April 17th-#2 and #1

Good Morning Everyone,

A beautiful weekend in Montana is wrapping up today, and I thought it was well past time to reveal the top two nymphs you should be tying right now to get ready for the fishing season in Yellowstone country. Ceratainly if you have been in my boat the past 10 years, there will be no suspense in the what these two nymphs are. In fact, I think if you ask most guides in our area these flies would be an indispensable part of their arsenal. So what are they…

Number 2: The Shop Vac size 16-Without a doubt this fly catches more fish for me year in and year out for almost 20 years now. It would be my number one if we were talking about flies that work in the Yellowstone region year round, but since we are concentrating on the summer months, it slides to the number two position. That fact does not diminish its effectiveness during the summer however. Frequently the shop vac and the the number 1 fly is the deadly combination of a two nymph rig that I use all summer long, from the Madison, to the Yellowstone, and on the Henry’s Fork. I had many people ask me what the Shop Vac represents. The answer is, I am not quite sure. A midge pupa, cranefly larva, baetis nymph, caddis larva, or something else that only the fish know. But what is known is that it works-period! Bonus-it is also easy to tie. Starting with a curved shank hook, and an appropriate sized gold bead, the only other materials are a body of pheasant tail fibers, counter wrapped with thin copper wire. After covering the length of the shank with the wire and pheasant, tie off and add a tuff of white zelon as a shortened wingcase. The black thread completes the head of the fly and Voila! you have the Shop Vac. Cast into the nearest fishy looking hole, run, pocket, slick, or flat, and hold on. The Shop Vac also makes a fantastic dropper off a dry fly (tune in next week as we reveal the top 10 dry flies for the Yellowstone country in the summer, that might work in this combination of dry/dropper).

Number 1: $3 Serendipity #16-The Madison is famous for many things in the trout fly fishing world, but one of the flies made famous in its boulder strewn riffles was the serendipity. As with anything of legend, there are as many stories of who, where, when, why, and how the serendipity came to fruition, as there is fly fisherman, but to fish the Madison without a serendipity is like eating a hot dog without mustard. Over the years the serendipity has changed form, color, shape, and context as fly tiers looked for their own unique fly tying identity in the fly. Some have proven to be winners (such as the crystal dip) others have been relegated to moth covered plastic cups in the back stock of fly shop inventory purgatory. This version, from master guide and fly tier Nick Nickalus, turned out to be better than the original, by a long shot! Simple and extremely effective, fishing our Yellowstone region without a stash of these nymphs would be highly unadvisable. Three materials, counting the thread, and in a couple of mintues at the vise you will have a fly that will catch its fair share of fish for you. Start with a classic straight shank, 2x long nymph hook. Start by applying the exact color of danville thread to the shank to cover the length of it. Reverse wrap thin gold wire over the thread giving the classic rib effect, and a very thin profile in this case. Finish the fly with a small tuft of deer hair as wingcase trimmed short. I will guarantee that when I am nymph fishing the Madison with a 2 fly nymph rig, this fly is always one of the flies, regardless of what the second might be.

So there they are the top 10 nymphs I would have (and I do) in my box for fishing the rivers of Yellowstone country. Well off to the lower Madison to fish a SJW and Shop Vac combo in the buckets of this mighty river. Stay tuned next week as we shift from nymphs to dry flies.

Good tying,


Leave a Reply