Thursday, December 16, 2010

Effective PT Nymph Variant Pattern

While we're on the subject, here is a very productive Pheasant Tail variant: The PM Stone.

A buddy of mine showed me this pattern as he demolished pink salmon after pink salmon at the Baptism one afternoon while I was resigned to playing tiddly-winks for lack of better things to do.

I've subsequently caught everything from panfish to inland trout, to steelhead & chinook/coho salmon on this pattern. Just size the hook/fly appropriately to species. Where legal such as on the Brule, this fly makes an absolutely deadly dropper.

Pattern illustrated was tied for salmon on a #10 TMC 2457 with 0.025 lead wire under the thorax & no bead.
Click Photo for Larger Image

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 lead 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
Thorax: 2-4 long Peacock Herl barbs
Shellback/Wing Pad: 8-10 Rooster Pheasant barbs
Gills: 8-10 Rooster Pheasant barbs split

Quick note regarding this pattern - If you use quality Peacock Herl and Pheasant tail, you can tie this fly with just 8 Pheasant Tail Barbs, and 2-4 Peacock Herl

Slip on the bead (optional) & wind a thread underbody from bead to tail. A tail-bump isn't critical but it helps.

Tie in the pheasant tail barbs using appropropriate proportioning but do not cut them, then tie in the wire. On smaller flies, electrical wire stripped out of the insulation from defunct christmas tree light strands or earbud style headphones is the greatest thing since sliced bread. (Save the remaining for brassies etc.)

Stroke the pheasant barbs back over the tail and put a wrap over the bend to hold them down & back. This will simply slide forward once you complete the next step. 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. I like doing it before the tail, but that's just me...

Now 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.

Pull the pheasant tail barb tag up and over the top of the peacock to make a shellback over the top of the abdomen (the back). Tie this off with 1-2 wraps at the back of the thorax area. Bind the entire pheasant tail/peacock abdomen together by palmering the wire rib forward and in the opposite direction you wrapped the peacock herl. This makes 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 back and out of the way.

Take the remaining tag ends of the peacock, & wrap them forward to form a thorax & tie off.

Note: Using lead wire not only helps to get your fly down and keep it in the strike zone, but also makes a great abdomen underbody and better fly profile. You can substitute non-toxic wire, chenille or floss to build up this profile if you prefer. Once this is tied in, cover it with the remaining peacock tags as in the step above. If you don't have enough, tie in an additional 1-2 herls. This is where quality herl pays off, it breaks less and it's very bulky after it flares.

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) & 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 a rooster tail will allow you to tie the entire fly with the same 8 barbs you used for the tail of the fly.

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

I know this reads/sounds like a huge pain, but it really is a quick and simple pattern to tie once you get the mechanics and order down. Not to mention steelhead really like this fly once the water gets warmer, clearer and skinny.

Here are a couple other PT Variant Patterns just for comparison. Both utilize traditional PT abdomens but substitute red wire and soft partridge hackle collars for the gills/legs. The pink thorax pattern is ostritch herl tied on a Mustad R70, the green is chartreuse sparkle dub tied on a TMC 2457 using a dubbing loop. Both are stained water patterns that have worked well on North Shore loopers, steelhead and pink salmon:

Click Photo for Larger Image

Click Photo for Larger Image

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

What are you doing in the "Off Season"

As NMF stated in the previous post, the off season is a great time to go through your gear and review your notes. The mapping info he has provided is also a terrific plan and I strongly recommend following his lead.  Having a good grasp on the water you will fish is essential for increasing your likelihood of  an excursion with fish on the end of your line.

This time of year is also a great time to start tying flies or if you do not, maybe start giving it some serious thought.  If you are like several of us here at MS, you not only fish, you also do a bit of hunting.  Personally, I enjoy a few weekends each year out in the prairies of South Dakota pursuing the clever Ringnecks that have been in wonderful abundance over the past decade.  This passion is mostly due to my inherent love of the outdoors and the joy of upland hunting that started in my youth,  though the camaraderie with buddies, enjoying great table fair and the collection of an endless supply of tying materials is not without mention.

If you are a Steelheader new to tying, you will will soon discover that nymphs are a mainstay in most serious Steelheader's fly box.  I have several favorites that fill my nymph box.  The more popular are variations of the Pheasant tail nymph.  I usually have this fly in a few sizes, colors and styles though most are simply the standard pattern.  

There are three reasons why this pattern continues to be a mainstay in my fly box after 25 years.  First, the fly catches fish, period!  Steelhead, browns, brookie, coho and even pinks with take this scrumptious fly.  For steelies I usually start bringing them out once the water warms and clears up a bit.  Typically this is a later season fly for me.  The second reason is that it is a simply fly to tie.  I am not one to sit and tie flies because I love to tie, I tie for my box.  The pheasant tail nymph is a quick tie and can be mastered with little frustration as long as you have good materials.  This leads me to my third reason - Materials.  Materials for the Pheasant tail nymph are composed of about 80% Rooster Pheasant tail.  As a Pheasant hunter, you should be able to get more than enough tails for you and all of your buddies.  If you shooting is off, I bet you can get tails from one of your hunting buddies. I usually take the whole tail sections home with me.  Once home I can sort through the bunch and discard any that may be damaged or not to my liking.  I find the longer the barbs on the tail, the better.  You can find a recipe for tying the pheasant tail nymph on our website.

The picture above was taken this past Saturday after a snow storm blew through my favorite area west of Huron, SD.  You can still see the residual wind still moving snow.  Needless to say this did not hamper the hunting and we have pheasant tails for another season of fly tying.   

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Map Magic

Now that everything is locked up in ice until spring, all we can do is dream about the tribs opening up again. But there are some important things you can do to get ready for next spring's runs. There are all the usual tasks: Wiping down rods, cleaning ferrule joints, swabbing guides, cleaning reels and backing down drags, cleaning line, repairing waders etc. All important tasks because North Shore tribs and the sediment they carry are heck on equipment.

Then there are things like restocking the fly-boxes, making leaders or slinkies, tying spawn... If you're like me, the vest finally gets pulled out of the trunk and gets a once-over. My vest is usually an atrocious collection of debris and junk come November that takes hours to sort out, having been piled into the car in late March and staying there until freeze-up. Even simple things like waxing a stubborn zipper can save you from big headaches later on.

I also like to go back over notes I've made so that I can do some winter scouting. Now I'm not talking about strapping on snowshoes and walking the streams (although that can be really enjoyable), I'm talking about using some simple but effective tools to put together plans for next year.

Some of the best at-home tools available to you come in the form of aerial/sattelite photos available from a number of sources. Three very good ones are: Google, Yahoo and the MN DNR aerial imagery although there are many others. It's always good to look at multiple sources due to the vagaries of this type of imagery. Sometimes the sun angle is bad causing bright reflections that obscure stream features, sometimes the time of year the imagery was captured means too much overhead cover in the form of tree canopy which hides the stream etc; but usually you can find a suitable image to create your own custom tributary map library.

Now there are tons of free apps out there available to create this kind of imagery, but I'm going to show you a relatively simple method that only requires MS Paint to pull off (sorry everyone, I'm not much of a MAC guy not having access to one).

So here's the basic method, I'll use Google imagery as the example:

First open up MS Paint. Now click on the “Select” icon (highlighted by the red circle). This allows you complete the third step.

Step two- Open up your browser, go to Google and hit the "Maps" link on the top left part of the screen. If you stay on the “Street Map” selection, navigation and zoom is quicker than immediately selecting “Satellite Imagery”. You can also navigate to an area by typing in a name. Sometimes typing a town in the search box close to the river you want works better than typing the river name itself, just depends on the search engine’s base map. Once you’ve found your trib, select “Satellite Imagery”, then zoom in so you can see the finer details of the area you’re interested in. Some key types of features you should be looking for are: Barrier falls, ledges, riffle sections, gravel stretches or larger holes. If you want to view a larger area on your screen, hitting the F11 button on your keyboard will hide the search bar and increase the viewing area. To view the search bar again, just hit F11 again and it will drop back into place.

Step three- While pressing the “Alt” key (next to the space bar), press the “Print Screen” button above the numeric pad on your keyboard (Alt+Print Screen). Next, toggle back to Paint and making sure the “Select” button has been pressed, click once anywhere in the paint area with your cursor then press the “Ctrl” and “V” keys (Ctrl+V). This will paste your screen shot from the satellite imagery into Paint. From there you can use the simple tools in Paint to highlight areas you are interested in like in the example below (Click photo for larger image):

Notice I’ve done some simple highlighting. The red circles are falls and the yellow box is a gravel section. If you use Google “My Maps”, any information you call up: Distance Measurements, GPS Coordinates, Topographic Information etc., will also be transferred to your map in Paint. The possibilities are endless but basically you can customize the map any way you want.

If you want to make larger maps, you can make your own mosaics by opening up a second Paint window, pasting the new imagery there, then copying it to your original by edge-matching the photos. The only thing you’ll need to do when making large mosaics is to expand the original blank Paint window BEFORE you start by resizing it under the “Image” button.

Usually 500% resizing in both Vertical/Horizontal will cover just about any size map mosaic you want to make. After that you just need to paste in your imagery, save it to file and that’s it. The image below is the Adult/Juvenile trap on the Knife and demostrates the quality of map you can produce (Click photo for larger image):

What’s really useful is that you can scout new streams you’ve never fished before. This allows you to get a good idea of what areas to start with on your first trip. You can also pick out features of familiar streams and areas to target on future trips, customize your maps with all sorts of information, and even e-mail them to fishing friends. The possibilities are varied and nearly endless, so give it a whirl.

Regards and Good Fishing-