This is a specialty fly. I wish I could tell you it works all the time. It simply doesn’t, however………
In the months from March to May, when the mornings are overcast, the blue wing olive mayflies are hatching, the fish are tail slapping the surface and you know they are taking emergers, then this is the fly you want. Don’t give up on your dry fly fishing just yet. This pattern will entice many of them to take an emerger and then grab your fly in the surface film. Tied in many colors and sizes I have chosen an early season dark BWO pattern in size 16 on a sprout hook. Matching the size of the fly is more important than dialing in the perfect color.
I use heavy or standard hooks size 16 to 20 with olive thread. The under body on larger flies can be thin sticky back foam for more buoyancy covered with dubbing, smaller flies use only olive dubbing. The tail is horse hair or natural turkey biot short fibers. The magic wing material comes from the foam sheets that line the inside of mail envelopes and are found in colors grey, white, and clear. A thicker foam works better in the riffles.
Tie a dubbing bump at the bend of the hook.
Splay the tail fibers over the bump, tie in and dub over the top. Add more dubbing to finish the body.
Cut a wing foam strip 1/8th inch by 2 inches and secure with a few figure 8’s, then cover with light dubbing.
Use one or more post turns to secure the open wing shape.
Dub a small black head and superglue the thread one inch to whip finish.
Cut the wings to shape.
This is my go-to fly pattern for BWO hatches. It outperforms all others.
Before I get to the flies, I wanted to talk about Ed Constantini and myself a little bit. Ed and I are fishing and tying buddies. We both learned to tie through classes we took in the mid-’80s at Bob Mitchell’s Fly shop. We weren’t in the same class but we had similar experiences. We both still have our copies of the fly pattern recipes that Bob handed out in class and we learned the same initial patterns from Bob and his friends. If there is such a thing as a tying or fishing style, I would say that Ed and I come from similar fishing roots, have similar and compatible styles, and we have lots of fun.
When I first met Ed I told him I had just started doing some work on this website and I remember him asking me what had happened to the collection of fly patterns that were on our website. The patterns Ed remembered were originally featured in our paper Rip Rap newsletters in the days when Scott Hanson was our editor. Back then Greg Meyer, the guy who originally built and managed this website, used to feature the patterns on a fly tyers corner website page. It turned out that with updates to the site design, the pattern collection went by the wayside. One day I was poking around and ran across a collection of images from the old fly pattern page. I gathered them up and emailed them to Ed so he could have them for his own reference. Of course, Ed took the time to put these images back together with their original fly recipes. I’m sure this was a considerable amount of work on his part going through the Rip-Rap files stored on our archive page. Ed’s PDF file of Secret Kiap Flies is now on the website here and if you’d like to see the original articles check out the Rip Rap archive and start looking at Scott’s March 2008 issue and work forward. It’s worth the time. This particular issue has a great article by Jonathan Jacobs covering several early season patterns In addition to Jonathan, subsequent tyers include Michael Alwin, Brian Smolinski, Scott Hanson, Greg Meyer, Ron Kuehn, Perry Palin, and Bob Torres.
Before I go I’d like to talk about volunteering. We are not a fishing club or entertainers. We are a volunteer organization. There are lots of ways to pitch in and help our chapter. Kiap is known for getting stuff done. Our brushing work days are always well attended and often draw people from outside the chapter. In fact, that’s how I became a member of Kiap. I was a TCTU member from St Paul and went to WI to work on the Willow and ended up switching my membership. I actually have a picture from my first workday.
Left to right: Gary Horvath, Chuck Goosen, Ken Hanson, and two other TCTU members.
Photo by: Jim Humphrey
There are lots of ways to volunteer and help Kiap. Behind the scenes, there are many people including our board members and other volunteers that make things happen and get things done. Some tie and donate flies and some write grants to help raise funds. Ed and I manage our chapter’s MailChimp email service and this website. Using these tools we put out timely updates and our regular electronic chapter newsletters. We also, with help from Matt Janquart, managed our past two online auctions via the fundraising application and are currently working on the 2023 auction that will begin on March 6th. Ed is 76 and I am 64. Not the typical age range to be doing this work. Our chapter is looking for help in the areas of communication and social media. If interested, please contact chapter president Greg Olson, someone from the board, Ed, or myself. Our contact info is on this site right here.
Years ago my cousin Jay (who, at the time, lived in Seattle and fished a lot for trout in lakes) gave me some tiny midge dry flies to try that he had tied up. He called them hackled Raccoons. I didn’t know much about the fly but they sure worked well for me during the winter fishing season in MN/WI. His flies had a Zelon shuck with segment marks he’d made with a fine black Sharpie.
Over time my small supply of hackled Raccoons ran low and I set out to tie up some replacements. I found some online articles that mentioned the Raccoon as a lake chironomid pattern created by Phil Rawly. I suppose the hackled part was a variation by Jay and his fishing friends.
While I continued my quest on the interwebs I came across another midge pattern, the Lady McConnell by Brian Chan, that looked a bit more like Jay’s hackled version but used a tiny grizzly hackle feather to imitate the segmentation of a trailing shuck. I thought the shuck and the fancy name were both pretty cool so that’s what I’m calling it now.
These flies get chewed up when the fish start feeding on them but it makes it all the more fun to fish with them. Just carry a few extra.
Hook: I use Daiichi 1110 (Orvis Big Eye 4641) ring eye hooks but use whatever you like. This one is an 18 so you can see it but tie them down to 22s.
Thread/Body: I like 70 denier thread but again use what you like. The thread will be the body color so pick a color (black, olive, tan, red, etc.) that might look like the midges you’re imitating. Red thread has me thinking about another old midge pattern, Herters Blood Midge, that would also be worth checking out.
Shuck Part 1: Super Secret Midge Flash from Lund’s. Length is the same as the hook gap.
Shuck Part 2: Tiny Grizzly hackle feather. Length is the same as the hook.
If you don’t have this stuff, use Zelon and a Sharpie.
Overbody: Deer hair. I clip the hair tips off and tie in tips first (starting at the hackle spot) so the overbody tapers from thin in the back to thicker in the front. I put a drop of Sally Hansen’s over this part for a little extra durability.
Collar: Grizzly hackle sized to 1.5 of the hook gap.
The Pass Lake is one of the old style patterns that is often overlooked today. It’s my favorite fly for brook trout. It seems to trigger their strike instinct more than other fly I’ve tried. It can be fished wet or dry. I prefer fishing it wet, just under the surface, with the hook being the only weight. Often the best fish in a pool will be the first to strike.
I learned to tie this fly (and many others) from Bob Mitchell several years ago and this is how he tied it.
Hook: #10 Mustad 9672 or equivalent
Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet
Body: Black Chenille Medium
Wing: White Calf Tail
Beard: Brown Hen Hackle
My version in the above photo has a slight variation where I’ve used an orange dyed hen feather rather than the original brown. I don’t think the fish care but I like orange.
If you search around you’ll find there are other ways to tie the Pass Lake. There’s a great article about it’s history here:
Damian Wilmot has a nice video where he uses a #10 TMC 3671 hook, red thread and a polar bear for the wing. For me, I feel the calf tail is part of the Pass Lake’s success. I do think the red thread might make a cool variation though.
I hope you give this fly a try.
Oh, and if you have a fly you’d like to share with our readers, send an email to editor Ed or myself. We’re listed on the website but I’ll also put our contacts below.
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 adjust 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.
Hook: 2x long fine wire dry fly hook, #16-18 for local waters, #12-14 Western waters Thread: Olive Body: Mixture of Antron and natural fibers in grey, tan, or olive. Chopped caribou added for #12-14 Wing: Canadian goose feather treated with Flexament on both sides Hackle: Dun colored saddle hackle Optional: White or orange color calf-tail post for added visibility
This is the most prominant fly in my arsenal. I only fish dry fliesand on occassion may fish a streamer. In the absence of any hatch activity, this is my go-to fly.
I prefer to fish this fly up-stream and will cast to rises if they occur; otherwise I go prospecting and try to entice a hungry trout into taking what they think is a tasty morsel.
After hooking multiple fish, the tent shape wing becomes battered and frayed, making the fly ride even lower in the water and thus giving it the added bonus of appearing as an emerging caddis with no decline in the fly’s effectiveness.