This fly was a collaborative project for between Texas guide Daniel Hughes and myself for the Devil's River in west Texas. Our goal was an all around fly that would catch, everything....in this case everything included carp, smallmouth, sunfish and gar. Since its inception, the leech has proven its worth and accounted for all these species in a number central Texas rivers and lakes. In particular this fly has done very well on carp. However, more recently I caught several smelt on the California coast on this fly. In New Mexico this fly accounted for my personal best catfish. While olive was the original and most productive color, purple and black has been proving itself more and more on the water.
The Secret squirrel has become one of my go to river flies and might be the "fish catching-est" fly I have ever developed. The key to this fly is the jigging action combined with its size. By tying this fly on a barbless jig style hook for nymphs I obtain a small profile with a hook point that rides up.
The secret squirrel was developed during low water conditions when bouncing along the limestone bottoms of the central Texas rivers was not so much a technique as an inescapable fact of fishing. In combination with my regular habit of "perch jerking," the necessity for a small "jig-like" fly that could hit bottom and not hang up became critical. I would love to say this fly has gone through many hard tested iterations to become what is it, but the truth is that I put the idea together one night at the vice and it paid off big. The only real addition I made from the original first fly was to add lead wraps for a faster sink rate in deeper waters.
This fly is one designed to produce numbers.....The fly first proved itself on the Llano river when it pulled 28 fish (including 4 different species) out from underneath a single overhanging tree and later that day I lost my last secret squirrel to something big enough to drag me around the river and brake me off (ALWAYS RETIE!). At a later date it won Most Fish in the the local one fly tournament on the Nueces River with 69 fish in one day on one fly. (For durability in this scenario, I add super glue after all the steps.) Finally, this fly also has my personal best trout from the Guadalupe River to add to its list of accomplishments and this fish happened on one of those "no one is catching anything" days when I switched over to this fly because I had no better ideas.
Olive is my go to color, but I also tie it in red and tan and chartreuse. Enjoy the video.
This year I traveled across the country and covering thousands of miles with job changes. I have fished Estes Park in Colorado, the Bighorn River in Montana, most of the drainages of the Bighorn National Forest and now Puta Creek in California. However, Texas still seems like home and I had to go fishing while I returned home for the holidays. I am still pretty leery of comparing the annually stocked trout of the Guadalupe to the native cutthroats of the Bighorn Mountains, but the trout of the central Texas hold a special place in my life long fishing adventure since they were the first trout I ever caught.
The weather change has pulled much of Texas out of the drought conditions of the last few years. In these years, flows of 100 CFSon the Gudadalupe were treasured on the few days they occurred during the drought, but now flows in the 500 CFS range make for completely new fly fishing challenges. The combination of high (but good) flows and exceptionally warm temperatures this winter have made fishing generally difficult. Daniel Hughes (@cordovacustomrods on Instagram and now guide for ReelFly Fishing Adventures) and I have been discussing these challenges for a couple weeks in anticipation for a holiday fishing trip on the Guadalupe.
As our battle plan formed from a mix of our own experience as well as stories from other anglers that fished in the days of yore (when Texas had flow). Ultimately, we settled on sinking lines and streamers. One of my long term goals has been to catch a trout on the Guadalupe with an articulated streamer. My normal fishing access points are usually so heavily pounded with olive wooly buggers that tossing streamers bigger then a size 10 would be foolish. However, since I would able to float regions of the river with Daniel that are not accessible by foot I hoped to finally scratch this one of f the list.
This logic proved sound as I both achieved my goal. I had a nice trout come flying out of the bottom of deep pool to crash my streamer near the surface. A color variant of Fly Fish Food's Cheech Leech proved to be too much of a temptation. Other fish fell to some of my other small streamers and a sculpzilla variant thrown by Daniel. Perhaps streamers and sinking lines will be a new and reliable option in the high flow conditions.
So as you might image as a fish biologist I love catching new species .....as a fly fisherman I love catching large numbers and sizes of different species. Cutthroat trout are a new native novelty to me as a fly fisherman and so far had proved elusive or too small to be of note...for a fly fishing blog. So far the single cut throat I caught was about 2 inches long....I regularly throw poppers that could eat this fish.
However a recent visit to the North Tongue finally allowed me to find my trout fishing groove. The dry dropper system I based off of Fly Fish Food's Stone Flopper and an emerger pattern I am working on as well as a couple local fly shop recommendations (see the most recent instagram posts).
Today was my first day at the new job in Sheridan, WY. The journey up here was beautiful and long. I got to see parts of the country I have never seen before and stopped at some very cool fly shops along the way. My thanks to all the folks working at the counters who provided advice about the fishing on my journey.
I'm sad to say the I came up short on the fishing end of things in Rocky Mountain National Park. And in settling down int eh new town I have yet get out to fish. The weather hasn't been particularly cooperative either. I'll get out soon and hopefully find some fish to show.
I often mess with other people’s fly patterns on my vise. In other words, I adjust the materials or modify the pattern in some minor way. At what point do minor modifications make a new pattern? I have no idea and I am not too bothered by it because I do my best to give credit to the patterns that inspire my own. That being said, I will happily bastardize anything that I see needing a little “Bertrand Flavor.” Usually, my personal touch comes in one of three forms:
Simplifying flies is always risky. It is safe to assume the original pattern included essential materials in the pattern. However, I feel the features of the materials often outweigh the amount of material used. Thus, it is often possible to reduced the steps or amounts of certain materials, but maintain the specific and often essential quality in the pattern. For example, a Half Back fly includes a second palmered hackle over the anterior portion of the peacock hurl body. However, I find that the flies without the anterior hackle catch fish equally well. I believe the anterior hackle is unnecessary because the qualities of rear palmered hackle are enough to create the right features in the water.
Alternatively, I can take an existing pattern and add materials or steps to the tying process that produce a more reliable fly (at least until its actually tested on the water). These modifications often take simple forms. Brass beads are common additions to many classic patterns, but I favor colored glass beads too. These beads come in many different colors and can add either bright contrast or more subtle accents to a common fly. What is most important is that the pattern now looks slightly different from the common pattern thrown by most others on the water.
Again these choices can be risky, but often prove a rewarding solution once tested on the water. I admit when I substitute it is often because I lack the exact material called for by the pattern recipe. Sometimes these choices work out and some times they do not. For example, there is no substitution for rubber legs on a Bully’s Bluegill spider. While other leg materials can be tied on the fly, no other material has the appropriate stiffness to act correctly when stripping the fly. Silicone and spanflex are both too soft to return to the open standing position necessary to create the parachute like descent in the water that drives blue gill crazy.
When I make the decision to change a pattern I usually tie about 5-6 for my fly box. If the flies prove themselves I will add more. However if they do not act as exoected in the water or failed to produce I remove them from my flybox. However, with 5-6 flies, I ensure have enough flies to properly test it on the water (and leave a few in trees).
You have to be fearless about tying flies. Often changes to flies prove ill advised, but every so often a tier stumbles into really amazing flies by simply taking at shot at something with a bit of unique flavor.