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Fly Tying Vid: Brindle Cripple

Posted on March 4th, 2021 in Fly Tying Videos

Brindle Cripple

The Brindle Cripple is becoming a favorite bug on the Yellowstone and Stillwater Rivers in September, when it imitates Mahoganies, Tan Drakes, and probably even small grasshoppers. It floats low but well, and it’s easy to see.

Top Missouri River Nymphs in March

Posted on March 4th, 2021 in Fishing Tips

Intro to Top Missouri River Nymphs in March

Late winter and early spring are “pink season” on the Missouri. Top Missouri River nymphs in March are almost all pink. Whether the fish are taking these assorted pink bugs as eggs or dead scuds and sowbugs probably depends on the specific fish. Nonetheless, they work. The key is generally getting them down. These flies should be ticking bottom just on the edge of the current seam in 5-8 feet of water in slow walking-speed runs.

Rainbow Czech Nymph

rainbow czech nymph

Rainbow Czech Nymph

This is a great multipurpose nymph that can look like a sowbug, scud, egg, or even a caddis larva. Also try it with the bead replaced with a fluorescent flame “fire bead.” Another good similar pattern is the AMEX, which basically just swaps the abdomen and thorax colors around and replaces the shellback with a tinsel wingcase over the thorax alone.

  • Hook: #12-18 scud. Note that you can also tie this fly as a “jig nymph” with the proper hooks and beads.
  • Bead: gold brass or tungsten
  • Thread: 6/0-8/0 black, pink, or tan.
  • Shellback: clear scud back.
  • Rib: black wire or midge/micro tubing.
  • Abdomen: Wapsi rainbow sow-scud dubbing (note that the Wapsi product is far better than others for this fly).
  • Hotspot/Thorax: Bighorn pink sow-scud dubbing, or other hot pink dubbing.
  • Head: one or two turns of rainbow sow-scud dubbing.

Pink Firebead Soft Hackle Sowbug

soft hackle sowbug

Pink Soft Hackle Sowbug

Various bright pink sow/scud patterns are always favorites on the Missouri at this time, and some get surprisingly complicated. Most years, I do better by following the KISS rule. You’ll use up a lot of firebead flies, mostly because the beads get banged up and lose their effectiveness, and it’s easy to fill your box with this pattern. Experiment with different shades of pink on the body (I typically carry four subtle shades) and tie some of each with light dun and some with cream or white hackle.

  • Hook: #16-18 short shank nymph.
  • Bead: fluorescent fire orange brass or tungsten “fire bead.”
  • Thread: fluorescent fire orange 8/0
  • Body: pink dubbing blend.
  • Hackle: one or two turns of light dun, cream, or white hen.

Pink Lightning Bug

pink lightning bug

Pink Lightning Bug

This one likely crosses over between eggs, scuds, and Blue-winged Olive mayfly nymphs. There are many competing variations of this fly. I’ve given the recipe for the one I use the most. Don’t hesitate to experiment with different tail materials, bead colors, metallic or translucent pink body materials, and dubbing blends for the thorax.

  • Hook: #16-18 scud.
  • Bead: nickel brass or tungsten.
  • Thread: hot pink 8/0.
  • Tail: A few strands of shell pink Antron yarn, or similar yarn.
  • Abdomen: pink Holographic Flashabou.
  • Rib: extra small red Ultra Wire.
  • Wing Case: tag ends of abdomen Flashabou.
  • Thorax: pale pink dubbing blend

Baby Whitefish Kreelex Streamer Fly Tying Video

Posted on March 4th, 2021 in Fly Tying Videos

This version of Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex is a fun one to fish in spring and fall when the big fish are aggressive. While some other colors probably produce more fish, this one’s fun because you can almost always see the fly and therefore the strikes. It uses alternate materials than the standard Kreelex.

This is an excellent pattern in September and October in the Yellowstone area.

Pink Clacka Caddis Fly Tying Video

Posted on March 4th, 2021 in Fly Tying Videos

Pink Clacka Caddis

The pink Clacka Caddis is one of our go-to attractor dry flies in high summer, particularly when there are both tan caddis (Hydropsyche) and Yellow Sally stoneflies (Isoperla) hatching, as we feel this pattern pulls double duty. It’s particularly good when skies are bright. Other good colors are peacock/Coachman (the original), tan, olive, black, and large dark brown. #12 to #16 is the standard size range, but I tie some colors as small as #20 and as large as #10. We use these bugs a lot on our guided trips on the Boulder, Yellowstone, and Stillwater Rivers. This pattern is distributed by Catch Fly Fishing.


Hook: Standard dry, #12-16.

Thread: 6/0 or 8/0 fluorescent fire orange.

Shuck: Gold or amber Zelon or Sparkle Emerger Yarn.

Abdomen: pink dubbing blend.

Wing: Loop of polar bear Widow’s Web or similar hydrophobic poly yarn.

Hackle: Light ginger.

Thorax: pink dubbing blend with a hint of sparkle.

Newsletter for January 2021

Posted on February 7th, 2021 in Newsletters

Here’s our newsletter for January 2021. It’s a doozy…


Late Fall Yellowstone Fishing Trips

Posted on February 1st, 2021 in Fishing Tips

Introduction to October Fishing Trips in Yellowstone

Late fall begins when the first extended cold weather hits, usually around October 1. October fishing in Yellowstone is not for the faint of heart, but it is fantastic for the right anglers in the right places.

While fewer waters fish well at this time than earlier in the year, simply because most waters are already at winter-low flows and have cold water temperatures and lethargic fish to match, those that do fish well at this time fish really well.

The best waters are those that host fall-run brown trout, though nowadays we often focus on the non-spawning trout that follow the brown to eat their eggs and the bugs their spawning behavior disturbs, rather than the browns themselves, both to avoid stressing actively-spawning trout and to avoid the crowds the spawn can bring to the best areas.

That said, the largest numbers of “big brownies” are present in late fall, and unlike in late summer and early autumn it’s seldom necessary to get on the water early if you want to chase these fish.

On the other hand, the weather can be horrendous, with heavy snow and temperatures in the teens more than feasible by this late in the year. As noted above, many waters are simply too cold to fish well by October. An additional unwelcome development in recent years is massively-increased guiding and fishing pressure targeting fall browns, which is one reason we now spend more time chasing the non-migrants on brown trout rivers, since these fish fall between the cracks a bit.

Large brown trout that ate an egg fly.

Full confession: I caught this one. Despite the good fishing for large fish, business falls off in late fall. Fewer people want to visit Montana when it might be 20 degrees and snowing, I guess. I’m not alone among Montana outfitters in that I do a high percentage of my own fishing in late autumn.

Important Note on Fishing Ethically During the Brown Trout Spawn

The brown trout spawn begins around October 15. We target browns more aggressively beforehand, since we can be certain we aren’t pursuing active spawners or damaging spawning areas.

After October 15, shallow areas with fist-sized rocks and gravel and steady currents fill with brown trout that are actually settling down to make the next generation. It is unethical to fish in these spawning areas and extremely destructive towards the next generation to do so. We never fish for actively spawning brown trout on our Yellowstone guided trips.

Any guide who does so is unethical and unprofessional and does not deserve your money. If you decide to fish spawning areas on your own, expect thorough tongue-lashings from anglers who fish ethically who happen to see you doing it.

If you didn’t know better about fishing for wild actively-spawning brown trout before reading this, now you do.

There’s no reason to worry: the deep pools and turbulent boulder-bottomed water where the big browns rest on their journeys to their spawning areas hold plenty of fish right up until the park closes. These include both pre-spawn fish on their migrations and post-spawn fish that are done “doing the deed.” Rest assured you can still catch big fish without fear of stressing the active spawners.

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