A Minimal Arsenal of Flies for Fooling Fish in Local Waters All Season Long.
By Skip James

I know fishermen who carry every fly they own in their vests, and others who carry only those that imitate the prevailing hatch. There are flies that work well, casting to fish you can see, probably feeding close to or in the surface, and others that you use when you are searching for promising water. Here are the six I wouldn’t ever be without, whether here in Wisconsin or on a big western river. I provided enough material info so you can tie them yourself, and, if you have questions, call me. 715-690-4503 Tight lines!

This is my number one ‘nymph’, for fishing in streamy water, near undercut banks, in deep holes. Back in 1971, I was catching trout in a pool on the Kinni that now is under the Hwy 35 Byway, and another angler, coming downstream, who identified himself as Andy Miner, asked to see my fly. When he looked at it, he said: “What a ‘mother’ that one is” and the name, though pejorative, stuck. This is the same Andy Miner who bred Blue Andalusian roosters for their neck hackles and was the original supplier to Buck Metz in Pennsylvania. I tied flies for Andy, in exchange for necks, for several years.

Weighted “Mother” #8-10 

Thread: Gray, 6/0

Hook: standard dry fly, down eye

Weight: lead-free wire on the front half of the hook, under the dubbing Dubbing: Dubbing: Muskrat, complete with guard hairs, well picked out

Rib: Gold flat tinsel

Hackle: Grey Grouse soft hackle

This Caddis imitation is my number two ‘nymph’, for riffes particularly.

Caddis Pupa #12-16

Thread: Dark green, 8/0

Hook: Curved, pupa down eye

Bead: Copper

Dubbing: Medium green SLF or other similar, well picked out
Rib: Medium copper wire

These two I use as dry flies, fished to risers, sometimes dead drift, sometimes ‘on the swing.’ I owe a debt of thanks to the author of “Designing Trout Flies”, Gary Borger, for his concept of a ‘wet-dry’ fly. Early season, use the green one. When Sulphurs appear, use the yellow one.

Little Green Thing: #16-18

Thread: Light green, 8/0

Hook: standard dry fly, down eye Dubbing: Medium olive SLF

Hackle: Light grey Grouse soft hackle, sparse, same length as hook shank

Little Yellow Thing: #16-18
Thread: Yellow, 8/0

Hook: standard dry fly, down eye Dubbing: Medium yellow SLF

Hackle: Light grey Grouse soft hackle, sparse, same length as hook shank

On our local waters, you need a great Trico imitation, since that hatch occupies so much of the season. The advantage of this one is that you can see it from forty feet away in riffes, where the trout are rising. The Badger hackle’s black center gives the impression of a solid thorax, although with no additional bulk or weight. The gold edges show up very well in morning light.

Skip’s Trico #22

Thread: Black, 8/0, wrapped over the entire shank
Hook: standard dry fly, down eye

Dubbing: none

Tails: 3 strands clear Microfibetts, spread wide.

Hackle: #22 Badger (black center, cream edge) wrapped from middle of the hook to the eye, and clipped flat on the bottom. Whiting Farms sized hackle packs is a good source.

Your favorite Grasshopper pattern, #10, long shank.

My favorite, probably because it was invented by Bob Mitchell, is the “Jolly Green Giant.” But if you have confidence in a different hopper pattern, use it.

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