Photo couresty of John Juracek
The Zebra Shop Vac combines attributes of several of our most productive Madison flies: the original Shop Vac and the Zebra Midge. Midges abound in the Madison and other local rivers, and are a constant food source for trout every single day of the year. This serendipity-style fly can be counted on to produce fish consistently during any season, and is a staple in many of our guides' fly boxes all year long. On top of that, it is simple and quick to tie, and uses inexpensive materials. We typically tie it with a brass bead, but if you find yourself fishing in heavier currents, don't be afraid to tie a few with tungsten beads to make sure they get down. We most commonly fish them in size 14 and 16, but they are equally effective in smaller sizes to match smaller insects. Be sure to give one a try on your next fishing adventure!
Hook: Dai-Riki 075 Size 14-16
Bead: Nickel Brite Beads (3/32" for size 14, or 5/64" for size 16)
Rib: Silver Small Ultra Wire
Wing: White Straight Zelon
Step 1: Place bead on hook and then start thread behind the bead. Wrap back the hook shank unitl just slightly down the bend of the hook.
Step 2: Tie in a short piece of silver wire at the bend for the rib, and then wrap thread forward evenly back to the bead, forming a slim thread body.
Step 3: Evenly wrap the wire forward to form the rib, about five to six wraps. Tie off and trim excess wire.
Step 4: Tie in two strands of white zelon just behind the bead. Clip the butts as short as possible right behind the bead and wrap down tightly.
Step 5: Trim the zelon wing so it extends about one third the length of the hook shank. Whip-finish and trim thread.
It's always exciting when spring rolls around again, and the first mayflies of the year begin to hatch. This pretty rainbow rose to a Baetis Cripple during one of the first emergences of the season in early April.
Photo courtesy of John Juracek
The Mother's Day Caddis hatch here in Yellowstone country can be a sight to behold, and can provide some of the best fishing of the year. The hatch is highly unpredictable, since it occurs in late April and early May, when run-off is just beginning. Some years the hatch never materializes on some rivers, as the bugs trickle off during prolonged high water, and even when conditions are right, huge numbers of insects can come and go in a day or two, as the warm weather that these bugs prefer to hatch in will often quickly bring snowmelt, shutting the activity down. Anglers who find themselves on the water when conditions are right, however, can encounter some of the best dry-fly fishing of the year. Our classic X Caddis is still one of the most effective patterns out there for mimicing emerging caddis, and this pattern tied with an olive body in size 14 is a dead ringer for the Mother's Day hatch. Be sure to have a few with you any time you find yourself fishing Yellowstone country waters in the spring, because you never know when you might encounter this hatch!
Thread: Olive Dun 8/0 Uni-Thread
Shuck: Caddis Shuck Crinkled Zelon
Wing: Natural X Caddis Deer Hair
Step 1: Start thread behind the eye and wrap back the shank until even with the hook barb.
Step 2: Tie in a strand of zelon for the shuck. Wrap down the butts, and trim the shuck to about three quarters of the length of the hook shank.
Step 3: Dub a tapered body from the shuck tie-in point forward to just behind the eye.
Step 4: Stack a clump of deer hair and tie in the wing, so that the tips are even with the hook bend. Clip the butts to about 1/8" in length to form the head of the fly.
Step 5: Whip-finish and trim thread.
Photo courtesy of John Juracek
Spring is slowly arriving here in Yellowstone country, and with it comes the first mayfly hatches of the year. We've already seen a few Baetis, and the trout have certainly noticed. The first big mayfly of the year, the March Brown, will also arrive soon on waters all over the area, typically showing up in mid-late April. While these big flies rarely appear in large numbers, trout relish these insects, and it typically takes only a few bugs on the water to get the fish interested. The trout are often a little easier to fool this time of year, since they haven't been fished as hard over the winter, and the fishing can be truly memorable when these fish start looking for these big bugs. A sparkle dun is usually the only fly you'll need, and it is our go-to pattern to match nearly any mayfly hatch. This hatch can be a bit unpredictable, since it occurs at roughly the same time of year that runoff tends to begin, but if you happen to find yourself in the right place at the right time, you won't soon forget the experience. So the next time you find yourself in Yellowstone country in the spring, be sure to have a few of these in your box!
Thread: Rusty Dun 8/0 Uni-Thread
Shuck: Mayfly Brown Crinkled Zelon
Dubbing: March Brown Zelon Dubbing
Wing: Natural Sparkle Dun Deer Hair
Step 1: Start thread behind the eye and wrap back about one third of the way down the shank.
Step 2: Tie in a clump of Sparkle Dun Deer Hair for the wing. Clip the butts and wrap down securely, then stand the wing up and build a thread dam in front of the wing to keep it standing upright.
Step 3: Move the thread back to just behind the wing. Tie in a strand of zelon so that one end extends up the back of the wing, the same length as the wing. Wrap down the hook shank over the zelon towards the bend, and then clip the zelon about half the length of the hook shank to for the shuck.
Step 4: Dub a body of March Brown Zelon dubbing all the way up the hook shank to the eye, and whip-finish.
By Bucky McCormick
All of us here at Blue Ribbon Flies use Whiting hackle for our tying needs, and when it comes to dry fly hackle, there are none better. Stiff barbs, thin, pliable stems, long hackles and excellent color choices have made Whiting the dominant force in the hackle business. Which type of hackle you choose can be a bit confusing, so I’ll try to make this task a bit simpler. Whiting offers three types of dry fly hackle– capes, saddles, and 100 packs. Which of these you choose depends on your specific tying needs.
Capes offer the most variety in sizing. I can tie a dry fly anywhere from size 8 to size 26 with a good cape, and they are my choice for almost all of my tying needs. Capes are the best choice if you’re not tying commercially and if the color is one you use regularly for a variety of patterns. Grizzly, brown, and dun all come to mind. Capes have improved immensely over the years, and individual feathers are plenty long enough to tie 2 or 3 flies.
Saddles are great when you are looking for a lot of hackle in one specific size. Saddles will have one dominant size of feather, accounting for about 80% of the saddle. The remaining 20% will be split between one size larger and one size smaller. For most of us, the cost and limited sizing just do not make sense. Unless you are tying commercially or tie an awful lot of flies in a specific size and color, I would not choose one of these. The hackles are very long, making it possible to tie many flies from each one, but the limited sizing detracts from its value for most tyers.
100 packs are an excellent choice for someone who is just starting out tying or has a specific fly that calls for an odd or seldom used color. Black is a good example. I tie a few ants in 16 and 18 with black hackle, so an entire cape or saddle does not make sense for me. The 100 packs are perfect for these niche patterns and very affordable.
Which brand from Whiting do I choose? When looking at the different brands in the Whiting line-up, there are several differences to consider.
Whiting is the top of the line as far as amount of hackle, barb density, and variety of sizing. The Whiting line offers many dyed white and dyed grizzly colors to choose from, and in natural colors the grizzly and ginger are outstanding. There are no other hackles that will have higher hackle length or barbule counts. I have a gold grade grizzly with size 20 hackles that are 8 inches long. It is truly amazing.
The Hebert Hackle line does not have quite the amount of hackle or barb density as the Whiting line does, but the quality is still extremely high. Hebert is where I go for natural colors, particularly duns. You’ll find no better colors, nor more choices, in natural duns anywhere. I own several, not because I really need them, but they just look so good. I have found a use for them all, but admittedly, I’m reaching. The natural gingers are also outstanding, as are the Cree when available. The cost is lower than the Whiting line, which makes these hackles even more attractive.
High and Dry is Whiting’s value hackle, and again you’ll find no better feathers at this price. The size variety and barbule count is not as great as Whiting or Hebert, but for the money it’s more than adequate. I have a natural medium ginger in this line. It’s a color I don’t use very often, so paying for the higher grades isn’t worth it to me. The color is great and the quality is still very good. For my needs it’s served me well.
Dyed vs. Natural: I’m a big fan of natural colors. Dying can be just fine and Whiting does an excellent job in both color and consistency, but no matter how good a job they do, dyed hackles just cannot replace the real thing. For this reason, I buy only natural hackle, with the exception of black. Of course, this is a personal choice and I’m sure it makes no difference to the fish.
So there you have it. Hopefully, this should give you enough information so when you make your next hackle purchase, you’ll be getting plenty of bang for your buck.