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Post 28 Dec 2020, 09:29 • #1 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
I belong to a lease program that stocks trout in gin clear water with very slow current. The fish quickly learn to avoid flies with unnatural colors, flash, wire, and beads. They also spook from the light plop of a weighted nymph or large dry fly near them. The main bugs I see are #16-18 light gray mayflies and midges. I don’t see anything when I turn over rocks in the streambed.

My most effective fly has been a #18 black RS2 with a wire body and black beadhead. I fish it as a dropper. The fish have started refusing it. It may be a little too flashy, or it may not match the hatch.

Any recommendations for nymphs to use as droppers for these pounded fish? Any strategies?


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 10:05 • #2 
Sport
Joined: 11/12/17
Posts: 51
Location: US-CO
Maybe a Dorsey’s Mercury Baetis? Easy to tie and effective. You could omit the glass bead for less flash.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 11:36 • #3 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 06/10/09
Posts: 1588
Location: US-OH
You might want to go smaller. I generally don't like fishing tiny flies (nymphs or dries) but I've been amazed a couple times at the results when fishing tailwaters or other places with picky fish. A sz 20 or 22 zebra midge with a tiny bead head might be something to try.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 12:37 • #4 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
The mercury baetis looks great. I tried zebra midges without success, so I think they are too flashy.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 12:53 • #5 
Piscator
Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 18063
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
Curtis, I always target the plunge pools and pocketwater below riffles and chutes that will let me swing BWOs.

In the still tannin bottoms, where no one else fishes on crowded days, can always catch trout bottom-bouncing cats whiskers and small whistlers.

When I'm fishing midges, my attractor is usually an Otter's milking egg, threaded through the leader with a needle, bare hook, and knot to dropper.
This trout is on the bare hook from taking the egg - the threaded egg slid up to my split shot - and you can see my thread midge dropper in the bottom center of the photo.
When Jimbo and I filmed with Frank Smethurst, Frank said he always ties on Otters milking egg when you absolutely, positively have to catch a fish right now.



When I take this rig off at the end of the day, loop above the split shot, and into a fly wallet - can loop it again next time out.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 16:26 • #6 
Sport
Joined: 05/02/12
Posts: 94
Location: US-CT
A Stewarts spider in sizes 18 to 24 is often productive for difficult trout.
tt


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 16:57 • #7 
Global Moderator
Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8500
Location: US-ME
When fish refuse a fly that is in the ballpark/known effective, it is often something in the presentation, not the pattern, that turned them. So consider that just as closely as pattern/sizes/colors and so on. It's fascinating to consider either, and then how they fit together. Black-bodied grizzly-hackled soft hackles, twice as sparse as you think you can tie them, in size 18 or 20, are the ones that surprise me most, but gosh it takes patience to fish them slowly and deeply enough. And once in enough of a trance to do it, to react when a fish takes.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 18:58 • #8 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
Ooh, I hadn’t thought about soft hackles. They might work when the fish are milling around 1-2 feet below the surface. Do they work when there’s not much current to swing them?


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 20:33 • #9 
Guide
Joined: 07/19/19
Posts: 117
I fish to stocked trout as well; in the winter. So water temps are cold as I’m in the Midwest. Fish tend to be near or at bottom. I have cleaned up this year so far on the mop fly. Look it up. It’s not traditional at all but can work when others don’t. It’s bigger so when it’s cold you have to give them incentive to move. Your water speed sounds like mine too. I tie them with either a 2.3 or 2.8 mm bead. Cream is my favorite color in clear water, chartreuse with dirty water. Good luck.


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Post 28 Dec 2020, 23:22 • #10 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2140
Location: South of Joplin
" Do they work when there’s not much current to swing them?"
I very rarely have swung soft hackles, 1"-3" strip/pause, or hand twist is my way. Experiment with speed. If the fly sinks almost to the bottom on the cast this retrieve will cause it to rise.
It might help too on the midges to tie them on dry fly hooks with no bead and rib with a contrasting thread- say a black red or purple thread body, ribbed with white or bright yellow thread (I like upholstery size thread or button silk) and tie a short piece of white polypro yarn extended out over the eye just a bit (gills?) or tied back over the body caddis wing style so that the body hangs rather vertically in the film. In still water back east #24-20 worked on 7X. I use the same slight retrieve with midges in still water.
I have used Sulky Holoshimmer as midge ribbing and fine mylar tinsel from Christmas tassels, but if flash is a problem stick with thread.
With almost any fly in clear still water I like to treat the tippet with a degreaser and or sinkant, I want that tippet in the film not on it.
I'm guessing tippet shadow or imprint on the surface or light reflected from the tippet is more of a problem there that the pattern. Fuller's earth, detergent, glycerin, mud etc can help. I have often used slimy mud from the water's edge to degrease and Geherkes Xink as sinkant, but I know there are other products out there.


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Post 29 Dec 2020, 09:18 • #11 
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Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8500
Location: US-ME
Awesome suggestions from Trev. My hands are trembling just thinking of the patience and suspense fishing that way, but that's the idea and then some. As I got older, I got to where I'd rather watch a partner do it, a friend's son who fished with us since childhood. He can stand rock steady with a fly fished as I suggested generally and Trev detailed. So I would watch him after my wrist got numb from trying to fish so slow and steady. I would ask him to hand me his rod at a 5 count before the fish was going to take. He has a good little grin that would barely show on that request. He would lift up and have a fish on and say, "in case you lost track, that was a nine count."

Trev's details also remind me of an important point about fly patterns like this, (or any other, for that matter). Tying materials are often discussed in terms of appearance. They are better thought of--once in the "color" ballpark--in terms of presentation. Each element affects, not just depth/flotation, but the attitude of the fly, as in the materials and position that let a fly "hang vertically," like Trev described, or any other position you want the fly to assume. This goes along with leader design and angle of presentation. Fish are looking for prey at a certain spot, from a certain place, moving a certain direction and will slaughter a fly seen they way want it. The same fly, same depth, same place but in the wrong attitude or from the wrong direction may be ignored. Experiment, experiment, but use materials in the fly design to facilitate the most likely presentation.


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Post 29 Dec 2020, 10:14 • #12 
Sport
Joined: 08/31/19
Posts: 29
Location: Bozeman, MT
I've had great success with a $3 dip, both weighted and unweighted


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Post 29 Dec 2020, 11:00 • #13 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 11/06/17
Posts: 2140
Location: South of Joplin
thanks for the praise, whrlpool, although I think I tend to ramble and my midges these days are #14 and look like woolly worms.
The bead-heads hang nicely vertical if used with a bobber, crappie jig style as the Ozark "nymph" anglers have popularized,
Coming to flies from bait fishing, I was very aware that living moving bait caught more fish for me than dead bait dead drifted did, from the beginning I have always tried to impart some life to the flies through retrieve or line manipulation. I often "tight line" dry flies. Another way to do this with soft hackle flies is to feed slack line to a fly down stream til it sinks then simply let the current tighten the line bringing the fly back to the surface and repeating this action. It seems to me that lots of trout foods rise from bottom to the surface and that such movement is a trigger.
I'm not sure that I explained the tippet problem that I suspect, and I don't have references to pictorials, real science etc., but when anything (line or leader in this case, but same can be true of the fly) "floats" on the surface of relatively still water, it bends the surface down rather than resting "on top of" the surface, when the tippet depresses a trough of the surface film, the convex underside of the trough of water becomes a light magnifier that heavily pressured trout can become conditioned to avoid. By breaking the surface tension and wetting the tippet that streak of light leading to the fly is reduced or eliminated. In water that is less clear, or rippled by wind, rocks etc. or in low light conditions the tippet does not become a "light saber" and thus I might have better results under those conditions. At any rate that's my theory built on observations and some vague recollections of long ago science classes. On a bright day in shallow water you can see the light flashes on the pond bottom.
Tippet also usually has some reflective quality that I guess is lubricant in manufacturing that can be dulled by degreasing thus adding a degree of stealth. I think Loon's Snake River Mud is used for dulling and sinking tippets, and the tippet is all that I usually want to sink, the remainder of the leader floating will be outside the trout's window/space and acts as a bobber/indicator.
When tying those soft hackles, think of them as nymphs and the hackle as legs, less is better, some feathers may need to be stripped on one side before winding just one or two turns. Heavily dressed the fly becomes more of a streamer, solid looking and displacing water, perhaps better used in swinging the riffle.


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Post 29 Dec 2020, 11:44 • #14 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 02/27/16
Posts: 1985
Location: US-IL
Wow,thanks Trev.I do similar thing in ponds and lakes in regard to making the fly "rise".I Often try the short twitch retrieve which i have aleays done with jigs on spinning gear,If i know fish are there i will then count down the fly with the tip in the water and then slooowly raise the tip ,no side movement just raise it straight up and the floating line pulls the fly up and forward .My flies are the opposite of sparse rabbit soft hackle etc so they kind of pulse on their own.For years i only fished top water with flies except the maddening pursuit of big carp..Recent years tho i have really upped my game by going deep with good results.I actually have a place where i can catch lots of bullheads on flies.I wish i had trout fishing nearby but i can fish and catch three or four species using the same fly standing in one spot.


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Post 30 Dec 2020, 18:38 • #15 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
Tied up some of Bulldog’s Sparkle Nymphs with and without flash and beads. It will be fun to test my theory that these fish have learned to avoid flash.



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Post 30 Dec 2020, 18:58 • #16 
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Joined: 08/10/05
Posts: 18063
Location: downtown Bulverde, Texas
bassackwards wrote:
Ooh, I hadn’t thought about soft hackles. They might work when the fish are milling around 1-2 feet below the surface. Do they work when there’s not much current to swing them?

soft hackles are always a good choice - most nymph patterns that call for hackle collar, I use soft hackle instead.

Soft hackle pheasant tail was always Danny's secret weapon


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Post 30 Dec 2020, 20:46 • #17 
Guide
Joined: 02/16/15
Posts: 149
Location: US-PA
Subsurface sounds like your best bet. But on the surface, a little black, or red ant is always worth a try. I've taken some large fussy trout on them over the years.
If you have fish hanging under vegetation, and there are beetles, or crickets in the area, try an upstream cast with the beetle plopping-in just behind(inches) the trout's tail, then try to the left and right of the tail. They are used to things dropping from those bushes and tree limbs. Often when it hits the water they will just reflexively spin around and grab it before asking any questions. If you cast above them, they see it hit along with the line and leader, giving them plenty of examination time.
The other thing you can try is to focus on the time just around dark. Trout that have refused a fly all day, can often be fooled in that brief period of last light...and of course after dark-if you want to play that game. Good luck


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Post 31 Dec 2020, 17:22 • #18 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
I tied some Stewart Spiders too. I came up with this wired version to get slightly deeper.


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Post 31 Dec 2020, 18:06 • #19 
Glass Fanatic
Joined: 12/31/15
Posts: 1088
Location: The Rockies
I like that spider, and good work with the wire. That's a good idea.


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Post 31 Dec 2020, 21:19 • #20 
Global Moderator
Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8500
Location: US-ME
Love those patterns--tied way better than I could these days. The dark one is very much like a go-to I use. If I can just fish it slow enough. A handful of those in variations of brightness and color will make for fun experiment like you have planned. Testing a theory, well, it wouldn't be an experiment if it couldn't fail, but I think yours is going to succeed. Let us know.

Next one if you find a preferred pattern or style, tie more with the only change being half again as much hackle, hackle about the same as shown, and half that. Fish to compare. The shortcut is to keep trimming hackle off the fly that works best and see if it works even better.


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Post 03 Jan 2021, 16:00 • #21 
Guide
Joined: 04/26/19
Posts: 139
Location: L'Étoile du Nord
Right now on the driftless its midge patterns nymph and dry if you are lucky to see a hatch and I do swing a lot of soft hackles later in the winter when the midge hatches become more prevalent. Small black soft hackles seem to work the best, the fish on my home rivers can be attracted to a little flash but normally I`m trying to simulate rising midges with that soft hackle rise on the swing. If I see more than a few rising I`ll swing a soft hackle and see what happens before putting on midge dry fly patterns in sizes 18-24 Normally the smaller the better this time of year.


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Post 03 Jan 2021, 17:29 • #22 
Master Guide
Joined: 03/28/07
Posts: 977
Location: US-TX
I caught 3 on soft hackles today, but I was fishing a different spot with murkier water.


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Post 04 Jan 2021, 09:08 • #23 
Master Guide
Joined: 02/23/08
Posts: 930
Location: US-MT
Difficult trout is an interesting subject for me.

When I guided on the Yellowstone Valley's spring creeks (a long time ago) the fish were so accustomed to humans they'd sometimes rest in the eddies behind a wading fisherman's legs, so they could eat nymphs dislodged by the fisherman's feet. They were so schizophrenic and spooky about flies and leaders I many times saw them compound refuse a real mayfly. But they weren't smart enough to make the connection between suspicious flies and wading homo sapiens.

At the upper end of the DePuy section of Armstrong Spring Creek there used to be a wild section so fast and narrowly choked with willows it was hard to wade. The fish in there were just the opposite. They were totally spooky about waders but not leader shy a bit. If you did wade up into that fast section the fish would all spook and disappear. If you stood still long enough they'd all appear again. At that point they'd eat anything you threw at them. "Selective" wasn't happening.

I took Tom Morgan on a wheel chair trip to O'Dell spring creek once. Tom couldn't fish anymore. He just wanted to see the creek. He had me walk down to the water to check some favorite holes, to see if a big fish was still there as he expected. Tom cautioned me to crouch down low to the bushes and to walk slowly, with the sun in my face, so I wouldn't cast a shadow over the water as I approached. That's wild fish behavior.

Hard to catch fish that have been pounded all summer long get accustomed to waders. But spooky about flies. They are indeed hard to catch. In a not so natural sort of way.


Last edited by pittendrigh on 10 Jan 2021, 09:16, edited 4 times in total.

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Post 04 Jan 2021, 09:46 • #24 
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Joined: 04/20/07
Posts: 8500
Location: US-ME
Key words in a great account, "still long enough." Approach and position are important parts of presentation and more important than pattern. It's fun when things feel slow, to stop completely until things come back to life and fish are on the V of your wading wake, or in the pocket this "boulder" created. In a wide river or stream, sometimes it isn't even possible to keep a shadow off some of the water, but eventually even that is just cast by a an overhead "branch." Other times, a few minutes of changing a leader, pawing through a fly box, and selecting another pattern is all that's needed. But the pattern had little or nothing to do with it, other than giving the angler something to do while the water was rested and fish eased out of spooked mode. The lower, clearer, and more uniform the flow, the harder it is to be "still long enough." Sometimes when not feeling steady enough to rest the water long enough, I go lie back on the bank and have a nap, but that is only the second best way to fish.


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Post 04 Jan 2021, 10:18 • #25 
Master Guide
Joined: 02/23/08
Posts: 930
Location: US-MT
The complete opposite of hard-fished, hard to catch trout are the starving bookies on the Beartooth Plateau on the Wyoming/Montana border. Most of those fish are all head. Schools of them will attack anything you throw at them. At least when they're active and in foraging mode.

There are more interesting places on the Plateau. A few of the lakes have relatively flat, swampy estuaries where the creek that drains them slowly leaves the lake. Those places are the exception up there. Most of the moving water on the plateau is best described as an adolescent water fall. But a few of those shallow, swampy dragon fly places do exist. And they often have huge fish.

Those fish have to be approached slowly and carefully. They've survived years of attacks from otter heron and eagle. They know how to stay alive. If you get close enough to cast without spooking them, and if you make a good cast that doesn't splash, you can catch them on almost anything you throw at them.

That's the fishing I like to glorify most, as I look back over a waning career. I'm 72 now. I'm in good health and still fish a lot. But I doubt I'll be making any more ten mile backpacking trips, up onto the plateau.

Here's one I caught when I was 15. This one is probably 17" or 18" inches long. I caught this one in a lagoon, about 1/2 a mile downstream from XXX Lake, where I also once hooked and lost a fat, hook-jawed rainbow a good two feet long.

Image


Last edited by pittendrigh on 10 Jan 2021, 09:21, edited 1 time in total.

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