Fly Tying Techniques, Aquatic Insects, More
Kenny is a retired Captain for Southwest Airlines. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, he served twenty years in the Air Force as a fighter pilot. He has been fishing all his life but fly fishing seriously for the past 30 years in Alaska, Canada, most of the Rocky Mountain states, and of course, here in Missouri. Kenny has been an instructor for 12 years teaching fly fishing as part of men's fellowship group. . His passion for fly fishing provides a unique teaching style that brings Christian men together in community. Kenny is married and has three children. Sorry St. Louis, he is a die-hard Cubs fan.
I have been mentioning our trips this summer to Cardiac Hill. Finally one of the new guys asked where and what is Cardiac Hill. Well, Cardiac Hill is an access to the Meramec Trophy Trout Water on the Meramec River. It is a little over an hour drive from the St. Louis area. It offers great Rainbow and Brown trout fishing. And, as an added bonus, you may catch a bass or two in the summer.
So how do we get to Cardiac Hill? Take route 44 to exit #203 (Rosati,ZZ,F). Go south off the exit ramp (turn left) and then crossing over Rt.44 take a right on the outer south road. Go 2 miles west (paralleling 44) and turn left on Hwy KK (large Rosati billboard). Go 3.1 miles and turn right on Brennan Road. Then go 0.5 miles and turn left on dirt road (Besmer Rd). Go 1.5 miles to the first parking lot on your right (small parking area that may hold five cars). There is a small trail to the right of the parking lot, follow it to a dirt road. Follow the dirt road all the way to some fields and pick up the trail through the fields to the river. Total walking time down is 10 minutes and back up is 20 minutes (that is why they call it Cardiac Hill).
Once you come to the water you will see a riffle. Cross over to the south side of the river. Fish the riffle first before deciding to go up stream or down stream. Look for more riffles and deep holes to fish. And have FUN!
Cardiac Hill - Where and What is It!
This page was last updated: April 26, 2017
Flies We Use in Missouri
Click on Each Fly for Tying Instructions
Click on the purple letters for more info and videos
"The FATC" Fly Fishing Instructor Kenny Klimes Bio
So many of the new guys ask me, before their first trip, what kinds of flies they should buy before we go. As I teach in class, I believe you should always buy flies specifically for the place you are going to fish. In other words, don't but the 100 flies for $50 package you see in some sporting goods stores. You would probably never use 80% of the flies that are in the package deal. So with that said what flies do we use the most in our Missouri waters. Here is a list of flies that I like and use most here in Missouri. This is not an all inclusive list, but it will get you started (these are not in any special order)!
1. Woolly Buggers - Olive and Black (sometimes White)- sizes 8, 10 (Bead head or wired hook)
2. Soft Hackle - Dark Color and light Color (there are many variations/colors of soft hackles) - sizes 18, 16, 14
3. Cracklebacks - olive and dark - sizes 16,14 (River Run Outfitters sells a Holographic that does well!)
4. Scuds - Tan and gray, orange (to represent dead ones) - sizes 18, 16, 14
5. Griffith's Gnat - Black w/grizzley hackle - sizes 18, 16
6. San Juan Worm - red, brown, "cerise", and shammy materiel - sizes 16,14
7. Elk Hare Caddis - tan - sizes 18,16
8. Prince nymph - sizes 18, 16, 14 - bead head
9. Midge pupa - black, burgundy, red, primrose and pearl - sizes 20, 18, 16 - bead head
10. Shammy Worm - tan, yellow, red - sizes 16,14,12
11. Caddis Larva - all types in tan and green - sizes 18, 16, 14
12. Stimulators - yellow and green - sizes 14 and 12
13. Mayfly drys - different styles (make sure you have small white PMDs) - sizes 12 through 20
14. X-Caddis - represents am emerging Caddis adult- looks like a elk hair caddis but with out the "hackle" tied around the body
If any of you have a favorite fly for Missouri that is not on this list please email me.
The other day I was thinking about our San Juan River trip in New Mexico in January 2008. I got online to check on the fishing reports for this time of year and was taken back by a forum discussion that was going on. The fishing report stated that fishing was good but the Fish and Game Rangers were out in full force checking anglers for barbless hooks. First, I didn't realize that the entire San Juan River was barbless hooks only (or I just forgot). But, second, I was amazed that the report said that the Rangers were checking barbless hooks by running tippet over the "barbed" area and if the tippet got hung up - BIG FINE! That got me thinking if we smashed our barbs down with a pliers or forceps would they pass the test? It also got me thinking why I don't use barbless hooks all the time. So, I did some research on the subject and here is what I discovered.
1. Barbless hooks have an advantage in the ease of removal without further tissue damage to the fish and angler.
2. Barbless hooks tend to penetrate fully and far easier than barbed hooks. Driving a "barb" through tissue and cartilage requires extra force that may or may not be delivered with light tippet.
3. True effective barbless hooks need to have a longer point so short barbed hooks with the "barb" bent down may not be as effective.
4. Some specially made barbless hooks have an offset to the point, i.e. a slight bend which allows for better holding.
With this said I have decided to bend my barbs back on all my flies before I tie them. So I guess you can say I am going braless - I mean barbless! Are you?
(Short story - when fly fishing in the Grand Canyon with a good friend who accidentally happened to hook me in the face I was extremely glad when the guide said, "we only use barbless hooks!". One pull of his forceps and I was back fishing.)
Barbless versus Barbed Hooks
MORE INFORMATION AND TECHNIQUES BELOW!
CHECK THEM OUT!!
Water Levels - Why should I care and What do they all mean?
If you are going to fish the rivers of Missouri you must know and understand how to read the water level charts or you may be in for a wasted 2 - 4 hour drive. Many of the rivers have a "normal" level for wading. After a rain you should always check the river levels to decide if you should go fish or not. You can avoid muddy, high water levels and maybe even flooding. Usually after a couple days of rain it can take up to 2 - 3 days for the river to get back to normal levels. It may take longer during heavy rains. So know the levels that keep you safe and into fish. Go to our links page and check out the water levels for the location you wish to fish. Below are some examples:
Cardiac Hill/Outside Meramec Spring Park - Check out the Meramec water level gauges at Steelville. Normal here is between 1.5 - 2.5 feet. 3 feet water levels become very difficult for wading ( this level you may not be able to cross over the river at the Park).
Lake Taneycomo - On the Lake Taneycomo site check the second chart down (Green Line); to wade fish it should be below about 705 feet MSL. No generation flow is around 701 feet MSL. On the Generation Flow site check the generation flow for #13 TRD (Table Rock Dam). They will only give the day of and the next day (after 6 pm) generation flow. Wading becomes difficult to impossible if the flow is 100 or greater
Current River - The Current River site gives the water level and flow above Akers. Normal level is about 2-3 feet. This gauge can give you an idea of flooding in this area which is outside of Montauk state park.
Montauk State Park - Use the Montauk Site to give the water levels at the state park. The normal is 1.5 - 2 feet. If it is higher due to rains it could mean cloudy, muddy water.
Caddis Adult notice the wings are horizontal to the body
Let's just talk Caddis for today since they have been hatching as of late (spring). They usually hatch hot and heavy from April through May and very light at times throughout the summer. If it is a Caddis hatch, chose an Elk Hair Caddis for your dry fly, a Sparkle Pupa/Z Wing Caddis, Soft Hackle (olive/tan), Fox Poopa, for your pupa/emerger stage, and maybe a ZugBug for your larva stage. Of course fish the dry on top with no drift - mend your line! Fish the emerger stage just below the surface. A good technique is once you have spotted a rise by the trout cast across and upstream from him. Mend your line but keep it taut or "in control" so you can "feel" the strike. As the fly sinks it will rise again once the "J" in the line straightens out. Here is where you usually get the strike. Another technique to keep your fly in the "film layer" is to grease your tippet with floatant just 4-5 inches from your fly. This will keep your fly in the "zone" of the feeding fish. Fish the larva stage below an indicator. A good indicator (yes, Kevin I'm going to say it) to use is the Big Ugly or some other type of dry fly; maybe a large Elk Hair Caddis. It gives you a sensitive feel for the take and a chance to catch a fish on your "Indicator/Dry Fly".
Check out the "West Fly" link on the Fly Tying Links on our Links Page for more detailed entomology of the Caddis and other flies.
Mayfly Dun - notice wings are straight up
Mayfly Nymph - a rock clinger
Know your bead size vs. hook size
Bead Size Bead Size Hook Size
1.5 1/16 22-26
2.0 5/64 18-22
2.3 3/32 16-18
2.8 7/64 14-16
3.2 1/8 12-14
4.0 5/32 8-10
4.8 3/16 4-6
When tying your bead head flies use this chart to help you use the correct bead size versus your preferred hook size.
Stonefly adult - notice wings longer thn body
Stonefly Nymph - two tails
Stonefly nymph stage - clings to the bottom
CHECK OUT MORE INFO BELOW!
Let's discuss Mayflies: First we have several different species of Mayflies here in Missouri; Pale Morning Dun (PMD), Blue Wing Olive (BWO), Quill Gordon, Hendrickson, March Brown, Cahill, Trico, to name just a few. So your asking yourself, "How do I recognize the insect as a mayfly"? The may fly duns or young adults have wings that are straight up on their backs , similar to a sail on a ship. Mayflies live underwater as nymphs until they reach maturity, then they hatch into winged adults called Duns. The duns molt once more into spinners that mate, then die. It's said that the spinners get their name from the "dance" they do during mating, which is an up and down flight. Before dying the females lay eggs in the river. When they die they fall into the river as "spent" flies, with wings now flat to the water surface. The mayflies are divided into four major groups on the behavior of their nymphs: Crawlers, Clingers, Swimmers, and Burrowers. The names of the nymph groups should give you an idea of how they react underwater.
How should we fish mayflies and what types of flies should we use. During their nymph stage dead drift or swim your nymph patterns, use a hares ear nymph or a pheasant tail nymph. Most mayfly nymphs have tails (see picture) so use a nymph pattern with a tail (unlike the Caddis nymph). The dun stage one can use parachute baetis, parachute adams, sparkle dun, or a comparadun. Fish them like you would any other dry fly. There are numerous dry fly patterns that represent the exact mayfly that you are seeing. There are several spinner patterns also. A spent (or dead) mayfly pattern usually has the wings spread out flat against the water surface. dead drift this pattern also.
Most of our mayfly hatches occur in the spring and the fall/winter months. Hatches usually occur during cloudy times. Since mayfly adults only live about two days, you could run through every fly pattern possibility in a days fishing!
Next up are stoneflies - we have eight families of stoneflies here in Missouri. The stonefly has two distinct stages: the nymph stage and the adult stage. When the stonefly eggs hatch the nymph appears, there is no pupa stage for the stonefly. Almost all stoneflies have two tails. The stonefly nymph can live as long as three years before becoming an adult. The nymph requires well oxygenated water so usually live in streams and rivers near riffles. They cling to the rocks and when it is time to become an adult they usually crawl out of the water to molt. The adults look very much like the nymph but with wings added. The wings usually extend 10 - 15% past the abdomen of the stonefly.
You can fish the stonefly in several ways buy first you have to understand how they act under water. First the nymph stage clings to the bottom, if they lose their footing then they drift helplessly down stream until they can attach to something again. So try dead drifting your nymph near the bottom. The stonefly nymph can also be a good search pattern, i.e. when nothing else is hatching or working then drift a stonefly to "search" for the trout. Sometimes the trout will hammer them when they are crawling out of the water. If this is happening then fish them near the shoreline. When the adult lays eggs they do it by fluttering on top of the water. This is a great time for trout to nail them on top. Fish your dry imitation stonefly with a dead drift action but add a little flutter movement to the dry fly. When stoneflies miscalculate their egging laying and crash to the water their wings get too wet to fly away and cause a feeding frenzy for the trout. Check out this article on Fishing Stoneflies.
Time to Discuss Midges: Midges are probably the most prolific of all trout foods. Midges are found in almost every river or lake that trout are found. A small insect that is close to the size of a mosquito or gnat. The midge's life cycle are in four stages; the larva, pupa, emerger, and adult. Many fly fishers ignore fishing with a midge pattern because of their small size. Many of the midge fly patterns come in hook sizes 18- 28. But if you understand the four stages of the midge and fish it properly it can be a killer pattern for big trout. Here are some tips on how to fish them:
Larva: wiggle frantically when disturbed from bottom. Give your fly some movement when you dead drift it.
Pupa: some wiggle as they rise slowly towards the surface via the help of trapped air bubbles under the skin. So if you dead drift your pattern try to give it a little movement. The pupa often hang in the surface film while waiting to emerge.
Adult: Often cluster in groups or as a mating pair on the surface. A Griffith's Gnat pattern is a great imitator of this - dead drift the float.
Habitat : Midge larva live in the silty bottom, under rocks, and in mossy areas. They seem to be more abundant in slower water areas. They prefer the colder water.
Notes : Midge larva patterns are productive fished near the bottom early in the morning before hatches and in between hatches throughout the day. The transition from larva to pupa includes a significant shape change and often a big color change which is important to understand when trying to match the hatch. There can also be dramatic color changes from pupa to adult. Fish tend to key in on the pupa stage and feed heavily on the helpless pupa near the surface waiting to emerge. Fish also will key in on the emerging midge on the surface of the water.
Flies: For adult midges the Griffith's Gnat is a great fly to use. For the larva and pupa stage there are many flies that can be used - just make sure they are small! Check out the June Fly of the Month for some fly patterns.
So let's talk about hatches. Trout are feeding all the time. If you can figure out what they are feeding on then you should have no trouble catching fish, right? We can tell a lot about what the trout is doing by the rises taking place on the water but you can also get an idea of what they are feeding on if there is a hatch taking place. Now, if the aquatic insects are "hatching" into adults you may think that you have to throw a dry fly that matches the hatch - not necessarily so.. If the trout are sipping them off the surface then throw a dry but if their rises indicate that they are feeding on the hatching insects BEFORE they are flying off, then throw an emerger/pupa or larva stage of that particular insect. So with that said you are asking yourself, how do I know what fly to use. Well, we have several basic insect hatches here in Missouri - Caddis, Mayfly, Stonefly and Midges. The pictures below are the stages of these insects. If you can identify them then maybe you can get a better idea of which fly to chose.
Glo-Bug or Bead? Trout love eggs. At most times of the year (especially the spawn), the egg pattern is a great fly to try. Many flyfishers tie and fish with the glo-bug pattern (see Fly of the Month). They aren't too difficult to tie and the yarn/Mcfly foam comes in all different colors. But let's talk about another technique that is used quite often in Alaska - colored beads. The beads come in different sizes to represent the different sizes of salmon and trout eggs. I have used this technique here in Missouri with great success. Why use beads vice glo-bugs? How do we fish them? Try reading this article - Beads: the Bare Naked Truth. Beads can be bought in sizes that range from 4 - 12mm. Here we would use sizes 4-6-8mm - the larger sizes imitate King Salmon and Silver salmon egg sizes. If you are interested in "buying" some beads here is a web site with beads for sale. Go to www.troutbeads.com
We are doing a lot of Midge fishing this winter so let's talk midging: Winter is a great time to use midges because most aquatic insects seem to wait until spring to show their "faces". Midges are the most prolific insect in the trout's diet so we need to learn how to fish them. Here are a few midge tips for you:
1. In the winter, when I see "swirls" on top of the water (i.e not trout sipping insects off the top) or fish "tailing" I take it that the trout are finding just below the surface. My fly of choice is the soft hackle because it can imitate several types of emerging insects but my second fly of choice in the winter is the midge pupa.
2. I fish the midge with a dead drift and an indicator. Depending on where the fish are you can fish the midge from one foot from the top to the bottom of the river. Make sure you get a good "long"drift, i.e. not 5-10 feet but more like 20-30 feet. How do you do that? Cast up stream then immediately mend your line up stream, keep the indicator ahead of the fly line. Once the fly line catches up with your indicator mend again upstream. As the indicator heads down stream past you then "kick out" more fly line so your drift goes longer downstream.
3. Detecting your strike is not as easy as it may seem. Don't rely on your strike indicator to go out of site before you set the hook. You will miss a good 75% of your strikes. If your strike indicator floats downstream with the same speed as the current with no stopping or movement then you probably have no strike but if it stops, twitches, or goes down then SET the HOOK! Also, watch for movement in the water (wear those polarized glasses). Expert anglers watch not only the indicator but also any movement, flashes, or opening mouths of the trout beneath the fly. If you see anything like this SET the HOOK. If you do, you will catch more fish!
4. Ending your drift properly is important. Toward the end of your drift allow your fly to swing up in the current. Then when you are ready to take your fly line out of the water to cast upstream again, do it slowly because I have had many hits right at this time - don't lose that big fish by pulling out your line quickly.
5. Fly Tiers: If you are missing your hits with the size 18 midge because the hook is so small then tie them on a size 16. When using a size 16 "curved" pupa hook just tie your fly the same size as if it were on a size 18. The size 16 hook may get you more hook ups.
6. If you can handle casting two flys together on your leader then try using a dry fly in place of your indicator. Make sure the dry fly is large enough to hold up your "weighted" midge fly. Use a large Caddis or Stimulator or some other attractor fly. You could get a hit on the dry as well as the midge.
7. Scroll down to the end of this page and check out the video on winter midge fishing. Happy midging!!!!
The Hottest Fly of the Year:
The Primrose and Pearl Midge
Yes, this is the Primrose and Pearl or as we call it the P&P!
Tied like any other midge, all you need is primrose or yellow thread (size 8/0 but I personally like Ultra Thread 70), pearl flash, thin copper wire for ribbing, 2.0mm copper bead and
a size 18 hook (my favorite hook for this fly is the Tiemco 2499SP-BL. It has a wide gap, is super sharp and barbless)
Use size 18 hook and add copper bead. Tie the thread in from eye to bend in hook, at the bend tie in the small copper wire, and then pearl flash. Wrap thread back to eye just behind the beadhead. Wrap the pearl flash forward leaving small spaces between wraps to show the primrose thread and tie off, then wrap the copper wire forward again leaving small spaces and tie off and use whip finish. I add Nail hardener polish to harden fly.
The Flyfishers at The Crossing (FATC) and the Wooly Bugger Fly Co. have partnered together to create our very own FATC Fly Fishing Kits. We hand selected the very flies that we use here in Missouri and put them into easy to buy kits. No need to visit several fly shops or online sites to find the flies that you need. We have developed kits for every occasion on the water. First our FATC Starter Kit (45 flies) contains all the flies that you need to get started on the water. We have also included a FATC Midge Kit (30 flies) to include our favorite Primrose & Pearl midge, Griffith's Gnats, and midge adult dry flies. Our FATC Dry Fly Kit (47 flies) includes the drys you need to fish the midge, caddis and mayfly hatches here in Missouri. We also have a FATC Terrestrial Kit (21 flies) which includes hoppers, ants, and more. If you have most of these flies then use their web site to pick up individual flies that you need to load up your fly boxes.
Watching a fly tying video is a vast improvement in teaching fly tying over just looking at a recipe. So to help you in your fly tying we are adding the following videos. We will put them into categories so that the fly matches the aquatic insect or terrestrial that you want to tie. Hope you enjoy this new format (would love your comments!)
Fly Tying Videos
Here are 8 ways that you can become a better fly tier. Click Here!