Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 10

Nova Scotia Blue Upright

The Mayfly hatch is a magical period in Nova Scotia's Trout fishing season. Commonly known as the Black Quill, these flies hatch off and swarm the bushes and lakeside trees, and fill the air thick and black. It is a sight that possesses the fly fisherman here, and for a 2 week or so period, the action is almost non stop.

As a young fly angler, the brother of my best friend gave me a fly when i ran out of Black Quills. It was a Nova Scotia Blue Upright. It became the staple fly of my fly box for the mayfly. Far more consistant than the Black Quill, the Blue Upright is the fly i now use to go trophy hunting in my favourite backwoods lakes.

The key to a Blue Upright working so well over a black quill with black hackle rests in it's profile. Cast the two flies side by side, the same size pattern, and the black quill will look bigger. From below the water, it looks bigger still. The blue hackle on an upright allows light to pass through it, giving it a slimmer profile, and a more realistic look to a rising fish. I rarely use a black quill anymore, although i carry some for darker days. However the Blue Upright is Nova Scotia's premier dry fly, and a fly no one should be out the first of May fishing without.


Dry Fly sizes 12-18
Thread: Black Or Grey
Wings: Grey Duck Quill, tied Upright
Tail: Blue Dun Hackle Fibers
Body: Stripped Peacock Quill
Hackle: Blue Dun Cock Hackle

Monday, March 30, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 9

The Ginger Quill

Well it is day 9 of my fly a day until the start of the season. With less than two days to go, it is snowing. I am not one to try the season much on the first day, but snow is not what i was looking for. I could pick a bright side and argue how it will help with water levels in the early season, but rain will too. Anyway, this fly has a bit of a back story i can write on a snowy pre-season night.

We were at our camp, towards the end of the may fly hatch. After an early rise and breakfast in the pale light of dawn, we hit the lake early. Trout were already active, and fly were on the water naturally. A Blue Upright, the best dry fly in Nova Scotia for me, caught nothing. Not even a raise. Same for an Adams. Same for a black fly. For lack of other options, i tied on a fly i use in the late June Brown Drake hatch. The Ginger Quill. I had no reason to think it would work, but for the next hour, it did just that. The interesting thing is it only has results for me in May in early morning fishing on clear days. Once the sun breaks fully over the horizon, it is done. It is another regular in my flybox for fishing from early season to July.


Hook: Dry Fly size 12-16
Thread: Black
Tail: Ginger Cock Hackle Fibers
Body: Natural Peacock Quill
Wings: Brown Duck Quill
Hackle" Ginger Cock Hackle

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 8

The Dark Montreal

I have literally stayed up nights tying this fly at the last minute before a trip. Some flies you
never leave home without, for me the Dark Montreal is at the top of that list. The fly itself, looks like nothing, and yet it imitates everything. It works in the earliest days of the season, all the way through the dog days of summer, into the cool waters of the fall. I have hooked probably thousands of Trout on this fly. I even hooked a Salmon on one. If you were in Nova Scotia and had a new fly angler with you, this would be the best fly to give them as a first try to actually get a fish.

The fly was first tied by Peter Cowan, and named after the city of Montreal. (As a Montreal Canadiens fan i like to think their team colours played into it, but i can find no proof of it). It has a claret barbule, or sometimes a red duck quill tail, a claret floss body, wrapped with gold tinsel, and a turkey quill wing over the back. The hackle is claret saddle hackle. I often tie this fly without the wing, and the hackle when wet sways back and moves along the body of the fly with the movement of the water.

At any time right before the start of a hatch, or after the fish are glutted, the Dark Montreal will take fish. For seatrout, it is one of the most reliable flies i use. Here is the recipe:

Hook: Mustad 3399 Or Equivalent, #8 - #14
Tag: Flat Gold Tinsel
Tail: Claret Barbules(hackle) Or Red Duck Quill
Body: Claret Floss
Rib: Flat Gold Tinsel
Hackle: Claret
Wing: Turkey Quill

A Fly A Day - Day 7

The Parmachene Belle

My grandfather used to tell me that in Newfoundland, they would cut a fin off of a caught Brookie, and midge it to a hook to use as bait for more Trout. Sounds like cannibalism i know, but that was what they did, and it worked. That is a long standing story about catching trout. Two flies imitate this failry well, the Parmachene Belle is one, and the Trout Fin is another. The "Parma Bell" as it is known here, has it's roots in Maine, but uses a formula common to many trout flies, proven later by experiment, known only from experience before. The relationship of colour.

Ask any old salt Brook Trout fisherman what wet flies work in the Maritimes, and he will likely tell you something with red or yellow in it, or both. In the 1950 book "The Life Story Of A Fish", by Brian Curtis, he mentions experiments done with Trout and Bass that prove what the old anglers already knew. They like red and yellow in their bait colours over anything else. The Parmachene Belle brings the two colours together with a bit of flash, and a dash of white, and has proven to be a goto fly for the early summer seatrout runs, as well as a sturdy stillwater fly.

The Parma Bell, like many of its married wing wetfly counterparts were popularized by Ray Bergman, was first tied around 1878 by Henry P. Wells, and named after Lake Parmachene. The fly uses married duck quils to create a white over red over white wing, back over a yellow body, with silver rib wound the length of the body. A red and white hackle throat and red tail rund out a classic looking wet fly. The fly may be 130 years old, but it is as effective today in the trout waters of Nova Scotia as it was back then. It is an early to mid summer must have. The pattern is shown below.

Hook: Mustad 3399, #8
Tail: Red and White
Butt: Black
Rib: Flat Silver Tinsel
Body: Yellow Floss
Hackle: Mixed red and white
Wing: White with a Red Stripe

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 6

The Mickey Finn

For those of us who have used these in the quest for Trout, and Sea Trout in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, the story of the Mickey Finns name is interesting, but comes as no surprise. The fly was first tied by Charles Langevin, and used on the Jaques Cartier river in Quebec. It was originally called the Langevin, and then later as the Red And Yellow Bucktail, the Assassin, and then finally as the Mickey Finn. For those who use the expression "a killer fly", the name Assassin is self explanatory. So where does the Mickey Finn name come from?

The name is actually an extension of the story of Chicago bartender Michael "Mickey" Finn. He became famous for his practice of slipping drugs into a customers drink, and then robbing them. The term of course, "slipping them a Mickey". The Mickey Finn is a streamer that is so good, it is compared to drugging the fish and making them helpless against the angler. The truth is, it is yet another great yellow and red fly which trout seem to love.

The Mickey Finn has a number of different tying methods. Silver tinsel on the body, gold tinsil on the body, and of course a whole range of sizes. My favourite, has a silver foil body, wrapped with silver braid, the standard yellow over red over yellow bucktail wing, and a jungle cock eye on each side of the head.

The real beauty of the Mickey Finn, is the situations you can fish it in. In stillwaters, salt water, brackish water, in riffles and runs or in deep pools. I have caught trout in all situations on this fly, and in all kinds of weather conditions. I never go fishing without some, and when the sea trout run takes place in nova Scotia, it will always see the water.

Mickey Finn Streamer Fly Recipe

Hook: 3xl or 4xl streamer hook size 2 - 12.
Thread: Black 8/0 (70 Denier)
Body: Silver Mylar Tinsel
Rib: Silver Oval Tinsel
Wing: Yellow Over Red Over Yellow Bucktail
Head: Black Thread - Optional painted eyes
Eye: Jungle Cock - Optional

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 5

The Muddler Minnow

No discussion of flies for Nova Scotia is complete without the Muddler Minnow. The Muddler was originally tied by Don Gapen of Minnesota in 1937. It's goal was simple. To imitate the sculpin, a staple of a trouts diet. However the Muddler is so much more than that. It can be fished in various sizes and either wet or dry to imitate everything from Leeches to Grasshoppers and Crickets. Stonefly Nymphs, Mice, Tadpoles, Shiners and Chubs. It is one fly that can perform more than a dozen jobs with nothing more than a change in technique. Nova Scotia or otherwise, you should not be without a Muddler. Early season, mid season, late season, all season.


Hook: Long Shank, Sizes 1 thru 12
Thread: Brown 6/0
Tail: Mottled Turkey
Body: Flat Gold Tinsel
Rib: Gold Oval Tinsel
Underwing: Grey Squirel Tail Or Deer Hair
Overwing: Mottled Turkey
Head: Deer Hair, trimmed to shape

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 4

The Bead Head Hares Ear Nymph

In all my years of fly fishing, i had missed out on something. Fishing underneath the water was always restricted to streamers and wet flies, and i always had success with them. About 15 years ago i watched a video about nymphing in stillwaters. Dead drifting a nymph in the early season is an incredibly successful technique in small lakes and stillwaters when nymphs of Stonefly, Mayfly and Caddis Fly all start to get active. I carry imitations for all, but i also carry a great all around nymph, the Gold Ribbed Bead Head Hares Ear nymph. I carry this iBoldn two colours. The traditional natural Hares Ear fur, and in an olive dye as well. Fished in a stillwater, it is quite simple. The bead head gives the fly weight, and so cast and dead drift onto areas you think trout are feeding, and then a very slow retrieve, with small drifts in between. Takes are usually heavy. For any of those who have fished with nymphs, you know it is a great way to target large fish.


Hook: #12 to #18 Nymph Hook
1/16" to 5/64" Gold Bead depending on hook size
Thread: Black 6/0 Uni-Thread
Tail: Guard Hairs from Hares Mask
Rib: Small Gold Wire
Abdomen: Natural Hare's Ear dubbing
Wingcase: Turkey Tail Feather
Thorax: Natural Hare's Ear Dubbing

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 3

The Grey Ghost

Day 3's fly has a bit of a backstory for me. When I was 13, me and a few friends made a trip back to a lake near Halifax called Governors Lake. The day before, on a trip to my grandfathers, I was given two pill bottles with some flies to fish with my new fly rod i got for Easter. One bottle, had some wet and dry flies, the other had three streamers in it. Up early the next day, we made the long walk to Governors. Once there i set up my rod, threaded the line, and went to tie on one of my new wet flies. Only one problem. A quick look in my gear bag, and only one pill bottle. In it, three of what i found out later were called Grey Ghosts.

I caught 15 fish on my first day fly fishing on my own, all on the Grey Ghost.

Carrie Stevens of Maine first tied the Grey Ghost in 1924. A classic streamer known well by anglers in the North Eastern US and Eastern Canada, in Nova Scotia it is another great early season fly, imitating the minnows that Trout like to indulge in early in the year. Once again for me, this is a fly I always have in the box, and a fly that always sees the water on the early April trips into the stillwaters of Nova Scotia.

4x to 6x long streamer hook from a size 6 up
Thread: White 6/0 for under-body, Black 6/0 or 8/0 for tying in throat, wing, and shoulder.

Tag And Rib: Silver mylar.

Body: Orange Floss

Throat: Peacock herl, White Polar Bear, and Golden Pheasant Crest.

Wings: Two Dun hackles on each side with Golden Pheasant Crest in between.

Shoulders: Silver Pheasant with Jungle Cock eyes.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 2 of 10

The Picket Pin

Like the Adams, the Picket Pin is all about versatility. It was first tied by Jack Boehme of Montana as a drowned Stonefly imitation. However it's uses extend beyond that. It can tied larger and fished as a streamer, or even add a deer wing and fished dry. In Nova Scotia it is a particularily good early season fly fished as a nymph in stillwaters and streams as a case building Caddis fly larvae.Those larvae build cases from old leaves, rocks and twigs, to blend in with their surroundings. The Picket Pin draws from those natural colours and odd shapes to give a good imitation of those.

The great thing about the Picket Pin is I have caught flies all season long on them. I carry them in sizes 12 and 14, and also on a number 8 and 10 streamer. Another all purpose fly with a proven history of catching fish in Nova Scotia.


Hook: Mustad 9671
Thread: Black 8/0
Tail: Brown Hackle Fibers
Body: Peacock Herl
Body Hackle: Brown
Wing: Grey Squirrel Tail

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Fly A Day - Day 1

For those interested, to kill time until the season opens, i am going to post a fly pattern each day, for the next 10 days until fishing season is officially here. Today is day one, and the first dry fly, the Adams.

The Adams was first tied in 1922 by Len Halliday, tied for a fellow angler named Charles Adams. Many think it was first tied to be a downwing Caddis imitation, but it has evolved into one of the best trout dry flies ever. The reason is versatility. The Adams can be fished in various sizes in almost any mayfly hatch. It is known as an attractor pattern because it doesn't imitate any one fly, but i have caught fish in Nova Scotia in all different weather and fly hatches. It is not always as successful as the actual imitation of the hatch, but as an all purpose dry fly to have in your fly box, this is must have.

My first trout on an Adams was more than 15 years ago in a small holding pool known to many of us as the "Trout Pond". I ran out of black quills and went to this as it was the only fly in good shape left in the box. I have used them ever since. Best in sizes 12, 14 and 16. Size 14 seems to work best in most cases.


Hook:Standard Dry Fly, 12, 14, or 16
Thread:Black 8/0
Wing:Grizzly hen hackle tips
Tail:Hackle fibers-grizzly/brown
Abdomen:Grey dubbing (man made or Muskrat)
Hackle:Grizzly and Brown

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Gearing Up For A New Season

In two weeks the season opens officially. April 1st, aka April Fools day. I have been that fool on some opening days, fishing in snow, sleet, cold rain. You name it, I have fished in it on opening day. These past few years have resisted the temptation to go too early. Now, I look a April 15, and maybe even more important, April 25 and 26. Our first trip to the camp, pre Mayfly to check the accomodations, and the development of the years big hatch.

In the meantime, I load my reel with new line, and a second reel with more new line. I am cleaning rods and packing them into to their tubes. A month away from wetting a line and I just keep getting things ready to keep me occupied. My wife, I am sure, thinks I have lost a few more marbles each year. Every year it gets a bit earlier. I talk about it a bit more. I am sure it makes here wonder if she married a sane person or someone spiralling into some sort of madness. I do know for sure, in a few weeks, she will be tired of hearing about fishing. I guess I can't blame her.

Anyway, I am looking for pictures of peoples gear. New rods, new reels, all that good stuff. The picture above is my Innovator Velocity Fly Rod. It is an 8'6" 5 weight and it is the best rod I have ever fished up until this point. I will soon have a few Broman Odell Alpha Series which are very high end rods that are supposed to be amazing. I will let you know soon. If you have anything you would like to submit for a new gear article, email me a photo and some details and I will make a series of posts on new equipment.

Until the season opens, I hope you all are patient. I am trying to be.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A New Look, A New Season

Shamefully, I let my blog go without an update since last year. With the new season approaching, I find myself with a yearn to go fishing. Badly. It is snowing/raining out as i type, and even though I know that is good for the Mayfly season, I just want it to stop. The new season should start now. However I will have to wait.

In the meantime, my wife did an amazing job leading a re-design of the blog. A new header, a new layout, and now it is my job to get the content back up to snuff. So I am back on it in full force. I am going to continue the saga of the Camp and the story of it's contruction and the epic trips since. I will be posting more and more fly recipes and i am going to develop my online Fly Fishing Journal to help track water temperatures, weather conditions and percipitation as it relates to the Mayfly season here.

I always thought if I wrote articles on fishing i would want to be informative and entertaining. It is my little part of the fly fishing world and hopefully, it will help some of you pass some time until the Hell of Winter ends, and the Heaven of Spring begins.