Tag Archives: Montana

Flies of Yesteryear

Flies of Yesteryear Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop- Edinburg, Virginia

Many of you have asked me for more information on some of the flies that I used in the past. This is not meant to be a precise historical account of these flies. As you know many of the old flies were tied in different ways. This is just some information on these flies as I remember them.
When I started fishing the Yellowstone River in the seventies many of us were big fish hunting. Dan Bailey who had a fine fly shop in Livingston, Montana was a expert angler. He was very helpful to visiting anglers like me. He said that many of the large trout fed on bull head minnows in the deep runs.
The two flies he used were the Dark Sprucefly and the Muddler. Dan said he fished these on a Scientific Anglers Hi D Fast Sinking thirty foot Head. He then attached this to one hundred feet of twenty five pound test mono. I followed Dan’s directions and caught many large browns.
A few years later, Donnie Williams, one of Dan’s guides, and Red Monical, Dan’s partner, decided to merge the Spruce Fly with the Muddler. The result was the Spuddler.
By this time the term bull head minnow was replaced by the name Sculpin Minnow. Certainly the Spuddler which Donnie and Red developed was one of our first effective sculpin minnow streamers. Today I use it for trout and smallmouth bass all across the country.
Yes, we have sculpin minnows in many smallmouth bass rivers. When I was a kid I used to seine them to use them as live bait when I was smallmouth bass fishing on the North Fork of the Shenandoah River at Edinburg, Virginia.
In fact, I was recently guiding two smallmouth bass anglers on a float trip on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. The Spuddler fly was very productive that day! About two miles upstream of our take out spot a very heavy rain storm moved in on us. One of the anglers wanted to quit but his partner would not consider it. He insisted on fishing until dark and caught a nice smallmouth bass about every third cast.
My favorite tactic for both trout and smallmouth bass with the Spuddler is to cast across stream. After it sinks deeply, swim it back slowly across the streambottom by stripping it six inches every ten seconds.
Here is one of the recipes for the components used in tying the Spuddler. I just checked one of my old streamer fly boxes and I found Spuddlers tied in five different ways. They all came from Dan’s fly shop.

Spuddler Tying Materials
Hook: Mustad 9672 size 4, 6, 8 or 10
Thread: Brown 3/0 Prewaxed Monocord
Body Weight: Medium Lead Free Wire
Body: Cream Yarn
Wing: Dark Furnace Hackle and Squirrel Tail
Head and Collar: Brown Deer Body Hair
Tail: Brown Calf Tail
Throat: Red Yarn

Set The Hook With A Slip Strike

Set The Hook With A Slip Strike Blog- Murray’s Fly Shop

When I am fishing trout streams such as Nelson’s in Montana where there are some large trout feeding on tiny flies, I set the hook with a “Slip Strike”. For example, I will often fish a size 24 Olive Dry when the trout are feeding on a pseudocloeon hatch. If they are especially hard to fool I will go to 7X.

My idea behind this strike is to hook the fish solidly. Then instantly reduce the pressure on the leader. I hold the line between my thumb & forefinger of my line hand as my fly is drifting to the trout. Then when the trout takes my fly, I set the hook with a gentle pull with my line hand. The instant I feel the resistance of the hook penetrating the trout’s jaw I release the grip on the line between my thumb and forefinger. This hooks the trout solidly and protects the fine tippet.

Simple Flies

Murray's Olive, Cream and Black Strymph.
The Murray’s Strymph is an outstanding fly for both smallmouth bass and trout.

Several years ago I stopped in a fly shop in Montana which was owned by a good friend. One of his employees was an excellent fly tyer and the gentleman, who had never fished for smallmouth bass but knowing I fished for them often, pulled out several beautiful, well tied flies he called smallmouth streamers for me to see. I complimented him on the great appearance of his smallmouth streamers, some of which he had skillfully incorporated more than twenty different body parts.  When we were outside in our car I turned to my son, Jeff, and said, “Those were some of the most beautiful smallmouth streamers I have ever seen, but I do not believe they will catch many fish because with all that material on them it will be next to impossible to sink them.”
Several years before this we had done extensive testing on new fly designs and found that in many cases the most sparsely tied nymphs and streamers caught the most bass and trout. I believe much of this success came from the facts that these flies sank well, were strongly suggestive of the natural nymphs and minnows I was striving to mimic and could easily be made to duplicate the swimming action of these naturals.
Some of our flies which fall into this classification are groups of flies in our Shenandoah Simple Streamer series for both bass and trout, the Mr. Rapidan Soft Hackle series  for both bass and trout, many of flies (although they are drys) in my “Change of Pace” trout series, the Murray’s Marauders, the Murray’s Floating Minnows and the Murray’s Strymphs.
The outstanding book, Simple Flies by Morgan Lyle shows how to tie and fish fifty two flies for trout, bass and in saltwater. If you are considering tying some new flies for your personal use I believe using the simple approach I have used in many of my flies and those Morgan Lyle discusses in his great book will help you catch many fish.