All content © Robert Williamson

All content © Robert Williamson

Saturday, October 31, 2009


Instead of clogging this fly fishing blog up with non-fly fishing related outdoor adventures, I have started a new blog to write about "other" outdoor activities. will be a place for musings about hiking, mountain biking, running, and wandering and wondering about nature. It's in it's infancy; you are welcome to watch it grow.

A Nice Note about the Chain-stitched Mayflies

"I've finally had a chance to fish them now that fall is here. I used them on the south fork of the snake recently with good success. Couple notes: Being comparadun style, I had much better success in the run out of riffles where the water was calmer. They would sink in the rougher water of the riffles. In areas where they would float, however, fish took them willingly, sipping gently and not suspecting a thing. It was a lot of fun. The only thing I might do differently is the tails. I'd consider something stiffer, like microfibbetts. The tails on the fly (not sure what they were made of) tended to stick together when wet. All in all though, a great imitation and a lot of fun to fish. Thanks again." :)

-Mike Silver

Thanks for the report Mike. I sent patterns out to several individuals each year and rarely do I hear back. Nice to get a report. This pattern was created for smooth water. I was trying to get something that would imitate the silhouette of the naturals for picky trout. As for the tails, I have noticed the same thing. The tail fibers are made from the same material as the body. I have started to stiffen them up and make the split more distinct by running a little super glue up them. I use a small amount on the end of a bodkin so my fingers don't stick together.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Saying Goodbye!

I peered through the willows that lined the bank of a small, clear creek and watched as a 12-inch cutthroat trout moved from side to side, picking small dark mayfly nymphs from the current.

I was rigged with a brown stonefly imitation which had proven effective on this creek for years. I found a small opening that provided enough room to cast and crawled hand and knees up next to a sizable tree. I slowly stood up keeping my left shoulder snug against the tree; blending into the setting as best I could. I lengthened my line with false casts to allow the fly to float down into the trouts feeding lane.

The cutthroat continued to sip nymphs as my stonefly landed about ten feet above him. The fly drifted down toward the trout as I mended line to keep a natural float. The fly was right on target and came directly into the trout's view. My arm became tense in anticipation of the fish's strike. The cutthroat did not move as the fly passed his snout. I let the fly continue to drift past the fish and began a slow hand-twist-retrieve so I could cast again.

I didn't want to disturb the water by a quick pick-up and risk spooking the cutthroat, so I slowly worked the line in and brought the fly up into the shallows on the creek edge. Suddenly, I noticed a flash of color a few feet below my fly and watched wide-eyed as a different trout raced toward the fly. The fish slammed into the fly with its back exposed, out of the water, producing a wake that sent the cutthroat trout racing upstream for cover.

I set the hook and stared with amazement at the 18-inch brown trout thrashing up and then down stream. This was a powerful fish and was not interested in giving up. Again, the fish tugged line as it tried to head down the creek putting pressure on my shoulder.

I held the brown for a second to admire its length and girth. It was a beautiful trout. I sat it in the shallows and watched as it caught its breath. I was doing the same. It moved toward the middle of the creek and deeper water. I thought I saw it roll its eyes back and pause for a second--maybe not. I waved goodbye anyway.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fly Fishing and Thoughts of Thoreau

"The lesson he (Thoreau) had taught himself, and to which he tried to teach others, was summed up in the one word "Simplify." That meant simplify your needs and your ambitions; learn to delight in the simple pleasures which the world of Nature affords. It means also, scorn public opinion, refuse to accept the common definitions of success, refuse to be moved by the judgement of others."
---Joseph Wood Krutch (part of the introduction to "Walden and Other Writings by Henry David Thoreau.")

When I started fly fishing as a young thirteen year old kid, I used a very simple way of angling. I was introduced to it by my father. He was a wet fly fisher who only used a couple of patterns and always fished them down and across. These patterns were hair flies (Fizzle and Rockworm) as tied by the late Franz B. Pott of Missoula, Montana. These flies were tied onto the end of a seven to nine foot tapered leader which was tied onto a floating fly line. The flies were cast down and across stream and them allowed to swing with the current. They were manipulated into the proper seams and runs and then slowly worked upstream with a hand-twist-retrieve. Trout would either hit the fly on the swing or grab it as it was worked upstream. It was an effective method and a very simple method. I used this method for thirteen years.

When I married and decided to take up fly tying as a hobby, I originally wanted to just tie the Pott flies, but as I subscribed to the popular fly fishing magazines and bought fly tying books, a whole new world of fly patterns and fly fishing techniques was opened to me. I tried all the techniques which were new to me, nymphing, streamers, emergers, and dry fly fishing. I spent time using all of these methods and would find myself switching from one method to another during my outings.

Several years ago, I decided to simplify my angling again. I grew fond of dry fly fishing and found that it was my preferred style. With experience I found that at almost every month of the year, I could catch fish on top if I understood the hatch and was on the water at the appropriate time of day.

I have not lived in the woods as Thoreau did, but as I look back on my life, I realize I have spent a great deal of time wandering in the woods. My fly rod has been, and is, a magic wand. I wave it and it carries me to beautiful places. Wave it again and the scenery changes. My favorite rod is a seven foot, six inch paint brush that helps me create the paintings of my mind. Sometimes, it is a pen that helps me write the beginning and ending of my life.

Life is full of rivers to cross. I have for a long time felt I crossed these rivers alone. I prided myself on doing this. I, as Thoreau, sought for solitude:

"I have never felt lonesome, or in the least oppressed by the sense of solitude, but once, and that was a few weeks after I came to the woods, when for an hour, I doubted if the near neighborhood of man was not essential to a serene and healthy life. To be alone was something unpleasant. But I was at the same time conscious of a slight insanity in my mood, and seemed to forsee my recovery. In the midst of a gentle rain while these thoughts prevailed, I was suddenly sensible of such sweet and beneficent society in Nature, in the very pattern of the drops, and in every sound and sight around my house, an infinite and unaccountable friendliness all at once like an atmosphere sustaining me, as made the fancied advantages of human neighborhood insignificant, and I have never thought of them since."

I wonder if Thoreau is right? He also said, "I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time. To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers."

For years, I believed and pointed out the above quotes as my justification for spending time on solo fly fishing trips. Like I said, I was proud of my ability to wander up streams and creeks alone, to cross rivers alone, and to spend time in the woods alone. I like Thoreau, felt I only needed "three chairs in my house; one for solitude, one for friendship, three for society."

I'm beginning of late to understand better things of solitude, but also of my need to have friends. But that is really another story. What I want to do is get back to my original thoughts on simplicity. I've decided that the pursuit of trout through fly fishing can be very simple, especially, if you are fishing waters that are not what I call technical waters. These are waters with shorter growing seasons, waters that are typically smaller, and where the type of water is more turbid, with lots of riffles, seams, pockets, and sometimes gradient.

In my neck of the woods, this is what I've discovered over the past 30 years (I know, that 30 years just keeps on finding its way into my writing).

December, January, February: Midges. Small nymphs and dries. Hatches occur the warmest part of the day.

March, April: Midges, Blue-winged Olives. BWO nymphs, emergers and dries. Usually between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM.

May, June: Pale Morning Duns, Caddis and Stoneflies. Evening fishing starts to warm up. PMD hatches most afternoons in June.

July, August, September: Hoppers and beetles. Afternoon and evening caddis

October, November: Still some hopper action, Blue-winged Olives are back. Swinging and stripping streamers.

Yes, there is the specific hatch of this or that, which you may have to figure out, but the above is a simplistic approach to most of the Intermountain areas regular hatches.

I wonder if Thoreau ever considered taking up fly fishing? Probably too busy writing about solitude and civil disobedience.