Top 10 Trout Flies For The American West

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He was planning on traveling around Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Montana this summer and his goal was to put together a selection of flies that would allow him to catch fish on every river. After setting him up with a fairly comprehensive selection of dries, terrestrials, nymphs and streamers, we started debating what the 10 best patterns are to cover all types of western trout water. We assumed you could fish the same pattern in different colors and sizes which I guess makes it a lot more then 10 patterns, but anyway this is what we came up with. Let us know what you think and send us your top 10!

#10- The Hair Sculpin
The Hair Sculpin is an awesome streamer. It moves, it can be tied in all different colors and sizes and most importantly it catches fish. You can throw it on a sink tip and fish it deep in lakes or my favorite, bounce it off the shore from a boat. It’s good liven.

#9- The Panty Dropper Hopper
The name alone makes this fly awesome. It comes in various colors and sizes and its got very realistic looking legs. If you fish anywhere that has hoppers, the Panty Dropper will get the job done.

#8- Zebra Midge
Go to any tailwater and generally on the “Hot Flies” list in the local fly shop is a Zebra Midges. They are super simple to tie and best of all they work. You can tie them in any color and size you want from a miniscule #28 to a #12.

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A Goodbye To Winter

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By Johnny Spillane


I have been standing in 38 degree water for almost 4 hours, the temperature is 15 degrees and the wind-chill is brutal. My fingers stopped working a while ago; the upper legs on my waders are frozen solid and I’m struggling hard to tie on a size 26 midge. Why the hell am I still out here? I’m here because fish are rising. Everywhere.

Here in Steamboat Springs CO, we fish year round, rain or shine and some of the best fishing can be during the winter, especially in March and April. While countless people are buckling into their skis, the few hardy folks that brave the elements are having the time of their lives with a fly rod. Fishing during the winter is a different experience then what we are generally used to. During the summers, we get away with 3x and big stoneflies, but the winter is a whole different ball game. Midges and fine tippet are on the menu, with the tippet size sometimes being more important than the actual fly.

During the winter, we get folks that call in looking for a guided trip based on the weather. I often get asked to check the weather report and look for the warmest, sunniest day of that week. High sun+winter conditions=tough fishing. As soon as the sun comes out, the fishing gets tough. We want those overcast days when it’s slightly snowing because the fish are much less spooky and more prone to rise. If it is sunny, the fish might move onto the sandy spots and you can sight fish for them fairly easily, but you generally will be

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The Original Eyewear For The Flats

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Bonefish are just cool. They never cease to amaze me.

Like all fish, they are perfectly adapted to their environment and in their environment you need a competitive edge. Right in the middle of the food chain, the bonefish has to get in, get fed, and get out in a hurry, before he becomes somebody else’s lunch. To do that, he needs keen eyesight, a hard nose, a turbo charged tail stroke and some high-tech eye wear. I handled hundreds of bones before I ever noticed the eye glass, and a few more before I captured a good photo of it. It’s so clear and flawless that the light and the angle you look at the fish need to be just right to see it. It is a slick outer lens that covers a good portion of the bonefishes face and encapsulates it’s eye. If you study it’s profile you will see that it turns the bonefish’s already sleek profile into a perfectly hydrodynamic projectile. The equivalent of cycle racers shaving their legs.

No doubt, this aids in the bone’s remarkable speed, but that’s just part of the story. The eyeglass serves a much larger purpose. The bonefish has a fairly unique style of feeding. When he spots a crab or a shrimp and makes his charge his prey seeks cover in the coral, or deep in the mud or sand bottom. The bonefish gives chase by

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The Albright Knot

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The Albright Knot is a great knot for attaching a metal bite tippet to your leader.

It can also be used to attach the leader to the fly line or any time you are attaching materials of very different size or stiffness. Here’s Capt. Joel Dickey, in the last of his three part series on better salt water knots, to teach you the Albright Knot.


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How hard is your guide working for you?

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Jeff Hickman ran into a little problem while guiding Nate DeVol on the Deschutes River in Oregon. Jeff put Nate on a sweet run where he’d been finding steelhead. A great run for Jeff (6’4″) but a good swim for Nate (5’3″). Rather than give up on a good run Jeff went “Master Blaster” putting Nate on his shoulders and waded the run for him.

It was the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen a guide do and I can’t believe no one took a bath. The Deschutes can be a tough wade without a guy on your shoulders. According to Jeff it wasn’t too bad, except for that angry Chap Stick Nate was carrying in his pocket.

I wish Nate had gotten a fish because that would be an awesome hero shot. Can somebody please nominate this man for guide of the year?

If you’ve got a good story about something crazy a guide did for you, or you did for a client, please post a comment. We’d love to hear it.

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The Borg Don’t Fish

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But my childhood in a small Virginia town in the 1960s was not the long haired, free love, groovey sixties that phrase brings to mind. Mine was the nerdy, plastic rim glasses, popular science sixties. In 1966 when Star Trek warped onto national TV I knew my people had arrived. I spent hours forcing my young hand into a Vulcan salute and cemented my outsider status by showing up at school wearing pointy ears cut from flesh colored peel-and-stick Dr Shoals felt shoe inserts. Yep, that was me.

When Captain Kirk and Mr Spock hung up their phasers I grudgingly followed along with Picard and Richer but it was never the same. Data never went into a homicidal mating rage and Worf was a sad excuse for a Klingon but it was the Star Trek of the day. My grousing stopped however, the day I encountered the Borg. Star Trek T.N.G. Reached into the bag of old school Star Trek tricks and came out with the greatest outer space boogie man of all time.

If you recently escaped from North Korea and the iron hand of communism I’ll excuse you for not knowing about the Borg. You can read about them (HERE).

This terrifying new enemy wipes out entire species, not by destroying them but by assimilating them. Making them into Borg. The Borg exist as cybernetic organisms. Half alive, half machine. Their neural implants connect them all in a hive like consciousness. This makes them a handful in a fight.

The creepy gray skin and tubes are very Gigeresk and the loosing ones individuality is a classic Star Trek threat, but none of that is what makes The Borg frightening. What’s scary is Star Treks amazingly consistent record of predicting the actual future. They’ve gotten enough right (talking computers, smart phones and 3D printers for a few) that I’m afraid they might be right again. We may be the Borg.

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How to Stop the Dreaded Fly Fishing Birds Nest

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Does this look familiar?

Just about every angler has created this tangled artwork at some point, some more than others. I’m pretty good at untangling knots because I get more practice than the average angler from my guiding, but even this one required me to break out a fresh leader and completely re-rig. If you find yourself untangling knots more than you’re fishing, try fixing the problem by following these five helpful tips.

1. Watch your forward cast and backcast when false casting.
“In the film A River Runs Through It”, Jerry Siem (one of the casting stuntmen) never watched his backcast. It’s important to note that his fly casting skill level ranks among the best in the world, which allowed him to get away without doing this. It’s also pertinent to point out he was casting a single dry fly in the movie scene, not a tandem nymph rig with split-shot and a strike indicator. Could he have made the same casts in the movie with a tandem nymph rig without tangles, of course he could, but that doesn’t mean every other angler out there should try to mimic him. The majority of the best casters in the world watch their backcast, especially when they’re fly fishing in areas where casting room is limited. Your first step to limiting the number of tangles you create on the river is to watch your forward and backcast diligently. Your timing will be better, you’ll find you won’t need to make as many false casts, and you’ll keep your flies out of the trees and bushes.

2. Cast with grace, not with power and muscle.
Many fly anglers out there cast their fly rod much harder than they need to. So hard in many cases, that they end up overloading the rod and also get a out of control sling shot effect with their flies. Let your fly rod do the work by executing a smooth pick up of the fly line starting at the 8 o’clock position (rod tip close to the water), then begin loading the rod by smoothly accelerating the fly rod between ten o’clock and 12 o’clock. Make sure you’re stopping your rod quickly for both your forward cast and backcast, not slowing down to a stop. This will have your fly rod stopping at its fastest point at the end of the casting stroke, which will transfer your power effectively from the fly rod down through your fly line. Focusing on these casting mechanics will help you cast more graceful, and you’ll find it much easier to keep your fly rod traveling in a straight line path, and that will allow you to form efficient loops. Slow down and don’t rush your cast either. Left Kreh, is one of the best fly casters in the world at demonstrating how to make a graceful cast to get the most power out of a fly rod. If you want to see what I’m talking about just search him on YouTube.

3. Make sure you’re pausing long enough in between casts.
So you’ve managed to accomplish the first two steps with ease, but as you work out more fly line that’s needed for longer presentations, you begin to feel your fly cast falling apart. Chances are, if this is happening to you, it’s because you’re not lengthening your pause between casts as you work out more fly line

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Organizing Your Bonefish Fly Box Makes For A Better Day Of Fishing

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I’ve found myself, more than once, staring into my fly box as if I’d wandered to the refrigerator in the middle of the night, with no idea why I was there. That’s fine, unless you’re surrounded by feeding bonefish and your guide is wailing in tongues. Even if your not under pressure to make a quick fly choice, having your flies organized in a logical fashion will help you choose the right fly for the conditions and that means catching more fish. Here are some tips on how I organize my bonefish box and how I use that organization to make better fly choices.

Keep It Simple
Bonefishing is not generally a match-the-hatch situation. Bonefish are highly opportunistic and presentation usually trumps pattern. I know guys that carry a thousand flies on the flats boat. They might fish three of them in a day. I keep it to one box. I probably cram a hundred flies into it but that one box has everything I need.

Making Smart Choices
When paring down your fly selection it’s important to understand

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Camera grip

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Most people never stop to think about it, but I remember being taught in school the proper grip for a camera. First off, all SLRs are right handed. If you’re left- handed, you will just have to get used to it. To properly support the camera, your left hand should be positioned palm-up and level and the camera — whether oriented horizontally or vertically — rests in your palm. Your left thumb and index finger curl up to the lens to operate zoom and focus features. Most cameras have an ergonomic grip on the right side that leaves your index finger ready for the shutter release, and thumb free for the adjustment wheel. Let the left hand support the weight of the camera. With large telephoto lenses it may be necessary to move your left hand forward under the lens for balance. With a good grip you

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Bring Enough Line Holder

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By Louis Cahill

I got to feeling nostalgic the other day and it bit me in the ass.

Last week Jason Tucker and I slipped out for a little small stream fly fishing. Our destination was a little mountain gem I have fished for more than twenty years. As pretty a stream as you’ll find anywhere and full of wild trout. Like most streams this size, it offers an average fish size of eight to ten inches. While those little guys are beautiful, fun, and no pushovers, anyone who has devoted serious time to this stream knows there are much bigger fish lurking there. Every now and then a skilled angler will tangle with fish over twenty inches. You have to be good and lucky but they’re there.

Those of you who follow closely know that I am still recovering from multiple surgeries and am really just getting my boots wet for the first time in well over a year. I’m still not too sure on my feet and have just been enjoying getting out with friends and not putting much pressure on myself to perform, which is honestly pretty awesome. I had a new line I wanted to try out and, not being sure how I’d like it, I scrounged around for an empty reel to put it on, rather than strip off my trusted four weight line. 

I came across an old classic click and pawl reel I haven’t fished in decades. I got to thinking about all the fish I’d put on that reel in the years I fished it hard. Back when I was fishing exclusively homemade bamboo rods, I used old classic reels like this one, many of them handed down. This was the first one I bought for myself. Maybe my first significant fly gear purchase. It’s a great old reel. An Orvis Battenkill from the old days, with plenty of life left in it. A simple trout reel with click and pawl drag. Plenty of reel for eight to ten inch fish, right? I’m guessing you can see where this is headed.


I’m sure you’ve heard that plenty of times. Maybe you’ve even said it.

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