Skills

Translucent Saltwater Streamer

  • By: A. K. Best
Translucent Saltwater Streamer

I preach that less is more when it comes to tying saltwater streamers. My theory on this comes from doing a lot of snorkeling in Caribbean waters. One year my wife and I were snorkeling in a small bay on St. Thomas Island, looking for the beautiful colored fish that live near that area’s lava rocks. Alas, there were none there. Instead, there were thousands of three- to four-inch baitfish huddled near the rocks. We turned our view toward the center of the bay and saw literally hundreds of tarpon waiting for their meal. The tarpon obviously drove the nearly invisible baitfish to perceived safety near the rocks. The first thing we noticed about the baitfish were their eyes, then a very thin, dark dorsal stripe and a nearly translucent body that only flashed when they turned away from us. So I’ve been tying my striped bass and tarpon flies to match what we saw.

Cold-Weather Trout

  • By: Dave Hughes
  • Photography by: Dave Hughes
Oregon's Deschutes

The standard advice for trout fishing in nippy winter weather is TO rig with a sinking line and a big streamer (to coax idle fish into action), or with a pair of weighted nymphs (to roll along the bottom and right into open mouths). Both formulas have their appropriate places, when temperatures fall and also when water levels rise. But rigging takes second seat, in winter, to something far more important: Reading water to find the trout. If you cast those sunk streamers and tumbling nymphs in water that holds few fish, or just as often no fish at all, you’ll have system failure, even if you do everything else precisely right.

(Another) Brown Stone Nymph

  • By: A. K. Best
Brown Stone Nymph

One of my favorite go-to nymph patterns is a Brown Stonefly Nymph. I usually turn to it when there is no hatch and I can’t find success with a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear or the tried-and-true PT Nymph. This Brown Stonefly Nymph and others like it are killer patterns in large streams with rapid current creases and rolling water. Drop it anywhere you think a trout might lurk, as near to bottom as you can, and you’re liable to hook a nice trout. By nice, I mean something above 14 inches. Brown trout, especially, seem to relish this mouthful of protein, but rainbows and cutthroats take it, too.

Bass Royal Wulff

  • By: A. K. Best
  • Photography by: A. K. Best
Bass Royal Wulff

My son-in-law called a few years ago, wanting to go bass fishing. I told him about a few bass ponds near Boulder, Colorado and we decided to meet that afternoon. Imagine two identical boxes: one full of bass bugs, the other with big dry flies I use in Labrador. Neither box was labeled. I grabbed the Labrador box by mistake. Imagine my surprise after I strung up my rod and opened the box. Nothing but size 2 Royal Wulffs and some huge caddis imitations. The big Royal Wulffs worked so well on two- to three-pound bass that I had to give some to my son-in-law. A lucky mistake.

Fishing Soft-Hackles

  • By: Dave Hughes
  • Photography by: Dave Hughes
Sylvester Nemes on the Yellowstone River

I first met sylvester nemes through his 1975 book, The Soft-Hackled Fly. It was a small book, tightly focused on its single subject: wet flies tied with bodies of silk thread, sparse hackles, rarely anything extra. Sylvester’s prose reflected his subject perfectly. It was spare, compact and didn’t stray from its subject. Which is to say, the book was beautifully written. Best to me: It was—and is, because it’s still in print under the title The Soft-Hackled Fly and Tiny Soft Hackles—one of those rare books that enthused me to immediately sit down at the vise, tie a bunch of the flies described, and rush from there to a stream to fish them.

The flies, and the methods described, worked. Sometimes they worked wonders. One of my favorite days with them came on a gloomy fall float of Utah’s Green River, downstream from Flaming Gorge Dam. Few trout rose all day. My friends and I tried pestering them to attention with weighted nymphs tumbled along the bottom, which turned out to be ineffective—and because it produced few trout, was also very little fun.