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The Essential...Six Fly Patterns!


June 01, 2018
"If you were stranded on a sand bar island in the middle of your favorite river, and only had six fly patterns to choose from, what would they be?" That's the inquiry I made to three Up North fly fishing aficionados and here's what those gents had to share:

Brian Kozminski, the Boyne City resident, owner of True North Trout guide service (www.truenorthtrout.com), and pro-staffer for Scientific Anglers, "Koz," is about as knowledgeable about Northwest Michigan fly fishing as they come. He guides on rivers from the Manistee to the U.P. Here are his six "go to" fly patterns:

• Bear's Iso/ Drake Pattern: Koz recommends you never be without an Iso pattern because these flies hatch throughout the season and this is his favorite imitation. A close second is Dave's Oh-So Iso.

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A Dave's Hopper fly pattern sits next to a live grasshopper it's tied to imitate. Patrick Bevier photo
• Jerry Regan's Hairy Drake: is another favorite mayfly imitation that is often absolutely hammered by all of the Mitten State's three riverine trout species-browns, brookies, and rainbows.

• Purple Haze and Patriot Fly: Koz writes in his blog, "These flies are in the category of not replicating a certain insect per se, but curious trout will inhale without inquiry."

• Kelly Galloup's Zoo Cougar: this popular streamer pattern is a killer for coaxing big brown trout out of their deepest lairs. Koz said, "I like the Zoo Cougar in black, olive, or ginger."

• Tim Neal's The Skopper: is a terrestrial insect imitating fly that, "combines the crisscross legginess of the Chernobyl Ant and the double buoyancy of stacked deer hair, similar to the Skunk. Madsen's Skunk is a multi-purpose fly, it can be used as a terrestrial or dunked and worked as a wet fly- subsurface."

• Hippie Stomper by Andrew Grillos: Koz mentioned this is a favorite for, "Little brook trout aficionados."

As far as nymphs go Brian tipped his fishing cap to Egan's Rainbow Warrior, Walt's Sexy Worm, and the Tungsten Surveyor.

Ethan Winchester, the Director of Operations at Boyne Outfitters shop and guide service at Boyne Mountain (boyneoutfitters.com), is an avid angler and a very creative fly-tier. He plies his passion on many northern streams and proposes the following non-"old school" patterns–many that he has creatively modified–for his essential six:

• Roberts Yellow Drake: in a wide variety of sizes-from #4 to #18-this dry fly covers a wide spectrum for matching many light colored mayflies including sulfurs and hennies. Winchester said, "This is likely one of my top flies throughout the year."

• E's Cryo Skunk: this is Ethan's variation on the Madsen Skunk pattern and is a wet variety with more flash due to its synthetic components. You can purchase through Catch Fly Fishing dealers including Boyne Outfitters.

• McClain's Drake aka Sweater Fly: Ethan ties a variation of this that floats higher and has a better profile for a dunk.

• Lynch's Drunk & Disorderly Streamer: in burnt orange. Ethan says, "It's easily one of the most responsive articulated streamers available!"

• Lynch's White Bellied Mouse: this is a great fly for trophy brown trout at night.

• Chubby Chernobyl in purple: Winchester said, "This is a great late season fly for headwaters creekin' for brook trout."

Josh Greenberg, the personable and talented owner of the iconic Gates Au Sable Lodge near Grayling (gateslodge.com) has been fishing all branches of the storied river and birthplace of Trout Unlimited for many years. When posed with the query about his "essential six" here's what he offered:

• Borcher's Parachute: Greenberg shared, "Just a killer general 'don't know what else to fish with' dry fly."

• Rusty's White Knot: a large mayfly imitation that is the product of the vise-artistry of the late, great Rusty Gates. The founding father of the Anglers of the Au Sable organization tied this pattern to imitate Isonychia species mayflies that are a favorite of large trout. Greenberg said, "It's June, it's 7 p.m., this is what I'm fishing with!"

• Adams Parachute: This is a catch-all mayfly-imitating dry fly. Josh added, "This is a great morning and daytime fly throughout much of the season."

• Parachute Patriot Fly: (regular and purple varieties) : Greenberg recommended using the regular patriot dry fly on hot summer days and the purple in May at all times of the day.

• Bead-Head Pheasant Tail: This is a terrific all-purpose nymph pattern with plenty of sink and flash and can be used all year to entice trout feeding beneath the surface.

• Circus Peanut: This is a big, showy streamer that, according to Greenberg, "can be fished at a number of different speeds and depths, in big water or in small water."

Though I don't pretend to be in the same league as these anglers, I would add one fly to the list. That would be the Dave's Hopper. This is a winning choice when late summer trout food consists largely of land dwelling "terrestrial" insects that have been blown into the water. I've caught bodacious brook trout, broad-shouldered brown trout, and rascally rainbow trout using a Dave's Hopper on streams from the Maple to the Au Sable.

So, avid fly anglers, I hope that you never get stranded on a sand bar island on your favorite river. If you do, however, I hope you've stocked your fly box with some of these killer patterns!

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