Saturday, January 22, 2011
By the time I was in my last year at the U OF M Missoula, I was starting to travel outside of the home waters and exploring secret creeks, and some of the other famous rivers throughout the State.One of the rivers I was spending as much time as possible, was the Madison river near the small bustling town of Ennis MT. This is classic riffle water, where prospecting for trout is the "norm". Most of the water near town is filled with nothing but boulders, broken white water. Most of the boulders are the size of bowling balls, but there are some the size of Volkswagons , perfect trout habitat, The trick here is to use a fly that will float high and be very visible. The trout lay just where you'd think, drop offs, behind the larger boulders, in the deeper slots, and under the cover of willows hugging the banks. It is great water to learn how to get a proper float, the presentation is not as important, due to the "broken" waters surface.
At this time, 1979, the Madison was the most popular river in the State, guide boats by the hundreds would bobbe up and down as if in a parade, the participants dressed with sun glasses, large hats , and vest, with rods in hand, waved to on lookers as they passed. Here I learned about the H & L variant, a white winged fly , that also had a white tail, floats high and long, easy to see , and trout like them just fine on the broken waters of the Madison.
That summer I camped at "slide Inn" for a few day, and found that there were a number of the other campers who had made a yearly pilgrimage to fish the upper section of the famous Madison River. My first day I'd had very little luck, and returning to camp found, that I was the only angler who was not ecstatic with their outing . There was talk of five pound brown trout, 24 inch rainbows, all of this made my head spin, " I had a monster on , right to the bank , and he slipped off, " a thin, older, well dressed gentleman exclaimed. Really I asked, where were you fishing. " right above where you have your tent", he said, no kidding, I was puzzled. Of course I had to ask , and what were you using? The zealous angler barked, " a big ol black stonefly nymph, size # 4", " I tie my own, and the key are the black rubber legs". Oh, you are nymphing, I said, how heavy are the flies, I asked? Just then , the lean , white haired angler displayed his Fly rod, on the leader he had three 'Split shots" about a foot above a large black stonefly nymph , with black rubber legs , protruding out it seemed in every direction.
I'd been fishing with large dry flies, salmon flies, the "hatch " was still just getting going, 40 miles down stream near the town of Ennis. That evening , after fishing I was invited to the "camp fire" in which most of the couples who were camping , joined in, to spin tales of the days adventures. It turns out, that the other eight couples all had met camping the same week , many years prior , and , looked forward to see each other the same time each year. What I learned that evening was that this upper stretch of the Madison was best to nymph, this time of year, bigger , heavier the nymph , the better, it was called , " chuck and duck ".
I drove south into Idaho to the small village of Last Chance, stopped by the fly shop that was then owned by Mike Lawson, for information and flies. I was told that there were in fact some salmon flies in the lower part of the canyon, and there were some large fish being caught, but, most on stonefly nymphs (ol mister,Chuck and Duck ), well, I knew how to fish those, thanks to my new friends on the upper Madison.
I drove to the base of the canyon, and walked along side the World Famous Henry's Fork river, some what in Holy reverence, like the Muslims going to Mecca, or Catholics visiting the Vatican, for a Fly fishermen, this was the " high church'. In those days, anybody who trout fished either, fished on the "Fork", or wish they had. The "ranch" water was packed with anglers fishing like a picket fence, shoulder to shoulder, waiting for the famous Green Drake Hatch. When I saw that, I knew I did not want to get involved with that mess, and was glad to be fishing the canyon water.
I tried some of the new Dry flies I purchased , to no avail, the water was high and cold, and the fish were not rising, even to the giant stonefly drys. I saw a angler hook a nice sized trout behind a large boulder, it jumped two, or, three times and then came undone. The water in the canyon was fast, strong and powerful, one had to be careful while wading. I saw what the man who just loss the trout was using, a heavy , black , big n' ugly , stonefly nymph. I decided to put away the dry flys and concentrate on the chuck and duck. I moved downstream from three guys who "growled" at me when I was attempting to walk near and watch their methods. This overall, was the least friendly crowd of fishermen I had ever seen, or been around, and I'm not referring to the three who just growled, I mean all over this river. I choose a spot that was in the shade, this stretch also had large boulders, I felt both factors were positives. I made some short cast before wading in, nothing doing, I entered the river to find the wading challenging, but, I wanted to get my large "bug" out and behind a huge boulder that slowed the strength of the powerful runoff. Once in position , I steadied my legs and started with casting upstream, mending my line to allow the splitshots to sink and bring my fly to a level where the trout could feed. After many cast , finally my line tightened, it caught me off guard. I was in waist deep water, I leaned forward and nearly fell in, but caught myself, and turned to head back toward the bank. The whole time my line was screaming off of my reel, I had no idea what sized trout I'd hooked , with the power of the rushing water , it could have been almost any size, who knows, maybe I'd foul hooked it. I managed to climb back on shore , the trout still in tacked, it had stopped running and was holding behind a large boulder in the middle of the river just downstream. The noise from my reel had caught the attention of the three "growlers" up above me , they had stopped fishing and were all three watching my every move. Being on the bank, I moved quickly below the resting trout and I was able to "put the wood" to big unkown, and see if I could land it. The trout made another run , but, using split shots and heavy nymphs, ment that I had very strong tippet, what ever it was , it was not going to break off. It finally did succumb to the constant pulling , and , I could just see the outline of the trout through the turbid water. It was a rainbow,the largest trout I'd ever seen, funny, it never did jump, I put my rod along side the beast to measure it, 27 inch's. It was by far my largest trout I'd ever landed, I took the beauty out of the water to show one of the "growlers" who had moved down into the same spot in which I 'd hooked the monster. I asked the angler if he wouldn't mind taking my picture with this Goliath trout. I could not hear his reply due to the rushing water, but his body language ( middle finger of his left hand ) indicated , probably not.
I released the beauty, then, sat on the bank for around fifteen minutes to enjoy the glory of landing such a wonderful creature, and returning it back to where it belonged. While resting , I noticed that the growler who moved quickly into my spot, had hooked up, he was landing a 14 inch whitefish. I saw his head turn abruptly in my direction to see if I was watching, he caught me in a laser like stare right at him, again, I was awarded the middle finger salute. I laughed, and decided to leave these miserables, I reeled in knowing I was done for the day, it was not going to get better . I went back to see what the word was at the Fly shop, Mike Lawson was there sporting a colorful Hawaiian shirt, he said that a guy caught a ten lb rainbow on a dry , and another guy said he'd caught an 11 lber, on a stonefly nymph. I guestamated mine at around 7lbs, so, there I was , having to dredge back out to see if I could break the double digits. That was the old days on the the "Fork", where I was learning to prospect with more than just dry flies.
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Sunday, January 16, 2011
Big Blackfoot River
After fishing a couple of seasons in and around Missoula Montana , I felt like I was getting a pretty good idea
about fly selection for the many and varied types of waters that were found in this part of Western Montana.There were times when it was neccesary to "match the hatch", but , many other times , one needed to "prospect" with searching patterns. My preference has always been to try and fish with dry flies when ever possible, so, I became very familiar with high floating dry flies. The patterns back in the late 1970's that seem to be the most productive were; Humpy's, Royal Wullfs, Stimulators, Elk Hair Caddis , and Trudes. I was just learning how to tie flies, and was tying some flies, but it was hard to make a fly that looked as nice as the flies being tied by the ladies of Dan Bailey's fly shop in Livingston MT.
My casting by this time was getting strong and accurate, I could present a fly where I wanted, this seemed to be one the most important developments in my fishing. But also, on different rivers I was learning where the fish would hold and feed, this is what one needs to learn in order to be successful when fishing new waters. Lefty Kreh's book help with the development of my casting, but, to be a good caster does not make a good fishermen, this takes time on the water to find what flies work best, and where the trout hold.
One of the best "tips" I ever received from another angler, came right in the middle of Missoula on the Clark Fork River, at that time , in front of the Red Lion Hotel where the Rattlesnake Creek enters. There were usually a few fishermen, fishing the run closest to shore down stream from the creek in the "Springtime" before runoff. I'd frequent the spot since I lived close, it was a place I could fish , and walk home , it was easy. Some days there were so many people fishing , there was no more room, on those days I'd just watch the other anglers. One day, I arrived and there were no other anglers, I was moving quickly to get in the best spot just below the entrance of the creek, when I heard a voice say , " Hey, come here, I want to talk with you". At first I thought, wow, how rude is this guy? Then he said, "I've seen you down here quite a bit, I think I can help you". I recognized him, he was one of the really good anglers who always was catching trout. So, I backed out and met the well clad angler face to face. This guy had the best of everything, Rod, Reel, Waders, Vest, Hat, Sunglasses, everything was top of the line. He was a few years older, not a collage kid like me, he had money, and had been fishing for sometime, I'd seen him before , he was talented. " Sorry" he said, "I'm not trying to get in front of you, it's just that I see alot of you guys making the same mistake", really, I asked whats that? "Well", said ( Mr Fancy Pants), "You and most of the other anglers , just wade right into the river," yea, so ? I asked, Then he added, " Trout like to live and feed in shallow water, your walking right through fish in order to fish water with less trout". " Let me show you " he said. Standing on shore , the experienced angler made a perfect cast upstream in water that was around a foot in depth, first cast , with a small brown stonefly dry, he connected with a sixteen inch rainbow that came flying backwards towards the two of us, landing near our feet. We both laughed as the rainbow screamed off to deeper water, and then became "unbuttoned". Wow, their really in the shallows, "yes" he said , "always fish the shallows before you enter into a stream". This guy was smiling from the excitement from the jumping Rainbow earlier, I saw this man in an entirely different light than I had pictured him Pryor. I thanked him for taking the time to demonstrate his point, he said, " somebody showed me, now it is your turn to show somebody else". There was no way either of us could know that in less than ten years, I'd be guiding anglers 240 days a year , and always telling them to fish the shallow water first.
(Part 5 tomorrow) Follow along @ http://www.aguasdelmundo.net/ (DALY BLOG)
Saturday, January 15, 2011
(Rock Creek , Montana )
Fishing in and around the Zoo town was a fabulous place to learn all that trout fishing has to offer. Sharing with friends , fishing stories and fly patterns , exploring new sections of the big rivers, and finding new secret creeks. How things have changed, for example ,when you are first attempting to gain knowledge about simple equations in regards to equipment , today, we can simply go "on line" and google"'Fly fishing reels", you will have more information than one would ever hope , or want , or need. Today we live in a world of "easy information", the kids of today do not hear their parents say, "go look it up in the Dictionary", today , kids hear " google it ", don't ask, " use your phone"...Things have progressed rapidly in the past 20 years, back then, there was no Internet, nor DVD"S or Blue Ray, a phone was something attached to your house, or a "booth" on the street. If you wanted to learn about "how to" do anything, you bought a book. That is how I learned about Fly fishing in the early years, from reading about other peoples experiences. I was given as a Christmas present when I was very young, Ray Bergman's "Trout", it was a book that influenced me very deeply. It was the first fishing book that I was introduced, it illustrated in my mind the principals of fly fishing. It explained in intricate detail , what food trout eat, where trout feed, where they rest ,and techniques to catch trout and of course drawings of the many different flies used for fishing, the book made it as far as Missoula , and was lost in the many moves there after.
Another book that brought my casting to another level , was Lefty Kreh's "Casting", I read and re-read this book until it made perfect sense, I still use the principals from that book today when I teach fly casting to clients , beginners to advanced fishermen. I had the pleasure of guiding and getting to spend time with Lefty Kreh , fourteen years later in Patagonia Argentina. Like for many , I was over whelmed , not only with the talent of his mastery with a fly rod, in which is on a "different level" from anybody you might think is a good caster, simply put, unimaginable. I'll never forget Lefty saying, " Most fishing guides are not very good casters", he said, " most fishing guides cannot even cast a fly line, and that is only 90 feet". After saying that, Lefty took the entire fly line , put it out straight on the grass, in front of the perfectly manicured Argentine fishing lodge , there were around 30 people present, guest, guides, the owners, and some staff members.Using just the" tip "of a four piece "Sage" ( he was a Sage Rep at the time), with only one "false cast", not only, shot the entire fly line , but made a perfect loop and a great presentation. From the side of his mouth he said, " I use to do the same demonstration using just my hand, but that doesn't help sell fly rods, now does it?'
Part 4 tomorrow... follow along @ http://www.aguasdelmundo.net/ (DALY BLOG)
Friday, January 14, 2011
While attending the U Of M in Missoula , it was a well rounded education , including learning the intricacies of Fly fishing for trout. Missoula is blessed with many great rivers and creeks, and the best part was the fact that the Clark Fork river flows right through the heart of the campus, you could catch very nice sized trout right on the university grounds. As a matter of fact, myself and some other Science majors use to bring our Fly rods to "labs" in the Spring because right after class there was a great hatch's of Mayflies, and before "runoff" the river was low and clear, enabling the trout to feed on the surface.
One afternoon in May I fished just upstream from campus and , I caught a Rainbow on a emerging PMD that was over 20'inch's. I had an old Fat tired bike with a basket on the front, the trout did not fit , the tail spilled over a good four inch's, it was a glorious ride home with the largest trout I'd taken up till that day.
I did practice catch and release even back then, but , this was a trophy for me , I did not carry a camera, and I knew my fishing buddies would never believe me!
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I began to Fly fish new waters when I was in high school, back then I was just beginning to learn about dry flies, getting "dead drifts", and fly fishing in general. Everything was new , not just the waters that I had not fished pryor. Trout were something new as well, I was raised fishing for small steelhead on the Eel river in Northern California. We fished "wet flies", Silver Hiltons, Comets, Burlaps, and a number of Japanese tied flies , that were tied with very bright colored feathers, yellow, orange, and blue most with red collars in a wet fly style, and sold for .10 cents apiece. Fly fishing was a big sport along the Eel River, most of the small general stores sold flies near the cash registers, and most of the owners had a good idea of which flies were working due to emptiness of some of the fly bins.There were always a few local tyers who would sell their flies, usually for .50, these were more traditional fly patterns for steelhead. This was back in the late 1960's and very early in the 1970's, the Eel was considered one of the top steelhead rivers on the west coast. There were two runs, the Fall 1/2 pounder run that had a good # of first year fish with a mixture of 1st and 2nd year steelhead that ranged from 12 inches to a big one being maybe 22-23 inches.The average seemed to be 14-16 inches, of bright steel, very hard fighting small fish.The other run started in November and December, this was the famous "winter run", with big Steelhead, fish of 10lbs were not considered trophies, but were common. People would come far and wide in hopes of landing a "dime bright" steelhead of 20lbs.
I did not fish the winter run of fish until I was in high school, and had a jeep to make the trip out to the Fortuna-Ferndale section of the Eel. The weather always played a important part of puzzle of the winter run , It seemed like there was too much rain , or, not enough rain to bring the fish into the famous pools around Fernbridge. I did not spend alot of time out in the rain in pursuit of the great steelhead, but did catch the 1/2 pounder run for a number of years and learned the "down and across" method of getting a swing.
stay in tuned @ http://www.aguasdelmundo.net/ ( DALY BLOG)
Sunday, January 9, 2011
This past season, we had a good hopper season (late) on the Missouri River. I was very impressed with one fly in particular that has a very realistic "profile", it seemed to out fish all the other hopper patterns. That was the Rainey's foam hopper, the only controversy was color selection. I started using the fly later in the season, with steady success, much more than any other hopper pattern. I used the tan and the pink , both worked. I did not try the yellow, but, I'm sure it would be good as well. To me it had to do with the profile of the fly , rather than the color selection. But , there were plenty of guides who swore that the pink worked best, and when something works, it works, no need to over think something that brings success.
As fishermen, we try to think how a trout might see our inventions, we try to see through a trout eye. Not an easy task, many flies that look good in our hand, just plain do not work as well as we think they might. And , many other flies that look like a "small mess ", sometimes are just what the trout are feeding on that particular day. For even those flys that look like a mess, they are projecting a certain profile that the trout accepts as food. The profile of the fly is what triggers the trout to move on an artificial, and, eat something man made, even with a hook protruding from our creations we call Flys.
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Saturday, January 8, 2011
Thinking back on developing floating flys, one thing always comes back to me , is, how a Trout may see the "fake" and think this is real . Over the past 30 years I have developed many fly patterns for all types of fishing, weather it be for Trout , Steelhead , or Saltwater. Being a professional trout guide , much of my attention has been focused on dry flies or, floating flies. I have worked on streamers, and yes , they work, but , what streamer always works? Fish can be very finicky, and it seems like on a particular day , that a certain streamer will work better than others, color , size, and depth seem to be the most important factors determining the success of a streamer fly .
I guided a person who specialized in streamer fishing in Argentina back in the early1990's, it amazed me just how many different colors of woolly buggers one person could own. Hundreds of different "models" of the same theme, a woolly bugger, they came in every color imaginable, blue, green, black, yellow, brown, white, etc..The color combinations were endless, blue and white, with pearl flash, blue and white with gold flash, green and yellow with a small red collar, with gold flash, well , I think you get the idea, the colors where almost the same for most, with just one little detail being different, so it had another name. Literally, hundreds of different types of "'woolly buggers", and of course they all came in different sizes, from giant to tiny, from a 3/0 to # 18, there were more "woolly buggers" than I could ever want to see.The ironic part of all this is that on the rivers we floated in this part of Argentina, a green woolly bugger size #6 , or I should say, Flash a bugger, green, in a size #6 , was but far the top producing fly on these rivers. There is a small green (about a size #6) Crab ( Pancora) that lives in great numbers in all the rivers in Chile and Argentina in this area , of the Central and Northern Patagonia, it is the main diet of the trout in this area. I had many days that we caught over 100 trout using the "green woolly bugger", it just plain worked, and why not, it made sense, we were" matching the hatch", so to speak.
On the other end of the woolly bugger spectrum, we had a man come down and fish for four days that had "won"his trip at TU banquet. He was in my boat the first day of his trip, I asked him how he preferred to fish, he replied, that he had never fly fished, but, did go to the local Fly Shop and told them that he was coming to Argentina and needed some flies. The fly shop was very in tune with the flies needed, in the past they had many of their clients fish in this part of Patagonia. The new comer was shown a variety of flies, Royal Wullfs, Pheasant tail nymphs, Hoppers, and woolly buggers. The man was over whelmed with all the new names, colors, and techniques to use these wide variety of flies. So, he asked which fly will be the best, the shop owner touched his chin and said , "well, I'd make sure I had a woolly bugger, green, the best size is a # 6". OK, the "rookie" said, give me two, I might loose one. This is a true story, the man told me this when I was tying on his 15th fly of the day, he was laughing hysterically, and said, " that shop owner was giving me the strangest look, and I had no idea why".
The other flies that worked especially well, some parts of the year were, "hoppers" of course some years ( about every seven), there would be an explosion of the hard shelled leggy bugs, that would bring the trout to near lunacy. On these rare years , it appeared that the larger , and more life like the bug , brought much more success, body shape and legs were the two important factors. It was the profile of these jumping insects that brought the trout into a feeding frenzy. Color, did not seem to be the most important aspect of triggering a rise, tan , yellow, or even grey seemed to work equally as well, it became clear that the profile of the fly was the key ingredient.
(Brown trout ,Perfect Profile Eater)
There are two different ways to fish a mouse pattern, with movement, or dead drift. Traditionally, the mouse is fished much like a "bomber" for Salmon, cast down and across and skated across the river, to emulate the movement of a mouse swimming across a stream to reach the other side. This technique works to a degree on these rivers, but , the clarity of the water is a factor . This is when I developed the "Perfect Profile "mouse, or PP mouse ( Pictured top of page), it is a mouse pattern that is fished upstream, dead drift, very different that throwing a ball with a tail , and dragging it over the surface .The key factors that differentiate this fly from other mouse patterns are : 1) legs ,moving in the water below the surface 2) body profile, with a fury under body, mouse like profile, including neck and head, and tail. Color seems to be a factor, dull colors work best, mousy grey, light brown, tan....all seem to work .
I fished this fly on many rivers in Northern Patagonia area of Argentina, and some years , it was a "go to" fly, producing some huge trout and on some rivers, and "Land Locked Salmon" would rise to take this life like imitation. Size too did matter, a # 4 -8 worked best , medium sized , not too large, and not too small.
One of the years I was living in Patagonia, there was a huge mouse explosion, and the trout really did key into the floating foam and fur imitations. That year I fished the "PP" as my #1 fly pattern, casting and fishing with an unusual enthusiasm, knowing that with ever drift could produce a large trout.
After guiding one day, I returned to the lodge to find a new car parked out in front , a rental car from Barliloche, a large tourist town some 60 miles to the south. There was a writer from "Cigar Aficionado" here for one day, and he wanted to do a piece about the Lodge and fishing here on the Traful river. I met the writer that evening, and explained that the fishing this time of the year ,( late Fall), was best mid-day and through the afternoon, due to the water temperature, and how it needed to warm from the sun for the fish to become active.
It was a clear night, which means" frost on the pumpkin", the following morning, we woke to a near total blanketing of white. It was really cold, and it being late Fall would not warm until the Sun could penetrate from high above in the cloudless blue sky. We started early , in a run furthest from the house that held many small trout. I instructed him ( crash course) on some casting methods to help him at least get some line out. He did catch some very small trout , just past the" Parr "stage, he was quickly coming to the reality that if he wanted a photo of a nice trout , I would be the one to hook it. Time was burning, the water was just too cold, we were starting to think about heading back so he could gather his bags and depart for the Airport. The writer was really disappointed, he said, " I'm not sure I can do the Article without the photos of the trout, it won't make sense without the photos". OK, lets try one more spot , I'll fish and see if I can hook one for you , and you can land it, that way I can take your picture with a trout. He agreed, and we stopped at an area of the river that is narrow, and filled with large "Angus Bull" sized boulders. I tied on a Perfect Profile Mouse, size #4 , and cast the mouse upstream and allowed the imitation to float in a natural drift back down towards the two of us. With a fly this size , one needs to use Strong tippet, I had on 1 x which would be around 8lb breaking strength. On the third drift , I connected with a substantial brown trout, that came slowly , and just sucked in the #4 mouse imitation. I quickly powered the golden beauty to succumb beneath our feet, the writer was hystertical, " give me the rod, give me the rod, give me the rod", in a cadence that was disturbing to the ears. I told him to get the camera ready, he did, and we exchanged tools. He not being a fishermen forgot about all his Pryor instructions, and like so many before him, he grabbed on to the fly line not to give the huge slashing fury of gold, an inch.With clenched teeth, he pointed the tip of the rod straight at the desperate trout holding on to the fly line with an absolute "death grip". Let him run, Let him run, give him some line or he will get off , do not hold him! I said with authority.This was all taking place right at out feet, we were poised above the fighting trout on a large boulder.I took some photos of the 7lb brown while it was in the water, the rod completely bent in a giant U. But something had to give, the brown trout had finally ripped the fly from it's mouth and swam off as free as before he decided to eat the mouse imitation.
Three months later while I was in line at a local video store in Helena Montana, I read the article , it and some photos appeared in "Cigar Aficionado", the article was quite different from the way I remembered that crisp Fall morning.
The Perfect Profile mouse is a fly that will bring big trout out of their safe zone, even when the conditions are not ideal. Good Ammo!
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Thursday, January 6, 2011
I have to say it is interesting to see with all the new fly tying materials , the new fly patterns that have been developed in the past few years. Fly fishing as an industry has really expanded, one no longer has to buy flies from the local tackle shop, there are "on-line" stores with all fly fisherman needs. Weather your looking for a special hand crafted piece of art, that is so precious that you put these in a "shadow box " to display for generation to enjoy. Or, the buy by the dozen , "we are the cheapest on the planet" sites, that require one to buy quanity, not so much on the quality side of life, there is now, something for everyone.
One of the "comments" I will make when seeing trout flies , more specific, Dry Flys for trout, is how important it is to make the fly visible. Most blogs sites or Facebook have a box for comments, usually this is one aspect of fly design that is sometime lacking. I have been guiding for over 24 years, it is just ingrained in my DNA when I see a Dry Fly it must do two things, 1) It must be Visual, easy to see. 2) It has to float, longer, higher , the better. Emergers can be tied behind a good dry fly, but, again the dry fly must be visable to be able to detect the strike on the emerger.(See fly box above in photo)
In the photo above is one of nine fly boxes I carry in my vest. The flys that are easy to see are the White winged , Red winged , and Green and Yellow winged flies. The darker flies are emergers , and cripples, both Mayflies and Caddis which I can tie behind the bright colored dry flys and fish the "two fly " rig with excellent results.
So, if your reading this and you like to tie your own dry flies , keep this in mind, will it float great, and will I be able to really see the fly. If you tie a fly that looks really "pretty", but, it doesn't float well , nor is it easy to see , is it "Practical"?
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