Fly-Fishing Q & A
This is a question and answer page. If you have a fly-fishing question, ask Scott.
I noticed you use some kind of a loop knot when tying a fly on the tippet. How do you tie that knot, and what is reason for it?
How do you straighten a coiled leader?
Do you have any advice or techniques/flies that are effective for smallmouth bass during the cold weather?
How do I fish the sculpin? Do you use an indicator with these or do you let them sink and strip them back?
I don't quite understand tippet length. Please give me some insight.
What is your opinion of floating poly leaders?
How far do you put an indicator above a fly?
How good is the fishing in mid-March, and where would you recommend a wading fisherman should go?
What type of fishing glove do you prefer?
What is a "Wooley Booger" or "Woolly Bugger"?
What is minimum flow? Do we have it yet?
How do you fish emergers?
Do you use braided leaders?
What terrestrials and attractor patterns should I use below Bull Shoals Dam?
What sink tip lines do you like?
Q: You have great information on this site. One thing I haven't been able to find anywhere is the recommended water elevations in these tailwates for wading. For example, I most often fish the Beaver Tailwater. I know that the generation schedule is the most critical piece of information, but I also know that if the tailwater elevation is above 917 (generation or not) that I have no business wading there—I like it in the 915-916 range. What I don't know is this same information for the other lakes. Today I know that Beaver is going to be generating most of the day, so I was thinking about Taneycomo, but I have no idea whether it's actually wadeable (it looks like it'll be between 704 and 705 feet today). I'd really appreciate some guidelines on wadeable elevations. -- David.
A: Thanks, David. Beaver tailwater is the only one affected by another lake elevation. On all the others, generation or rain runoff into tributaries are the primary things that limit wade fishing. With the exception of Beaver when Table Rock is high, there is usually not a problem with wade access below the dams, if generation is off.
Normal tailwater stage below the dam with no generation:
Beaver - 916.3
Table Rock - 701.5
Bull Shoals - 450.6 (452.1 with minimum flow of 650 cubic feet per second)
Norfork - 373.2 (373.8 with minimum flow 373.8 of 185 cubic feet per second)
Greers Ferry - 266.4
Q: Can you effectively catch fish at highwater in a driftboat?
A: Fly-fishing from driftboat at lower water levels is easy and a given. However, people often ask me if we can productively fish high flows. The answer is yes, but with provisos. First off, the fishing is more technical, so the better caster you are helps. For example, on Bull Shoals with all eight units running, we are often pitching large dry flies and streamers between overhanging tree gaps and in under overhangs to touch the bank. Beginners usually find this somewhat frustrating. The better and more accurate caster you are, the better you will do. It helps also if you can quickly follow the guide's instruction and not piddle. Opportunities go by quickly, and if you stand from a seated position, flip line out and fire a cast into the zone quickly, you will find some success.
We typically fish a good stretch hard and then pass over the less productive water to hit the next area. As we come up to prime water, I give notice, anglers stand at the ready, hold their shots until close enough, and fire their cast in at the prime spots. Sometimes I feel like a drill Sargent barking orders, but the method works for most anglers who are capable but don't have experience fishing the high waters; but if you are struggling with casting mechanics and tangled lines, you'll miss a lot of opportunities. A drift boat is the perfect high water fly-fishing craft though and is properly oriented for tight-to-the-bank fly-fishing methods.
Also, conditions determine fish response. There are times even at high water when the fishing is easy. Generally, in the hot summer months, the fish are active much of the time with higher flows, especially during continuous high flows when the water is clean of debris and water temperature is relatively stable.
Q: I noticed you use some kind of a loop knot when tying a fly on the tippet. How do you tie that knot and what is reason for it? Thanks, Dan.
A: That is a non-slip loop knot, Dan. It is a modified Homer Rhodes loop knot, much like the improved clinch is a modified clinch. Loop knots generally give more action to flies, especially streamers. There are several web page descriptions of the knot. Be watching for a You Tube video tutorial on the knot here in the future.
Q: After storage all winter my leader has developed a memory. It is a 9 foot tapered leader. How do you straighten the coils from the leader, or is the real problem that I stored the leader on the reel over my off season? Thanks, I enjoy your website and Facebook updates.--Dennis in Texas
A: Anytime you store a leader on a reel for an extended period of time, you'll have coils. I pull on the leader hard to straighten it out section by section. If it's old or damaged it will not want to straighten and must be replaced. For this reason, it is not a good idea to buy leader in bulk. If you do, I've heard it suggested that you store it in the freezer, just like other items that are heat and light sensitive.
"Hard" leader (e.g. German made Mason leader, or Maxima) is harder to straighten than "soft" (usually of Japanese manufacture).
Leader ages and becomes hard and brittle with exposure to heat and sunlight. The car, trunk, or attic is the worst place to leave your gear for an extended period.
Q: I am an avid smallmouth fisherman and my favorite method is on a fly rod. I live in Bella Vista and fish streams in southern Missouri. I usually use the colder winter weather/lower water level times to focus on trout fishing--mostly on Beaver tailwater and occasionally on Roaring River. I try to fish for smallmouth year round, but I struggle to catch them on a fly rod during the colder weather. Do you have any advice or techniques/flies that are effective during the cold weather?--Kris, Bella Vista, AR
A: Kris, smallmouth bass, as you may know, are inclined to lie deep. Only in the late spring and summer will find them in the riffles. In the winter months they live in the deeper pools along submerged rock walls or boulders and have an extremely slow metabolism then. You have to use something that will allow you to get the fly down deep and keep it in their zone as long as possible with very slow movement to entice them. That all depends on what kind of current you have. It may be a sink tip line, or a floating line with weighted fly. One possibility is a large wet fly/soft hackle. One of their primary foods, the crayfish, is inactive then, so I would tend to use sculpin or minnow patterns for winter streamer fishing. More worm like flies including crawler bass worms and leeches will also produce. Hope this helps. Let me know how it works for you.
Q: I am fairly new to fly fishing and have had a lot of success catching rainbows. I have not had any luck catching a brown yet. I purchased some sculpins the other day, and I plan on trying them on Beaver tailwater. I guess my question is how do I fish the sculpin? Do you use an indicator with these or do you let them sink and strip them back?--Ron, Bella Vista, AR
A: Good question, Ron. Many anglers like to target specific species, but it is difficult as a new fly fisher since it assumes some knowledge of the species you wish to catch, especially where they like to hang out and what they like to eat.
Generally, brown trout are not designed to feed in fast water like rainbows, so look for them in slower moving areas and around current breaks in runs. They also eat a variety of aquatic insects, but larger fish will especially hone in on the larger food items such as large stonefly nymphs, crayfish, creek chubs, and yes, sculpins.
Since you are interested in fishing sculpins for brown trout, you have limited yourself to the specifics which require you to know something about how this specific species you are after, the brown trout, feed on a particular food item, the sculpin.
The Ozarks have two species of sculpins which are almost identical. They live in shallow riffle water with a gravel substrate. Since they do not have a swim bladder, they scurry in short, quick movements very close to the stream bottom and feed on very small crustaceans, nymphs, and an occasional minnow. These are primarily bottom dwelling fish and while people catch fish on sculpin patterns high in the water column, they are not really imitating the behavior of the sculpin.
Larger brown trout often move into the shallows at night to feed on sculpins, and you will often find browns early in the morning, before they are disturbed by anglers, looking for sculpins in the shallows and around the water's edge.
To fish them effectively in a slow tailwater like Beaver, you need to use a long leader and cast a pattern that is weighted with barbell eyes, or one tied with the hook so it rides upside down, and let the pattern sink to the bottom using a countdown method. It's then a matter of using a slow hand twist retrieve to inch the pattern along the gravels in varying strips and jerks imitating the short, quick movements of the sculpin. Be prepared to get stuck on the bottom occasionally and perhaps loose some flies. The biggest brown I had have on to-date on Beaver tailwater I stuck using this method. It would have conservatively weighed 8-pounds.
Q: I am a new fly fisher. I don't quite understand tippet length. Should the leader be one foot, two feet, three feet? Does the leader length depend on if you are using wet flies or dry flies? Please give me some insight.--Bella Vista, AR
A: Some background on leader formulation is necessary before explaining tippet length. Before extruded tapered mono leaders, everybody tied their own. There were formulas for leaders based on the type of fishing you were doing and your preferences for turning over big or small flies.
Nowadays, most anglers use store bought "knotless" tapered leaders, although some tie their own. Hand tied"knotted" leaders are also still available in some fly shops.
Leaders are made up of three sections: the butt, midsection and tippet. The butt section is a long section which attaches to the fly line. The midsection consists of a series of short "step down" sections which transition from the butt to the tippet. The tippet is the finest section to which you attach the fly. It is a rather long section also.
Leaders are a convenience making turn over of the fly easier. Casting style, rod taper, size and type of fly have a lot to do with how easy or difficult it is to turn over the leader and fly. However, a competent caster can turn over just about any kind of leader configuration.
For some types of fishing, I've known anglers to attach a single diameter monofilament to the line for a "straight" leader. This can vary from a few feet to 25 feet or so. A friend in England fishes large nymphs on a length of 25 foot 5x monofilament on lakes. Most anglers would have difficulty handling such an arrangement. He manages it quite well, but he is practiced.
Extruded tapered or "knotless" leaders include a tippet section. If you run your fingers along from the fine end of the leader until you feel an increase in the diameter, you just discovered the length of the tippet. On manufactured leaders this is often only 18 to 24 inches.
Some anglers often ask me if they should tie a tippet on their leader, by which they usually mean adding an additional length of leader. Because of the too short tippet on manufactured leaders, I usually do the following to a standard nine foot 5x leader:
- From the fine end of the tippet, go back just short of where the diameter begins to increase. Cut your brand new leader at this point--if you can bring yourself to do it.
- Discard the 18-24" of tippet section you just cut off.
- Now take a fresh length of 3 to 4 feet of 5x tippet and tie it on to the leader where you just cut it. Use either a surgeon's knot with three passes or the more traditional blood knot. This will lengthen your 9 foot prepackaged leader to about 10 to 11 feet.
There are several advantages of doing it this way. There is now a reference point at which you can easily determine when to replace the tippet as it gets shorter from tying on fly after fly. Also, the extra 3-4 feet of length is crucial to providing some stretch and forgiveness in the case of nylon. Battling a larger fish with too short a tippet often results in losing the fish. Increase the odds in your favor by having the extra length and stretch between the fly and your first knot.
By cutting back the original tippet first, the addition of 3-4 feet doesn't seem to diminish the affect of turnover as much as just adding 3-4 feet to the leader as it comes out of the package. Some anglers still prefer to leave the first bit of tippet in place and add to it. This is fine if you can still cast it well.
Having a longer section of fine tippet will also allow small flies to fall out deeper and faster in the water column. The taper on most original store bought leaders gets into the larger diameter nylon too quickly. Since larger diameter leader sinks more slowly, it has the tendency to keep the fly up higher in the water.
If you use fluorocarbon tippet, it will not stretch like nylon. But I would still use the same procedure as I don't like having a knot in view within a foot or two of the fly. It may distract the fish in low clear water situations.
I use the same leader set-up whether fishing dries, nymphs or streamers on a floating line. It increases the effectiveness and useful life of a store bought leader. I hope you find it works for you too.
Q: What is your opinion of floating poly leaders?--Jake, Kirkwood, MO
A: You asked about how the poly leaders might work in the shallow area right below Bull Shoals dam. Pretty well I suspect with fluorocarbon tippet for small scuds/sowbugs or small wet flies without indicators. Use standard mono tippet for dries and go fine (6-7x). You would not want to use them as nymph leaders in deeper water.
Call me "stuck in the mud," but I still like the 9 foot tapered mono leaders. I've usually found a 9 foot leader with extra tippet (maybe 3-4 feet) will do pretty well in those tough areas--15 foot in extremely difficult circumstances (high sun and no wind). The trick to getting longer tippets to turn over is using a properly balanced weighted nymph even in the smaller sizes. The weight of a small indicator (1/4 to 3/8ths of an inch) can also help on turnover. Little is going to help you turn over 4-5 feet of 6 or 7x and a size 22 or smaller midge. I am usually fishing the indicators set about 1 foot to 18 inches deep in that shallow water. I've never had any trouble getting fish to take nymphs under small indicators, but you must 1) extend the drift and 2) pull your casts very smoothly being careful to re-present the fly in one low forward sidearm cast using your rod tip to gently spring the line forward. Resting the area occasionally and just reducing the pressure you put on these wary fish also helps.
Q: How far do you put an indicator above a fly?--Rusty, Dyersburg, TN
A: Like so many things in fly fishing, Rusty, it is all relative. Three things determine depth of the indicator: 1) depth of water, 2) speed of current, and 3) feeding position of the fish.
If the depth you want to fish is about the same for a ways and current is not a factor, then I usually set it about a foot off the bottom, if the fish are not feeding higher in the water column. If it is too deep, you may miss a few fish in slow water that may cruise up off the bottom a bit. If the water varies in depth of say two to five feet, then set it for about the average depth (or about 3-1/2 feet) especially in drift fishing from a boat, where you can drift and pick pockets of the deeper areas and along the edges of the drop-offs.
Current is a disruptive force in the river which affects the force of buoyancy. Its effect on the line will keep your fly from reaching it's depth. So in faster water, you need more weight (in slower currents thinner line can help) and you need to set the fly deeper, perhaps as much as two times the depth of the water deeper depending on current speed.
Notice whether or not the fish are moving around and actively feeding. If so, you often can fish much shallower since the fish will pursue the fly up in the water column more readily.
Weight and balance of the leader is also another factor, but we'll save that for another question and answer topic.
Q: I have never gotten to fish in Arkansas. I'm wondering two things: 1) how good is the fishing in mid-March; and 2) if it's worth coming over, where would you recommend a wading fisherman should go? Thanks much.--Mark, Lawrence, KS
A: Mark, fishing on the White River tailwaters is great in March. Several things start to happen at that time of year that can make for active days of fishing.
First, however, wade anglers need to understand that water conditions and weather conditions vary greatly at that time from year to year. Weather patterns for the preceding months can affect water releases in March and later in the spring. The Corps of Engineers is usually trying to manage reservoir levels for the five White River lakes from December through June when we get our heaviest rains. If reservoirs are well into the flood control pools, then expect heavy generation. The Corps will run water through the dams as much as river conditions at Newport allow. The Corps is always trying to balance lowering the flood pools with holding back enough capacity for hydropower releases for the rest of the year. For this reason, March can typically be a high water month if rains come in January and February. If not, then it can be an exceedingly low water month for releases until heavier rains come later in the spring--if at all.
Weather can be a mixed bag from cold snaps that bring heavy snows (St. Patrick's Day snows are somewhat common and some have brought as much as 16-17 inches in northern Arkansas. I remember one ice storm in the early 90s that came the last weekend of March. On the other hand, we could have sunshine and afternoons into the 70s.
If water releases are heavy in any given March, then shad are likely to still be coming through the dams. Drift boat fly fishing is a productive way to cover the water and fish streamers imitating the shad. If water releases are light, caddis start to become a factor for the fly fishermen by mid-to-late March and into early April. This hatch is one of the better and more significant hatches on Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters. The adult is a light tan wing with pale green body and about a size 14. Several other species of caddis in smaller sizes also start coming off in April.
Spring of 2006 is shaping up to be a low water March and unless heavy rains come between now and then, I would recommend fishing Bull Shoals tailwater and being prepared for the caddis hatch. It will still be a bit early in the caddis season and you will want to make sure you have some nymph imitations as well as adults. Early in the hatch season, and especially in the morning hours during the prime part of the hatch around the end of March to first week of April, nymphs are much more important as "behavioral drift" is usually occurring then. Once the adults start popping off in numbers and you see splashy rises around noon, it's time to switch to dries.
As to where to fish, Bull Shoals and Norfork tailwaters both have lots of wade accessible water when the generators are off. Short of hiring a guide for putting you on the best water and letting him or her watch your backside for safety sake, it's probably best to talk to some of the locals at the fly shops for ideas on where to go and what to be aware of as far as dangers in changing water conditions and generation patterns. It's impossible to forecast out more than about a week as to what generation may do. I often don't make a decision about what section of the tailwater to float until the morning of a trip. Be prepared to "river hop" to different locations as conditions change during the day. Arkansas Game and Fish Commission publishes an annual Trout Fishing Guide Book with map inserts of all the public tailwater accesses. [See the link to the latest version under "Area Maps."]
Unfortunately, wade anglers are often at the mercy of powerhouses as to whether or not they can fish safely and effectively. That's the nature of the tailwaters here, and wade anglers need to keep on their toes and be careful wading. I had a good friend drown last fall who was an experienced wade angler on the White, and I see anglers take unnecessary chances all the time. There is a significant year round, daily risk factor, and wade anglers should be aware of it.
Hope this helps. Safe wading and enjoy the White River tailwaters!
Q: I was getting ready for some fishing below Taneycomo this weekend and wanted to ask you about your preferred fishing glove if you use them. I've seen different types, but have never actually fished with them. Do you have a preference of one design over another. I'm leaning towards the split finger style.--Chuck G. in Missouri
A: Thanks for the email, Chuck. Hope you have fun fishing Taney.
I use two pair. Rowing and working the anchor rope up and down, I tend to get one pair wet. For that activity, I like the Orvis super thin neoprene gloves as the neoprene insulates best when wet. The other pair I use to get my hands dry and warm again is of a convert-a-mitten design. Orvis has a pair called their Wind-blocker Steelheader's Glove. They are fingered and also have a mitt that comes down over the exposed fingertips for warmth. Be sure to also carry some Hothands hand warmers with you. They work great if you slip them in behind the glove's palms. When you buy gear, look for waders with a hand warmer pocket on the front. Some rain shells also have fleece lined pockets that are nice. Another thought: learning to use a Ketchum Release tool is essential in the winter. It will keep you from having to get your hands wet in the first place when fishing.
Fleece or neoprene lined handwarmer pockets on the front of waders provide a great way to knock the chill off cold, wet hands in the fall and spring. While on the subject of gear, my old Columbia Henry's Fork wading vest has been through rain and shine and several dunkings and traveled with me from Tennessee to Alaska. Even though it's hot in the summer, it has plenty of pockets for gear and wears like an old friend. [Photo by Bill Dostalik]
Q: What is a "Wooley Booger" or "Woolly Bugger"?--Glen, Austin, TX
A: A Wooley Booger is a creature of campfire legend like Bigfoot (see for example www.texasbigfoot.com). A Woolly Bugger is the fly pattern attributed to Russell Blessing of Pennsylvania [see Barry Beck's recent interview with Mr. Blessing in the January/February 2006 issue of Fly Rod & Reel], which at first impression imitates nothing in particular, but then actually imitates quite a lot. A Woolly Bugger is usually classified as a streamer, a fly that imitates a baitfish or minnow and is fished in a traditional down and across method. The fly actually can represent much more. Fished dead drifted in a fast and deep run, it's a perfect imitation of a large stone fly nymph. Tied without weight and fished close to the surface, it could imitate a terrestrial such as a locust fallen in the river, or perhaps a small frog entering the water. Tie it with weight and fish it deeper and fish might take if for a crayfish or leech. It's a versatile pattern. That's the entomology.
Now for the etymology. There are other well-known woollies. The Woolly Bear caterpillar is an insect often used in folklore to predict the coming winter weather. It becomes the Isabella tiger moth if it survives the winter. The Woolly Mammoth is a mammal that did not survive the winter of the Ice Age. Neither did the Woolly Rhinoceros, which failed to migrate across the Bering Strait into North America. The Woolly Worm can refer either to the Woolly Bear caterpillar or the traditional fly pattern by the same name, another generally imitative fly pattern like the Woolly Bugger.
Whereas "woolly," also spelled "wooly," is an adjective describing how something looks or feels, something that resembles or consists of wool, the noun "woollies" or "woolies" is a garment made of wool or Australian for sheep. So there is no sense in the spelling "wooley" as applied to the Woolly Bugger, the fly. Furthermore, a "bugger" is a small insect or bug. A "booger" is a "bogeyman," a terrifying specter or a hobgoblin. How "wooley" came to be the preferred spelling in "Wooley Booger," as in Bigfoot, I have no idea. Since the Booger was a made up thing, I guess "wooley" just fit too.
So there you have it—the origin of all things "woolly" or more inaccurately "wooley." More than you probably wanted to know.
Q: What is minimum flow and do we have it yet?--An often asked question.
A: See the minimum flow page I've developed addressing the issue.
Q: Scott, I was fishing the Cumberland River recently and was very frustrated as I watched rising fish taking emergers in the afternoon. I have to admit that I do not have the slightest idea regarding how to use emergers. Can you help?--David, Peachtree City, GA
A: David, you ask a very important question. A lot of factors can get fish rising in the surface film, so it's important that an angler try to identify the nature of the trout rise and insect emergence. This can be done by visually watching the water for clues, by seining the surface with a small white aquarium net, or by catching one of the risers and sampling its stomach contents with a stomach pump. Results from any two or all three of these methods will confirm what the fish are taking and often the stage of emergence in which they are interested. The stomach sample is the most reliable single method for obvious reasons.
I remember an instance one summer where I was noticing quite a bit of rising activity below a gravel shoal where a pod of cutthroats was actively feeding. Watching the surface, I saw nothing coming off, and I assumed the fish were dimpling to midges. I tied on a small black midge pattern and caught one of the fish at the end of the drift on a swing. When I pumped its stomach I was surprised to learn it was full of tiny #28 black winged ants. When I studied the surface film more closely, I saw hundreds of the tiny ants. Since the midge was the only pattern I had that small, I continued to fish it catching the occasional cutt. So the first lesson is: study and confirm what the fish are rising on. Don't assume.
Secondly, pattern selection will be critical. When a pod of fish is active on one thing, they are being selective. An angler must get in the ballpark as far as size, color, and presentation of the fly is concerned. It's amazing how selective stocked trout can become in just a short while in the river.
Here on the White, unless one of the larger caddis or mayfly hatches is coming off, I've observed trout exhibiting this behavior, especially late in the afternoon, tend to be focusing on small micro-caddis, midges, or tiny terrestrials like the ants. For the caddis and midge, it's important to have a variety of sizes of pupa patterns ranging in size 16 down to 26. If you are just seeing dimple rings and dorsal fins, this tells you the trout are taking subsurface and a pupa pattern is what you need. If a bubble is left, or you see the trout's mouth coming out of the water, try a dry fly imitation. Target your casts close to the risers. I usually cast to just a couple of feet upstream of a riser using the rise ring to mask my cast. It helps to either see loose loops of leader on the surface to help with strike detection, or have your leader fairly taut so you can watch the end of your line for movement. When you get to the end of your drift allow the current to swing the fly out and hang in the current and twitch it occasionally. This often induces a take even if the pattern is not quite right. Carrying a variety of small soft hackles is also useful using this method. If none of these is successful fish a larger generally productive pattern like a standard Pheasant Tail Nymph or Prince Nymph through the area near the bottom. There are almost always larger trout lurking beneath the risers ready to pick off a bigger nymph.
Finally, if trout are rising to a specific larger caddis or mayfly hatch, you must identify the insect and the stage of it the fish are taking. A stomach pump is indispensable for this, but places the angler in a catch 22. He or she must first catch a trout before being able to take a sample! Matching the small food items is the quintessential aspect of fly fishing, so use instances like this to observe and grow in your knowledge of trout and insect behavior. In the long term you will become a more observant and hence a better fly angler.
Q: Scott,what is your opinion of, and do you ever use braided leaders? Thanks for your excellent web-site.--Paul, Tulsa, OK
A: Thanks Paul. Braiding has been around for centuries and was a method of constructing fly lines of horsehair and leaders of silk. Fly line sizing was determined by how many horse hairs were braided into a line. Braided leaders out of nylon material came about as a way to make an easy loop-to-loop leader connection to fly line and have a longer lasting butt section onto which the angler can easily and frequently replace tippet. The concept works great for some type of fishing applications, particularly small stream fishing where fish are eager for a dry fly. On the down side, the braided leader is woven with a hollow core and does tend to hold water and spray droplets when casting. Originally developed as a dry fly leader, you can now find sinking braided leaders as well.
The furled leader is a slightly different kind of braided leader. They do provide some nice turn over characteristics when casting dries, but are essentially a spring with stored energy and can make some nasty snarls if snagged or jerked. This problem has been minimized by the "second generation tapered furled leaders" which have a tighter braid. Both braided and furled leaders are many times more expensive than the standard mono leader. I view them as leaders for specialized situations and typically do not used them. They are not as versatile as the traditional mono leader.
Versatility is important to guides when fishing big tailwaters where changing methods is important. With a standard 9-foot 5x leader, we can start out fishing nymphs deep in the water column during morning tailout at depths of perhaps 4 to 6-feet with an indicator and be using the same leader to fish dries by noon. If I want, I can have clients fish soft hackles on a traditional down and across swing on the same leader. Being able to fish the mono leader deep with nymphs or on top with dries is about as versatile as one can get.
Occasionally one of my customers will show up with a 4 to 5-foot braided dry fly leader while we are rigging to fish a nymph deep. The first thing I do is take it off and put on a standard 9-foot leader so you can slide the indicator to the depth you need (3 to 6-feet) and have room for weight on the tippet with a beadhead nymph or maybe two. The braided leader would simply not work well with this set up. It also changes the casting dynamics making it more difficult to pick up and cast. Braided leaders do not lift off the water as nicely as mono since they tend to "cling" to the surface more.
One of the big selling points of the braided leaders is the easy loop to loop connection with the fly line. I prefer the traditional nail knot tied with a nail knot tool. It's as quick with practice, strong, and doesn't provide a hinging point when casting. By all means try a braided leader if you think it might work for you, but I think you will agree over time that the traditional monofilament leader is much more versatile.
Q: You recently mentioned that the time for attractors and terrestrials is fast approaching. What are your recommendations for these flies for the White River below Bull Shoals Dam?--Chuck M., Columbia, MO
A: Thanks Chuck for a great question. Important terrestrials on the White are beetles, ants and of course grasshoppers. Lightning bugs, locusts, and other terrestrials such as bees (I know of at least one honey tree leaning over the river) are sometimes overlooked. Terrain and conditions are an important consideration on knowing when and where to fish their imitations. Good terrestrial terrain includes pasture land close to the water's edge and/or lots of overhanging trees. The other factor is wind. Strong winds can often blow insects in the water that are not generally available to the fish at other times. The best terrestrial terrain on Bull Shoals tailwater is down stream of Cotter where there is more suitable hopper and beetle terrain close to the water. That being said, on a windy day all bets are off at the dam. Fish go nuts there for a hopper occasionally. Beetles are probably much more wide spread and can plop in the water from an overhanging branch any time and place. See the dry fly patterns pages for My June Bug pattern. Another condition in which terrestrials play an important food source role for trout is when generation increases rapidly, and there is a fast rise of water into the grasses and bushes along the river. Terrestrials get caught in the back eddy scum lines and provide an easy meal for trout. These are places wade anglers can prospect during high water.If you have not seen it yet, the July 2005 issue of Fly Rod & Reel has a great recipe for A. K.'s Hopper--a relatively easy tie and one that will do well here on the White. Attractors like stimulators and foam ants can be great searching patterns. Terrestrials like a Dave's Hopper are fun to fish. So as Dave Whitlock might say, "Have a Happy Hopportunity."
Q: My dad told me that you really like Scientific Anglers Streamer Express Fly Line. I'm really curious to learn more about the line and was wondering if you had any information or suggestions for me. I would be looking at a line for an 8wt. or a 10wt. so that I could fish salmon up here in Alaska. The kings seem to hang close to the bottom in very fast current and I would need the line to get down to them fast. From what my dad told me you fish this line for trout in the white river when the generators are pumping through a lot of water and have a lot of success with it. I'd appreciate anything you would be able to tell me about the line. Thanks--Brandon, Alaska
A: Brandon, the lines I use are the Mastery Wet Tip Express lines in 250 and 350 grain lines (25 foot sink tips). I think the Streamer Express are 30 foot sinking tips. The 250 grain line I use on a 6-7 weight and the 350 on a 9-10 weight rod. They also make a 450 and even 550 grain line I believe. Nail knot about 3 to 4 feet of 12 to 15-lb test on for the leader. Stronger if you are going after big salmon.
These are heavy lines with a sink rate of 4 to 8 inches per second and require good line control practices, but they will get your fly down. Casting the line requires slower timing giving the line plenty of time to load the rod tip and smoothly transitioning power and acceleration to the end of the cast. The lines themselves transition smoothly from the floating to the sinking portion and pretty much eliminate the hinging effect prevalent in the old style shooting head lines. They work well in lakes too. Catch a salmon for me.
Sci Anglers website has more details on the lines.