Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ape's Fav Five

As previously published in Chasing Silver Magazine
British Columbia is world famous for its majestic rivers and legendary steelhead.  A truly unique fishery, B.C. is home to steelhead twelve months out of the year where they are pursued by determined anglers who brave all the accompanying elements; icy guides, subzero snow storms, rugged hiking and treacherous wading are all factors that the serious angler will endure.
Matt Moisley knows what I'm talking about.
The arrival of West-Coast steelhead tends to be most abundant as the weather begins to cool down, typically drawing the fish deeper into the pools and often times easing their aggression. To stay in the game, seasoned anglers rig up their Spey rods with sink tips, and tie obnoxious flies to help coax the fish to bite.
Brrrr.  Ape with a double striper.
I remember the first steelhead I caught on one of my own fly patterns.  The breeze was cold and fresh snow laced the felts of my wading boots.  This was my favourite time of year.  Freezing temperatures kept a majority of anglers indoors, allowing us diehards to menace the rivers in true steelhead bum fashion.
Never a huge fan of nymphing or dead drifting, I always loved the concept of swinging a fly.  By casting towards the opposite bank and allowing my fly to sweep intrusively through the current, I was able to cover a maximum amount of water.  Working my way through the run, I would envision an aggressive buck tickled by the teasing feathers of my fly before lunging forward to attack.  Every step I made felt like one step closer to an epic battle.
Working the run (Michael Davidchik photo).
I had spent the entirety of my pre-season evenings behind my vice, stocking my fly box in preparation of this much-anticipated fishery. I had always been drawn to the art of tying flies.  Such a male dominated sport, I got a kick of how incredibly feminine steelhead flies tended to look.  Popular flies with names like Showgirl and Cotton Candy, provoked me to take advantage of my creative side and display my ‘girly’ traits through my fly-tying.
Ape at the vise.
So there I stood with an overloaded fly box that looked like a foam lined candy store.  I sorted through my flies until an aesthetically pleasing pink and blue intruder variation, stood out from the rest.  I tied it on and cast it into the seam.  Half an hour later, it was “fish on” and I had landed myself a heavy wild buck. It was at that moment that my love for the feminine pink pattern secured itself as my favourite and, to this day, remains on the top of my “preferred flies” list.
A pretty typical fly seen hanging out of most of my fish's mouths.....
The beautiful thing about fly-tying is that the tyer can showcase their creativity and originality through their invented patterns.  As long as the fly appears to come to life in the water (which is the reason why Ed Ward‘s attractor pattern, the ‘Intruder‘, became such a big hit in B.C. several years ago) or is a reasonable imitation of a natural aquatic species, the tyer can create countless unique and efficient concoctions.
Different lighting and water conditions are all important variables when it comes to steelheading.  I make sure that at all times my fly box consists of a variety of flies suitable for all conditions. Dark, bright, small and big flies all have their own unique purpose. I find myself fishing dark flies when the water is murky, and bright ones when the water is clear. The size of my fly usually depends on the level of the water, however I find that typically low and clear rivers fish best with smaller patterns.
But it’s not always that simple.  Different strains of steelhead sometimes require different tactics.  Different levels of aggression, time of year, genetic build are but a few contributing factors. Some fish occasionally throw a wrench into my standard approach, keeping me on my toes.  Though you’ll never hear me complain, for it wouldn’t be fishing if it were any other way.
With this, I give you five of my favourite creations.
*I  prefer to tie most of my flies with a trailing hook.  This allows me to replace any dull or broken off points by simply switching the hook, rather than disposing of the fly entirely.
1)    Snip off four or five inches of thin wire, thick monofilament, running line or     something of the sort. 2)    Folding it in half, lay each end on either side of the shank and wrap the thread     over the wire, winding it upwards.  The tie in point should be where the hook     shank begins to curve. 3)    Fold the wire back over and secure it with multiple downward winding wraps of     thread. 4)    Clip any tail ends. 5)    After completion of the fly, use wire cutters to cut the main hook near the bend     in the shaft.
Sugar Pop
Pink thread Silver oval tinsel Krinkle Mirror Flash Blue polar bear (or dubbing of choice) Blue eared pheasant (dyed blue) Pink rhea Pink teal Silver mini flat braid Pink tinsel Blue Flashabou Jungle cock Kingfisher
Tying Instructions:
1)    Tie in a strand of silver oval tinsel and wrap it up the hook five times, creating a     tag. 2)    Dub in the under fur of blue polar bear. *Any dubbing will work, though I find that polar bear shimmers the best in the     water, and is the most efficient in preventing the rest of the materials from     collapsing. 3)    Tie in the tip of a single blue eared pheasant feather.  Fold both sides of the     feather fibres rearward and continue to wrap the feather several times until it fans     over the dubbing. 4)    Peel off a side of a rhea feather and tie in the tip (*if rhea is unavailable, marabou     or ostrich can    make a great substitute).  Make several wraps until it fans over the     blue eared hackle. *You can stack the rhea if you prefer, though it will not result in the same     fullness. 5)    Tie in a strand of Krinkle Mirror Flash on either side of the hook. 6)    Peel a pink teal feather and hackle it over the rhea. 7)    Attach silver mini flat braid, pink tinsel, and blue flashabou. 8)    Wrap the mini braid forward, ribbing it with the tinsel and flashabou. 9)    Repeat steps 2-6. 10)    Pluck two small secondary feathers from a jungle cock cape and tie them in as     cheeks. *Use flat-nosed pliers to pinch the stems to prevent them from rolling. 11)    Lay a kingfisher feather over the jungle cock, again flattening the stem with flat-    nosed pliers. *The tip of a blue saddle feather makes a decent substitute. 12)    Whip finish and coat with head cement. *Clear nail polish works just as well (your wife will understand.)
Burnt Orange Prawn
Black thread Gold oval tinsel Golden pheasant tippet Orange seal dubbing Red seal dubbing Gold Mylar tinsel Orange blue-eared pheasant feather Black rhea Dark orange ring neck pheasant Tragopan
Tying Instructions:
1)    Tie in a strand of gold oval tinsel and wrap it up the hook five times, creating a     tag. 2)    Tie in a single golden pheasant tippet. 3)    Pre-cut a piece of gold Mylar tinsel and select an orange blue-eared pheasant     feather.  Fold the feather fibres rearward, in preparation of step five. 4)    Dub the orange seal fur in a dubbing loop. 5)    Make two turns with the dubbing loop, securing the ends of the Mylar and blue-    eared pheasant with the wraps of the dubbing loop.  Let them dangle freely, while     continuing to wrap the dubbing loop forward ¾ up the hook. 6)    Rib the tinsel forward through the dubbing, using a pin to free any flattened fur.
7)    Wrap the pheasant hackle upwards, alongside the tinsel.
8)     Secure with thread and trim all ends. 9)    Peel a side of a black rhea feather and tie in the tip. 10)    Dub and wrap the red seal fur up the remainder of the shank. 11)    Hackle the black rhea through the dubbing.  You’ll only need to make two or three     wraps. 12)    Sequentially stack and layer three ring neck feathers, flattening the stems with     flat-nosed pliers. 13)    Tie in a pair of tragopan feathers as cheeks. 14)    Whip finish and coat with head cement.
The Five O-Clock Shadow
Black thread Small gold tinsel Black polar bear Red ostrich Yellow saddle Black mini flat braid Silver oval tinsel Red tinsel Green tinsel Red polar bear Black rhea Jungle cock
Tying Instructions:
1)    Wrap the gold tinsel ten times up the shank, creating a tag. 2)    Stack in a small clump of black polar bear as a tail. 3)    Conceal the bump from the clipped tail ends with  a strand of red ostrich. 4)    Attach a piece of black mini flat braid, green tinsel, red tinsel, silver oval tinsel     and tip of a yellow saddle feather (one side peeled). 5)    Wrap the black flat braid first, then the green and red tinsel, and lastly the yellow     saddle. 6)    Counter rib over all of step five’s materials with the silver oval tinsel. *This is to slow the wear and tear of the rib during casting. 7)    Dub in the under fur of red polar bear or dubbing material of choice and make two     turns. 8)    Stack the strands of a black rhea feather all around the shank (top, bottom and     sides). 9)    Tie in a pair of jungle cock cheeks. 10)    Whip finish and coat with head cement.
Purple Whisper
Black thread Gold oval tinsel Silver oval tinsel Turquoise silk Blue rhea Natural Amherst Purple marabou Cerise marabou Purple ring neck pheasant
Tying Instructions:
1)    Wrap the gold oval tinsel forward ten times, creating a tag. 2)    Tie in the turquoise silk, silver tinsel, gold tinsel and peeled blue rhea feather. *To peel rhea, pinch the strands at the tip of the feather and carefully pull down.      The membrane should separate from the stem with all its fibres intact.  This gets     easier with practise but is well worth a few casualties to be able to have such a     remarkable hackle, free of the bulky stem. When tying the peeled rhea onto a shank, wrap the membrane as though it were     the stem of a regular feather. 3)    Wrap the silk upwards and rib the tinsels atop the silk, side by side up the shank. 4)    Palmer the rhea up the hook, laying it directly beside the previously ribbed tinsel. 5)    Pick out a purple marabou feather that isn’t overly plumy.  Choose a stringy     feather over a fuzzy one to guarantee a crisp appearance. *When buying packages of marabou, take a moment to take the feathers out of the     package and find the package with the least plumy fibres.  These affordable     feathers can often double as rhea or blue-eared pheasant in many patterns. 6)    Tie in the tip of the marabou feather, fold its fibres rearward, and wrap it forward     several times. 7)    Do the same with a cerise marabou feather. 8)    Tie in an over-wing of three overlapping purple ring neck pheasant feathers.      Flatten the stems with flat-nosed pliers to avoid them from rolling. 9)     Tie in two strands of natural Amherst on either side of the shank, and top with a     pair of jungle cock cheeks. 10)    Whip finish and coat with head cement.
Wizard of Oz
Turquoise silk Silver oval tinsel Blue-eared pheasant (dyed blue) Blue-eared pheasant (dyed purple) Bright green ostrich Jungle cock Blue ostrich Purple silk Hammered silver tinsel Blue tinsel Gold tinsel Green synthetic dubbing Golden pheasant
Tying Instructions
1)    Tie in turquoise silk and silver oval tinsel.  Wrap the silk forward half an inch and     rib the tinsel on an angle atop the silk. 2)    Tie in the tip of the dyed blue blue-eared pheasant and fold both sides of the     feather fibres rearward, while wrapping it forward. 3)    Stack the green ostrich, spreading it evenly around the diameter of the shank. 4)    Tie in a pair of jungle cock cheeks. 5)    Conceal cut off ends with a strand of blue ostrich. 6)    Tie in the strands of purple silk, hammered silver tinsel, blue tinsel and gold     tinsel. 7)    Wrap the purple silk towards the hook’s eye, and rib all three tinsels upwards on     an angle, making sure they’re wrapped side by side. 8)    Dub in a small amount of synthetic green dubbing. 9)    Repeat step three. 10)    Repeat step two with the purple blue-eared pheasant feather. 11)    Repeat step four. 12)    Tie in an over wing of two overlapping golden pheasant feathers.  Flatten the     stems with flat-nosed pliers to avoid them from rolling. 13)    Whip finish and coat with head cement.