With the Yellowstone winds quickly whipping our high-country snow out to Eastern Montana, I’ve been spending the blustery days at the vise. Every year I try to tie up a season’s worth of bugs over the course of a winter.
Each year’s crop of flies is a bit different than the last. There are a few bugs, though, that I can’t live without. These are the dry-fly attractors that fill my box at the start of a season.
Through caddis hatches, mayfly hatches and when nothing was on the water, I fished this fly exclusively for two months one summer. This bug caught fish from the Henry’s Fork to the Yellowstone and tons of tiny creeks in between.
Three materials (not including hook and thread) makes this bug a cinch to tie.
- Royal Wulff Cripple
I’ve been fishing Royal Wulffs as long as I’ve been fishing flies â€” but the proposition of sitting down to tie a season’s worth often drove me to drop the bobbin and pick up the remote control.
Enter Rowan Nyman’s Royal Wulff Cripple. It’s got all the wonderful attributes of Wulff’s original with none of the hard-to-work-with calf hair. Add in a zelon shuck and you’ve got a solid improvement on a true classic.
- Rusty Parachute
When the water’s low and the trout have seen millions of this season’s hot fly, I go back to basics. My buddy and Madison River guide, Mike Loebl, impressed the versatility of this bug on me during my first summer in Montana.
It rides low, the color seems to imitate just about anything, and it’s a quick, easy tie. I whip mine up with a moose hair tail, brown hackle and something white for the parachute post.
- Parachute Madam X
My good friend Tylor Robinson pushed the PMX on me over the past few seasons, and once we start seeing terrestrials in Yellowstone Country, it can’t be beat. I fish it in sizes from #14 to #8 to cover everything from big ants to hoppers â€” on glassy streams like the Firehole and big brawlers like the Madison.
This is one of the few flies that I use and lose regularly that I don’t tie myself.
- Fat Albert
This foam, rubber and antron monstrosity seems to provoke suicidal responses from cutthroat wherever I find them. I’ve watched six cutties race each other from the bottom of a pool to take a whack at one of these guys. The next cast I’ll watch five, then four, and so on.
Like the PMX, I don’t have the patience to tie this bug. But with its synthetic materials and a healthy dose of epoxy, my store-bought Fat Alberts often last a half-dozen trips before I break them off â€” looking as good as new â€” on an overzealous hookset.