LaFontaine Sparkle Pupa

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the LaFontaine Sparkle Pupa, developed by Gary LaFontaine.

LaFontaine Sparkle Pupa |

Caddisflies was first published in 1981. It was a classic as soon as it was written. Before his book came out, most the talk in fly fishing was about Mayflies. Caddisflies changed everything.

Gary spent many years researching caddis. In fact, it took 10 years! He spent countless hours in scuba gear watching these bugs live and move in the water column. So perhaps we should pay more attention to his innovative patterns.

The LaFonatine Sparkle Pupa uses antron yarn to imitate the transparent sheath that traps air bubbles around the body of a caddis as it begins it’s journey to the surface, hatch and fly away.

I tied this many years ago and probably forgot to add the wing along the side to imitate the real bug. But you know, it still worked.

Hmmm, I wonder why I don’t use this any more? I think I’m headed to the bookshelf to re-read Caddisflies!


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Foam is Home

Have you ever heard the term “foam is home”?

Here is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. The main current is flowing towards us in the top of the picture and this eddy is capturing bubbles created by the river. And with insects in the drift, this is a natural conveyor belt of food for the fish.

Elk River Foam |

And a wider view of the same eddy. It’s small, but perfect for big fish to hold in. Deeper water and safety is only a couple of tail wags away.

Elk River Eddy |

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Birds Nest

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly is the Birds Nest, another one of Cal Bird’s inventions.

Birds Nest |

The history for the Birds Nest is a little mixed up for me. I found three versions:

  1. It was created in the early 1980’s and was first fished on the Owens River in California.
  2. The fly was created in 1959 as a caddis pupa imitation on the Truckee River.
  3. The fly was created in 1984 and tested on Hat Creek

So you pick which one you’d like to believe. Regardless, it was and still is a great pattern for multiple bugs if used in different sizes. It’s an old fly and if you’ve been fly fishing for awhile, you’ve probably used one of these.

Now for the different versions for dubbing. One states the original recipe used a dubbing mix of Austrailian possum and dyed coyote. A second one described using 50% Austrailian Opossum, 40% Hares mask, and 10% natural baby Seal fur. I say, just pick something that’s buggy looking and let the fish decide!

I guess when you search for your own fly pattern on the Internet, you might find a few other versions as well.


(If you’d like to see more Throw Back Thursday Flies, just click on the name Throw Back Thursday Flies CATEGORY in the sidebar to the right.)


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Project Healing Waters Crooked River Outing

Sunday was a beautiful day for a Central Oregon Project Healing Waters Crooked River outing.

Crooked River - PHW |

My wife and I were mentors again to help a few Vets hook up on some fish. We tied a few knots, suggested a fly or two, tweeked the casting stroke for nymph fishing, and offered pointers on how to read water.

And we succeeded! You should have seen the SMILES on their faces.

It’s an honor to help our Vets lose themselves for a few hours while trying to catch a some fish. We volunteer for as many outings as we can. In fact, I wrote about an outing to Lake in the Dunes last year. Continue reading

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Metallic Caddis

The Metallic Caddis is this week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly.

Metallic Caddis |

I found this fly pattern in the mid-90’s from Randall Kaufmann’s Tying Nymphs book. I don’t think I had tied a lot of bead-head nymphs as beads only came to America in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s. Tying Nymphs stated Dennis Black of Umpqua Feather Merchants signed Holland fly tyer Theo Bakelaar to promote bead-head flies here.

The Metallic Caddis is similar to a Brassie, but adds the bead-head and colored wire. I think I tied this one with the green wire to fish the caddis hatches on the Deschutes River. The wire and bead-head add a lot of weight to get the fly down quick.

And you know, the wire hasn’t tarnished after all those years…


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Reel or Strip?

When you’re out fishing and are lucky enough to hook a fish, do you reel or strip the line as you play the fish?

I reel.

Rod & Reel |

There’s no right our wrong answer. Someone may give you a strong opinion, but stick to your guns and pick a strategy which works for you. That’s the beauty of fly fishing. There aren’t a lot of rules.

Sure there are times when one method is better than the other. Like when you hook up on a nice fish and it takes off like a race horse on it’s first run, then does an about face and comes screamin’ back at you! All the while you are struggling to keep tension on the fish. The only chance you have at keeping the line tight is to strip as fast as you can. Been there! In fact, it happened yesterday. I held my breath and I stripped as fast as I could to remove all the slack in the line…I was lucky.

Generally I try to play ALL fish from the reel, but especially bigger fish…rainbows over 14″, bull trout, and steelhead. I always feel some relief when all the excess line is finally on the reel. I can tell you stories where I’ve had too much line at my feet and it always comes back to haunt me. It usually gets caught on something…the brush, my net, a wading staff, my reel, the rod butt, I step on it, the boat anchor…you get the picture.

I always feel better when the fish in on the reel. That way, if the fish runs again I have a smooth drag to help me fight the fish. Otherwise, all the line I’ve stripped in may or may not smoothly go out through the guides. Oh ya, ever burned your fingers from the line as the fish takes off again? That’s another problem to consider. For me, stripping line always feels like it’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Galvan Reel |

You have many choices for reels these days. And if I were on the market for a new reel, I’d pick one with a large arbor, like my Galvan Torgue T-5. That way, each revolution retrieves about 2 times more line than the older reels that only were available in standard or small arbor.

When you settle on a method that’s best for you, watching somebody do it the opposite way will drive you crazy, but that’s okay because it’s their fly fishing not yours. Remember that.

3 Reels |

Now, go fish!

Hook a lot of fish and find what method works best for you.


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The Humpy fly pattern is this week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly. It’s a fast water attractor pattern, which floats well and can be seen a mile away.

Humpy |

Some quick Internet research finds the fly was originated by Jack Horner, a Northern Sierra California fly tyer in the 1940’s. The original fly was called the Horner Deer Fly and was similar to a Tom Thumb fly from Canada. The Tom Thumb didn’t split the deer hair wings or have any hackle on the fly.

Curiously, if you search on Goofus Bug, the fly looks exactly the same. The Goofus Bug was credited to Keith Kenyon, a Montana tyer and guide. My research stated he developed the fly in 1944 for the Firehole River.

So a quick recap…the fly was called the Horner Deer Fly in California and the Goofus Bug in Montana. For some reason, the fly’s name changed to the Humpy fly in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

As with any good fly patterns, variations come along. The Humpy was no exception. The original was tied in yellow and can imitate yellow sallies and golden stones, but you can find a variety of colors including red, green, tan to name a few. Then there’s the Royal Humpy which is tied with peacock and red, the Adams Humpy in gray to imitate mayflies, and the Black Humpy for a beetle. And you guessed it…there is a Double Humpy as well!

So whether you use it as a general attractor fly pattern or for a specific hatch, find one at your local fly shop and give it a try.


(If you’d like to see more Throw Back Thursday Flies, just click on the name Throw Back Thursday Flies CATEGORY in the sidebar to the right.)


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New Fly Patterns

Here are a half dozen new fly patterns I learned to tie the last few months during the Winter Fly Tying Classes that look pretty good to me.

I’ll give you a caveat…I haven’t fished these, but they sure look fishy and I can’t wait to try them out.

Here are a trio of flies Peter Bowers of The Patient Angler taught us this year:

A Steelhead Green Rock Worm (size 6) that I’ll use as a dropper to a heavier nymph when swinging for chrome doesn’t work.

Steelhead Green Rock Worm |

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Madam X

This week’s Throw Back Thursday Fly pattern is the Madam X, an attractor dry fly.

Madam X |

The original fly used a body of deer hair from the butt ends of the tail with thread spiraled through it. Many variations have been created over the years, including the one above using yellow floss.

Fish it to imitate a stonefly during the right season, or later in the summer tie it on as a grasshopper.

Doug Swisher is the one I’ve seen credited with the fly’s development in the early 1980’s on the Bitterroot River in Montana. 

Give it a try!


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