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New Fly Pattern Spotlight: Euroflash Nymph

New Fly Pattern Spotlight: Euroflash Nymph

olive euroflash perdigon nymph
Olive Euroflash Nymph

I developed the Euroflash Nymph in several variations in late summer and fall 2018. This is the production version, which will be available in the shop in March of 2019. This slender, tungsten-weighted nymph sinks like a brick and worked wonders for us on the Yellowstone and Gardner in red and purple versions late in the season. In fact, it was our best fly on our last guided trips in late October.

There are five key design elements that make the fly effective in its intended role as a slender, fast-sinking, flashy yet not ostentatious mayfly nymph. First off, the brownish tungsten bead is secured in the fly’s thorax, somewhat hidden by the wing case and the thread thorax. This somewhat mutes its flash while still providing weight. Fish nowadays can spook at beads, particularly in low, clear water, so this one gives the advantage of a bead’s weight without the prominent flash of a normal beadhead. Moving back, the speckled coq-de-leon tail provides variegation, while the Holographic Flashabou abdomen provides flash and hints of segmentation and variegation from the way the light reflects from it in different colors. The thorax and wingcase combination continue the theme of muted, somewhat three-dimensional flash. The wingcase is made from opalescent tinsel which reflects in an almost violet spectrum, but its color is muted by the brown thread underneath, making this flash subtle. Finally, the sparse Fluoro-Fibre legs do not retard the fly’s sink rate as denser legs can, but because this material is fluorescent and moves well in the water, it still provides the subtle motion and attraction of standard legs.

We’ll be stocking the pattern in the following colors for sure: red/black, purple/black, orange/brown (PMD), olive/brown (BWO), and black/black color combinations, all in #18. If we have time, we’ll also tie it in some other colors and sizes.

The olive and brown version is pictured above. This color combo works best in the Lamar, Firehole, and Madison, though it’ll also work on the Yellowstone and Gardner when the water is clear. It roughly imitates BWO (Baetis) mayflies, which hatch primarily in spring and fall, but occasionally in the winter too. So it’s a good choice from August on through into June.

Look for a fly pattern video covering the Euroflash sometime in the spring of 2019.

Yellowstone River Winter Midge Fly Pattern Videos

Yellowstone River Winter Midge Fly Pattern Videos

As first in a series of “greatest hits” fly tying videos to tide visitors over before I start posting tying videos again early in 2019, here’s a “season-appropriate” pair of tying videos I posted a few years back. Try one or all if you’re looking for a good winter midge pattern for the Yellowstone River and beyond.

WD-40 Midges and Red Haze Serendipity Midges

This pair of midge pupae are good choices anytime you can bear to fish the Yellowstone this winter. The WD-40 is usually the better bet on the big river, since it pulls double duty as a BWO nymph as well as a winter midge fly pattern, while the Serendipity variant is a good choice on spring creeks and tailwaters nationwide but only a changeup on the Yellowstone. Fish these low and slow, ticking bottom from time to time, in the slow walking-speed runs that are at least waist deep.

Yellowstone River JRB Midge

This little dry is a variation on a pattern the shop stocked from 1960 to 1980. The only change of note is a wing swap, from hair to synthetic. Other patterns available starting in the 1960s are variations on this one, such as the Herter’s Bastard Midge. This fly is an excellent single midge pattern in #18-22 when you start seeing the fish rise to emerging midges. In fact, it was designed specifically as a winter midge pattern for the Yellowstone. Trail it behind something like a Purple Hazy Cripple in #18-20, a Coachman Trude or Coachman Clacka Caddis in #16, or a #16-18 Griffith’s Gnat or Buzzball, basically a fly that the trout might also take when they’re eating midges but which is easy to see.

ECHO Fly Rods, Reels, and Combos… Product and Company Review after Our First Season as a Dealer

ECHO Fly Rods, Reels, and Combos… Product and Company Review after Our First Season as a Dealer

2018 marked the first year Parks’ Fly Shop has stocked ECHO fly rods and reels. We picked these up after playing with Rob Olson’s low-cost nine-foot five-weight Base model he has for client use, and finding it a remarkably good rod for the low, low MSRP of $89.99.

Here’s a brief rundown of our thoughts on the various Echo rods, reels, and combos we stocked last season or that our guides picked up for their own use, followed by our comments on Echo as a company. Long story short, we’re pleased all around!

Base Rod and Combo

echo base rod
Echo Base Rod

With the exception of a couple of Walmart-grade blister-pack garbage outfits we stock for customers who just do not want to spend more than a few bucks but nonetheless want to buy a fly outfit,the Base rod and its associated combo are our entry level outfits. The rods MSRP runs $89.99, while the combo with a Base reel, a rod/reel case, and an Airflo line runs $169.99. Even at this low price, the rod includes a full lifetime warranty. You break it, they’ll give you a new one at $35.00. This is the cheapest rod we’ve ever found that includes a full warranty rather than just a short warranty covering materials and workmanship.

The rod itself features a medium-fast action and plain hardware. No surprise in either case given that a medium-fast action is the best choice for beginners and costs have to be cut somewhere to price a rod at ninety bucks, even if it is made in China. Performance is excellent at medium and short range, especially given the price point. Performance at long range is poor, as the rod just runs out of guts at about 45 feet. That said, your average rookie isn’t going to be casting beyond 45 feet anyway. The lack of guts also hurts this rod in the wind and when fishing heavy nymph rigs.
With lower-grade outfits, our usually metric is whether or not the gear is good enough so that it grows with the angler. The worst outfits are so bad that they hold beginners back, making learning more difficult (see above about Walmart-grade stuff). Solid beginner outfits don’t hold rookies back, but also generally don’t grow with them. In other words, most rookies will want a different outfit pretty soon if they find themselves taking up the sport. The very best rod for a beginner will grow with them: be easy enough to learn on, while still providing good performance as they progress and remaining in good condition as they do (particularly the grip and guides). I don’t think the Base rod rises quite to this level. Then again, this is a pretty high bar for a rod retailing at under $100.

In sum, I heartily recommend the Base rod as a first rod for beginners of any age, particularly for those fishing on foot or otherwise in situations where they won’t have to deal with wind or fish heavily-weighted nymph rigs. That said, we don’t send out Base rods with any of our trips except for those Rob takes, and the Base is primarily a backup rod for his beginner trips.
The less said about the Base reel that comes with the outfit, the better. It’s your run of the mill bargain basement ($35 when sold separately) composite reel. With trout fishing, saving money on the reel is the way to go, but unless opting for the Base outfit, I suggest jumping up to the Ion or comparable reel at twice the price, if possible.

Carbon XL Rod

Carbon XL Rod
Echo Carbon XL

The Carbon rod is the next step up, and it’s a good one. I bought four of these at the start of last season for my clients, a pair each of nine-foot five and six-weights, after having demoed them in the fall of 2017. These are medium-fast rods, but they’ve got a little more muscle than the Base and much nicer appointments. While still not distance rods, they’re excellent all-purpose rods on smaller water (the five), on foot on big and brawling water like the Yellowstone (the sixes), and are my preferred dry fly and dry-dropper roads out of the boat (the sixes) when clients don’t have their own gear. Like the Base, these have a full warranty. They come with a standard rod sock and a fabric-covered PVC tube at a price point of $149.

While generally good rods, they don’t have quite enough backbone for fishing big nymphs and streamers out of the boat, especially when the wind’s blowing. On the flipside, this make them better for delicate presentations and protecting tippets, which means they’re better-suited to places like the Lamar, Firehole, or Paradise Valley Spring Creeks than some stiffer rods.

For what it’s worth, on a day last June when I met clients down on the Gibbon for a morning half-day and had time to fish for myself afterward, I didn’t bother rigging up the (much more expensive) rod I’d brought along for myself and instead fished with one of the five-weight Carbons I’d brought for my clients. It’s that solid a rod. For that reason, I heartily recommend this rod for a multi-purpose backup for anybody who doesn’t expect to be chunking heavy nymph rigs or streamers most of the time. For smaller nymph setups, dries, or dry-dropper, particularly for anglers in the East where there isn’t as much wind, this would be a great choice for a backup rod or even a main rod for those on a budget. It’s also an excellent beginner rod, for adults or kids alike. In fact, it’s THE rod I’d recommend right now for beginners who can take a step up from the Base or similar rods that retail at around $100.

Match these with the Ion reel or a comparable “budget but not garbage” reel and a standard-weight fly line like the classic Cortland 444 or Orvis Hydros Superfine or RIO Gold for good performance.

Ion XL Rod

Ion XL Rod
Ion XL Rod

For nymphs and streamers, this is the one I’d suggest over the Carbon XL. I bought a pair of these in nine-foot six-weight configuration, and they’re my preferred “boat rod” I always bring along on float trips, regardless of whether or not my clients have their own gear. At least in six-weight configuration hey are FAR better nymph and streamer rods than they are dry fly rods, especially when things get delicate. They are fast-action and the six-weights have fighting butts, both of which are nice when things get hot and heavy, but not ideal for small dries. That said, they’re excellent at chunking big and/or heavy stuff, at short range or long. I first fished with one of these in 2017 in Alaska, fishing flesh and eggs for big rainbows, so that ought to tell you how much backbone they have.

Unless you plan to use these for light saltwater applications or other situations where distance casting is key, I suggest using a line that’s a half-size heavier than standard on these. Otherwise they just don’t load up well at ranges under about 20 feet. I use the Orvis Hydros HD Power Taper, but the SA MPX or RIO Grand (which is a full size heavy) are also good choices, as I imagine the Airflo equivalent to these lines would be (Airflo is part of the same ownership group as ECHO). The ECHO Ion reel matches these rods well, no surprise given they share a name, but I wouldn’t hesitate to use this rod with a snazzy machined reel like the Orvis Battenkill or Hydros SL, if you’re in a situation where you need more durability or stopping power.

I have not used these in line weights lighter than six, and I don’t think any of our other staff have, either. In fact, Trevor and Kody like these in seven-weights as streamer sticks. All in all, I think this is the right mindset: opt for these rods when you’re fishing big and/or heavy stuff, especially subsurface. I have not used these rods for bass, steelhead, or in the salt, but I expect they’d excel for these applications.

I would not generally recommend these rods as all-around beginner rods, or for kids, since they’re stiff enough that they’d be frustrating for beginners to cast except with a lot of weight to help them “cheat.”

The Ions run $169, including a full warranty and a Cordura-covered PVC tube. Note that ten-footers are available. This is about as cheap as you can go and still get ten-foot rods. This is a great length if you’re looking for a nymphing stick.

Dry Rod

This is a great stick if you pay attention to their marketing. They are intended for fishing modest-sized dry flies at short to moderate ranges. At this, the Dry excels. It’s also good at dry-dropper rigs at modest ranges. Anything else, particularly heavy nymph and streamer rigs or wind-resistant dry flies like the omnipresent Chubby Chernobyl, and they fall apart. This is because they qualify as true medium-action or even medium-slow action rods. They just don’t have enough spine for the extra “oomph” needed to propel big ugly flies, or at longer ranges. They’re also poor at casting into the wind.

Trevor has a nine-foot five-weight in this series, and he loves it for its intended purpose. He took this rod when I floated him through Yankee Jim Canyon on a windy day, when we needed to double haul to punch into a stiff north wind, and he hated it in that situation. So did I. The basic problem was that the rod folded like a wet noodle when we tried to double haul it and seldom turned over the entire cast. We were fishing modest-sized hoppers and attractor dries this day, nothing larger than #12, so wind resistance wasn’t the issue. The rod just didn’t have enough backbone. The six-weight version would have been better, but not much.

Where these rods excel are on small to medium-sized, flat, delicate waters: spring creeks and places like the Lamar Drainage. They’re all nine-footers (even the two-weight!) so they have plenty of reach to mend and otherwise control line in the tricky currents common on such streams. In the rare instances nymphing deep is required on these streams, it’s done with small bugs that the Dry series can handle.

To be honest, I think ECHO missed a bit with this one. Not in making a soft-flexing rod that can’t handle wind, big dries, nymphs, or streamers. There’s a place for such rods and they’re honest in the marketing that these rods aren’t designed for burly techniques. Where they really missed was not making these rods in lengths shorter than nine feet. If they had, say making several rods from three-weights through five-weights in seven to nine-foot lengths, they would have expanded the range of waters where these rods make sense to include small, brushy streams and creeks. While such streams are more common in the East, there are some in the Yellowstone area and I love fishing them on my days off with my 7’6” two-weight Redington Classic Trout where the trout are all dinks or 7’9” four-weight TFO Finesse series where there’s a few bigger ones. These are both rods at about the same price point as the Dry ($229), and there are plenty of more-expensive rods that fit the same mold, for example Orvis’s Superfine, assorted light Sages, and of course short, light Winstons. So there’s a market out there for short/light rods with a taper similar to the Dry. The problem is that the Dry doesn’t cover this market. My guess is that this was a conscious decision by Echo, to avoid competing with their fiberglass rods that fit this niche, but as somebody who just loathes fiberglass rods, I think it’s a mistake.

I don’t mean to turn anglers looking for a modest-action and modest-price dry fly rod for modest ranges on modest-sized streams with modest currents (sorry about that) away from the Dry. Far from it. I think it’s a great rod at the price point for such situations. It’s just that this is a pretty narrow set of conditions. Therefore, I rate this rod a poor choice for beginners or anyone looking for a “one rod quiver.” If you are looking for a rod of this sort, the Dry begs to be matched with a classic or classic-inspired reel: an old Hardy Princess or Lightweight, a used Orvis CFO or Battenkill, a new Orvis Battenkill click-pawl, or even an old Pflueger Medalist. Use a standard-weight line, either a classic like the Cortland 444 Peach or a newer-design optimized for delicacy. Double-taper lines are definitely better than WF lines with this rod. In fact, I’d cut the double-taper in half at its midpoint and then only attach half the line to save wear and tear on the unused half. This rod doesn’t need or like to be cast more than the 45 or so feet of half a standard DT line.

Badass Glass Rod

Bad Ass Glass Rod
Bad Ass Glass Rod

This is one I haven’t personally fished with, but Trevor loves his eight-weight for hucking streamers. This series of rods is definitely fills a small niche: that of fiberglass rod freaks who want to chuck big, articulated streamers (or fish for bass, pike, carp, or saltwater species). Available in six through ten-weight, all in eight-foot lengths, most anglers need not apply here.

That said, if you’re looking for a special-purpose rod, this isn’t a bad choice. Short rods for stripping streamers (or other techniques in which mends aren’t required) offer the advantage of faster response, greater accuracy, and lower arm fatigue due to reduced swing weight (basically, how heavy the rod feels due to tip-heaviness). All short, aggressive fly rods share these advantages, but graphite doesn’t give you the feel of glass. Simply put, you’ll feel the rod load all the way into your hand with the B.A.G., and when you stick a big fish, you’ll feel it all the way into your hand, too.

The B.A.G retails for $279.99.

Ion Reel

Echo Ion Reel
Echo Ion Reel

Now this is a good buy. The Ion is either a cheap, decent reel, or a decent, cheap reel, depending on where you draw the line. Since it’s a hybrid cast aluminum and composite reel, rather than a machined aluminum reel, I put this on the “cheap” end. Echo claims there are machined components in this reel, but I can’t find them and don’t expect to given the price point. The only remaining machined reels that I know of that retail under $100 all feature click-pawl drags, while the Ion has a sealed disk.

For my personal fishing, I exclusively use machined reels due to their greater durability and reliability over cast reels, but I prefer to use reels in the Ion’s bracket on client gear because beginner and novice clients tend to abuse gear, reels most of all. I tend to treat client reels as expendable, for this reason. That said, I paired all my new client rods with Ions before the 2018 season, and the Ions never failed me. I’ll be running the same quiver of rods and reels next year.

Ion reels feature a heavily-ported design to reduce weight (always the bane of cast reels), with a plain black finish and appointments. While nominally a large-arbor reel, the arbor on the Ion is quite deep, making it more akin to many “mid-arbor” reels. The spool is slightly taperered on the inside, which makes it easier to reel backing and line onto the spool evenly. The drag knob is large and textured for easy grip.

This deep arbor provides exceptionally high backing capacity, 150 yards with a WF5 line in the 4/5 and 150 with a WF7 in the 6/7. Most price-point reels offer no more than 100 yards until you get into the larger sizes. This is the single biggest reason I picked up these reels. I wasn’t worried about total backing capacity per se, since when trout fishing it’s unlikely you’ll ever need more than 50 yards, but because larger backing capacity allows the angler to spool the reel with an acceptable amount of backing while still leaving a portion of the spool unfilled. You’ll never wind a line back onto a reel as tightly as you do the first time, especially while you’re playing a fish, and it’s bad for lines, playing fish, and potentially for tangles to reel onto a spool until it’s brim-full and jammed against the reel frame. On my client reels, I run about 75 yards of backing on the 4/5 Ion with a five-weight line and 100 on the 6/7 Ion with a six-weight line. This leaves almost a quarter-inch of bare spool in both line sizes, plenty of slop if a client winds the line back onto the reel unevenly.

Reel performance has been excellent even on some rather large browns, with easy drag adjustability, no breakage even under hard treatment, etc. Granted, my clients are using this rod solely for trout, so I can’t speak to how well it’d hold up for bigger and harder-fighting fish, but I suspect that in fresh water at least it would be fine for all species, both as a budget primary reel and as a backup.

In the trout sizes (2/3, 4/5, and 6/7), the Ion reel retails at $79.99. Jumping to the 7/9, 8/10, and 10/12 for big game, saltwater, and two-handed applications jumps the price to $99.99.

Warranty Repairs and Customer Service

Knock on wood, but here is a place where ECHO has really shined, so far. First I’ll discuss their general repair/replacement policies and procedures, then move on to how the company has treated us and our customers.

A full description of ECHO’s warranty and repair procedures are discussed HERE. Simply put, there are a lot of options. Standard mail-in repairs, which given that these are rods mass-produced overseas generally means “replacements” cost $35.00, in line with most budget fly rods and cheaper than high-end rods. My Orvises and Sages cost a lot more nowadays. The entire rod must be sent in for standard warranty work, which of course adds shipping costs. Another option on some rods is ordering a spare or replacement tip section. This option is available on all rod series discussed here, but not on some higher-end rods. These replacement sections run $17.50, and will lead to a faster turnaround time than sending in the entire rod. In addition, if you have a few extra bucks around, ordering a spare tip before your big fishing trip would not be a bad idea, since the tip sections of four-piece rods are what tend to get eaten by car doors and tree limbs. Finally, ECHO offers walk-in service if you happen to be located near their base of operations in Vancouver, Washington, across the Columbia from Portland. While this still runs $35.00, it would obviously slash turnaround time if you happen to be within a few hours of Vancouver.

As far as service speed, it’s fast. I should add the caveat that none of our staff have broken their own ECHO rods yet (which should say something towards their durability), but we have had customers break rods shortly after purchasing them and send them back through our shop. This is not normally the way to get warranty service, but when somebody comes in with a busted rod four hours after buying it, most rod companies bend over backwards. ECHO has been no exception. One instance stands out. A customer who bought a BASE outfit came back in the next day after breaking it while stringing it up the second time he fished with it. From the description of how the rod broke, plus the fact the guy changed his story three or four times when pressed, it was clear that either he hit the rod with a heavy streamer the day before or had held it by the tip section without supporting the reel while stringing it up, both of which will always break a rod. Despite this, ECHO agreed to let us simply hand him a new rod and sent us a replacement for it, rather than forcing the customer to go through the normal process.

In addition, standard service has been very fast. I don’t think we’ve ever had to wait more than about a week for an order. While we’re wholesale rather than retail customers, I have no reason to believe such speed wouldn’t carry over to repairs or other retail customer needs.

Conclusion

We’ve been very happy with our first season as an ECHO dealer. While some of the products we’ve tried have been more broadly applicable than others, we’ve generally been pleased with everything we’ve used and/or sold. In addition, the company itself seems top-notch. If you’re in the market for a budget or mid-range rod or reel, take a strong look at ECHO. We obviously hope you’ll consider ordering from us…

Replacements and Cheaper Sources for Materials: Kreelex Flash

Replacements and Cheaper Sources for Materials: Kreelex Flash

This post is the first in what I hope to be a long string of posts about substituting cheaper and/or easier-to-find alternatives for expensive and/or hard-to-find fly tying materials. Today, I’m covering Kreelex Flash. Don’t know what this is? It’s what you need to tie this amazing streamer, video courtesy Headhunters Fly Shop up on the Missouri River.

The Original Material

Kreelex or “Kreinik” Flash is great stuff. This is a somewhat crinkled, muted flash with a great deal of inherent stiffness that’s ideal for streamer flies. It’s the primary material for Chuck Kraft’s Kreelex fly, one of the hottest trout streamers in the Rockies right now, though it was developed in the eastern United States, and also a great smallmouth and largemouth bass, pike, and even redfish pattern, when tied in the right colors.

The specific material involved is sold by only a handful of fly shops. Montana Fly Company dealers may stock it under the brand name “Fish Flash.” For the widest selection of colors, particularly blends of multiple colors, this is the best option.

MFC fish flash
MFC Kreelex Flash Blends are a good choice when you’re looking for a multi-color material.

Larger packages of this material, sold as Kreinik Flash, are available from a handful of fly shops, most of them in the eastern United States. The two most prominent are probably Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, which sells it HERE, and Eastern Trophies Fly Fishing, which sells it HERE.

HOWEVER, there are several cheaper alternatives, particularly for solid colors and pearls, both cheaper sources of the identical material that are great choices if you tie LOTS of Kreelexes, and other fly tying-specific materials that might be easier to find if you only expect to tie a few or want to try some alternate color combos that aren’t available with Fish Flash.

I’ll start off with the identical material.

Cheaper Sources for the Real Thing

The name “Kreinik” might be a clue. In reality, like so much in fly fishing, this material started off life as a craft fiber. Kreinik is the company that distributes it, under the name Kreinik Flash. I assume they source it in ton lots from China or wherever.

Here’s a side note: this company knows that fly tiers use their products, and even have a separate section of their website devoted to fly tying. I highly encourage you to check out some of their other materials in addition to Kreinik Flash, particularly the assorted braids and “blending filament,” which are useful for ribbing, bodies on medium-sized nymphs and wet flies, etc. Side note finished.

Kreinik Flash available from the company itself is available both in small amounts labeled “Flash-in-a-Tube” and in bulk amounts that will tie literally hundreds of flies. If you’re only looking for a small amount of flash, the “Flash-in-a-Tube” option is honestly not any better than buying from a fly shop, since the pricing is no better and it’s harder to choose the precise colors you want from their myriad options. If you love the Kreelex or are tying them commercially, as I do, the bulk option here is by far the cheapest way of getting a lot of this material.

Ordering this material is honestly kind of a pain. Though the link given above appears to provide a shopping cart option for direct sales, in reality the orders (including billing the last time I made an order) are fulfilled through the company’s independent dealers, who may or may not actually have the material on hand and ready to ship when you order and may or may not have any understanding of fly fishing, meaning they might not be able to help if you have questions or problems with your order. For that reason, shipping often takes a couple weeks and the process is something of a crapshoot. Nonetheless, the price is SOOOOOOO much better that it’s worth it, if you know what to order.

So what should you order?

The colors given on the link above are generally accurate, so choose the colors you like. HOWEVER, the material itself is not consistent across all colors. The materials you want to tie Kreelexes or similar flies are those whose color codes end in “HL” or in “V.” The “HL” colors are more popular as the “V” colors are rather muted. Do not choose colors ending in “L,” as these colors are actually constructed from a different material apparently identical to Holographic Flashabou. This material does not handle like the “proper” material and I do not think it makes very good Kreelexes. The holographic colors do make a perfectly good substitute if you are looking for Holographic Flashabou. I have not used any colors with codes ending in “F,” which are glow-in-the-dark materials, but I suspect these are identical to glow-in-the-dark Flashabou.

Alternate Materials

Much of the marketing around Kreinik Flash, whether sold under its own name or as MFC Fish Flash, is that it’s the ONLY material suitable for tying the pattern. While true if you’re looking to tie the specific color combinations Chuck Kraft, Montana Fly Company, and now Umpqua Feather Merchants produce, this is just marketing hype if you’re okay with slight variances OR deliberately want to tie something you can’t tie exactly using the available colors or blends of Kreinik Flash.

Before going into what you CAN use instead of Kreinik Flash, I should probably note first what you CAN’T, at least if you want a fly that performs in the water more or less like Kreinik Flash. You should not use Krystal Flash, standard, holographic, saltwater, magnum, mirage, accent, or lateral scale Flashabou, or any similar fiber that resembles hanks of tinsel. Unfortunately, these are the most readily-available materials in fly shops.

Two other types of Flashabou are my preferred alternate materials, with another Hedron (Flashabou’s manufacturer or at least distributor) product filling out the top three.

My favorite material for Kreelexes beside Kreinik Flash is Flashabou Weave. This product appears almost identical to Kreinik, save that it comes in combinations of colors rather than solid colors. These combinations are fascinating and make for some very “baitfishy” flies. I use the black/silver/gold combination for the backs of my Baby Whitefish Kreelex, for example.

gold-silver-black flashabou weave
My favorite color combo of Flashabou Weave – perfect for whitefish backs!

My second favorite alternate material is Speckled Flashabou. While sold as regular Flashabou, this material does not seem to clump together as readily as regular Flashabou. Moreover, the myriad tiny black flecks interspersed with the base color provide a similar effect as the slight crinkling of Kreinik Flash and also mute the colors slightly and make the strands less reflective than regular Flashabou, both features of Kreinik Flash. This is the material I used to tie my Kreelexes before I got a hold of the standard material, and in all honesty these flies worked the same as later ones I’ve tied. This material comes in gold, silver, and copper, combinations of which are the most popular colors of the Kreelex.

copper-black speckled flashabou
Copper/black speckled Flashabou

The final substitute material I recommend is Polarflash. Texturally this material is great, with a coarseness comparable to Kreinik Flash. It’s much brighter than Kreinik, however, with even dark colors like black possessing a pearlescent or even iridescent glow. This is fine for bellies on baitfish patterns (I use the pearl color as the belly on my Baby Whitefish Kreelex), but it is somewhat limiting since many situations do not call for flies that light up like lanterns in the water.

hedron polarflash
Notice how bright this material looks, even on your screen. Now imagine it in the sunlight….

Except for bellies on baitfish patterns, I suspect this material works best in dirty water situations, especially in smaller sizes for fish such as crappie, white bass, and bluegill. Tie a chartreuse and yellow streamer on a #12 jig hook with a black tungsten bead and let me know how it works under a bobber in an eastern lake—I still do a little warmwater fly fishing, once in a while.

What are you waiting for? Go tie some Kreelexes!

The Biggest Mistake…

The Biggest Mistake…

The single biggest mistake anglers visiting the Yellowstone area for the first time is simple, and probably surprising: they fail to bring a rod heavier than a nine-foot five-weight.
It might come as a surprise that this qualifies as a “mistake.” After all, five-weight rods are the reigning king of fly rods, the usual “do it all” rod suggested to rookies and experts alike. In a lot of the country, they probably are the right choice for a one-rod quiver. Around here, they’re not.

Why?

I’d like to say it’s because our fish are so big, but that’s seldom the case. The situations in which giant trout (or other fish) are a big part of why heavy rods make sense are the following: you’re chasing fall-run brown trout, you’re after carp on the Missouri River, or you’re fishing the “Land of the Giants” stretch of the Missouri River for big rainbows in the spring. That’s it.

Otherwise, these are the reasons to go heavier, all of which reinforce one another:

1.) Big, heavy, wind-resistant flies

Simply put, our flies are often bulky enough to cast that a stiffer rod than even a fast-action broomstick of a five is helpful. Fives are going to struggle with the latest articulated streamers, of course, which are bugs that many visitors aren’t going to fish anyway, but they also struggle with some of the “standards” we use all summers: large hoppers, Chubby Chernobyls, and Salmonflies. Notice that these are all dry flies. Where these bugs are concerned, it’s the wind resistance that counts, rather than their mass. A five-weight in the hands of a skilled caster can usually handle even large nymphs, since they punch through the air with greater ease than fluffier flies.

2.) On the other hand, a stiffer and longer rod than your average five-weight really helps when nymph rigs get complicated

The average five will struggle when you tie on a big stonefly, another nymph, a couple split shot, and a giant indicator. In particular a five-weight may require more time and power to lift this rig from the water than a heavier rod. This hurts casting as well as hook-setting.

3.) Wind

Wind is ever-present around here, particularly on large float rivers like the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Madison. When the wind is blowing right in your teeth, or even at your back, having a rod with some muscle is exceptionally helpful in getting good turnover on your casts. Good turnover means good accuracy, fewer tangles, and less “forcing it” into the wind, all of which makes for a more-efficient day of fishing.

So which rod do I suggest, then?

By far my favorite “do-it-all” rod around here is a nine-foot six-weight, particularly a relatively fast-action model (though not a true saltwater thunderstick) using a line rated a half-size heavier than the AFFTA standard. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it. Just ask for a contemporary general purpose trout line and that’s probably what the fly shop guy will sell you.

In essence, this rod and line combo (reels matter less) is a “6.5-weight.” This makes it heavy enough to cast big streamers, fight big fish, punch wind-resistant dry flies into a gale (assuming you’ve practiced casting lately), and pick up big, dirty nymph rigs. This rod is also still light enough to fish all sizes of dry flies with all but the lightest tippets, to cast without too much fatigue in a day of fishing, and to land the cast softly and accurately enough save on the gentlest, clearest streams like the Paradise Valley spring creeks and various meadow streams in Yellowstone Park.

What should you use on such gentle streams? Why, your nine-foot five-weight (or four-weight) of course! I never said you shouldn’t use a lighter rod, just that it shouldn’t be your heaviest rod available.