Today’s Tie: Shillinglaw Emerger

This is a pattern based off of, but somewhat varied from the Shillinglaw Emerger pattern in Ross Mueller’s book Fly Fishing Midwest Spring Creeks.

Here’s the recipe I used for this fly today…note it’s not going to be exactly like the pattern in the book, nor is it as pretty, but we’re in the ballpark. This fly is intentionally “buggy”. (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it)

Hook: standard nymph, size 18 (I’m out of size 16 hooks today, otherwise I’d have gone that size)
Thread: dun or olive or black or neon orange (maybe not the orange)
Tail: wood duck or mallard flank fibers
Ribbing: strand of pearl krystal flash (or wire, or french tinsel, or something else shiny)
Wing: CDC or Dun Z-lon
Head: Dark and buggy…these were tied with a dark flash dubbing, but the recipe in Mueller’s book calls for “australian opossum”. Black nymph dubbing works fine, too.

Thread hook, tie in the tail.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Tie in rib, dub thread, wrap thread forward leaving room for the wing, and tie down ribbing.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Tie in the wing, secure with a couple wraps, and dub the head. Half-hitch or whip finish…done.

Shillinglaw Emerger

I did a little variety today and trimmed amounts of z-long in the wing so some were bushier than others. I also varied between a dark rainbow dub and a plain, black nymph dub.

Shillinglaw Emerger

Shillinglaw Emerger

Crappy Fly: Griffith’s Gnat

Still sticking with some of the basic essentials at the desk lately… Sitting at The Disaster in my basement is a tad cold recently, so I only coughed up a few flies today. Stupid arctic airmass + old house = cold basement.

Griffith’s Gnat. With only a hook and 3 elements, this should be easy.

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I tied the hackle, then the peacock herl near the bend…

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Wrapped thread up to behind the eye…

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And then wrapped the hackle over the herl up to the eye and then tied off. Okay…

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Acceptable, but a little crowded around the eye…hopefully that’s not going to interfere too much with tippet, so I trimmed as well as I could before putting in my pile of flies to be fished.

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Of course the herl wasn’t always cooperative. I hate you sometimes, stupid peacock herl. Yeah, yeah…should have wrapped that herl around the thread first, or just been a bit more careful with my thread.

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I tied a few of these up and they’ll fish. The hackle is a little oversized for the fly – I was using size 20 hooks but working through my grizzly hackle from a size 18 100 pack of Whiting’s. On a couple flies I substituted peacock ice dub for the peacock herl when things didn’t work out as well as they should have.

Griffith’s Gnat
Hook: TMC 100, size 20
Thread: Gray (12/0 Sheer Gordon Griffith in this case, but any lightweight thread will do and I don’t think color is critical)
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Grizzly

Today’s Fly: Tan Chironomid (Midge)

This is a midge larva pattern, and it’s easy to tie…very easy.

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Here’s my recipe…

Hook: TMC 200R size 16
Head: Glass bead – I used black, translucent purple, red, and clear…just to be safe, I guess
Rib: Silver wire
Body: Tan thread – Uni-Thread 8/0 in this case
Fuzzy-buggy part of the head: Black nymph dubbing

Put bead on hook, thread in behind the eye, attach wire just behind the eye and wrap thread over it to the back bend of the hook to avoid the “big butt” look…especially since the body is merely thread and it’s hard to put spanks on that bugger to trim its hips. Once thread is wrapped back to the bend and it’s a good starting place for the wire rib, wrap the thread back up to behind the dirty-nymphing bead, then wrap the ribbing back up to the thread, and trim the wire. Dub the thread, wrap around just behind the bead as needed, and half-hitch. I trimmed the dubbing back a bit, but merely so it didn’t look absolutely ginormous in the close-up picture, it’s probably not necessary, but from the chironomid pictures I found through googling, it doesn’t appear they’re really “leggy” in larva form.

Fly: Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail

This is my shot at a Soft Hackle Pheasant Tail Nymph – with a shiny, glass bead.

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I tied a little over a half dozen in my downtime Monday, and they’ll fish, but they’re not great. Since I didn’t have any partridge hackle handy I just used pheasant fibers as hackle and tied it on both sides of the head, just behind the bead.

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I’m looking forward to tying these with a more appropriate wet fly hackle, namely partridge, but for now this’ll do for a fish-able fly.

Today’s recipe:
Hook: TMC 200R, Size 16
Bead: Pearlescent “glass”
Thread: Olive 8/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Pheasant Tail
Body: Pheasant Tail
Ribbing: Copper or Silver, Brassie Size
Wingcase: Flashback or Flashabou or just something Flashy-flatty-ish, c’mon man!
Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub

On the Bench: Making Progress

My focus is still on being able to clean out my fly box and start with new flies for the 2013 season. So far, I’ve stocked up on scuds, pheasant tails, midges, skinny nelsons, and a few, larger attractor nymphs. I’ve avoided Prince Nymphs so far and am wondering if I’m going to tie a couple dozen as a staple fly or not. Size 12 or 14 Princes? Probably size 14, but would you go larger for the majority of yours? Not sure what I’m going to do with that one yet…I despise tying biot tails, but I probably need to do it just for the practice.

Here’s where I’m at so far. This is about 80-85 flies, so I still have a long way to go and want to fill-in with more variety in flies and sizes.
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Simply for the purpose of avoiding monotony in my flies, I bought some glass beads from J. Stockard recently and am putting them to use in some of my patterns, from midges to nymphs.
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But so far, mainly on the midge larva patterns, which range from size 14 to 18.
photo (51)I go a little stir crazy after tying the same pattern over, and over, and over, and I’m a little stymied as to what to tie next. My PT nymphs so far are primarily only size 18, so I’ll be filling in soon with a couple dozen in size 14-16.

For you fellow, dirty nymphers, what do you recommend in the lineup of staple flies? What is your go-to fly pattern?

Missed Opportunity, but Still Productive

There was a fair amount of time spent tying flies today between bouts of staring out the window, wondering why I didn’t go fishing as soon as the kids were off to school. Lenny thought it curious, too. He spent a lot of time watching me tie flies and wondering why we haven’t hunted birds in 2 whole weeks! He’s going to have a long winter.


It was perfect for winter fishing this morning! Temperatures were just below freezing for a while, the sun was out, and certainly there must have been eager fish before snow melt increased. That’s how I see it in my lunatic head, anyway – catching so many fish my arm hurts and 28″ browns with kype jaws trying to tear into my neck after I wrangle them from their underwater bunkers…

Instead, I continued working at my goal of all-new flies for 2013 and starting with a fresh stockpile. I’m at 4 dozen so far, which isn’t much considering my poor production-fly-tying skills…but I’m working on it. Not even halfway to what will be needed this season and a wide variety to go yet.


Last night and this morning was spent tying more Skinny Nelsons.


Winter trout season, for me, seems to be more about seizing opportunity when it presents itself rather than planning an outing well in advance. I’ll confess to not having my gear in battle-ready mode yet as it is typically during the bulk of the season. I’m not in grab ‘n go mode yet.

Today’s Tie: Skinny Nelson

We’ve had a discussion re: Simple Baetis Fly patterns and recipes revolving around such. The Skinny Nelson and minor variations of it have been part of the discussion, so I sat down to tie that one in particular. I think I’ll tie enough to fill up a row to keep as a staple fly, and after this round will tie the simple pattern discussed at the top of the thread next.

Here’s my go at it:

First attempt…not bad, it’ll fish, but I don’t like that my tail is too long and the head ended up too block-headed behind the eye making the thorax look a bit too big.
Skinny Nelson - Attempt 1

After a few tries I ended up with something I’m a bit more happy with – better tail dimensions and tapered front. Don’t get me wrong, the other versions will still make my fly box and I’m sure they’ll catch fish, but I’m working on tying better looking flies.
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Here are the details:

Skinny Nelson (bead optional):
Hook: Size 18 Mustad 3906B Wet Nymph Fly Hook (because I found a box on my table), otherwise I’d use TMC 3761 size 18
Thread: Thin black, 8/0 or Black 70 denier
Tail: pheasant tail, or brown or black hen hackle fibers,
Ribbing: Gold or copper ribbing, I used both x-small and brassie
Wingcase: Pearl (or other) flashabou
Thorax: Peacock Ice Dub

Following the recipe and instructions here, I tied this a little differently than I would my typical PT-style nymphs, and may continue to follow this route since it seems, intuitively, that it would offer a more even look along the fly body and more durability. I’m not sure if that’s the case, but I’ve been tying in ribbing right at the tail and not securing it along the length of the shank in the past, which gives the fly more junk in the trunk, and who likes a fly with a big butt?

Tie in thread behind the eye
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Wrap thread back toward the bend, tie in the tail, then wrap thread back up to the eye, then tie in the ribbing behind the eye.
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Wrap thread over the copper wire toward the bend of the hook along the shank of the hook, then wrap thread back to behind the eye once again.
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As you can see from the image above, that is where I tied in the flashabou wing case near the middle of two strands. Then, grab both ends of the flashabou, pull toward the back of the hook, and tie over the flashabou, toward the back of the hook, to secure it as the wingcase. Dub thread with peacock ice dub, wrap to behind the eye, and tie flashabou over the dubbing. Cut the excess, half-hitch or whip finish, and you’re done.
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Resolution: New Year, New Flies

After getting a bit of experimentation out of my system, I’m trying to focus on hammering out an inventory of staple flies for this winter season first, and then will get to the variety needed for the spring and summer months.

First, I’m going to empty out the nymph side of my fly box and start from scratch. I haven’t built up the courage to do it quite yet, but it should force me to keep putting time in at the vise to fill the rows with fresh flies.


Holy cow, what a disheveled, unorganized mess of truly crappy flies. I’m looking forward to a fresh start here.

So far, the basics covered and tied have been orange (necessary) and rainbow (experimental) scuds, midges, and small pheasant tails, along with a few larger attractor nymphs. I bought some rainbow scud dubbing at Dan Bailey’s fly shop this past summer and am looking forward to see how they work.


By the way, I pulled this pair out of the size 18 hook box…the company must be trying to find a way to force me to de-barb my hooks at this vise.


The next crappy fly on my list to tie is Prince Nymphs. Man, I hate tying on biots and apologize in advance for any gratuitous cursing from my basement. If I can accomplish this goal, I may reward myself with a new fly box, because who doesn’t like new things?

Cleansing of the Tying Desk

In the following pile of stuff which was located mere inches away from my vise, there was a diamond in the rough. I’d been looking for extended-shank, bent hooks, and I could swear I’d bought some TMC 200R hooks at some point and wanted to tie up some midges with that hook. Lo, an angel of the desk appeared and directed my eye to one, lonely curved shank hook.

So I tied up an olive midge on said hook, which made me happy, but it just wasn’t enough. I needed more. The only solution, at least in my mind at this moment of madness, was to…ahem…clean. Ouch, it hurts to type that.

So clean I did, and I was amazed at what I found. I don’t even know what this is, what it did, or how it made its way on to my desk.

I actually put some of the materials on my desk back into the unorganized drawers from which they came, and in so doing found other stuff I’d forgotten about. Wait, why again do I have a box of 6/0 Big Game saltwater hooks? They’ll go to the first person who says they’re interested.

And another gem of a find, and this one was hidden in plain sight, right on my desktop! Seriously, I had no idea where I got a box of 50 size 18 nymph hooks, honestly no clue, and they were right by my lamp. I’m not much of a Mustad guy, but they’ll do.

After relocating (putting away) a copious amount of crap and throwing away an equal amount, I was left with this, and could actually wipe away the dust without creating a hook-filled medieval torture device of my rag. There are still things to put away, but I like my hooks within hands reach…yeah, that’s it…hands reach.

By the way, don’t think I’m losing my edge on being a disorganized, crappy fly-tier. There are still tiers of disorganized stuff on The Disaster. I can just see a bit more clearly for the next few hours…

Friday Night

I went back to The Disaster last night after work to welcome in the weekend and continue the trend of tying flies at least once per day. An aside: my tying space is in the basement and has conveniently been in the corner most likely to be completely avoided by any other living creature in the house. It’s creepy, there are cobwebs, the lighting is poor until I turn my lamp on…it kind of smells…and it’s a total mess. However, my wife recently relocated her entire scrapbook/crafting table and supplies immediately next door to my table. I’d liken it to living in a quiet, rustic country home, only to have a complex of condominiums built within 3-feet of your farmhouse. It gets much worse.

This had been put in front of my tying desk instead of my usual, awesome, manly camouflage chair. I’m not even sure why I haven’t turned this into firewood yet.

Broken Chair

Man Chair

I know, it’s so awesome you can hardly see it. Look closely, it’s right in the middle of the picture.

It was late, I was tired, there may or may not have been beer involved, and I tied up a handful of flies with random, flashy materials found around the table. It’s all a bit of a blur to me now, but there were beads and biots, maribou tails and midges, purple tails and rainbow dubbing. *shudder*

image image image Biot Rainbow Nymph FlashMidge image