Photo courtesy of John Juracek
The Yellowstone National Park season opener is upon us, and conditions appear to be prime for dry fly fishing on the Firehole. Reports of fish rising on the river have all of us here at BRF amped up to get in there this weekend, and the one fly you will find in all of our boxes is the Firehole PMD Sparkle Dun. The sparkle dun has long been the most effective mayfly pattern available, and matches the big PMDs that emerge all over Yellowstone country perfectly. This fly has a more orange hue to the body than a traditional PMD, similar to an eastern Sulphur, and even though the PMDs on the Firehole are typically the same pale yellow as on other western waters, Firehole trout seem to prefer the orange color. So, if you are heading to the Firehole this weekend, make sure to stock up on this fly, as it should provide plenty of surface action.
Thread: Light Cahill 8/0 Uni Thread
Shuck: Mayfly Brown Straight Zelon
Wing: Natural Sparkle Dun Deer Hair
For detailed instructions on tying the sparkle dun, check out Craig's video of tying the standard PMD Sparkle Dun HERE, and substitute the materials listed above.
Make your own submission by emailing a photo of your favorite fishing possessions to email@example.com
Submittor: Fred Rickson, Tuscon, AZ
Home Water: Hebgen Lake
I really don't fish any "old" stuff, and even a hundred or so books collected over the years have been given to kid's fly fishing programs. I do fish with a few 1950 or so Hardy reels, just so my nearby pals know I'm still alive from all the racket those reels make.
This is the only photo I have of my dad. He owned the largest machine/welding shop in Los Angeles in the 1930s-1940s (the Navy sent him to Guam after the war to repair various bombed-out Pacific ship docks). He wasn't around much when I was a kid, but this stream, above Los Angeles, in the San Gabriel Mts., was where he introduced me to fly fishing, when I was 10, in 1948. I do remember him and some pals, all dressed like this, planning for a long weekend "road trip" of maybe 50 miles to the San Gabriel Mts. The photo is hand water-colored from the 1930s, and, from what mom said, was taken by a local photographer, because dad was so damn good on these tiny streams (note the fish slime stain on the creel).
After having fly fished for tarpon through steelhead, I am now settled 20 feet from Hebgen Lake for four months each summer, with a boat, and a long-time wife who out-fishes me all the time. Not a bad deal at all.
Whether you’re a disciple of the dry fly code or a veteran guide, the romanticism of our sport is probably part of what drew you to it. Much of fly fishing, and the way we engage in it, has to do with romanticism. The daydreams of bountiful hatches, sunsets over the countryside, and smooth casts consume our thoughts far more often than the sport’s technical aspects. But the technicalities do exist, and there are many that pertain to fly rod performance. There are fly rods that excel at 30 feet, and there are rods that excel at 90 feet, but there are no fairytale rods that excel at 30 to 90 feet, even if rod company advertisements might want you to think so. The capabilities of a rod are fixed, there are no grey areas; physics simply doesn’t allow the rod to do everything well. Too often we hear that a rod is “the greatest, most ground breaking, strongest, lightest, most accurate rod ever made”. Such descriptions are vague and tell us nothing of value about the action of a rod. What we need to know is how much a rod is bending and where it is bending, because that is what dictates how a fly rod casts and feels.
John Juracek laid out a framework in Evaluating Fly Rods so that novices to experts can choose a rod fit for the type of fishing that they want to do. The article omits an approach to thoroughly reading a rod’s action, from tip to butt. I speculate he left this out because learning to read a rod is a daunting task, and what he did write is useful to a greater number of fisherman, because it teaches you to select a rod without an in-depth analysis.
But if you’re like me, you’ll want to dive in deep and try to learn every inch of a fly rod’s flex. Before working at Blue Ribbon Flies, I couldn’t read a fly rod’s action. I could feel that a slow rod was different than a fast rod, but I couldn’t tell you why. I was trying to give rods a vague label of slow, medium, or fast, but I didn’t know exactly what to feel so that I could classify them as such. I had a breakthrough when I tried reading the rod in three separate parts—tip, middle, and butt. Suddenly, I could feel where the rod was softer or stiffer as it loaded. If you’re a little lost like I was, and don’t know what you’re feeling when you’re casting, follow these steps and see if they help. Take a rod to the water or an empty field and lay out a healthy amount of line. Lift the line with a smooth back cast, and pay close attention to what your hand feels as the rod loads, from the tip to the butt. Hopefully, you will be able to feel the gradual changes in flex as the rod bends. Pause to allow your back cast to lay out completely straight in the air so that you can make your forward cast, and continue with false casts while trying to feel the flex. It’s crucial that we pause long enough in between casts. Otherwise, the line won’t have time to lay out straight, the rod won’t sufficiently load, and we won’t be able to feel it bend.
Feeling for the differences in flex during one cast can be overwhelming, so you might want to try to flex each section separately. Try bending only the top third of the rod while casting a short line. Then strip out a bit more line and try bending the middle of the rod. Lastly, strip out a long line and try bending the butt. Pay close attention and try to feel the differences between the three sections of the rod. If you have a second rod available, go through the same process and compare the two. The differences in the two rods should become vivid. The more you practice, the more easily you will feel differences in flex. You’ll know when a rod, or a section of a rod, is too soft because it will feel overloaded and your arm will have to work harder to accelerate the line. A stiff section will feel under-loaded, and your arm will have to work hard to make the rod flex. In a section that is flexing properly, you’ll feel the rod unload with force, and casting will be a pleasure rather than a burden.
Let’s consider two rods that would both be classified as slow. Rod A is soft in the tip, medium in the middle and stiff in the butt. Rod A will communicate very well at close range because of the sensitive tip. But once you start casting long or using a weighted fly, you will have to be careful not to overload the delicate tip and create a tailing loop. As we cast more line, the medium flexing middle section of the rod will start to bend and contribute to the cast. Most rods produced today are so stiff in the butt that they hardly bend. The butt of Rod A won’t contribute to the cast at all, because it doesn’t bend and can’t store energy.
In Rod B, the tip will still bend, but it is far stiffer than most tips, the middle will be medium flexing, and the butt section will be far softer than most butt sections. The stiff tip will be hard to shock or overload (thus helping to prevent tailing loops), but we sacrifice close-range sensitivity compared to the soft tip of Rod A. The medium action middle section will contribute nicely to the cast. The butt section will flex when we cast a relatively long line, and it will also contribute nicely to the cast. At whatever range Rod B is best—let’s say 60 feet—the rod will fully load and cast efficiently so that your arm does little work. The tradeoff is that if we don’t cast smoothly, we’ll shock the butt of the rod and create a tailing loop.
It’s not strange that two completely different rods may end up in the same general category of “slow”, but it is strange that the information telling us about how rods actually bend can so rarely be found. Rod companies and rod reviewers often forgo the most important information about a rod—how does it perform in fishing scenarios, and what is it about the action of the rod that makes it perform this way? Luckily, if we read Evaluating Fly Rods, as well as do our own investigation of a rod’s flex, we’ll find out everything we need to know.
Photo courtesy of John Juracek
The Yellowstone National Park fishing season is rapidly approaching, and one of our favorite early season strategies for the Firehole is swinging soft hackles. When fish aren't actively rising, searching the riffles with a soft hackle can be a highly effective way to catch some fish, and we speak with more than a few anglers each season who have had some of their best days of trout fishing ever on the Firehole with soft hackles. The Ephemerella Emerger was created by the late Nick Nicklas as a generic mayfly emerger, and it is a fantastic fly for early season in the park. It is simple to tie, and imitates a variety of insects, including the PMDs that are typically prevalent through the first few weeks of the season. This fly will also work dead-drifted in the film or swung to actively rising fish, so the next tie you find that difficult fish that won't take the usual dry flies, give this fly a try!
Tail: Lemon Wood Duck Fibers
Abdomen: Callibaetis Superfine Dubbing
Thorax: Brown Ostrich Herl
Hackle: Natural Hungarian Partridge
Step 1: Attach tying thread and wrap back the shank until even with the hook point. Tie in a few wood duck fibers for the tail, slightly shorter than the length of the shank.
Step 2: Dub a thin body of superfine dubbing two thirds of the way up toward the eye.
Step 3: Tie in one ostrich herl and wrap about four to five wraps, stopping just behind the eye.
Step 4: Tie in a hungarian partridge feather and make two to three wraps. Tie off, trim excess feather, and whip-finish.
Name: Kyle Alldredge
Home River: San Gabriel River
1. Patagonia sling pack
2. Hat and sunglasses (I like amber tint, must be polarized)
4. "The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly" by Howard Back and "The Longest Silence" by Thomas McGuane (I don't live too close to great trout waters so I like to arm chair travel)