Join Me At Monster Lake, June, 2019!

Here’s a video taken when I fished the traveling sedge caddis hatch at Monster Lake in June, 2018:

I’m hosting anglers at Monster Lake to fish this incredible hatch, June 27-30, 2019. Join me!

Contact me if you are interested.

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Traveling Sedge Caddis

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The traveling sedge one of the largest of 1200 species of caddisfly found in North America. Its name is derived from the adults’ distinctive behavior of running-skittering across the surface which creates a wake. The wake attracts the attention of trout, which are drawn to the prospect of a juicy source of protein. During a hatch, trout will key on these tasty insects which can be over an inch in length.

Monster Lake located south of Cody, Wyoming, provides a unique opportunity to fish the traveling sedge hatch. After experiencing this hatch myself, this article provides information on fishing strategies and techniques that brought me success.

Increasing your understanding of the sedge’s life cycle, habitat, and behavior will enable you to better understand presentation, line selection, and retrieves when fishing this extraordinary hatch.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

I. Traveling Sedge Caddis Life Cycle

An aquatic cousin of the moth, the adult sedge caddis is light tan in color, and can grow to an inch or more in length. Its mottled brown and tan wings fold to form a tent shape. It has long legs and its antennae can exceed the length of its body. The life cycle includes the egg, larva, pupa and adult stage.

The traveling sedge skates across the water creating a wake before taking flight to mate. Mating occurs on the ground amid shoreline vegetation. Their life span as an adult is relatively short, devoted solely to mating and depositing eggs.

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Traveling sedge caddis wake

After mating, the female returns to the water, releasing her eggs by dipping the end of her abdomen into the water while skittering across the water’s surface. After the eggs are deposited, they sink to the bottom and within a few weeks hatch into larva.

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Female laying eggs

The young larva form cocoon-like casings and undergo up to 5 instars (molts) during a 2-year period. Each time they molt, they shed their larval casings. The final instar transforms the larva into the pupa stage. The pupa breaks out of their larval case and begins its steady swim from the bottom of the lake to the surface. Using their long hind legs to propel them, they make short gliding movements upwards towards the surface. Upon reaching the surface, they shed their pupal casing to emerge as an adult.

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Traveling Sedge crawling out of its pupal casing

After the pupae emerge as adults on the surface, the traveling sedge positions its wings upright to dry.

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Interestingly, the color of their abdomen changes after emergence. The abdomen of a recently emerged adult sedge adult has striations of yellow and olive. The color of the abdomen then changes to a tan color. Trout will key on both the newly emerged adults skittering on the surface or the egg-laying females.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

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© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Tiger Trout taking a dry fly caddis pattern during the traveling sedge hatch at Monster Lake, Wyoming

II. Fishing Tactics: Adult Stage of Traveling Sedge

Line Selection: When adult traveling sedges are hatching, use a floating line in olive or other darker and muted colors. I find that in stillwater environments, a light-colored floating line is visible and spooks trout during sunny and clear water conditions.

Brian Clarke and John Goddard, in The Trout and the Fly…A New Approach (© 1987, Lyons Press), agree, stating that white or light-colored lines should not be used when the trout are close to the surface because the color is highly visible to trout. Green and blue are the least visible colors to fish during conditions of normal light. Goddard’s research found that the reflection of the sun on the line can create line flash which spooks fish.

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Yellow and white floating line is highly visible under the surface

Leader and Tippet: Use a 9-foot monofilament leader with 24-36” fluorocarbon tippet. This leader length provided immediate response to the strike. I tested various leaders’ lengths up to 15 feet. I found that although a longer leader helped mitigate line flash during clear, flat, and sunny conditions, it created slack resulting in missed hookups.

For Monster Lake, I used a 0X leader with 1X fluorocarbon tippet to help prevent break offs; the trout on this lake are that big and aggressive! On other lakes which do not support such large trout, adjusting your leader and tippet sizes to 3X and 4X, respectively, should suffice.

Retrieve: Use a continuous, short, slow, 4-inch retrieve, interspersed with distinct 4-5 second pauses. I observed trout take the fly during the pause while the fly sat quietly on the surface. The reason to slow down the retrieve is because of the effect warmer water has on trout’s feeding behavior. When the water warms up, fish are less willing to chase a fly due to the lower oxygen content in the upper sections of the water column.

Several times I observed the trout first swamping the traveling sedge to prevent it from flying away, then taking the subsurface sedge on the second pass. If you see this happening, watch and wait. After the trout makes its first pass, continue to strip with a slow strip of the drowned fly. The trout will take it on the second pass. Wait until you feel the line tighten before setting the hook. This technique is harder to execute than you might imagine. It can be difficult to wait and resist reacting when a huge trout boils over your fly on its first pass!

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This trout swamped the fly first and then came back and took it on the second pass

Positioning on the lake: Hatches occur in shallow water in 7-10 feet of water above submerged weed beds and next to aquatic vegetation. I also observed trout cruising along shallow shoreline edges even during sunny and flat conditions seeking these tasty morsels. If you see a trout, cast 4-5 feet ahead in front of the cruising trout.

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Craig Aguilar, casting fly next to the shoreline edge, immediately hooked cruising trout

Floatant: Dress the fly pattern with floatant to maintain its buoyancy. Avoid greasing the leader as this causes dimples along the leader and will make it more visible to trout (described by Goddard in The Trout and the Fly).

Hatch: At Monster Lake, the hatch occurred two times a day, first between noon and 2:30 pm, and then at dusk.

Pattern Selection: Anglers should use caddis dry fly patterns that are reflective of the size of the adult traveling sedge. If fishing in lakes which support trophy size trout like Monster Lake, dry fly hook size can be up to a size #8. Select a hook that is strong enough to withstand the hard takes, aerial acrobatics, and long runs that can take you into your backing. I tried various caddis patterns and I found that they were all effective.

III. Fishing Tactics: Pupa Stage of the Traveling Sedge

During a hatch, when trout were selective to the pupa stage, they refused all offerings of the adult fly. For example, when windy conditions put the hatch down or if the hatch has not yet started, fishing a pupa pattern is effective. When trout become selective it is always to the stage of an insect, not the specific insect.

Line Selection: A floating line can be used but is problematic during windy conditions. The line will bow creating slack, and line drag will move the fly in an unnatural manner. The other issue is surface disturbance caused when retrieving the line. All these factors can spook trout. In my opinion, the two preferred line options when fishing the pupa stage are the slow intermediate sinking line, and the slow intermediate sink tip line.

Option 1: Intermediate sinking line (sink rate: 1.25-2.0 ips): The advantage of this line is it is possible to move the fly diagonally upwards through the water column, mirroring the upward movement of the pupa rising towards the surface. To do this, cast 30-40 feet, count down 30 seconds, then start the retrieve. The 30-count allows the fly to sink. When the fly is retrieved, it moves at an upwards diagonal angle, mirroring the upward movement of the traveling sedge pupa. Slow, 4-6-inch retrieves interspersed with definite pauses from 3-7 seconds.

Option 2: Intermediate sink tip line (sink rate: 1.25-2.0 ips): The advantage of this line is that it is effective in maintaining the fly in the top 2 feet of the water column above the weed beds. It also works well along shallow shore line areas. After casting the line, use a 5 second count before starting the retrieve. If no strike occurs, retrieve the line 4-6 inches, pause for 5 seconds and then continue to repeat the pull and pause technique. If not hit, most likely there weren’t any trout located in that spot. Recast in a different direction.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Craig Aguilar landed this brown trout in using a slow intermediate seven-foot sink tip

Leader and Tippet: Use a 9-foot monofilament leader and 3 feet of fluorocarbon tippet for a combined length of 12 feet. For Monster Lake, I used a 0X leader with 1X fluorocarbon tippet.

Pattern Selection: My UV Emerger pattern in Tan, White and Rusty Brown all worked well when the trout were selective to the pupa stage.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Vickie’s UV Emerger

During choppy conditions, I switched to my Grizzly Bug pattern, and fished it along shallow shore line edges which proved deadly.

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Vickie’s Grizzly Bug

Landing a big trout with attitude is always exciting, but doing so with a dry fly really offers anglers an unforgettable rush. If running into your backing, watching aerial acrobatics, and white knuckling it while landing behemoth trout fires up your imagination, then you should add fishing the traveling sedge caddis hatch at Monster Lake to your bucket list!

Watch for my next article which will be on chironomids and midges!© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

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Introducing Monster Lake

Experience the spirit of the American West by visiting Monster Lake Ranch, located 15 minutes south of Cody Wyoming. This 10,000-acre ranch is a premier fly fishing destination home to trophy Rainbow, Brown, Cutthroat, Brook and Tiger Trout. If you want big trout that pull hard, Monster lake will not disappoint.

The largest trout I have caught was a brown trout that measured over 30 inches in length and had shoulders so wide that he could have been drafted as an NFL linebacker. Its body had 4 flies still attached that had broken off when previous anglers attempted to bring him in. I removed three of the flies, plus my own from this behemoth, before he jumped out of my hands to escape back into to the deep. He is still there, waiting for you to find him.

Nice accommodations including cabins, some with kitchens, are available at the lake. Dining is also available at the ranch if you are too tired from catching fish to go into town. RV hook ups are also available. Electric motored boats or pontoon boats are the best way to fish Monster Lake. I would recommend 0X leaders and 1X tippets. And yes, even though I used these sizes during the epic traveling sedge hatch in June, I still experienced breakoffs!

Check out my new video introducing Monster Lake:

Monster Lake has become one of my favorite fly fishing destinations. Well named, Monster Lake provides the fly fishing angler an extraordinary adventure that will test your angling skills. You may hire a guide or head out on your own. Contact me if you have any questions.

I have added Monster Lake to my Destinations page. Click here for the link.

Here is a blog entry from a previous trip I made to Monster Lake in May, 2018:
Fishing at Monster Lake

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Damselflies

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Damselflies are ancient insects. Fossils of the adult damselfly indicate they existed 250 million years ago! They are found on every continent in the world except Antarctica and are abundant in lakes, reservoirs, ponds, and slow-moving streams and rivers.

The immature damsel nymph is an important source of food for the trout all year. Therefore, understanding the damselfly’s life cycle and behavior is important to increase your success as a stillwater angler.

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Never far from the water’s edge, the captivating dance of the colorful adult damselfly can be observed during their relatively short annual emergence during the spring and summer months.

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Adult Damselfly

Damselfly Description: Adult damselflies have slender, elongated abdomens and 2 pairs of wings that are held together over the body. The wings are highly veined and have hinges enabling them to fold their wings parallel to their body in a vertical position. This differentiates the damselfly from the dragonfly, whose resting wings remain flat and perpendicular to the body.

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Dragonfly

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Recently emerged damselfly. The wings are not yet fully extended

Damselflies are carnivorous and equipped with wide mouths containing strong-toothed mandibles. The bristles on their legs help trap prey such as mosquitoes, aphids, and gnats. They do not use their legs for walking, but rather to form a basket for catching prey or for perching while at rest. Each leg is tipped with a pair of claws.

The color of the adult can vary between green, blue, black, light olive, maroon, and brown, depending upon location and species. The large prominent compound eyes are found on opposite sides of the insect’s head, and the short antennae on top of the head are used for smell.

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Note the eyes, mouth, and mandibles, as well as the pair of claws on each leg tip.

Damselfly Life Cycle: Damselflies have three life cycle stages: egg, larva, and adult. To lay her eggs, the adult damselfly can go underwater, and she is capable of being submerged for up to 30 minutes. She may crawl down vegetation, making a small incision in a stem in which to deposit her eggs. The female may also remain above the surface and deposit eggs on submerged vegetation by dipping the tip of her abdomen in the water.

Eggs hatch into nymphs after three to five weeks. Immature damselflies in the larval stage are referred to as nymphs and live among submerged plants from several months to up to four years, depending upon the species. During this time, they can undergo up to 15 instars (molts) before emergence as adults.

Damselfly nymphs are an important source of protein for trout and are available year-round. During the nymphal stage, the insect has an elongated body with small wing buds on the back of the thorax. The head is wider than the rest of the body. The abdomen terminates with three highly veined caudal gills which look like fans.

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Damselfly Nymph

The overall body length can vary from ¼ inch to 1½ inches based on the species and age of the nymph. A fierce predator, the carnivorous damselfly nymph can be found stalking mosquito larva, mayfly nymphs, scuds, and zooplankton. Nymphs crawl or swim, propelling their bodies using an undulating movement among submerged plants and rocks and along lake bottoms searching for prey.

Like the adult stage, nymphal body coloration will vary depending on the species and habitat. Nymphal colors include brown, tan, and various shades of green.

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Brown damsel nymph

In habitats rich with algae, you will find nymphs in various shades of green. These two damselfly nymphs were taken in the same area along the shoreline. As you can see, the one above is brown and the one below olive.

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Olive Damsel Nymph crawling underwater in the rocks close to shoreline

Emergence: During late May through September, damsel nymphs begin their emergence into the adult stage. After the damselfly nymph is fully grown, the nymphs rise off the lake bottom or vegetation, tucking their legs under their thorax and swimming using a sideways motion to emerge on the shore. Trout key on this and lie in ambush, intercepting and feeding on damsels.

Trout normally hunt along the shorelines early and late in the day. They prefer the safety of low light conditions or the cover of ripple to avoid predation.

However, during a damsel hatch, I have observed trout throw caution to the wind and venture into the shallow shoreline areas in a feeding frenzy, even during periods of high sun, to feast on this abundant food source.

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Rare moment: a trout hunting emerging nymphs along shallow shoreline edges under bright sun and smooth surface

To emerge, the nymphs climb up plant stems or up on the shoreline where they undergo the transition from nymph to adult. Once above water, they shed their nymphal skin to emerge as adults.

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Damsel shedding its nymphal skin

The nymph extends its wings and the abdomen lengthens. The skin begins to harden, and the color darkens.

After emerging from the water, the damsel’s wings take a short while to fully extend. During this time, they are especially vulnerable to predation.

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Damsel upon emergence. Its wings have not yet fully extended.

Birds take advantage of this vulnerable time and gorge on the emerging damsels. In this picture you can see the birds lined up, feasting on the newly-emerged insects.

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Within a few weeks after emergence, mating occurs. Mating rituals can be elaborate as the male conducts high-speed flying maneuvers in a bid to attract females. During mating, the male damselfly grasps the female behind the head with the end of his abdomen. They are seen flying in tandem, known as “wheel position.” While mating, the males may scoop out any sperm from previous suitors.

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After mating, the male will remain attached to the female as she lays the eggs. This allows the male to fend off competing rivals.

Fishing Tactics and Techniques

Fish near aquatic vegetation: Cast or troll along the edge of aquatic vegetation or cast into open pockets inside the weed beds to locate and entice hungry trout. Trout search out nymphs that spend their life within the protective cover of aquatic plants.

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Use a line that maintains the fly in the top few feet of the water column

Option 1: Slow intermediate sinking line – Slow intermediate sinking lines keep the fly in the top section of the water column where the emerging nymphs are located. Towards the end of the retrieve, as the fly moves upwards as the line is picked up to be recast, it often triggers a last-minute strike by fish stalking nymph in the top section of the water column. Emerging nymphs will swim 4-6” below the surface as they swim towards the shore. Try to keep the fly at the same depth.

Option 2: Floating Line – The benefit of a floating line is that it maintains the fly in the top few feet. However, the disadvantage is that it causes line shadow. Also, when the line is retrieved, it causes surface disturbance. Both will spook wary trout.

Option 3: Slow Intermediate sink tip line – This line helps keep the fly in the top few feet of water, and when retrieved, moves the fly parallel through the water, which mirrors the movement the damsel nymph. In addition, this line reduces getting your fly caught in underwater weeds. Therefore, in my experience, this line is probably the best line for fishing damsel nymphs.

During an emergence, position your pontoon or boat close to shoreline and cast towards the shore: Position yourself away from shore, but near enough so you can place your cast close to the shoreline edge. Retrieve the line slowly, incorporating definite pauses in between each retrieve. Trout will be cruising parallel to the shoreline and will see the fly in profile view. This will increase the chances of a strike.

Use a fly pattern with a marabou tail during a damselfly emergence: A marabou tail offers movement which emulates the movement of a swimming nymph. When trout are feeding, they will accept any suggestive fly pattern that has the silhouette, shape, size, and movement of what the trout are eating; an exact match of the natural is not necessary for success. The color is not as important as the movement of the fly in triggering the bite. For example, various colors of my Grizzly Bug pattern were all effective in catching fish during a damselfly emergence. I tried black, rusty brown, burnt orange, and olive, all with similar successful results.

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Vickie’s Grizzly Bug

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Brook Trout caught on Vickie’s Dark Olive Grizzly Bug during damselfly emergence

When trolling, stop moving during the retrieve: Don’t troll and retrieve at the same time. Doing so makes the fly move too quickly. Instead, stop moving, then retrieve. Insert long pauses in between each retrieve. This will help make the fly’s movement more closely replicate the movement of a damsel nymph.

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During a summer fishing trip, windy conditions interrupted the damsel hatch. I trolled close to the shoreline. I stopped my boat’s movement before executing a slow retrieve. I was rewarded with landing three trout in a row, each on a different color of my All-purpose nymph pattern. All three trout took the fly during the pause.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Brown Caddis All-Purpose Nymph

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Olive All-Purpose Nymph

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White All-Purpose Nymph

My next article will be on the Traveling Sedge Caddis. I fished the traveling sedge caddis hatch on a trip to Monster Lake, near Cody, Wyoming. Straightened hooks, broken 1x tippets, and trout performing amazing aerial acrobatics provided unforgettable dry fly action. Fishing the dry fly during this epic hatch was the best dry fly fishing action with big trout I have ever experienced. My next article will provide you the information you need to experience this for yourself!

Watch for the next article on the Traveling Sedge Caddis

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What Trout Eat

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As opportunistic feeders, trout will prey on a variety of aquatic insects, forage fish, crustaceans, leeches, worms, and terrestrial insects. This article will provide an overview of what trout eat. It will be followed by additional articles providing more detailed information about trout’s primary food: aquatic insects. It is vital to understand where the trout’s prey lives, how it moves, and its life cycle if anglers want to increase their chance of catching trout. Understanding what trout eat is important because it will help dictate line selection, retrieval speed, positioning, and pattern selection.

As an avid hunter of trout, I am captivated by the diversity of aquatic life in stillwater habitats. That rich biodiversity continues to inspire wonder and awe within me. I have watched with fascination ascending chironomids, dancing caddis, mating damsels, and prolific numbers of mayflies in flight. I once witnessed a hatch of small Trico mayflies of such epic proportions that they appeared as a flying rhythmic mass softly blanketing everything it touched.

According to Robert Behnke in his book, Trout and Salmon of North America, (Chanticleer Press, 2002) a trout must consume one percent of its body weight daily to maintain its weight. He considers trout generalists and opportunists, feeding on a variety of prey, depending on what is available.

In a California Fish and Game study of trout food, Michael Swift writes that examining trout stomach contents reveals pupa stages of aquatic insects to be most likely to be preyed upon by trout. Chironomid pupae are readily picked off as they ascend to the surface. Also popular are vulnerable damselfly and dragonfly nymphs as well as caddisfly larvae which all live among aquatic vegetation and rocks.

When trout do become selective, it is never on a specific insect, but rather on the stage of an insect. For example, during a hatch, the trout’s food preference may shift to the adult stage of an aquatic insect such as a mayfly hatch. It is possible to generate a reactive bite using a fly pattern that is suggestive of nymphal stages, be it pupa, or larva stage. I have found during brief periods of emergence, trout will reject these nymphal stages and focus their attention to the adults lying on the surface.

Five Categories of Trout Prey

1. Aquatic Invertebrates: The bulk of what trout eat are aquatic invertebrates (i.e. animals without backbones) such as damsels, chironomids, mayflies and caddis. They provide the main source of food all year long since they spend most of their life in the water in their nymphal, larval or pupal stages. To transition to the adult stage, they must emerge from the water to the surface.

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Damsel Nymph

2. Terrestrials: During the warmer months, trout feed on terrestrial insects, including flying ants, grasshoppers, and beetles. I have found that when ants and hoppers are on the water, trout stop eating aquatic insects and target the terrestrials. Therefore, it is wise to carry an assortment of flying ant and hopper patterns in various colors and sizes.

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Flying Ant

3. Forage fish & Minnows: As trout grow, their menu expands to include forage fish and minnows, both rich sources of protein. The size of the forage fish consumed is limited by the size of the trout’s mouth; the bigger the mouth, the bigger the prey.

In another study of trout’s stomach contents conducted by the Great Lakes Fishery Laboratory, Joseph Elrod writes that while invertebrates are an important source of food for trout, they become a smaller portion of the trout’s diet. Forage fish were found in a greater percentage in stomach contents of trout that were over 8” in length. It is the minnow that draws trout into the shallows and should draw you there as well!

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Brown Trout caught on Vickie’s Predator Minnow Pattern

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Vickie’s Predator Minnow Pattern

4. Worms: Worms and leeches are found in all types of freshwater including ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers, and are eaten year-round. During the cooler months, when no insects are hatching, trout depend upon leeches as an important source of protein. Leeches are most abundant in the spring and fall.

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Leech

5. Other: Crustaceans, (scuds, snails, and crayfish) are always on the menu. Fish eggs, worms, small frogs, and the occasional small rodent round out the trout’s diet. Snails are abundant in most shallow nutrient lakes where aquatic vegetation and weed beds are plentiful. Snails help fill a void during the winter months. While they are low in calories, trout eat a lot of them.

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Snail

Small frogs, like this one perched on my finger, can also be found in trout’s stomach

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The richer the stillwater habitat, the greater the diversity of food. Organic material in the water is consumed by aquatic insects. Some aquatic insects feed on the algae. Others eat small pieces of decaying plant material or gather fine particles lying on the bottom. Still others are predators feeding on other live insects.

Notice the variety of life in just one drop of water! Can you make out the scuds?

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Since trout feed where the food is, understanding where the prey lives tells you where to fish. Most aquatic insects live in shallow water near shorelines where light may still reach the bottom.

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Underwater Structure

Hal Janssen in his book, Stillwater Fly-Fishing Secrets, (Hall Janssen Company, 2011), explains that muddy lake bottoms can harbor 3,000 to 4,000 organisms per square yard. This can include scuds (freshwater shrimp), midge larvae, immature damsels, and dragonfly nymphs.

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Shallow muddy bottoms provide a rich habitat

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Shallow shoreline edges also provide a welcomed habitat for minnows and other small forage fish

The next series of blog articles will discuss in greater detail each of the four-aquatic insects trout love to eat: damselflies, caddisflies, mayflies and chironomids. Each article will contain information on line and fly pattern selection, presentation and fishing techniques.

Watch for the next article on Damselflies!

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Copyright © 2018 Stillwater Adventures, all rights reserved, www.stillwateradventure.com

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Fishing at Monster Lake

An early spring fishing trip in April included Monster Lake, just 10 miles south of Cody, Wyoming. Though snow in Montana on the way there made the travel treacherous, our arrival at the lake the next day, blessed us with warm sunny skies. Though we basked in the warmth of the spring day, the water temperature was still struggling to reach 45 degrees. Clear skies, and an intermittent ripple on the water made it the perfect morning to entice trout rising to feed on a midge hatch. I caught my largest trout in 4 feet of water along the shore line edges. Check out this video of me catching a monster trout at Monster Lake:

This excellent fishing experience helped banish the memory of the long, cold, rainy winter months.

I hope to get back there for the sedge hatch which I hear is epic. That should occur in July. If you are interested in learning more about Monster Lake, give me a call and I will share with you information about this very special gem, one that belongs on any angler’s bucket list!

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What’s coming to Stillwater Adventures?

What’s coming to Stillwater Adventures? A new series of stillwater fly patterns!

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

In the works for three years, my new series of stillwater fly patterns will be available late in the fall of 2018. Developed to meet the needs of stillwater anglers, these patterns combine new materials with natural fibers to offer innovative stillwater patterns. A new FliesbyVickie.com retail web site will launch during the introduction of these eight fly patterns. Beyond my new flies, FliesbyVickie.com will also make available the fly tying materials used to tie my patterns, as well as rods, reels, and lines I have evaluated and tested to be well-suited to fishing stillwater.

The creation of my stillwater fly pattern series took years of design, testing, revision, re-testing and revising. Each design change was documented, the fly tested, and the field test results recorded. Those field results drove further revisions and improvements, which were documented, tested, and the whole cycle was repeated multiple times. The result was a fly pattern series that has successfully performed for the most demanding critics of all: trophy trout.

Traveling up to six months a year (fishing lakes in OR, ID, MT, NV, CA, WA and WY), I thoroughly test my flies in a wide range of lakes under varying conditions, and during different times of day and seasons. Once the materials and design perform the way I want, I then move the pattern(s) into production. It has taken me three years from initial concept to the final fly pattern.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Vickie’s Grizzly Bug

To give you an idea, here is what went into the development of the “Grizzly Bug” pattern.

Design Concept
Three years ago, I envisioned a leech pattern that was unweighted and proportionally smaller in size. Exact duplication of a leech was not my goal. Rather, I sought to create an impressionistic silhouette which was suggestive of various food sources trout eat such as darting fry, minnows, and undulating leeches.

Testing
As with all the patterns I developed, I made exhaustive study of entomology and paired it with actual time on the water. Since I spend half the year on the road fishing lakes throughout the Northwest, the Grizzly Bug pattern was extensively tested. I created pattern notes, then modified the pattern based on how it fished and how durable of the fly’s materials proved to be. I documented every fish I caught and what pattern and color variation was used. I made modifications, recorded those changes, tested, and repeated this cycle multiple times.

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Pattern Notes and Fishing Logs

The design of my Grizzly Bug pattern underwent many changes. Originally, I used a shorter tail and tested various materials (rabbit, fox tail, partridge, short marabou, wood duck and various UV materials of varied stiffness, texture, width and color). I also tested numerous marabou colors to evaluate which was the most productive. Various material for the soft hackle was evaluated.

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I ended up choosing a soft, oversized grizzly hackle. A manufacturer partnered with me to custom dye grizzly hen saddles to match the color of the marabou. The resulting soft hackle adds additional movement and color contrast to augment visibility.

The natural dubbing materials I chose created a buggy appearance. I added specific UV materials to both enhance the visibility of the fly and provide additional movement to create a silhouette that looked and moved like living, breathing food.

Final Design
Through this process of extensive testing, design, retesting and redesign, I selected the 6 most successful color variations: Black, Olive, Rusty Brown, White, Dark Burgundy and Burnt Orange. The black, olive and rusty brown colors imitate leeches. Burgundy and burnt orange are attractor colors, and white imitates minnows or young fry.

The Grizzly Bug has been tested and proven to work in various forms of presentation. It may be fished from the surface down two or three feet, as a streamer along shallow shore line areas, trolled, or fished vertically up through the water column.

I caught over twenty trout in one day, all 18-20 inches, using this pattern. Check out the video from that day:

Here’s a closeup of the trout I caught in the video above:

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Conclusion
All the stillwater fly patterns that will soon be available have been field-tested under varying conditions, at multiple locations, and during different times of day and seasons. Those test results have driven re-designs, which were then tested and redesigned again, based on the results.

I am excited about the introduction these patterns. It is my hope that these patterns be as productive for you as they have been for me.

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Copyright © 2018 Stillwater Adventures, all rights reserved, www.stillwateradventure.com

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Join me again this fall, 2018 at Pronghorn!

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Join me at Pronghorn Lake Ranch in Oregon for another weekend of trophy trout fishing October 27-28, 2018! Last year’s rendezvous was a big success, so you won’t want to miss this next one! For more info about the weekend, click here.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Copyright © 2018 Stillwater Adventures, all rights reserved, www.stillwateradventure.com

Gearing Up for Big Fish, Part 5 of 5: Putting It All Together

It is important when fly fishing to have the right gear so you’re able to respond to any situation or condition. Consider moments like these (all of which have happened to me): Your heart stops as you watch your only pair of hemostats disappear into the depths. Or when one of your fishing buddies flips their pontoon boat upside down, a sudden 30 mile an hour wind gust sweeps you to the far side of the lake, or a motorboat gets too close, wrapping your tippet, leader and line around its propeller. Being prepared ensures you can keep fishing regardless of changing conditions, or situations like these.

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Gee, I wonder why I was the only angler on the lake? Well, at least I was prepared…

In the previous four parts of this series we discussed my recommendations for rods, lines, leaders and tippets, and nets to use when fly fishing stillwater for trophy trout. In this fifth and final chapter I’ll review and summarize what we covered and finish with a checklist you can use to make sure you have everything you need.

Reviewing the essential tackle components

1. Rods

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Fishing at sunrise

My rods are pre-strung with each of the lines that I use. The benefit is that when the bite changes, I can quickly switch to the rod that has the appropriate line experiencing minimal down time. For lakes that support large trout, gear up to a six-weight rod. I prefer 6-weight, 9-foot rods with a comfortable grip, progressive bend in the tip, and large guides. The only time that I use a five-weight rod is when I am fishing dry flies, as I find it provides a more delicate and softer landing of the fly on the water.

2. Lines

The lines that I use are: Floating lines, Clear Camo Intermediate Sinking Line, and a 7-foot Clear Camo Intermediate Sink Tip.

Floating lines: I use two floating lines each on a separate rod. One line is dedicated for dry fly action, the second floating line is used when fishing with indicators. Having two rods makes it quick and easy to switch, since there is usually a short window when adult insects are hatching on the surface.

Clear Camo Intermediate sink line: (sink rate: 1.25- 1.75 inches per second or about one foot in 10 seconds). This line is used for fishing shallow shore line areas and the top five feet of the feeding zone in the lake. This line covers 75% of the time I spend fly fishing.

7-foot Clear Camo Intermediate Sink Tip: (sink rate: 1.25- 1.75 inches per second). This line is effective for covering shoreline edges as well as fishing the top few feet and fishing in between weed beds.

3. Leaders and Tippets

Leaders: To avoid breakoffs, I use either a 0X or 1X, 9-foot monofilament, tapered, leader. Over time, monofilament leaders absorb water and can become brittle with exposure to light. Thus, at the beginning of each season I replace the leader with a new one. A monofilament leader will slightly stretch, allowing the leader to be stretched straight if it begins to coil. I use a nail knot to secure the leader to the line.

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Tippets: To the leader, I add a minimum of 3 feet of 1X or 2X fluorocarbon tippet. I secure the tippet to the leader using a blood knot. Fluorocarbon tippet material reflects less light, subsequently less noticeable to trout. Since fluorocarbon is stiffer than monofilament, use a loop knot to tie on the fly. A loop knot allows the fly to move freely, more accurately mimicking the natural movement of a fly. The tippet size should be one size smaller than the leader. For example, if the leader is 0X, I use a 1X tippet.

Longer and smaller tippets are best used when casting dry flies or when you are faced with clear, glassy conditions. I aim for a combined length of leader and tippet of 15-feet. Lighter weight leader (2X) and tippet (3X) provide a more delicate presentation when using a five-weight rod. Using any lighter weight tippets will snap when trophy size trout attack your fly.

4. Landing Net

Bring a landing net that has a large, deep basket made of rubber material with a long handle.

Summary

Now that you have the essential gear, what else do you need to bring? The following checklist can be used to help assure that you have all the essential items you need for your next fly fishing adventure. When I am on the road for an extended period, I always include backup gear. Any tackle failure such as a broken rod, damaged reel, as well as a tear in my waders, the loss of a fin, or a broken strap means I must stop fishing.

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Tiger Trout caught on Vickie’s UV Midge Pupa

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Vickie’s UV Midge Pupa

Vickie’s Gear Check List

Boat:

  • Air Pump (pontoon boat)
  • Fins (pontoon boat)
  • Personal flotation device
  • Fly Box(s)
  • Large, Rubberized Landing Net
  • Rods
  • Stripping net (pontoon boat)
  • Waders

Boat Accessories:

  • Backup Clippers
  • Backup Hemostat
  • Depth finder and/or water thermometer
  • Drinking Water
  • Flashlight
  • Marine grade rope with D-ring (for towing another angler to safety)

Items to have with you:

  • Extra tippet and leaders
  • Fishing license
  • Hemostat
  • Hook sharpener
  • Knife
  • Nail knot tool
  • Pliers
  • Clippers
  • Whistle
  • Other:

Click to print this article:

Be sure to read the other parts of this 5-part series on Gearing Up for Big Fish!
Part 1 of 5: Rods
Part 2 of 5: Line Selection
Part 3 of 5: Leaders and Tippets
Part 4 of 5: Landing Nets
Part 5 of 5: Putting It All Together

Copyright © 2018 Stillwater Adventures, all rights reserved, www.stillwateradventure.com

Gearing Up for Big Fish, Part 4 of 5: Landing Nets

When selecting your landing net for stillwater, consider the following four factors: basket size, basket material, length of handle, and depth of the basket.

Basket Size

Having the right size net increases the odds of successfully landing a large trout. Compare the two nets below with the 30-inch ruler. Now imagine attempting to land a 30-inch trout in the smaller net. That would be an impossible task – even for the most determined and skilled angler. The larger and deeper basket in the larger net would be a better net to select for stillwater.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Even with the larger net, however, landing a fish that is 30 inches or longer will still present an exciting challenge. This is obvious in this video of me attempting to land a monster trout at Pronghorn Lake in Oregon.

Basket Material

Nets made from rubber remove less of the coating of slime that protects the trout from parasites, bacteria, and fungus. Maintaining the protective coating places less stress on the trout, increasing their survival rate.

© 2018 Stillwater Adventures. All rights reserved

Fish caught on Vickie’s Predator Leech at Wildhorse Reservoir in Nevada

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Vickie’s Predator Leech

The second benefit to a rubber net is that gills, fins, and hooks are less likely to get caught in the netting material. This makes it easier to remove the hook while keeping the trout in the water. These factors allow for a quicker fish release and a higher survival rate.

Note: I’m pleased with my Fishpond net. It is lighter, floats, and the basket can be easily replaced (which I’ve done)

Length of Handle

If you are fishing out of a boat or float tube, having a longer handle makes it easier to guide the trout into the net without having to overextend your reach. Fish can easily be lost during landing because once a trout sees the net it will react, quickly bolting away. A longer handle, like one found on the Nomad Mid-Length Net by Fishpond, provides the flexibility to make quick adjustments without leaning over to reach the trout and risk tipping over or potentially falling out of your boat. Add an elastic lanyard, attaching one end to your net and the other to the pontoon boat to reduce the chances that the net will be lost.

Depth of the Basket

It is much easier to land a fish in a net with a deeper basket. If the basket depth is too shallow, catching a large trout is like trying to stuff a moving, oversized sleeping bag into a shoebox – it is virtually impossible.

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A deeper basket also makes it easier to quickly remove the hook while the fish is still in the water. This causes less stress to the fish. The shorter the fight, the better chance the fish will survive upon release.

Summary

I always gear up so that the tackle is prepared for any size fish. Having a large enough net with a deep basket is important. Don’t take a chance of losing the fish of a lifetime due to a small net. Also, be kind to the fish and choose a basket made of rubber.

Click to print this article:

Be sure to read the other parts of this 5-part series on Gearing Up for Big Fish!
Part 1 of 5: Rods
Part 2 of 5: Line Selection
Part 3 of 5: Leaders and Tippets
Part 4 of 5: Landing Nets
Part 5 of 5: Putting It All Together

Copyright © 2018 Stillwater Adventures, all rights reserved, www.stillwateradventure.com

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