Muddy Creek – Catch and Release Section

In York County, Pennsylvania, there is a Catch-and-Release, Fly Fishing Only Section on Muddy Creek. I fished it once previously with my friend Jack ten or twelve years ago. It’s got some pretty nice water. On my first visit there, the water was high and off-color, and I remember doing well catching lots of trout on my Gray Ghost Wooly Bugger. Last Friday, Jack and I headed up to Muddy Creek from his home in Bel Air, Maryland. There is an old abandoned railroad that served as a good easy access on my previous visit, but in the intervening years, it has grown up in most sections to the point that it is impassable. So one must walk along a winding footpath if one wants to fish the upper reaches of the project water.

I decided to fish drys, and that’s all I did from our start about 4:45 PM.

Muddy Creek, about a half-mile above the parking area at the lower end of the access area.

Muddy Creek, about a half-mile above the parking area at the lower end of the access area. This is where I started fishing. Nice pools and some good pockets.

Muddy Creek is stocked, but for the most part, the trout I caught were small, stream bred browns.

Downstream view

Downstream view of where I started fishing. The path is on the opposite side of the creek. I entered and crossed to the left-hand side of the creek just to the left of the boulders.

A few caddis flies were coming off, and I saw a handful of mayflies floating on the water. I did not catch one, but from a distance I think they were Hendricksons. I saw a few rises here and there. Most of the rising trout would end up taking a whack at my #12 Delaware Adams.

My first trout of the afternoon.

My first trout of the afternoon. He was all of five inches long, a stream bred fish, but made up for his diminutive size by his spunk, aggressive strike, and beautiful colors. The #12 Delaware Adams in his upper jaw is a big meal for this little fellow, but it’s barbless so removal and release was easy.

Another photo of the same trout.

Another photo of the same trout. The sunlight allows for better viewing and appreciation of the colors of the fish. Note the parr marks, a juvenile, probably a one-year old trout.

A little farther upstream.

A little farther upstream, looking downstream. Pools, runs, riffles, and pocket water.

Looking upstream at the lower end of a big pool.

Looking upstream at the lower end of a big pool. I did not get farther than the head of this pool, since around 7:00 PM, a few trout started rising sporadically.

After I caught my first trout, I wondered why I missed the next six fish that took my fly. I suddenly thought, “I better check my fly,” and sure enough, my tippet had tangled about the bend and I was pulling the fly backwards. Duh. Stay sharp, you’ll catch more trout.

Upstream view of the bog poolwhere I sopent the evening.

Upstream view from the big pool where I spent the evening. There are lots of large rocks along and in the stream. These make for very beautiful areas along the banks, and in the water, they provide cover and create pockets and holding lies.

Jack had walked above me, and was using three wet flies. I later found out that he caught a lot of trout, swinging them down and across. I admitted to Jack at the end of the evening that I would probably have caught more trout using wet flies or a bugger, but I just wanted to cast and fish dry flies.

By seven-thirty I started seeing some sulphur duns and a few spinners were gathering in the air. I had not brought a flashlight with me, and Jack and I were out of sight and had not communicated with one another since separating more than three hours earlier. I knew he would have to walk past me to return to the car. I was thinking that I should have brought my walkie-talkies along. I was going to wait for him until 8:00 PM, but I delayed my departure for a few more minutes. At exactly 8:05, the pool erupted with more than thirty rising trout. By this time I had switched to a #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun. I stood at the water’s edge at the lower end of a large, garage-sized boulder, and caught several more trout without entering the stream. Just as I released a trout and stood up, five feet away a large black shape boiled the surface and moved away from me underwater. At first I thought it was a gigantic carp, but then I ascertained it to be a beaver. I was startled enough by this event, and he didn’t even slap his tail.

Another stream bred brown

Another stream bred brown from Muddy Creek, taken on a #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun.


Close-up of trout that ate my #14 Sulphur Parachute Dun

One more fish...

One more fish…the flash went off unexpectedly, but it sure highlights the sulphur orange body color of the fly I was using. This was my last fish, and then I had to get going.

Here is the recipe for this sulphur pattern,listed in order of tying the ingredients:

Sulphur Parachute Dun

Hook: Standard dry fly, #14

Thread: Danville Flymaster 6/0 Orange.

Wing: Tan colored Hi-Vis or Enrico’s Sea Fibers (same product, different name), set upright into a post

Tails: Six yellow or ginger Microfibetts, split 3/3 with tying thread

Abdomen: Superfine dubbing, Sulphur Orange. The abdomen is reverse wound, from thorax to tail, and ribbed with the tying thread going forward. This tightens up the body and adds segmentation. You ought to see the benefit of this technique on patterns where contrasting thread color is used.

Thorax: Sulphur orange rabbit dubbing

Hackle: Ginger

A thorax dun version of this same pattern can be made by winding the hackle conventionally. I prefer to clip the bottom of the hackle half-way between the point and shank. My sulphur pattern preference is to use the Super Floss stretch material in sulphur orange for the abdomen. See:

I ended up staying until almost 8:30 PM, hooking a dozen or so trout. Then I had to get out of there. Still no sign of Jack. I was in unfamiliar territory, with no flashlight, the path winds along the stream bank, with perilous (for waders) barbed wire at one section, my unseen companion, with previous heart-attack history, is seventy-five years old, and I was at least a half mile from the car. I was just a tad concerned. I started downstream, crossed over and found the path. I actually wondered, “What if Jack is not there?” Even so, I tried to believe everything would be OK. After I traveled a short ways, and since I was heading back home to Pennsylvania the next day, Saturday May 4th, I stopped and broke down my Loomis 4-piece rod to avoid tangling the rod in the brush along the path. I put the reel in my vest, and held the rod sections in hand. I had barely enough remaining daylight light to see the barbed wire, but I  managed to get past without snagging my waders, and then I finally arrived at the lower section where there is a cleared area by an old camper that probably serves as a weekend camp.

Fortunately, when I could see the parking area, I saw a light on where Jack had parked his car. As I got closer, I saw his standing silhouette at the back of the car, and he had already taken his waders off. He had somehow slipped past me, even though I vocalized “fish on” now and then. He was looking for me, and I still don’t know how he got by me, supposedly traveling along the creek, without seeing me. Anyway, he was fine and had enjoyed some good fishing.

We drove to his house where we had a late ten o’clock dinner of his home-made Maryland crabs cakes. No filler, they were great! The fishing and good meal were a nice conclusion to my visit. These photos will prolong the memories of a good trip.

March Brown Spinners

Last Thursday I went up Big Pine Creek, following PA Rt. 44 into the village of Waterville, located at the confluence of Big and Little Pine Creeks in Lycoming County. The shop is 22 miles from my house, all on back roads. But it’s a nice drive through beautiful country; I take PA Rt. 973 West from Quiggleville through Salladasburg to get to Rt. 44. I was on my way fishing, and I wanted to stop in McConnell’s Country Store & Fly Shop to get a few tying materials. Here is a link to their web site:

I was surprised since it was  Thursday that my close friend Dave Rothrock, of Jersey Shore, was working in the fly shop. He normally works weekends. Dave and I chatted and caught up a little bit on things, but regarding the fishing, he said the shop had been completely cleaned out of March Brown fly patterns of every sort. This was due to the good fishing conditions on Big and Little Pine Creeks, in large part due to the warm winter, lack of snow pack, and stable stream flows. Good fishing created higher than normal demand for flies, consequently the shop was sold out. I haven’t tied commercially for quite a few years, but I figured I would tie up some March Brown Spinners for the shop to help them out, even though they didn’t order them, I reasoned they would be happy to get some. And I could use a little extra cash, can’t we all? 😉 So on Saturday afternoon, I tied up three dozen March Brown Spinners in size #10. Below is a group shot of my work:

March Brown Spinners, size #10.

After I did the first dozen, I thought for the heck of it, I wanted to see how my timing was. If I still “got it” for production tying. So I clocked myself, start to finish, one dozen. When I took the last fly from the vise, I hit my stopwatch and the timer read: thirty-nine minutes, twenty-eight seconds. That’s three minutes fifteen seconds per fly. I was kind of pleased with that, but I did mess with the tail for over a minute on the first fly right off the bat. The first fly was four minutes eighteen seconds…dismal for a commercial tying time.

I once had a visiting friend from England, who did not tie flies, but was curious about it, having never seen it done. He wanted to watch me one day. He sat there and timed me, commenting each time I finished a fly. I remember I was tying #14 Sulphur Spinners, my best time on those (with split tail) was two minutes, fifteen seconds. But I plodded on after my four-and-a-quarter minute March Brown Spinner. I did have the wing material prepped ahead of time. But that would really only add about two additional minutes, still keeping the average time -per-fly at about 3-1/2 minutes each.

Here is a macro of a single fly:

March Brown Spinner, size #10. The rabbit dubbed thorax actually suggests the legs.

March Brown Spinner

The ingredients are listed in order of tying procedure.

Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size #10. This hook is a Dia-Riki 300.

Thread: Danville 6/0 Flymaster, No. 47 Tobacco Brown. I’m going to start listing the Danville Chenille Company thread color numbers from their website for clarification with my fly patterns, after a recent forum discussion of the correct color of orange floss for Gray Ghost bodies.

Wing: Clear Hi-Vis or Enrico’s Sea Fibers (both are the same product, different name). This comes in a large hank or bundle, and it must be sorted – separated from the main bundle; and sized according to fly size – a bit tricky but not difficult once one does it a few times. Experience is a good teacher.

Tail: Two fibers of moose body hair. Moose body hair is very strong and durable.

Body – Abdomen: Brown Flexi-Floss, * wound over tying thread base.

Body – Thorax: Rusty brown rabbit dubbing.

Head: Tying thread, cemented.

* The footnote for the Flexi-floss – well, this is confusing. Like the Hi-Vis and Sea Fibers, fly tying material companies market the same product and call it by different names. I guess they have to do that. It is confusing, even to experienced fly tiers, to say the least.

Independently of other fly tiers, I began years ago using Flexi-floss for mayfly bodies, specifically for dry fly bodies. I made that decision because I discovered that Flexi-floss floats. Now, Flexi-floss, Sexi-Floss, Super-floss, Dyna-Floss, Floss-Flex, and I don’t know what else it is called, but this is a DuPont product. All the same. I googled “Flexi-Floss” and found a Fly Fisherman Magazine article by Mike Hogue, owner of Badger Creek Fly Tying Materials in Ithaca, New York. Mike would be a good material source to check out.

Mike’s article was about “The Flexi-Floss Dun.” I don’t get the photos on my computer for some reason, and Mike’s article of unknown date, was nevertheless informative. He did however lump Wapsi’s Span-Flex into the same group with Flexi-Floss, associating it as the same material. Span-Flex is not the same as Flexi-Floss, it is different. Span-Flex is a latex product. It has a dull, matte finish. It comes in different sizes, not diameters as the article stated because it is not round, but rather is rectangular or square depending on the size.  Span Flex comes in three or four sizes. The Flexi-Floss is also of a squarish shape, but more oval, not cut flat like Span-Flex. Both products are very stretchy. Span-Flex, however, will eventually rot. So it is not a good material for a framed fly. I have some Latex Caddis Larva in my fly box, made from Span-flex, that are at least five years old, and the bodies came apart. So what, you say? The Latex Caddis Larva is a pattern I got from Rick Whorwood in Ontario back in the mid-90’s before Span-flex came on the market. Back then we used dental gum bands that your kids put on their braces. One round gum band would make three size #18 flies, but the material had to be wound with hackle pliers. Span-flex cured that difficulty. The Latex Caddis Larva is a great fly by the way, one I would have on a short list of nymph patterns for anywhere in the country, due to its imitative effectiveness of the net-spinning Hydropsyche caddis larva.

I often used a #18 Latex Caddis Larva on Spring Creek during my live, stream-side instructional nymph fishing demos, more than once resulting in hookups of six, eight, or more trout, prompting immediate and keen interest in the fly by onlookers and their desire to obtain the “magic bullet” pattern. I usually planned for this and had some for sale. 😉  I have another story about this fly too, for another time. Span-Flex is a good material, it provides translucence and is very much affected by different shades of the tying thread. Just don’t make more than a year’s supply of any pattern with it.

Flexi-floss – is a glossy material. Also very stretchy. It floats. Span-flex by comparison, sinks. You can put Span-flex in a glass of water and it will sink. Put Flexi-floss in some water, and even if you force it down, it rises back to the surface. Hence, a superior material to incorporate into dry fly bodies. It is also translucent, and is the best synthetic quill body substitute I have ever seen. It requires no soaking. It is durable. It comes in many colors, and like the Span-flex, is also of significant advantage for fly pattern design, due to its translucence and being effected by the color of tying thread used underneath it. One color of Flexi-floss can be made into a number of different shades by changing the base thread color. It has been used for legs, ribbing, etc., but its real boon to tiers of trout flies is its ability to mimic not only the appearance of, as A. K. Best, says the “smooth, waxy-looking bodies of mayflies,” but it excels beyond other materials with its translucence.

I have samples of Blue Quills, Baetis (different colors), Cornutas, Quill Gordons, Chocolate Duns, Mahogany Duns, Slate Drakes, March Brown Duns, Sulphurs, Light Cahills, Pale Evening Duns, Pale Morning Duns, and spinners for these patterns with the range of colors of Flexi-floss.

Tying Instructions

Step 1: The fly is tied by first setting a short thread base for the wing. Then set the wing about 1/3 the distance between the eye and hook point, attaching it with a thread wrap and then securing it with about ten tight figure-eight wraps.

Step 2: Wind tying thread to the hook point, stop and attach two moose body hairs. Begin winding to the barb. By placing your finger on top of the fibers, they will slid to the sides of the hook shank. Moderate thread tension will move them into place on the sides of the hook shank by the time you reach the end of the body. Note in the macro photo, the tail comes off both sides of the abdomen, like a real bug, not off the top like most other patterns.

Step 3: Wind thread forward to the thorax, and attach the Flexi-floss with one wrap. Maximize thread tension (to hold the body material in place, if it slips out you need more tension), and s-t-r-e-t-c-h the Flexi-floss, then wind over it to the base of the tail, stopping a smidgen ahead of the tail, and then wind thread forward to the thorax. Leave a little room behind the wings for the dubbed thorax.

Step 4: Wind the Flexi-floss forward, secure with at least 3, and no more than 4 wraps. And I mean tight. Cut off. One six-inch section of Flexi-Floss, cut from the cable tie bundle, will make 6 – 8 size #10 flies.

Step 5: Dub the thread and wind the dubbing in figure-eight wraps, keeping the wing at right angles to the hook shank. Some spinners I have seen have a thorax that is too sparse, skinny. I like to imitate the natural bulge of the thorax of mayfly spinners; a more realistic body silhouette triggers more strikes.  Finish wrapping and whip finish the head, and the fly is done.

I just finished two dozen size #18 and #20 Dark Rusty CDC Comparaduns for an order; the nice thing about Flexi-floss, is it will split. Use your bodkin to skewer the middle of the material about a half-inch from one end, and pull the Flexi-floss away. This will split it; then simply grab the ends and pull it apart. This yields smaller width sections of material that can be used on tiny flies.

The bodies of these small patterns I dressed have a “quill body.” I’ll try to take photos tomorrow and add them to this post. That way folks can see the benefit of this stuff. Hope you like the flies!

(Edit – May 1st: One of these days I’m going to start making tying videos and put a few on Youtube I guess).

#16 Blue Quill Polywing Thorax Dun, tied with Flexi-Floss body.