The Moose Knuckle routinely attends fly tying courses with commercial tiers. The patters we learn will be featured from time to time on this blog along with links to the original pattern creators. If the team is traveling around and notices a previously unknown to us pattern we will feature it. Here you will see updates of new patterns, hot flys and all the info you need to land a hog.
I had previously acquired the proper gear for Shad Fly Fishing prior to my earlier Fly Fishing adventures therefore, I had all the necessary equipment and some flies tied up on deck ready to go. I used my St. Croix 7WT Bankrobber Streamer Rod strung up with Rio Sink Tip line and a 8LB test Bass tippet material. As for a fly, I used something called Al’s Shad Fly #4. This consists of a size four or six hook, dumbbell eyes, yellow hackle, yellow hackle tail, yellow yarn and silver tinsel. I also tried out some others but this seemed to get the most attention.
Where to Look
Using the Fly Rod puts you at a slight disadvantage to a spin fisherman when seeking Shad. On the Delaware, through Warren County, where I typically fish for Smallmouth in the summer there are no major dams for the Shad to “stack up” like they do in Deer Creek, Maryland. Therefore, you must seek out pools downstream of major runs or those created by tributaries. Swinging the fly into slower water pools on the side of fast water or before a major obstacle in the river should yield results.
Moose Knuckle Fishing is proud to announce the formation of winter fly tying courses at Knot Just Flies in Blairstown, NJ. The two-hour sessions will be held on most Sundays (11AM to 1PM) during the winter. They will be progressive in nature, starting with the simplest Brassie, moving through the Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tail nymph. The courses will culminate in March with dry flies.
These fly tying courses are geared to the beginner and will be helpful to intermediate fly tiers as well. Though the courses will be progressive it is entirely possible to miss one and come to the next course. The textbook to follow through this course will be Charlie Craven’s, “Basic Fly Tying.” We recommend picking up a copy at Knot Just Flies once the course gets started.
I like to fish pretty aggressively. I have little regard for the safety of my flies while I am casting them into some tight spots. With this in mind, I don’t want to worry about losing a fly that took ten minutes to tie up. I need flies that are quick and easy, but will also catch fish. I came up with this pattern two years ago while I was in Telluride, CO for the winter. I was walking a stretch of the San Miguel River and noticed a strong presence of small black winter stoneflies crawling through the snow. After I tied up some up simple stones, it was my most productive fly for the rest of the time I was in Telluride. It worked great in Steamboat Springs, CO this year. The simple stone uses minimal materials and takes no time to tie up. I tied up a weighted version below; however, I also use un-weighted simple stones as well. Give it a go, and mix and match colors to satisfy your local stonefly hatch.
Hook: 12-16 1x Long Nymph
Weight: .025 Round Lead Wire
Legs: Black Goose Biots
Body: Black Superfine Dubbing
Take around 10 wraps of lead wire around the front third of the fly. Secure the lead wire with thread wraps.
Work your thread to the back of the hook shank, and tie in your first set of goose biots. Make sure the goose biots cup away from each other.
Apply dubbing and work your thread to just behind the lead wire base.
Tie in your next set of goose biots, cupped away from each other.
Apply dubbing to the thorax portion of the fly. I use a little more dubbing to build up the body.
Tie in your final set of goose biots, trim the excess, and whip finish. That’s it!
I am big believer of throwing flies that are different from what everyone else is throwing. Fish are wise and will educate themselves to a size 14 Adams quickly. Well, the Vladi Worm is a completely different and unique fly. It was founded in Poland by Vladi Trzebunia, who 20 years ago compiled more points in the World Fly Fishing Championships then three national teams combined. Vladi has tutored many famous American fly fishermen, such as Jackson Hole’s Jack Dennis, as well as many American national fly-fishing teams.
About three years ago, anytime I would fish, I would rig this fly up. As I have gotten away from tight line nymphing, this fly has taken a back seat in my fly box. I don’t think I even tied the Vladi Worm onto the end of my line all of last year. That all changed about a two weeks ago when Zach and I hit up the West Branch of the Ausable during very high water. My first choice was for streamers but the high water and tight pockets kept leading to missed swipes from the trout. I needed to get down the water column very quickly. The correct choice was for tight line nymphing. I re-rigged, tied on Vladi Worm as my anchor fly, and crushed it while many other anglers watched in frustration. The Vladi Worm will catch trout anywhere, period. If you fly fish for pure numbers, then this fly should be your go to fly. The Vladi Worm is heavily weighted and designed for short casts with little to no false casting. The fly rides hook point up, bounces of any rock or obstruction, and will rarely get caught up. This is one of my confidence flies that I know will catch trout anywhere, and I will always have a few in my fly box.
Hook: Daichi 1870 Swimming Larva Size 6
Weight: .025 Round Lead Wire
Thread: Pink 210 Danville
Ribbing: 4x Monofilament
Flash: Pearl Magic Shrimp Foil
Body: Pink Crown Latex Condom
Place hook into your vice and wrap two layers of lead wire at the back hook bend.
Start your thread at the front of the hook and continue to wrap over all the lead wire so that there is a nice thread layer down.
Tie in your monofilament, shrimp foil, and latex material. When working with the condom, start with one condom and then cut it in half. Take one of those halves and cut it in half again. You can use one condom to make four Vladi Worms.
Take you tying thread to the front of the hook. Begin wrapping your latex up to the front of the hook. When you get there, take two thread wraps around the latex. Then wrap the latex all the way to the back of the hook again.
Pull your shrimp foil forward and secure at the the fron of the hook.
Wrap the latex material back to the front of the hook one last time, covering the shrimp foil. Secure latex at the front of the hook. Cut off excess, latex and shrimp foil.
Take your monofilament and begin wrapping the ribbing all the way to the front of the hook. Try and pull pretty tight on the mono to create the ribbing effect. Secure at front, clip excess, and take a few whip finishes to finish!
Note: We did not invent this pattern; it has been pieced together from various popper and ocean shrimp patterns I have seen over the years. It is unique enough that we will claim credit to the Bass Popper version being fished in Warren and Sussex County, NJ.
Umpqua U301 SZ4
Ultra Thread FL. Fire Orange 210
Krystal Flash Olive
3MM Yellow Foam
1MM Orange Foam
Estaz Opalescent White
Red or Orange Hackle
Zap A Gap
1/8 Flat Eyes
Essie 825 Hip-Anema
Step 1 – Creating the Tail:
During May and June Bass begin to feed upon top water poppers. For a Trout fisherman this is equivalent to the hopper season, when huge Trout gobble ungainly foam hoppers whole. The bucket mouths will emerge from below to grab a popper at such speed you will see an underwater wake racing towards your popper. The tail creates life like action to mimic an amphibian racing across the surface of the water.
Start the thread right before the hook bend; cover a small area with the thread to create a base for the tail.
Select the Yellow Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the base you created in the previous step. The tail should be 1 and ½ times the length of the hook shank.
Step 1 C:
Select four pieces of Crystal Flash, place along the tail on one side of the hook shank, loop the strands around the top of the shank and run along the other side of the hook shank. Trim to match the length of the tail, be careful not to cut the bucktail.
Step 1 D:
Select the Green Bucktail, cut a pinch of hair fibers (around 25), and tie in on top of the Yellow Bucktail. Align to the existing tail length. Remember to always cut the butt end of the fibers off at a 45-degree angle; this makes it easier to cover with thread.
Step 1 E:
Tie in four more pieces of Crystal Flash in manner similar to my description in Step 1 C.
Step 2 – Building the Body
The concept for the body on this fly comes from a shrimp popper pattern Captain Daniel Andrews handed Brenton on our guided trip while staying at Sanibel Island. The shrimp in the bay will hop along the surface of the water especially to avoid predators. This is the same popping sound that entices Bass to strike.
Step 2 A (prepping the foam):
First you need to pre-cut a piece if yellow foam, then the orange foam. Yellow serves as the belly, orange as an indicator for your ability to detect a strike while floating on the water surface. Yellow foam should be 1-½ inches long by ½ inch wide. The orange foam should be trimmed to ¾ inch long and ½ inch wide. Now your foam is ready for attachment to the body.
Step 2 B (Tying in the body components):
Prepare the tie in area by wrapping thread over the butt ends of the Bucktail, work up and down the tail mound a few times to make an even though sloping surface.
Step 2 C (Tying in the body components):
Pick up your piece of yellow foam; hold the piece on top of the shank, and slide the foam down so only a small portion is on covering the base area you just created. Begin to tie the foam in tightly over the tail mound of thread, to tie on, pinch the foam around the shank making it create a U shape. This action will ease getting your initial wraps in place. Tie in and cover evenly, leave a tiny area at the back of the mound without thread so you will be able to roll the foam over in later steps.
Step 2 D (Tying in the body components):
Now take the Estaz and cut an eight-inch piece. Tie this piece in on at the tail end of the mount we just created with the foam. Cover the butt piece completely. Now wrap a base layer of thread forward to one hook eye from the hook eye. This prevents slippage and allows you to evenly wrap the estaz forward up the shank. Once you have wrapped the Estaz up the shank, tie off and cut excess one hook eye’s distance from the hook eye.
Step 2 E (Tying in the body components):
Now pinch the overhanging piece of foam between your thumb and forefinger. Flip it up, over the tie in point towards the hook eye where the thread is hanging. In the same manner that you secured it to the shank in Step 3 B, secure it at the front tie in point. Try not to crowd the hook eye, as there are additional components that need to be added.
Step 3 – The Head
I like to give the fly a lifelike appearance, closely modeling it after a live amphibian that the bass are seeing in the pond or lake you are fishing. Does this really matter? The jury is still out on that; Bass strike mainly for the sound and movement. Its similar to the Trout fly concept of size first, shape of flies next and then color last. Adding the lifelike features helps me as an angler to visualize a strike. That being said, you can build a Bass popper out of a 1-inch PVC pipe filled with BBs with a treble hook attached. Bass are not going to give you an award for the most life like fly. As opposed to Trout, Bass are consumed with a fear of missing their next meal.
Step 3 A:
Flip the popper upside down in the vice, being careful as to not allow your handy work to unwind. Pinch 10 to 15 fibers in your thumb and forefinger. Tie in at the front point where we pinched the foam in. Optimally you will create a fanned out beard for the popper. Once you have secured, trim the excess butt end fiber crowding the hook eye.
Step 3 B:
Now we will secure the orange indicator foam. This foam serves two purposes first as an indicator and secondly a surface for water to flip up against and make the popping or splashing to woo the Bass. Align the front of the foam with the front of the yellow foam, the yellow foam will stick out (trimmed later). Pinch and wrap in through the same band as they yellow foam. Use Zap a Gap to glue the orange foam’s shank end against the yellow foam. Do not glue the front end of the foam.
Step 3 C:
Trim the front foam, what we will refer to as the “mouth” equal to each other.
Step 4 – Finishing Touches
Now that the primary components of making the popper look life like are complete we can move onto the finishing touches.
Step 4 A:
Whip finish the fly by lifting up the foam and completing the four wraps right behind the eye of the hook.
Step 4 B:
Take two flat eyes and gently stick them to the top of the orange foam.
Step 4 C:
Use the Essie nail polish. Paint a mouth between the yellow and orange foam. This resembles one of Fred Arbogast’s Hula Poppers or a frog with its mouth wide open.
How to Fish A Popper
Bass aggressively attack poppers, they fear missing a tasty morsel of food. Try to limit false casting of these large flies, two to three false casts should be enough force to fire them out there. Use the double- hauling technique to give the cast more power.
Look for dark spots in the water and breaks in the weeds, don’t line the fish, instead, cast in a way that allows you to pull along the edge of the coloration changes.
The popper will land with a hard splash; let it sit for a minute until the ripples are gone. Then begin retrieving with two-inch jerk strips. Between every strip, allow the ripples to dissipate. If a Bass is coming at it, don’t stop stripping maintain the same retrieve speed. If she wants it, she will get it!
If you are unable to entice any strikes or interest attempt a different retrieve. For example, sometimes the Bass will attack a continuous slow retrieve. The key is to experiment and figure out where the Bass are hiding.
Mark Beardmore introduced us (MKFF) to Sanibel Island in 2012 for his thirtieth birthday celebrations. These days, the twenties are merely an extension of your teen years with money and more alcohol. As opposed to the twenty-first birthday, the thirtieth is the true adult milestone. That being said, we are gearing up to fish and party island style at the end of April.
Snook can be sight fished off of the beach while in season; this requires an “ocean style” delicate presentation. Using a heavier fly like the Clouser will splash and risk spooking your prey. The Schminnow will catch the sunlight and float high in the water, enticing predator fish to attack!
Mustad Signature S71SZ-34007
White Danville Flat Wax Nylon
Black Mono Eyes – Medium
Estaz Opalescent White
The fly is relatively simple to tie and finishes strong out on the Gulf Coast of Florida. It is a general attractor pattern, not mimicking any specific baitfish and necessary in any Fly Fisherman’s arsenal. Norm designated it the Schminnow to indicate the pattern is part shrimp and part minnow. Another variation of this fly is with dumbbell eyes, the weight allows it to pursue species that live deeper in the water column.
Place the hook in your vice. Attach the thread behind the hook eye; try not to crowd the eye. Build a smooth base as you wrap down the hook shank. I stop just at the barn in order to tie in the White Marabou tail.
Tie in the Marabou tail, use four or five wraps of thread, and leave about ¼ inch more than a hook shank’s length of tail. In a later step we will clip the tail. The clipping of the tail to length allows the life like breathing and flexing, during strip retrieve, which truly appears as a wounded baitfish to Snook.
Clip off the excess Marabou stem forward on the hook shank, at an angle, allowing you to evenly wrap it down with thread. Now wrap back to the barb, tie in the tag end of a five-inch length of Estaz. Wrap your thread forward to the tie in point behind the hook eye.
Create a small thread bump about an eye’s length behind your tie in point. Attach the mono eyes with a series of cross wraps, circle wrap under the eyes in order to stabilize the structure. Add a few turns in front and back for good measure; check that the eyes are stable before moving onto the next step.
Evenly wrap the Estaz around the shank, creating body, until you stop just behind the eyes. Tie off the Estaz and cut off excess. Whip finish in front of the eyes.
Using a good pair of scissors, grasp the excess Marabou (over a shank length) in your hand and trim off the excess.
Look for more of our Sanibel Island Diaries series.
A very simple fly to tie, the Brassie is a requisite in your arsenal for opening day fishing exploits. Tied in the small size I demonstrate here (sz 20), it imitates a midge. You can adjust the pattern to mimic a Caddis Larva as well. The Brassie is effective due to the copper wire weighting down the fly to where the fish are feeding on its own. Further, this is my favorite dropper as it stays down but will not pull the lead fly down.
Mustad – Nymph Sproat – Size 20
Black Ultra Thread 70
Copper Ultra Wire
Black Rabbit Dubbing
Carefully place your hook in the vise. You can de barb the hook at this point. I do not go through the hassle for such a small hook, any bit of hold you can maintain on the Trout’s jaw is worth it.
Start your thread an eye width’s behind the eye. Careful not to crowd in this step as you will need to dub and whip finish later. Work the thread down the shaft to the hook bend and then back to your starting point. This creates a base layer and prevents the copper wire from slipping later.
Now we tie in the wire. I like to start with the wire partially perpendicular, underneath the hook eye and wedge it in there good with a few turns. Then pull back the tag end under the wrappings you just created, this will make a nice, clean starting point.
Wrap your thread down the shaft and back up to your tie in point. This creates a firm base with which we wind the wire up the shaft back to the tie in point.
Wind the wire in tight wraps back up to just before the tie in point. Make four twists of thread over the tag end of the wire. Helicopter the tag end off and locate your dubbing.
Apply as small amount of dubbing to the thread and twist. Do not apply too much, this is after all a size 20 hook. You can always add more dubbing later, it is more difficult to remove once applied. Some tiers will change the color of the dubbing, a red head looks neat.
Finish dubbing and whip finish in front of the dubbing. If you spaced your tie in part properly, there will be room to get in four turns. Be careful and do not mash your dubbing.
Opening day in New Jersey is next weekend. I plan on deploying this pattern in my nymph rig outs first thing in the morning. The Brassie is both easy to tie and highly effective at any time of the year. When fish are not taking the nymphs you are presenting, it generally means they are too big. Downsize, get the fly down deep and try again!