All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

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!