Snake River Flies
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234 pages
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Description

Snake River Flies chronicles the rich history of fly pattern development in the Snake River basin from its infancy in the 1930s to contemporary flies of the twentieth-first century.

Follow along with third-generation fly fishing connoisseur Boots Allen as he features techniques, strategies, and patterns from his own family plus some of the sports’ most influential names like Marcella Oswald, Bruce Staples, Scott Sanchez, and Ken Burkholder. Special attention is given to innovative designs for particular types of water, trout food, and trout species.

The 100-plus patterns you’ll find in this book have been proven producers not only in the Rocky Mountain West, but throughout the world for a variety of game fish.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The Development and Evolution of Snake River Flies
Chapter 3: Carmichael Patterns
Chapter 4: The Long, Mysterious Journey of the Humpy
Chapter 5: Marcella Oswald and Her Trout Fly
Chapter 6: Bob Bean
Chapter 7: Wet Flies and Streamers
Chapter 8: Attractors: Just What the Hell Are They?
Chapter 9: Mayflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 10: Caddisflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 11: Stoneflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 12: Considering Terrestrials As If They Matter
Chapter 13: Other Flies for Other Times and Other Waters
Chapter 14: Where Do We Go From Here?
References

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Date de parution 05 novembre 2013
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780871089960
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 6 Mo

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Exrait

Snake River Flies
Eighty Years of Proven Patterns for Fly Fishing Around the Globe
Boots Allen
Text and photos 2013 by Boots Allen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission of the publisher.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Allen, Joseph Boots.
Snake River flies : eighty years of proven patterns for fly fishing around the globe / Boots Allen.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-87108-947-2 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-0-87108-996-0 (e-book)
1. Flies, Artificial-Snake River Region (Wyo.-Wash.) 2. Fly tyers-Snake River Region (Wyo.-Wash.) I. Title.
SH451.A447 2013
799.12 4-dc23
2013022979
Published by WestWinds Press
An imprint of

P.O. Box 56118
Portland, Oregon 97238-6118
503-254-5591
www.graphicartsbooks.com
To the memory of Bob Behnke .
A man who studied trout, taught fly fishers what they mean to the natural world, and left the rest up to us .
Contents
Acknowledgments
Introduction

Chapter 1: The Development and Evolution of Snake River Flies
Chapter 2: Carmichael Patterns
Chapter 3: The Long, Mysterious Journey of the Humpy
Chapter 4: Marcella Oswald and Her Trout Fly
Chapter 5: Bob Bean
Chapter 6: Wet Flies and Streamers
Chapter 7: Attractors: Just What the Hell Are They?
Chapter 8: Mayflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 9: Caddisflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 10: Stoneflies and Their Imitations
Chapter 11: Considering Terrestrials As If They Matter
Chapter 12: Other Flies for Other Times and Other Waters
Chapter 13: Where Do We Go from Here?

Maps
References
Index
Acknowledgments
I was fortunate to grow up in a family of fly fishers. Alongside the fishing was fly tying, and my early memories of fly tying are as indelible as anything else in the sport. As a child I sat amongst the piles of hackle and fur and spools of thread to watch the creations coming from the vise of my father, grandfather, uncle, brother, and cousins. It is from these individuals that I first learned the intricacies of tying and what to truly focus on when designing patterns. Thus, it is appropriate that my first and foremost thanks go to my family for instilling in me a deep appreciation of-if not a true love for-fly tying.
The Snake River is lucky to have a rich history in fly tying, if not necessarily a long history. Bob Carmichael, Stan Yamamura, Marcella Oswald, Etsel Radford, and Bob Bean helped establish the lineage of creative fly tiers in eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. Most of these individuals I did not know personally, but some who I did have a relationship with provided valuable information about the influence these folks had on fly tying and fishing in the Rocky Mountain West. In particular, Tom Carmichael, Tom and Mike Bean, and Kevin Radford were instrumental in assisting me in this regard.
Growing up in the Snake River region gave me access to some of the great tiers in the world of fly fishing. Jack Dennis, Howard Cole, Jay and Kathy Buchner, Jimmy Jones, and Bruce Staples are individuals who have had a dramatic impact on western fly tying. They are also people I have the honor of knowing personally and who readily share their information and ideas with me when I ask for their two bits. Important tiers from outside the region have also influenced me greatly. Mike Lawson of the Henry s Fork, the Madison River s Craig Mathews and Bob Jacklin, and the great wet fly tier Kelly Galloup are four gifted pattern designers whose significance in the sport cannot be understated. When I travel to their home waters or attend expos where they demonstrate their tying skills, I actively seek out these individuals. Their observations and experiences are highlighted throughout this book.
Over the past decade, a select few fly tiers have emerged as modern greats from the Snake River area and have been immensely influential on me as a tier, angler, and writer. Will Dornan, Ken Burkholder, Scott Sanchez, and Rob Parkins are members of a small group of pattern designers who will no doubt go down as contemporary equivalents of those I have already named. Sanchez is not only a creative tier, he has also become a prominent purveyor of flies and fly tying through books, photography, video, and webcasts. Dornan and Burkholder have created patterns that can be found in use on trout streams throughout the world. I am honored to call each one of these fellows a friend. I pick their brains constantly, and they are always ready to talk with me at a moment s notice about the thing they love most-tying flies. They are a big of a part of this book, and to them I am in debt.
Some of the best fly tiers in the Snake River region are ones who do not have or seek out recognition. Rather, they continually hone their skills at the vise, forever seeking those patterns that will catch trout consistently, or at least in specific situations. Some are guides, some are shop staff, some are contract tiers, and some are fish bums. These individuals include Dan Oas, Brandon Powers, Kim Keeley, Jim Hickey, Larry Larson, Jaason Pruett, Donna Allen, Elden Barrett, Mike Dawes, Brandon Murphy, R.W. Waters, Dave Brackett, Anya Tobie, Pat Kelly, Brenda Swinney, Josh Heileson, John Stenersen, Trevor Wine, Jimmy Gabettas, Kasey Collins, Mark Rollans, Jeff Currier, Shannon McCormick, Kasey Collins, Bruce Smithhammer, Kevin Emery, Mike Janssen, and Wes Newman. I am deeply grateful to these tiers and what they have shared with me over the years.
Fly tiers and the patterns they create benefit greatly from the information they receive from those who fish constantly throughout a given year. Many of these people tie flies, but they are known primarily for their prowess on rivers and lakes as they fish for trophy trout, and they readily share their information about effective flies and fishing methods with anyone who inquires. Among these are Ben Miller, Brandon Payn, Jennifer Cornell, Bryan Tarantola, Paul Bruun, Tim Brune, Pete Moyer, Jack Turner, Jim Reetz, Ben Smith, Bill Happersett, Curt Hamby, Dean Burton, Billy Pew, Tressa Allen, Justin Burkhart, Zach Payton, Jason Sutton, Tom Montgomery, Carter Andrews, Scott Smith, Gary Wilmott, Brad Sutton, Tom Finger, Justin Hays, Eric Anderson, Cole Sutheimer, Sue Talbot, Ooley Piram, Tim Warren, Vance Freed, Mark Fuller, Baker Salsbury, Andy Asadorian, Rob Ross, Pete Erickson, Rhett Bain, Melissa Thomasma, Mike Rheam, Kevin Brazell, Bart Taylor, John Gendall, Greta Martinson, Keith Smith, Mike Dawkins, and Jason Budd. All of these individuals are good people who love the sport of fly fishing and care deeply about the waters they fish and the trout they stalk.


The Snake River flows through some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, including the valley of Jackson Hole.
Introduction
For more than a century, the waters of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem have captivated the imagination of anglers the world over. The region has been responsible for a litany of techniques, strategies, literature, and patterns by some of the sport s most influential names. From George Grant s woven nymphs to Mike Lawson s stonefly patterns, from Swisher and Richard s Selective Trout to LaFontaine s Caddisflies , from the Goofus Bug to the Bitch Creek Nymph, the area s imprint on fly fishing is considerable and impressive. Just the names of the streams-the Madison and Yellowstone Rivers, the Beaverhead, the Shoshone, the Henry s Fork-are often sufficient enough to stimulate memories of past angling stories for many fly fishers. These names also give us hope for the future of the sport.
The Snake River drains the southern and western reaches of the Yellowstone area. It holds a cherished position among the region s high-quality trout water. It is a truly unique watershed. One of the Snake River s most distinctive features is its high concentration of native trout species. Indeed, it is one of the last remaining streams in the Rocky Mountain West where native cutthroats are still found in abundance. It is also uniquely beautiful. An angler would be hard pressed to find a fly-fishing venue with scenery as awe inspiring as the Teton Range or the Canyon of the South Fork. Flowing through protected public land such as Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Caribou National Forest, and a host of Nature Conservancy and Land Trust parcels, the Snake River s trout and stunning beauty will, arguably, remain for decades to come.
As a third-generation native of the region, I have had the chance to fish much of the water that the Yellowstone area has to offer. I was taught at a young age to identify the characteristics that each stream possesses to set it apart from others. It is these characteristics-type of trout, holding water, stream gradient, temperature, aquatic and terrestrial nutrients, and human manipulations-that have spawned the patterns associated with specific rivers. A rather obvious example of this is the vast array of patterns developed by Henry s Fork tiers to imitate the river s magnificent green drake ( Drunella grandis and doddsi ) hatch. Perhaps less obvious is the impact of the surrounding environment on tiers in Montana. Jack Boehme, Franz Pott, and George Grant used native hairs-badger, deer, elk, horse, and ox-to create early woven nymph patterns. Not only did these materials prove to be as durable and effective as materials used for traditional eastern patterns, but their source-wildlife and domesticated stock-was also plentiful throughout western Montana.


The Canyon reach of the South Fork of the Snake River.
The patterns developed by Snake River tiers are no less distinctive than those created on other area waters. They are the result of the type and abundance of trout foods, the nature of its holding water, the feeding behavior of its trout, the characteristics of its physical surroundings, and the innovative spirit of those who have done time at the vise. All along the river s corridor, a significant culture of creation has developed. Its tiers and the flies they ve created have revolutionized the industry with patterns and techniques that are employed all over the world.
This impact on the fly-fishing world strikes me as the most significant feature of Snake River flies. I have had the opportunity to fish across the globe with many of the flies I cover in this book. They have work masterfully for a host of species. I have also talked with guides and anglers who have used these flies in places I have yet to visit-destinations like New Zealand, Alaska, and the northern reaches of Patagonia. From these people, I am told fascinating stories that further confirm the effectiveness of Snake River flies.
For this book, the Snake River I refer to includes the streams and tributaries from the headwaters in Yellowstone National Park and the Teton Wilderness in Wyoming to its confluence with the Henry s Fork just upstream from Menan Buttes in Idaho. The total distance is approximately 200 miles. Between these two points, it passes through Jackson Lake, the valley of Jackson Hole, and the Snake River Canyon in Wyoming. From here it enters Idaho at Palisades Reservoir and flows through Swan Valley, the Canyon of the South Fork, and the easternmost extreme of the Great Snake River Plain. Palisades Reservoir acts as a convenient, man-made point of demarcation between the Wyoming-Idaho border. It also acts as the point where, oddly enough, the name of the river changes. Downstream of the reservoir, in Idaho, the stream is officially called the South Fork of the Snake River. Upstream of the reservoir, in Wyoming, it is known simply as the Snake River, or the Upper Snake River. Despite this, they are actually one stream.
The Henry s Fork is formally part of the Snake River. In fact, many old-timers in the area still refer to it as the North Fork of the Snake River. However, I purposely exclude it from this analysis. There are two essential reasons for this. First, qualitative differences in trout food, trout species, and the nature of the holding water exist between the two drainages. As a consequence, there is a fundamental disparity in the patterns created on each of these two rivers. Second, because of the comparatively early history of fly fishing and tying on the Henry s Fork and its reputation as a blue-ribbon stream, its patterns and tiers are well documented. Among my favorites are Charlie Brooks s The Henry s Fork (Winchester Press, 1986) and Lawson and LaFontaine s Fly Fishing the Henry s Fork (Greycliff Publishing, 2002). The Henry s Fork is also covered in several comprehensive works and magazine articles by the likes of Ren Harrop and Terry Hellekson. The Snake River as I define it, outside of books by Jack Dennis and Bruce Staples, has experienced only limited coverage. My hope is that what I present here contributes to filling this gap in the sport s literature.
I open this book in Chapter 1 by introducing the reader to the characteristics of the Snake River ecosystem that have contributed to fly pattern development over the past eight decades. Included in this discussion is the influence of unique waters within or near the drainage, such as Flat Creek in Jackson Hole and the Fort Hall spring creeks, and the impact they have had on Snake River patterns.
After Chapter 1, I ll turn to an examination of fly tying and pattern development on the Snake River and their impact on the larger world of fly fishing. You will be introduced to the early pioneers of fly tying in the Snake River drainage, including individuals like Bob Carmichael (Chapter 2), Marcella Oswald (Chapter 4), and Bob Bean (Chapter 5). I ll also discuss the significance of specific patterns such as the Humpy (Chapter 3) and Marcella s Trout Fly (Chapter 4).
In Chapters 6 and 7, I ll look at the role Snake River tiers have had in the evolution of attractor patterns, wet flies, and streamers. These are among the most important flies to the Snake River and have a long tradition in the watershed. Attractors and streamers developed by tiers in the Snake River area are being used around the world for a variety of game fish-everything from taimen to bass to sea-run brown trout.


Cutthroat trout are the dominant trout specie in the Snake River drainage. Snake River patterns designed for catching cutthroat are used all over the world to catch a variety of game fish.
In Chapters 8 through 12, I ll examine imitations of specific trout foods. Primarily, these are aquatic insects (mayflies, caddis flies, stone-flies, chironomids, craneflies) and a variety of terrestrials. A bit more detail is involved in this part of the book as I describe the activity of these trout foods, their distribution, and the patterns developed by individual tiers to imitate them.
You will notice that there is very little uniformity in terms of how I discuss both natural trout foods and their imitations from chapter to chapter. I am not a very big fan of the cookie-cutter approach to writing about flies, fly tying, and the food that flies imitate. I find it easier, not to mention a little more reader friendly, to deal with patterns and trout foods on a case-by-case basis. So while I may examine stoneflies in a chronological manner, looking first at those that emerge in the early part of the season and dealing last with those that make their appearance toward autumn, I find it more useful to explore caddis flies on an event basis-analyzing annual episodes such as the Mother s Day caddis fly hatch and the fall hatch, typically made up of October caddis.
One of the key points I hope to make is that the flies covered in this book are not simply about one distinct watershed. Throughout this work, I attempt to point out the success these flies have had on waters across the globe and the influence they have had on the world of fly tying. The chapters on aquatic insects illustrate the effectiveness of caddis and mayfly imitations developed for the Snake River on other western trout streams. But nowhere is the impact of Snake River flies more evident than in the realm of streamers and wet flies. Patterns like the Double Bunny and J.J. Special have been among the most successful patterns I have used for taimen and pike in Central Asia. And when I started guiding for Kau Tapen Lodge in Tierra del Fuego, I quickly learned about the effectiveness of another Snake River streamer-the Tequilley-at catching sea-run brown trout during high water on the Rio Grande.


Fly fishers who go after taimen in Eurasia generally prefer fishing with large top-water flies, especially mouse and lemming patterns. I like throwing streamers to these beasts. Double Bunnies and J.J. Specials are among the most productive.


Streamers developed in the Snake River drainage are popular for sea-run brown trout in Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina.
You will recognize many of the tiers I discuss. Howard Cole and Jay Buchner are renowned for tying incredibly detailed imitations for aquatic insects. Their patterns have appeared in fly-fishing books and magazines for decades. Bruce Staples has not only developed effective patterns for area waters, he has also been a constant chronicler of the fly tying heritage that has developed in the Yellowstone region over the past century. Scott Sanchez and Ken Burkholder are among the most innovative tiers in the sport today. And Jack Dennis is a tying legend, not just in the American West but throughout the world of trout fishing.
By no means should you take this as a complete list of all flies ever to come from the Snake River. Far from it. Instead, it is better to think of this as a template on which many patterns the world over have been based. Like most great trout streams, it would be nearly impossible to include all fly designs ever connected with the Snake. The tremendous growth in fly fishing over the past twenty years has been followed by the commodification of almost every aspect of the sport. Nowhere is this more prevalent than in fly tying. Money is a driving force in the explosion of new patterns. But we should not neglect recognizing other factors that are at play. Howard Cole, for example, points to the revolution in new tying materials and techniques as a key contributing factor in allowing him to improve his creations.
Globalization has had an equally tremendous impact on fly tying. Developing countries supply the labor force and manufacturing facilities for the industry s largest distributors. Those who benefit are typically the retailer and consumer, who sell and buy quality flies at reduced rates. But for those who actually create patterns, the influence of globalization is present as well. It has enhanced the exchange of information between tiers, facilitated by the Internet, video, and other various forms of media. Scott Sanchez claims that easy and consistent correspondence with fellow tiers via e-mail has inspired many of his recent creations. And contemporary tiers everywhere have an advantage over their predecessors because there is simply more reliable information on aquatic insects and trout feeding behavior. Bob Carmichael and Leonard Boots Allen (Chapter 3) just didn t have books like Knopp s and Cromier s Mayflies (1997) or Swisher s and Richards s Selective Trout (1971).


Having references like these in our fly-tying arsenal of information is something that tiers a half century could only dream of. It gives us a big advantage in pattern creation.


Regardless of new materials, tools, and information, it is the creativity of both new and experienced tiers that will be the driving force behind new patterns.
All of these factors play a significant role in fly pattern development. But for tiers everywhere, the key inspiration in designing a fly is that ever-present, age-old desire to better imitate a variety of trout food and deceive selective fish. This is the true driving force behind Snake River flies and those who create them.
1
The Development and Evolution of Snake River Flies
Synergy-1 : SYNERGISM : broadly ; combined action or operation 2 : a mutually advantageous conjunction or compatibility of distinct business participants or elements (as resources or efforts)- Merriam-Webster s Collegiate Dictionary , Eleventh edition, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated 2004.
Synergy is a term used throughout a wide range of academic disciplines. From economics to political science, history to chemistry, physics to the various specializations of engineering, the word synergy assists in describing the interactions between numerous variables and the outcomes these interactions produce for one or more dependent issues, elements, or aspects. While I was a PhD candidate at the University of Texas and studying sustainable community development, I used synergy in a political ecological context, explaining how the actions of different stakeholders impact environmental, political, and economic change in small communities involved in the eco/cultural tourism industry. I give this brief introduction to the word synergy because the term is also useful when examining certain aspects of fly fishing and tying. It can help in explaining why particular styles, tactics, and strategies developed on specific waters and not on others, or in explaining how and why styles and tactics developed in one region have impacted the sport in another region.
The development of the fly-tying culture in the Snake River area and the patterns that have come from it are the result of synergistic relationships between a number of variables, the most important of which are: (1) the relative isolation in which the sport evolved locally; (2) access to local material and resources; (3) the presence and use of preexisting patterns; (4) the physical characteristics of area waters; (5) the type and prevalence of different trout foods; and (6) the feeding behavior of resident trout. These factors have had a significant influence on fly tying and pattern development in the Snake River area traditionally. I now consider a seventh factor to be equally important-advancements in the exchange of information and specialized material, something facilitated by recent trends in globalization and the technological age in which we all live. This has been a crucial component of fly tying and pattern creation throughout the world over the past fifteen years or so, thanks in large part to the Internet and the evolution of synthetic materials.
Examining the historical progression of fly tying in the Snake River drainage is a convenient way to illustrate and better understand how these factors have influenced pattern development in the area. The pioneering few who were among the first involved in the sport dealt with issues of isolation in ways that most of us today cannot imagine. They applied what collective knowledge they had to incorporate locally available materials to match local trout foods and deal with the physical nature of area waters as best as they could.
Compared to most of the storied trout water in the Yellowstone region, the sport of fly fishing came relatively late to the Snake River. Post-Civil War growth in Montana s mining and cattle industry led to increased development of infrastructure. The Henry s Fork and many of the Missouri headwater streams were, thus, well connected to the rest of the nation via rail by the early 1900s. Visiting anglers could access these rivers by either traveling south on the Northern Pacific extension lines from Livingston and Butte, Montana, or by taking the Yellowstone Branch of the Union Pacific that extended north from Idaho Falls, Idaho. Around these streams and the anglers who frequented them, a regional fly-fishing subculture and industry quickly took root.
In contrast to its sister waters further north, the Snake River in Wyoming and southeastern Idaho was far less accessible. At Idaho Falls, the railroad crossed the main stem and South Fork of the Snake River before continuing toward Montana. Few early fly fishers traveling on this branch paid much attention to the river here. They were no doubt transfixed by the stories and memories of the heralded waters that awaited them at the end of the line. Had anglers taken the time to venture upstream, they would have found the terrain rough going. All that existed in the early twentieth century was a handful of dry farms connected by rutted dirt roads.
If travelers followed the Snake River upstream through Swan Valley and Grand Valley, they would next have to navigate the narrow and difficult Snake River Canyon before reaching Jackson Hole. Alternatively, they could take an extension line of the Union Pacific s Yellowstone Branch from Ashton to Victor, Idaho (this line stopped service in the1960s). Although this would have delivered passengers to within twenty-five miles of the Snake River in Jackson Hole, they would still have to negotiate the 8,431-foot-high Teton Pass, a route that, to this day, is not always reliable. These geographic and logistical factors kept the Snake River relatively isolated. It was not until the 1920s that serious infrastructure development in the area began to take place.
The Snake River received only minor visitation by sport fishing enthusiasts in the first three decades of the twentieth century. Most of this was in the vicinity of Jackson Hole, where fishermen were most often taking part in hunting expeditions offered through early local outfitters, such as Ben Sheffield s camp at the mouth of Jackson Lake (1903) and Louis Joy s JY Ranch (1908). Later, dude ranches, such as the Bar BC (1912) and Triangle X (1926), got in the act. But the fishing the Snake River had to offer was not the primary attraction for these early anglers. It was, at best, a side trip. Most were visiting the region to hunt trophy game, gamble, or take part in dude-ranching activities.
The South Fork of the Snake River, running from the mouth of the Snake River Canyon to the confluence with the Henry s Fork, received even less attention. There was no marketable drawing card for visitors in the early 1900s. The surroundings were primarily comprised of barley, wheat, potato, hay, and alfalfa farms. Many of these operations are still there today. The fishing along the South Fork was no doubt incredible at this early stage. But the region s isolation, along with ignorance in the angling world as to what the river had to offer, kept visitation to a minimum. Locals had the South Fork to themselves for several decades.
In the 1930s and 1940s, a minor fly-fishing industry began to emerge in the Jackson Hole area. This was spurred on in large part by the creation of Grand Teton National Park in 1929, Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943, and the eventual combination of these entities into Grand Teton National Park, as it is known today. Accompanying the creation of this federally protected land was the development of infrastructure and services for the small but growing number of tourists. The park drew visitors who were already in the region visiting Yellowstone. Among these were anglers fishing the Henry s Fork, the Madison River, and the Gibbon and Firehole Rivers. The Madison and Firehole had generated wide acclaim in national fly-fishing circles by the 1930s. Howard Back s The Waters of Yellowstone with Rod and Fly (1938) described to the angling public the incredible fishing these streams had to offer. The corridor that these two rivers created could be followed up to Craig Pass, where adventurous fly fishers could cross the divide and explore relatively unknown waters such as Heart Lake, Lewis Lake, and the Lewis River. Just a bit farther downstream, they would find the upper reaches of the Snake River above Jackson Lake.


The Madison and Firehole rivers were very popular streams for fly fishers in the early twentieth century. Adventurous anglers could follow this river corridor to its headwaters at Lewis Divide and then drop into the Snake River drainage.
To the west of Jackson Hole, two other routes into the drainage were opening up. One was over Teton Pass from Teton Valley, Idaho. Although it was by far the most treacherous route into Jackson Hole, the 1940s saw Wyoming Highway 22 increase its capacity to handle heavier and more consistent traffic. More importantly, the pass began to receive consistent clearing for the first time in 1937. In Trout Country Flies (Frank Amato Publications, 2002), Bruce Staples relates how Gordon Harrop and other fly fishers from the Henry s Fork were venturing into Teton Valley to sample the Teton River and its tributaries. Like the Madison-Firehole corridor, fly fishers could use the Teton Valley as a conduit, crossing the now more reliable Teton Pass to visit the Snake River in Jackson Hole. The other route was via the Ashton-Moran Road. But service for this road peaked in the early 1920s and fell into disuse thereafter.
It was in this environment that the first full-time Snake River fishing outfitters began to emerge. These included Bob Carmichael and Leonard Boots Allen in the 1930s and Dick Boyer and Vern Bressler in the 1950s. The 1950s would also see the beginning stages of a fly-fishing industry farther downstream on the South Fork of the Snake River. Early tiers included Thone Roos, Marcella Oswald, and Ardell Jeppsen. They were followed in the 1960s and 1970s by the South Fork s pioneering outfitters, including the Champions of Swan Valley and Spence Warner, whose family established the South Fork Lodge on the banks of the river in the early 1950s.
The relative isolation of the Snake River region during this time period made networks with tiers in other parts of the country difficult to establish and maintain. Isolation also made high-quality tying material and tools difficult to obtain. Added to this was the fact that productive patterns from other waters did not necessarily perform as well on the Snake River. Early tiers took these factors into account when they began creating the flies that would become closely linked with the region. The adage, necessity is the mother of invention, is as applicable here as anywhere. In effect, the constraints that early tiers and anglers faced were a motivating force in early pattern creation.
To compensate for inconsistencies in the availability of material, local tiers relied heavily on local resources. Waterfowl and upland game birds were and still are plentiful. Feathers from mallard, teal, and wood ducks; Canada geese; pheasant; quail; and blue and sage grouse were used as substitutes for less plentiful materials. For example, as an alternative to turkey quill fibers for wings on terrestrials, Snake River tiers often used goose-wing fibers laminated with lacquer, nail polish, or rubber cement. Pheasant tail fibers were cut and knotted for use as legs on hopper patterns. Marcella Oswald and fellow South Fork tiers had particularly easy access to these birds. Many local fly-fishing and tying enthusiasts resided in commercial centers such as Idaho Falls and Blackfoot. These large towns had healthy populations of upland game birds before increased development reduced their numbers in the second half of the century. Many anglers were hunters as well, and the demand for bird pelts as tying material married these two pursuits perfectly.


The abundance of elk, deer, antelope, and bear throughout the Rocky Mountain West means that hair material for tying is always available. Some of the region s best tiers have never purchased these materials through merchants. Instead, they obtain it through hunting or through friends and family members who hunt.
Equally abundant material sources included muskrat and rabbit, the hides of which were used as dubbing to create bodies. Coyote hair could also be found easily before the coyote s habitat was reduced and its numbers declined. But perhaps the most abundant material found throughout the Snake River drainage was hair from large game, primarily elk, deer, and moose. Leonard Boots Allen took advantage of these materials as early as the 1940s in the patterns he tied. Jack Dennis, Ramona Bressler, and Bob Bean continued this trend through the 1960s and 1970s. Even relatively recent creations, such as Guy Turck s Tarantula, contain deer hair as a primary component. In many ways, deer, elk, and moose hair are signature materials for many Snake River flies. State management of these important game species has been so successful that their populations continue to thrive. Even today, many professional commercial tiers in the region have never purchased elk or deer hair from material merchants. Instead, they obtain it directly through hunting or through friends and family who hunt.
A fair number of the pioneering anglers and tiers used locally produced materials in combination with merchant- and distributor-supplied material to manufacture variations of preexisting patterns. These included flies originating from areas with an established heritage, such as the Catskills, the Great Lakes Region, the Bay Area of San Francisco, and Europe. The Snake River and its tributaries, however, offer challenges that render many flies from other waters less effective. Possibly the most noticeable challenge is stream velocity within the drainage. The gradient is indeed dramatic. For example, from the Flagg Ranch boat launch above Jackson Lake to the confluence with the Henry s Fork, the Snake River will drop an average of twelve feet per mile for approximately 170 miles. Many primary tributaries-Palisades Creek, the Gros Ventre River, and the Hoback River-have even more impressive gradients. Currents are serious even during times of the season when water levels are at their lowest. Traditional dry flies, often lightly dressed and tied on small hooks, cannot easily negotiate these currents.
Area tiers confronted this dilemma by tailoring preexisting flies to better suit the fast-moving streams. Several strategies were employed to accomplish this. Lightly dressed dry flies were simply dressed more heavily to increase their buoyancy. This often led to the creation of entirely new patterns. For example, lightly hackled stonefly patterns such as Jack Boehme s Picket Pin and Cal Bird s Stonefly may have served as precursors to Marcella Oswald s Trout Fly, which she tied with a dozen or more wraps of furnace saddle hackle at the head so that it could withstand the raging South Fork of the Snake River during its early summer salmonfly hatch. Another strategy was the use of local materials to increase flotation and buoyancy. Leonard Boots Allen substituted traditional coastal blacktail hair used for the Horner s Deer Hair pattern with mule deer hair to tie Wyoming s and Idaho s version of the fly, the Humpy. Allen and his successors found this material to be far lighter and more buoyant than any other hair available.
Other tiers insisted that the problem was not in how heavily dressed patterns were, but rather in the quality of the material with which they were tied. The meticulous Bob Carmichael always came up with high-grade hackle, even in isolated Jackson Hole during the 1930s. He was assisted in this endeavor by one of his most trusted tying colleagues, California-based Roy Donnelly. As a longshoreman, Donnelly had networks with merchants throughout the world who could supply Carmichael with material that met his exact specifications. This was a resource that few tiers in the Snake River area could exploit. Often, the traditional eastern and Bay Area patterns that Carmichael tied were dressed lighter than the originals, but they floated much better and in a more realistic manner because of his singular focus on top-shelf hackle.
Another consistent strategy employed by tiers throughout the drainage to overcome stream velocity within the Snake River drainage was (and continues to be) the size of the patterns they tie. Size in and of itself can assist dry flies in negotiating heavy currents. Classic patterns such as the Humpy and the Indispensable were tied on relatively large hooks-size 10 and even size 8. It is still common to find fly shops along the Snake River that stock traditional patterns from other waters, such as the Royal Wulff and Parachute Adams up, to size 8 and sometimes even larger.


The large dry attractors so synonymous with the Snake River can bring to the surface some equally large trout. This cutthroat was landed with a Rubber-Legged Double Humpy.
This focus on pattern size lent itself perfectly to the types of trout food found on the Snake River. Aquatic insects that populate the drainage are exceptionally large. Of primary importance is the drainage s abundant and diverse species of stoneflies. There is, of course, the salmonfly ( Pteronarcys californica ) that produces intense hatches on the South Fork and, until the early 1960s, the upper Snake River in Jackson Hole. The South Fork also contains a heavy concentration of golden stoneflies ( Acroneuria pacifica ), which typically emerge on the heels of the salmonfly hatch. On the upper Snake River, the dominant stonefly is the shortwing stone ( Claassenia sabulosa ), which, at thirty to thirty-five millimeters in length at emergence, rivals the golden stonefly in size.
Besides stoneflies, other large aquatic insects call the Snake River home. In autumn, typically between mid-September and the end of October, the entire drainage from Lewis Lake down to Menan Buttes will experience at least a minimal hatch of October caddis ( Dicosmoecus gilvipes and jucundus ). It has never been reported to happen all at once, nor is it exceptionally prolific. The best way I can describe it is steady. While the October caddis emergence can never be called abundant, it is at least intense enough to be noticed by the angler. Part of the reason why even the most minimal hatch of October caddisfly is so noticeable is that they are the largest of all Trichoptera order insects, measuring up to thirty millimeters in length as adults. Fly fishers are aware when October caddis are about, as are the trout that we chase.
Large indigenous mayflies are also common throughout the Snake River, and their presence has played a role in the traditional use and creation of large patterns within the drainage. Many area fly fishers report that the largest mayfly of all, Hexagenia limbata (fifteen to thirty-five millimeters in length as an adult), populates the extreme downstream reach in the South Fork of the Snake River in small numbers. Further downstream toward Idaho Falls, on the main stem of the Snake, their abundance is said to be noticeably greater. On the upper Snake River in Jackson Hole and the Snake River Canyon, the hecuba (Ephemerella hecuba or Timpanoga hecuba hecuba ) produces what is considered by many area anglers to be one of the most important hatches of mayfly species upstream of Palisades Reservoir. The hecuba (commonly known as the great blue-winged red quill) can reach lengths in excess of fifteen millimeters and approaching twenty millimeters. I contend that the hecuba is a primary reason why patterns such as the Parachute Hare s Ear have performed so well on the Snake River when tied on a size 10 or larger hook.
When one examines standard fly patterns from the Snake River, the trait that is likely to jump out as the most consistent after size is perhaps the prevalence of one specific category of flies: the attractor. From Donnelly s Variants and Allen s Humpies to Wes Newman s Super X and Jimmy Gabettas s Jimmy-Z, attractors have been a standard in the drainage since the 1930s. Once again, this trend is dictated by the nature of the river, its tributaries, and the ecosystem of which they are a part.
I have just highlighted some of the Snake s most common hatches, such as the salmonfly hatch on the South Fork in June and the hecuba emergences on the upper Snake in early September. But more important to anglers and tiers is the surprising broadness of hatches. There are numerous times throughout the season, from the beginning of May until the end of October, when a number of different aquatic insects can hatch at once. On the South Fork, I have witnessed golden stoneflies, little yellow stoneflies, and PMDs (pale morning duns) emerging within the same two-hour period in late July. On the upper Snake River, I witnessed blue-winged olives, hecubas , PMDs, mahogany duns, and Claassenia stoneflies emerge between 10 A.M . and 4 p.m. on a wet and overcast day in early September. There was also a plentiful amount of grasshoppers and carpenter ants about.
I believe that on a stream like the Snake River, trout have little opportunity to actually focus on potential nutrients before consuming them, especially when they are expending a significant amount of energy to hold in extraordinarily swift currents. Now add to this the fact that hatches tend to be more broad than thick. When several insects are emerging at once or over a short period of time, trout may have less of an opportunity to key in on one specific trait offered by potential nutrients. It is for this reason that tiers in the Snake River area have focused heavily on attractor patterns to this day. Strongly suggestive of a number of different types of trout foods, attractors can work as good as or better than more imitative flies.
Some contend that another reason why attractors, and especially dry attractors, have been so popular in the Snake River area is the feeding behavior of its predominant species of trout-the cutthroat. Two specific subspecies, the Yellowstone cutthroat ( Oncorhynchus clarki bouvieri ) and the Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat (O.c. behnkei ), are the only native trout species found in the Snake River drainage as examined here. Throughout much of the drainage, the cutthroat is renowned for two particular traits. First is its opportunistic feeding behavior. Rarely, some say, will a cutthroat feed in a selective manner, focusing on a specific food type, such as a pale morning dun in a certain life-cycle stage. Second, the cutthroat is famous for its desire to, and manner of, feeding on the surface. The slow, deliberate rise of a cutthroat to a dry fly is a truly awe-inspiring sight.
I often tell a story to many of my clients that was related to me by my friend Paul Bruun, a writer who has guided on the Snake River since the early 1970s. One of his clients was well known as a streamer and wet-fly fisherman, but on his annual journeys to fish in Jackson Hole in September, the gentleman always relied on time-tested dry flies. When Bruun asked him why he never used his beloved streamers when fishing the Snake River, the man took off his straw hat, itself pierced with old Girdle Bugs and Wolley Worms of various sizes and colors, and said simply, because, Paul, no trout I have ever fished for rises to a dry fly like a Snake River cutthroat.


Some contend that the feeding behavior of cutthroat trout-opportunistic and very to rise to a dry fly-is why dry attractors have dominated the fly-fishing and fly-tying scene within the Snake River watershed.
How much the feeding behavior of cutthroat trout contributes to the types of flies used in the Snake River area is a matter of opinion. Of the two traits I discussed, manner of and propensity for surface feeding and opportunistic feeding, I contend that the former has played a much stronger role. I say this because I have witnessed selective feeding behavior among Snake River cutthroat time and again. Opportunistic feeding is a necessity on the relatively fast Snake River and its freestone tributaries, where the nutrient supply for trout is, at best, moderate. Feeding in a selective manner would be akin to suicide. But on the area s numerous spring creeks and low-gradient, nutrient-rich tributaries like Flat Creek and Black Tail Ponds, cutthroat feed in a far more selective manner. They can do so on these waters because nutrients are plentiful and the cutthroat are not expending massive amounts of energy fighting a raging current like that found on the larger streams. It is these waters where cutthroat exhibit exceptional selectivity.
This behavior baffles those fly fishers who still hold fast to the antiquated image of the cutthroat as an unsporting trout that displays its dumb gene every time an artificial fly drifts over its head. But the more schooled angler is quick to point out that this is far from the case, especially when dealing with the fine-spotted cutthroat and Yellowstone cutthroat that populate the Snake River drainage. As one local fly fisher is fond of saying, I can show you cutthroat trout that are going to be pretty damn selective about what they are not going to be selective about.


Flat Creek is a stronghold for large cutthroats. Their selective feeding behavior destroys the dumb gene image held by so many fly fishers.
My point here is that cutthroat feed selectively when doing so will not be a detriment to their survival. The traditional and current focus on dry attractors in the Snake River area is meant for trout on the Snake River and its freestone tributaries, where they tend to both feed opportunistically and make that famed, slow-motion rise. On the spring creeks and low-gradient tributaries, while cutthroat still make their unhurried rise, they are often not fooled by suggestive patterns. All of this should, of course, be taken in general terms. Both attractors and more imitative patterns can work on either type of stream. But by and large, attractors tend to work better on the larger freestone streams, while imitative patterns tend to work best on other waters.
This highlights once again how the physical characteristics of area waters have contributed directly to the development of specific patterns from the Snake River drainage. Spring creeks, low-gradient tributaries, and the tailwater sections of the Snake River below Jackson Lake and Palisades dams have generated the creative juices in those tiers who have seen a need for flies that better imitate specific types of trout foods so as to fool those trout that reside on such waters. Flat Creek is of particular importance in this regard. It is among the most difficult pieces of trout water one can fish in the northern Rockies. Dave Brackett, a highly regarded tier of stonefly and mayfly emergers, replied when asked at a tying expo why he feels that he must put so much detail into his flies, because I am a continuing student of the University of Flat Creek. And so far I am barely passing.
Some of the area s best tiers have honed their skills at creating highly imitative patterns because of their focus on fooling cutthroat on Flat Creek. But also important in this regard are the spring creeks found on the Fort Hall Reservation, where Bob Bean received inspiration for his sulfur dun imitations and one of his most popular flies, the Meat Getter. The tailwater section of the South Fork of the Snake River below Palisades Dam played an important role in Kathy Radford s signature creation, the Boyle s Shrimp, used to imitate mysis shrimp that spill out of the reservoir and are fed on voraciously by trout.
The cumulative effect of the six factors I highlighted above-the isolation in which the sport evolved, local material and resources, the presence and use of preexisting patterns, the type and prevalence of different trout foods, the feeding behavior of resident trout, and the physical characteristics of area waters- is reflected throughout the lineage of patterns created or popularized by tiers in the Snake River drainage. Thus it is that the early flies from the area (say, those created between the 1930s and the mid-1980s) were predominantly dry attractors, the exception being wet flies like the Super Renegade, the Fizzler, and the Carey Spider. They were also predominantly large in size. Only for special occasions and waters were sizes reduced and more imitative patterns designed. These traits took advantage of local knowledge and materials to master local conditions, specifically the high-gradient nature of the stream and the type and broadness of available trout foods.
Now let s examine the most recent of important factors to have emerged as crucial in pattern creation and development the world over-advancements in information exchange and specialized materials.
Information exchange at one time was primarily through literature, expositions, and correspondence via mail. Jack Dennis Western Trout Fly Tying Manual (1974), Terry Hellekson s Popular Fly Patterns (1976), and Swisher s and Richards s Selective Trout (1971) are examples of books as prime information for explaining what flies work where, how they are tied, and how they should be fished. Conclaves and fly-fishing expos accomplished the same by allowing individuals to converse and interact on a more personal basis, displaying new tying techniques and the use of new materials. All of these forms of information exchange continue today.


Conclaves and expos are terrific sources for information on flies and fly tying. Here, Buchner discusses the intricacies of Rocky Mountain stoneflies.
Growth in the use of the Internet is now added to these media as a primary conduit of information. It has not supplanted them by any means. But it is now an important additive piece to information exchange among tiers and fly fishers. Some Snake River tiers, Jeff Currier and Guy Turck, for example, maintain fly-tying Web sites. Tiers can also contact each other readily via e-mail and social media to share ideas. Some go as far as maintaining a database of tying steps and techniques that can be downloaded to interested parties.
Many of these advancements have occurred simply because more information is available now than existed only two decades ago. Data on aquatic insects and their life cycles has progressed significantly. So, too, has the study of trout feeding behavior and the aural and ocular activity of trout. More important than this, however, is that easy public access to this information has improved. Books like Knopp s and Cormier s Mayflies: An Angler s Study of Trout Water Ephemeroptera (1997), LaFontaine s Caddisflies (1981), and Clarke s and Goddard s The Trout and the Fly (1981) just weren t available to the general fly-fishing population before the 1980s. Literature like this, and its vast array of counterparts that can now be found on the Internet, has greatly influenced how flies have been tied and fished in the past twenty years.
Perhaps, however, the advancements being made in materials technology is having the greatest impact. Snake River tiers are among those at the forefront of creativity in this regard. Foam and rubber did not gain wide popularity in fly-tying circles until the mid- to late 1980s with creations such as the Madam X and the Chernobyl Ant. These flies far surpassed the popularity gained by their forerunners composed of the same materials, like Bob s Hopper and the Girdle Bug. Since this time, however, foam and rubber have evolved. Where once the only choices were two-millimeter open or closed-cell foam of a single color, tiers now can choose from an assortment of two-tone and tri-color foams cut to one millimeter and even one-half millimeter thick. This allows small mayfly and midge patterns to be constructed of foam. Materials such as spandex, Spanflex, and Flexifloss, are being used as alternatives to traditional rubber legs. And then there are materials such as Z-Lon, EP Silky Fibers, and Flashabou. All of these have contributed to the creation of a new generation of trout flies.


Web sites partially or wholly devoted to flies and fly tying are excellent ways to learn about new patterns and techniques. What an advantage we have over our predecessors.
Advancements in technology have not been lost on traditional materials. One of the best examples of this is what has occurred with hackle over the past decade. I personally remember my grandfather separating out hackle from one skin into piles based on the size and kind of fly. It was a painstaking process and, despite the expense, some of the pelt was discarded as unusable. Today, however, geneticists are breeding birds so that they produce hackle of specific lengths and sizes. Dr. Tom Whiting of Whiting Farms in Delta, Colorado, has led the way in this regard. He now breeds birds to create longer legs, which keeps long hackle from getting stepped on and destroyed. The quality of small-size hackle has greatly improved as well. Howard Cole of High Country Flies in Jackson, Wyoming, ties minute midge patterns down to size 22 and even smaller. He even reports that some producers can create or find, upon request, hackle so precise that it would meet the length required for a hook exactly between a size 20 and a size 22, if such a hook exists.


Dr. Tom Whiting of Delta, Colorado, produces what is arguably the highest-quality hackle in the world. Wouldn t our grandparents have loved getting their hands on these pelts?


The production of hackle has advanced to the point that specific sizes can be stripped away and packaged individually.
All of these factors have converged to produce a lasting impact on patterns developed in the Snake River region. Their influence started in the 1930s and continues to this day. But something must be said about the creativity of the tiers themselves. Having the tools, materials, information, and resources available to design a fly is only part of the equation. Having the inspiration, talent, and imagination to design something unique takes a fly, and indeed fly tying in general, to another level. This is possibly the most common thread found in the patterns presented in the next several chapters. One would be hard pressed to find a more important element than sheer creativity in the world of fly tying.
2
Carmichael Patterns
I was born well too late to have had the opportunity of meeting Bob Carmichael. Yet, being raised and educated in an intense culture of fly fishing, I became intimately familiar with the man who many call the founding father of Snake River fly tying. His name, and the names of his close associates, continue to pop up in the sports literature, from classics such as J. Edson Leonard s Flies and Earnest Schwiebert s Trout to a host of modern-day tying manuals. In Jackson Hole, where Carmichael ran his outfitting business for almost thirty years, his name has been memorialized in the form of the Carmichael-Cohen Award, given at the annual Jackson Hole One Fly Contest to the guide who best exemplifies the profession.


Bob Carmichael, fishing the Snake River in 1940 . Photo courtesy Tom Carmichael
But probably his most important legacy is this: Walk into the fly shops and lodges on the Snake River, from Moose Village in Grand Teton National Park to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and you will still find many of them carrying Carmichael, Carmichael patterns. Because of this, the story of Snake River flies must start with Bob Carmichael.


The Carmichael-Cohen Award is given annually at the Jackson Hole One Fly Contest to honor a guide whose contribution to fly fishing mirrors that Bob Carmichael.
Bob Carmichael originally hailed from West Virginia and was a World War I veteran who was wounded by mustard gas during the Battles of Ch teauThierry and Belleau Wood. This wreaked havoc on Bob s respiratory system and would cause him severe health problems for years to come. He spent the last decades of his life towing a Bennett pressure breathing machine mounted to an oxygen tank.
Carmichael worked as a journalist during the 1920s but lost his job at the onset of the Great Depression. This set him on the road, working odd jobs and fishing and hunting across the country. Like so many of his fellow displaced countrymen at that time, Bob s primary direction was to the west. Carmichael ventured into the Jackson Hole area in the summer of 1931. He fell in love with the country and put down semi-permanent roots.
Carmichael s early years in the valley were spent camped at Jenny Lake. He did subcontracting work for the newly created Grand Teton National Park and eventually landed a position as an official park fishing guide. Through this occupation, Bob developed a clear understanding of area streams and what it took to have success fishing for resident trout. From his camp at Jenny Lake, Carmichael guided his clients first on the Snake River and the lakes along the base of the Tetons and later, as his knowledge of the area increased, on the Gros Ventre River, the Buffalo River, Flat Creek, Lewis Lake, and the Lewis River. These early trips were almost solely guided from shore, as watercraft for use on area streams would not appear in Jackson Hole until after World War II.


Bob Carmichael had a deep respect and love for native cutthroat trout. His writings and those who wrote about him revealed this affection on a national stage after World War II.
Bob Carmichael was already well versed in the finer aspects of fly tying by the time he ventured to Wyoming in the 1930s. Having been introduced to the art while working for various newspapers on the East Coast prior to the Great Depression, Bob was familiar with the material requirements and tying techniques needed to design the popular standby patterns originating from regions with a rich fly-fishing heritage, such as the Catskills. His tying was also influenced by the California angling scene. Carmichael wintered in the state between summers in Wyoming and became acquainted with some of the best tiers from the West Coast.


Bob Carmichael established the first full-time guiding and outfitting operation on the Snake River in the 1930s. For ten years, his base of operation was at his Jenny Lake Camp . Photo courtesy Tom Carmichael
A number of the flies to be developed by Carmichael and tying associates like Don Martinez (a skilled Los Angeles-based angler who ran a shop in West Yellowstone for several years) and Roy Donnelly (a California longshoreman who was a renowned tier of steelhead and salmon patterns) were based on preexisting patterns from the Bay Area and the East Coast with which they were familiar. Without question, the popular Adams was one of their predecessors, as well as a host of Catskill-style flies. Carmichael, Donnelly, and Martinez recognized, however, that these patterns needed modification to be as effective on the Snake River as they were on their home waters. The most significant change would be in the size and quality of the hackle selected.


C ARMICHAEL I NDISPENSABLE
FLY TYPE: Attractor, mayfly emerger, or caddis adult
CREATOR: Bob Bean, late 1960s
HOOK: Mustad 94838, sizes 12-16
THREAD: Yellow or tan 6/0
BODY: Yellow or tan poly yarn
WING: Straw-colored elk rump
Carmichael s son, Tom, explained that his father considered many eastern patterns to be overhackled and bulky without floating all too well. Through his on-stream research, Bob believed that this design generated a lot of refusals from more selective trout. His answer was to use a higher-quality hackle tied more sparsely and to oversize the hackle for a given hook size. For example, on a size 12 hook, Carmichael would use hackle meant for a size 10. He found this to be an almost perfect remedy. The long, high-quality hackle kept the fly riding high in the valley s turbulent waters. He also felt that this created more realistic dimpling on the surface film, thus better imitating the legs of mayflies. Oversized hackle was a signature feature on Carmichael s earliest creation-the Carmichael Indispensable-and mayfly imitations such as the Bradley and the Whitcraft, both of which he created with Don Martinez. Much of the hackle for these patterns came from the dry, highland farming areas of California and Oregon. Wayne (Buz) Buzsek of Visalia, California, supplied Carmichael directly from the 1930s to the 1950s. Buzsek hackle was considered to be among the highest-quality hackle produced in the West.
The long-hackle design was nothing new. Many credit Dr. W. Baigent of Yorkshire, England, for developing the style in the 1870s. He is also believed to have created the original Variant, which would later play an important role among Snake River flies. Baigent dressed nearly all of his patterns with natural old English gamecock feathers with long hackles, giving them buoyancy and high-riding qualities. He also claimed that the rays of light played upon the iridescent fibers and made them attractive to fish by life and form.


B RADLEY
FLY TYPE: Attractor, mayfly dun
CREATOR: Don Martinez and Bob Carmichael, mid-1930s
HOOK: Mustad 94840 or equivalent, sizes 12-16
THREAD: Black 6/0
TAIL: Brown hackle fibers
BODY: Blue and yellow macaw quill fibers
HACKLE: Brown and grizzly
Macaw feathers are a tough and expensive material for a tier to come by these days. As a substitute, I use stripped peacock herl for the Bradley .


W HITCRAFT
FLY TYPE: Attractor, mayfly dun
CREATOR: Don Martinez and Bob Carmichael, late 1930s
HOOK: Mustad 94840 or equivalent, sizes 12-16
THREAD: Black 6/0
WING: Grizzly hackle, upright and divided
TAIL: Rhode Island red hackle
BODY: Blue and yellow macaw quill fibers
HACKLE: Brown and grizzly
The fly pictured here is tied with macaw quill fibers for the body as specified in Bob Carmichael s original pattern requirements .
Baigent used such hackle out of necessity as much as for its imitative and attracting qualities. In Victorian England, quality hackle was as hard to come by as it was in Carmichael s day, if not more so. Many times, long hackle from English gamecock was all that was available. Instead of discarding this material, Baigent found a way to incorporate it into productive patterns. The point here is that Carmichael did not develop the idea of using oversized hackle. Rather, he helped introduce it to the western American fly-tying tradition.
Other modifications would soon follow. Inspired by the imitative ability of sparse hackle, Bob Carmichael began using hackle fibers as material to create tails for his mayfly designs. He found this to be far more imitative than the hair tails common on most Yellowstone area patterns. Almost across the board, his choice of hackle fibers for use as tails was Rhode Island Red hackle. Carmichael and Martinez both reintroduced certain aspects of preexisting eastern patterns, most notably the use of hackle tips as wings, similar to those found on the Adams. They also tied flies that were noticeably larger than their predecessor patterns. In Jack Dennis Western Trout Fly Tying Manual, Volume I , for example, the author calls for tying Carmichael patterns that he features on hooks as large as size 8. The Indispensable I am most familiar with is tied on size 10 and 12 hooks. Large flies could, of course, be suggestive of the several species of large aquatic and terrestrial insects found in the drainage. But more importantly, the large size of these patterns, combined with the long hackles, made them very buoyant-an important characteristic on swift-moving currents like those found on the Snake River.

Carmichael s Tackle Shop in Moose, Wyoming, 1956 . Photo courtesy Tom Carmichae
Taken together, these characteristics-oversized hackle, hackle-fiber tails, hackle-tip wings, and large hook size-became defining features of many patterns designed or popularized by Carmichael, Martinez, and Donnelly.
The Snake River continued to grow as a fly fishing destination after World War II. With this growth came the demand for new and better patterns both locally and nationally. Bob Carmichael had placed himself in a firm position to meet this demand, having moved his business from the camp at Jenny Lake to the village of Moose ten miles to the south at the entrance of Grand Teton National Park. His tackle shop became the unofficial headquarters of Snake River fly fishing for two decades, selling Hardy and Granger rods (including a Bob Carmichael Signature Series bamboo rod), Halford and Gudebrod silk and nylon lines, and fine wicker creels and wood-handled nets. His guide staff included individuals who would go on to make their own mark on the Snake River-men like Clayton Kennedy, Vern Bressler, and Jack Dennis, Sr.


C AREY S PIDER
FLY TYPE: Wet fly, attractor
CREATOR: Bob Carmichael and Roy Donnelly, mid-1940s
HOOK: Mustad 9556, sizes 8-12
THREAD: Black, 6/0
BODY: Gold tinsel
HACKLE: Sparse honey dun; oversize the hook several times
I tie the Carey Spider typically on a smallersize hook (typically size 12) and only oversize the hackle by one hook gap size. In my experience, a Carey Spider with shorter hackle, like the one pictured here, is more productive when it is swung through the stream current like a soft hackle .
Among the first flies to come out of this new establishment was the Carey Spider, which Bob Carmichael developed in collaboration with Roy Donnelly. Like so many of their patterns, the secret behind this particular design was in its hackle requirements. Carmichael specifically called for light wraps of springy, long-barbed, Coch-Y-Bondhu hackle. The Carey Spider also requires doubly long hackle barbs. For example, on a size 12 hook, size 8 hackle would be used. This causes the fly to ride very high on the surface, but it also causes the tail end of the hook to turn down toward the surface film. Most of the time, this part of the hook will sink below the film. The long hackle keeps the rest of the fly above surface. This half-in half-out property allows it to be fished most effectively as an emerger.
The Carmichael-Donnelly duo also created a custom series of Variants (in particular the Light Variant and the Dark Variant), arguably the most time-tested patterns the pair would design. These flies exhibit the distinguishing traits common to the Carmichael-Martinez-Donnelly style-long, sparse hackle, hackle barbs for the tail, and hackle tips tied upright and divided to form the wings. They were offered in a variety of sizes, but the large size 10 and size 8 versions were among the most popular. Variants in these sizes worked well during the salmonfly and golden stonefly hatches that occurred were stunningly prolific on the upper Snake River before the early 1960s. Of all the flies developed by Carmichael and Donnelly, a strong case can be made that the Variant series was their most important creation. Even today, one can walk into Will Dornan s Snake River Angler, the Jack Dennis Outdoor Shop, and West Bank Anglers and still find a wide variety of Variants.


L IGHT V ARIANT
FLY TYPE: Attractor
CREATOR: Bob Carmichael and Roy Donnelly, early 1940s
HOOK: Mustad 94840, sizes 8-16
THREAD: Cream 3/0 to 6/0 UNI-thread, depending on hook size
WING: Honey dun or Cahill hackle tips
TAIL: Brown hackle
BODY: Badger underfur, gray squirrel, or cream dubbing
HACKLE: Brown and honey dun or brown and Cahill hackle


D ARK V ARIANT
FLY TYPE: Attractor, mayfly dun
CREATOR: Roy Donnelly and Bob Carmichael, mid-1940s
HOOK: Mustad 94840, sizes 8-14
THREAD: Black 6/0
WING: Badger hackle tips
BODY: Muskrat fur dubbing
HACKLE: Brown and grizzly


B LUE D UN
FLY TYPE: Mayfly dun
CREATOR: Bob Carmichael, mid-1940
HOOK: Mustad 94840 or 7957B, sizes 8-24
THREAD: Pre-waxed gray Herb Howard
TAIL: Dark moose hair fibers
BODY: Gray muskrat dubbing
WING: Medium blue dun hackle tips
HACKLE: Medium blue dun saddle or neck hackle
The recipe for this fly comes from Jack Dennis Western Trout Fly Tying Manual ( Snake River Books, 1974 ).


G RIZZLY K ING
FLY TYPE: Streamer
POPULARIZED BY: Bob Carmichael, late 1940s
HOOK: Mustad 9672, sizes 4-14
THREAD: Black 6/0
RIBBING: Gold or silver tinsel
BODY: Green floss
WING: Gray squirrel tail
HACKLE: Soft grizzly
The Grizzly King has origins in the eastern United States, but Bob Carmichael popularized its use in Greater Yellowstone-area trout streams. Carmichael s original version did not call for a tail. Later versions, like the one shown here, call for a red or black tail from hackle or marabou .
A lesser-known yet equally effective fly developed by the two tiers was their improved version of the Blue Dun. At Carmichael s request, Donnelly created a version of the this pattern with hackle tips as wings instead of the less sturdy mallard-quill segments found on the original. Anglers of the time reported it as being deadly in size 16, closely imitating a blue-winged olive or a small pale morning dun. The pattern existed in Jackson Hole fly shops well into the 1970s and undoubtedly served as a precursor for modern imitations of small mayflies created in the area.


D RY S PRUCE F LY
FLY TYPE: Attractor
CREATOR: Unknown, popularized by Bob Carmichael, early 1950s
HOOK: Mustad 7957B or 3906, sizes 10-20
THREAD: Black monocord
TAIL: Dark moose hair or badger hackle fibers
ABDOMEN: Red floss
THORAX: Peacock herl
WING: Badger hackle tips
HACKLE: Badger saddles for large-size hooks; neck hackles for small-size hooks This is Roy Donnelly s dry version of a Pacific Coast streamer. Jack Dennis discusses its popularity in the Yellowstone Region in Jack Dennis Western Trout Fly Tying Manual: Volume 1.


M ORMON G IRL S TREAMER
FLY TYPE: Streamer
CREATOR: Roy Donnelly and Bob Carmichael, late 1940s
HOOK: Mustad 9672, sizes 4-10
THREAD: Black 6/0
TAIL: Golden pheasant tippet fibers
RIBBING: Flat gold tinsel
REAR BODY: Red floss
FRONT BODY: Yellow, tan or cream chenille
WING: Badger guard hairs
HACKLE: Soft grizzly
Roy Donnelly and Bob Carmichael s wet version of an effective dry fly. This streamer was a very popular wet fly in the Yellowstone area for decades .
While Carmichael focused primarily on surface and in-the-film patterns, he also saw the need for wet flies and other subsurface patterns. Among the most popular and effective were the Mallard Spider and the Mormon Girl Streamer. The Grizzly King, a top-notch streamer with origins in Montana and along the Pacific Coast, was adopted and modified by Carmichael and became a Snake River favorite into the 1970s. Another improvement was his conversion of the Pacific Coast s Spruce Fly Streamer into a dry version. All of these wet flies became popular among Bob Carmichael s guides for use on lakes within Grand Teton National Park.
By the mid-twentieth century, Bob Carmichael had established a name regionally as a knowledgeable and creative fly tier. In the Snake River area he had already become something of a legend. Each week he wrote a Fishing Tip of the Week in the Jackson Hole Courier , outlining the most effective flies on area waters and providing tactical information on how best to fish them. In 1950, he garnered national attention with the publication of J. Edson Leonard s Flies . In this now-famous piece of fly-fishing literature, Carmichael penned a thoroughly informative note for the author, describing the Snake River, its trout, favored holding water, the patterns that he and his guides relied on, and the tactics they employed to guarantee a successful day. Among the flies he listed as essential for fishing in the Snake River drainage were the Whitcraft, Donnelly s Variants, the Grizzly King, the Mormon Girl Streamer, and the Carey Spider (which he lists as a wet fly).


J. Edson Leonard s Flies (1950) introduced tiers and anglers around the world to Bob Carmichael and Roy Donnelly and their flies.
Throughout his contribution to Leonard s book, Carmichael pays homage to the region and its trout, calling the Jackson Hole area unquestionably, the finest dry fly fishing country in the U.S.A., and claiming, regardless of time of open season, April 1 to October 31, trout can be taken on dry flies He gives a detailed description of the creation of the Whitcraft and its reputation throughout the fly-fishing world-from New Zealand and Chile to New York and Maine-as unanimously, a remarkable dry fly. And he gives substantial credit to the tying abilities of his friend and associate Roy Donnelly. One of Carmichael s customers claimed that Donnelly could create dry flies balanced so perfectly they seemed ready to take wing.


Bob Carmichael s Fishing Tip of the Week appeared in the Jackson Hole Courier during the 1940s and 1950s, giving local and visiting anglers insight into successful fly fishing in the Snake River region.
While Bob Carmichael greatly influenced the sport of fly fishing through his creativity and thoughtfully designed patterns, he also contributed significantly to the conservation and protection of the Snake River and the ecosystem of which it is a part. In many ways, Carmichael is the Snake River s first conservationist to come out of the local fly-fishing scene. His writings in Leonard s Flies tell us much about the man and his feelings for the area s native cutthroat trout. He states near the beginning of his letter to the author that:
Exotics have done well; in fact we are alarmed for fear the Rainbow will take over our Snake River. 1948 catches on the Snake during September and October ran in excess of 20 percent Rainbow.
Luckily, despite stockings by the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish of more than 300,000 individual trout in a thirty-year period, rainbows never took hold. They were most likely never able to adapt to the harsh environment that cutthroat trout have dominated for hundreds of thousands of years.
Carmichael s care and concern for the native cutthroat were echoed once again with the publication of Ernest Schweibert s Trout . In this work, the author describes his first meeting with the outfitter at his Moose tackle shop shortly after World War II. The young Schweibert expressed his disappointment with the lack of brown trout in the Snake River. This remark slightly offended Carmichael, but not nearly as much as Schweibert s follow-up statement regarding his rather low opinion of cutthroat. The gruff and feisty sage of the Snake River replied in a rather loud and agitated tone, Young man, when you know enough about this part of the country to have an opinion about the fishing, you ll know there s cutthroats and there s cutthroats! These fish ain t no pantywaists, they re Jackson Hole cutthroats!


Bob Carmichael cooking up lunch during one of his many guided fly-fishing trips, circa 1953 . Photo courtesy Tom Carmichael
Such an emotional proclamation sums up Carmichael s intense love for the place that he had called home since the Great Depression that led him there. Over the years, he constantly vented his frustration at the mismanagement of the Snake River by the agency he only half jokingly referred to as the Bureau of Wrecklamation. He approached the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish and Grand Teton National Park about placing a ban on the use of boats for fishing on the Snake River, fearing that it, along with the influx of anglers venturing into the Jackson Hole area, would be detrimental to the cutthroat population. Many credit Carmichael with introducing the concept of catch and release to Jackson Hole and the Snake River by the late 1940s. The streamside lunch of fried trout that he and his guides would cook for clients remained popular, but they later compensated by using non-native Mackinaw lake trout from Jenny and Jackson Lakes instead of the indigenous cutthroat.
In late 1958, Carmichael, in failing health brought on by respiratory problems, accompanied his son Tom to String and Jenny Lakes for what would be his final day of fishing in his illustrious career as a guide and outfitter. Bob Carmichael camped in the vicinity of Jenny Lake for more than ten years and most likely caught his first Snake River cutthroat there. It seems fitting that in this water he would also catch his last.
He did it on a size 10 Light Variant!
The passing of Bob Carmichael in 1959 left a void on the Snake River that no one person has been able to fill. At best, only the collective efforts of those who have learned from him can match his contribution. His impact on fly fishing is unmistakable even to this day. He is remembered for introducing a litany of firsts to the Snake River-the first guide service, the first fly shop, the first steps toward conservation. But above all of this, Bob Carmichael will be remembered for introducing the first in a long line of Snake River flies.
3
The Long, Mysterious Journey of the Humpy

The history of fly fishing in the Snake River region is intimately tied to the Humpy. The versatility of this pattern has allowed for the creation of a number of different styles over the past seventy years.
Perhaps no other pattern is as intimately tied to the Snake River as the Humpy. Since its introduction some sixty-five years ago, it has held a special place in the drainage. At one time this classic attractor accounted for half or more of all flies sold in western Wyoming. Some of the Snake River s best tiers became renowned internationally because of the Humpies that they tied. Today, due in large part to the continuing advances in the use of synthetic materials, particularly foam and rubber, numerous adaptations of the original can be found throughout the world of fly fishing. I recently inspected the fly box of a young angler based in Alpine, Wyoming, who had no less than fourteen different versions of the Humpy that he uses regularly. This innate ability to diversify has kept the Humpy at the forefront of western fly fishing.
Throughout Wyoming and Idaho, one will find a majority of anglers who claim the Humpy as an authentic Snake River pattern, born in the shadows of the Tetons and the volcanic canyon walls of the South Fork. Yet despite this close tie to area streams, the truth of the matter is that no one can really say where the Humpy came from. I have heard detailed stories regarding its inception in Montana, British Columbia, and California. All of these stories may be right. Then again, maybe all of these stories are wrong. As Bruce Staples said in Snake River Country (1991), The saga of the Humpy s true origins goes on and will probably be a source of friendly discussion for years to come. What we do know is that, since the late 1940s, the Humpy has been considered a tried-and-true Snake River pattern. The questions are (1) how did it get there? and (2) how has it stayed there?
A timeworn quote often used in the world of fly tying is that there is no such thing as a new fly . This adage is sometimes overused. But for the most part it is a fitting statement to describe modern fly tying, and by modern, I mean tying as it has existed in the past 300 years or so. The vast majority of flies are variations on previous themes, ideas, and designs. We have seen that the Carmichael-Martinez-Donnelly patterns discussed in the previous chapter built upon preexisting flies and styles from Europe, California, and the American East Coast. The Humpy is part of an evolutionary process.
Perhaps the earliest predecessor to the Humpy is an easily constructed attractor with origins in British Columbia known as the Tom Thumb. Very little exists in the literature that explains the creation of this fly or when its first appearance on Canadian waters occurred. Based on conversations I have had with fellow fly fishers, there is at least anecdotal evidence that the Tom Thumb was being fished by British Columbians as early as the 1920s. Today it is still considered a standby pattern for West Canada waters. In Alfred G. Davy s The Gilly (1985), Ralph Shaw refers to the Tom Thumb as the dry for all seasons. It may be one of the easiest dry flies to tie. When I teach beginning tiers how to properly form deer-hair shellbacks, I often have them tie a Tom Thumb. There are only two primary material requirements: deer hair and thread. Once the fly is complete, it is not a substantial jump to see the Tom Thumb as a severely dressed-down Humpy. It is essentially a Humpy with no hackle.
In the 1930s, the Bay Area s Jack Horner had established himself as a renowned tier and fly fisher. His visits to British Columbia probably familiarized him with the Tom Thumb. If not, then at the very least, word of the effectiveness of the pattern had been conveyed to California anglers who fished all along the Pacific Coast. In any event, according to Jim Adams, an authority on the Golden Gate Angling and Casting Club and its many famous personalities, the Tom Thumb served as the inspiration for what is arguably the tier s most famous pattern-the Horner s Deer Hair.


Following the evolutionary process (clockwise from left): The Tom Thumb was a Canadian pattern that may have served as a template for Jack Horner s Deer Hair pattern. The Horner s Deer Hair was modified by West Yellowstone s Pat Barnes to become the Goofus Bug (bottom right). Further modifications in Wyoming would eventually lead to the development of the Humpy.
Jack Horner s version of the Canadian standby has coastal blacktail deer hair for the shellback body. This material s superfine texture made it ideal for the type of flies he was tying-primarily small mayfly imitations for use on famous California streams such as Hat Creek and the Fall River. His most significant change to the Tom Thumb was the addition of hackle. Horner used sparse, but precise, wraps of grizzly hackle-no more than two wraps behind and two wraps in front of an upright and divided deer hair wing. This is something that Mathews and Juracek point out in Fly Patterns of Yellowstone (1987). Some versions I have seen used black thread as a type of ribbing along the body. This not only produced a segmented appearance but also bound the deer-hair shellback in a tighter and more secure fashion.


Yellowstone National Park s Madison River was a favorite stream of Pat Barnes and his guides during the heyday of the Goofus Bug in the 1940s and 1950s.
Simple research of the Horner Deer Hair produces numerous variations. Jim Adams contends that the original displayed the divided hair wing tied spent, lying more off of the flanks of the fly as opposed to upright. Ernie Harrison s version has no tail.

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