May 6, 2014 at 1:28 pm #1316525
I'm a newb fly fisher and have been pulling bass out of Florida lakes preparing for an upcoming trip to the Maroon Bells area to do some backpacking and fly fishing with my family. I have a 5wt rod that I plan to bring and was wondering about sample fly selections for the trip. I'd like to keep things simple but still cover the bases.
What patterns do you recommend? What sizes? How many of each size? (8 day trip including two zero days)May 7, 2014 at 2:38 am #2100062
I have no experience with Colorado trout so I hope someone else pipes up. I will say that I used an elk hair caddis, more than anything else in the Sierras. It worked well enough that I didn't bother much with anything else.
I also carried some various terrestrials, but the only one I actually used was a tiny black ant, which worked well but was harder for me to see.
I also had a general assortment that I didn't use at all.
How many of each you will need will depend on the water you fish, how much you fish, and your personal skills. I went through maybe 6 or 7 lost flies in a week of fishing the small streams that I hiked past.May 7, 2014 at 11:33 am #2100212
This is what I've come up with so far. It may be overkill. Some of these I already have, most I would be purchasing.
Midge Dries #16-20
Elk Hair Caddis #14-18
Parachute Adams #14-20
Blue Winged Olive #12-20
Midge Pupa #14-20
Midge larva #18-22
Beadhead Prince #14-18
Pheasant Tail Flashback #14-20
Copper John #14-20
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #14-18
Woolly Bugger #6-10
Soft Hackle #16-18
San Juan Worm #12-16
What do you think? Something important I'm missing? Are some of these patterns unnecessary at those 10,000ft elevations? Is there overlap? Am I over-thinking it?May 7, 2014 at 11:45 am #2100215
for just about any trout, char and grayling location anywhere on this planet, I would say :-)May 7, 2014 at 12:05 pm #2100220
62 flys by my count, demonstrates precisely why I fish tenkara.
….end driftMay 7, 2014 at 12:26 pm #2100224
I have no desire to carry/use every fly ever tied by man. I'd prefer to have a few patterns that really work.
I would say though, that my personality is one where I think I'll enjoy trying to figure out what the trout are eating and throw them some vaguely similar pattern. I don't think that all 62 flies will see the tippet, but this trip is also a good chance to let me figure out what works for me and pair down my selections from there.May 7, 2014 at 12:34 pm #2100228
"Am I over-thinking it?"
I'd say yes, but it is up to you what you think you need. You could catch fish if you took only one or two patterns. Tenkara enthusiasts apparently often use only a single pattern. You can do the same with a western rig if you want.
Flies don't weigh much or take up much space though so if you feel the need or if it just makes you happy take all you want. If keeping it simple makes you happy then do that.
I am no expert though, in fact I am a very new to the sport novice. On the other hand that didn't stop me from catching scores of small trout during my last trip.May 7, 2014 at 12:52 pm #2100230
Thanks guys. This is all good information.
I don't intend to take everything on the above list. I am hoping to narrow it down significantly. Those were just flies that from my research seemed liked good patterns.
I have no doubt that it's possible to be successful with just one pattern on relatively unpressured alpine lakes, but I do think I'll enjoy trying a few patterns and finding what works well in a given situation.
That said, I don't want to have a vested interest in so many patterns that I spend the whole day tying knots when I could be catching fish. :)
Here's a reduced list just given my own (ignorant) analysis.
Midge Dries #18
Elk Hair Caddis #14-18
Parachute Adams #14-18
Midge Pupa #18
Beadhead Prince #14-18
Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear #14-18
Woolly Bugger #6-10
San Juan Worm #12May 7, 2014 at 1:35 pm #2100237
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I think I would add a couple mini-muddlers. Also some mini-split shot for some really swift water where you want to get down. A few bare hooks, likely size 10 and size 12 will let you add any live bait you find along the stream banks. Often, rolling rocks over will produce some good sized stone fly nymphs and maybe a helgramite or two. You cannot really cast these except delicatly, but they often work on a downstream drift.May 7, 2014 at 2:08 pm #2100249
@kbugLocale: NW New Mexico
From my experience in Colorado's highcountry you can't go wrong with a minimum of just 3 types of flies (I fish mostly with tenkara in streams):
#16 Yellow Stimulator (covers your basic attractors, caddis, hoppers, and strike indicator for the nymph)
#16 Parachute Adams (Covers mayflys, and everything else small and floating)
#14 Brown/black gold-ribbed hare's ear nymph
6 of each should fit in a tiny container and keep you fishing for a week.
Add a smaller dark woolly bugger if your after big browns or want more options for lake fishing.May 7, 2014 at 3:40 pm #2100269
Personal preference, but I found creeks much more fun to fish than lakes, in my limited experience with alpine fly fishing. Besides being more fun to fish I found them typically more productive too. Funny thing was that almost everyone seemed to be only fishing the lakes.
Again, I'll say that my experience is pretty limited, so I don't know if that is typical.May 7, 2014 at 6:02 pm #2100300
The fly fishers in our group won't have 100% say on where we camp, stop, etc. We'll won't be doing many miles, so there should be lots of fishing to be done, but groupthink will determine much of the itenerary, so I plan to fish wherever I can.May 7, 2014 at 8:43 pm #2100338
You might google "Rich Osthoff" and "fast sinking scuds" for alpine lakes Rich sells fly's and writes some interesting booksMay 8, 2014 at 9:02 am #2100447
I have been unusually successful in the sierras with two flies. 1) birds nest, particularly the style that have flashy material on the abdomen. I will often use the crystalized drying stuff rubbed onto the fly to create silvery air pockets the fish see under water. 2) brown stone flys.
Ralph Cutter wrote a book called "Fish Food" that is a really good read and will help you understand whats important and whats not.May 8, 2014 at 10:05 pm #2100700
@packfanLocale: Sierra Nevadas
Olive green nymphMay 9, 2014 at 9:16 pm #2100995
Think more about presentation and different depths of the water than worrying too much about patterns. Like most people who enjoy tenkara, I also agree that presentation is more important than a pattern. I also do not fish one fly, simply because I like to tie different things and I would get bored tying only one pattern.
If you see fish rising, use dries and soft hackle wet flies. If its a creek, focus on drag free drifts, if it's a lake try landing the fly as delicate as possible, if that doesn't work try to entice the fish with some movement by skittering the fly across the surface. If you aren't getting any hits on the surface with the dries, try an emerger pattern or a soft hackle wet fly. Let your fly sink down, then slowly rise towards the surface… you'll probably get some strikes as the fly is ascending. If its a creek using this method, do short drifts and slowly rise towards the surface for your next cast, don't bring the fly out of the water too fast or you will miss out on some opportunities.
If you don't see anything rising to the surface, throw on some nymphs and go deep. Even if you don't see anything rising, throw on a terrestrial and give that a go. Alpine lake trout get a lot of their food from random things blown into the water. Scope out the surroundings too. Look for structure or where the wind is blowing. If you see a downed tree in the water, there's probably fish there. If wind is blowing the water in one direction, most of the food source will probably be in that corner of the lake and there will probably be fish there. You might be able to see fish circling a certain area and predict their movement into certain spots.
Ive never done it but you can try doing a dry and wet fly or nymph at the same time, fishing more than one part of the water column at once. Use flies that can multi task – a CDC & Elk or Elk Hair Caddis can be a Caddisfly, mayfly, or even a small grasshopper. A parachute ant could be mistaken as an ant or a mayfly. Killer Bugs (or similar patterns) could be mistaken for caddis larvae/pupa, crane fly larva, worms, or just something randomly delicious.
Whatever box you bring, you might as well fill it. Id rather come back from a trip with a bunch of unused flies rather than cut my fishing short because I only brought a handful.May 15, 2014 at 8:54 am #2102612
@djrez4Locale: Rocky Mountains
Most of the fishing in the Bells is lake fishing. You won't lose too many flies there, but for an eight day trip, I'd suggest that bringing 40 flies is safe and conservative. I wouldn't bring that many, but that's me. At 40 flies, my box would have 7 caddis, 7 gnats, 6 kebari, 5 killer bugs in size 14 and five in size 10, and five killer buggers in the traditional pink/tan color and five in black, all size 14. All of them catch fish and you can cover almost any conditions with those 4 or 5 patterns.
Be careful with the bare hook advice. There are a lot of lakes and streams in Colorado where live bait is prohibited. I don't know if the Bells is one of those locations, but call the local ranger station and ask.
I tie a size 12 day-glo green elk hair caddis that works really well. I've had less luck with more traditional colored ones. My buddy tied one on during his very first fishing experience and caught at least a dozen 8-10" browns.
I also tie a size 14 gnat with peacock herl and white or bright hackle that works well.
For wets, I use variations of two flies:
a kebari-style fly with sparkly gold or silver thread (found at Michaels) and white hackle, size 14;
various colors and sizes of Utah killer bugs or killer buggers. I tie these on scud hooks, some with hackle and some without.May 20, 2014 at 6:02 am #2104264
@ferrulewaxLocale: a county over from springer mountai
This is the selection I take plus or minus some regional flies and Tenkara flies.
Elk hair caddis
Stimulators – mimic hoppers & stones
Humpys- my favorite
Blue winged olives
San Juan worms
If you notice any deficiencies please tell me what else I need.May 20, 2014 at 4:38 pm #2104489
@b14Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day;
teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
"Ask a man for relationship advice and you get a funny look.
Ask a man for fishing advice and you'd better pull up a chair!"
MeMay 23, 2014 at 3:39 am #2105331
Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.Oct 23, 2014 at 11:37 am #2143823
@klagsLocale: Northeast US
So what did you end up going with and how did it work out for you?Oct 26, 2014 at 8:40 am #2144461
@millonasLocale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
As someone commented, those flies are pretty much the flies you would use for any trout anywhere. For Trout not in a food-rich environment (up in the mountains) it almost doesn't matter.
I had a fun but also educational experience this summer with my Tenkara rod on the West Walker river – eastern Sierra. The "world famous" East Walker was too low and weedy (but amazingly beautiful riparian environment) for me to fish with Tenkara from the shore effectively. The temperature was very hot, the sky was cloudless and bright, and the fish were basically "down" most of the time. However I found a biggish hole where a lot of 12"-18" rainbows were hanging out – there were a few 20"+ fish cruising about lazily as well – but of course they were just out of reach of my Tenkara rod. The water was low and I think they just pooled up to get out of the heat. The fish were a bit dumb, or maybe just indifferent in the heat, so I could just stand on a big rock and look down on them over a stretch of water maybe 6 feet deep and 50 feet long in the middle of the river. I could watch almost every single take on dry or wet flies, and I could also watch the reactions of the fish.
It was like a fish quorum. Often multiple fish would peel away from the herd to investigate my fly as it drifted by. I could see the ones that lost interested and how close they were when they did, and so on. I got bored using the old standby (highly recommended as a "single"-fly setup) of a #14 Elk Hair Caddis with a 20-ish midge nymph tied below. So after catching half a dozen fish in about half an hour I started playing around with flies, and managed to catch Trout on about 15 different flies in the same spot at the basically same time including many different dry flies and nymphs, fished together and separately, regular wets, 3 different grasshoppers and an ant, black and olive woolly buggers with and without weighted heads, several Kebari style flies that I had crappily tied myself, and so on. Basically everything in my box. I even got to check out presentation styles with my terrestrials and discovered that, yes, if you smack a grasshopper down on the surface some trout will rise and take it without question even if most of its neighbors break for cover.
From my fish quorum I managed to verify some old chestnuts and discover a few of my own.
!. Unless there is a hatch, Trout are about 10 times more likely to go for a wet fly. I guess it is less work and much closer representation of what they eat on a regular basis.
2. When the fish are down like that about %90 of them are just not interested in going after anything at all, however perfect the presentation, and however close it is. I could see the fly float past a group of 20 of them and could also see the 2 of them in that group that at least turned and investigated. The rest acted like it was non existent.
3. If there are enough fish, there will always be a few that will go for anything you offer them. The corollary of this is that in a lot (or most) of cases our control over what a Trout thinks by using different flies is very limited. Most are rejecting out of hand and when we hook one it is as much out of spur of the moment randomness on the fish's part.
4. There are always fish I would like to get to that I can't reach with my Tenkara rod without wading and make me wish I had actually brought my "real" flyrod (or my waders).
Oh, and my favorite one is "Give a man a fish and he will go away and eat it. Teach a man to fish and he will steal you damn fishing spot".
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