Fly Tyer’s Corner – Pass Lake

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 

Thread: Black

Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet

Body: Black Chenille Medium 

Wing: White Calf Tail

Beard: Brown Hen Hackle 

Pass Lake Fly

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:

Pass Lake Special – Southern Wisconsin Trout Unlimited

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. 

Ken Hanson

Ed Constantini

Tent Winged Caddis

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.

March Brown Spider

As a fly fishing enthusiast and novice fly tyer back when I earnestly began pursuing this sport some 25 years ago, I was surprised to learn that 90% of trout eat their meals subsurface. Wanting to catch these finny critters, it seemed only reasonable that I should fish a minimum of 90% of my time subsurface. Researching effective nymph patterns to do just this led me to legend- ary fly tyer Skip Morris’ book,

The Art of Tying the Nymph. Paging through it I was drawn to Skip’s description of his March Brown Spider pattern, especially the portion of his description where he referred to it as his favorite search pattern. From there, I was metaphorically hooked.

Over the years I have made some slight modifications to Skip’s recipe, and these have worked very well for me on the Kinni, the Rush, the Root, and the northern triangle streams of Iowa as well. This versatile pattern can be tied with or without a bead, with my preference being to tie it without the bead. The pattern is also well suited to being tied on a jig hook for those preferring a Euro nymph presentation as well. If so inclined, I would recommend still sticking with only two hook sizes – 16 and 14.

Hook: Standard nymph hook, size 16, 1x long
Body: Waspi Awesome Possum Natural Nymph Dubbing
Thread: UNI-Thread 8/0, wine color
Rib: Gold UTC Ultra Wire, size small
Hackle: Hungarian Partridge feather dyed dark brown and sized to hook

If adding a bead: Use a 16 2x or 14 1x long hook to maintain thorax body length, add a brass or tungsten bead, three turns of lead-free wire, continue with steps 2-8

  • Mount hook into vice.
  • Secure thread and lay down a thread base by wrapping along the hook shank to just above the barb of the hook.
  • Lay rib wire along the hook shank and wrap back towards the hook eyelet making sure to leave enough room to prevent “crowding” the head when the hackling step is completed.
  • Apply a thin noodle of dubbing, wrapping down the hook shank and taking one wrap behind the ribbing wire before wrapping forward. Continue this wrapping process striving to get that “carrot shape” thorax body look.
  • Wrap 4 to 6 turns of ribbing wire and tie off behind the hook eyelet.
  • Size, prepare, and tie in hackling feather. Take 2 to 3 wraps before securing the feather behind the hook eyelet. Skip intends his pattern to be heavily hackled. I prefer the same as well.
  • Check to see if any “gap” exists between the end of the dubbing and the hackling feather. If so, apply more dubbing to fill in that gap, again striving to maintain that “carrot shape” thorax body.
  • Whip finish to complete the tie. The result should be a “pronounced” thread wrapped head which also serves as a hot spot to the fly.

Skip’s Winter Nymph

Skip’s Winter Nymph
Hook: # 20 Wet-fly hook with down-turned eye
Bead: 2.8 mm Black counter-sunk Tungsten bead (bead can be sized up or down)
Thread: 8/o Uni-thread, color optional
Rib: Copper wire, small or extra small
Dubbing: Any spikey dubbing with some flash, here SLF was used. (Hare’s Ear would
also work)

• Place the bead on the hook by inserting the hook point into the
small hole. Slide the bead up to the hook-eye.

• Attach the thread directly behind the bead and take a few turns to
secure the thread.

• Insert the wire directly into the bead and wrap the thead over it
down to the bend of the hook while keeping the wire on top of the

• Take a small pinch of dubbing (remember, less is more) and form a
short dubbing noodle. Wrap the dubbing tight against the back of
the bead.

• Advance the wire to the back of the bead by making spiral turns. Try
to get at least four turns evenly spaced. Tie off the wire and either
snip or break it off.

• Whip-finish and add a dab of head-cement to finish off the fly

Fish this pattern with split shot and strike indicator near the bottom. When you see a group of fish feeding on midges, it is very likely that a few will be rising and the rest will be taking emerging pupa or larva near the bottom. Try both places. If you encounter a midge hatch in which balls of mating insects occur, use a small Adams; it works well as a midge cluster.

Rises to midges are very tiny and your imitation might be hard to see. If that’s the case, a leader greased within a few inches of your fly helps to pinpoint
it. Also, it is quite proper to use an indicator with a dry imitation. Good luck!