The most important class of dry fly for
mountain lakes is the terrestrial imitation.
The trout, feeding on blow-ins day after day
throughout the summer, look for ants, beetles,
bees, and spiders. The image of drowned fare
floating awash on the surface gets imprinted
in their minds.
HOOK: 10-20; TMC 5230—3X fine wire
BODY: closed-cell packing foam (colored
red, black, or brown with a marker)
HACKLE: rooster hackle (one turn of hackle between the
two foam sections)
The big, black carpenter ants dominate the
blow-in fare early in the season, but by
midsummer the size-18 or -20 Red Foam Ant
is my favorite variation.
HOOK: 10-20; TMC 5230—3X fine wire
BODY: closed-cell packing foam tied in two sections
(colored red, black, or brown with a marker)
WING: clear Antron (tied back at a 45-degree angle)
A size-10 Flying Ant doubled as a flying termite
imitation on Gold Lake in Colorado. Look for ant
and termite falls in late summer.
HOOK: 8-18; TMC 100—standard dry fly
BODY: peacock herl
BODY HACKLE: dyed olive grizzly (palmered and
clipped flat on top and bottom)
WING: closed-cell packing foam (colored green on the
bottom with a marker)
This pattern is the most important fly in my
box for high lakes. There are always beetles
in the stomach samplings of trout; and the
fish will even break off selective feeding
on other organisms to take a real beetle.
The Foam Beetle pulls trout farther than the
Foam Ant. It's also more visible—with the
white top of the foam wing sticking up at
an angle—than the ant imitation in choppy
water. This is a great searching fly for
general prospecting on windy afternoons, when
you know the fish are looking to the surface
but rises are impossible to see.
In our fishing, the Foam Beetle proved to
be a much better stillwater pattern than a
running water pattern. But why? With Graham
Marsh and Tom Poole doing the scuba diving,
we watched trout approach the Foam Beetle in
both a lake and a river. The closed-cell
packing foam, a strong attractor material
because of the way it diffuses light, brought
trout rushing up to the fly in both environments.
In lakes a fish settled under the Foam Beetle
and watched it for a few seconds; and then, as
if simply looking at it was enough to calm doubts,
it would rise to the fly. In streams a fish would
also rush up under the fly, but as it stared at
it the Foam Beetle would drift off with the current.
This is a pattern that trout like to study before
HOOK: 14-16; TMC 100—standard dry fly
LEGS: deer hair tips tied in the middle (one pack
extending out on each side)
BODY: closed-cell packing foam (colored brown with a
marker) tied directly in front of the legs, with a
longer section folded behind the legs, and a
shorter section folded in front of the legs.
Spiders are another ubiquitous blow-in on lakes. The
difference with them is that they seem, on purpose, to
ride the air currents as a form of dispersal. They are
important when vertical winds are blowing through the
treetops; and as a result they seem to show up on the
water at different times than other terrestrials. This
makes a specific imitation a valuable fly.
Deer Hair Hornet
HOOK: 12-14; TMC 100—standard dry fly hook
BODY: yellow and black deer hair (alternating
bands of spun and clipped hair) with a tapered
waist about one-quarter the length of the hook
shank behind the eye.
WING: clear Antron (fastened at the waist of the fly)
This is as much an attractor as an imitation.
It's a big bright fly, and trout will swim a
long way to take a look at it. The fish often
circle the pattern, apparently suspicious of
something that stings, but the way to counter
this aggravating behavior is to fish a tandem
of a Deer Hair Hornet and a Foam Ant. The trout
come for the Hornet but end up taking the Ant.
The high-country angler needs imitations for
all the major stillwater insect orders.
HOOK: 8-12; TMC 101—ring eye, wide gap, IX
fine dry-fly hook.
BODY: natural or synthetic fur (color to
match the natural insect).
WING: deer hair (color to match the natural
insect) tied on the underside of the hook shank.
HACKLE: rooster to match the body color.
I'm not sure which dry fly would be my second,
"must-have" choice after the Foam Beetle, this
one or the Shroud. The Dancing Caddis matches
either the sedentary or the running caddisfly
adult, but when it's stripped across the top it
makes a great prospecting fly even when there
are no real caddis on the water. It's not just
for calm surfaces, either. It bounces on choppy
water, but it still draws slashing strikes. It's
important to grease the entire leader (and even
the line tip) with flotant with any stripped or
twitched fly or else the sunken nylon will pull
the fly under on the retrieve.
HOOK: small Flex Hook (roughly equivalent to a size 10)
TAIL: black Antron yarn (short, combed out)
BODY: high-density foam tied in at the tail,
folded over and tied down with copper wire.
RIB: copper wire (binding down the foam).
BOTTOM WING: clear Antron
TOP WING: calf tail tied at the back of the front section
BODY: Two strips of high-density foam tied in front of
the wing and folded to the eye on the top and
bottom of the shank
This imitation is tied in both gray, for
the freshly emerged adult, and blue, for
the mature egg-laying adult. It is a good
fly to just toss out on the water and see
what happens. The Flex-Damsel is a prime
chunk, a big morsel for a trout to come
up for from the bottom.
Improved Buzz Ball
HOOK: 10-14; TMC—standard dry fly hook
HACKLE: medium blue dun, orange, and grizzly (three
hackles palmered and trimmed with a V-notch
top and bottom)
WING: white Antron (short; extending half way back
over the body)
The "improved" refers to the white Antron wing
added to the original to make the fly more
visible to the angler. The Buzz Ball imitates
a mating clump of midges. For me it's an early
or late season fly, something to toss up against
an ice edge when adult midges are spinning in a
tight mass over the water.
HOOK: 10-22; TMC 5230—3X fine wire
REAR HACKLE: rooster (color to match the
natural—mainly gray, brown, cream, olive,
black, or red; hackle tied in by the tip
and palmered to form taper)
FRONT HACKLE: clear Antron (the Antron fibers
are put in a loop of thread and spun into a
hackle) This pattern actually has three uses—for
dapping with a floss blow line, for imitating
an adult midge, and for imitating a Trico mayfly
dun. It is just a good, all-around stillwater
HOOK: 8-16; TMC 5230—3X fine wire
TAIL: red marabou
BODY: gray natural or synthetic fur (covering only the
rear half of the hook shank)
HACKLE: medium blue dun (two hackles tightly
wrapped; covering the front half of the hook
Originally this was a running water pattern
for me, but then as a result of articles in
Trout & Salmon, the English fly fishing
magazine, it became popular in the United Kingdom
as a stillwater fly. My early attempts at fishing
the Shroud on ponds around the Deer Lodge valley
during the Callibaetis hatch were
so wonderful that this became one of my favorite
stillwater flies, too.
It's a dry-fly Woolly Worm. The marabou tail
]doesn't sink the fly—it rides sodden in the
surface film and with every twitch it slithers
through the water. As a result the Shroud is
one of the greatest general searching patterns
on any type of stillwater environment. The Shroud
and the Pheasant Tail Twist Nymph fished with a
tandem presentation are absolutely the finest
combination for mastering a Callibaetis
Clear Wing Spinner
HOOK: 14-22; TMC 5230—3X fine wire
TAIL: two hackle fibers (split)
BODY: synthetic or natural fur (thicker at the thorax)
WING: clear Antron fibers
This is the easiest spinner imitation to see
on the water because the clear Antron wings
stand out brightly on the surface. With the
Clear Wing Spinner either match the Trico
spinner (sizes 18-22 black) or the Callibaetis
spinner (sizes 12-16 gray). ~ GL
To be continued, next time: Emergers and Wet Flies