Views From My Side of the Vice

Views From My Side of the Vise

May, 2023

Just over 100 years ago, Charles Adams and his son Lon were out fishing in northern Michigan. From what I have read, they were somewhat frustrated by not having the right flies to match a hatch. So they visited a local friend and fly tyer Leonard Halladay in Mayfield, Michigan. Mr. Halladay tried to come up with a pattern that would meet Mr. Adams’ needs and the Adams dry fly was created.

The traditional Adams is one of the few patterns that I cannot tie to my liking. I never seem to be able to get the upright wings tied in so they look right. I wonder if that’s why someone along the way created the Parachute Adams?

So let’s briefly talk about the Parachute Adams. I can tie this pattern pretty darn okay. Parachute-style flies are really not my favorite to tie, but I do tie them because they catch fish. Never one to accept “good enough” when it comes to my flies, I slogged (some would say stumbled) ahead in pursuit of a more perfect Adams. After years of exhaustive (and exhausting) research and experimentation at the bench and on the stream, my version of this classic is a mash-up of the original Adams, the Parachute Adams, the Adams Cripple from Blue Ribbon Flies and the Gray Haze Cripple from Walter Wiese at Yellowstone Country Fly Fishing that I call the Adams Special.

Hook: Size 16 or 18 dry fly hook

Tail: Mayfly Brown Zelon

Abdomen: Dun Bug Legs from Fly Tyers Dungeon

Wing: White Widows Web

Collar: Grizzly Rooster Hackle

For the abdomen on this pattern, I have settled on the dun-colored Bug Legs. I have not found this exact color from similar stretchy floss materials. The Bug Legs will not get darker when they get wet or covered in floatant. The poly wing is easy to see on the water just like a parachute post. The finished fly also maintains some of the same qualities of the traditional Adams. Give this pattern a try and see if it might not become your favorite Adams-style dry fly. Or you could decide to put your faith in one of the titans of fly tying who inspired my creation (Leonard Halladay, Craig Matthews or Walter Wiese) and use their version. I might sulk briefly, but I’ll get over it.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From My Side of the Vise

I think most would agree that the top three nymph patterns would have to be the Pheasant Tail Nymph, the Gold-Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph and the Prince Nymph. I’ll leave it for you to decide which is #1, #2 and #3 because they all belong in your fly box.

In this column, I want to focus on the Prince Nymph. I have been tying and fishing with a Prince Nymph for many years. I learned somewhere along the way that the fly was created by Doug Prince.  What I did not know until I started to do some research on the fly was that its origins were right here in Minnesota. The original pattern was the Brown Forked Tail tied by Don and Dick Olson from Bemidji in the early 1930s. Doug Prince made some changes and renamed it the Prince Nymph which became widely available in the early 1940s.  

I personally like to tie Prince Nymphs, but I will admit that they are not the easiest fly to tie. The goose biots that are used for the tail and also the wing can create some issues. You can have a nice-looking tie going and with one poor thread wrap the whole thing can go south on you. This fly is one that you just need to work at and tie a fair number (dozens upon dozens) to get it down.

Tying the white goose biots in for the wing seems to create the biggest issue. It is somewhat difficult to judge the length of the wing and also to get them tied in straight. When you finally accomplish that, it takes 47 wraps of tying thread to completely cover up the butt ends of the biots and you are left with a big blob of tying thread.

What I have started to do is to use some dry fly hackle for the collar of the fly. After I get the white biots tied in, I tie in the hackle and make 1 ½ turns with it and that covers up the butt ends of the biots and gives the fly a nice finished look.

Give this a try and let me know if the Prince Nymph moves up your list of favorite flies to tie and fish.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From My Side of the Vise

One of my favorite all-time flies is the Lage Stop & Go Soft Hackle.  This pattern was developed by one of the real treasures in our little corner of the fly fishing world, Randy Lage.

Several years ago, Randy was fishing some off-colored water on the South Branch of the Whitewater River.  He was using a fly he called the Caution Fly.  It was a soft hackle fly tied with a black body and gold wire.  The fly was not working as well as he had hoped so off he went to his fly tying vise.  Randy had just returned from a trip to Lake Taneycomo in Branson, so the materials for a local favorite fly from there, the Crackleback, were on the top of his tying kit.  So he pulled out a spool of green tinsel. Now what to add to it?  Red wire, some dubbing and a partridge feather.  Voilà, the Stop & Go was born.  Red and green, get it?

I was introduced to this pattern by Randy one evening at Laughing Trout.  Never one to leave well enough alone (a recurring theme in these columns), I had to make some changes.  So I switched to red tying thread and changed the thorax to Superbright Peacock Dubbing.  Now I have the Lage Stop & Go Soft Hackle.

I fish this fly from early spring to late fall.  Randy designed the fly to be fished using the typical soft hackle technique of casting down and across the stream.  I like to fish it as the bottom fly of a two-fly rig under an indicator.  

You should tie some of these flies up and give them a try.  It just might become one of your favorite flies as well.

Hook: Size 16 Scud Hook

Thread: 14/0 Red

Abdomen: Holographic Green Tinsel, size medium

Rib: Red wire, size Brassie

Thorax: Wapsi Superbright Peacock Dubbing

Wing: Hungarian Partridge

Views From This Side Of My Vice

Early on in my fly tying journey, I took some classes at a local fly shop.  It was at one of those classes that I first heard of a fly pattern called the Pink Squirrel.  I remember the discussion at the shop being that this was kind of an odd pattern but from all reports it did catch fish.  The fly also seemed to be something of a secret.  There were not any photos of the fly around and you sure would not want to mention it in any type of online forum.

After that I started tying Pink Squirrels and yes, they always seem to catch fish.  My go-to recipe is to use a 2.4mm gold bead on a size 16 1x long  nymph hook. I use Pearl Krystal Flash for the tail, natural fur dubbing for the abdomen, gold wire size brassie for the rib and pink dubbing for the collar.

Fast forward about 15 years to one of our Laughing Trout Wednesday night tying sessions where my good friend Grace bluntly tells me that she does not like the way I tie a Pink Squirrel.  She much prefers to use chenille and not dubbing for the collar, which is closer to the original pattern created by John Bethke.  I have never cared for this style because a thread wrap over the chenille is needed to tie it in. For some reason or another that thread wrap has always bothered me.

It is interesting how we can look at a fly and view it differently from another angler’s perspective.  I find myself doing this from time to time.  I will look at a pattern in a fly shop or a magazine and say to myself, “That is pretty cool, but I think it would look better to do it this way”.  Does that make my version of the fly any better than the original?  Heck no!  It just somehow looks better to me.

Now, back to the Pink Squirrel.  Why is this pattern so effective on Driftless Region trout?  The only reasonable explanation I have ever heard was that fish take it as an egg.  Do the fish care if it has a chenille or a dubbing collar?  No, only a few overly persnickety anglers seem to have an opinion on that. Grace and I are just going to have to disagree.

Paul Johnson

Waconia, Minnesota

Views From This Side Of My Vise

Since the name of my column is “Views From My Side of the Vise”, I thought I should talk about fly tying vises. Or, at least my experiences with the
different vises that I have owned.

My tying journey started with a tying kit from Cabela’s. It came with a basic non-rotary vise. The vise did its job and held a hook tightly. It was extremely difficult, however, to adjust and some smaller hooks tended to slip in the jaws. This vise did give me a good start to fly tying.

From my beginner vise, I did a minor upgrade and got an EZ Rotary Vise. This gave me a nice step up from my first vise. It was much easier to
adjust in order to hold a hook in place and was a nice vise — worth the money I paid for it.

My first quality vise was a Peak Rotary Vise. It was big, heavy and well-built and was easy to ad￾just and held the hook very tight. I’d recommend
this vise to anyone.

About this time, I joined the Laughing Trout Fly Tying Club. Most of the folks there were tying on a Renzetti Traveler Vise. Since I cannot stand up to
peer pressure, I sold my Peak and got a Traveler. This is another high quality vise and all that you will ever need.

Well, anyone but me. I eventually sold that Traveler and got a Renzetti Presentation 4000. This is just a little higher quality as compared to the Traveler. I still have this vise and use it all of the time.

My fly tying vise journey was still not complete. Several years ago, I bought a Renzetti Master. It’s a high quality vise and should be for what it cost.
This vise stays on the desktop in my tying room and I use it every day.

Since I got the Master, I did go back and get another Renzetti Traveler that I keep on the tying desk at my lake cabin. I also picked up a Griffin
Mongoose that I use if I am going on a trip.

So, what have I learned along the way? The first thing is to find a vise that looks and feels the way you like when you are tying on it. I recommend
going to your local fly shop to check out their options. They will be more than happy to help you and probably even let you test drive a couple
different models to see what you like and what you are comfortable with.

The biggest thing I have learned along the way is that a better vise will not make you a better fly tyer; only practice will do that. High-end vises are
very nice to tie on, are silky smooth and for me are worth the extra money, but they’re not foreveryone. Try a couple different vises and figure out what works for you.