streamer colors

My Favorite Colors from January-May

I have no affiliation with the people who make a certain product, but I have to say that some of their stuff is  brilliant.    The product that I am speaking of is ice dub, and between ice dub and the various colors of flashabou, I could guide every day with little else than thread and hook (though I do like some feathers and fur too:)).        During the months of January-March, I rely very heavily on one color family of ice dub.    The colors are olive, peacock-eye, peacock, and black peacock.     These colors seem to imitate the same things to the fish.     It could be that the sheen on this color scheme is just plain appealing to fish (it is an attractor color).   On the other hand, it could be that many of the bait fish in the river take on a peacockish tint during the winter months.

When I started looking underwater in the winter, I was surprised at just how many creatures had a bluish/green tint in the winter months.    The darter above is just one example of this color scheme in nature during the winter and spring.    Crayfish, scuds, gobies, and other fish also have this peacock overtone to their colors.

Whether it is just naturally attractive, or whether it is due to the colors occurring in nature, or some combination of the two, I am not entirely certain.    At the end of the day, these colors of ice dub just work great for catching predator fish.

Through the first half of the year, flies with this color scheme can be fished in several different ways.    They can be swung on sink tips through flat runs during the winter months for steelhead.      Another option is to fish the soft edges of the stream for resident trout with smaller olive or peacock based flies.     I really enjoy swinging wet flies for trout and this is a great extension of wet fly fishing through the winter months.   Yet another option is to tie weighted sculpins and fish them below an indicator for trout.    Often times a nymph pattern is fished on a dropper between the indicator and the weighted sculpin.

This post mentions the months of January through May.  However, as a guide, these colors are in my box year around, no matter what species I am guiding for.     Give this color family a shot on your local stream.    I am pretty sure that it will work!

Thanks for reading this!

Kevin Feenstra

salmon fry

Fishing Salmon Fry

Each year, in February and March, salmon fry pop out of the gravel and quicky grow to be an inch in length.   They feed on anything, including the remnants of their ancestors.    As this process begins, they become a food source for everything else in our rivers, including all manner of fish, birds, etc.    Steelhead feed heavily on salmon fry, and there are things about these fry that make them vulnerable to a predator like a steelhead.

Often times, water is high in the spring.     When water levels become high, the fry are pushed to the edges of the river.   Any run that holds steelhead near the edge of the river in these conditions will be a great place to look for a steelhead on a fry pattern.

Notice from the picture above the prominence of the eye in the salmon fry.   Your fly must exhibit this trait if it is going to be effective.   This is especially true if you are fishing the fry pattern as a nymph.   The slow nymphing presentation will make the fish picky about whether the fly has this one prominent feature.

Fry patterns can also be morphed into good swung fly patterns.   Because they are prone to be towards the surface of the river,  a small swung fly that is the shape of the fry, but not necessarily the same color, works great throughout the spring.    A small black and copper leech, for example, the size and shape of a fry, is deadly during the spring.       Often times it pays to swing small and colorful flies in the spring.

This is a typical night of tying for me at this time of the year; fry patterns in one form or another are always on the menu.   You can tie the thorax of these patterns any color, but pink always seems to work the best.      Typically, some of the holographic colors of flash work well on sunny days, as they make the fly twinkle in the current.

As the salmon fry head downriver and grow to a larger size, the process is repeated as steelhead and sucker fry emerge later in the spring.   These are on the menu of steelhead, brown trout, and every other predator too.

Thanks for reading this post!   Get out on the river and enjoy spring-like fishing conditions!

Kevin Feenstra

George Daniel Strip Set

Book Review: Strip-Set: Fly-Fishing Techniques, Tactics, Patterns for Streamers

George Daniel Strip SetIt’s been over a decade since Bob Linsenman and Kelly Galloup’s “Modern Streamers for Trophy Trout” really took the idea of targeting big trout with big flies to the mainstream. Since then there have been tremendous advances – in gear, in fly design, in knowledge, and in the number of anglers hucking big meal to entice the river monsters out from under the log.

Now a new book from Pennsylvania’s George Daniel has added to the must-read list for the streamer angler. In “Strip-Set: Fly-Fishing Techniques, Tactics, Patterns for Streamers” Mr. Daniel takes all of these advances, mixes them with some insights from some of today’s top streamer purists, and delivers a tool to take your streamer fishing to the next level.

Interestingly, the title topic – strip setting – is mentioned only briefly. As a recent convert to the muskie game, I understand the advantage of the strip set. But it also makes a ton of sense when pursuing trout. Trout-setting only moves the fly away from the fish, adds slack in the line, and generally lowers your odds of a solid hook-up. By contrast, a strip set creates immediate, positive contact. Makes perfect sense! This is but one example of the pragmatic, direct insight that Daniel presents in the book. Can’t wait for this Spring’s big trout hunt! Missed hooksets have been my nemesis in the past.

For years a couple of my friends who are knowledgeable anglers have extolled to “fish the fly, not the line”. In principle, that sounds simple. But what does it MEAN? And how do you actually accomplish that goal? George Daniel delivers that answers at a level that totally changed my thinking and strategy. The book includes extensive discussions of line types – floating, sink-tip, and full-sinking – as well as when to deploy each type.

Another interesting area is his extensive discussion of floating lines. Here in Michigan, we seldom fish streamers on a floating line. It’s generally a sink-tip or intermediate line match to current, depth, etc. At first I thought this to be just a quirk due to the fact the he spends most of his time fishing his native Pennsylvania (though it is clear from his book that he LOVES fishing Michigan) where the waters are typically not as deep. But before long I realized that he was really taking my knowledge to the next level – in some situations, even in deep water, there are significant advantages floating lines offer. This is a recurring theme in this book. There are a lot of tactics that can impact your success; consider them all carefully!

These are but a few of the excellent topics covered in this solid book on the streamer game. Mr. Daniel writes in an engaging style, covers concepts thoroughly but not too extensively, and really addresses the gamut of issues, challenges, and conditions the streamer angler may encounter.

This week I had the opportunity to meet and tie with George Daniel. His personality really reflected the book – straightforward, but with plenty of friendliness and no need for excessive flash. Speaking of flash; his patterns seem incredibly sparse alongside what we’re used to seeing here in Michigan.

I’m eager to put my new knowledge, skills, and insights to work on my next streamer trip! If you’re a streamer angler, put this book on your “must have” list. You won’t be disappointed!

-Sean-

swing pattern

Fly Tying Beverages

swing pattern

Well, it’s that time of year again.  I’ve inventoried my fly boxes and I am scrambling to fill my spring, summer & fall fly boxes for the upcoming seasons, as old man winter starts thinking about taking his nap, I hope!  This winter has been full of tinkering with new materials and techniques for favorite fishing, steelhead on the swing. Per usual, I completely forgot to do what I always intend, which is to fill the holes in my boxes from a spring, summer and fall of fishing.  Ugh, production tying.  Not a fan.

The most enjoyable part of tying for me is the development stage or learning of new patterns.  When I sit down to let my mind wander and relax into it’s artistic side & start free styling, my default is steelhead streamers.  The array of colors and materials that one could imagine using and attracting this quarry is astounding.  So I play with color combos and styles of flies deep into the night while sipping on something brown.  Bourbon, rye and scotch being the likely suspects.  Sometimes the next day I awake with a headache, grab some coffee and go critique my flies from the night before.  The bigger the headache, the more likely it’s “WTF was I thinking!”  Sometimes I impress myself and sometimes the razor comes out & the hook is shorn of the monstrosity.

Which begets a question that I hinted to in the title- what are my beverages for tying flies?  Sure, whiskey has turned my brain and fingers into madness & what transpired on the vice was abominable, but some nights it’s more about the drink than the tying.  Then there are the nights that a neat dram of whiskey is the perfect accompaniment, as a sip every so often soothes my soul and the whiskey’s temperature does not change & some of the resulting flies have found permanent places in my boxes.

So, here’s my guide to what to drink when tying flies.  Yours may very as we all have preferences.

  1. Production/Repetitive tying- I have three schools of thought here…
    #1 Drink coffee to keep you rolling and the mind free from the numbing effects of doing a dozens of the same pattern.  I know a few guides who really like tying production, as it gives them a “check out time” when they don’t have to think about what they are doing as they done the fly hundreds or thousands of times.  Especially the dreaded egg patterns.
    #2 Drink water- no better time to hydrate.  Until it catches up with you and you spend more time in the bathroom than at the vice.
    #3 Drink a low alcohol beer.  Think macro brew or old world Pilsener.  Pabst has been a fly tying staple for some for many years.  Personally, I go with a craft “Session” beer.  Short’s “Ale la Reverend” is my favorite when it’s available and  Founders “All Day IPA” is good to go all year long and comes in 12 pack cans.
  2. Dry Flies/Nymphs- kind of falls in to the same category as above.  They are not my strong point, so I stick to H2O.  Sometimes red wine is a good option.  It’s a sipper, doesn’t loose it’s temperature and gets better as the air mixes in and it “opens up”.
  3. Wet flies/Soft Hackles- tradition would call for a fine dram of Irish or Scotch as these patterns were originally from the British Isles.  But be careful, as once you start working on the wet flies with tented or married wings, your fingers and mind need to be nimble.  On the other hand, simple soft hackles like the Partridge and Red/Yellow/ Orange that work so well, can be done when a wee bit addled.  The other traditional drink that I partake in if it’s summer and I am refilling the Wheatley box would be a tall Gin and Tonic.  Nothing says summer like a G&T while tying wets/soft hackles!
  4. Traditional Steelhead and Atlantic Flies- Once again a glass of whiskey does well and for me, it has to be a Single Malt Scotch, likely from Speyside and even more likely it’s Mortlach 15yr or Macallan 10yr Fine Oak.  I savor this traditional beverage slowly, maybe only taking a sip as I put the hook in the vice and when I take the finished fly out.  I need all my wits about me when trying some of these complicated beauties.
  5. Streamers- Beer, beer and more beer!  I love tying streamers and nothing goes better than beer.  Likely something with a little kick, like a Stone IPA or a Ballast Point “Sculpin IPA”.  Beer keeps my juices flowing and my thirst quenched.  I tend to wet down and pull back materials on my streamers as they can get in the way of the next step.  Usually all that is needed is a little saliva and beer aides in this process!
  6. Freestyle/Creative Session- Bourbon…on the rocks.  When I’m messing around testing new ideas or materials, bourbon fuels the fire!  It is also my go to spirit, period.  When I am creating new flies, my concern is not for the immediate finished product, as it’s very rare that something comes off the vice and doesn’t get tweaked and refined.  Most of the time it’s put somewhere on the desk where I look at it and critique the shape, size & proportions of materials.  Then I tie it a second time with my improvements.  Then I repeat this a third time.  But I stop there until I can see them all on or in the water.  Some patterns of mine have looked great until water tested and afterwards, straight into the garbage or under the razor.

One last thought…when it comes time to clean up your tying area, as I know most of us let it go until we can’t stand it, I advise a strong cocktail to ease the pain!  Maybe a Dark & Stormy, a Moscow Mule or a Manhattan.  My desk is a mess right now and will be until I knock out all my spring & summer flies.  Then it will get cleaned up and likely stay that way until after the summer, as I will be too busy fishing & not tying.  Unless I blow through a certain pattern that is lighting them up, then it’s back to it and the dreaded production tying begins.  Ugh, production tying…and you better bet there will be an adult beverage involved!

Slainte!!!

February steelhead fishing

February Fly Tying and Fishing Reports

February steelhead fishing

  • Happy February!  For those ski bums out there, better get it in before it’s gone.  Winter is already on the downhill slide.  In the world of unemployed fishing guide (like myself), what February means is only 1 more month until Prime Time starts again.  New fishing reports for the Manistee River and the Muskegon River after a great weekend of weather.  With a good mix of steelhead around on the west side of the state, and new fish starting to already show up for the Spring push, things are looking good.  February has been a long time favorite, with plenty of fish around and less people.  Makes for some good fishing.
  • Fly Tying Event at Muskegon River Fly Shop  , I’ll be tying February 19th and will be focusing on baitfish patterns for Pike / Muskie.   Contact Justin to sign up.  If you can’t make the 19th, check out Drew Rosema on February 5th , Drew will be tying Steelhead Patterns.  Check out Kevin Feenstra on February 26th as well, you will not be disappointed.  Should be a great couple events, if you haven’t stopped by Justin’s shop he has one of the best fly tying selections in northern Michigan.
  • February 12-14th I’ll be in Milwaukee , WI at the Muskie Expo, if you happen to be in the area stop by.  I’ll be hanging out with Brad Petzke of Rivers North, with some new things (that I can’t talk about yet) in the booth.  Plus I’ll have the new muskie shirts available, they just showed up this weekend.  They look great.  Will get them on the web here soon as well.  I’m looking to expand my Muskie calendar, if your interested in a trip contact me.  Going on my 5th year of chasing these amazing predators.  I look forward to learning additional water this year, and piecing together more of the puzzle.
flash monkey

Flash Monkey by Russ Maddin

Flash Monkey

Check out the latest VOD featuring Russ Maddin, tying his Flash Monkey baitfish imitation.  Thank you Russ for sitting down with us, and sharing this pattern.  More than just a fly tying video.  Check it out, and let us know your thoughts.

This fly tying video is another instructional in our series of videos that you can view at our Videos on Demand page, check out other titles to expand your fly fishing education. Thank you for your continued support, and don’t hesitate to let us know what additional videos you want to see.

Flash Monkey by Russ Maddin from Mangled Fly Media on Vimeo.

The Flash Monkey by Russ Maddin, is the latest streamer pattern from the creator of the popular Circus Peanut, Mad Pup, and South Bound Trucker. As in the past, Russ continues to push the evolution of fly tying – this pattern combines new materials from FlyMen and Hareline Dubbing with traditional hackles from Whiting Farms.

Requiring over 2 years to perfect, the Flash Monkey needed to meet Russ’ strict streamer standards. Countless trips to the river testing the Flash Monkey ensured it was properly balanced and moved in the river currents for maximum effectiveness.

This video is more than a simple tying demo. It breaks down the Flash Monkey and gives you full access into the mind of fly designer, fisherman , and river steward Russ Maddin. As he discusses his methods of tying, how to fish the pattern, and more. It also includes Q&A with Jon Ray discussing several retrieves to bring this fly to life, the best Scientific Anglers fly lines for the pattern, and how to build your leader to get the most out of your fly.

No matter your experience level you’ll learn something from this video. If you’re into streamer fishing – no matter the species – this is a must-watch video.

Flash Monkey Coming Soon

Thank you Russ Maddin for letting Erik Rambo and I film a step-by-step video instructional of your Flash Monkey.  More coming soon…..

 

Fly Tying – Flymen Blog Post

Great write up by Gunnar Brammer on the Flymen Blog Post about fly tying and the 3 different ways that you can use articulation in your fly design for stripping streamers.  Flymen products have exploded onto the scene the last few years.  Flymen products are a staple of my fly tying room.  Articulated Shanks for steelhead, Fish- Skull Articulated Fish Spines , and Fish-Skull Body Tubing

Gunnar makes reference to Russ Maddin, and one of my personal favorite streamer patterns the Circus Peanut.  Check out the link to the detailed how-to-tie video we did with Russ Maddin.

In my mind, Maddin’s Circus Peanut best exemplifies my personal definition of an articulated jig fly. The rear hook and front hook are identical with the exception of the chenille-wrapped lead eyes. The fly swims, jigs, and is a fish-catching machine.

Circus Peanut with Russ Maddin from Mangled Fly Media on Vimeo.

The Circus Peanut has been a staple in the Russ Maddin fly box for years. The Circus Peanut orginated in Northern Michigan over a decade ago and is now fished all over the world. Many streamers by many famous fly tiers have followed this same template. Russ sits down with Jon Ray from Mangled Fly Media and shows his step-by-step process.
This video breaks down the Circus Peanut and gives you full access, into the mind of fly tier, fisherman , and river steward Russ Maddin. As he discusses his methods of tying, color matching, and setting up one of the best streamers of all time.
No matter your experience level you will learn something from this video. If your into streamer fishing no matter the species this is a must watch.