amflyfishing Tidbits
I started flinging flies in 1969 and tying flies in 1971, listed below are a
few lessons and tips that I have picked-up along the way.  Tight lines
and see you on the water, Andy (amflyfishing)
> On the vise and tying-up Woolly Buggers, cause "the Tug is the Drug".  The Woolly Bugger is classified as a streamer.  It is effective fishing moving water (creeks, streams, rivers), still water (ponds, lakes, reservoirs), a vary of water conditions (clear, stain, tannic) and catches a vary of species (trout, steelhead, panfish, bass, rough fish), making the Woolly Bugger a must have pattern in your  fly box.  This pattern imitates a wide range of food forms such as hellgrammites, dragonflies, damsels, sculpins, leeches and crawfish ... these are subsurface food where fish spend the bulk of their time feeding.
Beadhead Woolly Bugger, Black (size 10)
Hook - Mustad R73 / Sizes - 6 to 12
Beadhead - Black Nickel
Thread - Black
Tail - Black Marabou (1-1/2 the length of the hook shank)
Rib - Gold Wire (counter-wrapped, to hold and protect the hackle)
Body - Black Chenille
Hackle - Black Hen
> The Estaz Egg has become a must have fly for every angler who challenges the steelhead and salmon swimming up the Lake Michigan tributaries during the spring and fall.

Fish the Estaz Egg so the fly is rolling along or just off the bottom.  The most important key is a drag free drift, your line should follow the current or flow.  Add or remove weight on your leader to keep the fly in the strike zone.  Anytime during the drift your line hesitates, stops or moves differently, set the hook.

Here's a tidbit for those anglers that enjoy targeting carp ... this is a "go to pattern" as carp follows the steelhead and salmon into the tributaries to fest aggressively on their eggs.

Size 10 shown in photos
Tier - Andy (amflyfishing)
Hook - Eagle Claw L055S (scud)
Sizes - 6 to 12
Thread - Red
Body - Opal Orange Estaz Chenille
Head - Tying thread
Alternative colors - Chartreuse, Pink, Red
> Spring crappie on the fly ...
There are two types of crappies ~ the Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) prefers clear water with an abundance of submerged aquatic growth with a sandy or muck bottom, the White Crappie (Pomoxis annularis) is more adoptable to stained water and a silt bottom.

Crappies are sight feeders, their eyes are large and set high on their head.  They also hear well and easily spooked (a quiet and careful approach is essential).  Their food base will consist of planton, insects, crustaceans and minnows.

In the spring, crappies will start to spawn when water temperatures are between 60 to 65 degress F.  The male crappie heads into shallow water areas with dense weeds and will start fanning the nest.  Once the nest is prepared, the female crappie will arrive and deposit her eggs (an adult female can spawn several times during the season and deposit up to 300,000 eggs).  Spawning female crappies are very reluctant to eat or strike a fly.

During the pre-spawn and post-spawn (this is prime time fishing), crappies will position themselves on the first break out from the nesting area and are very aggressive.  Crappies tend to gather and move in loose groups.  As the water warms, they will start to migrate to deeper water.  While a group of crappies can be located on the bottom of a water system ~ their tendency is to suspend over or next to structure.

Streamer Patterns ... I have caught crappies on dry flies, wet flies, and nymphs ~ but the most productive fly pattern has been the streamer.  Crappies will eagerly feed on minnows, a streamer provides the appearance of a minnow and the retrieve needs to mimic that of a minnow working its way through the water.

The Clouser Minnow is my first choice, with it being weighted (lead dumbbell eyes) aids in getting and keeping the fly in the strike zone.  The Bucktail Streamer and Zonker Streamer are also excellent patterns.  The length of your streamers should range from 1 to 2 inches (size 10 to 6).  If you are getting strikes and not hooking-up ~ do not hesitate, switch to a smaller length streamer.

Favorite color combinations for the Clouser Minnow and Bucktail Streamer are chartreuse / white, yellow / white, olive / white, black / orange and the Mickey Finn.  White and chartreuse Zonker Streamer are solid producers.

Approaching Target Areas, Retrieves, and Set-up ... I like to use the wind to slowly drift my canoe or kayak into the targeted areas.  This allow me a quiet approach to avoid spooking the fish and allows me to cast with wind.

The key is slowly moving the streamer through the water while maintaining enough contact to feel a strike (strikes are light and usually just a tap-tap-tap).  The hand-twist retrieve and a short strip-strip-pause retrieve have worked well.  The hand-twist retrieve will keep the streamer continuously and slowly moving through the water.  The strip-strip-pause retrieve consist of 4 to 6 inch strip then employing a 2 to 3 second pause, this gives the streamer an erratic action.  Count down your presentation, this allows you to know exactly the depth you are fishing and return to that depth after you catch a fish.

A hooked crappie is not known for blazing speed and powerful runs ~ but turning their flat body to create resistant making them difficult to move and creating an opportunity for the hook to tear free from their paper-thin mouth.  Therefore, you don't need specialized equipment.  My preference is a 4 weight fly rod, disc-drag reel and floating weight forward fly line.

For shallow water situations, a 4X fluorocarbon taper leader and tippet will get the streamer down to attract their attention and draw strikes.  When crappies are suspended 5 to 8 feet deep, I'll use a sink-tip leader and a 2 to 3 foot lenth fluorocarbon tipped to get my offering into and work the strike zone.  These two setups allow me to stay in contact with the streamer and detect light strikes.

Clouser's Minnow, Yellow / White
Hook - TMC 200R
Sizes - 2 to 10
Thread - White
Eyes - Black Lead Dumbbell
Belly - White Bucktail
Wing - Yellow Bucktail over Gold Krystal Flash
Nose - Yellow Thread

The black lead dumbbell (eyes) is mounted
on top of the hook shank to invert the hook.

size 6 shown
> Furled Leaders ...
Not many anglers have even heard or much less used a furled leader, but they have been around for centuries.  Their origins dates back to the early days of fly fishing when fly lines were woven from horse hair.  The process used to create those early lines is very similar to the way furled leaders are constructed.  Today, with the wide variety of materials gives the modern day furled leaders, unparalleled performance, accuracy and make them a joy to use for presenting your fly to the fish.

Here's a few advantages of using Furled Leaders

* Kink resistant * Superior shock absoption * Very durable
* Not prone to wind knots * Virtually no memory * Turns over larger tippets & flies
* Extremely smooth turn over * Lands softly on the water * Solid core
* Virtually no spray * Smooth taper from butt to tippet * Cleaner, collects less water scum

> Two of my favorite fly patterns ... Pheasant Tail Nymph and Pheasant Tail Wet Fly
Frank Swayer (an English River Keeper) is the originator of the Pheasant Tail Nymph.  This fly dates back to 1958 and has stood the test of time as a "must have fly" that imitates a variety of mayfly species during their nymph stage.  Originally, the Pheasant Tail Nymph was created to target trout and grayling on the chalkstreams in Southern England, to imitate several species of the baetis family.

On a personal note, I have found that the Pheasant Tail Nymph to be a multi-species fly on both moving and still water systems ... scoring trout, panfish, steelhead, coho salmon, and carp.  When targeting carp in slow moving skinny water (a depth of 1 to 3 feet) with clear and sunny conditions ... slowing working a non-weighted Pheasant Tail Nymph (in sizes 10 and 12) into the strike zone of the fish has been extremely productive.

size 12 shown

In Frank's orginal pattern, pheasant
tail fibers are used for the thorax
and tied without legs.
Pheasant Tail Nymph (tied American style)
Hook - TMC 3761
Sizes - 10 to 18
Thread - Dark Brown
Tail - Pheasant Tail Fibers (~3/4 of body length)
Rib - Gold Wire (counter-wrapped to hold and
protect the abdomen's pheasant tail fibers)
Abdomen - Pheasant Tail Fibers
Wingcase - Pheasant Tail Fibers
Thorax - Peacock Herls
Legs - Pheasant Tail Fibers (fibers used to form
the wingcase aare pulled back and secured / legs
should exteend back to the mid-mark of the
Head - Tying Thread

size 10 shown
Pheasant Tail Wet Fly
Hook - TMC 3761
Sizes - 8 to 16
Thread - Dark Brown
Tail - Pheasant Tail Fibers
Rib - Gopper Wire (counter-wrapped to hold
and protect the abdomen's pheasant tail
Abdomen - Pheasant Tail Fibers
Thorax - Peacock Herls
Hackle - Speckled Brown Hen Saddle Patch
Head - Tying Thread

> Spring time with rising water temperatures means ... gills on the fly.
Featured is the Black Foam Spider with Speckled Yellow Legs ~ a quick tied with only four components and extremely productive.  Working this pattern is very straight forward ~ after the fly softly lands on the water, allow it to sit motionless for a couple of seconds then incorporated 2 or 3 twitches and rest ... if no strike, then repeat.  The majority of the strikes will occur as the fly is at rest.

Black Foam Spider w/ Speckled Yellow Legs
Hook - TMC 101
Size - 10
Thread - Black
Body - Black Foam Spider Body
Legs - Centipede Legs Speckled Yellow (medium)

White Body w/
Red Legs
size 10 shown

White Body w/
Speckled Olive Legs
size 10 shown

Black Body w/
Speckled Orange Legs
size 10 shown

Black Body w/
Yellow Legs
size 10 shown

> The bucktail streamer holds a special memory, it was the first fly that I tied (starting my fly tying journey) ... a silver flat tinsel body with a brown bucktail over white bucktail wing and a black thread head.  The streamer pattern was a solid producer for largemouth bass on Long Lake and smallmouth bass on the Saint Joseph River.  That was 40+ years ago ... and now, I am still tying and fishing bucktail streamers for largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, crappies, brown trout and rainbow trout.

The bucktail streamer is tied and fished to look like a minnow moving through the water ... offering a large fish, a large meal (source of protein) to continue to survive.  Therefore, the retrieve must imitate the actions of a minnow ... working the rod tip and line is necessary to have the streamer act like a  minnow.  A short jerky retrieve will make the streamer look like a minnow darting erratically around structure.  A long strip retrieve will make the streamer appear as a swimming minnow.  A streamer that's allowed to sink to the bottom and slowly moved will look like a feeding minnow.  A fast and steady retrieve where the streamer is worked near the surface imitates a fleeing minnow.  Do not get into a rut of using just one retrieve ... you'll need to try different retrieves until you find which one will trigger the fish to strike.

As for size selection, I like using a large streamer (size 2 or 4) for stained water conditiions, and a small streamer (size 10) for very clear water conditions.  The smaller streamer will create less disturbance and audible splat when hitting the water ... thus, reducing the chance of spooking the fish.  For normal water conditions, I favor a size 6 or 8 streamer.

I prefer to use a fluorocarbon leader and tippet for streamer fishing.  The advantages of fluorocarbon are lower visibility (due to its refractive index being almost the same as water), smaller diameter and less stretch than monofilament.  Also, fluorocarbon will sink rather than float like monofilament ... allowing me to work the streamer a little deeper within the water column.

Bucktail Streamer, Olive 'n White
Size 6 shown in photo
Hook - Mustad R73
Sizes - 2 to 10
Thread - Black
Tail - Silver Krystal Flash
Body - Silver Flat Tinsel
Belly - White Bucktail
Wing - Olive Bucktail topped with Peacock Herls
Head - Black Thread

A must have pattern in your fly box.

On the Vise ... just keeping it reel, quick and simple

Bucktail Streamer Variant, Mickey Finn
Hook - TMC 5262
Sizes - 6 to 10
Body - Red Thread
Belly - Yellow Bucktail
Wing - Yellow Bucktail over Red Krystal Flash
Head - Black Thread

Been a productive bass pattern fishing edges of weedlines
during clear water conditions with bright sky.

size 6 shown
Clouser Minnow Variant, Black over Yellow
Hook - TMC 200R
Sizes - 6 to 10
Thread - Yellow
Eyes - Silver Beadchain
Belly - Yellow Bucktail
Wing - Black Bucktail over Gold Kystral Flash
Nose - Black Thread

The beadchain eyes are mounted on top of the hook
shank to invest the hook.

size 6 shown

> Pond Hopping for Largemouth Bass ...

Bass are where the food is located.  The majority of the food in ponds are located in close proximity to the banks and is more evident on ponds that lack lots of cover and structure.  Small panfish, hatched fry, frogs, tadpoles, crayfish and aquatic insects uses the banks and its vegetation.  Bass will forage either by setting-up in ambush spots or slowly patrol these waters.  Also, the wind direction will influence the location of active feeding bass.  Wind creates current which pushes and concentrates food, influencing bass to feed in certain areas.  Consistent winds for a ccouple hours, I will start off fishing the down-wind side of the pond.

Bass can easily be put into a negative feeding mood.  Being stealth during the approach and presentation is critical.  Move slowly and quietly into casting position, making accurate casts and systematically working the targeted area thoroughly.  I will start off casting the just off the bank, followed by parallel casts outward into deeper water.  This allows the fly to follow the natural contours, edges and similar water throughout the retrieve.  A "Stop-n-Go" retrieve often works better than a steady retrieve, the fly mimics a dying or injured bait.  I will make multiple casts to a suspected ambush spot before moving on ... either the bass wasn't convinced on my earlier presentation or can be angered into striking.

Also, water temperature dictates the retrieve speed of the fly.  The metabolism of bass lowers as water temperatures drop and rises when water temperatures increases ... directly effects how bass forage for food (the amount of energy and effort that bass will expend).  The rule of thumb ... colder the water, slower your retrieve should be and the warmer the water, faster your retrieve.  During cold fronts, the fish's strike zone is reduce and it becomes important to work the fly as close as possible to the bass.
Clouser Minnow, Olive
Hook - Mustad 3366
Sizes - 2 to 10
Thread - White
Eyes - Black Lead Dumbbell
Belly - White Bucktail
Wing - Olive Bucktail over Gold Krystal Flash
Nose - Oilve Thread

The black lead dumbbell eyes are mounted
on top of the hook shank to invert the hook.

size 6 shown

The Clouser Minnow was designed by Bob Clouser and has become one my favorite streamer pattern for bass.  The key for this pattern success is that the fly is always in motion.  Even while the fly is at rest, the bucktal and Krystal Flash slithers suggestively.  The lead dumbbell eyes on the hook imparts a dipping and darting motion ... along with a hook-up swimming configuration and making this fly virtuall snag-free.

> Nymph patterns
are a solid producer for fall steelheads in Northwest Indiana's Lake Michigan tributaries.  Look for and fish holding lies ... the soft water edges (seams) offering relief from the currents; such as a rock pile, submerged island, bottom depression or fallen timber that breaks the flow of water and creates soft water.  A very productive presentation is dead drifting the fly downstream along the the bottom.  Now and then, you will hang-up and lose a fly ... but the reward of hooking-up, battling and landing that steelhead out weighs the cost and time of tying-up several nymphs.

"I look into my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly, water temperature, what stage of developent the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now.  Then, I remember what a guide told me, "Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eights of an inch long.".
~ Allison Moir

> Working the edges of weedlines means fishing success!

Panfish and bass will use underwater foliage for staging, feeding and protection.  Upon locating green and healthy weeds along a shoreline, on a hump or flat ... next, identify the edge of the weedline (this is usually dictated by water depth, where the lack of sunlight penetration can't sustain their life) and work your fly as close as possible to the edge.

> Can't draw a strike or the bite turns-off
A subtle change can have a huge impact on your fishing productivity.  Here's a few options to consider ... changing the fly (size, color, weighted / un-weighted, pattern), the retrieve (speed, pattern) or the tippet (length, diameter, monofilament / fluorocarbon).

> Ants
During the summer and into early fall, ant dry fly patterns are extremely effective for hooking-up on both, trout and panfish.  Few fly anglers realize how plentiful and frequently these insects become fish food.  Ants have an acidic taste and fish crave them.  Strong winds will shake ants from vegetation and heavy rains will flush them into the water, thus becoming easy prey for fish.

I will target my presentations to drift (drag-free) under over-hanging tree limbs, next to logs and vegetation along the shoreline.  The disturbance of the fly landing and drifting on the water will draw the attention of the fish ... the strike will come from a reflex mode.  After two or three casts without a strike, I'll move to the next promising lie.  Fish located along the shoreline and in shallows are usually skittish, so move slowly and quietly into casting position.
Foam Ant, Black
Hook - TMC 100
Sizes - 14 and 16
Thread - Black
Body - 2mm Black Foam
Legs - Black Krystal Flash

Alternative Colors -
Brown, Red

size 14 shown
Dub Ant, Black
Hook - TMC 100
Sizes - 12 to 18
Thread - Black
Body - Black SuperFine Dubbing
Legs - Black Hen

Alternative Colors -
Brown, Red

size 14 shown

Mature ant colonies will produces a new group of winged ants (virgin queens and males) specifically for the purpose of mating and starting new colonies.  When conditions are right, they will take flight and seek out individuals from other nests.  These migratiions will occur during clear weather since rain is disruptive for flying insects.  It's not unusual that a good number of these winged ants end-up on the water due to wind and other factors ... they can't leave the water, becoming an easy and tasty treat.

Flying Dub Ant, Black
Hook - TMC 100
Sizes - 14 and 16
Thread - Black
Rear Section - Black SuperFine Dubbing
Mid-Section - Tying Thread
Wing - Brown Hen Tips
(~45 degree angle and divided)
Hackle - Brown Hen
Head - Black SuperFine Dubbing

Alternative Colors - Brown, Cinnamon

size 14 shown
> Nymphing and Indicators
When nymph fishing for steelheads in shallow water on Northwest Indiana's Lake Michigan tributaries, I prefer a tight-line drift that uses my vision and feel to detect when a fish takes my offering rather than a rig that incorporates an indicator.  I have notice that these fish are usually indicator shy and will move to the side or drop back as the rig drifts past.  For deep water nymphing, I prefer using an indicator ... I will select an indicator that has barely enough floatability to support the weight of the rig, this responds better to subtle takes, allowing me to detect and hook-up on more fish.

There are several different styles of strike indicators on the market ... my two choices are Skip's Turn On Strike Indicator and Lightning Strike's Thingamabobber.  Both of these strike indicators provide excellent floatability for their size and ease of adjustment for depth and current speed.  Also, they are less wind resistant than yarn style indicators and don't requires dressing.

Skip's Turn On
Strike Indicator

Lightning Strike's

Yarn Indicator

Tip.  After a few times fishing your nymph rig, you find that the split shot has slid down against the fly ... to keep this from occurring, tie a surgeon's knot on your tippet approximately 10 inches above the fly and then pinch the split shot above the knot, this will prevent the split shot from sliding down.

> On the Fly

I tie and carry carp patterns in several different colors and sizes, listed below are my general guidelines.

  • Clear water conditions - light / natural colors and smaller sizes, Muddy water conditions - dark color and larger sizes, and Tannic water conditions - fluorescent colors and larger sizes.
  • The weight of the fly is critical (landing and sink rate), a heavily weighted fly will turn-off or spook active fish in shallow water.
  • If I get a refusal on a well presented fly, I will immediately change to a smaller fly.
Dancing Carp Fly
Hook - Mustad C49S
Sizes - 8 to 12
Thread - Dark Brown
Eyes - Silver Beadchain
Tail - Brown Marabou
Rib - Silver Wire
Body - Hare's Ear Dubbing
Legs - Speckled Hot Orange Centipede Legs
Head - Peacock Life Cycle Dubbing

size 10 shown

> As Spring drifts on and water temperatures continue to rise, I am excitedly looking forward to another season targeting carp on Northwest Indiana's creeks and streams ... listed below are several keys for hooking-up.
  • Being stealth when approaching and positioning yourself to cast cannot be over emphasized.
  • If possible stay out of the water and fish from the shoreline.
  • Wearing drab color clothing to blend into the background is a wise decision.
  • Wearing a good pair of sunglasses will greatly help spotting fish and protect your eyes from an errant cast.
  • Have the discipline not to fish to every single carp you see.  Identified and focus your efforts on a specific fish that is actively feeding or displaying aggressive body language.
  • Carp feed most aggressively when the water temperatures is between 65 to 80 degrees ... this is prime time, get out and wet a line.
  • Carp are incredibly sensitive to taste and smell ... before using a fly for the first time, rub it with mud or algae.
  • Never cast directly to a carp.  Cast your fly past the fish if it is rooting or out in front if the fish is moving ... then slowly draw your fly into fish's strike zone.
  • When a carp takes your offering ... always pull or strip set before elevating the rod to avoid from pulling the fly out of the carp’s mouth.
  • Constantly check the leader and tippet for any abrasions and replace it when you find any.


Northwest Indiana Carp
on a
Beckster's Carp Nymph
with the 5-weight

> I tie lots of size 14 to 20 flies for fishing local pressured waters ... listed below are a few recommendations.

  • Keep the pattern simple.
  • Size and profile are more important than color.
  • Use 8/0 to 14/0 tying thread.
  • Use a wide gape hook to increase the hooking ability.
  • Weight the leader rather than the fly.
  • A micro-beadhead nymph work well as a dropper below a larger visible dry fly or an indicator.

Once you develop a lighter touch for casting and working small flies … you’ll find small flies are quite deadly on trout and panfish that feed heavily on little stuff to make a meal.

The Redd October is a simple, quick and unbelievably productive pattern.  Midge larvae (a.k.a. bloodworm) do not stray far from home and gets around by squirming through the water … therefore, the angler needs to keep the fly near the bottom structure (within a foot or two feet) and incorporate some animation.  My set-up / retrieve preference is using an indicator and incorporating two very short / quick strips, then allowing the fly to settle back to a resting state for three to five seconds.  The bulk of the strikes coming as the fly nears or in a resting state.

Redd October
Hook – TMC 2487
Sizes – 12 to 18
Beadhead – Gold
Thread – Black
Rib – Gold wire
Body – Red holographic tinsel
Thorax – Black thread

* Coat body and thorax with
Sally Hansen "Hard as Nails"

size 16 shown

> A productive method for catching trout in creeks and rivers is swinging a wet fly
The fly imitates an emerging or swimming insect … drawing the fish’s attention and strike.  Also, this method allows the angler to work the fly at variety of depths throughout the entire water column effectively (from just below the surface to the bottom).  The mechanics of the presentation are fairly straight forward, making a quartering downstream cast with just enough weight to sink and work the fly through prime holding spots incorporating a series of short lifts that imitates an insect swimming toward the surface.  At the end of the swing, allow the fly to hang for a couple seconds in the current … pay attention, this usually entices a follower to strike.
Payette Special
Hook – TMC 3671
Sizes – 8 to 14
Thread – Black
Tag – UNI-Thread Ultra Wire copper, small
Rib – UNI-Thread Ultra Wire copper, small
Body – Peacock herls
Hackle – Black, tied wet-style collar
Wing – Pheasant tail fibers

size 10 shown

> Beadhead nymphs and wet flies are very popular and for a good reason.
The bead replicate the air bubble found around a swimming or emerging bug and the weight of the bead sinks the fly into the fish’s strike zone.  However, don’t fall into fishing a beadhead fly all the time.  In slow moving waters (creeks and streams), ponds and lakes … the bead may do more harm than good because it falls too quickly and gets hung-up on the bottom.  Here’s my guideline – if the water depth is less than 2 feet or the current is slower than one foot per second, I forget about bead.

> The Beadhead Mini Woolly Bugger

A host of advantages accrue to the angler targeting panfish (bluegills, pumpkinseeds, redears, crappies) who actively moves the Beadhead Mini Woolly Worm in low-light conditions.  Stripping the fly creates a life-like movement and bulges for the panfish to home in on … along with telegraphing light strikes.  One of my favorite and productive tactics is actively working the fly just below the surface film when fishing outside edges of submerged weedbeds and timbers draws the fish’s attention and prevent hang-ups.  Don’t be surprise if you hook-up and battle a largemouth bass … I have caught a good number of largemouth bass with this tactic.

Mini Woolly Worm, Brown
Hook – TMC 100
Sizes – 12 to 16
Beadhead – Gold
Thread – Dark Brown
Butt – Burnt Orange Antron Yarn
Rib – Gold Extra-Fine Wire
(countered wrapped)
Body – Brown Rabbit Dubbing
Hackle – Grizzly Saddle Dyed Brown
(tied-in at the front and palmered back)

Mini Woolly Worm, Brown
size 14 shown

Mini Woolly Worm, Black
size 14 shown

> Woolly Buggers
The major key to the Woolly Bugger’s success for catching fish is this pattern imitates a wide vary of food sources … baitfish, crawfish, hellgrammites, leeches and nymphs (damsels, stoneflies).

Fishing the Woolly Bugger, vary the retrieve until you find what works best to draw the fish’s attention and strike.  On ponds and lakes, I usually start with a steady strip-strip-strip-pause (2 to 3 seconds) and repeat retrieve.  In moving water systems (streams and rivers), I have been successful getting fish to strike a Woolly Bugger on the swing, dead-drifting, steady continuous retrieve and strip-strip-strip-pause retrieve … be flexible with your presentations.

In tying and fishing Woolly Buggers for over two decades, keeping the palmer hackle length equal to the gap of the hook and the marabou tail length ranging from 1-1/2 to 2 times the body length is critical and has clearly produced more hook-ups.  Also, a countered-wrapped wire rib protects the palmered hackle and adds flash.

I get this question asked frequently, “what your most productive color pattern” … my “go-to” color patterns are Purple or Black for stain and slightly tinted water conditions, Brown or Olive for clear water conditions.

size 6 shown

Woolly Bugger, Purple
Hook – Mustad R74 (4X long, 2X heavy)
Sizes – 12 to 4
Weight – Lead Free Wire (optional)
Thread – Black
Tail – Purple Marabou Blood Quill
Rib – Gold Wire (countered wrapped)
Body – Purple Chenille
Hackle – Grizzly Saddle Dyed Purple
(tied-in at the front and palmered back)

Beadhead Woolly Bugger, Purple
size 6 shown

Egg-Sucking Woolly Bugger, Purple
size 6 shown

> Skamania and the Woolly Bugger.
On Northwest Indiana’s Lake Michigan tributaries, the Skamania “summer-run steelhead are in high gear" … and the hot ticket for fly anglers has been casting and working Woolly Buggers.

Three favorable times and situations to fish a Woolly Bugger for Skamania are in high and dirty water, when fish are holding tightly along the banks, and in low-light conditions (such as cloudy days, and near sunrise and sunset).  A quiet approach and a good presentation are critical on these narrow waterways to entice these fish to strike … along with twitching the fly to supply movement.

I like to position myself upstream of the fish and out of sight, and cast downstream at a 45-degree angle.  As the Woolly Bugger swing toward my side of the creek, I will incorporate several twitches with the rod tip while applying tension to the line …  making the fly come to life within view of the fish, triggering a strike and memorial battle.

Beadhead Woolly Bugger, Black

Egg-Sucking Woolly Bugger, Black

> Targeting trophy trout or bass … tie-on a streamer.
Big fish eat little fish.  Whether fly fishing a stream, river, pond or lake there will always be minnows and fish fry present (with the predominant season for fish fry being the spring).  In other words, the “hatch” is always on when you’re fishing streamers.

Besides availability, fish are indiscriminate feeders and will eat what is presented to them.  Also, they are masters of energy conservation and expenditure.  They will not pursue food if it costs them more energy to catch than they will receive from its consumption.  A minnow that they only have to lunge for, is an opportunity they won’t often resist … a lot of energy consumed without a lot of energy exerted.

A little action imparted by your rod tip, can help convince your targeted trophy that the minnow is injured, increasing the strike potential.  Vary the tempo of the retrieve, using short bursts followed by a count of two or three of idleness can draw their interest to strike your streamer.

> Locating fish is one of most difficult components to tackle when you’re fly fishing stillwaters.
Once you located fish, it still doesn’t always means that you will get them to strike your fly.  Here a couple of items to consider when fishing stillwaters.

Usually, we are fishing a fly that requires some sort of retrieve and using a floating fly line.  On those calm days where the water surface is flat, casting and retrieving your fly line will create small wakes on the surface causing the fish to become spooky or move them out of the area.  For those windy days where the water surface is choppy, the fly line will develop a bow (creating slack) and soft takes will more often than not go undetected.  An intermediate sinking fly line can be the better choice, because it will break the surface preventing wakes in windless conditions and avoid slack when the wind is blowing.  When nymphing without an indicator the floating fly line will present your fly at an upward angle, where as the intermediate sinking fly line will provide a more level fly presentation.  Floating fly lines definitely has its place … dry flies, nymphs using an indicator, and wet flies where you are imitating an insect emerging towards the surface.

The speed of the retrieve is another key consideration.  Most food sources (except for baitfish) move very slowly in stillwaters.  A slow retrieve will produce more consistently … I have noticed the slower the retrieve, the softer the strike will be.  When sight fishing in shallow water with nymphs, I have watched fish strike my fly without ever feeling the take.  Removing preventable slack from your fly line is critical to increasing your odds of hooking-up.  Holding your fly rod so the tip is just above the water when retrieving a nymph will help keep a tight line to detect more of those softer strikes.

> Wet fly fishing is a very productive method for catching trout in rivers and streams.
As the name would imply, the fly is fished sub-surface.  The fly resembles a swimming or emerging aquatic insect and allows me the opportunity to present my offering thought out the water column.

A simple and effective presentation (using a floating fly line) is to cast the fly down-and-across the current. As the fly line starts to drift downstream, incorporate an upstream mend.  The mend will straighten the alignment of the “fly line + leader + fly” … placing the fly line upstream of the slower drifting fly.  This provides a drag free presentation of the fly, a better opportunity to detect the strike and hook set.  Allow the fly to drift in the current until it swings straight downstream from you.  Allow the fly to hang there momentarily and then twitch the rod tip a few times … this sometimes will entice a reluctant fish to strike.  The twitch of the rod tip should only move the fly a couple inches.

A simple and effective variation of this technique is to impart small twitches (using a three-count pause) through the entire drift of the fly … twitch, pause, pause, pause, twitch.

> Largemouth bass are a natural fly rod fish because they are looking up for anything that appears crippled and helpless to feed on, along with being territorial and aggressive.  Poppers (flat- and cup-faced), sliders and drivers are productive surface flies to target bass.  Listed below are three key considerations for hooking-up.

1)  In choppy or stained water, you want a popper that makes lot of noise.  In calm water, use a more subtle fly with a smaller profile, such as a slider.

2)  If you find that bass are following your fly and not striking, stop the fly and allow it to sit and quiver.  Other times, erratically speeding up the retrieve will draw a strike … varying the length of strips from a couple inches to foot, and vary the cadence.

3)  The key to a successful hook-set is to patiently wait until you feel the weight of the bass.  Bass take surface flies by inhaling it, which displaces the water directly underneath the fly.  If you set the hook as soon as you see the take, you’re likely to pull the fly away from the bass before it has an opportunity to close it mouth around the fly.

> Line & Lure is the Reel Deal
For over a year, I have been using Line & Lure on my fly lines, leaders, tippets, dry flies and bass bugs … and its performance has been “two thumbs-up”.  Cleaning and coating my fly line with this conditioner reduces line-to-guide friction and repels debris which increases line control (improved casting accuracy, line speed and distance) and better line floatability (easier line mending and pick-up, improved fly presentation).  On leaders and tippets, they float higher and cleaner.  Dressing my dry flies and bass bugs with Line & Lure has proven to be a major plus … they ride higher and longer than other dressings that I have used in the past.  Therefore, I have spend less time drying / re-dressing my fly and more time fishing.  Yes, it’s like adding “power steering” for your fishing.  Also, using Line & Lure on your sunglasses adds a scratch resistant and dust repelling coating … along with, reduce glare and minimizes water spotting.

> Do you suffer from ADFFD ... Attention Deficit Fly Fishing Disorder

ADFFD is an environmental disorder and is sometimes characterized the co-existence of attention problems and fly fishing activity.  ADFFD may have symptoms that begin in childhood and continue into adulthood.  Symptoms may include:
  • Talking non-stop about fly fishing and fly tying.
  • Easily distracted, miss details, forget things, and frequently switch from fly fishing story to another.
  • Become bored with a task after only a few minutes, unless performing a fly fishing activity.
  • Daydream of big fish, become easily confused, and move slowly when away from the water.
  • Dashing around in fly shops, touching or playing with anything in sight.

ADFFD can cause problems at home, school, work, and in relationships.

While experts don’t know for sure what causes ADFFD, they believe genes, mentors, and fishing partners play an important role in the development of Attention Deficit Fly Fishing Disorder.

ADFFD management usually involves some combination of exposure to creeks, rivers, ponds and lakes.  Please consult your local fly shop for more information.

> Cold Weather Nymphing

As the water temperature continues to drop on our local streams and rivers through the fall and winter months, going deep with nymph patterns that matches what available on the trout’s menu is always a good bet.  Several productive nymph patterns for imitating aquatic insects are the Pheasant Tail Nymph, Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph, Copper John and WD40 … along with the San Juan Worm to imitate aquatic worms, the Woolly Bugger for leeches and the Stonefly Nymph.  Also, remember to incorporate the three critical considerations into your fly selection … Size, Profile and Color (in that order).

> Casting, Windy Conditions
The two ways to over-come the wind (casting directly into it or across it) are to increase your line speed and to keep your line low, closer to the water.  An effective method for increasing your line speed is to double-haul.  To keep your line low, either cast sidearm (which limits distance) or crouching during the cast.  Wind is usually less intense close to the ground or water, so you can sometimes cast “under” it.  More comfortable than crouching is casting from your knees, if it’s possible.  Also, to lessen the effects of the wind, you can use flies with smaller profiles or a sinking tip line (which will offer more momentum in the air to cut through the wind).

> Barometric Pressure

Barometric pressure is the measure of the weight of the atmosphere.  This weight exerts pressure on the water we fish and will influence the fish activity and feeding.  The barometric pressure changes as the weather systems changes … good weather – high pressure, bad weather – low pressure.

Barometric pressure will have a greater effect on fish in shallow water than deeper water, due to the pressure of water being greater in deeper water.  Also, the barometric pressure has a lesser influence on fish activity and feeding in streams and rivers than fish in ponds and lakes.

General guidelines:


High Pressure (clear skies) – fish becomes less active.  Target fishing heavy cover in shallow water or deeper water structure … slow down your retrieve.

Rising Pressure (clearing or improving weather conditions) – fish become more active.  Target fishing the outside edges of cover in shallow water or deeper water structure … moderate retrieve.

Stable Pressure (fair weather conditions) – normal fish activity.  Match the hatch (stage, profile, size, color) … this is a good time to check-out other potential fishing locations on a body of water.

Falling Pressure (degrading weather conditions) – fish become more active and aggressive.  Target fishing the outside edges of cover in shallow water … large surface and streamer patterns, and speed-up your retrieve.

Low Pressure (raining or stormy weather conditions) – fish become less active as condition continues.  Target fishing deeper water structure … slow down your retrieve.

> Cyprinus Carpio a.k.a. the Common Carp
… targeting, hooking-up and battling this rough fish is relativity new on the fly fishing scene.  Fishing for carp requires several elements that fly anglers craves and tests their angling skills … sight fishing, accurate casting, natural presentation, and the battle.  Sight fishing is the most effective way to locate active feeding fish.  An accurate cast and a soft delivery of the fly into the water is a must so not to spook the fish.  Working the fly into their strike zone (inches in front of them) with a natural presentation is essential to coax them into inhaling your fly.  The fight will definitely test your equipment and angling nerves … a carp weighing in double digits has enough agility and power to take you into backing.

Carp on the Fly

Carp on the Fly
For river carp … I favor a down-and-across stream cast, letting the fly dead swing into and hang in the fish’s strike zone with an occasional twitch to imitate an emerging insect.  For lake carp … working and moving the fly an inch or two along the bottom with a very slow retrieve has been very productive.

> Early Spring / Largemouth Bass on the Fly
When targeting Largemouth Bass in the spring with the water temperature in the low 60’s … I will focus my efforts on the first major break along flats and points, where there’s a steep drop in depth.  Baitfish will school-up in these areas with Bass nearby (the deeper water offers both a comfort and safety zone).  My fly patterns of choice are Clouser Minnow and Zonker ... the retrieve is three slow / steady strips followed with a 2 second pause and then repeat.

> The Importance’s of wearing Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses are an essential for an angler’s eye protection from physical objects (a fly, lure or another angler’s rod tip) and the sun’s ultra violet rays.

Glare reduces an angler's ability to see underwater structures and spot fish.  It also causes eye strain and fatigue.  A good quality polarized lenses are designed to eliminate almost all reflective glare.

... Len Tints
Gray … is an excellent for day to day use.  Gray lenses transmit all colors of the spectrum so there is little distortion.  Ideal for bright sunny days and open water fishing.

Copper … is a very high contrast lens that is smoothing to the eyes.  It absorbs blue light which heightens visual acuity and boosting contrast, making this lens the best choice for sight fishing.

Brown … is an all-round tint for fishing which provides good contrast and true color perception.  An excellent color for fishing shallow water on those bright sunny days.

Amber … is an excellent choice for low light conditions such as first and last light or for overcast days.

> “CPR” … Catch, Photograph, and Release

  • Always wet your hands before touching the fish.
  • Handle the fish gently and quickly.  Keep it in the water as much as possible.  Do not put your fingers in the gill slits.  Do not squeeze the fish or cause the loss of scales.
  • Remove the hook carefully.  If the hook cannot be removed easily, cut the line or leader and leave the hook in the fish.  Eventually, the hook will dissolve.
  • Gently hold the fish in the water move it back and forth until it begins to swim away.
  • Remember to land, photograph, and release the fish as quickly as possible.
  • Never release live bait into a fishing area.  Never move fish from one body of water to another.  Stocking fish into water requires a permit.  The release of an undesirable or exotic species can contaminate a body of water.

> Fly Selection & Presentation ... with fly fishing, your target is “Match the Hatch”.  But the key is a good presentation.  When there isn’t a hatch to match, it becomes about triggers within the fly you are presenting and the aspects of the fly that catches the fish’s attention.

> Scum lines are over-looked by many anglers fishing for largemouth bass.  Bass utilizing this cover are usually in a positive feeding mood, this provides them with an ambush point to attack prey.  Scum lines holding bass can extend out from the shoreline a couple of feet to several yards.  The prime holding locations within the scum line will offer bass direct access to deeper water.  When fishing scum lines, you must always be prepare to set the hook … strikes are quick and aggressive.  I like using bright color surface flies that creates commotion (popping sound or wake) … using a slow steady stripping retrieve, moving the fly only 4 to 6 inches on each strip.

> Northwest Indiana Creeks, first wave of the fall steelhead run is on … a couple considerations for spotting and hooking-up with a trophy fish.

Knowing where to look is the key to spotting and fishing for steelheads in the creeks ... look for seams and changes in the water conditions (structure, depth, etc.).

The more you wade, the odds of spooking that steelhead increases ... if you can, cast from the bank.  Also, the deeper you wade decreases the angle (ability) to see the fish.

Make that first cast count.  To optimize that first cast ... visualize the drift, pin-point your casting target, gauge the distance, and consider shadows (don't false cast over the fish and never line a fish ... the fish should only see the tippet and the fly).

After a couple of drifts where the steelhead see your fly and doesn't take ... switch to a different fly (pattern, color, or size).

> Whether fishing the creeks in Northwest Indiana or Saint Joe River in Indiana and Michigan … the Beadhead Black Stonefly Nymph has been a solid producer for spring, fall and winter steelhead.  Look for and fish holding lies … soft water, offering the relief from the current such as rock piles, submerged islands, and fallen timber.  My preferred presentation is a down-stream dead drifting with the fly bouncing along the bottom.  You will hang-up and lose a few flies … but the reward of hooking-up, battling and landing that steelhead out-weighs the cost of tying up several Beadhead Black Stonefly Nymphs.

size 12 shown
Hook – TMC 200R
Sizes – 6 to 12
Thread – Black
Beadhead – Gold
Weight – Lead Wire
Tail – Black Turkey Biots
Rib – Black V-Rib
Abdomen – Black Dubbing
Legs – Black Round Rubber
Wingcase – Turkey Tail (tied in three sections and
treated with Fleximent)
Thorax – Black Dubbing
Antennae – Black Turkey Biots

> With the start of cooler weather in northwest Indiana, we need to adjust our fishing to continue catching smallmouth and largemouth bass.  Bass will migrate to the shallows as the water cools.  They will target baitfish until the water temperature drop into the 40’s.  As with any other time of the year, they are photo-sensitive, relate to structure and position themselves at ambush points.  Large streamers that imitate the prevalent species will work well … as their metabolism lowers, a large meal offers the best “Energy Gained against Energy Expended”.  Frog, mice and crayfish imitations are also productive fly patterns for that trophy bass.

Messinger Frog

White Mouse

Soft Hackle Crayfish Bugger

> Rivers is probably the best type of habitat for trout.
This is because they have a great deal of oxygen in the water that is evenly distributed from the top to the bottom.  The water temperature in rivers is a bit more moderate than lakes … cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.  Water temperature that is too warm and lacking in oxygen, trout will start to become stressed.

When you’re fishing for trout in rivers, you’ll want to work the fly close to the current but out of the direct flow.  Look for breaks in the current such as rocks, stumps or logs … these are often the areas where you’ll find trout hovering in schools.

River bars are also good places to fish for trout.  Don’t overlook river bends as another option ... trout seem to enjoy these peaceful areas.

> An important consideration when wading ... the senses of feeling and hearing in a trout are almost one and the same.
Trout feel and hear the vibration of movement and sound in the water.  Each sound will have a different type of pitch that sends vibrations through the water.  Trout are able to become familiar with particular sounds and pitches so that they are able to detect even the slightest movement in the water.  The feeling and hearing senses in a trout act almost as a built in radar.

> Some anglers think fly fishing on those hot and windy days can be a hassle but in reality, the wind is an asset.

Wind will shake larvae from the vegetation, weeds and grass.  This is prime food for
baitfish and baitfish is prime food for bass ... target fishing the vegetation, weeds and
grass with streamers.

Wind will reduce light penetration and limits the fish's visibilty to see outside the water
(i.e. you, fly line and leader).

Wind will creates waves that hit the shore and produce muddy water.  Bass will use this
muddy water as an ambush point ... target the edge of the muddy water.

Wind creates oxygen in the water ... an increase of wind (oxygen) can turn-on the bass
activity and the bite.

> About 80% of a trout diet consists of aquatic insects; they do so at three distinct places in the water.  The majority of the time fish are eating what the current has brought them along the bottom.  During a hatch, fish can be feeding on the emerger that rising to the surface or in the surface film, or adults on top of the surface.

> When faced with run-off conditions after a heavy rainfall (rising, fast and murky water) … use large flies with strong colors such as black, white or yellow to get the attention of the fish.  Look for and target potential fish holding lies along the shoreline.

> Spring is a great time to catch bluegills because they congregate in the shallows to spawn.  They are very aggressive and primed to smack a fly.  Spawning activity begins when the water temperature reaches 68 degrees F.  Look for and target their spawning nests – saucer-shaped depressions in water from 2 to 6 feet deep along the shoreline.

> When fly fishing for largemouth bass, I will look for and focus my efforts on ambush points.  Bass have an explosive body design and built (muscle type) that uses ambush points to attack prey.  Examples of ambush points are weed lines, small rock piles, pile of brush half submerged and submerged logs.

Moving a fly in front of or through an ambush point is one presentation.  Another very productive presentation is having the fly hit the water and just sit there for several seconds (as if it dead or confused), then a twitch or two and then followed-up by two or three long strips.

> Trout have a very short memory span.  The first grasshoppers of the season are often ignored because they are new to the trout. After about a week, trout can’t get enough and will aggressively strike an imitation. Matching the size of the natural that the trout are seeing and feeding on is critical ... grasshopper patterns will range from size 6 to 12.

> When fishing an area that been productive in the past, make sure that you’re fishing as thoroughly as possible.  If you are not having any success ... consider changing the fly, angle of the cast / retrieve, speed of the retrieve or just returning later in the day.

> Once you have identify the insect that the trout are feeding on, there are three characteristics to consider ... Size, Profile and Color.

is the most important characteristic.  If the natural insect is between the sizes that
you have in your fly box - definitely go with the smaller size.

Profile is matching the stage of the natural insect - whether on or in water.  For example,
a trout can determine whether a mayfly is a dun or a spinner by the insect's wings
position (up-right or laid flat).

Color is usually being "close enough" to the natural insect will work.  When having  to
choose between a lighter or darker ... definitely, go with  the darker color.

> Three considerations before heading off for a day of fishing.

Wearing a hat and polarized glasses ... the hat will reduce the amount of glare and the
polarized glasses allows you to see into the water to spot structure or a fish.

Wearing neutrals color clothing to blend into the background ... wearing red, yellow, black
or white can attract gnats, black flies and mosquitoes.

Your fishing vest or bag should have the flies, leaders tippets and items you require for
that fishing outing ... along with being organized so that you are not fumbling around
looking for something when you need it.

> Want to increase your “Strike to Hook-Up Ratio.  Then you must get into the habit of watching and reacting to what your line is telling you.  Line watching and reacting is especially necessary when you nymphing – a trout can inhale and exhale your fly without you feeling the take.  If the line twitches, changes direction or stop moving – lift your rod tip, setting the hook into the jaw of the trout.

> Several studies have shown that trout can learn to navigate a maze and will remember the pattern for approximately nine months.  So what does this mean to the angler, trout in streams that are heavily fished can quickly learn that movement on certain paths of pools are an indication of danger.  Trout could be easily spooked – knowing the pattern of an approaching angler.  Avoid approaching a pool repeatedly from the same direction – locate different angles to approach that area.

> As anglers, we all have one of those days on the water ... you’re casting your favorite fly into an area loaded with fish and you can’t manage to get their attention – let alone, draw a strike.  Here are three options to consider and a few general guidelines.

Change to a different color fly.

Bright day - Bright color flies
Dark day - Dark color flies
Clear water conditions - Light color flies
Muddy water conditions - Dark color flies
Tannic water conditions - Fluorescent color flies

Change to a different size fly.  Fish are affected by the size of the fly drifting into their view.
Sunny day with calm condition - Smaller flies
Overcast day - Larger flies
Clear water conditions - Smaller flies
Muddy water conditions - Larger flies

Change the fishing depth of your fly.  Fish will locate at a specific level in the water
column that meets their needs and requirements for oxygen level, food, rest, etc.
Always work from top to bottom.
Sunny day - Fish closer to the bottom
For rivers - Fish often hold below current layers
For lakes - Fish often hold in temperature layers

> If you’re consistently catching small bass on a variety of flies … it usually indicates that the bass are numerous, very competitive and you will likely continue catching small bass.  Large bass are wily, hesitant and territorial.  For larger bass … first change the location, then the technique or the fly.