Summer in Colorado means one thing, dry fly fishing. Whether you’re casting ants on a small creek or crystal clear lake for gorgeous cutthroat trout, throwing PMD’s to unsuspecting browns on the Fryingpan, or trying to solve the (sometimes) maddening trico hatch on the South Platte River for picky rainbows, having the right fly can make all the difference.
Even if you’re new to fly tying, the following patterns aren’t terribly difficult to imitate. You will have to track down some of the materials and remember, be creative. Fly tying is like cooking. Adapting a recipe to suit your strengths and preferences as a tyer (and the naturals on your home river) can be the difference between a mediocre day or a great one.
Ken Walrath developed a superb ant pattern that you simply have to try if you’re fishing terrestrials. Last summer I had some very picky high mountain lake Cutties eat this pattern, which was extremely rewarding. The following recipe is a proven winner:
Ken’s Crazy Ant
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size 16 or 18
Thread: Black, 8/0 or 70 denier
Body/antenna: Foam drawer liner
Wing: White Antron or Zelon
Legs: Grizzly hackle
Tim Flagler of Tightline Productions made an amazing video for this pattern, which will also help you track down the correct drawer liner. Also, feel free to find (and use) different color bodies for Ken’s ant. I usually put some Gehrke’s Gink or Loon Aquel on the fly before my first cast. Here is a link to the video: Ken’s Crazy Ant
Another great thing about fly fishing in Colorado during the summer months is the PMD hatch. PMD’s or pale morning dun’s are an interesting and easy mayfly to identify. Often times, fishing a cripple pattern can be your best bet and there is a reason for that. PMD’s struggle to break the meniscus of the water, which makes them extremely vulnerable during their emergence. My PMD cripple pattern is relatively straightforward to tie and it has fooled some picky trout on the South Platte, Fryingpan, and Williams Fork tailwaters.
Ago’s PMD Cripple
Hook: Standard dry fly hook, size 16
Thread: Olive, 6/0 Danville
Tail/Emerging Shuck: Olive brown or Brown Zelon (Halve it before tying it in)
Body: Spirit River or TroutHunter PMD dubbing
Wing: Hareline Para Post Wing - Light Gray or Medium Dun - Tied forward
Note 1: A few wraps of light or medium Dun hackle behind (one wrap) and in front (two wraps) of the forward facing (cripple) wing can also yield takes.
Note 2: Be sure to examine the body color of the naturals on the rivers you fish. PMD’s with a pinkish hue often times appear on some of the Colorado rivers, including the Fryingpan. I use a little coffee grinder to blend in some pink dubbing with the normal PMD color.
The Trico hatch is arguably one of the most important (and frustrating) Mayfly hatches of the summer. Many people fish duns, spinners, and drowned patterns. It is not a straightforward event, but last year I primarily fished one “must have” pattern for the Trico hatch. I learned about this pattern from Pat Dorsey’s book, Fly Fishing Tailwaters. Shane Stalcup’s CDC Biot Trico Comparadun can be fished any way you desire and that is why it is so effective.
By simplifying the hatch you will hook more fish and maintain your sanity. If you see a trout steadily rising then keep covering it until it eats. Don’t get discouraged if the fish you’re casting toward doesn’t eat at the first or second time of asking, keep at it.
Another simple tip is to just fish to one fish. At times during a Trico spinner fall there will be fish rising everywhere. Focus on one trout that has a steady feeding rhythm. Cast your fly about two feet in front of it and get ready for the take! I caught some killer fish last year at the Dream Stream, Elevenmile, and Deckers by using Stalcup’s Trico and following these simple steps. Here is Shane’s pattern with some of my notes/tweaks, which will hopefully help you solve the Trico hatch this summer:
Hook: #20-24 Tiemco 100 - I tie 22’s mostly
Thread: Veevus 14/0 or 16/0, black
Tail: White Mayfly Tails - Tie 3 in and separate them evenly
Abdomen: Black goose biot - Sometimes I just make a thread body instead
Thorax: Black Superfine (Don’t be afraid to make this a bit bulky)
Wing: One white CDC puff
Tying small flies (like Trico’s) can be a challenge, but the reward of landing a big fish on a small fly (that you tied) is totally worth it. I was lucky enough to fish with Tim Flagler this summer and he told me for every 15 flies he ties of the same pattern, he discards three. The more you practice the better your patterns will become.
Also, play around with different wing materials if you are tying your own Trico spinners or drowned patterns. Using a little black, brass bead will help your drowned pattern sink just below the surface, which is where the smart fish tend to hang out during the spinner fall. I have met some anglers that will fish a big dry (like a PMD) and then drop a drowned Trico behind it. Stubbornly, I still will fish one dry fly, like Stalcup’s Trico, during the heaviest part of the hatch.
Lastly, get to the river early. I have hooked more fish during the initial and middle periods of the Trico hatch as opposed to the tail end when there are more drowned insects. However, if you are fishing for the entire day, don’t leave early. The PMD’s and BWO’s will often times follow the Trico spinner fall.
My name is Michael Agostinho and I am a teacher, fly fisherman, fly tyer, and coach. Check out my blog, www.mayflymusings.com and follow me on Instagram @michael_agostinho10. If you have any other questions, stories, etc., then feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Also, a big thanks to Fly Cast for the opportunity to share these “3 Flies for Summer” with you and remember, tight lines everyone.