Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Wilson

This is the first ever blog post totally & only dedicated to the Atlantic salmon fly. I'd just like to share my struggle with one particular pattern. By doing so, it would explain the insight of what's going on in a dresser's mind and perhaps how & why one can be captivated by and pursue this subject for the rest of his life.

As I've been posting for the past couple years, I've been working on George M. Kelson's illustrated plates as in his own mighty The Salmon Fly. Plate 1 was completed in November 2015. Completed Plate 2 frame and 6 flies inside were shown in two posts before. Plate 3 has also been completed. I have not posted on this blog but it's already shown at my fly catalog, then in other media such as Facebook and Instagram.

Plate 3 contains patterns with their own quirks. I'd say Durham Ranger and Benchill would be straight-forward and familiar in general way. Then rest of 4 patterns require technicality and interpretation. I really want to go over all the patterns!!
...........To me, The Wilson, which is seemingly a simple pattern, offered me quite a challenge. Why & how? Let me go over from the recipe.

Tag.   Silver Twist and cream silk.
Tail.   Two strips of Summer Duck.
Butt.   Black herl.
Body.  Silver tinsel.
Ribs.   Gold tinsel (oval).
Throat.  Vulturine Guinea fowl and black Heron.
Wings.  Egyptian Goose, little Bustard (cream feather), silver speckled Turkey, grey Mallard, and a topping.
Cheeks.  Indian Crow and Chatter.

It's very much straight-forward at the beginning. The first challenge may be a heron feather for throat. Heron feather is hard to obtain and own in US so most of the time modern dressers use a sort of alternative. In my case, it's not always perfect or look-alike, I dyed and used a turkey marabou (oftentimes used as an Eagle substitute, which also hard to obtain and own in US). Looking back these pictures, I like my choice and what I did.

Then came next the hugest challenge to interpret: wing and materials...........
I have light-colored Bustard and speckled turkey, both of which are easy to incorporate in married wings. Egyptian Goose feathers seem obtainable (Google it!) but which part? In Essential Kelson, Marvin Nolte annotates: "Kelson offers no advice as to which feather from an Egyptian Goose is preferred. The wings and tail of this bird are not especially striking, while the barred body feathers definitely are. Whole flank feathers as an under-wing are possibility". The illustration "might" indicate so for the feather, Egyptian Goose flank feather is very similar to Pintail, Teal, or Gadwall, which I have plenty. I decided to use a pair of Pintail as whole-feather (actually slightly modified to fit under the married wing). For grey Mallard, I can use Mallard flank that we often use trout streamers or as tail fibers of nymphs.

So I set the modified pair of Pintail (some struggles here but I made it). Then I was going to marry rest of feathers. I applied "Rule of 24" as I always do: try to keep the number of barbs of married wings at 24 (of course some exceptions apply). I got ready 8 barbs of Turkey and Bustard. For the duck feathers, rather than actual number of barbs, I cut out a strip in the same width with the stem (rachis) attached.  Then here's when a big HOWEVER happened. Mallard flank doesn't show well on & against the Pintail under-wing (or, I'm sure, even when Egyptian Goose is actually used) UNLESS the strip is married above Turkey and Bustard. However, there is no such long barbs. I didn't consider marrying in and among Turkey and Bustard as marrying and mounting would be nearly impossible. So, I decided to substitute grey mallard with Bronze Mallard, which is much darker and shows well over Pintail. So I cut out the Bronze Mallard in about 8 barbs width and married with the others. Any married wings incorporating any duck feathers are very challenging to keep them married and mount, but with experience, it can be done.
I completed the rest and here it is.

I think it was OK and acceptable. However I somehow had this nagging feeling. I could have done better............sorta. Couldn't I use grey Mallard? Also it may not be able to spot or tell in the picture but Throat-Wing-Head transition wasn't smooth............Also the topping is not quite my liking (sticking up........)
After I completed Durham Ranger, the last one of 6, I decided to rework on The Wilson. I carefully peeled off head coating, found the thread, then started unwrapping one at a time. I undid the wings and I even had to redo throat as well. I used a pair of Pintail again, this time slightly longer than before. Then this time, I decide to use grey Mallard as Roof😏 Why not? Roof is a part of the wing and sometimes it's not clearly mentioned in the recipe (in classic literature, when it's specified, it's said "cap" or "capped by Bronze Mallard"). I knew I can do this! So I assembled 12 barbs of each Turkey and Bustard = total 24 barbs and married in kind. Mounting was much easier. Then I set a matched strip of grey Mallard as Roof = set above and along the curve of main wing. Rest of materials were attached. I was satisfied with the topping this time and so with the head👏😉

So this is how I interpreted and completed The Wilson.
Reading this through, some of readers may wonder why I mention interpretation so often. Or why just tying flies requires interpretation. Atlantic salmon flies we know now are based on written literature. Not many flies or not every pattern exist for us to see and examine. Of course there are some set rules to complete these complicated flies. It's not the result of something at random. So, in terms of art, it's not a random junk art with one's own radical ideas. Techniques and disciplines can be learned only through practices after practices. However there is NO set rules for certain aspects or even mentioned/explained in literature. For example, in married wings, there is no clear or set rule for which color/feather goes above or below. Certainly, did our ancestors make such complicated married designs? Furthermore, why the same pattern is varied by each author and is with different materials (plus or minus) and style?

In modern days, when we say or think about one fly (trout, steelhead, modern Atlantic salmon, whatever), majority of fly anglers and tyers have one common image of that pattern, tied in the same color, with same materials. Although I can't inspect each pattern's history and origin and state here, those patterns have been exposed to and among more people and more media (books, magazine, eventually internet) than Atlantic salmon flies. Atlantic salmon flies have such a brief history and only a very short period = late 19th to early 20th century = is known to be the Colorful Era or the Golden Age. They were primarily tied, used, and published in and among British Isles, furthermore, only among salmon fly-fishers of which numbers must have been much less than now. Though this is just our speculation, either Jock Scott, Green Highlander, Doctors, author and/or his friends/correspondences might have written up their own variation...............

Speaking of speculation, when we deal with this kind of "near lost" subject, we tend to speculate some to lots. Back in days, have they really made such colorful and elaborated married wings like we do for framing purpose? I doubt it........... This is apparently our own methods in modern days, and each dresser does differently and uniquely. The list of this kind of questions goes on.......... Have they used a strip of Wood Duck or a tip of entire feather? Have they married Parrot and Ibis feathers for wings? Were there such long barbs? How big were flies actually? Etc., etc., etc.,..............

Only by keeping working on and practicing salmon flies, one will encounter these aspects and questions. Then only by keeping doing so, one can come up with interpretation - I don't use "answers" as there may not be!! Of course by then he must be developing some confidence in his technique and products. Someone who have lots of experience can teach and explain. I might have pestered my mentor at this transitional period. I can't thank him enough.

On top of these, we in modern days are doing this as and calling "art". Now the subject and discussion become more complicated!!

However there are a few things I'm sure of. First I'm sure these are not derived from my ego or not because I'm full of myself. I believe there are some set rules (techniques and theories) that are common and need to be learned to complete Atlantic salmon flies. On top of these fundamentals, NOT "under" as it sounds limited, one can develop his/her favorites and styles. Then once one develops into such stage, recognize and accept other people's. Good or bad? Pretty or ugly?  Rather than criticizing and hurting each other among fly-tyers, critique your own flies first! Then I think it may be better to show people who don't tie and their opinions and views!!

By working on and completing The Wilson, these thoughts and memories kept flushing in my head so I had to write up.

My personal journey goes on.............. one fly at a time............

Monday, January 15, 2018

Yellowstone Winter

It's been a great winter in Yellowstone Country! - It's up to each individual how to take it: cold & harsh😰, nasty roads to drive (very careful out there!!)😱, and for fly-fishing perspective, 2018 will be another good water year👍😁❗❗
Up until spring, keep checking SNOTEL info.

It's also a great time to explore and experience on your own. We drove to and walked some in Yellowstone National Park!

On the way to our favorite Lamar- Soda Butte Meadows - for fishing and any activities! - we spotted animals in the bottom of Lamar Canyon, along with several cars in a pullout. Even from the car, they looked different from more commonly observed coyotes.
 We believe we spotted wolves - for the first time for us👏

They were definitely larger than coyotes or foxes, plus coat colors were also different from theirs😏

Then we hit a trail with snowshoe. It's slightly less popular than other marked ones, only occupied by several beast🐉🐊
To the monument✌
A mandatory Buff selfie
On the way out of the Park, we stopped by Yellowstone Forever, located just outside of Roosevelt Gate.  It's quite a nice store with good information (live animal tracker🐻🐺🐂). I couldn't help but picking up a unique guide book: I'll keep it in my track so my Japanese clients can learn on the way!

For fly-fishers out there, winter may not be an ideal time to visit Yellowstone Park and surrounding area, however if you happen to be here for businesses etc., or if you want to experience something new for winter, Yellowstone Park is still a place to go😉💖
We will go back through winter and spring😄

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Book

I'd like to introduce a brandnew exciting book by Bruce Staples. I came to know him through my participation to East Idaho Fly Tying Expo
You can easily find and purchase at Amazon, where I got my copy. I just started reading and I'm sure this is a great book!! I'm gonna start to mark and make my bucket list soon!! 
Well, I did a little contribution from Livingston😊🙀👏 My photo also appears📷
 My original fly is also featured😏👍

For fly anglers near and far, who fish regularly or plan to visit, this is a great addition to your bookshelf and in your vehicle while driving around the area. Also considering the season, it will be a great Christmas present🎁🎄🎅😉

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Winter & Tying Season

Immediately after the previous post, winter arrived abruptly yet just as we anticipated. Hence, I started to spend more inside at my tying bench with much more time and enthusiasm than ever! 

I try to upload tying videos on my YouTube channel once a week until spring. There might be a few absence due to holidays etc., but I don't think I would run out of patterns on the list!

Also, I often post these pictures on Instagram. I seldom handle my i-phone when I'm near and around waters for social media purposes............. It works well for me at my bench. And there are some superb tyers and enthusiasts out there too.

One project I was eager to work on was 6 flies of Plate 2 in The Salmon Fly (1895) by George M. Kelson. Within 2016, I finished 3 of them. Then rest of winter and spring were occupied with personal moves. So those 3 flies had been unframed and kept in small plastic containers for a year. Then the rest of 3 were finally completed😌. But also it was worth a wait. I came to know a professional framer in Livingston and he gave me ideas and tips. I asked him if he can make oval cutout mats. That makes my life much easier after dressing😄

So here they are.
In an alphabetical order,
The Baron


John Ferguson

The Lion

Silver Doctor

Thunder and Lightning

I also made a few single-fly frames.
The Wild Irishman - see the background photo of the frame😏


This is definitely the one of the most complicated and busiest patterns ever recorded with three tail veiling, two body hackles, two throat hackles, two cheeks, and the list of feathers for wings😓 However the result and accomplishment are very satisfying😙

Happy Turkey Day every one🐦🐔🍗😋

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Fall of Yellowstone Country

October is ending and it's been a long month........just as every year. I have spent more time on Atlantic Salmon Flies (later stories) yet I'm not totally done with fishing.

Middle of October this year was very windy, indeed windier than I ever recall😨. Plus we had several very warm days, reaching 70F🙀. Finally it's been nice and ordinary for the past week or so.

I quickly visited DePuy's Spring Creek. Howdy stranger😅❗❗

My client and I chose perhaps the best fall day so far.  Bearable air temp, mostly cloudy, and NO winds. We started with a feisty rainbow!
 We caught some dandy browns😀

This one was on midge dry😲 Also, as the pump results show, we had some baetis hatches too😏
Cutthroat hang around the creek this time year.......

I was able to fish on my own in a very while😁
 With my lovely companion😘
Yellowstone National Park season is coming to close on Sunday Nov. 5th.
Since September hordes of anglers start to fish West side; Madison, Gibbon, and Firehole Rivers. I did many times and nowadays I may slip in once in while.
We headed to the different side of Park, where summer traffic (fishers and visitors in general) were totally gone. Fishing may not have been at the best, compared to what the creek offers in summer, but we simply enjoyed the scenery, our own stretch, and total solitude. Handful of Cutthroat, each, were quite a bonus😁✌

November is still enjoyable to chase some large browns though fishing would be slightly limited (due to some harsh weathers and the end of summer time).
I'm still available for guiding primarily for Livingston's spring creeks, other than that, I may still fish a few, and spend more on fly tying projects. I try to update YouTube videos regularly while keep shooting new ones. I write some articles. Then the last but not the least, dedicated to the art of Atlantic Salmon Flies.
Enjoy Fall fishing & Winter tying!!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Fall Bites

It's been quite a water year on Yellowstone River. The River is running way above average through summer and even now in the fall. Also, this year, we are all seeing the infamous mud-plugs (due to Lamar River and/or Soda Butte Creek "spikes" caused by storms over there) come and run through quick then the River is back to the "Fishable Green" quickly. Oftentimes, in spite of spikes seen on Hydrographs of those tributaries, we may not see muddy waters in Montana sections. My simpleton guess is Yellowstone River in Park section would be absorbing or diluting the muddy water even before reaching Montana, due to the massive flow of this year.

So if you are a boater, still keep your good eyes on waves and rapids. They can be swift.

Fall weather has been settled in since the middle of September (sorry for the blank of update😓). We are having more cloudy and rainy days with cooler temperature. Our first choice of favorite method is the streamer to hunt the aggressive fall browns, hoping some of the best for the season!

This was on Madison River.
Then on the Yellowstone.

As always, nymphing works. My favorite is the tandem rig with stonefly nymph and a beadhead nymph.
Then there are still great opportunities for dry-fly fishing. Fall baetis and midges are hatching through mid-morning to mid-afternoon = warmer part of the day.  As we float, we spot the pods of rising fish. Oftentimes, small trout and whitefish seem to be the most active however, if you observe before you even make casting, there always are a few to several huge trout mixed in.
There are a few scenarios to fish this situation. These pods are spotted right along the bank, even just the edge of super deep pools with moving surface. In this case, there's no way to securely stop the boat. We have to fish as we float. We have to choose either to set up two rods, one for dry-flies and the other for heavy stuffs, or tie on dry-flies and wait patiently till opportunities arise if you have only one rod.
If we can stop the boat just at the right distance from pods, go ahead and cast! Most likely this scenario occurs when the bank is too steep and then it's hard to impossible to scoot around the pods.
Another scenario is to stop below the pods, right along the bank, and get out of the boat and cast from the bank. Super ideal situation is it's easy to walk and has enough room for back-cast........ Usually the latter is challenged by willows or hills....... If that's case, try to make the best angle of casting and presentation!
Over all have fun!

It's about time for me to shift into the next cycle of the year: dressing Atlantic Salmon Flies and many other fly-tying projects. As for trout flies, I try to update videos and catalog as much as I can. I start to take framed salmon fly orders from now on, along with a few of my own projects.

The first one for the season is Charlies (Geo. M. Kelson) on a Harrison-Bartleet 4/0.
This is one of a few patterns that doesn't have a topping (Golden Pheasant crest) over the married wings. I'm satisfied with the entire silhouette, finished with the most ideal head I can wish for.

Enjoy the fall fishing before totally into tying mode😁! - like I am😉

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bighorn Trico - When The Legend Becomes The Reality

I came back from a week-long guide trip on the legendary Bighorn River. I brought back so many good memories, experiences, observational notes, and homework for next season on my sore body. My clients and I fished literally from dawn to dusk. We hit the legendary Trico hatch & spinner falls just at right period. My experience on Yellowstone River = rowing the drift-boat and reading water = and Livingston's spring creeks = match-the-hatch and all the fine techniques and adjustments = help myself adjust quickly to this river: of course fishing methods and fly selection to catch trout, but also what other anglers/guides do on this particular river during this particular period of year. Over all we fished for hatches & spinner falls with dry-flies all day long and all through the trip, then we caught so many trout. Without exaggeration, no other rivers in the world produce this much insect hatches and number of rising trout. And those trout are in very good sizes and conditions.

Below, pictures will tell you stories & scenes. I may insert technical comments here and there.

September 3rd, as I checked in the area, I wade-fished for a few hours in the afternoon. I didn't catch anything but insect observation was interesting as always and the anticipation for next several days was getting high.
From the next day, the official trip kicked off!
Oh yeah, on this river and for this hatch, everyone was early risers😪!!
Trico female.

Million bugs occupied the sky at the height of spinner flight & falls😲

Eastern Montana sky was smoky because of wildfires all over the state😿.
Bighorn Tarpon😂
 We must have some of few anglers/boats on the river who constantly picked up dry-fly actions in the afternoon😏

Evening Black Caddis was very exciting😎

Each morning was new beginning🌅

My highlight of the trip: Trico Double 😎😁👏👏
 Evening again.
My wader was infested by caddis eggs😨
That was the moon over Afterbay Dam😴🙀

 We had some neighborhood fishers😲😉

 Can you spot a beaver?

It was not just Trico or caddis that were mating, flying ants were also making their mating flight.

 Every morning my boat etc were covered by Trico.

Sep 10th, our last day was the most productive!
I was able to capture the scene😎, starting at 6:58AM
In this slightly less than 3 minutes footage, how many rises can you count?
We caught some nice ones.

The last evening.......

The last trout of the trip, well-done😎👌👏

Oh what a trip😌
Bighorn - where the legend still remains and the dreams come true.
Bighorn is my go-to destination, along with Livingston's spring creeks, Yellowstone River, and Yellowstone National Park. All the fly-fishers who are thinking of future trips should consider the Bighorn (there will be a more detailed information page coming up soon!).