’s, written much about by Pennsylvania fly fishing author Charlie Meck. Like lots of fly fishing methods presently being touted as new, the dry-dropper rig is not new. As far as I know Bergman is the first angler to combine a dry with a sunken fly with what he called a “dobber.” If anyone has information contrary to this statement, I’d love to hear about it.

(Edit, July 31st: one of my subscribers wrote in a comment that the British, Irish, and Scots were using an indicator fly or sorts in the 1800’s).

Opening Day on Spring Creek, Pennsylvania – Part II

Here is a photo to start this off – what it’s really all about:

I wanted to begin this post with this photo — more pics and text will follow throughout the day — right now I’m having coffee, breakfast, tending the wood stove fire to fend off the chill, and I gotta tie a few flies too. This was one of 27 trout I brought to hand yesterday.

It is now early afternoon on April 15th. Yesterday, breakfast was the first order of business. Almost. I arose at 5:05 AM, loaded my two small coolers with food and beverages, sat down and tied six flies that I thought I might need for the day, loaded the car with the few remaining necessities that had not been packed the night before, and drove the entire distance of 1/4 mile from my house to the bottom of St. Michaels Road. I parked my car and walked through the doors of the Quiggleville Comunity hall, one of the little villages in the Cogan Station mailing district, for the Annual Fishermen’s Breakfast. Quiggleville, a collection of about ten houses, is actually where I live, since Cogan Station is a pretty large, mostly rural mailing district. But I live outside of “town.”

...held annually at the Quiggleville Community Hall, PA, Rt. 973. Rumored to be one of the best Fishermen's Breakfasts in the area...

Quiggleville Community Hall

Not too crowded upon my arrival...

Inside the doors. My friend and some-time fishing companion, Joe "Ma" Radley is seated on the left in the yellowish jacket, wearing the olive green hat. There are plenty of "Ma" stories, but for another time. She's a real character...

For seven dollars, this breakfast is all-you-can-eat: Coffee, orange juice, home fries – hand-cut from real potatoes the day before by the friendly volunteers at “The Hall,” sausage, liverwurst, pancakes, and the lady line-cook will make your eggs – scrambled, sunny-side-up, or over easy, to order. Lots of locals come help, they donate stuff, and the sausage patties are made from bulk, hand-formed. Not pressed out in some big factory where who-knows-what can end up in the mix. Volunteers constantly mingle the tables serving refills on the coffee. This has been going at this location for 15 – 20 years.

They even decorate the tables with appropriate seasonal items. The forsythia and grape hyacinths off to the left are not made of plastic.

The view into the back of the "Nymphmobile" after we loaded TG's gear. When I saw how much stuff he was bringing I thought he was planning to fish for a week. Note the home-made multi-grain hamburger rolls on the lower left...card table, fishin' rods with a couple spares, the orange tin has about 12 different spices in it.

The rear of the Nymphmobile on location along Spring Creek Road in Centre County, PA, parked at the scene of the day's fishing / relaxing / eating / hanging-out-with-friends excursion.

About 8:20 AM, downstream view of where we were parked. Note the guardrails along the stream.

Upstream view from where we parked...besides one affable fellow we later learned was from Maryland, these two ducks were the only other visitors at this spot on our arrival. The water is pretty low, but it was running perfectly cold at 52 degrees F. This riffle is where the osprey make a kill.

Truman took this photo of me, my sixth or seventh trout and it wasn't even 9:15 AM.

This was my first Opening Day on Spring Creek since 2008, the result of the way my life ran the last few years…and this was my first Opening Day – period – in Pennsylvania since 2009 when TG & I met at Rose Vally Lake in Lycoming County  with our ultralight spinning gear and fished for bluegills and crappies. We sometimes did that to beat the “usual” Opening Day crowds. Spring Creek, open all year under no-kill restrictions, has been fished for a few months already and by Opening Day, most people that have been fishing Spring go elsewhere on the First Day, because they can. There were seven anglers in this entire stretch all day – five of them were part of our group.

Another brown that took my #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph.

OK, here I have to announce: the six flies I tied at 5:20 AM in the morning, were San Juan Worms. Yup. Mr. Classic Wet Fly, as some may think, is also a nymph fishermen. And unlike some folks, I’m not ashamed to admit that part of my nymphing repertoire includes junk flies. I had lost my “junk fly” box last fall somewhere along a stream. It contained an assortment of flies sometimes known as “The Guides Revenge.” I’ve unashamedly shown it to folks over the years, always before opening the box, prefacing it with the statement, “No matter how bad or tough the fishing is, one of these flies will always get you a few trout.” And then I opened the lid to show a collection of flies that more closely resembled a bag of jelly beans – “Green Weenies,” (chartreuse sinking inchworm patterns), glo-bugs and egg patterns in an array of colors and sizes, and San Juan Worms of various persuasions. Trout eat worms every time they can; the red garden variety, night-crawlers, and aquatic worms, of which there are some in Spring Creek. Trout eat other fish eggs. Trout eat inchworms that fall into the streams from spring into fall. They even eat them in January and February when no terrestrial green inch worms are about.

Catching some trout off the bat is a good confidence-builder, and as I stated, four trout seasons came and went since I last fished Opening Day in Pennsylvania on Spring Creek with my friends. For sure, I needed a fix of catching some trout. I had a need to feel the sensation of success that comes after making a cast with a nymph rig. This can be described as intense concentration, nerves set on hair-trigger response, mending and tending my drift, eyes on the indicator, then a reaction almost as fast as a mousetrap-slamming-shut that is rewarded by sticking the hook into the jaw of a trout whose eating habits at the moment had a significant degree of association to the slightest alteration in the natural drift of my strike indicator. Fish on! It worked very well. Twice I hooked and brought to hand two trout on back-to-back casts. I tried hard to even out at ten trout on the wine-colored San Juan Worm, but I stalled at nine for some reason. About 10:30 AM I tied on the #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph.

TG intently watches his drift...

A few seconds later...Fish on!

A spot that contains cover, holding areas, and feeding lies. Spring Creek is a limestone stream; note the different coloration in the water. The shallow area in the foreground is darker because you can easily see bottom. Any time the color shades to this lighter, milky-greenish shade, it is an indication of depth, however slight at times. This drop off would be over my hip boots. These are all holding areas for trout. The linear edge where the color changes is a mix of both depth and current change - this is a seam; a perfect lane to drift a nymph (or a dry fly) in. It is critical in most situations to set up your cast and tend your entire presentation with the objective of obtaining a drag-free drift through a specific target zone. I consider this area too small for a two-fly rig. I prefer to fish with a single nymph pattern when the water is low, primarily because I believe the effective nymph fisher needs to be constantly aware of the slightest changes in every individual fishing area that is targeted, and this must sometimes be considered for each and every cast. Constant fine-tuning of one's rig in the form of adjusting indicator placement, amount and location of split-shot, possibly lengthening or changing your tippet, and lastly, the fly choice, will produce greater fishing success.

Around ten AM I tied on a #20 Flashback Pheasant Tail nymph and took a trout within a couple minutes. I missed and hooked a few more during the remainder of the morning, but at 11:30 I headed back to the car to join TG for a beer. He had other ideas...like lunch.

Rick was reading the paper, and TG began unloading the "stuff" from the car so we could set up the gas grill.

Jeff Laws from Maryland adjusts his hat as he spins a yarn. The fellow in the background is Mark, also from Maryland. He was one of the two other anglers parked at this spot. Yes, that's a linen tablecloth. Albeit a cheap one.

When I mentioned to Mark that I had a close friend in Bel Air, he stated, “I play in a band in Bel Air a couple times a month.”

“Really?” I asked. “What instrument?”

“Dobro,” Mark replied.

“Do you do mostly bluegrass?” I queried.

“Yeah, ” Mark replied.

Mark had packed a ham and cheese sandwich for his lunch, but when we offered him something off the grill, at first he declined, but I think it was the aroma of the grilling mixed venison / beef hamburgers that got to him. You know how the aroma of grilled meat excites your taste buds. TG convinced him. “Are you sure?” he asked. “We got hot dogs, hamburgers, three kinds of cheese for cheeseburgers, steaks, pickles, macaroni salad, pretzels, chips, crackers…” Truman’s followup read like the menu from an outdoor picnic buffet.

“OK,” Mark gave in, “I’ll save my ham sandwich for dinner.” So I grilled him a burger, topped with pepper jack cheese, served on a toasted multi-grain roll that TG had made a couple days earlier. And boy are they ever good. We had a nice time – chatting, hanging out, sipping beer, relaxing, eating, listening to the birds, then all of a sudden another angler flew in.

Someone excitedly declared, “There’s an osprey! He just landed in that tree.” When I looked up, I had never seen an osprey so close. There were five of us sprawled about the parking lot, and this one apparently had little fear of humans. He was perched atop a large dead snag in a tree just fifty yards across the creek. He sat there for the best part of twenty minutes. He didn’t fly away as I expected he might as I advanced to rest my camera on the Fish Commission roofed bench / rules / regulations / stand for some pictures. I needed a rest since I did not bring my tripod. I zoomed in to 24x and shot away. Below are some of the photos I took:

Note the different head positions – the bird was surveying his surroundings, but mostly he was perched like this:

This osprey was primarily in this pose, head down, keen eyesight intently watching the riffle below his perch. Hunting...well, more appropriately, fishing. He remained here for the best part of twenty minutes.

One of the guys was watching when the bird made its move. “There he goes!” someone exclaimed. We all looked over in time to see the raptor drop from his perch, his wings swept back like an F-15 in a steep dive, and SPLASH! Right into the riffle. The bird remained on the water for almost ten seconds as we all watched, spellbound, as no one said a word. We wondered. Then the bird rose from the water clutching a fish. And of course, he had to fly right back by our position to show off his catch. It was a large sucker. We later surmised that the bird was arranging his grasp on the fish, adjusting his talons to get an aerodynamic start to his jumping off flight. (They are smart enough to point the head of the fish into the wind). A couple of us applauded his skill as he flew off.

Here is a link that my Canadian friend Rick Whorwood, sent me a few months ago. It contains incredible film footage of ospreys fishing.   http://www.arkive.org/osprey/pandion-haliaetus/video-00.html

After lunch we all resumed fishing. I walked up stream and took eight trout from one area, below some boulders and debris. Again, I was still fishing the #20 Flashback PT. In fact except for one five-minute period when I attempted to take a trout that had risen a few times on a #18 Baetis Dun pattern, which he ignored, I only fished two flies all day.

We caught a few little guys like this. Small trout are always a joy to see, they are evidence of Spring Creek's healthy natural brown trout reproduction. There is no (intentional) stocking in Spring Creek. Note the beautiful red spots, the red tip to the adipose fin, and the white edging on the anal fin.

Big brother of the fish in above photo.

Another on the Flashback PT. I'm not usually one to change flies if what I have on my tippet is catching trout.

About a fifteen incher...best fish of the day for me. Not huge, but sometimes size really doesn't matter.

Another image of the same trout. I took mostly macro images because it's hard to get good full-size photos when you're shooting pictures by yourself, with one hand. I found out too that most cameras are designed for right-hand operators.

My friend Dave Lomasney, from Maine, asked in a comment to this post if anything was hatchin’. I was getting to that in the More to follow segment.

I gotta go mow some more grass…(What I wrote Sunday evening at 6:15 PM).

OK, hatching activity, yes there was some, and a few trout rose, but it was sporadic and so did not convince me to switch over to drys. First off mid-morning, a tan caddis was hatching, and I only saw maybe two – three splashy rises. Not enough to tie on a dry. For me anyway. I know some that would have…we have a term for them…a couple of my friends are like that.

We saw a few of the usual #18 Baetis duns hatching, not many. By early afternoon the Baetis activity had intensified, still only a few trout rising here and there. Nothing steady. The BWO’s hatched all afternoon, just not in numbers significant enough to bring the trout up. My experience in this situation is, if you see a few BWO duns and a scattering of rising trout, there’s lots more fish working the nymphs.

By about 4:30 PM I started to see a few sulphur duns. Early for them…I’ve seen them sporadically start on Spring Creek in other years by about April 22 – 24, but it might last only 15 minutes a day. I suppose I saw about three dozen sulphur duns, not a hatch for sure, but it’s an early start. At this rate, considering the unseasonal weather and low water conditions we’re having, the Green Drakes will be coming off Penn’s Creek by May 20th. Of course, we’re talking the weather and it could all change next week.

In the early afternoon, I was fishing in the riffle about where the osprey made it’s kill, and after about 15 minutes, TG, who was still relaxing in a lawn chair (he had a good excuse – surgery five weeks ago, so he still needs to pace himself). He was only 75 feet away so why he called me on the walkie-talkie is beyond me, but I guess he wanted to whisper. He cued the mike and said, “Hey D! Don’t look now but you got company.”

I’m looking up and down stream, all around, thinking another fisherman was nearby. He started laughing. “Look up in the tree, moron.”

When I looked up, I saw that the osprey had returned. Now it was even closer to me than it had been at lunch. The bird was only about 75 feet away. I thought what are the chances, but it could happen, and said to him, “Hey if you really wanted to be entertained you should not have told me he was there, and just sat back and waited to see if that osprey would make a dive like, twenty feet away from where I’m standing. For sure, that would’ve made me come unglued.”

There he was again...later in the afternoon I was fishing farther upstream when all of a sudden I heard, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. I looked up to see him passing barely twenty feet over my head. This bird apparently has little fear of humans.

Lew (left) and Jeff fishing the afternoon session. They both landed a fair number of trout here, but these guys tend to nymph with more weight than I do, and they also take more suckers, considering their flies are running closer to the bottom where the suckers are. Jeff did take some trout on drys.

This was a great day, spent on the stream with good weather, good fishing, great food, and enjoying the fellowship of friends. We need to do this again…soon!

Tomorrow morning I’ll try to take a macro photo of the Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph and write the recipe and include them here too.

Monday, April 16, 2012: OK, I finally got around to tying a fresh nymph, took a few pictures and posted them here:

Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph, Size #18, 1x long nymph hook. Silhouette was more of a concern than lighting or trying to get the fly totally focused...

Head-on view...you can see the twist in the Krystalflash wingcase. I've never magnified one of these this much before...

I brought 18 trout to hand Saturday on this fly, though I was fishing a #20. This pattern is my favorite nymph for whenever and wherever Baetis and other BWO's species are present and active...which includes most trout streams.

Flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph

Hook: Standard nymph hook, 1x long, size #14 to #22.

Thread: I normally use Uni-Thread 8/0 Dark Brown, but I was out of that and also out of Danville Flymaster 6/0 Dark Brown, so I used what was at hand, UTC 6/0 70 denier, brown. I really don’t care for the UTC thread. It has less twist than Danville, flattens out faster, but the individual strands are more delicate than Danville and it frays more easily. I make it work if I have to, but it’s the least favorite tying thread I use.

Tail: 5 (larger sizes) or 4 or 3 (smaller sizes) fibers of ringneck pheasant cock tail fibers.

Rib: Fine gold wire, counter wound

Abdomen: Formed from the same fibers of PT as used for the tail.

Wingcase: Pearlescent Krystalflash, this one used 10 strands. More or less depending on hook size.

Thorax: Peacock herl, usually two strands. If tied in properly the nap of the herl will face toward the tail. The herl fibers represent the legs very well; tying in legs of an additional material is unnecessary in sizes #16 and smaller.

Head: Formed from the tying thread, cemented.

This fly has been successful many places. My brother Larry, & his daughter, Emily caught trout in Maine’s Kennebec River near Bingham. I caught trout with it in Montana’s Ruby River. Spring Creek, as evidenced by my fishing last Saturday. Anytime there are BWO’s hatching, try this nymph.

NYMPHS

The Vanity license plate on my car. I know what I meant…it was an afterthought…honest!

That’s right, this is the Vanity license plate on my car. It was not intended, but the end result after years have passed, I am happy with it. This plate has been the source of lots of humor and one single negative instance among my family and friends. The single negative instance involved my second failed marriage and my wife at the time and her flat “her-way-or-the-highway” refusal to allow me to put it on my car. Eventually I took the highway, and so did this license plate. That in itself is a whole ‘nother story. Which may never be told…but putting this plate back on my car last fall is a small representation of me getting my life back together. One other blog site, last January, after I made an announcement that I was in the process of a divorce, made the observation that I was taking time off for “personal realignment.” Getting my life back together, personal realignment, yeah, either definition works.

Returning to my mindset of humor, education, and inspiration to post this topic; about ten or so years ago, I submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation an application for a Vanity Plate. I had to submit three choices, and I naturally wanted a fly fishing theme. The first three I tried were: FISHON, FISHONN, AND WETFLYS. I really wanted FISHON because I holler that a lot when I fish with my friends. But the form came back with all three rejected. They sent me another application so in the second round I picked: TYZFLYZ, TYSFLYS, and for lack of being able to come up with anything else, I impulsively wrote, NYMPHS. As evidenced by the photo above, this is what I got. They say, be careful what you wish for, you may get it. I got NYMPHS even though I didn’t actually wish for it.

I had put the new NYMPHS plate on my red ’90 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser-S Station Wagon, and a few days had passed without my wife, Lou Anne, seeing it. I knew it would not be a problem, because she was a wonderful woman with a great sense of humor. Nevertheless, I was just waiting until she noticed it. On the occasion of her discovery, I had parked the Olds  in the garage, rear-end facing out. My beloved Lou Anne, to whom I was married for almost 34 years before she prematurely passed away five years ago, was riding with me in our other car, and I was driving as we came down the driveway to the shed. There was the Nymphmobile, as it came to be known, facing us head on, or more like, rear-end on. Lou Anne saw the plate for the first time and exclaimed, “Nymphs!”

Then she said it again, only with more emphasis, as in, “NYMPHS! NYMPHS! Why did you get that?” she asked somewhat incredulously. It is important to note that she was smiling.

I mumbled and sort of stammered an excuse along the line that I did not get the plate I really wanted; that I picked NYMPHS as an impulsive choice and never thought I would actually end up with it. Lou Anne was never angry or even slightly displeased with this situation.

I told her. “Nymphs are aquatic insects, and I’m a fly fisherman, who would think otherwise?”

She said, “Uhhhhhhhh,” deliberately dragging it out for emphasis, “That word means more than that…look it up in the dictionary.”

So I did. I was enlightened by this primary definition of ‘nymphs ‘in Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary:

Nymphs – Minor divinities of ancient mythology represented by beautiful maidens residing in forests, fields, mountains, meadows, and waters.

Ever since then, I have committed the primary definition of ‘nymphs’ to memory. The aquatic insect definition has taken second billing. Oh well, it was done. But, I didn’t mind, and neither did my wife. We just started having fun with it – you know, the old double entendre. We got a lot of laughs and jokes over it. She always appreciated the related humor and various incidents, comments, and even double-takes on the highway. And she never minded driving the “Nymphmobile.”

Once I was passed by a car load of co-eds who tooted, hollered, and waved. I tooted and waved back at them. Another time I was parked along Fourth Street in my hometown of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, right in front of the bank, where I had gone do to what you do when you go into a bank. When I came out, there was a car stopped, in traffic, behind the Nymphmobile, occupied by a young couple, and the male driver was leaning out over the door of the convertible, the top was down, and he was using his cell phone to take a picture of my NYMPHS plate. His girlfriend was giggling. He said, “Cool plate, dude!” It probably ended up on facebook or youtube…

A friend from my local Trout Unlimited Chapter once served as a host for a group of the New York Angler’s Club, one of them drove his New York vehicle with a NYMPHS license plate, but in his case, it was on both front and back of the car.

To clarify my reason and to hopefully legitimize this Vanity Plate on my car, here are a few photos of some nymphs, aquatic invertebrate imitations, and not beautiful maidens, that I tied up. Excuse me, tied:

Golden Stonefly Nymph #8, tied by Don Bastian

Golden Stonefly Nymph #8, tied by Don Bastian, same fly as above, different angle. Sometimes that is all you have to do to the trout, present your nymph in a slightly different manner…or angle of drift.

Isonychia Nymph Size #10, aka, Slate Drake, side profile. Note the realistic side-profile bulge in the wing case…that’s specific tying material application to imitate the real bugs.

Isonychia Nymph Size #10, top view. Note the short legs, again, realism designed to match the natural nymphs.

Isonychia Nymphs #10

This is one of my favorite nymph patterns. I made this post today, but am heading to my cabin very soon for a winter weekend of fly tying and camaraderie with friends. I will follow up next week with pattern recipes, and more information. Oh, and to clarify, I’ll be driving the Nymphmobile.

Added Monday, February 13: The weekend at the cabin was great, lots of fun, and while I made a pot of chili, ham & cheese omelets one morning, pancakes and bacon the next, and grilled Rachael and Reuben variations for lunch, one much-appreciated favor was that one of my friends cooked the evening dinners. Since I normally do most of the cooking, I really enjoyed the respite of tying flies until called for dinner.

Golden Stonefly Nymph:

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 Brown

Hook:  #8 2x long or 3x long nymph hook; may be be curved or a bent-shank nymph hook. The body is widened by side-lashing sections of .020 wire to the hook shank.

Tail:  2 amber colored goose biots (apply a small amount of dubbing to the hook before attaching the biots to the end of the body. The biots are best attached to the side-lashed wire, not the hook itself; this gives them the realistic separation similar to naturals, as visible in the photo.

Rib: 2 strands of Danville brown rayon floss, twisted tightly before winding

Abdomen: Rabbit dubbing; this color is custom-blended with amber, yellow, orange, and cream.

Wingcase: Pale yellow raffene (synthetic raffia).

Legs: One or two mottled brown hen back feather sections tied into thorax area, the dubbing is applied and then the leg feathers are pulled forward so that the barbs spread out to the sides under the wingcase.

Thorax: Same as abdomen

Head: Brown

The Golden Stonefly Nymph is a good searching pattern in any waters where stoneflies occur.

Isonychia or Slate Drake Nymph

This is basically the pattern of my friend Dave Rothrock. Dave is a meticulous tier, and I tend to tie some patterns with deliberation, but since this nymph is so effective, my commercial tying experience kicked in and I made some changes in the materials to speed up the tying process.

Hook: #10 nymph hook, 2x long

Thread: Uni-Thread Dark brown or Black, 8/0

Tail: 3 sections of natural ostrich herl, cut along the tips to imitate the comb-like hairs of the naturals.

Rib: A single strand of Danville brown rayon floss, tightly twisted, 6 – 7 wraps.

Abdomen over-back: Black scud back, 1/8″

Over-back Stripe: Danville white 3/0 Monocord, or 2 strands of 6/0, twisted.

Abdomen: Dark Brown Haretron dubbing, picked out along the sides.

Wingcase: Black polypropylene yarn, 2 strands

Thorax: Dark brown Haretron dubbing, with white over-back abdominal stripe pulled over wingcase as well

Legs: Gray speckled hen back fibers, side-lashed

This is a swimming nymph, and I never fish it on tippet lighter than 4x. It is one of my favorite nymph patterns because of the fact the isonychia emerges in both summer and fall. The dates to fish this nymph are from Memorial Day weekend until mid-July, and from mid-September through October.

The poly wingcase was one of Dave’s ideas, the bulging side profile it creates because of the bulk in the material is highly imitative of the naturals.