All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cabin Fever

December 21st is one of my favorite days of the year. It's the winter solstice! It's the shortest day of the year. It marks what most consider the beginning of winter. It's the day I trick my mind.

I've never really been a winter person. Oh, I've had my days when throwing snowballs is fun. In fact, I threw four of them today. I tried to hit a spot on a building showing a co-worker that if the planets had been aligned right, and I had spent more time practicing my pitching, instead of chasing trout, I could be playing for the Dodgers. After four throws, he never bought the story, and cold hands convinced me that convincing him was futile.

Like I mentioned December 21st is the day I trick my mind. Here's how I see it. The winter solstice is the day the sun reaches it's southern most migration. The angle of the sun to my position on the earth, at this date, is at it's greatest. From this day forward, the sun begins to migrate to the north again. So, to me, December 21st is the beginning of spring. That's right! Here comes the sun. The days are getting longer. Fishing season is on its way.

It doesn't matter that it's 16 degrees outside tonight. The sun is moving in the right direction and that does wonders for my cabin fever. Cabin fever hits me every winter. It's never hit me to the point of feeling I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). I just get a little winter blue. I have studied the recommendations for those who have SAD and I think they can help with mild cases of winter blues and cabin fever. Here are some of the recommendations:

Spend time outside everyday, even on cloudy days. The available light is good to absorb through the eyes and skin.

Eat a well-balanced diet. Include vitamins and minerals.

Exercise 30 minutes a day, three time a week or more.

Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities.

Stay positive mentally. Set goals and actively work toward them. Plan and look forward to future spring, summer, and fall adventures. (Of course, these should include the many fly fishing adventures you dream about.)

Spring is on it's way. I can feel the days getting longer (adding2 minutes of light per day now). I can feel the sun hitting the back of my neck and tanning my forearms as I cast to trout sipping the first hatch of blue-winged olives. It feels good. Close your eyes and watch that nice cutthroat coming for your fly. There he is. He took it. Raise the rod tip and feel the fight. See, spring is here every winter solstice. Goodbye cabin fever!

Monday, November 3, 2008

George Grant Passes Away

George Grant, famous Montana fly tier passed away on Sunday, November 2, 2008 at the age of 102. Grant was famous for his woven hair-hackled stoneflies, for founding the Big Hole River Foundation, conservation efforts on the Big Hole and for his two rare books: The Master Fly Weaver and Montana Trout Flies. I will write more on Grant when I get a chance.

Condolences to his family. May his spirit rest in peace on his beloved Big Hole River. I hope to see him in the morning mist making a cast, playing a trout and then slipping out of sight on his favorite bend.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Major Trophy Caught on Madison River

Check out for a picture and story of one of Utah's own catching a brown of major size on the Madison River.

Congratulations Bryan!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

One of my Favorite Novelists has Died

This is not fly fishing related but I felt a need to mention that one of my favorite authors has passed away. Tony Hillerman creator of the popular mystery novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police died on Sunday, October 26, 2008. He was 83. Hillerman lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and used the Desert Southwest area as the backdrop to his novels. His love for the culture of native people of the area and the harshness of the land brought a certain flavor to his writing. Early on Hillerman was told by an agent that if he wanted to be a success at writing, he needed to drop the Indian stories. The fact that Hillerman became a best selling author by sticking to his genre, points to his ability to write and carry out a story with compelling characters, cultural understanding, enchanting scenery, and dialogue that carries the reader into the world Hillerman creates. Hillerman authored somewhere in the neighborhood of 18 novels with such best sellers as, Skinwalkers, Coyote Waits, Talking God, A Thief of Time, Hunting Badger, Fallen Man, The First Eagle, The Ghostway, The Dark Wind, Skeleton Man and his last novel, Shape Shifter. Hillerman received the Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Silver Spur Award for best novel set in the West, and his most cherished award, the Navajo Tribe's Special Friend Award. I have read every novel he wrote and often find myself reaching for them when I feel a need to escape and wander through the arid Southwest again.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Looking Back Down River

The beauty of the scenery and sharing the river with a good friend is what makes the Logan River one of my favorite places.
Click on the image to get the full view of how beautiful this area is.

Nice Cutthroat Water

Three cutthroat trout were taken from this little run. One at the tail just above the visable white ripple, one from the center, and one at the head just below the dead overhanging branch.

This is typical late summer, early fall conditions on the Logan River.

Hal Making the Perfect Cast

Fly Fishing Friend Hal Working a Stretch on Logan River

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Summer & Fall Fishing: Seems Like Trout Will Eat Anything!

In the past I've fallen for the fly theories and fly hype. I've even perpetuated a few of my own over the years, but for the past several years I have come to a new conclusion, at least on most of the local Utah waters I fish. Here's my conclusion: Summer and fall fly fishing is easy! The fish in most Utah waters are plentiful and hungry. I have found that only on rare occassion are they selective to the point where you have to match a hatch to catch them. I'm talking summer and fall here. In early spring, you sometimes have to match a blue-winged olive hatch to get the best fishing, but summer and fall it's as if anything goes, other than the rare case of a hatch of some specific insect for a small period of time. I proved that again today. I took trout on three different hopper patterns, a cicada pattern and a mayfly pattern. Normally, this time of year I will throw on a hopper and just leave it on all day, but for some reason, I had the wild idea to try other hopper patterns as well as the cicada and small mayfly. I don't think it mattered what I had on. I think the cutthroat are looking to feed before the winter months and the browns are gaining fat and energy for the spawn.

I guess what I'm getting at is that we fly tiers sometimes think we have a talent for creating some special fly, when in reality, almost any fly would work if we get it over some hungry fish and cast it into waters that have too many stunted and hungry fish and it's summer or fall, when trout seem to be most aggressive.

A couple years ago, I talked to a fly shop guide and asked about a particular river I had never fished. He told me I had to go small and I would catch more fish using a nymph. He gave me the name of the small nymph that was "killer." I got to the river and stood in a hole just as he had explained. I used the small nymph and fished it as he explained. I actually caught two brown trout in about an hour of fishing. I soon tired of the nymphing and walked around the next bend in the river. As I looked upstream, I thought, this river doesn't look any different than any of the other rivers I have fished. It was late summer, so I tied on a hopper imitation. First cast into a cut bank and I was rewarded with a nice fish. Next cast a little further out into the riffle, another trout. I continued to cast the hopper into each seam, cut bank, pocket and run and either missed a trout or had a hook-up. It was a blast. I've done this every year on most of the waters I fish in the summer and fall and have always been rewarded with trout.

I'm not trying to brag of any prowess I have. I'm just trying to say that we sometimes get caught up in all the fly design and hype, when the trout could care less. If we get a good presentation, are sneaky enough, and fishing waters with hungry, plentiful trout, then fly pattern is not as critical as we want to believe. Maybe some waters around the country fly pattern is critical, but here in Utah it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Woven-body Fly History by Robert Williamson ©

Charles Brooks in his book, The Living River, a profile of the Madison River states that "writers and editors of history and science works are largely working with opinions. This in the case of history is because it is based largely on someone's opinion of what happened, and quoting several "authorities" as reinforcement does not automatically make something true." Based on this statement as a prologue to this article, I have reached conclusions and opinions based on my research and I take responsibility for what is presented here. The idea of weaving trout flies can be traced back to the 1920s when the late Franz Pott of Missoula, Montana, was producing his Mite series of trout flies. The Mite flies were made of woven-hair bodies and woven-hair hackles. The Pott weave created a fly with a belly strip (usually orange), and the flies were neat and durable. Many fly fishers have used the Pott flies and feel they are a good caddis imitation for both the caddis worm and the emerging caddis pupa. Pott liked to use certain types of hair for his weaving process and hackles. His Sandy Mite was tied with sandy-colored hair from Chinese ox. Many of his other patterns were made with woven badger hair. Many contemporary tiers who have seen the Pott flies believed they were tied with horse hair, but this was not the case, at least not in the original patterns. Pott was a barber or wig maker by profession, and learned to apply his talents to the creation of artificial flies. His flies were very popular for up to 30 to 40 years. Many fly fishers in the Montana area used nothing else but the Pott flies. The hair-flies popularity spread and found favor in fly fishers' fly boxes in Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and other areas around the West. I was introduced to the Pott flies in the early 1970s by my dad. He used two patterns exclusively in his fly fishing. The Fizzle and the Rockworm were his favorites. These two patterns did not have the woven-hair bodies like the Mite series, but they did have the woven-hair hackles. I learned to tie the Sandy Mite and use it regularly with wet fly techniques. I have found it to still be effective fished down-and-across on a tight line. Most trout will hit it on the swing and some trout will hit it as it is worked upstream with a slow hand-twist-retrieve. Almost all fly fishers are familiar with George Grant of Montana. Grant is another one of the pioneers of weaving techniques. Grant created a process for making a woven hackle similar to Pott but slightly different. He also created a weaving technique for his Black Creeper fly. This fly was all black except for an orange interwoven or interlaced belly stripe. The tying instructions can be found in Grant's book, The Master Fly Weaver. One of Grant's greatest accomplishments is his writing. His two books, The Master Fly Weaver and Montana Trout Flies, record for us the history and techniques for many of the woven fly patterns. It has been through the writing of Grant that many of us modern fly weavers have learned our craft. Dan Bailey was creating a woven fly in the 1930s. His pattern was an imitation of the stoneflies found in many of the Western rivers. His woven artificial was called the Mossback and was originally tied with monofilament or horse hair. Later versions tied by other tiers were tied with different colors of nylon hair. The Dark Mossback had a black nylon hair back and a olive nylon hair belly. The Light Mossback had a dark olive nylon hair back and a cream underside. Other fly tiers have used the Bailey weave to create such flies as the Bitch Creek (woven black and orange chenille) and the George's Brown Stone (woven brown and cream yarn). The woven Polish Nymphs which are gaining in popularity look like they are created with the Bailey weave and the Pott weave. The history of the overhand-knot weaving technique is a little sketchy. Hank Roberts of Colorado popularized the technique. Hank gives his wife credit for coming up with the technique, but also claims to have received a package in the mail from Dan Vercellino and Al Ross, that had fly patterns tied with this technique, on the very day his wife came up with the idea. Dan Vercellino lived in Idaho and was tying flies with the overhand-knot technique. He and Al Ross obtained a patent for the process around 1947 and formed a company called, Century Products. As far as can be ascertained, Dan and Al sent the package of flies to Hank and asked if he wanted to by the patent rights. Hank bought the rights and added the woven flies to his catalog. The overhand-knot weave as performed by most tiers involves tying in two colors of material along each side of the hook shank. A dark color for the back and light color for the belly. After these materials are secured to the shank, the tying thread is removed after a whip knot or couple of half-hitches are tied. An overhand-knot is formed out in front of the shank and then pushed over the eye of the hook with the dark color on top light color on bottom. The knot is pushed into place and cinched down snug. The process is repeated until the desired length body is formed. In 1987, I began using the overhand-knot weave with hand and finger movements that allowed me to form the body without having to remove the tying thread. This technique allows tiers to create extended-body dry flies with this weaving method. It would be almost impossible to tie an extended-body with the overhand-knot technique without using this method. Torill Kolbu of Norway performs the same weaving method by using crotchet hooks. Some fly tiers may find the use of hooks helpful but if you learn the hand and finger movements crotchet hooks are not needed. It seems that the woven-body fly is gaining in popularity again. It is fitting that we remind ourselves about the true pioneers and developers of these techniques. Thanks to Pott, Grant, Bailey, Roberts, Vercellino and Ross we have the ideas, techniques and tradition of the woven fly. ©

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


A couple of my dinners consisted of kabobs of elk meat, red onions, green peppers, mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. The elk meat was provided by my neighbor. He hunted up near Vernal (Diamond Mountain) and brought home a 5X6. Having the elk meat added to the rustic flavor of the whole trip. In my mind, I created a scenario of being pretty self-suficient (even though the veggies and mushrooms came from the supermarket). As I cooked on an open fire, I dreamed of bygone days when being an outdoorsman really meant something. Today it seems those who consider themselves outdoorsmen would hardly know what to do if they couldn't haul a trailer, ATV, and kitchen sink on their outings. A tent and and air matress anymore, is really roughing it. Anyway, the elk meat was tender and tasty. I could detect no game flavor in it. Watch the cherry tomatoes! Those babies can heat up fast and the juices can burn the tongue. It only took me a couple bites before I figured that out. Taste buds will be back to normal in a few days.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One for Dinner

This is one of the trout I kept for dinner. It was only the second time this year that I kept a couple for dinner. I was packing very light and planned to use two trout as one of my dinners. Coming from a crystal clear, cool stream and being so fresh, the trout were a meal to savor. Lightly seasoned, the delicate flesh was delicious and hit the spot after a long afternoon of fly-fishing.

A Hint of Fall and a Fat Cutthroat

Many of the cutthroat were nice and plump. I think they were spending the warm fall days feeding and getting ready for the lean months that will soon be upon the high country.

Streambred Cutthroat

This was the average size of most of the cutthroat I caught. Two like this one made a nice dinner the first night. A side dish of sauteed mushrooms, bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes rounded out the meal.

Mountainside and Billowing White Clouds as Backdrop to Small Creek

Scenes like this were common as I moved upstream to each new fishing spot. Most of the little runs and pockets would reward me with a beautiful and fiesty cutthroat trout.

Fall Colors and Blue Skies

This is the area where I spent a good portion of my solo 3-day trip. The aspen trees varied from bright yellow to dark golden. I caught myself gazing inbetween catching and releasing a trout or two.

Back To Civilization

I'm back! I'll be posting about my solo adventure in the near future. It was a blast. I didn't talk to another human for three days and only saw a handful of people. It was just what I needed. The fishing and scenery were wonderful.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I'm Out of Here!!

I finally have some days off from work and feeling well again. I will be spending the next three or four days in the woods chasing trout. Lunch will consist of tin-foil trout cooked over the coals of a fire, lightly flavored with some seasonings. I might throw in a cob of corn or two. My neighbor was able to get an elk this year and brought over some steaks. I think I'll gather some vegetables and mushrooms and have some elk steak kabobs one day.

Anyway, I'm out of town for at least 3 days doing nothing but catching trout! I'll report back in if I decide to come back to civilization, hopefully, with some photos. This should be real good for my head!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Holy Shingles!

I had a couple days off for a Fall fishing adventure last week. I had the two days planned out and I was geared to hit it hard! On the fourth of September, I woke up with a pain in my left flank. It grew worse as the day went on and by the evening I was popping some over-the-counter pain pills trying to get relief. I just couldn't sleep and spent the night in a recliner. Next day, same pain growing worse. Trying to be the macho man stud (a rumor I started years ago, and a few bought into it), I put up with the constant pain all day and all night again. Regular pain medication just wasn't touching it. Saturday, I started to get scared. I finally checked in at Insta-care and was told it sounded like a kidney stone. An appointment was made for an ultra-sound on Monday. The prescription pain killers helped me make through the weekend.

The ultra-sound came back negative. No stone! What is causing the pain? The next few days the pain stayed in by flank and started to move around my side and into my stomach area. I could actually watch as my stomach muscles (okay, fat gut flab) made painful contractions. Thursday night, I noticed a rash on my skin. I visited WebMD on my computer and decided I had a case of the shingles. A trip back to Insta-care on Friday the 12th of September confirmed it. I'm now on antiviral medication, some crazy steriod and a skin ointment. I have never been through anything this painful for so long before. I still have a few points of pain, but I think the medications are working. I'm just so frustrated at missing out on the days I had planned to fish. This is my favorite time of year to hit the streams. I'm hoping for an Indian summer so I can make up those lost days.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Hundreds of hoppers flushed out in front of me as I walked through the grasses near the river's edge. Each step produced another wave of airborn kickers. The trout do not receive pressure. This is water very few others want to fish. It's too small. The fishing is hard, even though the trout are easy. No cloddish mortal walking right up to the bank or flogging a rod and line through the air without first thinking is going to have much success. It's a hunter's game. Stalking. Sneaking. Casts are short and pinpointed. Snagging bankside growth the norm.

I learned a few lessons. Maybe I'm thinking more? The grass is tall waist high at least and sometimes up to the arm pits. It grows right to the creek bank and in areas overhangs into the water. It is hard to make a normal cast where your line lands on the water and you pick up slack as the fly and line float downstream toward you. Most casts are made with the line laying in the grass and just the leader and fly plopping into the water. Sometimes, the cast is more of a dapping proposition. Sometimes, just the fly and a couple feet of leader actually hit the water. Throw away all that long cast nonsense you learned at the latest sportsmen's expo. If you have more than about fifteen feet of line out, you're out of control.

If you move slow and use the willows, you can sneak enough to see the trout before you cast to them. This is very visual. The water is low and clear and spotting the trout is very easy. Spook one, or two, or three and they race for cover notifying every trout upstream for maybe thirty or forty feet, that something is up.

As the hoppers jumped out in front of me some would fly to the other side of the creek. Others would land in the water and were immediately eaten by trout. This was easy pickings. The rising trout could be caught by casting my hopper imitation to the exact spot it just ate the natural. Was I chumming? I didn't intentionally add the natural hoppers to the water. Or did I? I knew that by walking through the grass with that many hoppers, that some would end up wet, but what could I do to stop them? Nothing! I kept fishing.

When my imitation hit the smooth, slow water, several concentric rings of disturbance would migrate out. Soon a trout would be inhaling the pattern and the battle was on. These were quick fights. A couple thrashing spins, a quick run, and the trout was then lifted out of the water to hand, or if it had some weight, slid up the bank on the grass. Some of the trout were unexpectedly nice and plump for such a small water. If I could not see my fly as it floated near the overhanging grass and undercut bank, I learned to watch for rings of a rise and sometimes the sound of a rise. This was an interesting way to detect a take and actually something the trout had taught me.

Some of the trout I could spot before I cast to them but I would say that over seventy-five percent of the trout I caught by watching for rise rings, listening for a splash, or by watching a trout quickly appear for the take soon after the fly hit the water. One several casts, I was casting to water that had no trout visable. I would cast into the barren water and then watch as a trout would race downstream to the fly, sometimes moving as much as ten feet. This I tried to understand. Did the trout sense the fly with it's lateral line, or did it see the disturbance rings and then come to investigate the source? The trout were not seeing the fly until they had turned and rushed downstream to consider the origin of the disturbance. Most of my dry fly fishing is casting a fly above the trout and letting the current carry the fly into the trout's window. To have trout ten feet upstream, turn and race downstream to a fly was different and fun. My gut feeling was that they could sense through their lateral line, but some it seemed to hesitate and turn to race downstream after the disturbance rings had rippled overhead.

This outing heightened my senses. I felt closer to my quarry. I somehow felt we were on equal terms. Yes, I fooled a few of them with my senses of sight, feel and sound, And, some of them got the best of me with those same senses. I enjoyed the day!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer"

When I heard the learn'd astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were arranged in columns
before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

--Walt Whitman

Throw out all the numbers. Throw out the sizes. Throw out all the jargon. Wander off to a stream by yourself and in the mystical moist air, from time to time, hook a trout, look at it in silence, then look around. That's all.
I am always at a loss to know how much to believe of my own stories.

--Washington Irving, Tales of a Traveller

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Nothing Wrong with Quiet

The eagle wasn't always the eagle.
The eagle, before he became the eagle, was Ukatangi, the talker.
Ukatangi talked and talked. It talked so much, it heard only itself.
Not the river, not the wind, not even the wolf.
The raven came and said, "The wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you will hear him. The wind too.
And when you hear the wind, you will fly."
So he stopped talking.
And became its nature, the eagle.
The eagle soared, and its flight said all it needed to say.

---as told by Marilyn Whirlwind (actor, Northern Exposure)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Average Brown Trout For This Stream

Some sections of this stream had very smooth flat water, as seen in the background. I had to be very sneaky and make well-placed casts.

Clear Water and Feeding Brown

Another Brown From Cache Valley Stream

Little Brown

Brown Trout From Cache Valley Stream

Fish were feeding in the middle of the afternoon sipping BWO mayflies (as best as I could tell). It was surprising to me. It was 93 plus degrees. I thought the fishing would be better in the evening, but 3:00 PM was prime feeding time!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Rises in the Heat

Rises in the Heat
Interesting afternoon. I left at 2:00 PM and arrived on the water around 3:30 PM. I figured the fishing would be slow for the first couple of hours and then start to pick up as the evening shadows grew long.I spooked two trout as I followed a trail down to the stream edge. I stopped and became more stealthy. I looked up the stream and watched as three brown trout pushed their heads out of the water in what were feeding rises. I thought, "What the heck would be hatching at 3:00 in the afternoon on a hot ninety-three plus heat wave of a day?" More heads appeared. I stared at the seam, looking for any sign of floating bugs. I saw one riding the current and fluttering, drifting, and then lifting off. Then I spotted another one, this time closer. Grayish wings, small 18 or 20 sized hook would match it. BWO's? That was my guess.I already had a size twelve Twisted Hopper tied on so I thought I'd give it a shot. First cast, Wham! Twelve inch brown on. I quickly pulled him to the end of the run so he wouldn't spook the other fish. As I released him, I noticed more heads upstream and also some fins. Some fish were taking emergers right under the surface. I cast the hopper up into the area of rising fish. No takers. After about fifteen drifts and trout still rising, I decided to tie on a Chain-stitched BWO to the hopper as a double dry rig. It worked out to be the right move. I took three consecutive browns on the mayfly each around thirteen inches.For the remainder of the evening, I took a fish or two from each likely run. Most hit the mayfly but every once in a while, I'd pick one up on the hopper. Eventually, the trout stopped rising. I decided to take a couple home for dinner (which I fried up and ate tonight for dinner, burp, thank you very much). I caught them, cleaned them, and put them on ice and had them home and cooking in less than two hours. Fresh and tasty.The funny thing is, I thought I'd have better luck in the evening, but the fishing just turned off at about 6:00 PM. I fished for about 45 minutes longer, hitting perfect water, with no hits. The water then got that gun metal sheen on it, that I hate so much. Experience has taught me when the sun hits the water at that weird angle, the surface fishing goes sour for a while. I decided it was time to leave.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Fished another little creek and picked up some more beautiful cutthroat.

I like to hike inot this stream for the day. It has about three to four miles of fishable water. I will usually pack in some tin-foil and make a small fire and cook two of these trout for lunch.

I usually only make one or two trips in during the summer. I think I'll go in and try it this fall too.



Monday, July 21, 2008


Most of the cutts were about this size. Fun to catch on hoppers. The hoppers were jumping through the long meadow grasses as seen in the background.


This cutt was taken from the grassy run in the background. This was the smaller of two trout sitting in water that was ankle deep. This was a section of overflow from a beaver dam. These trout may have wondered up this offshoot during the spawn and a little higher water.


This brown was taken in the small shallow water in the background. The width of the water was no bigger than a sidewalk. I could see the trout holding in the current. I stood back about ten feet and landed my leader and hopper just over the grass. Without hesitation the brown rushed up and inhaled the hopper. Great fun!

Small Creek and Skittish Trout. Just the Way I Like it!

This is the creek I fished to complete my assignment to fish the smallest possible creek and catch some fish. I could literally step over it in some places. There were also overflows from beaver dams that had water in them, as one of the pictures will show. I'm sure the beaver use them as travelways to and from the trees. I caught a cutthroat in one of them too.

Overall, I had a great time on this little water and was fishing by sound and feel in some of the corner pools and undercut banks. I'll try to post more on the adventure when I get time.

Hopper Caught Brown Trout

I was given the assignment (by Nightfish) to fish the smallest creek I could find; something I could actually staddle and catch a trout.

I found one and caught this brown trout on a Twisted Foam Hopper. In fact, all the trout I caught were on the hopper.

It was a neat little creek with lots of skittish browns and cutthroat.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Can't beat the scenery and the bending rod at Lee's Ferry!


My nephew went down to Lee's Ferry over the weekend and landed some pretty rainbows. He said they were smacking big dries on top (I think cicada) but not sure. I'll try to post a shot with some of the beautiful scenery in the background.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Time to Hit it Hard

I think most of the rivers and streams are down and fishable now. The exception is the Logan. It's still to high for me, although, I know others who are fishing it now. The upper stretches opened this past weekend so I'll probably take a trip up sometime this week.

I've been fishing the Blacksmith Fork and it's tributaries, and have been catching my share of 8 to 14 inch trout. The tributaries have been fun with larger dry flies. I've been slinging a size 12 Looped Foam Cicada: black body with an orange, red, or green head. The trout seem to jump right on it. Of course, they may just jump on anything that hits the water. They don't seem to picky on patterns. Stealth is the key to success---along with a good presentation.

I talked with some Utah Division of Wildlife Resource employees last week and they mentioned that the snakes (rattlers) are out and about. I saw a dead one on the road towards the mouth of the canyon and saw a fly fisherman carrying a shed skin up from the bank of the river. Watch your step and where you place your hand when climbing around.

I'm hoping to hit it hard now. I'll try to get pictures to go with the adventures.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Success With the O2 Air-filled Stonefly Adult

F/V Gulf Ventur was able to hit a stonefly hatch this past week. I had tied up some O2 Air-filled Stoneflies for him to try. He sent me this picture with a little report of their success. One of his friends went back up to try it again. Hopefully, I'll get another report. While this hatch is pretty much over on many of the smaller, local Utah waters, it should be starting on the northern waters of Montana.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Looking for Stones

Everyone knows the large stonefly hatch (Pteronarcy californica) can be a frustrating hatch, especially if you are driving for five or six hours or more to hit some of the fabled waters. Many a fly fishing writer has given the reasons for missing the hatch, or just plain complaining that they can't get a trout to look at a stonefly dry. Then they start to analyze patterns and wonder about color and size and materials. Then they wonder about how to fish the imitation. Do I plop it on the water? Do I land it as gently as I can land a size four or six, long-shanked fly? Do I dead-drift it? Do I skitter it? Do I let it float high or let it settle into the surface? All this thinking can drive you to frustration or you can enjoy it as part of the intrique of fly fishing. It's up to each of us how we will respond.

I've found that by fishing a few smaller local waters, I can take the frustration out of the equation. These smaller waters are easier to read, and have willing, hungry trout in them. Whole sections of water can be worked from bank to bank. If the stoneflies have been around, I can usually get a few willing trout even if the bugs have disappeared from the stretch I'm fishing.

I fished a stretch of water on June 4th. Stoneflies had been in the area the previous week and so a few of us decided to give it a shot. I had a couple of hits on a Twisted Foam Stonefly but was unable to hook the fish. I then decided to tie on a small brown stonefly as a dropper; size 12 hook. I took a couple of small 10-inch browns but still had a few trout hitting the dry with no hook-up. I finally managed a small 12-inch brown on the dry fly. He totally inhaled the pattern and I had to use some foreseps to reach down and remove the fly from its mouth. I picked up a couple more browns on the nymph and had a few more hits on the dry. I was very disappointed on missing around ten trout that hit the dry. Looking for excuses, I blame the hook or maybe the size of the fly. The dry was tied on a Mustad hook and the point just didn't seem to be that sharp. I have heard others be very vocal about Mustad hooks, but have had enough fish caught on them that I didn't pay much attention to them. Now, I am wondering if in the larger hooks, the sharpness is diminished. Maybe it was a combination of the hook and the size of the fly? Maybe it was a factor of the foam fly riding too high? I'm going to tie up some new flies on a different hook and go out either Monday or Tuesday night and give it another shot. I'll let you know the results.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008


June 2, 2008 I found a bunch of stoneflies in the bankside willows on the Ogden River. I'm not sure this picture does justice to the orange body. Some have speculated that the orange body on many of the artificials is detrimental but after looking at the naturals, orange is the color that stands out.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Chain Gang!

Getting ready for a few mayfly hatches. Just a handful of Blue-winged Olive, Pale Morning Dun and Mahogany Dun mayflies tied with the chain_stitched body technique.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


< Photo by F/V Gulf Ventur (other sample photos on his site just click on my link: Real trout Bum).

Air-filled fly body. I've been tying and fishing air-bugs for several years now. Great material to imitate large insects like stoneflies, cicada, grasshoppers, beetles and crickets.

Photo by Bushrat.>>>

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Marty Howard Photo of Golden Stone Nymph

Marty and his son seined this golden stone nymph out of one of our Utah waters. Thanks for sharing the photo Marty. You can visit Marty's web site at

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Looking for and Fishing Adult Stoneflies

It's May! If the water conditions are right. It's time to start looking for large stonefly adults. It's been cold enough this spring to put this hatch back a little bit. I'll start to seriously look for these bugs around May 15th on until the end of the month. Hopefully, the water will cooperate and not be a raging torrent of spring run-off.
Even with high water, it is possible to catch trout holding in the shallow edge water and in back eddies and back wash bends.
Last year during some higher, faster water, I was fishing from a high bank, concrete retaining wall. I cast a Twisted Stonefly into the head of the run and watched a 18-inch brown chase the fly downstream for 10 feet before he caught up to it and grabbed it. The battle was on but I knew the trout would win and that I would lose a fly. There was no way I was going to play the fish up the side of the concrete. I did fight him for a few minutes and as I sensed he was getting tired of the situation, I quickly, with a swift jerk on the rod, snapped the fly off. The trout flipped around and headed for the depth of the run. I wished there would have been a way to get down to him for a proper catch and release, but the wall was just too high. I would have released this fish anyway, but I felt bad having to do a long distance release and have him swimming around for a while adorned with his new piercing.

Friday, April 25, 2008


These stonefly adults were captured and preserved by the Utah State University bug lab students. While big stonefly hatches are often downplayed as hard to hit, if you are on the water at the right time with the right conditions, it can be a very exciting time. I love to look for this hatch. The bugs themselves fascinate me.

Monday, April 21, 2008


I helped on a stonefly transplant. The volunteers collected around 6000 of these critters from one river and moved them to another river where they had disappeared. Stay tuned. More info to come....

Friday, April 18, 2008

Old Man Take a Look at My Life.

I admit...I turn 50 this summer. In celebration I have come up with my ultimate birthday present. I will fish 50 different waters this summer. That's right! I am setting the goal to get out on 50 waters and I will log down in a journal these fly fishing adventures and get some photos when I can. Some of these adventures (maybe all) will be posted on this blog. I know how excited you are to share in these adventures so I'll try to get busy.

It shouldn't be that hard. A trip to the Uintas would allow me to hit several lakes and streams in just one weekend. Of course, I'll have to wait for the snow to melt to get into some of these places. And other river drainages have tributary streams which all will count in the total.

I will log all the details, especially the flies I use, the types of hatches encountered and the species, quantities and size of trout I catch. I might even throw in a warm water adventure or two.

It's going to be a great season!


"When I wade into a river fishing for trouts I feel as though I am entering another part of my soul. And as I watch the early lights flower in the shadows, I know I have come to the river seeking more, much more than the catching of the trouts.

Spring is the time for lovers and flowers and trout fishermen. Since I am all three, I must prepare early, for the sounds of the river are near and the trout are waiting."

---George Mendoza
Secret Places of Trout Fishermen
(Italics added.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Chain-stitched Mayflies

I wrote an article for "Fly Tying" a magazine published by Frank Amato before it became the current "Fly Fishing & Tying Journal". It was about creating extended-body mayfly patterns by chain-stitching thread. Les Johnson, then editor of the magazine told me that it was very well received by the readership. I have continued to tie and fish this style of mayfly for Blue-winged Olives, Pale Morning Duns, Callibaetis, Flavs and Mahogany Duns. It can be tied to imitate almost any mayfly type. On smoother waters, with selective feeding fish, it has performed great. I have even used it as a cripple or emerger pattern by tucking the extended-body down around the bend of the hook.

The chain-stitching technique can be done by hand and is explained in my little book "Creative Flies" published by Amato, who recently, let it go out of print. It is now only available through on-line book dealers.

I love to fish this pattern to trout sipping adults off the surface. It is best to use a hook one size smaller than the natural. The extended-body makes a size eighteen into a size sixteen. I also try to find tying thread that is not too waxy. This helps when stitching the body and dividing the tail fibers.

The Blue-winged Olives are hatching now. I think I'll tie a handful up and go fishing!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Hey! Looks like the stoneflies are getting ready to hatch. I know, I'm jumping the gun. I love to search for the hatch each year, even though, it's a hit and miss ordeal. Still fun to look for them.

With the amount of run-off predicted here in Utah, we may end up with high off-color conditions in May, when these little critters want to crawl out of the water to learn to fly. I have three "streams" that I try to hit during stonefly activity, and then I try to migrate north and hit some of the fabled waters in Idaho and Montana.

I have always used these braided stoneflies to imitate the nymphs. I have good luck with them. I use the dark ones to imitate the large Pteronarcys californica ( salmonfly) and the lighter ones to imitate the large golden stoneflies.

I'm hoping for a good stonefly season and already getting excited. It seem like the larger fish come out to play when the stones are migrating to hatch. It's still fun and somewhat funny to catch the smaller 8-10-inch trout with a large size six stonefly nymph sticking out of it's mouth.

When I see the adults out, I will switch to a dry fly, but I like to fish the nymph a couple weeks before I see adults and then a couple weeks after the adults are gone. I have even fished the dry fly for a couple weeks after the hatch and had decent luck.

Time to start tying some of these delicious, trout-candy nymphs and dream of great action in the next couple of months.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

This brown trout came from a little tiny stream. I caught it just as the shadows of evening were starting to hit the water. I was looking into the clear water spotting trout and then casting to them. This little run had no fish in it but as I was watching, I noticed this brown come out from an undercut bank about twenty feet upstream. He swam casually downstream about ten feet below me. He then turned and faced upstream. I could tell he had come out to take a feeding position and grab a bite to eat before total darkness hit the water. I cast about eight feet above him and let my fly float to him. He rose up and sipped in the fly on the first cast.

Most of the fish I spotted that evening were already in position when I cast to them. This brown was fun because I watched him come to feed and becasue I was already in position hiding behind some willows, he had no clue I was there.

I caught several more fish at each run moving upstream until I could barely see. The fear of wild animals and ghosts soon scared me from the water.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Historic Fly Patterns

Much of my fly tying has been influenced by some of the great western fly tiers. Through my teen years I fished Pott Hair Flies down and across. I learned this technique from my dad. He taught my brohter and me that Pott's flies were all we needed and we took it to heart. When the Pott flies became more difficult to obtain, it sent me into the fly tying arena. At first, I just tried to copy the hair flies but soon realized what a neat, creative hobby fly tying is. I'm still fascinatd by the historic flies and the men who created them. Many of them came up with ideas, techniques and materials that were not necessarily the "norm." These historic patterns are being presented and preserved at www.

This is a neat site if you are interested in some of the historic patterns that were created for fly fishing the wild rivers in Montana and other areas of the Rockies.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jumping in Like a Kid

Last year was a hot summer. I couldn't even get away from the heat by driving into the mountains to fish. Putting on a pair of waders on some days was just unbearable! I found myself reverting back to how I fished as a kid: jumping in the creek clothes and shoes. At first, I would try to sneak around the water and not get wet, but before long, I just had to wade out to hit the spots I couldn't reach by staying dry. It's actually quite refreshing to fish this way when it's hot.

The only thing I didn't like on some of these wet wading adventures, is walking back down a dirt trail or road in wet shoes and pants. The accumulation of trail dirt is amazing. It builds up nice and thick. It's something you really don't want to drag into a vehicle in most instances. Wearing shorts can help cut down on the mud, and having an extra pair of dry shoes or boots and socks is smart. If you plan things right, and the day is hot enough, you can try to dry off before you hike down the road. On hot summer days, this doesn't take too long especially if you wear some of the quick dry fishing and hiking pants that are out there.

Anyway, it's fun to just throw a fly box, some floatant and a spare leader or two into a pocket and then head up the stream, rock hopping and wading wet. I find it makes me feel like a kid again and brings back those memories when I could fish all day and cover miles of stream.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Crossing

The Crossing was the name given to the place on the creek where the willows and sagebrush had been cleared to allow Jezebel, the old tractor, access to the upper fields of wheat on Aldredge's farm.

Alrdredge's farm was a special fascination of the young men who were fortunate enough to explore its mysteries. Summers would have been a lot less fun had it not been for invitations from my boyhood friend to spend some time there.

It was at this farm that I learned to shoot a .22 rifle with enough accuracy to hit a jackrabbit running 35 miles per hour from 50 yards away. It was also the place I learned about deer, rattlesnakes and coyotes and where I first felt a newly-discovered feeling of self-reliance and freedom. It was where I learned to love solitude.

The most enjoyable thing I learned at the farm, however, was how to catch brown trout with grasshoppers. The creek was not large. Not many people knew of its whereabouts, except a few locals from town, it was rarely fished, and I can remember fishing two weeks without ever seeing another soul.

The small creek had deep holes and holding areas beneath the overhanging willows. The willows were so thick it was almost impossible to see through them. The water made its way down from springs higher up in the mountains and ran down through hills and flats covered with sage and juniper. The banks were almost always covered with willows, except for small openings just large enough for a small boy to stick his head and fishing pole through.

Grasshoppers were the best bait. They were overabundant in the wheat and grasses and sage. The best way to catch them was to throw a handful of sand at them. On the way to the first fishing spot I would stop occasionally to secure the hoppers I needed for bait.

The best way to attach the hopper to the hook was to thread the point of the hook through the thorax and then follow the abdomen with the point until the hopper was sitting upright on the shank. After securing the hopper to the hook, it was lowered into the water for its final fate.

Fish could be caught with hoppers all along this creek except for one place: the Crossing. I don't know if trout like to sun themselves but it sure seemed like it. There were always about 15 trout holding in the crossing. These trout were uncatchable. Every time I walked up to the crossing, I would spook them and they would race upstream into the cover of the willows and deeper water. No matter how sneaky I was, I could not approach the Crossing without scaring the trout.

I tried to sneak through the willows from above and below the Crossing but my shadow would fall upon the water or my movement would startle the trout. Sometimes I felt I had finally gotten close enough without making an error in my approach, only to find the browns were gone when I peered through the brush. It was like the trout had ESP.

As I got older, the trips to the farm ceased. Many years had passed and I advanced from a natural grasshopper-fishing boy to an adult fly- fisherman.

The desire to catch a trout from the Crossing drew me back to the area as an adult. After two and a half hours of driving, I found myself going up a small canyon road, weaving my way through a multitude of childhood memories.

I parked along a dry creek bed and leaped across a sagging barbed-wire fence, then stared at the tractor tracks that led to the Crossing. As I started up the dirt road, I picked my best hopper from my fly box and quickly threaded it on the leader.

Standing way back and viewing the situation, I decided my only chance for success would be to kneel down and cast the fly from about twenty feet out. I wanted to cast so that as my line straightened out, the leader and tippet would turn over gently and land on the water without much disturbance. False casting was almost impossible but I managed to do it long enough to get the right amount of line out.

My cast was long enough and the imitation hopper landed at the head of the Crossing with no noticeable disturbance. I watched intently as the hopper floated down through the middle of the stream. A brown trout lazily approached the hopper and sipped it in. I raised the rod tip and felt the struggle of a trout on the end of my line. As I stood up, I noticed all the other trout flying upstream as they always had, but I had one of them on the end of my line.

The trout I caught was about thirteen inches long. It was a fat little brown trout. I looked it over for a few seconds and then returned it to the Crossing. I knew I would not be able to catch another trout out of the Crossing for some time, but the thrill of catching that one little brown trout from the Crossing is a satisfaction that will last a lifetime.

Trout Wandering

Enough snow already! Cabin fever has set in. My mind is wandering, and the only thing I can think about is getting out on some creeks, streams, and rivers with a fly rod and a handful of flies. I'm counting down the days, and here in Utah, I figure I have about 35 days to go before I can start looking for some Blue-winged olive hatches. These hatches will occur on the lower elevation waters. The high country will be covered with snow far into June.

I have a few new places to hit this year, small creeks that I have heard about, but haven't had the opportunity to explore. This blog site will be about those explorations. I will post about the discoveries and the feelings I encounter as I wander. I will try to post a few pictures too.

My favorite thing to do is to seek out wild, native trout in their natural and historical waters. Here in Utah, that means cutthroat trout. I will,however, not limit my drivel to just cutthroat, as many of our waters are not capable of sustaining these beautiful gems. In many of our waters, the native cutthroat have been taken over by brown trout. The brown trout have been reproducing in our waters for many years now and although they are not native are very much wild, reproducing trout.

I have been fly fishing for 37 years and tying flies for over 25 years. As time goes on I will introduce you to fly patterns, materials and some techniques. This will be fun. Thanks for joining me!