Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Tying Bench - PM Stone (PT Nymph Variant)

My buddy Dan who is an Alaska State Wildlife Trooper is the one that showed me this pattern, but only after I threatened to push him in the river. He was demolishing pink salmon at the Baptism on this fly one afternoon while I, inept and ham-fisted as I am, was resigned to playing tiddly-winks for lack of better things to do. (I certainly wasn't catching fish...)

Since then I've caught quite a bit of everything on this pattern from inland trout, to steelhead & salmon. The only adjustment needed is to size the hook/fly appropriately to species. This is a killer skinny-water fly on steelhead and where legal, makes an absolutely deadly dropper.

Pattern illustrated tied on a #10 TMC 2457 with 0.025 lead wire under the thorax & no bead.

Hook: TMC 2457
Thread: Black 70-140 Denier based on fly sizing
Bead: Gold or Copper optional
Weight: 6-8 turns of 0.010-0.030 wire (optional & to size)
Tail: 8-10 Rooster Pheasant barbs from the bottom 1/2 of the tail
Abdomen: 2-4 long Peacock Herl barbs
Rib: Copper Wire to size
Thorax: 2-4 long Peacock Herl barbs
Shellback/Wing Pad: 8-10 Rooster Pheasant barbs
Gills: 8-10 Rooster Pheasant barbs split

Here's the deal, if you use quality Peacock Herl and Pheasant tail, you can tie this fly with just the 8 Pheasant Tail Barbs, and 2-4 Peacock Herl. The trick is to get the longest barbs you can find which usually means the bottom 1/3rd of a jumbo tail feather. Soaking the herl for a bit helps to make them less brittle as well for better tying.

First slip on the bead (optional). Copper seems to fish better than gold with this pattern. Now wind a thread underbody from bead to tail. A tail-bump isn't critical but it helps.

Tie in the pheasant barbs using appropropriate proportioning but do not cut them; then tie in the wire. Using speaker wire or christmas light wire stripped out of defunct light sets is the greatest thing since sliced bread on smaller flies.

Stroke the butt-ends of the pheasant barbs back over the tail and put a wrap or 2 over the bend to hold them down & out of the way. Now tie in the peacock, tips first, and wind the thread forward to the thorax area.

Note: If you are going to weight the fly with lead wire (optional), it doesn't matter when you tie it in; before the tail or after the peacock. All you need to do is make 5-7 wraps in the thorax area just behind the bead and secure it. Wrap the peacock forward to the thorax and tie off with 1-2 wraps, but DON'T cut it. Try not to twist the herl as you wrap it, it flares better if you don't. If you don't use weighting wire, use floss or some other material such as micro-chenille in black to give the thorax a nice, fat profile.

Next pull the pheasant tail barb butts up over the top of the peacock to make a shellback along the top of the abdomen, and tie off with 1-2 wraps at the back of the thorax area. Now bind the whole mess together by palmering the wire rib forward in the opposite direction you wrapped the peacock herl. This make for a very durable, clean looking fly. At this point you should again stroke the pheasant barbs back and put a wrap or 2 over the top to hold them out of the way.

Take the remaining tag ends of the peacock, & wrap them to form an abdomen & tie off.

Now pull the tag-end pheasant tail barbs up and over the peacock thorax to make a wing pad and tie off just behind the bead. Split the barbs into 2 groups (i.e. 4 barbs on each side) and pull each group down along the sides of the fly, holding it from below with your fingers. Put a couple wraps over the top to secure them. Whip-finish.

Again, quality PT barbs from the lower half of the tail will allow you to tie the entire fly with the same 8 barbs you used for the tail. If you want a fancier looking finished fly, use the pointy ends from a new set of 8 barbs instead for the gills.

Clip the remaining PT tags off about equal to the rear of the thorax to represent the gills.

I know this sounds like a huge pain to tie, but it really is a pretty simple pattern once you get the mechanics and order down.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Fall Fishing is Coming

If you haven't been paying attention, or maybe your brain is about melted from all this heat & humidity like mine is, but fall fishing is just around the corner. Browns have been coming in on select tribs & pinks have been staging in numbers off of North Shore tributaries.

What's interesting is that in a typical year, the first reports of pinks show up in the DNR summer lake creel just about a month to the day before they show up in the streams. Usually this takes place in the Grand Marais/Hovland area & around the middle of August. This year, reports of near-shore pinks started showing up around the 20th of July which is really early. That & very good numbers are being caught as far south as Two Harbors.

You'll probably get tired of hearing me say it, but fall pink fishing is a great way to get out and learn streams for spring steelheading. The fish utilize similar areas, & you're better able to spot things about individual streams you wouldn't ordinarily be able to see during high, dirty spring conditions. This can pay off big time when you are actually targeting steelhead. Plus fall is a beautiful time to be out fishing.

One item that's not so rosy is the drought status in the Arrowhead.

One of the chronic problems young steelhead face on the North Shore are low flows & near lethal to lethal summertime temperatures. It's a wonder that steelhead are able to survive at all considering the sheer number of limiting factors steelhead deal with, but they do. It's nice when flows come up at the right time in the fall, but I'd certainly trade some of that for more stable summertime stream levels; primarily for the sake of young-of-year, naturally produced fish.

At any rate, start watching flows come the last week in August, it just might be an early start to the fall runs.