Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tying the Caddis-E-Merger

This pattern is the result of quite a few years of tinkering with other patterns. It combines attributes from several effective patterns. With the exception of furling the tail the same techniques are used to tie the May-E-Merger. In fact quite often I don’t furl the tail on the mayfly version. There are times though when the tail can make all the difference in catching trout and going fishless.

This has become my go to fly as both mayfly and caddis on lakes and rivers though it is a bit tedious keeping it on top in rough water. To adjust this pattern to the mayfly version clip the wings and legs a bit shorter.

Hook-         Light wire scud/caddis, Tiemco 2488, size 18-14
Thread-       8/0 tan or olive to match natural
Tail/legs-    Antron fibers, cream
Rib-          Root beer Krystal Flash
Abdomen-      Thin tapered marabou barbs
Wing-         CDC puffs


1-Start the thread just behind the eye of the hook and catch in the Antron fibers with the tips protruding forward of the eye a length equal to the overall length of the hook.

2-Keeping tension on the Antron off the back of the hook wind the thread to the half-way point of the hook shank. Catch in the rib and wind the thread back to the bend of the hook keeping the Antron and rib on the top of the hook shank.

3-Separate a group of 10-15 marabou fibers and pull them off the quill keeping the tips even. Trim the tips by 1/16” then catch them in at the bend of the hook. The most effective way to handle this step is to catch them in long with 2 snug thread wraps (photo 3) and gently pull them back until 1/16” is caught under the thread (photo 4).

4-Cover the tips with thread and wind the thread forward to a position 1 hook eye length behind the hook eye.

5-Lift the marabou barbs by the butts. Lift the rib alongside the marabou then twist them all together to form a slender, tapered rope.

6-Wind the marabou rope forward in touching wraps to the point where the thread was stopped in step 4. Catch in the marabou rope securely and trim the excess. I use a pair of short rotary pliers for this step.

7-Pull the Antron legs backward and secure them with 2 or 3 snug thread wraps then separate the fibers in half using your thumbnail across the top of the fibers. Push the fibers down along either side of the hook shank. The legs should be trimmed to the length of the body before doing this.

8-Tease the Antron fibers downward until they point down and back.

9-Catch in a pair of CDC puffs with the tips pointing backwards over the hook a length equal to the length of the abdomen. I catch them in separately with a pair of thread wraps each so that their lengths can be adjusted separately.

10-Pull the tips backward, catch the tips in pointing backward then secure them firmly and tie off the thread.

11-Trim the CDC tips and the tail shuck to length.

12-The bottom view of the fly, the important view for the fish!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Hot Rainbows, Emergers and 6X Tippet

Yesterday I was able to make it out to the Deckers stretch of the South Platte. It had been a long time, months in fact since I got my boots wet and felt the tug of the river on my legs. Over the years when there has been a dry spell in my river fishing it's been easy to forget that feeling. Sure I always remember the longing to hook up with a nice trout, decipher the hatches and smell the river but that tug somehow seems to fade from memory. Sometimes it pays to have a short memory because it makes the refresher all that much more enjoyable; other times not so much. Such is the case with hot fish and light tippet.

I have a couple preferred spots on that stretch of river and fortunately one of them happened to be open yesterday morning. When I got to the water there were swallows doing their aerial dance chasing multiple hatches of bugs on the wing. Like most outings after a long dry spell this one started out slow. Being out of sync with a river can do that. What's been happening on and in the water is a mystery. All there is to go on is experience and an educated guess.

The first couple hours were just casting, mending, drifting and recasting. Wading the swift current and feeling the tug. I worked the whole stretch pretty fast trying to spot all the holding areas but not fish in too close. There were some fish working deep at the head of the run but let's face it, I would rather sit and watch than spend a day dredging nymphs through a swift 6 foot deep slot. Give me one good trout on a dry over half a dozen on a nymph. I wouldn't say I'm a snob it's just that I never get over the thrill of seeing that shadow appear under a well drifted dry fly; and that is just what happened on my second pass through that stretch.
The Fly of the Day

It started by seeing the shadow of a nice rainbow in a shallow slot. It was feeding actively. It took several fly changes to get it to take. The first few flies, dry and yes a couple of nymphs, got looks but no takes. I would cast and as the fly drifted by it would move to inspect but not take. It even darted back with an aggressive refusal with one of the nymphs. This reminded me of one of the things about fishing heavily fished waters. The trout get used to seeing people and just keep on feeding until you crowd them. Wild fish don't usually act that way. If these heavily fished trout did stop feeding every time an angler approached they might well starve. As it is it gives a stealthy angler the chance to run the gamut of flies until they find the right one.

On the seventh fly change I found the right one. It took three or four drifts but as soon as the fly reached the right point drag-free the trout I was watching and another I hadn't both darted over and the hidden one won the race. After a short but mad dash down stream I had a beautiful 16" rainbow in the net. There is no photo (here comes the fish story) because in trying to keep it in the water it quick released itself from the net along with my fly while I was firing up the camera. Such is fishing for hot trout.

The rest of my morning went pretty much the same way. Heading upstream I spotted and cast to more actively feeding trout. Working a small group of tightly feeding trout I got one from each group to take with the first good drift spooking the rest. Each one made a mad dash around me, downstream and into the fastest current available. The tippet failed to hold on every occasion. I like to tell myself that it is the take that really matters. I carefully smash all my barbs so that the fly will fall from the fishes jaw easily. I did get to see the rises, what else matters really? Sometimes I believe having a good net and camera along can be a jinx in one way or another, angler error from being rusty doesn't help either.

After the fourth hot rainbow broke off it was definitely lunch time. It was also time for a rest to gauge whether the rainstorms were going to hit where I was at. They didn't, instead they moved through at a distance. When I got back to the lower end of the run things had changed with the storm. I figured one more time through and it would be time to head back home. I had after all had a good morning break offs not withstanding.

In the last slot I had fished earlier there was a trout feeding right along the bank. Before lunch another had taken my fly and parted the tippet from a position just out from this one. When that trout took the bank feeder had stopped feeding. Now the bank feeder was back in its feeding position and active again. I positioned myself so that it couldn't see me looming and I could get the fly to land on the water with enough slack that the faster current wouldn't drag the fly before it reached the trout. Easy enough right? maybe but it took me close to 45 minutes of casting and resting the trout before the magical drift.

The best I could tell all the others had been between 16" and 18", give or take. This one was a hawg as they say in the bass fishing circles. From the moment it rose to my fly I could see it was 22" minimum. How can I say that you ask? Twelve years as a fish taxidermist and only being 30 feet away it's a good bet that I could say 24" and be very close. When it leaped into the air twice my estimates were confirmed. There are few fish I lament not getting into the net. I don't know if this will be one of them in the long run. It is one of those for today but I know where he lives., I also know where the others from yesterday live. I'm thinking of a rematch.

** A couple of notes for readers.
1- The rainbow picture is and old one that I added in because what's a good fishing story without a nacie photo of a fish?
2- If anybody is bent out of shape over the specific mention of Deckers get over it. The word is already out and has been for a couple decades or more, John Gierach took care of that and I'm glad he did, it takes the awkwardness out of the mention.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Contact J Wood

By email:
By phone:        719-640-2198

By Facebook:

By mail:        John Wood  
                2929 West Serendipity Circle
                Colorado Springs, CO 80917

Friday, August 22, 2014

Building Stronger

Lately I've been plugging away in the wood shop making nets when I can. Since the bum knee is acting up again stream wading is out of the question so so net building is what I can do to keep occupied. That being the case I'm still tweaking designs all the time. This time the goal was to see just how light I could build a net and it still be practical for everyday field use. Well..........I found the threshold.

On nets 62 ans 63 I used light weight woods and thinned down the laminations a bit, a bit too much! The result was two nets that had too much flex for my taste. That being said I do have one I use frequently with much more flex but it's slightly unnerving to see just how much it will flex. Not a problem for my personal nets but I just don't want to sell one that flexes quite that much.

In this instance, both nets, my guardian net angel is looking out for me yet again. It turns out #62 is going to a home where it will be used as a display item, sweet. As for #63 I hadn't started the final shaping and decided to try something a bit different.

With the net at a point where adding a lamination on the outside was not an option inner lamination on the hoop seemed the answer. It took quite a bit of time, several scrapped lamination strips, a few choice words and lots of rethinking but with persistence -something I have more of than brains- it finally went into place. This solved the flex issue but I didn't like the look of it at that point. Oh yes you guessed it more persistence.

In the throat of the net I placed a half lamination on top of the tapered inner lamination and voila! Not only does it look really appealing the strength it adds is unbelievable. This hoop does not flex at the handle transition at all; at least not with the normal 50 lbs test pressure normally used. I think I may have stumbled onto something! I've seen something similar on other nets but it looks much more bulky and I can't imagine it would any more strength? I pose that as a question because I can't be sure. At any rate you will be seeing more built like this. It will add to the cost but the added strength should make them nearly indestructible.

More photos coming soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

T F M Net Giveaway

Starting this past Monday Cameron Mortenson of The Fiberglass Manifesto ran a series of posts (post 1, post 2, post 3, post 4) on his blog describing the process of how my nets are made. Now it's time to get that net into the hands of one of the followers of T. F. M. with a weekend giveaway.

If you've been following along with the posts you will have noticed that all my nets are numbered; this one is # 54. The hoop is constructed of three laminations. The inner and outer laminations are made with curly maple. This is one of the last nets I made using this particular piece of maple. I've been searching the local wood shops but haven't seen another board that will match the beauty of this one. I do hope I can find one soon because this is one of my favorite woods to use for hoops. The opposing grains make an extremely strong and durable net with seldom paralleled beauty. The center lamination is made of walnut.

The handle for this net is from another prime board of curly maple. There are three measure marks set into the handle at 16", 18" and 20". The 16" mark on the front side is used for the head of the dragonfly logo. I have fitted this net with a rubber "ghost" net bag.
The dimensions are 22" overall length with a hoop opening of 9 1/2" x 15".

Good luck to all the participants in the giveaway. Check The Fiberglass Manifesto for details on how to enter the drawing.

This net is my Freestone model which is based on the classic trout net. It's perfect for wading a stream looking for average trout or even an occasional 20"+ trophy.

If you would like to see the other models from J Wood Fly Fishing please visit the Landing Net page or take a look at the stock nets ready for delivery.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Net Bags, Tradition or Progress?

In 2009 I started handcrafting wooden landing nets. Learning the process, selecting wood species and choosing the proper finish were all pretty straight forward if not time consuming. Where I was stumped is the point when it came time to decide what bags I would fit the nets with.

As a traditionalist or curmudgeon as my son sees it, I like things the way they are or were in this case. For decades I've been carrying nets with knotless nylon bags. I must have had my head in the clouds, or maybe under water to have missed the mass transition to thermoplastic net bags. I understand that something new is worth a try but for a curmudgeon like me some things just don't need to be fixed.

Why I prefer nylon net bags.

First and foremost thermoplastic net bags are heavy and cumbersome. My goal is to make nets that are light so they are as unnoticeable as possible when attached to your vest or belt. The addition of a thermoplastic net bag nearly doubles the weight of my wading net models. In adding this weight it throws the balance of the net off. Like any other fishing tool I believe balance equals ease of use.

As far as I can tell the hype over thermoplastic net bags being less harmful to fish during catch and release is just that, hype. I have been unable to find any scientific data to support the claim that thermoplastic nets are less harmful to fish during catch and release than the soft, knotless nylon netting I prefer to use on my nets. According to the Freshwater Fishing Society of BC which has done extensive research on catch and release mortality “Nets used for landing your catch should have a fine mesh and knotless webbing to protect fish from abrasion and possible injury. The netting should be made of a soft knotless material with an opening of less than 20 millimeters (roughly ¾”).”

The only real advantage in the field that thermoplastic has over nylon netting is that barbed hooks don’t get caught as easily in it. It is my very strong opinion that if you are not completely debarbing your hooks when practicing catch and release you may as well not be practicing catch and release; just knock 'em on the head and fry 'em up for supper. A properly debarbed hook will not get caught in my knotless, nylon net bags.

So I've put my 2 cents on the table. What do you think.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

May Break

Pale Olive/Grey

The May Break is definitely a version of the popular Quigley Cripple. The difference is that I have substituted some of the materials used in the original with materials to provide the triggers I have found highly successful in my fishing. The least of these triggers is a blended marabou abdomen.

The first time I ever encountered the big Green Drakes that inspired this fly was in the Sierras in California. I stumbled upon a hatch on a small creek and every trout in the creek was up and feeding with gusto. The closest match I had were some oversized Adams parachutes. I was able to take a few of the feeding trout but the big brown trout at the head of the run wouldn’t even give it a look. What I didn’t realize at the time was the trout were actually feeding on the emergers and not the duns which were alight as soon as they popped through the meniscus.
Dark Olive/Grey

That very evening I tied over a dozen big Catskill style dry imitations. I've carried them ever since, hooks starting to rust and wings being crushed.
The second time I confronted a hatch of these out-sized flies was fishing the North Fork of the Shoshone River between Yellowstone Park and Cody, Wyoming. I encountered a hatch of the drakes at a hole I frequented in mid-summer. The hungry cutthroats were staged at the head of a pool below a short run of rapids. The Drakes were emerging just as they entered the pool. The fish had formed a feeding conga line.

I pulled out the now rusty dries that had been with me for nearly 10 years and began casting. The fly drifted through the feeders time and again with only one refusal rise. Not wanting to put them down I stopped and observed.
The largest fish were stationed just behind the smaller more eager feeders which were taking the pre-emergers below the surface. The largest fish were waiting until the Drakes actually began to break the surface, the most vulnerable point for the insects. Only the straggling feeders in the back of the pod were feeding on the adults. On the clear, warm and dry day they weren’t having much luck because the adults were in flight almost instantly after emerging.
I took out my scissors and went to work on my fly. I clipped and trimmed making drifts below the feeding fish until only the wings protruded above the surface. The first successful drift came 2 casts in. One of the trout at the back of the run took with an anxious strike. I worked the pod back to front picking off a dozen fat cutthroats, including a pair that measured over the 21” mark on my rod, before the hatch ended.
Dark Olive/Light Olive
That evening I tied for hours configuring and tweaking to get a fly that would imitate the emergers and hang under the surface just right. The next 3 days I fished the afternoon and tied at night getting everything just the way I wanted. On the fourth day a known observer from the day before had the run before I got there. I tried waiting him out but another interloper showed up before I vacated the parking pull-out to fish the afternoon hopper bite downstream.
It was a year before I got to test the final version on Gray Drake hatch on the western side of Yellowstone Park. The flies worked just the way I wanted and the trout agreed.

Fish the May Break as you would any other emerger pattern in freestone rivers or tailwaters. The design of the fly makes it very suitable for all water types though it performs best in rough water.  A drag free drift is usually best but because it is intended to represent an emerging insect an occasional twitch can induce an undecided fish to take. Although it isn’t necessary, I usually apply a liberal amount of floatant to the hackle and wings of the fly to keep it floating high. The fly is designed to ride with the entire abdomen submerged so it is advisable to dampen the abdomen and tail of the fly to ensure it sinks. The large deer hair wing makes the fly very visible even in rough water.
 Light Olive/Grey

Fishing the May Break during or just after a hatch is very productive. I have also had success with this fly using it as a searching pattern up to 3 days after the last known hatch.

Available in - Dark Olive/Light Olive, Dark Olive/Gray, Light Olive/Gray, Pale Olive/Gray

Size 10 - 14

Dark Olive/Gray
Dark Olive/Light Olive
Dark Olive/Gray
Pale Olive/Gray

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

2 Cent Caddis

Honestly I started tying this fly just to see if I could come up with a caddis larva using marabou. The Shoshone River and Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone near Cody have prolific annual caddis hatches so finding models for the fly was easy. The marabou turns out to be a great match for caddis larva. The caddis larva has a glowing translucence that tyers have been working to achieve for decades. The use of twisted, wrapped marabou barbs achieves this glow beautifully. The addition of the flash into the marabou gives an additional level of attraction to the fly.

On one of my first outings with a handful of 2 Cent Caddis in tow I was able to dredge up numerous hefty cutthroats and a pair of browns by suspending it below a grasshopper pattern. But more notable is the fact that I hooked the biggest trout I never really saw using this fly.
In August of 2011 the hopper hatch was of epic proportions on the North Fork between Cody and Yellowstone. Every angler in the area was taking some of the best cutthroats and browns they could remember in many years using their favorite hopper patterns. The fishing was great and so were the crowds. One morning I arrived later than normal and my favorite run was taken. I started searching upstream knowing that all I needed to catch fish was to find a suitable run with public access.

It didn’t take long before I was fishing and catching but the run I had found was short and there was little hope of finding another that was unmolested that day. I decided to stick it out, rest the run and give it another go. I sat at the top of the bank in the shade of the Russian olives staring into the water looking for signs of feeding. The sun was now cutting the water from a steep angle and I could clearly see an occasional flash near the bottom. It was definitely not a single fish because the flashes were spread over a large area. The run was rested.
Insect Green

I re-rigged my leader with a pair of 2 Cent Caddis and went to work using a short cast and high stick drift through the run. Starting at the back and working forward I was able to systematically pick off around a half dozen colorful and very chunky cutthroats. Each one rocketing into the current and downstream as soon as it was hooked. When I reached the head of the trough another fish took the point fly. At the instant of the take it appeared to be a snag although I had clearly seen the flash of the fish. I popped the rod tip to free my flies and without hesitation the invisible Goliath was instantly downstream, in the main current and steadily taking line. There was absolutely no way to follow from my perch and before I had time to react the 2X tippet had parted.
Some fish you hope are big others you know are.


Fish the 2 Cent Caddis anywhere or time caddis larva are in the drift or have recently been in the drift. Midday seems to be the best time for this fly due to the habitual drift of caddis larva at that time. Get the fly as close to the bottom as possible with a natural drift and hang on!!

Yellow Olive
Available in - Insect Green, Yellow Olive, Bright Yellow, Ginger, Tan

Size 14 - 20

Bright Yellow