Fly Fishing Traditions

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fishing The Yellowstone - Mayors Landing to Pig Pen

A trophy Yellowstone Brown taken on the Mayors Landing to Pig Pen Float

The Waters Below Livingston

When selecting a section of the Yellowstone river to fish, and if you're thinking trophy trout heading to the river below Livingston is a good bet. The river below Livingston holds less trout per mile but makes it up in poundage. In early summer after the runoff you'll be casting streamers to the bank or above and below mid stream boulders, convergent flows where side channels and the main river come together. You'll dead drift streamers with nymph droppers along rip-rap banks and in big pools. Hoppers will come into play later on.

You will find Brown Trout, Rainbows, an occasional cutthroat and not so many whitefish on the water below Livingston.

The Yellowstone below the town of Livingstone takes on the characteristics if a major river. It is big, wide and can be somewhat brawling in the early summer. The river itself is characterized by, long runs with good bank water, riffles and tailouts, deep pools, huge eddies, and many braided side channels. There are some major wave rides, some big drops over in-stream boulders the size of a house, (although you can easily avoid them). I felt very comfortable in my Fishcraft raft, but would have been extremely uncomfortable in my low side Hyde drift boat. This section of the river is mainly class I and class II water if you scout the river properly. Class III in a couple of areas if you don't and make a mistake.

I am speaking from the experience of running about 12 miles of river from Mayors Landing in Livingston town to a take out called "Pig Farm". I was told it was named after an old farm that raised pigs at the site of the takeout and also that the run above the take out holds some of the largest trout in the river, earning the title "Pig Farm". I like the second story.

Fishing Techniques

I fished this section with my Mom and Dad when the river was running about 5500 cfs. and the visibility was about 5 to 6 ft. It was a bright day and you could clearly see the bottom in the 4 to 5 foot runs and the tailouts. We concentrated on the sanctuary water and holding areas. There are a banks that have rip-rapped banks to stabilize the banks. These banks have been stacked with angular boulders and are steep and deep. There are holding areas all along these banks. This creates a brown trout hotel. We had great success firing our flies to all the pockets all these banks. A fish would dart out of it's lie and slam a streamer and then when hooked dart back into the rocks. We hooked but then lost quite a few really large fish using this technique. We also landed quite a few.


We rigged up similar to the way we rigged for the "Bird Float" with streamers with droppers. We beefed up our tippet expecting larger fish.

Leader - 7 1/2 foot 2x tapered leader

Indicator - Large Thing-a-ma-bobber

Shot - 1 or 2 AB's 3 to 7 feet below the indicator.

1st Fly - 10 " of 3x fluorocarbon Streamer patterns, McCunes Sculpin, Rubber Legs with Marabou tail, Whitefish Minnow

2nd Fly - 20" of 4x fluorocarbon, beadhead PT's, beadhead yellow stones, beadhead lightning bugs, caddis nymphs/emergers

TechniquesI rigged up for bigger fish and we concentrated on techniques that would give us a chance to hook larger fish. We would alternate between streamer techniques and dead drifting techniques.

By rigging with a streamer and a trailing nymph we could fish using streamer techniques or dead drift the streamer/dropper in the runs and pools. We used streamer and dead drift indicator nymphing at the same time.

The deeper bank water with holding lies out of the current was targeted as we floated down the river. We would cast to these spots and actively strip the streamer out into the current, pick up and cast again to the next good looking spot. These are the money spots.

The alternative technique was to fire a cast into likely looking holding water at the bank, strip it out and if there was no takers, throe an upstream stack mend and dead drift the rigg along the bank 2 to 4 feet off the bank.

Both techniques were productive.

Mayors Landing to Pig Pen Photos

This is a photo of my "Fishcraft" raft. It is the perfect boat for exploring new rivers and is safe in almost any Class I to Class III water.

The river gets big below Livingston and the banks are lined with willows and

As you float below Livingston you will come to these bluffs with great pools and undercuts at the base. These offer great holding water and is where deep indicator nymphing is productive.

My Mom with a nice rainbow caught dead drifting along the rocky banks.

My mom, Geri, with a trophy, fish of a lifetime for most people, caught on a beadhead Lighting Bug which was trailing a McCunes Sculpin. We had been fishing the bank water and I was scouting the water ahead when I saw a side channel converging back to the main channel. There was a spit of gravel bank running to a point and where the waters converged it created a long vee with glassy slow current, The water was about 4 to 6 feet deep. I said to my mom who was in the front of the boat, "Hey, Mom, cast into that slack water on river left into that vee, that the type of water where fish like to hang out". She turned and put here rigg in and the next thing I knew I saw this huge fish come busting out of the water. My eyes about popped out of my head. As she kept tension on the fish I rowed back to the river right and found some slower water to attempt to land it. With a keystone cop atmosphere and the boat continuing downstream we managed somehow to coax the fish into the net. Geri's smile tells the rest.


So if your in the Bozeman/Livingston area and decide to give the Yellowstone a try, don't forget that there are options other than fishing the waters of Paradise Valley. Maybe do like we did and fish different sections of the river from below Gardner, in Paradise Valley, but don't forget below Livingston.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Rickards Callibaetis Nymph

Denny Rickards' Callibeatis Nymph

I fished a lake near Island Park, Idaho this past weekend as a part of Phil Rowley's Stillwater School, I'll get into that in another post, and found callibeatis mayflies, swimming in the shallows as well as many shucks. There were callibeatis emergers struggling to escape their shucks. I went right into my box and picked a Rickard's Callibeatis nymph and went to work. The fish were on to the fly as soon as I found out where the were hanging out. Others were using a Pheasant Tail Nymph, but I'd say my nymph out fished the PT.

This pattern is a great "Go To" pattern to be used as a searching fly or to match the hatch. You need to have this fly in your stillwater box.

Rickard's Callibaetis Nymph Recipe

Hook: 2x - Tie sizes 12 through 14, Size 10 early in the season.

Tail: Wood Duck or Dyed Mallard

Rib: Copper Wire

Body: Hares Ear

Hackle: Grizzly. Use straight grizzly for the tan version. Use olive dyed grizzly for the olive version.

Rickards Callibaetis Nymph Notes:

  • It is recommended to tie this pattern in colors of tan, olive, black and rust/cinnamon.
  • This pattern is tied un-weighted as it is designed to be fishing up near the surface.
  • This fly is named the "Callibeatis Nymph" but it is a "Go To" fly when ever fish are working near the surface, feeding on midges or other bugs. It is an impressionistic fly. You can retrieve it or let it sit.
  • When selecting wood duck fibers for the tail don't tie them in so they curve to one side or the other. Make sure they are facing straight back.
  • This fly should be presented with a floating or intermediate line. Use short slow pulls. You want to keep this fly in the top foot of water, so adjust your retrieve accordingly.
  • When fishing any fly near the surface you need to remember to use a longer leader, 12 to 15 feet long, tapered down to 4x or 5x. You need the longer leader especially when using a floating line because the floating line makes surface disturbance when you cast, strip and then retrieve the fly. The determining factor is the clarity of the water.
  • This fly is typically fished in the in the top 2 feet and is seldom fished it deep.

Tying Instructions:

1. Place hook in vice and start thread wrap behind the eye of the hook. Cover the hook back to the hook bend.

2. Pinch off a a small bunch of wood duck fibers. You want this to be a sparse bunch. Make sure that when you tie in the tail that the fibers point straight back and don't bend to one side or the other. This provides more movement of the tail. Tie the tail in standard length about 1/2" to 3/4" long. Tie in the tail, bind it down.

3. When done, pull the fibers back towards the tail and bind down the remainder. This will be used for a back.

4. Tie in the copper rib at the tie in point at the tail. Use standard gauge wire, not too small.

5. Tie in the grizzly saddle hackle. For the olive version tie in an olive grizzly hackle.Tie the hackle in by its tip. You don't want this hackle to be palmered.

6. Tie in a dubbing loop that is about 5 inches long. For the olive Callibaetis Nymph use olive Hares Ear dubbing. Place the fur cross-wise into the dubbing loop. Hold the material with your hand to keep the material from spinning and then spin the dubbing loop tool while holding the material. Let go of the material and it will spin itself. Pick out the excess to create a consistent rope. You can add more material below to extend the length of the dubbing rope.

7. Once you have the correct amount of material in the rope continue spinning the dubbing loop tool until you have a tight dubbing rope.

8. Spin the loop tool a bit more and start placing wraps one in front of the other towards the eye of the hook. Wrap the rope forward and tie the rope off. Clip off the remaining rope.

9. Wrap the copper rib forward, spaced closely to create segmentation about 10 times or more on a 2x hook. Tie off the wire at the head of the fly.

10. Wrap the hackle forward with 3 turns only. Tie off the hackle at the head.

11. Pull the excess tail material over the top and over the eye of the hook to form a back. Turn you vise to check that the fibers are staying directly over the top of the fly and not over to one side or the other.

12. Whip finish the head. Trim the hackle fibers at an angle along the sides so the hackle fibers are facing mostly downwards. Apply head cement and you're done.

How to fish Rickards' Callibeatis Nymph

1. Use this fly when you see fish working on the surface. Remember that you need to fish this fly very slowly or with little or no movement at all.

2. Start with an intermediate line and use a slow hand twist retrieve, very slow.

3. You can also use a short slow pull with an emphasis on slow.

4. You can use this fly when sight fishing and if you see a rise ring, cast to the right or left of the ring and the start the short slow pull.

5. When using a floating line, grease your leader within 4 to 6 inches of the fly, using a longer leader of 12 to 15 feet and let it sit. Or you can let it sink a bit and retrieve it with a short slow pull or slow hand twist speed. Emphasis on slow.

6. You want this fly to look like a bug getting ready or is just emerging. The fish will not be looking for much movement.