The majority of a trout's diet is made up of sub-surface food, so if you're just fishing streamers and dries, you're likely missing out on what most of the fish are actually feeding on. Even during the heaviest hatches, you will land fat trout with stomachs full of nymphs.
If you haven't given tight-line or Euro-Nymphing a try, you should change that this Fall. Not only is the Fall a great season to land the biggest trout, but with the majority of us stuck on our home waters, it's a great time to try your hand at mastering a new fishing tactic. For this article, we're going to hone in on tight-line nymphing, a strategy that has been making waves in the fly fishing world the past few years. Utilizing long rods, long leaders and heavy nymphs, this exciting tactic opens up tons of new water, and will land you more fish than floating an indicator.
Below you will discover the tackle you need, nymphs to fish and our favorite tight-lining strategies!
Rigging for Tight Line Nymphing
First things first, you do not NEED a 10 ft 3 WT rod to give tight-lining a try, a long, sensitive fly rod is certainly advantageous, but any 9ft rod will do the job just fine. The next step is tying up your nymphing leader. Typically these are long 10-15 ft, but depending on local regulations, you may have to shorten it to fish legally. In the video above, nymphing legend, George Daniels, details how to set up your leader and get fishing.
One piece of rigging advice we have picked up is using tippet rings. These little metal rings are a lifesaver on the water, both for setting up multi-nymph rigs and saving you time and tippet material. We almost always put one at the end of our sighter (the bright colorful section of the leader), giving our rig an easy "break-off point" if and when we inevitably try to fight a fish that turns out to be a big rock.
Nymphing Fly Patterns
Nymphs come in all shapes and sizes, and selecting the right ones when your perusing shop bins can get overwhelming. Weighted, un-weighted, jigged, the choices are endless but each style has its application. The simplest way to figure out the bugs you need is to head to your local river and flip over rocks. Do your best to match those live bugs to the flies in your box. If you're looking for the easiest way to make sure you have the flies you need, our Euro-Nymph Kit is loaded to the gills with nymphs that we have landed trout on all over the World. Our nymphs are purpose built to sink fast while tight-lining or dry-dropping, so you can be sure your patterns are getting down to the big alpha trout hiding in the depths.
Grab your nymphs, here!
Where to Start Nymphing
Nymphs are found all throughout cold water creeks, but there are certain types of water where nymphs are deadly effective. When we approach a piece of water with our nymphing rod in hand we look for a few different things: fast cuts, pool heads and tail-outs, pocket water, and cut banks. The main water features you're looking for is water that is moving quick enough to keep your flies moving with the current and not getting hung up. Leave the slow, still frog water for your dry fly and streamer fishing.
Once you've identified the chunk of water you're focusing on, take a few minutes and watch the water. Try to make out trout flashing near the bottom as they feed, or identify pockets where trout may be holding just out of sight. Read the water and develop a quick, upstream fishing plan that will allow you to hit each pocket and run. Covering water is the name of the game while nymphing, give each pocket a half dozen casts and then change flies or move up if you get no thumps.
Tired of spooking good fish while slapping indicators around on the water's surface? Good, because our collection of high-floating dries and tasty nymphs completely remove the need for bobbers while you're chasing trout (Sorry, Air Lock).
Dry-dropping has become a go-to tactic anytime we're approaching new trout waters. It's a simple litmus test to see what the fish are looking to snack on, and ensures you're covering more of the water column with each cast. In the video below, you'll discover how to whip up dry-dropper rigs of your own, all you need is a leader, tippet, dry flies and nymphs (or one of our custom Dry-Dropper Kits!).
How to Tie a Dry Dropper Rig
Hot Dry-Dropper Combinations
One amazing aspect of dry-dropping is that you can imitate multiple stages of a hatch in one rig. By hanging an emerger and nymph off of a dry fly, you'll present the full buffet of options to hungry trout and allow them to choose which they'd prefer to snack on. Check out five of our favorite fly combos built with the patterns in our Deluxe Dry Dropper Box, below!
#1 - Caddis Party
The biggest advantage to fishing dry-droppers other than having more fly offerings in the water, is being able to imitate multiple stages of a hatch in one rig. This combination presents the juiciest stages of any caddis hatch your local trout are keyed in on!
Dry: Guide Stimmi - Olive
Nymph: Wired Walts Worm - Olive
Trailer: EDC Caddis Emerger - Olive
#2 - The Bank Robber
This combo is absolutely deadly when you drift it near cut banks or foam filled eddies. This time of year Brown Trout especially like to hold close to banks waiting for big bugs (the Chubby) to fall in the water, or they're sitting just on the current seam feeding lazily on nymphs as they drift downstream. McKenna's Rumble Bug acts as an an attractor, bringing in hungry fish either looking for the easy meal up top, or the delicate RS-200 trailing behind. Just keep your eyes glued to the highly-visible Chubby and wait for that sucker to disappear below the surface!
Dry: Guide Chubby Chernobyl
Nymph: McKenna's Rumble Bug
#3 - The Stone Zone
This time of year stoneflies make up a large portion of trouts' diet. Stoneflies are clumsy, large bugs that are packed with protein. Not only are they easy for trout to see, but once their grip on a rock is knocked loose, they're helpless in the current...easy pickings for hungry fish. Tie this combo on any time you hear or see one of those big stones buzz on by!
Dry: Guide Floater
Nymph: Guide OG Rubber Leg Stone
#4 - Small Stream Dream Team
Chasing high-altitude Cutties or Brookies this season? This minimalist pairing is exactly what those hungry natives are looking for, a bushy dry fly sitting helpless in the film, and a juicy morsel in the form of a Walts worm below. Just make sure you keep that gink handy to keep that Guide Stimi floating high after the first dozen surface eats!
Dry: Guide Stimi - Olive
Nymph: Wired Waltz - Pink
#5 - The Works
The "Hail Mary" of our Deluxe Dry Dropper Box, this combo is the veritable smorgasbord summertime trout snacks, mimicking a wide variety of bugs floating down stream. Our Guide Frenchie and Prince nymphs are two all-around MVP's of any trout box, and are sure to result in more than a few hungry trout in the net!
Dry: Guide Floater
Nymph: Guide Prince
Trailer: Guide Frenchie
Find all these patterns and other dealy Guide Flie patterns in our Deluxe Dry Dropper Kit, available here!
Fishing for Change in the New Normal: How a Fireman finds peace on the river through pandemic and riots.
By Steve Calloway-Brown
Friendship with the Joe and Kyla sprouted naturally at the ski mountain this Winter. We both brought our 4-year-old sons on their first ski program at Sunlight Mountain near Glenwood Springs. As a native Colorado skier, bringing my first son to his first ski lesson was a lifelong dream. No matter how many mountains or races my son William will ski, that first day will remain a lifelong highlight. Joe and Kyla felt the same way bringing their Brock to his first lesson and our inevitable friendship started the moment we both looked out the lodge window to see if our kids made it out of the ski school to their first little hill. I had my concerns considering the fit my son threw about his long underwear on the way to the mountain, it was touch and go there for a while.
Turns out they travel to Costa Rica with their kids, we travel to Guanaja with ours. They also have a little girl, we also have a little girl. They just moved to New Castle, we just moved to New Castle. They love rivers, we love rivers. Joe is a fireman, I am a fisherman. Kyla is a professional put on hold with children, my wife Beckie is a professional put on hold by children. As you can see, from the first day of the best part of my skiing career, we were friends.
We met every Tuesday to watch our boys ski, and little girls play. We ran into each other at the hot springs. We made the first visit over their house on the Colorado River and the kids played like they’d grown up together. I learned that Joe and Kyla are river people with vast experience in whitewater rafting, multi-day floats, and kayaking. Our family is driven to the river by fish, we are always fishing. Joe told me how he’d always wanted to learn to fly fish, and he unknowingly bought a house on some of the best trout water on the Colorado River. His house sits right above a stretch that I love to guide, absolutely full of big wild trout. I told him I could have him casting in 1 hour and catching fish in 2.
Then the world changed, dramatically, almost overnight.
COVID shut everything down and sent most people home to quarantine. Not the case for Joe. He’s on a 4-on-4-off schedule with the Fire Department in Denver. My job seemed to disappear, while Joe braved the front lines in Denver. Our inconveniences seemed heavy with stock-piling groceries, staying healthy, and dealing with 3 young ones at home. Joe’s inconvenience was seeing his job completely change into something even more dangerous that he never saw coming.
We live in New Castle, maybe the best place to live through all this. Quiet, mellow, no central gathering places. Life is spread out. Joe goes back to work to find a new Denver. The pandemic brought out the worst in a lot of people, and Joe’s team has to play clean up, save the day, rescue all. Not a small burden.
On top of it all, my wife reasonably questions if I can keep bringing the kids over to Joe’s house, he’s on the front lines after all. Hard to argue. Although we’ve yet to reunite, turns out Joe has the right antibodies not to get the virus, plus frequent testing, he’s kept his family safe.
As my Spring guide season evaporates in a pandemic, I realize Joe and Kyla have the opportunity to fish all they want, from their back yard. 4 days on, 4 days off, 50% perfect which is not bad at all.
I’ve taught fly-fishing for 20 years, but never over the phone, I was up for the challenge. He told me he needs to buy a rod, reel, flies, and anything else. I told him that he didn’t need to buy a thing. I have many rods sitting around and happen to own half of a fly-tying company that makes the best flies on the river, an actual unfair advantage I was eager to share. Guide Flies are designed to crush rivers like the Colorado and I was stuck home with piles of them. This was my chance to fish through the fireman and Kyla.
Between my wife and I, we have a couple of dozen fly rods at the house, but most of them are broken, too much traveling and chaos with the kids to even send them back for repair. Even still, we had a few and I put a 5-weight together for Joe. I scavenged our fly fishing accessories for some tippet, indicator, fly-floatant, hemostats, and then did the really fun part, picked out the Guide Flies he would need as the Colorado River turned on for its Spring glory.
Mid-March on the Colorado is midge madness, with prolific midge hatches and fish feeding frenzy just below the surface. So I packed a container with our Guide Midges size 16 in all of our colors. I added some Guide Chernobyls and Guide Floaters to float the midges. I threw in our caddis nymphs anticipating the next hatch, along with some dries in case he really learned to cast.
I gave my first casting lesson over the phone and told him all the mistakes he’d make before he made them. Within hours I received videos of both Joe and Kyla hucking some line, it made my heart sing.
I then explained how to tie on a dry dropper with an improved clinch knot, and how to add tippet with a double surgeons knot. Within a few more hours I had a fishing report from them of several eats but no catches, their journey had begun. The excitement and enthusiasm in his communication reminded me of why I guided for so long. Clearly not the money, experiencing the joy of learning to fly-fish through other people every day is a life of joy, simple as that.
Before Joe landed his first fish, he was called back to Denver as COVID emergency ensued and the city of Denver experienced problems like it’s never seen. Problems only firemen can solve. Besides being on the front lines during a dangerous pandemic with two small children at home, Joe had to come face to face with Denver’s worst. People punching elders for toilet paper, meth heads ravaging insides of hospitals, emergency after emergency. Joe’s attitude has been and remains unbelievably positive but the reports speak for themselves.
“All I think about is getting home to fly-fish with my family, I can’t thank you enough,” Is what he said over and over again. I’m thinking, bro, we all ought to be thanking you, don’t mention it again, truly my pleasure.
During his visit home, the river warmed a little to perfection and the midge fishing was river wide. The next message was Joe’s first fish, then Kyla’s. Kyla is a photographer so even with her phone, she was able to capture some priceless images of pure childhood joy shining from Joe. The smile that makes everything worth it, no matter what.
The pandemic continued but the emergencies started to level off, the New World, no matter how frustrating it is, was starting to take shape and the panic was dissipating.
Snow started to melt and the river started to rise. Fishing remained good into a caddis hatch while Joe and Kyla continued their fly-fishing journey together.
Then the river continued to rise even more, along with the blood of our country. COVID was driving the country crazy, everyone on edge, strange violent out-lashes started springing up, then it got much worse.
The water hit its highest levels just as the world was violently shaken by the brutal murder of George Floyd, and the country caught fire. Joe’s job got unimaginably harder. He’s been volunteering on top of his 4 days because his team desperately needs all he can give, and the river is blown out anyway.
His last shift in Denver during the riots left him a bit deflated for the first time. People shouted at him, cursed at him, called him a [expletive] cop several times, threw a water bottle at him that led to an arrest, shouted all night at him so he couldn’t sleep. All the while relying on him to keep them alive. Joe is being victimized by the worst of our society, in the worst of times, yet he refuses to be a victim and does his job with kindness.
They’ve since bought a fly rod and are waiting for rivers and people to calm down so they can get back to the magical journey of learning to fly-fish in Colorado.
It’s not enough to call these guys heroes, they don’t even want to hear that. Let’s all speak up for the ones that are keeping us safe during the strangest times of our lives.
It turns out the outdoors are a safer place than we thought, as far as catching the virus. Fly-fishing is therapy for everything. Get out there and get some, and if you get a chance, let a fireman know how important they are with something more than words.
Once brushed aside when spotted on the flats, in the past few years, Triggerfish have become a highly sought after target when their forked tails and fins are flapping on the surface of tropical flats. Believe it or not, they range as far north in the Atlantic as Nova Scotia and as far south as the coast of Argentina. While they may not very targetable on the fly when they're not in shallow water, the tropical flats of the Caribbean (like those around our HQ at Fly Fish Guanaja) are the perfect zone to hook and land one of these picky, coral-crunching tailers.
Where to Look for Triggerfish
For the purposes of this blog, we're going to assume that you are looking to chase Triggers on the warm tropical flats of the Caribbean where they are found in great numbers. Some of our favorite areas to look for trigs is in areas where the bottom transitions from one type to another. Specifically, the margins of Turtle Grass patches, where sandy flats meet coral, and rocky shorelines. In these areas, you'll likely see triggers cruising around kissing the bottom while they attempt to suck unsuspecting shrimp and crabs into their puckered mouths.
Gear and Rigging Advice
Possibly one of the best aspects of Triggerfish is their willingness to eat just about any well-presented permit or bonefish fly, meaning that unless you're using light tippet, you won't need to re-rig when you spot a trigger on the flat. As far as leader and tippet go, you'll want to go about as heavy as you can without spooking the fish. Triggers love to fight dirty and will do their best to break you off on anything they can wrap the line around, or they'll dive deep into their favorite coral hole. This means that your usual 8 WT Bonefish setup or 10 WT Permit rig will do just fine to deliver shrimp and crab flies to your intended spade-shaped targets, and stop them in their tracks once your fly finds purchase in their toothy jaws.
Flies for Triggerfish
When trigger fish are on the flats, they're looking for the same quarry that Permit and Bonefish are after: crabs and shrimp. So if you've been having luck on a bonefish pattern, the odds are high that a trigger will take a look at it. These fish all have different personalities, and every trigger will react differently to certain fly patterns, so you want to make sure you have some diversity in color, size and pattern in your fly box. Our favorite patterns to toss at tailing triggers are our Guide Flexos, Kung Fu Crab Jr.'s and our Guide Spawning Shrimp.
The biggest consideration you need to make before tying on a fly is the hook strength, because triggers spend most of their lives chewing on coral, their jaws and teeth are crazy strong and can bend a hook closed. This is why you should bring plenty of flies with you on your next triggerfish mission.
Take the guesswork out of selecting or tying your triggerfish flies by picking up one of our Custom Triggerfish Fly Kits. They've got all the flies you need to hook into one of the most entertaining fish on the flats!
Over the years, Dave McKenna has created some legendary flies, both for the fish that haunt the tropical flats and the trout that swim in the cold streams of his home waters. A handful of his patterns have been so popular that we had a few videos created to walk tiers through how to tie our heaviest hitting flies!
Check back here regularly for new videos that we will add as they are released!
"I originally designed this fly for some friends fishing the Rumble in the Rhododendrons' down in Cherokee, NC. After seeing the water become tea colored from rains, I settled on contrasting Glo-Brite Purple and Orange floss with an extra flashy UV Rainbow dub collar to stand out in the current. The lemon-barred wood duck tails give the deadly pattern one of nature's best triggers. Oh, and by day two, they had the competition won and this fly got its name, The Rumble Bug!"
Tie the Rumble Bug on premium Firehole #516 barbless Jig hooks, and coat the pearl tinsel with Solarez UV Bone-Dry resin for extra durability.
Pick up yours here!
Dave's Sexier Walts Worm
This nymph is the utility player of any nymph angler's fly box. Mimicing just about anything buggy that floats or tumbles along the stream bottom, you can be certain that something will take a swing. Simple materials and techniques make this nymph a quick pattern to whip up that you can be sure will get munched in any trout stream.
Another dynamic combination of colors and contrast make McKenna's Sexier Walt's a famous performer in the Guide Flies series of signature Walts Worms. This sexier version has made its rounds around the world and become a secret weapon for many guides and competitors, especially in challenging situations when nothing else seems to work. Don’t always think about what the trout want to eat, sometimes go for straight sex appeal.
Pick up yours here!
The Guide Rusty Spinner
Firstly, we didn't invent this pattern, but we did discover that adding Semperfli UV dub to these spinners is like adding a trout attracting strobe. In the surface or in the film this fly will undo many mayfly hatches. Another Dave McKenna masterpiece.
This dry is simple to learn and doesn't require a ton of materials, so for those just dipping their feet into tying dry flies, this and the Guide Stimi are great places to start to hone your floating fly skills!
Pick up yours here!
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Everywhere you look, you’ll find countless variations of fly patterns “tailor-made” to fish certain trout waters. Now, these intricate, niche flies do work in specific areas, but there's no way you could carry enough fly boxes to perfectly match every hatch you come across. Having a box full of deadly, utility patterns you have 100% confidence in is a must for the traveling or exploratory angler. Below, we'll lay out the nine patterns that we always carry, and when presented correctly, nearly always result in trout hitting our nets!
The building blocks of any all-around fly box, are the dry flies. Unless you're tight-line nymphing, you're going to need a dry fly to act as your indicator and elicit a rise or two. These three patterns will work on nearly every stream and emulate just about any hatch you will encounter, be they mayfly, stonefly or terrestrial!
Guide Floater (left) - There is no greater pleasure in freshwater fly-fishing than throwing huge dry flies to huge fish, and our Guide Floater brings this joy to a new level. The mop chenille body sits on the water with its egg sack under the surface, imitating big dry flies laying eggs, the most vulnerable stage of the fly. The foam layer on top along with the crinkle hair makes for an extremely buoyant fly that pops right back up after rapids.
Guide Stimi (center) - Our custom Stimi uses Semperfli's UV Micro Chenille and Micro Straggle Legs for a special look that draws in trout from all depths and triggers aggressive takes! Hi Floating underwing and elk keep this fly riding high to float nymph rigs just like the classic.
Sparkle Ant (right) - The sparkle ant is a fly that we’ve developed with a combination of synthetic materials that have out fished and out floated all other ants we’ve tried. Combining Semperfli Straggle String, Straggle Legs and a pre-treated Crinkle Wing, this ant gives trout an irresistible natural target on the surface. Sparkle Ants works as perfect stealth strike indicator when floating small nymphs or trailing tiny dries in low light.
The next row of flies you need in your kit are your nymphs. All of our nymphs are tied heavy to get down deep to where the alpha trout you're seeking lie in wait. This trio would be our choices for the "Usual Suspects" of fly fishing. Each emulating one of a trout's favorite nymph varieties, anywhere we fish these, we're sure a trout will take a swipe!
Guide Frenchie (left) - The ultimate Frenchie for the discriminating nympher. We use Semperfli's Micro UV Straggle Chenille and red Fluoro-Brite thread for a signature hot-spot. A heavy, slotted tungsten bead and lead wire under wraps make this one of the most popular anchor flies for any Euro style nymph rig. These aggressively weighted flies have quickly taken over at least a few rows in most guides' nymph boxes.
Guide Prince (center) - A staple fly for just about every trout nymph box. We designed our Guide Prince Nymph to stand out where other nymphs just blend in. We exclusively tie this fly with Semperfli materials including UV Straggle String, Micro Glint ribbing and UV Inferno Biots to draw strikes in any light condition. This fly will represent a wide range of buggy looking food, and is a go-to fly for searching for trout, anchoring nymph rigs and just about any time where all else seems to fail.
Wired Walts (right) - This trout delicatessen is made on a Firehole jig hook and capped with a tungsten bead. This nymph sinks on-demand and presents like a crispy creme trout snack. Turn over rocks on the river and notice how many of the mayflies and stoneflies are lighter colored, like this Wired Walt’s Bug, Oyster/Pink. And for future reference, anything described as Oyster/Pink will attract major fish, big time.
We always keep a few midges in our kits, either for when the trout are being extra picky, or when we see these little buggers wriggling and hatching on the water's surface.
Guide Chromie - A slim-profiled attractor caddis, effective in technical waters. A tungsten bead head and Semperfli's Hot Green wire over a copper body creates the profile that trout simply can't resist. This Guide Chromie is perfect for still water fishing when the Chironomid Pupa is hatching.
G Midge - The G Midge in its varying colors and sizes will answer all midge hatches, it’s the only midge pattern you need when trout start focusing on small sub-surface midges. In true Guide Flies style, we designed this midge pattern to standout when trout have already passed on your standard midge patterns. This fly in sizes 18-22 will help you perform the magic needed to catch the most selective trout, from tailwaters to freestones.
RS-200 - We took the classic crushing RS-2 pattern and made it 100 times better. The RS-200 is a small fly designed to land the biggest fish. The barbless Firehole hooks have a wider gap and stronger body than other small fly hooks and can handle trophy fish after trophy fish. They won’t break or straighten as with other hooks. The nano thread and Semperfli flash also elevate this fly 100 times over. Any small mayfly, midge, or trico hatch will be undone with the appropriate color of our RS200.
As we all are being forced to fish and explore our local areas, we have started to experiment with using our Saltwater Guide Flies to target other (mostly warm-water) species. Many patterns fit this "dual-threat" category, and have already produced some great fish for us in neighborhood ponds and warm-water creeks. So we've gathered our favorite flies from the experiments to share with you, so you can fool those tricky fish in your backyard!
Don't forget to use code: SALTWATER6PACK for 20% off our Saltwater Fly Collection!
Psycho Mantis - Bass, Carp, Trout
It's no secret that, when available, crayfish are a predatory fish's favorite snack. They're easy to find and packed with the protein predatory fish need to grow. Hell, I landed my first Muskie on the fly on a crayfish pattern. Our Psycho Mantis, especially in the Tan and Peacock Green color ways, perfectly mimics a fleeing crayfish ticking along the river bottom. So the next time you are pursuing bass, carp or trout in waters where these micro-lobsters live, try swinging one of these through the water, and be ready to set the hook!
Shop the Psycho Mantis, here!
Tim's Bugger Mantis - Bass, Trout, Carp
Honestly, if we had to pick one fly pattern to fish for the rest of our lives, it would probably be the wooly bugger. A tried-and-true classic, buggers are probably what most of us caught our first fish on the fly with. Tim's Bugger Mantis is a play on that age-old pattern, and has brought in countless bonefish and permit, and now, it has evolved into a deadly bass and carp fly for us on our warm-water excursions.
Shop Tim's Bugger Mantis, here!
Guide Spawning Shrimp - Carp
An often overlooked food source for freshwater predators are the various species of shrimp that abound in many fresh bodies of water. Carp especially can't seem to keep their sucker mouths off of them. We've taken a decent number of carp casting this fly as if we were bonefish on the flats outside our headquarters on Guanaja in Honduras. They charged the fly just like the bonefish do and it was off to the races. If you haven't tried chasing carp, this new found local downtime is the perfect opportunity to start stalking these "golden bonefish" along the banks of your local pond or river.
Shop the Guide Spawning Shrimp, here!
The Twister - Bass
When Dave first showed me this pattern, my first thought was "This fly will absolutely murder bass!" Hell, the wiggle tail is even a part of many soft plastics I hear people use on spin rods. Dave quickly explained to me that this fly was intended for Permit, but I still see it as a perfect fly for early spring bass. The pattern looks exactly like a big fat tadpole, which I know for a fact, that bass absolutely love to munch on when frogs and toads are spawning. So, next time you're scratching your head next to your bass pond, tie one of these on, and strip it along the bottom, you'll be surprised what takes a bite!
Shop the Twister, here!
Bodyguard Mantis - Bass, Carp
In addition to racking up an insane catch-count of Bonefish and Permit, our Bodyguard Mantis is another deadly crawfish imitation. The stiff chenille claws raise up when the fly rests on the bottom, just like a defense crawfish trying to fend off a predator.
Shop the Bodyguard Mantis, here!
Guide Goby - Bass, Trout, Carp
If you walk any tropical flat, you're likely to see these little goby's darting around the sandy bottom, you'll see similar shaped sculpins darting around when you walk through nearly any river or stream. Sculpins are everywhere, and just about every predatory warm-water fish is liable to eat just about as many as they can scarf down.
Shop the Guide Goby, here!
Guide Bitters - Carp
Known to imitate just about any tiny shrimp or crab that crawls along saltwater flats, our Guide Bitters are great flies to throw when you're chasing spooky, tailing carp. They land soft, and the weed guard prevents the fly from snagging on any bottom. Just match the color to that of your local underwater creepy crawlies and let the Guide Bitters do the rest!
Shop Guide Bitters, here!
Months ahead of our initial trip I sent a box of materials down with some vises and tools for Patrick to get familiar with the catalog of flies. We knew Patrick loved tying for the lodge and would be the best person to get a team of tiers interested in the new jobs we would be trying to create.
Fast forward a year after Steve and I spoke on the dock about starting a fly company in Guanaja. Before I knew it, I was dragging a dozen Regal Revolution Vises in my backpack and two 50 lb+ cases of materials through Newark Airport, Houston, Roatan and finally to Guanaja. TSA and Customs officers globally do not love a brass Regal Pocket Base or 7 in your carry-on luggage. This had gone from a concept to a real-life trial run for Guide Flies in less than a year. Steve and I were all in at this point.
“If you build it, they will come.” It was a line from Field of Dreams that I use to watch as a kid and it must have stuck with me. We had the confidence in our flies, a network of fly shops and customers that wanted to support us and we knew our flies were proven. With space to start up at the new lodge, it was something we had to try. Honestly, there were some moments in the days before the first trip down I started questioning my own sanity. Organizing and packing down all the materials, regular travel gear and fishing gear was no small task. I had no idea how fast we would initially tie through our supplies. At least our friends and families believed in us.
For me, there were still a few big questions to answer like who would our tiers be? Would enough people even want to be fly tiers in Guanaja for us to start a sustainable company? What potential challenges had I not planned for? It was going to take a three week trip to the new Fly Fish Guanaja Lodge and Guide Flies Headquarters to see what we could achieve.
I actually had a really good feeling that finding great tiers wasn’t going to be our biggest challenge. Steve and I came up with the initial selection of flies to supply the Fly Fish Guanaja and Faraway Keys Heli Salt clients, and with that the concept for our custom fly boxes was born.
I could see from the pictures they were sending me back that we already had the most important parts covered, leadership and talent. Patrick was teaching his wife Claudia, Rankin’s son Oddy and lodge staff who were interested in the finer points of fly tying. Together they were learning and building each other's skills.
The flies were already better than 95% of the stuff you could ever buy from a commercial fly company, and they were getting the local guide’s touch. Our guides taught us how to add just the right amount of weight, with the right color materials, and the perfect rubber legs to match the creatures crawling on the Guanaja flats. All those components normally get standardized for every single “catalog fly”, and never get matched to the local bonefish and permit behavior and preferences. That’s kind of where the name for Guide Flies came from.
Our tiers were motivated to learn and naturally held each other to very high standards. These were the flies that their family members or fathers would be making their living fishing with. These were much more than just flies to them. Each one was being treated like a reflection of their reputation. If eyes or legs pulled off the fly you tied, you could be very sure that Rankin or any of the other guides would be giving you some real honest feedback! If the hook ever flattened out and caused a missed hookset, there was going to be something to hear about when they came in. It made all the difference in the world to start a fly-tying company with some of the best flats guides in the game sitting at the table as we refined each fly for the new catalog.
After three plane and short boat ride, we were at the new Fly Fish Guanaja lodge property in Mangrove Bight. As it turned out, we had no shortage of interest in jobs at Guide Flies.
We got all the gear set up in the downstairs office until the beach “cabin” was cleared out for us. It was time to test my fly instructing skills. This wasn’t any old Saturday morning tying class at the local fly shop. This took every bit of skill I had ever acquired in instructing, communicating, listening, patients and leadership.
It was time to see who just wanted a job and who really wanted to work. I had chosen right off the bat to start off with a complex but important fly for the lodge, the Kung Fu Crab. Our version uses a body wrap, instead of cross tying EP material like is usually called for. I also used a different material to harden and shape the claws, so there was a learning curve associated with the expensive UV resins. I was quickly learning that not every material behaves the same in tropical humidity as it does in our cool, dry tying rooms at home.
A big focus on teaching production tying is the steps and prep. I also wanted to make sure we set small, achievable goals for the new tiers so that I wouldn’t overwhelm them. If you took 45 minutes walking them through their first Kung Fu Crab and told them they should be able to tie 45 in a day, you’d have some major stress. It takes years for most people to tie a dozen of anything perfectly, let alone an entire catalog of saltwater and trout flies.
These students were showing that they could go from basic tying 101 to Ph.D. level fly tying in a matter of days. Granted, some people did learn that this might not be the best fit for them and that’s ok too.
Some people immediately stood out to us as natural learners and mentors. Nathalie Moore was one of the people. In particular, she has an eye for fly design. I could tell the main difference between her and some of the guys that initially showed up was her attention to the details. Each Kung Fu claw wasn’t just getting painted red tips, it was getting a French manicure if Nathalie was making them. Eyes were painted perfectly, bodies trimmed to perfect proportions.
We had a blast getting to know each other. You get to know people very quickly when your hover over them for 8-10 hours in the heat. There was endless laughter and sweat. Long, extended training sessions were better with frequent breaks for stretching and refocusing. It gave us time to talk about big picture ideas and the long-term vision we shared for Guide Flies. We needed to keep a sense of humor across the team. Heat, sandfly bites and random power outages could get to you if you let them.
The tiers found a real tempo, always pushing me to show them one more fly for the day. That usually turned into evening sessions. These tended to be the most creative times for working on new fly ideas.
As the lodge opened that first week, we moved our tying location to the new beachside building. This was Guide Flies home for the next 6 months. We were able to spread out and work in stations. The team worked hard to make sure we were ready to start supplying the lodge guests with our custom Guide Flies Faraway Keys Boxes and Guanaja Boxes. We also started to dabble in some basic trout flies, but that's a blog for another time.
We were tying flies between the jungle and 25 yards from the ocean. Very ideal for fly development but horrible on equipment! I learned that things better be made of stainless steel, titanium or well coated in WD40. Also, I learned that you need to seal the materials in something airtight like a cooler in bear country. There are critters in the jungle and they love fly tying materials.
We could tell that these jobs were having an immediate impact on the community and the tier’s lives. There were not too many jobs that were fun, stress-free and taught entrepreneurship on the island. Each tier was taught how to run their vise and tying station like their own business. You could see their pride go up as they were given responsibility for more difficult flies or jobs. Some of them were here to make careers out of this opportunity. People like Nathalie, Patrick, and Sheera Amaya had natural leadership skills and were developed as trainers and managers.
We could not run year-round without trusted managers to oversee the day to day operations when we couldn’t be there. We communicate daily to make sure we have the inventory in materials, orders and operations running smoothly.
The real payoff for the tiers was seeing clients come back after catching a bonefish or permit on a fly they tied. Guests absolutely loved that they could stop in the cabin before going to their boat to grab flies. Faraway Keys was also proving that our new fly patterns were world-class performers. This was the first official season for Faraway base camp and they were taking multiple permit a day on flies like the Psycho Mantis and Predator Mantis.
This was all in just the first few weeks. Our initial mission was accomplished and all expectations were exceeded. We had a lot of work to do back home and it was time for us to leave Guide Flies in the trusted hands of our managers. I’d be back in a few weeks and get to experience the Fish for Change Student Program.
Over the next few months, I would build lifelong relationships and learn more than any other time I can remember in my life. I was starting to get the big picture of how our fly-fishing industry could make a bigger impact and change lives if it was willing to put in the effort.
No matter what's going on in your state and local area during this time, the outdoors are open and are a great way to stay healthy, and remain sane during these stressful weeks. Many states are beginning their annual stocking programs or are simply opening up their trout seasons early. Now, we know stockers may not be on the top of your target species list, but man, when you need to scratch that fly fishing itch, they are always there and more than willing to crush flies. Over the past weekend, we managed to sneak out onto some local trout water in New Jersey and escape. It felt freeing to break out of the house, grab our spring trout boxes and 5 WT's, and get after some trout. So, we figured we should give you a glimpse into our Spring fly boxes and discover the best patterns to throw for trout right now!
It's no secret that trout love bugger-style patterns. There's a good reason that they're in nearly every angler's trout box, hell, we even make one for the flats. Fish can't resist the erratic twitching and life-like movement of the pattern. Our new Guide Buggers are tied with Semperfli's new straggle string, which gives these little flies incredible flow and just the right amount of flash in the water. Strip them in, dead drift them, or suspend them under a bushy dry fly, these buggers work, and the trout certainly approve!
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Wired Walt's Worms
Born in the hills of Pennsylvania, Walt's Worm is another absolute staple pattern in our spring trout boxes. They perfectly emulate just about any nymph or scud washing down a creek, and if pellet-head stockers around, the tan is a dead ringer for a stocked trout's favorite food, pellets that rain from the sky. These nymphs suspended under a Guide Floater dry fly, is essentially a one-way ticket to a net full of trout! And, if you're looking for something a little flashier, check out McKenna's Sexier Walt's, it's the same classic patterns with a little added pizzazz that is sure to grab the attention of any nearby trout!
Shop Walt's Worms!
Sucker Spawns and Egg Patterns
They might not be the prettiest or labeled as "dirty flies", but simply put, egg patterns and sucker spawns are surefire trout patterns in the early days of spring. Regardless of where you are in the Eastern States, fish eggs are in the system, and hungry trout fresh off their winter long fast will be keyed in on those little morsels of protein.
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Other than eggs, caddis may be one of the most prevalent trout forages in the East. Caddis spend most of their lifecycle crawling along the bottom of streams, waiting for the perfect conditions to hatch. While they're in the water, they can be easy targets for trout looking for a quick grubby snack as the caddis drift by in the current.
Shop the Guide Caddis Pupae!
McKenna's Rumble Series
They say good things come in three's, and Dave's Rumble series of flies is no different. The Rumble Pheasant (left), Rumble Bug (center) and Rumble Stone (right), all perform no matter the season. The Rumble Bug's contrasting Glo-Brite thread wraps create a trigger point that calls to trout to have a taste. Playing off that, Dave took the hot spot colors and doubled down when he designed the Rumble Stone and Pheasant, who both emulate nymphs commonly found in trout streams nearly year-round. From the trout streams of New Jersey to the mighty Colorado River, these bugs are responsible for countless trout!
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High-Floating Dry Flies
As Guide Flies co-founder Steve Brown always says, "Our dry flies remove the need for indicators on the river altogether," and isn't that the truth. Our Guide Stimi (left) and Guide Floater (right) sit high in the water and can suspend the heaviest of our jigged-nymph patterns with ease. As the hatches of spring begin to kick off, you'll find a dry-dropper rig on our fly rods until the Fall. And besides, it always pays to have a few in your trout box for when those unexpected risers pop up in your favorite creek!
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Having trouble picking the right flies for your area?
Let us take the guesswork out of your fly selection and put our decades of combined trout fly fishing to use. We'll select the best flies for your favorite trout stream!
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Written by: Steve Brown
Patrick showed up at Jones Caye several years ago to claim his job with Fly Fish Guanaja, it was his birthright. By the time Patrick became a young teenager, Fly Fish Guanaja already employed his mother and many cousins. Patrick’s mom is Lorena, who cooks and cleans for with her sister Amalia. Amalia Jackson has 6 of her children working for Fly Fish Guanaja: guides, chefs, housekeepers, and captains. Fly Fish Guanaja is not a company, it’s a family.
Patrick was only 17 years old and came across timid and shy. The only job I had for him was as a supply runner, and I was skeptical to give it to him because the supply runner position is ideally on the guide track. Supply runners have the chance to learn everything through being around our operation all the time, and the ultimate goal is to end up as a Fly Fish Guanaja Guide, the best job on the island. Edwin had officially grown out of the position into a full-time guide and we needed someone else to get supplies for the island, which was no small job. Operating out of a private island is a balance of bliss and hardship. While it’s a dream to have your own private island, surrounded by fish, accompanied by friends, it’s also a huge challenge. Simple tasks like getting toilet paper can mean a harrowing boat ride to a store that might or might not be open, and maybe has toilet paper. Patrick’s job was getting all supplies to the island, driving staff back and forth throughout the day in a panga, getting the pangas ready for the guides in the morning, and helping them break down in the morning.
Although Patrick didn’t appear to be the next all-star guide, he excelled as supply runner and became the best we’d ever had in quick time. Details I used to manage just started getting done without my order. Fewer and fewer emergencies occurred, we had back stock of the important things. Without saying a word, he dealt with all the guides and their requests, often thanklessly doing parts of their job. Patrick made everything easier for everyone.
By his second year, he had our lodge logistics dialed and at least that part was smooth sailing. He was still a young man with few words, to us anyway, and I had a hard time imagining him as a fly-fishing guide entertaining clients all day. He was so shy and didn’t seem to grow a love for fly-fishing.
Until I came back from fishing one day and saw him casting off the deck of the boathouse.
From a distance, I could tell someone was double hauling nearly all of the line with a perfect loop. As there are only a few of our guides that can cast that well, and our clients were all out fishing, I was confused at what I was seeing. Did another client I forgot about just show up at the lodge? No, it was Patrick chucking some major line. Little did know, he was spending his breaks learning how to cast, simply by watching others, silently. It was amazing to watch this kid, he was casting better than most of our guests and almost all of our guide staff at the time.
At that moment, I realized Patrick was paying more attention to the sport than I’d realized, it occurred to me I really needed another fly-tier on site. I’d taught most of my guides how to tie a few flies but none of them took to it with a passion. They got creative and distracted too fast, spinning new crazy versions of flies never to be reproduced even once, not very productive.
That very night I was tasked again with tying my custom bonefish flies for our guests the next day, they were the only patterns working and I was the only source. I told Patrick I needed him to learn something else new and sat him down at the tying table in the boathouse for the first time. Within minutes he was keeping up with me, and by the end of the night his Guide Kwans were looking better than mine, perfect in fact. I’d never heard of anyone learning to tie so fast, what luck! The next morning we had 24 Kwans to send out, AND I was able to go to bed approximately when everyone else did! Oh, the times, they were a-changing.
Patrick became our signature lodge tier and tied countless flies for our guests, productivity increased, and more fish were being caught, no question. Now guests could use our patterns even when I wasn’t there. Patrick was not only a pro caster but fly tier too and our lodge couldn’t operate smoothly without him.
As the years rolled on, Patrick’s personality blossomed. Mind you, I’m sure he’s always been outgoing to his people in Guanaja, it’s just the cultural collision likely left him speechless for a few years around us.
Along with his skills off the water, Patrick started getting in our pangas, acting as first mate for our head guides and learning all the ropes. Inevitably a guide didn’t show up on time, and there was Patrick, Mr. Reliable, at the ready to step in as a guide creating a seamless day for our guests. He learned how to get any level of angler into Guanaja bonefish and began the permit hunt.
The Fish for Change Student Program in Guanaja became Patrick’s favorite time of year and he connected with our students so much they requested him daily. Turns out Patrick is a kid at heart and engages with students on a unique level.
By the time Dave and I started Guide Flies, it was clear who our local head instructor and tier was going to be. Patrick jumped right in and started teaching our new local staff. He taught his wife Claudia, who started tying at home and was quickly making hundreds of the best prince nymphs I’d ever seen. They have 2 beautiful children who are learning to tie as well.
Guide Flies started from scratch, however, the core team had prepared for a long time. Patrick was crucial in launching Guide Flies. Even though English is the first language of the islanders, it’s a different form of English coming from a different way of thinking. Much is lost, even when there is no translation needed. Sometimes apples to apples is more like oranges to coconuts in our communication and Patrick brings it together.
Patrick not only helped teach our team how to tie, but he also invented some local saltwater patterns of his own. Growing up in Guanaja and becoming a fly-fishing guide gives him an intimate knowledge of the fishery and its many creatures we imitate.
Patrick co-designed many of our first saltwater patterns with Dave McKenna like the Guide Mullet and Guide Toad.
Everything is humble about Patrick, especially his house. In fact, he really needs a new one and every season we stay in operation he gets closer to that goal.