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Tongariro Dry Flies.

Tongariro Dry Flies.
Sun 16th September, 2012

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Had a few emails recently just like this one from Paul in Tasmania " Hey Mike how about seven great dry flies for the Tongariro "... good idea Paul. So over the coming weeks with expert advice from the staff in the tackle stores of Turangi we'll feature one " hot pick " dry each week, plus a few others.
To kick off here's one that sounds good enough to eat from Riverway General Store on Taupahi Road " Marcel's Chocolate Humpy ". This is another fly invented in America during the 1940's and has been described as " arguably the greatest surface fly ever devised ". Even though it first appeared over 60 years ago the subject of who first came up with the pattern and how it got its name still provokes passionate debate and seems to depend on where you live or fish in the U.S.A.
Its now generally accepted that a California based fly tyer called Jack Horner well known for his innovative use of deer hair tied the orginal. Back then it also had a very original name" Horner's Deer Hair Fly ". To cut a very long story short as it gained popularity on rivers across the Western United States its appearance began to evolve and it also became known by other names. For instance in Montana it was commonly called the " Goofus Bug " but it was when it reached Wyoming it was nicknamed the " Humpy " because of its distinctive shape and it stuck. Like all other
" Humpies " this version is a high floating dry fly that's perfect for big rivers like the Tongariro. The white calf tail wings help visibility and in the bigger sizes its a good choice as an indicator fly with a nymph suspended below it, providing you don't go too heavy with the dropper nymph.

In common with other successful patterns trout mistake its buggy appearance for a number of different insects and depending on the size and color used it will pass for mayfly, beetles, caddis in fact all the usual suspects ... so a useful all rounder. If you decide to fill your fly box don't turn up after the end of July because you'll notice something different about the shop ... it will be empty ! Thats because they are moving and will be over the other side of town at 21 Ohuanga Road right next to New World and talking of the " new world " next time two great dries from America.

This week a couple of classic dry flies that both have connections with one of America's top ten trout fishing destinations ... the state of Michigan. With over eleven thousand inland lakes someone once commented that " Michigan had so much water ... there was nowhere left to stand ". Even its name which is derived from the Chippewa Indian word " meicigama " translates as " great or big water ".

This region of central North America borders four of the five Great Lakes that form a natural devide between the U.S.A and Canada and is a magnet for sport fishermen and commercial fishers alike. According to recent U.S government statistics over 11 million American and Canadian anglers fish for trout every year in Michigan's' rivers, lakes and streams. Most have fairly good access and like New Zealand are open to the public. Its little wonder that this angling mecca spawned one of the best known dry flies in the world. And the creator of the other pattern included this week, is one of the founder members of Trout Unlimited, which held its first meetings on the banks of Michigan's famous AuSable River.

The story of the Adams dry fly began over eighty years ago and fly fishing historians tell us it first gained fame on another of the states iconic rivers ... the Boardman. But several accounts also explain that the inspiration for the pattern had a much more humble beginning. In the summer of 1922 Charles. F. Adams an attorney from Ohio was fishing Mayfield Pond which is basically a reservoir about a mile from the Boardman River. While fishing the pond an insect caught his eye which he wasn't familiar with. When he eventually got back to his hotel he mentioned it to an acquaintance Leonard Halladay, a local fly tier, in the hope that he could make him some up. In a letter written years later Halladay recounts the following :

" The first Adams I made was handed to Mr. Adams, who was fishing a small pond in front of my house, to try on the Boardman that evening. When he came back next morning, he wanted to know what I called it. He said it was a “knock-out” and I said we would call it the Adams, since he had made the first good catch on it ".

According to angling writers who have studied early examples in museums the contemporary versions don't look much like the originals tied by Leonard Halladay. Describing his fly as having a thicker body, heavily dressed hackle with overly large wings and tail. However most agree that much of the Adams success is due to the clever variation in color achieved by mixing grizzle and brown hackle feathers over a grey body. Like other enduring " classics " this produces a fly with the uncanny ability to become something that's nothing in particular. Which is why the Adams in its many different guises remains the best known, most used dry fly in the world and a " must have " inclusion in any fly selection.

For all us fly fisho's who still can't resist the temptation to carry a dozen boxes packed to bursting point with flies of every shape, size, color and weight ... which by the way haven't seen daylight for five years, here's a fishy quote that sums up the addiction :

" I look into my fly box, and think about all the elements I should consider in choosing the perfect fly, water temperature, what stage of development the bugs are in, what the fish are eating right now. Then I remember what a guide told me: ' Ninety percent of what a trout eats is brown and fuzzy and about five-eighths of an inch long '. "

~ by Allison Moir, " Love the Man, Love the Fly Rod ", A Different Angle : Fly Fishing Stories by Women ~

The other fly featured this week is the Griffiths Gnat, one of the best small dry fly patterns ever invented. Its creator was American fly fishing " great " George. A. Griffiths who was one of the founding members of the conservation group Trout Unlimited. The organization held its first meeting in July 1959 at Griffiths' cabin called the " Barb-less Hook " built on the banks of Michigan's famous AuSable River. This initial gathering of just sixteen sportsmen lead to the formation of America's foremost river and fisheries conservation organization. From those modest beginnings T.U now has an estimated 140,000 members dedicated to the protection and ongoing restoration of trout and salmon fisheries across the United States.
Griffiths' simple, pattern uses only two materials, peacock herl and grizzly hackle and if you've still got young eyes this combination on small hooks does a great job of representing an emerging or adult midge. Midges are found in rivers and lakes across New Zealand and because they are attracted to artificial light can be a real pest in homes that are near water.
In milder weather they'll breed year round but are more prolific in summer. Fly fishermen know the larval stage as " blood-worms " which are usually found in the mud at the bottom of slow moving back eddies or side channels away from the main flow. Early and late are the best times to look out for midges and I can think of one spot not far from the Road Bridge where you'll often see trout feeding on them in summer. To help present these small flies properly, this is the time to lengthen the leader and use lighter breaking strain line.

I have to admit I struggle with these small patterns.

My eye-sight nowadays is very similar to a bat
... a cricket bat ! You can help this by using Hi Vis patterns that are tied with a small post of fluo yarn that make it a bit easier to keep tabs on these tiny flies. But I prefer two fly setups using a couple of different size flies with the larger one acting as an indicator. For instance a size 12 - 14 with a small emerging midge pattern tied on a light dropper off the bend or substitute the emerger with a midge larvae pattern which are known as buzzers. Start with the dropper around 16 inches long and experiment with the length if you have to. The Griffiths' Gnat with its natural shimmer of peacock herl and leggy profile created by the palmered hackle can also be used to imitate midge clusters, smaller mayflies, terrestrials like ants or other small insects that trout happen to be feeding on.

Even though its now over forty years since George Griffiths was first credited with inventing the fly not many would dispute the fact that its still the best midge pattern out there and hasn't been bettered. Its not one your going to use every time you fish the Tongariro but it does have a place.
I can't get out again until mid-week but I'm looking forward to it and expecting real mixed bags from now on. The similarities with the weekly reports from this time last year continues. In fact I could probably have cut and pasted the text with current images and not been that far off ... even the weather outlook is similar. Next time its the turn of the team at Sporting Life to give us a Tongariro dry ... any guesses ?

Well what else could they suggest but the
" Sporting Caddis. " This little gem is the brain-child of the good looking one behind the counter, no not the boss, the other good-looking one. When I asked for some background on the fly Jared explained that : " Observation is how I came up with it. Looking at caddis during the hatches I went for size and shape. Long hackle for leg movement and feelers for profile. Simple and easy to tie. More along the lines of what do fish think? rather than what anglers think. Fish look up, we look down." It was no surprise that when each of the tackle stores were asked to recommend a dry all of them initially went for a caddis. What's interesting is that first choice for most of them was the " Sporting Caddis " although Graham asked me not to mention that bit because its inventor will be unbearable for weeks to come.

This week we're on the other side of the mall at Greig Sports and its the turn of Tim Healey to recommend a dry fly for the Tongariro. Tim's choice another sedge pattern ... the Elk Hair Caddis. This legendary dry fly had an equally legendary inventor Al Troth who sadly died recently age 82 in Montana where he guided for many years. He came up with the fly in 1957 and originally intended it to be an emerger pattern. But because elk hair is hollow and floats so well it made its mark as a dry fly. At the very least many regard it as the best adult caddis imitation ever thought up and even if caddis aren't hatching its a great searching pattern. Use it in medium flow water under overhanging foliage, or through faster runs and riffles. During a hatch its a great choice along the feed lanes in the slower glides and pools below, where adult caddis often end up after being carried down river. Tim suggests tan or black and his tip is to fish a wee wet on a dropper below it ... want to know more? ... why not call in for a chat.

We're back on Taupahi Road this time at Creel Tackle and to round off the series a couple of dry flies from " Scotty " and Steve. Again they wanted to plumb for caddis but after I explained that was a case of " join the queue " they came up with two very good second choices ... the Cicada and Passion Vine Hopper. Both of these terrestrials first appear in significant numbers at roughly the same time, usually between January and March but this can vary depending on climatic conditions.
There is already information about the Cicada on the site, click on the Fishing Tips link, then 2010 and open January. Its impossible to predict how good or bad the cicada fishing is going to be on the Tongariro. But if you are lucky enough to be here during a good year then your in for some truly awesome sport. If you've never tried fishing a dry fly you won't get a better time to learn, especially when the trout first become interested in these big bugs. Don't worry too much about delicate presentation, I'm not suggesting that you can thrash the water to a foam but as long as you achieve a reasonable cast there's no need to panic if your fly lands a little heavily. Cicada's have been around for a long time but they still haven't quite got the hang of flying and trout are well used to them falling into the river with a plop!.
Its likely this sound is probably one of the triggers that alerts them to the fact that another year has passed and these large insects are once again on the menu. There are several types available but one of the most popular and durable is made of dyed deer hair which has been cut to shape and with the addition of eyes, wings and a little bit of sparkle does a pretty good job of representing the real thing. I find these work best at the start of the cicada season. Later the fish seem to get a bit bored with them and they become much less effective.
But by the time this happens they should be really switched on to taking big surface flies. With plenty of patterns to choose from just change to one of the more bizarre rubber leg creations tied in all sorts of colors using foam and other materials. When trout become pre-occupied with these large terrestrials they're one of the few food items they'll move any distance for. Try drifting one along the feed lanes in a pool, occasionally giving it a couple of twitches as it travels downstream. Even if there aren't obvious signs of trout feeding the sight of a big juicy cicada apparently struggling on the surface will often tempt them up from the depths. The deer hair version also makes a great indicator and you can easily improve its visibility by tying in a brightly colored tag behind the eyes.

The other dry fly from Creel is another summer phenomenon which trout latch on to ... the Lace Moth or to give it its proper name the Passion Vine Hopper { Scolypopa Australis } This West island import reached New Zealand in 1876 and is regarded as a pest species. They can be found in the warmer parts of both North and South Island and it isn't only commercial fruit growers that have to watch out for them. Where I live in Kapiti they are a real headache for summer gardeners and despite their name these sap sucking insects will feed and lay their eggs on all kinds of native flora. Large infestations of hoppers on any plant will quickly weaken it causing it to wither and eventually die. When they feed on the Coriara shrub more problems occur because the plant contains the neurotoxin tutin. In New Zealand the plant is commonly called the "Tutu" or "Tut" pronounced "Toot" and has a Maori origin which probably refers to the toxin. As the insects digest the sap they excrete a poisonous honeydew which is gathered by foraging bees and taken back to the hive where they unknowingly contaminate the honey with tutin. The last recorded death from eating toxic honey was in the 1890's but there are still non fatal poisonings from time to time. So far only a few areas of New Zealand have been identified as high risk places where this toxic honey has frequently turned up. But in these places beekeepers have to closely monitor the spread of Coriaria plants and passion hopper populations within a three kilometer radius of their apiaries. Like cicadas the females insert the eggs in rows inside the soft inner stem of the host plant where they overwinter for six months before the wing-less nymphs appear between October and December. These are lighter in color than the adults but with the same mottled brown markings and have curious white filaments protruding from their rear end. This untidy waxy tuft is responsible for their nickname ... fluffy bums! Like the nymphal stage of other insects, as they grow they go through a series of instars, finally appearing in January through to April as adult vine hoppers. The Tongariro's biggest hatches occur in late January and the first weeks of February and is particularly noticeable downriver. The foliage on both sides from the Bain down used to be covered with lace moths and on breezy summer days many of them would end up in the drink. I say " used to " because things have changed down there big time with nearly all of the over-hanging cover gone from the true left bank. Many of the old spots are unrecognizable and it remains to be seen how this will affect the dry fly fishing in this part of the river. Elsewhere on the Tongariro trout soon notice this steady stream of easy pickings and you will often see fish feeding on them for hours totally oblivious to anything else coming their way. Unfortunately not all these trout are monsters because the abundance of lace moths also coincides with a river full of juvenile trout making their way to the lake. However there are usually plenty of chances of something much better and although lace moth fishing can be a frustrating experience its possible to have a lot of fun when you get it right.

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