The Turkey Tail Nymph

It is my observation that nearly every fly tying innovation is inspired in some way by something that existed before. This is certainly the case with the Turkey Tail Nymph, which follows lines of construction similar to the venerated Pheasant Tail. Created in Europe many decades ago, the PT Nymph has become a staple for fly fishers worldwide, and its reputation as a reliable producer of trout is largely unchallenged. However, devising a viable alternative to any existing pattern is what keeps the creative juices of any fly tyer flowing, and no fly works all of the time.

Turkey Tail Nymph

Turkey Tail Nymph

Introduced to the tail feathers from wild turkeys by a hunter friend in the 1980’s, I studied their fly tying potential for several years before coming upon the idea of incorporating the splendid plumage into the construction of an experimental nymph pattern. The long fibers radiating from a stout center stem can be managed in a way similar to those from a pheasant tail in forming the body of a fly in a way that is quite pleasing to the eye of both angler and trout. Turkey tail fibers can also be incorporated into the tail, legs, and wing case in a manner nearly identical to the PT Nymph. Color is the primary difference between the tails of these two abundant game birds, and this is why the Turkey Tail Nymph has become an excellent companion pattern for the reddish brown PT Nymph.
The generally oak colored turkey feathers are mottled with a lighter shade of brown creating a lovely marbled effect when applied as herl on a hook shank. When wrapped with gold wire for ribbing and weight, the Turkey Tail Nymph takes on a distinct personality of its own when compared to the copper wire used for the PT.

Like its revered predecessor, the Turkey Tail Nymph is at home in both still and moving water, and it can be tied with or without a bead. The broad feathers from which it is formed provide adequate working fiber length to accommodate hooks up to size 10, and a single quill will usually yield at least two dozen flies.

I fish the Turkey Tail Nymph as specific imitation for several mayflies like Baetis, Flavs, and some varieties of PMD’s. This is often while sight nymphing to a known target in clear, shallow water. Fishing the same pattern in tandem with a PT Nymph is a technique I use in lakes or while fly fishing blind along the banks from a drift boat. Tied on a long shank hook, the turkey tail pattern serves as a credible imitation for Damsel flies and other insects that call for more length in the artificial.

Turkey Tail Nymph
Hook: TMC 3761 Size 10-20
Thread: Dark Brown 8/0
Tail: Tips of wild turkey tail fibers
Rib: Gold wire
Abdomen: Wild Turkey Tail fibers
Thorax: Same as abdomen
Wing Case: Wild Turkey Tail fibers
Legs: Tips of Wild Turkey Tail fibers

Progress – Fly Fishing in the high country

Rene Harrop Fishtec Airflo

Beginning with winter solstice, the journey to spring in my part of the world is measured in pitifully small increments of advancement in temperature and daylight. While the improvements can seem barely noticeable through December and January, hope begins to appear with the arrival of February when average daily highs hover around the freezing mark and more than an hour of fishing light has begun since the shortest day of the year.

A fishing day for me is anytime I am not fighting ice encrusted guides or the risk of frostbitten fingers. And while winter conditions remain a constant throughout the month, a reduction of subzero nights and a northerly migrating sun bring a progressive increase to the number of hours I am willing to spend pursuing trout on the Henry’s Fork when winter’s worst lies in the rearview mirror.

Rene Harrop Airflo

 

Although the arrival of February brings a fairly significant increase in opportunity for casting to rising midge feeders, most who fish above the 5,000 foot level will spend more time probing the depths of deeper runs and pools for the larger residents who will remain disinterested in the exertion of surface feeding until emerging insects are larger and the water warms to above 40ᵒ F.

Whether fishing nymphs or streamers; deep and slow are the bywords for fishing water only a few degrees above freezing. And unlike juvenile trout which will occupy the shallow edges, adults are prone to the comfort and security of depth in their selection of winter habitat. With metabolism slowed by cold temperature, big trout do not seem to require a high volume of food nor are they often willing to expend energy or fat stores in pursuit of fast moving prey or food drifting outside a distinct comfort zone.

Rene Harrop Airflo

In cold water, mature trout seem inclined to hug the stream bottom where the water is generally warmer and most food sources are concentrated. Upward or lateral movement of more than a foot or two is the exception rather than the rule for winterized fish which feed opportunistically on organisms drifting close by rather than chasing down a meal.

Aside from midge larvae, which are about the only aquatic insects to be truly active in mid-winter, trout will not generally see a consistent food image during times when cold water dormancy limits the activity and availability of aquatic organisms. Therefore, acute selective feeding behavior associated with trout isolating their attention on a single insect species or other source of nutrition is seldom a problem through most of the winter months.

Since the opportunity to feed during this period is usually based on a random selection of nymphs, larvae, and other fish, I do not usually concern myself with precise imitation when selecting a fly pattern. A typical nymphing rig might include a heavy, black or brown stonefly pattern in size 6 or 8 and a smaller Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear nymph in size 14 or 16. The flies are tied to move naturally with the current by utilizing thin rubber legs or soft, flexible materials like marabou and Partridge hackle.

My winter streamers in size 6 and 8 are relatively small in comparison to what I would normally tie on in other seasons, but they seem to work just fine and represent much less work when fishing with chilled hands and a lighter fly rod. And like the nymphs, I want my streamers to display action without excessive manipulation with the rod or line. At times, I will also fish a nymph and streamer in tandem.

A 9 foot 6 weight rod allows me to switch back and forth between nymphs, streamers, and dries with relative ease, which is particularly helpful when changing rods can mean a considerable hike through knee deep snow.

My line is a double taper floater, which allows me to manage the drift with mending techniques that keep the fly moving slowly and close to the bottom. And I try to maintain a dead drift whether fishing nymphs or streamers when temperatures are at their lowest.

Rene Harrop Airflo elite-lichen

A 10 to 12 foot leader allows the fly to sink quickly to the proper depth, and I will add a small split shot or two in deeper or quicker currents. In the interest of controlling fly drift and detecting the always subtle take, I try to limit my cast to 30 feet or less.

In the high country, the rewards of winter fishing are not always defined by the size or number of the catch, especially on those welcome days in February when calm winds and a climbing sun can mask the reality that true spring weather can lay two or more months into the future. And at times like this when progress finally becomes noticeable, simply being outdoors and fishing can be reward enough.

Reflections on A Fly Line

Rene Harrop Streamer Caught Brown Trout

Rene Harrop Streamer Caught Brown Trout

For nearly a decade I have enjoyed a position on the Airflo Pro Staff. Through that period I have gained tremendous respect and appreciation for the unsurpassed array of specialty fly lines that go far beyond anything I could have imagined before joining this esteemed group of remarkably talented anglers.

Like most in the sport, I enjoy many types of fly fishing. In my experience, the value of individual fly lines designed to specifically accommodate the widely diverse requirements of trout fishing’s many facets cannot be overstated, and I take full advantage of any line intended for an exclusive purpose.

As a trout fisherman living on the Henry’s Fork, however, my assigned duty has been to assist in the development of a line designated especially for refined presentation of dry flies and mostly small nymphs to large, selective, and wary trout. To this end, I am pleased and proud to have been a part in the arrival of the Airflo Super Dri Elite Trout Line. With all the requirements of the demanding Henry’s Fork covered, this line has gained the approval of some of the world’s most discriminating practitioners, and the number is growing daily.
While accomplishing the objective of creating what I consider to be a specialized line for precise presentation of mostly smaller flies on challenging water, what also has emerged is a quality of performance that may be even more important.

Rene Harrop Super Dri Elite Salmon Fly

Trout Caught During Salmon Fly Hatch

Efficient testing of the Elite meant applying the new line in a variety of conditions and seasonal demands that by necessity could not be limited to my favorite type of fishing.
Fishing big dry flies and heavy nymphs from a drift boat on fast, bumpy water during a Salmon Fly hatch is vastly different than a delicate cast on slow, clear currents. Exchanging a 4 weight Elite for a 6 weight was all that was needed to comfortably handle the burly business of a different game.

I used the same 6 weight Elite for fishing my favorite still waters like Henry’s and Hebgen Lake when a floating line became appropriate, and the results were remarkably satisfying.
In late fall when cold weather testing became necessary, the 6 weight Elite was again put into action while fishing streamers in low water for big brown trout on the lower Henry’s Fork. Again, performance was far better than adequate and I never felt limited when fishing this line.

Rene Harrop 3 Weight Airflo Super Dri Elite

Rene Harrop 3 Weight Airflo Super Dri Elite

I found a 3 weight Elite to be perfect for the Fire Hole and other smaller waters in the Yellowstone region including several spring creeks.

Other examples could be easily used to demonstrate the amazing versatility of the Airflo Elite. It is difficult to imagine an angler who would not appreciate what is truly an all-around trout line.

Rene Harrop Lake Fishing Airflo Super Dri Elite

Using the Super Dri Elite on Still-water improves accuracy

Low Water and Light Fishing Tackle

Big-Trout-Small-Fly

Like the weather, a river is changed by the seasons. In October the Henry’s Fork flows are at about 25% of peak summer levels and the resulting changes in the fishery are multiple. This essentially applies to the slow water sections beginning at Last Chance Run and extending through Harriman to the water below Pine Haven.

This is mostly wadeable water even when downstream agricultural demands push release of water from Island Park Reservoir to 1,000 cfs and above. Storing water for the coming year begins in early Fall when flows are reduced to around 300 cfs and often lower. Responding to a rather radical and abrupt change in their environment, trout begin to concentrate in winter habitat that features greater security in terms of water depth and structure. What this means is that even though big trout may be found feeding in surprisingly thin flows of a foot or even less, they are seldom far from the sanctuary of deeper water. Awareness of this behavior will assist a visiting angler who might deal with finding fish when previously occupied water becomes seasonably devoid of opportunity.

While low water provides advantages in access and wading comfort fall fishing produces complications that are not nearly as pronounced at other times of the year.

Aquatic vegetation, a necessity in the welfare of trout and insects, grows densely in the higher flows of summer. Losing a good fish in the weed becomes an increasingly familiar disappointment as the season progresses.

Thin-Water-Trout

In the fall, vast expanses of exposed vegetation reduce the amount of open water in some sections and the tendrils are always close enough to the surface to disrupt the current and complicate fly presentation.

With only minor exception, fall hatches are small in physical size but their numbers can be astounding. Mahogany Duns in size 16 or 18 are a bonus through mid-October; otherwise you will be dealing with Baetis and midges if dry fly fishing is your objective. A size 18 is at the large end of the scale, and they range much smaller.

A high quality tippet of 6X or 7X is needed to accommodate imitations that probably average size 22. And while futility with regard to landing a big fish may instantly come to mind, bringing a 20 inch trout to net is not impossible even with such a delicate connection.

Upstream-Connection

As a matter of practicality, tackle adjustments based on seasonal requirements will determine a particular rod, fishing reels, and fly line to accommodate the extensive variety of opportunity available during a year of fishing in Henry’s Fork country.

Fishing streamers and other large subsurface flies on still and moving water will call for a 7 weight to handle a long cast and truly big trout. I like a 6 weight for float fishing or wading during Salmon Fly time and the Golden Stone hatch. Both insects require patterns as large as size 4, and most are quite air resistant. The size 10 and 12 Green, Brown, and Gray Drakes are best handled by a 5 weight, especially when making a long cast to cruising trout on the flats of the Ranch. A 9 foot 4 weight is the rod I carry on most days when a fly larger than size 14 is not likely to be necessary and a cast beyond 50 feet is a rarity. Fishing the small dries and nymphs that typify fishing the shallow flows of October is, for me, best accomplished with a 3 weight rod.

Low, clear water, tiny flies, and easily alarmed trout combine for some of the most challenging fishing of the year, especially when weed altered currents enter the picture. In a game of enhanced precision and delicacy, the light weight and small diameter of a 3 weight line permit a more subtle and controlled presentation that will put the fly where it needs to be and with a reduced tendency to alert a wary trout.

Relying upon stealth to minimize casting distance, I rely primarily on a crisp action, 8 foot 3 weight rod for fishing the small hatches of fall. A lighter line and shorter rod can be efficiently coupled with a 12 foot leader, which is considerably shorter than what I would typically use with a heavier line and longer rod.

Keeping the distance to a target fish at 30 feet or less plays strongly into the accuracy of the cast and management of the drift. And of course, seeing a small fly is entirely dependent upon fishing at relatively close range.

An upstream cast from behind the fish is the most efficient method of approaching shy trout in thin water. Quite often, however, surface feeding trout are found tucked tightly against the bank, edge of an exposed weed bed or other locations where a different presentation angle is called for. A reach or curve cast from the side in these situations is less likely to disturb the fish than approaching from upstream where you will be far more likely to come into a trout’s window of vision before ever getting within reasonable casting range.

Controlling a big rampaging rainbow is never an easy proposition, regardless of the tackle being employed. However, lighter action fishing rods will do a better job of cushioning a fine tippet and precarious connection to a miniature hook. A smooth functioning fly reel with a reliable, adjustable drag system is also an asset when playing large trout on very light tackle. Firm, relentless pressure can quickly tire a trout but you must concentrate on its every move and be prepared to release line the instant forceful movement away from you is indicated. And while luck is likely to ultimately determine the outcome, elevated skill in the techniques of playing and landing big trout can result in a very satisfying accomplishment.

Fishing small flies on light tackle is a fitting end to the dry fly season where thin, gentle currents and big, wary trout combine to demand our best. We are carried into the long winter by those fresh memories of crisp, fall days and rising trout. And as fly fishers, we survive until spring largely on the strength of those memories.

Low-Water-Rainbow

Thin Water and the Super Dri Elite Trout Taper

Rene' Harrop Henry Fork Trout Super-Dri Elite

Entering the second full year of fishing the Airflo Elite Trout line, I had come to believe there was little more to discover with regard to conditions that would challenge the performance of this remarkable new taper. That idea changed rather abruptly when fishing one of my favorite stretches of the Henry’s Fork that opened about a week ago.

Low water typifies the condition of the river just prior to release of water for irrigation purposes from Island Park Reservoir. This year, however, I found the level to be ankle deep rather than knee deep on the shallow side of a broad flat where big rainbows leave the security of depth to feed precariously over an open gravel bottom.

With currents not yet corrupted by aquatic vegetation, the surface was mirror smooth and the difficulty was not one of managing a complicated drift but rather to avoid spooking the fish with a coarse delivery of the fly. The mixture of midges, small mayfly spinners, and a few spent caddis was sparse in number, and the trout showed no favoritism as they cruised the placid flow. This opportunistic feeding pattern placed stronger emphasis on precise accuracy rather than finding an exact imitation that the trout would find acceptable.

By preference, I would have chosen to present the little caddis I had selected from a downstream position. Working from behind the fish usually provides a better opportunity to shorten the required casting distance, but there are times when this approach is not practical. On this late spring morning, an upstream stalk would place a low angled sun at my back creating warning line shadow that even the 20 foot leader could not cancel.

Any approach from upstream would certainly be detected by a wary trout long before I could get into reasonable casting range. Even working in from the side would necessitate 40 feet of fly line and the full length of the long leader to avoid spooking an alert surface feeder, but this is the route I chose to begin the engagement.

Inching my way to a position 60 feet from a sizeable pair of impressive heads was a ten minute test of patience and discipline, but this effort paid off. A test cast deliberately placed well away from the trout’s position told me the distance needed and how current would influence the drift of the fly. Knowing that everything would have to be perfect with regard to both angler and tackle, I powered the 4 weight toward the nearest rise with a reach cast right, and waited.

Rene' Harrop Henry Fork Trout Super-Dri Elite

A good drift of more than 6” went untouched as the next rise appeared several feet upstream and slightly beyond the first. With no bottom cover to provide protection from overhead danger, it was clear that the trout would not relax into a fixed position, and there would be no pattern to the feeding activity. Fortunately, both fish seemed reluctant to leave a 15 foot feeding perimeter, which made it a game of successfully guessing where the nervous trout might next appear and getting the fly to that location as quickly as possible.

Perhaps 20 minutes and more than a dozen fruitless attempts had passed before everything finally came together and I tightened against the weight of a well-conditioned 20 inch hen. In little more than 12 inches of water, the fight was one of enragement rather than power as the shiny surface was shredded by the panicked trout. Successfully retraining the prize from charging into deeper water on the far side was no small accomplishment with a 6X tippet, and she slipped into my net after a spirited 5 minute battle.

Rene' Harrop Henry Fork Trout Super-Dri Elite

Rene' Harrop Henry Fork Trout Super-Dri Elite

As calm returned to the scene, I didn’t have long to wait before the companion fish reappeared a little upstream and slightly closer to my side of the river. Only about a dozen careful steps were required to bring myself into position to begin round 2.

The game remained the same on the second fish with carefully placed casts that again began to accumulate as the feeding window began to close. With noon approaching and the sun in a higher position, I was able to spot what appeared to be the twin of the earlier fish as she finned only inches beneath the surface. It had been several minutes since I had seen a rise but the cast was true and the dry fly disappeared on the first pass.

A power run directly across stream and a tall leap gave quick freedom to another splendid Henry’s Fork rainbow, but there was no sense of disappointment as I retrieved the line and 50 feet of backing.

Because I live on the river, I would return on the following day and there will be many more at this early point in the year. I am a lucky man.

Fishing the Caddis Hatch at Henry’s Fork

Shayne Harrop Spring Caddis

Shayne Harrop Spring Caddis

In recent years I have sometimes struggled to separate the personal importance of fishing hatches larger than size 18 or leaving the season of gloves, heavy fleece, and covered ears. In most years, however, both comforts tend to arrive together around early May when conditions are right for streamside willows to come into bud and the first caddis of the year to begin their emergence.

Like nearly all willows and caddis, I find it difficult to tolerate long periods of below freezing temperatures, especially while in pursuit of rising trout.  And with the sharp vision of youth now only a memory, my eyes become instantly grateful when a size 14 dry fly can attract the kind of enthusiasm from trout that only the warm season can inspire. Learn how casting and perfectly presenting a dry fly will catch you more fish.

In the U.S., the second Sunday in May is a day of honor for mothers nationwide which, by itself, is of no small significance. In much of the northern Rockies, however, Mother’s Day coincides with the appearance of a sizeable, mostly brown caddis that begins a string of like insects that will stretch into early autumn. And while not always the dominant insect of choice, caddis in a variety of sizes and colors play a substantial role in the diet of trout throughout the most comfortable months of the year.

Like mayflies, caddis provide opportunity to fish weighted imitations in their subsurface form. Cased and free living larvae are prime attractions for trout in nearly any season. Pupae, the second stage, become available just prior to and during emergence and are fished differently than the deep, dead drift method that is appropriate for the larval stage.

MY favorite pupal imitation is a weighted Ascending Caddis that is fished either upstream with a lift or across and downstream with a twitching motion applied by the rod tip. With naturals being active and often quick in their rise to the surface, the take on a tight line can be sudden and forceful as the fish rushes to engulf the fly before it can escape the water.

During emergence, an aggressive rise that moves a lot of water indicates a trout taking rising caddis pupae close to the surface. Duplicating the appearance and behavior of the natural in this situation means fishing a submerged rather than floating pattern.

A floating pupae pattern like the CDC Bubble Back Caddis will imitate the brief but often distinct period between the transition from subsurface pupa to winged adult. Fished on the surface without drag or perhaps with a slight twitch, the Bubble Back Caddis creates an illusion of vulnerability if only for a few seconds. However, this slight window of enhanced opportunity can be enough to attract a trout’s attention.

Caddis in the winged stage are known to be more active on the water than mayflies. Following a traditional approach to dealing with this mobility, I utilize a pattern featuring a dubbed body with hackle palmered along its entire length. This, combined with a wing of paired CDC feathers, provides a light foot print on the water and allows the fly to be inched across the surface when such behavior is called for. Flotation of this style is excellent on most water but I will sometimes add a small amount of elk hair to bolster performance on extra rough currents.

Brogan Harrop Spring Caddis

Brogan Harrop Spring Caddis

The CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis was inspired by big, selective trout feeding in clear and slow moving water. Although this pattern floats quite low on the water it possesses excellent flotation and visibility when compared to most other slow water caddis patterns. I find the Henry’s Fork Caddis to be particularly effective on summer mornings and evenings when the temperatures are cooler and the naturals mostly sedate on the water.

Unlike some who tend to trivialize the value of caddis in comparison to well-known mayfly hatches, I carry a rather extensive selection of specialized caddis patterns. The following four patterns, however, comprise a sound foundation for addressing most of what will be encountered during a caddis emergence and their subsequent return to the water when eggs are deposited and the cycle ends

The following is a sampling of some of the most common colors.

Ascending Caddis Tan

Ascending Caddis
Hook: TMC 206 BL size 12-20
Thread: Tan 8/0
Rib: Copper Wire
Back: Brown Marabou
Abdomen:  Tan Dubbing
Legs:  Brown Partridge fibers
Antennae:   2 Wood Duck fibers

CDC Bubble Back Caddis (Tan)

CDC Bubble Back Caddis (Tan)

Bubble Back Caddis
Hook: TMC 206 BL size 12-20
Thread: Tan 8/0
Shuck: Sparse tuft of Tan dubbing over 3 Wood Duck fibers
Abdomen: Tan CDC feathers looped over Tan dubbing to create a humped effect.
Hackle: Brown Partridge
Thorax: Brown Dubbing

CDC Palmered Caddis Adult Brown

CDC Palmered Caddis Adult Brown

CDC Palmered Caddis Adult
Hook: TMC 100 BL size 12-20
Thread: Brown 8/0
Hackle: Whiting Cree or Grizzly dyed brown
Body: Brown Dubbing
Wings: Paired Brown CDC feathers
Antennae: 2 Wood Duck fibers

CDC Henry's Fork Caddis Olive

CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis Olive

CDC Henry’s Fork Caddis
Hook: TMC 100 BL size 12-20
Thread: Olive 8/0
Abdomen: Olive Goose or Turkey Biot
Wing: Paired Med. Dun CDC feathers
Over Wing: Brown Partridge fibers
Thorax: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Whiting Grizzly dyed dun trimmed on bottom

The First Rise By Rene’ Harrop

The First Trout Rise of 2014

The First Trout Rise of 2014 – Bonnie Harrop Photos

For a fly fisher, surviving winter at high elevation is usually an arduous and inconsistent process. Snow and bitter cold temperatures can dominate the weather for months at a time and a visit to the river is often times only to watch through the months of December, January, and February.

With ice and cold winds as limiting factors, finding a window of opportunity for even a few hours of deep water nymphing or streamer fishing can be rare if human comfort assumes a role in determining whether to fish or stay indoors. Gradually, however, the daytime hours lengthen and subzero temperatures eventually become a casualty of the calendar. And as an ice bound river begins to regain its flowing character, there comes a glimmer of expectation for the first true sign of an eventual spring.

Although the timing of conditions suitable for dry fly fishing can vary from year to year, the sight of the first rise of a new season is always something to savour. And while the source of surface interest among trout in late winter is invariably of a size that dictates keen refinement in all aspects of fishing tackle and skill, nothing in the entire year is more welcome than the humble midge.

While chironomids on local still waters and elsewhere can be realistically imitated on a hook as large as size 12, the term midge is an appropriate description when they are found on moving water. Seldom larger than size 20, midges are available to trout in the Henry’s Fork and most other streams throughout the year. However, they are never more important than in cold weather conditions and are often the only hatch to be found during the longest season of the trout states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Because of a craving for dry fly fishing after a long absence, I watch for conditions that promote surface availability of the tiny insects. Air temperatures that exceed the freezing point by 6 to 8 degrees will usually stimulate late winter and early spring emergence, and overcast skies are often a positive factor in tempting wary trout to the surface. Temperatures below 50ᵒ seem to hold the adults on the surface, and this increases the potential for finding rising trout.

Trout feed more efficiently in slower currents when floating midges are the target, but gently riffled water should not be ignored. Seeing the miniature dry flies is completely dependent upon fishing as close to a surface feeder as possible, regardless of the water type. A cast beyond 30 feet will likely put a size 22 out of view, at which time you will be required to set the hook when a rise appears in the area where you think the fly is located.

By necessity, midge patterns must be of relatively simple design, as is the case with all exceptionally small imitations. Because of its unique flotational properties, CDC works well for midge patterns that must be supported on the surface with a minimal amount of material. My favourite floating patterns also incorporate a sparse application of hackle, and stripped goose biots are a regular feature as well.

While my midge box contains an extensive assortment of patterns representing all phases of the life cycle, three distinct floating imitations have demonstrated reliable productivity on waters as distant as Japan. And I fear little shame in admitting that their favoured status is also based on the relative ease in which they can be seen on the water.

CDC Biot Midge Adult 

CDC Biot Midge Adult

CDC Biot Midge Adult – Bonnie Harrop Photos

This pattern rides fairly high on the water and parallel to the surface in a manner that represents a fully emerged midge adult.

Hook: TMC 100 BL size 18-24
Thread: Gray 8/0
Abdomen: Canada Goose Biot or Stripped Peacock Herl
Wing: Sparse Lt. Dun CDC
Thorax: Gray Dubbing
Hackle: 1-3 turns of Grizzly

 CDC Hanging Midge

CDC Hanging Midge

CDC Hanging Midge – Bonnie Harrop Photos

This easy to see midge pattern rides partially submerged with only the wing and hackle showing above the surface.

Hook: TMC 100 BL size 18-24
Thread: Gray 8/0
Body: Canada Goose Biot or Peacock Herl
Thorax: Gray Dubbing
Wing: White CDC
Hackle:  1-3 turns of Grizzly

CDC Cluster Midge

CDC Cluster Midge

CDC Cluster Midge – Bonnie Harrop Photos

In a way, this pattern allows a bit of cheating on the usually very small midge patterns by imitating a cluster of mating insects that often swarm together on the surface.

Hook: TMC 100 BL size 14-20
Thread: Gray 8/0
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Grizzly palmered
Wing: Sparse White CDC

The Beast – Fishing on the Henrys Fork

Gareth Jones Airflo

“Gareth is not an angler, he’s a bloody beast”. But it was not insult that Charles Jardine intended when describing his friend and fellow Brit Gareth Jones.

Anyone who has ever fished with Gareth understands that he brings an uncommon approach to fly fishing. And while still waters are his specialty, no obstacle of location or condition can assure a trout’s safety when the man from Wales moves into action. This fac

t was not lost on the Henry’s Fork when a July visit was greeted by extreme summer temperatures and unusually high flows of less than ideal clarity.

Gareth Jones Airflo

While hatches and dry fly opportunity were sparse, Gareth would not be deterred from introducing himself to as many Henry’s Fork rainbows as possible. His ability to spot fish that would easily be missed by most anglers was made less impressive only by the number of trout he was able to subdue on the first day of a week-long venture that would cover a variety of lakes and streams. Relying mainly on self-devised sight nymphing techniques, Gareth kept Bonnie busy with the camera while demonstrating a mastery of overcoming difficulty beyond what is typical on a river known for being difficult.

Gareth Jones Airflo

Boobies, ‘the washingline’, and straight line nymphing were unveiled as still water techniques on day two. Sunrise found Gareth and me in an 18’ power boat piloted by Brandon Prince.  A lake obsessed angler himself, Brandon had laid out a plan that would put us on two splendid but distinctly different lakes in the same day. We would fish Henry’s Lake beginning at 5:30 A.M. then jump across the Idaho Border into Montana four hours later to catch the Gulpers on Hebgen Lake only 15 minutes away.

Anticipation is the word on Henry’s where every cast holds the potential for an oversize cutthroat, brookie, or one of the giant hybrid cut-bows that can weigh more than 15 pounds.

As is always the case, time flies when you are fishing, and the four hours allotted for Henry’s left Gareth hungry for the proverbial one more cast. While certainly respectable on a morning when few were catching any fish at all, none of the half dozen or so trout he landed were above the average standard of about 17”, and we knew he wanted more.

Within minutes of launching on Hebgen, Gareth was fishing a dry dropper Callibaetis rig to cruising browns and rainbows that proved less than hospitable to our Welsh friend. A light hatch of the speckled mayflies was not adequate to keep the fish near the surface for significant time during their sporadic rising, and the catch rate was relatively slow during the 3 hour hatch.

With less than a dozen fish to his credit, Gareth took command of the boat as we cruised the edges in search of submerged targets that are typically immune from angler attention when surface activity ends. In shallow, slightly riffled water, Gareth’s accurate casting applied serious discomfort to the unsuspecting fish that finned along the shoreline in sheltered bays.

Gareth Jones Airflo

It was the same story at the mouth of a small tributary where sizable trout lay undetected by surrendering anglers that were beginning to leave the water at just past noon.

As is typical in the Rocky Mountain west, an afternoon wind put a chop on the surface that, for most, spells the end of fishing on Hebgen. With competition for water essentially nonexistent, Brandon and I were introduced to the real talent of Gareth Jones, and the reason he is held in such high esteem as a master of still water came into full display.

As a formidable predator beyond common, Gareth applied his remarkable memory and astute ability to recognize occupied water to extend our productive time on Hebgen beyond anything I had ever experienced.

Remembering the general locations where trout had shown themselves earlier, Gareth direct

ed placement of the boat in water he knew would hold fish. Using a floating line and 4 flies strung along 20’ of leader, Gareth incorporated a straight line nymphing technique in a fruitful probing of deep water that lasted until late afternoon.

Perhaps conquering is too strong a term to describe his performance in conditions that would defeat even seasoned regulars, but Gareth certainly has left his mark on the trout of Hebgen Lake.

The guides call it Disney Land, and all at TroutHunter were looking forward to learning how Gareth would fare on the trout laden lake and spring creek on Sheridan Ranch. A private fishery, its waters are managed for trophy size Kamloop rainbow in the lake and Steelhead Hybrid rainbow in the creek.

I was not surprised when Gareth and Brandon were again up and running at 4:00 A.M. in order to be on Sheridan at dawn. Joined by Jon Stiehl and Rich Paini, Bonnie and I arrived at the lake 3 hours later to witness the carnage.

Although limited to 8 anglers per day, Sheridan is a moody lake that must be read and fished correctly if one is to prevail over its sizable occupants.

Even at a distance, Gareth is impressive to watch. From a seated position in Brandon’s drift boat, his routine of casting the entire fly line separated the two before we were close enough to identify which angler was Gareth.

Gareth Jones Airflo

Dry fly opportunity in the form of midges, Callibaetis, and Damsels helped to add diversity to the fishing, but Gareth continued to rely mostly on the straight line nymphing method that had worked so well on Hebgen. With an estimate of at least a hundred fish touched, Gareth finished 7 hours of the lake with a Kamloops that was 5 or 6 inches short of the 30 incher he had spotted in the narrow channel on the upper end.

Moving the short distance to Sheridan Creek after a late lunch, Gareth got down and dirty on the big stream fish that lie in some of the deeper, faster pools. Again, he was reaching fish that most others would never touch or even see. Nymphs fished on a long leader and no floating indicator were a revelation to companions unfamiliar with this European technique. But learning is something we all expect when fishing with Gareth.

We arrived back on the Henry’s Fork at a more civilized hour to find a slight improvement in water level and clarity on day 4. A modest spinner fall had the fish looking up at about 8:30 A.M. and Gareth wasted no time in spanking a very respectable fish on a fine upstream presentation. Several more dry fly touches followed over the next hour or so but as expected, the larger trout turned their attention to emerging PMD Nymphs over a long, dense weed bed that harbored dozens of big rainbows. This is the toughest fishing we are compelled to deal with on the Henry’s Fork and it can leave even the best skilled regular shaking his head in exasperation. Although his numbers were not high, Gareth made an impressive showing on fish that became nearly impossible to fool.

Gareth Jones Airflo

Hatches subdued by a piercing sun and a hot wind that swept away our ability to locate nymphing trout brought logic to the decision to exit the river at a time when a cold beer made as much sense as anything. Breaking from the fishing a little earlier than usual, I knew Gareth was already planning for his final day on the water before returning to Wales.

Knowing Gareth’s fondness for Henry’s Lake and that he had left some unfinished business there several days earlier, his plan to again be on the water at sunrise was no surprise to any of his friends at TroutHunter. While redemption was needed only in his own mind, the pull of something more impressive would not be denied.

The second day on Henry’s was wholesale manager Tom Watkins’ first opportunity to observe Gareth perform his still water wizardry at a time when the lake is at its most perplexing. It was not clear whether Tom was more impressed by the size and number of trout hooked or by Gareth’s ability to cast beyond 100 feet with what appears to be only modest effort. And true to form, Tom graciously expressed gratitude for Gareth’s patience in explaining the techniques that he too was able to utilize during their day together.

Although the big hybrids had eluded Gareth’s attention on that day, there was no disappointment expressed toward several dozen brook trout and cutthroat that ran as large as 4 pounds. It was a fitting end to a week filled with magical waters, splendid trout, and the talents of a friend who never ceases to impress.

Gareth Jones Airflo

If relentless tenacity and a remarkable skill set that seem able to overcome the most adverse conditions of weather, water, and trout are the characteristics of a beast, then Gareth Jones meets that description. However, his friends on the Henry’s Fork know him as a gentleman and enthusiastic companion who simply lives to fish. And unlike the trout that must suffer his persistent attention, we all look forward to his return.

Rene’ Harrop

Island Park, Idaho U.S.A.

July, 2013

Rene Harrop Takes a Trophy Trout!

Rene Harrop Henry's Fork Rainbow Trout

In water some of you would recognize somewhere in the Henry’s Fork, this magnificent hen trout rose to a size 16 PMD Emerger fished on a 6X tippet.

Surviving three spectacular leaps and a sizzling run into the backing was just the beginning of the most profoundly intense trout battle I have ever experienced. With weight perhaps three or four times the tippet’s breaking strength, the massive rainbow employed every advantage of current, depth, and dense aquatic weed in a forceful freedom effort that, remarkably fell short of succeeding.

The ten minute fight was a test of every component of mind and fishing tackle where any weakness or mistake would have resulted in just another story of the big one that got away.

When laid alongside my Scott rod, this fish of a lifetime stretched more than six inches beyond the twenty inch mark. And there were no marks to indicate she had ever been hooked before.

As associates, (and friends) responsible for the perfectly functioning gear that made this amazing experience possible, you were each a part of this unlikely victory over the largest rainbow I have ever landed in the Henry’s Fork.

Thank you, Rene’ Harrop

Fishing Tackle used:

Fly Rod:   Scott S4 904/4
Fly Reel:  Hatch Monsoon 4 Plus
Fly Line:  Airflo Elite DT4
Leader:  TroutHunter 14′ (extended to 18″)
Tippet:  TroutHunter Fluorocarbon 6X
Fly:   CDC PhD Emerger size 16