Top Ten flies for stillwater
By Jon Baiocchi
05/24/13 -- Stillwater fishing has progressed at a rapid pace in the last decade. Techniques, rods, lines, and even the players on the field have gone in different directions to hone their craft. It has almost become personal now, the way we want to present our offering to the fish in our own special style.
Stillwater anglers should have many individual skills in their approach to the fertile waters at hand. Think of these skills like tools in a carpenter’s belt, each tool with a specific purpose in mind. Indicators, sinking lines, floaters, drop lining, and the dry game all rely on one key element; flies.
I’ve compiled an essential list of flies that every Stillwater technician should not be without. These flies are for trout, some are old, and others are standards. Then there are the ones that cross the line and take it too far like my “Baiocchi” ties with a special twist. Welcome to the staircase of progression in stillwater fly tying.
1) The Sheep Creek Special
George Biggs of Jerome, Idaho developed this fly for Sheep Creek Reservoir in northern Nevada. It’s an all-rounder type of pattern that suggests it could be many different things. For Lake Davis and Frenchman’s Reservoir, it’s a must have. I tie my version on a heavy scud hook instead of the long shank; it has better hooking power with a more defined silhouette of a snail.
2) The Jay Fair Wiggle Tail
I love Jay’s simple approach to creating this fly, the marabou tail tied sparse with the right length makes this pattern come alive! This fly would not be complete unless it is tied with Jay’s proven materials; his colors glow and give the wiggle tail a three dimensional look. This fly has given me great success on many different lakes across the west.
3) The Swimming Rabbit Hair Leech
This fly does exactly what the name suggests; it moves and provides the perfect silhouette of a natural leech. Klamath Lake and Eagle Lake have abundant populations of leeches and this pattern has shined with flying colors in these waters. It offers more bang for your buck than a Wooly Bugger, and its durability is bombproof. Rust is my first choice of color, followed by black.
4) The Callibaetis nymph
This is a top producer when the mayflies of a lake are brewing up a hatch under partly cloudy skies. The old standard has been the Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, a great fly on its own but I’ve been doing extremely well with my Z-Lon Callibaetis. Add a copper flashback and you’ll have even more fish attracting qualities. When it comes to this pattern, size, shape, and movement is more important than color.
5) The Damsel Nymph
The damselfly hatch in spring is one that many fly anglers have a special passion for. It offers them a chance to hook large trout just under the surface or stalk them off the bank. When tying these patterns keep them sparse with lots of moving parts. I like to fish two types; one leaded for deeper water before the hatch, and the other tied for shallow water that will “hover” in the strike zone. Keep in mind that damsels change color to match their surroundings. As the weeds change in color, so do the nymphs.
6) The Blood Midge
Much has been written about this famous chironomid. Its abundant hemoglobin lends it the red coloration that suggests its common name and enables it to live in the oxygen poor muddy substrate called the ‘death zone’. I can remember hatches at Lake Davis back in the day when your boat would be spotted red with the blood of these midges from the ride back at dusk. This simple blood midge tied on a heavy pupa hook with red thread, gold wire, a white bead, and coated in nail polish is all you need. It shines in both Indicator fishing and the traditional strip.
7) The Blood Midge Emerger
Many innovative tiers have their own special blood midge emerger, including myself. The key elements that make a winning model is one that keeps the butt of the fly in the water, and the head and wings above the surface where it is visible to the angler’s eye. My pattern incorporates a mohair shuck, a foam body, followed by a white foam post with a burnt orange hackle wrapped parachute style. Refusals are rare with this fly.
8) The Floating Snail
When snails are out dancing on the surface like buoys in the wind, trout line up for an easy high calorie meal. The use of foam in our flies has brought our fishing to a whole new level as they float like a cork, and wobble about. What’s killer about this fly is that it also doubles as a camouflage indicator for spooky trout.
9) The Parachute Midge Emerger
Scott Sanchez of Jackson Hole, WY developed this fly for fussy trout on the Snake River. Though it was never intended to be used as a specifically stillwater fly, its performance is unmatched. The way it sits in the film is identical to a real midge emerging into its new world of the wild blue yonder. The key ingredient is the ribbing of pearl crystal flash that shimmers and shines, attracting many trout from just below the surface.
10) The Scud
The freshwater shrimp populates most of our lakes in high desert areas stretching well up into Oregon. Scuds supply trout with a super high protein meal that makes them grow large and fast. Picking out the dubbing from under the body gives it a translucency that trout key in on. Effective colors are brown, olive, and gray. Trout will have no trouble seeing pregnant females; they’re bright orange!
Jon Baiocchi has been fly fishing and tying flies since 1972 and is a California licensed fly fishing guide, published author, educator, innovative tier, and public speaker giving fly fishing presentations to clubs and expos around the state. Jon operates Baiocchi’s Troutfitters guide service in Northeastern California where he has a reputation as a hard working guide who has been trained by some of fly fishing’s best known master anglers.
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