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Extremely effective with wary trout
One day while fishing a spring blue winged olive hatch in Cheesman Canyon located on Colorado’s South Platte river, I began to notice how these finicky trout would move a little further out of their feeding lane than normal for some of the natural emergers, but not the others. I fished hard that day trying to discover a method or fly that would initiate this desired reaction in trout. I tried every fly and tactic in my arsenal, but could not get the trout to go out of their way for my flies. Only if the appropriate flies were directed closely to the trout’s feeding lane would I get hooked up. I knew then that only a fly with a unique quality would do the trick.
I gathered several samples over the next few months so I could study the flies in an objective way. These experiments always yielded the same results - the flies that I had been using were the right color and size, but lacked two important features: the correct mayfly-emerger wing shape and a semi-transparent wing that would reflect light.
The search was on for that perfect wing material and it wasn’t long before I found it in my wife’s embroidery thread box. Once this unique iridescent wing material was added to the fly, I knew I had something special; a breath of life had been added to the fly.
Shortly thereafter my "Sparkle Wing Emerger" became my "secret weapon" for catching the big wary trout in the South Platte’s Cheesman Canyon. I was amazed as I watched these large, selective trout leave their normally tight feeding lanes to chase down and engulf the new emerger. I can recall several fishing trips where I was catching two trout for every one my friends and fellow guides caught. For a short while I had a great time keeping the fly a secret. When asked what I was using, I would just tell them I was using an RS2.
Within a couple of months I became so confident in the pattern that I made it my "go to" pattern wherever I fished. Unless there was a major midge or caddis hatch on, I was never disappointed in the fly’s performance. Over time I finally had to divulge the pattern to fellow guides and finally to Jim Cannon, owner of the Blue Quill Angler in Evergreen, Colorado. The first year I tied 125 dozen of the emergers (a/k/a the Sparkle RS2) for the Blue Quill, and in 2001, the third year, I tied 350 dozen. Obviously, it fast became their "money fly." All of the guides use it confidently throughout the season in many different rivers with superb results. At times the demand is so great it’s difficult to keep the fly stocked.
Being competitive in nature as both a fly tier and fisher, I had another ace up my sleeve - another secret fly I called the Extreme Emerger. This enhanced version of my Sparkle Wing Emerger has ribbing to suggest segmentation, a sleeker more realistic mayfly body profile, and legs to suggest movement. Overall the Extreme Emerger presented a truer version of the natural mayfly emerger to the trout. The distinguishing factor while fishing the Extreme was that it outperformed my sparkle wing pattern, especially in clear and slow moving water situations (extreme situations). It performed so well I felt it was well worth the extra time required to tie it.
On guide trips I fish the Extreme Emerger aggressively by adding enough weight to keep the flies bouncing on the bottom. A typical day starts out with a two fly nymphing rig, fishing near or on the bottom. I tie on the Extreme Emerger behind a pheasant tail or another mayfly nymph pattern and continue with this set up until the emergence progresses and the trout are only hitting the emerger. At that point I always tie on two of the Extremes and fish them all the way up until the trout are regularly sipping naturals on the surface. I’m often asked by friends, "Why do you fish two of the same flies when you could be experimenting with two different patterns?" My belief is that if trout are hot for one fly, why not tie on two of the same and "double your pleasure - double your fun."
Because of the Extreme’s innate profile and high viability I also fish it on the surface, especially when I don’t want to take the time to tie on dry flies. I can often see the flies approaching and can make a last minute adjustment to line up the flies with the trout’s feeding lane. In clear water I can easily see the Extreme Emerger at 5 to 6 feet in depth. Because trout are a little more difficult to see at those depths, the hook is always set when one of the emergers disappears. I’m rarely disappointed.
One of my favorite nymphing techniques with the Extreme is to raise the rod just before the flies enter the trout’s window, then release the line and allow the flies to dead drift into the trout’s feeding zone. This manipulation causes the fly to naturally rise just as the natural does and is often rewarded with an aggressive strike. The same effect can be produced with a well placed cast then followed with a hand- controlled swing at the end of a drift.
In April a couple of years ago I discovered an odd use for the extreme Emerger while fishing the Mothers’ Day caddis hatch on the Arkansas River. After fishing for a few moments it became apparent that the hatch was over, but the caddis were very active on the surface ovipositing. I struggled to catch a fish for an hour with no luck, but finally caught a small brown on a Woolly Bugger. After netting the trout I pumped the fish and saw it was packed tight with spent caddis. I searched my fly box and could only find one fly that was similar to the spent caddis, my Extreme Emerger. After trimming off the tail there was still one problem with matching the drowned caddis. The naturals had two spent wings and the Extreme had only one. I quickly remembered that trout can’t count and tossed the fly in anyway. I never caught a trout on top that day, but with the help of the Extreme Emerger I had one of my best nymphing days that year.
In 2001 I was invited to fish the Gunnison Superfly Invitational event where several teams consisting of two members each compete for total inches of trout caught to win. Each contestant can use two flies of their choice during the day, but if the flies are lost you’re done competing for the day. I knew this would be the perfect test for the Extreme, so I practiced with it a couple of days before the event. It performed so well I made it my top choice for one of my flies. Sharon Lance, my team partner sensed my certainty in the Extreme Emerger and also decided to use it during the event. After a long hard day of fishing we learned we had tied for First Place. Sharon also landed a 19-inch rainbow while using the Extreme Emerger that won her the biggest trout of the event honors.
The Superfly was cancelled in 2002 because of low water from a year-long drought, but in 2003 the contest was on again and the Extreme Emerger again proved to be the fly that gave my partner Mark Altman and I the edge to solely capture the event’s top honors. During both contests I fished the fly mostly as you would a nymph, but in a conservative manner by continuously adjusting the weight so the fly would not get hung up on the bottom.
The pattern has performed at an equal level on every river I fish. In the spring of 2002 I had one of the best days ever while fishing the Green River below Flaming Gore Reservoir. The day started off with four casts and four fish. By the end of the day I had landed a male Brown just over 23 inches and a 19-inch Snake River Cutthroat, and released enough healthy Rainbows to make anybody’s day memorable. That day I used nothing but a size 20 gray Extreme Emerger, fished as a nymph and as an emerger.
I now carry one fly box just for my Extremes; it contains about 6 dozen of the pattern in three colors, gray, olive and tan. Except for early and late in the season, most of the flies in the box are size 16, 18, and 20. When the tricos begin to hatch in mid-summer I stock it up with extra size 22s in gray and black. The above mentioned selection gives me excellent coverage for almost every may fly situation encountered.
A most rewarding aspect of the Extreme Emerger has come from all the positive compliments I have received from the people that I have shared the fly with. It’s not uncommon for me to hear several stories a year from friends, and even some people I’ve never met, on how well the fly fished for them. It has also become my most requested fly pattern at fly tying clinics. It’s a great feeling when I tie at the same clinic a year later and people come up to me and say something to the effect of "Thanks for showing me that pattern, I caught a lot of fish with it." Being confident in a pattern is one of fly fishing’s greatest secrets. The Extreme Emerger has been a real confidence builder for me and fellow guides and definitely makes guide trips easier because the client does not have to make the perfect cast to hook a trout.
I’m convinced that once this pattern is released by Orvis it will fast become one of the hottest mayfly emerger patterns in the country. Don’t hesitate to try this new "secret weapon" emerger. Whether you’re a weekend fly fisherman or a guide, the Extreme Emerger is a real "money fly."
-By Bob Churchill