Stumped. We’ve all been there — thrown everything in our boxes at a handful of rising trout until, one by one, we’ve put them down.
Fishing the Snake River with some friends, we watched fish after fish slash at stoneflies and completely ignore our imitations as the cleanly drifted past. We’d tried every stonefly imitation we had and a good handful of larger caddis patterns. Out of desperation, I tied on a funky looking fly that had been sitting unused in the corner of my caddis box for well over a season.
At size 16, it was far smaller than the bugs on the water, but the first drift rose a confident fish, and that little bug continued to catch fish as we floated our way downstream. It wasn’t the right fly, it wasn’t the right size, shape or color, but for some reason these keyed-in fish ate it.
This was the first time that Mercer’s Missing Link bailed me out. After that day on the Snake, I used that fly as a last-resort so often that it finally became one of my go-to bugs. If I switch bugs a few times, trying to match the naturals, and it doesn’t work, I tie on a properly-sized Missing Link, and more often than not, it does the trick.
Original tied by Mike Mercer as a crippled caddis imitation, I’ve fished it successfully through mayfly hatches and as an attractor. The combination of underwing and parachute-style hackle can bet tricky to tie at first, but after a half dozen or so, you’ll be cranking these life-savers out like clockwork.