Saturday, August 9, 2014

Shape Shifter

I can't even begin to tell you how many trout I've caught using this pattern!

The Shape Shifter came about while fishing East Newton Lake near Cody. In early spring the trout feed heavily on the chironomid larvae that awaken with the warming temperatures. The first few weeks after ice out and early mornings for more weeks after that are prime time for Imposter Pupa, Jalapeno Midge and Zebra Midge patterns. The majority of the tiny insects are below the surface, yet to emerge as adults and where the food is so will be the trout. As the water warms, both seasonally and daily, the larvae turn to pupa and the pupa emerge to become adults.

Standing on the Shallow mud point waist deep in the water I was able to observe the emergence sequence. During the early stages of transformation from larva to pupa the insects begin a sort of dance while the gases build up in the husk. With almost imperceptible flicks of the abdomen the pupa rises toward the surface a few inches then goes still and slowly drifts back downward. This little dance repeats itself several times before the gases finally build and pupa pops to the surface to emerge into an adult. This dance led to the development of the Imposter Pupa.

After watching this many times I made the conclusion that the pupa usually hang at the surface, often for as much as 30 seconds. The trout see this as the most vulnerable point in the emergence and at times will feed exclusively on this stage. Multiple times, as I stood motionless hovering over the water observing a hanging pupa a trout would race by snatching it from the surface.

Pale Olive

It took me weeks to find the right combination of materials and tying sequence to final hit on the final pattern. Throughout that time I caught fish sporadically with the different incarnations. The day I realized it was time to stop tinkering I hooked and landed nearly 2 dozen rainbows and browns in a very short amount of time. On subsequent trips to the other lakes in the area I experienced very similar results. The most surprising result of all is that the Popcorn Midge catches trout in any wind conditions from calm to barely able to cast.

The Shape Shifter is decidedly a stillwater fly and can be effective at any time of year when chironomids are emerging. Look for the adult insects near the bank of trout lakes or adult insects on the surface and trout feeding from below. It is seldom that the trout will focus their feeding on the true adults because the adults seldom spend much time on the surface of the lake. The trout will however focus on the emerging chironomids as they struggle to leave the shuck. This is another stage I have observed many times that can take up to nearly a minute. The adult may emerge from the shuck but cannot shed it completely. This leaves the insect stranded on the surface unable to escape the feeding fish. After observing this repeatedly I designed the Midge-E-Merger to be fished in tandem with the Shape Shifter.

For the most part I usually start with a subsurface chironomid pattern especially on new lakes. But this will change as soon as I spot surface activity that I can cover with a reasonable cast. If I am observing the insects emerging I will definitely change to the Shape Shifter and E-Merger combination. While both the Shape Shifter and Midge-E-Merger work well enough on perfectly calm water a slight ripple to medium chop are the absolute best conditions for them. Given that the weather is usually unstable during prime chironomid hatch periods the wind is usually cooperative.

The most effective method of fishing this combination is to cast it on a 45 degree upwind cast. Mind the slack line and mend as needed to maintain control of the leader and flies. Allow the flies to drift with the wave action over feeding fish. The flies are fairly easy to see as long as you keep your focus on them even in fairly rough chop. Be sure and stay focused on the flies because most takes are very confident and subtle. However fear not if you lose sight of your flies, I have had trout, large ones at that, hold onto these flies for a very long time and even set the hook themselves while I daydreamed of something else. Weird yeah? Who daydreams while fishing a trophy trout lake? Go figure, these flies spoiled me so bad I don’t know what to think sometimes.

To ensure that the Shape Shifter hangs at the surface correctly is must be prepared before fishing. Apply a small amount of liquid floatant to your forefinger tip then tap you forefinger and thumb together. Apply the floatant to the breathers and thorax of the fly by pressing only that portion of the fly between your thumb and forefinger. With the head of the fly still between your thumb and forefinger submerge the fly and gently rub the abdomen to saturate the materials.

Available in - Black, Dark Brown, Medium Brown, Red, Olive, Pale Olive, Ginger, Tan

Size 14 - 22

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