Dear Mr. Minister, Let us fish the Skeena.

For those of you out there who dream about your chance to wet a fly in the mighty waters of British Columbia's Skeena River system, you may have to keep on dreaming.

Recently, the Ministry of Environment in British Columbia has drafted and proposed a new Angling Management Plan (AMP) for the Skeena River steelhead fishery (you can find and read the plan in its entirety here: http://wlapwww.gov.bc.ca/ske/qws/).

Why should anglers care? A plan with such a title sounds like it promotes responsibility and care for the environment, right? Well, not exactly.

For all intents and purposes, the plan strips a non-resident angler's right to fish the river system when, where, and with whom he or she wants. In the future, if the legislation were to pass, non-residents would face severely limited fly fishing options on any river within the greater Skeena drainage system. But, running license lotteries, handing out severely restrictive permits, and putting a tight cap on the number of people who can fish a river in a year is an effective solution to ecosystem stress, right? Well, not exactly.

Imposing such restrictions is silly. The major industry in the region that cradles the Skeena system is fed and fueled by angling dollars. A group opposing the Skeena AMP has set up an online petition (www.opposeskeenaamp.com) and has this to say about the adverse economic effects the plan may produce: "The value of non-guided non-resident anglers to the province of British Columbia lies in their contribution to the economy. Every fishing trip costs money, lots of it, and this money is distributed among restaurants, hotels, tackle shops, bars, grocery stores, and many other local businesses. The AMP is good for guides, but bad for the tourist economy as a whole."

They're right. Economically, the AMP sounds like a fantastic deal for guides, but when non-resident anglers actually shoulder the base of the fishing economy throughout the Skeena system and surrounding areas, the province of British Columbia gets hurt. Shut out the non-residents, shut off the flow of dollars in a vast region of Canada's most alluring wilderness.

Perhaps something more creative is in order, something like an angling tax to direct revenue to more innovative and practical management plans and environmental protection solutions. Such a plan could create even more angling dollars and provide even more future protection for the region's ecosystem in the form of educational programs, environmental studies, and restoration programs. But, maybe, at the behest of a small number of greedy guides, undervaluing the Skeena's economic potential is what the Ministry wants.

Adventure fishing economies and angling tax schemes aside, the Skeena AMP is still silly. It's foolish legislation because it could ultimately alienate the Skeena's greatest group of supporters: the fly anglers who travel near and far each year to have a crack at the adventure, beauty, and majesty of one of the world's final fontiers.

Without the help of these careful and respectful sportsmen, sportswomen, and environmental advocates, the Skeena, the health of its ecosystem, and the wild fish that call it home could be all but forgotten in many corners of the world. The majority of modern fly anglers adhere closely to widely approved catch and release practices, holding a love and reverence for the steelhead that the average or non-initiated person will simply never understand. Serious steelheaders travel to the Skeena and they do so because they love the river and the great, beautiful, wild fish that run there. They, too, have an interest in protecting the Skeena and its bounty, even if they do not, in the eyes of the law and government, call it their back yard.

What would a Skeena River system look like without traveling anglers? Who knows? But perhaps this is also what the Ministry wants; shut out the non-resident riff-raff, trust the guides and lodges to run the show, and you've got a hands-off environmental management plan.

Reasonable and effective management plans are most certainly not "hands-off," and should always strive to seek out and involve those most passionate about the resource at issue.

On the Skeena, non-residents ought to be part of the solution; leave out the non-residents, burn their money, silence their voices, and everyone loses.

To read and sign the petition to stop the Skeena Angling Management Plan, visit: www.opposeskeenaamp.com

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Pattern: Wylie Haggerty's Grab Bag Atlantic Salmon Fly

"Man it's gnarly. But, Wylie, why do you call it the Grab Bag?" That's precisely what I asked after a good friend and fishing buddy, Wylie Haggerty, gave me a look at a new fly he'd been working on from his fly tying desk in northern New Jersey.

His response:
"I call that pattern the grab bag because I take a few techniques used in some of my favorite flies, and mix them up."

This fly uses the diamond wrap threading technique (more on this in another post), special dubbing (polar bear) picked out for the hackle, teal collar, the classic jungle cock eyes used in Atlantic salmon flies, and the late-October Salmon River hot color combo of black and orange.

Wylie's Grab Bag is a fantastic illustration of how modern fly tyers are similar to jazz musicians when they develop new fly patterns. Borrowing a bit from something here, mixing elements, and using the language of the past to push the craft forward -- that's it.

Wylie's Grab Bag >>

Hook >> Partridge salmon iron, size 6/0 - 2/0
Thread >> Floss wrapped with diamond technique, burnt orange color
Dubbing >> Polar bear dubbing, black color, heavily teased
Collar 1 >> Teal flank feather, blood red color
Collar 2 >> Schlappen feather, black color
Eye >> Jungle cock nail feathers, matched to hook size

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos and fly courtesy of Wylie Haggerty


Fly Pattern: The Simple Life Flatwing Streamer

Make a cast. Strip line. Set the hook. Play the fish. Take a breath. Keep it simple.

For many, fly fishing and fly tying are about escaping the concrete canyons, carpeted cubicles, conference calls, nagging bosses, and other daily obstacles of a busy modern life. These bright little flies, inspired by the patterns in the classic work by Ken Abrames, Striper Moon, don't take long to tie and are good for the senses.

The Simple Life Flatwing Streamer >>Hook >> Tiemco TMC 800S, 600SP, Gamakatsu Octopus, or similar saltwater hook, size 4-1
Thread >> Wapsi UTC Monofilament Thread, .006
Belly >> Spirit River Bodi Braid, silver
Guard >> Spirit River Bucktail Fibers, vary colors
Wing 1 >> Spirit River Saddle Hackle Feather, tied flat, vary colors
Wing 2 >> Spirit River Saddle Hackle Feather, tied flat, vary colors
Wing 3 >> Spirit River Saddle Hackle Feather, tied flat, vary colors (3rd wing optional)
Topping >> 4-5 Strands Spirit River Peacock Herl
Eyes >> Small Stick-on Plastic Eyes

Whip finish fly and coat head and eyes with Z-Poxy 5-minute epoxy and resin. Allow 20 minutes for drying.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


A New Collection of Flies from Siskiyou Aviary!

Take a look at some of the new fly tying eye candy from the leaders in exotic fly tying feathers and razor's edge modern fly design. Innovation needs inspiration, and what better way to find a little bit than taking a moment to wander through the fields of creativity?

An "Angel Fish" by Robert Quigley employs a large feather wing, some subtle flash, and a long beard of natural white rhea fibers.

When fly tyers reach a certain experience level, they all want to tie a large, complex squid pattern. Thus, big squid patterns are a dime a dozen, but Robert Quigley has found a way to overcome the tendency to be boring by using long, durable rhea fibers and particularly beautiful schlappen hackle feathers in these two Scotty Squid patterns.

Kate Davidson of Siskiyou Aviary spends lots of time creating the thoughtful color palates for her lines of premium fly tying feathers. Take a look at the greens, blues, and purple of this Quigley Scotty Squid.

Paul Miller is famous for his line of "Fly on the Wall" steelhead flies, a celebrity effect that has driven sales in a line of hard-fishing flies for steelhead, South American brown trout, and tarpon anchored by his trademarked Super Spey feathers. A pattern he's perfected is the Steelhead Prawn. Here's a pair that look good enough to eat.

I've already mentioned Kate Davidson's sensitivity to color, and here's a perfect example in the form of a fly she whipped up for the aggressive Pacific Nortwest steelhead that run through her backyard! A dose of organized chaos, the layers of rhea feathers and flash create the big, beautiful bulk that makes aggressive steelhead snap.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to

photos courtesy of Kate Davidson, Robert Quigley, Paul Miller, and siskiyouaviary.com


Fly Pattern: Shunji's Redwing Blackbird (or Ronin) Steelhead Fly

Tied by Shunji of San Francisco, CA, this Redwing Blackbird or "Ronin Fly" is an excellent example of a sparsely dressed modern steelhead fly. This lightweight, but attractive offering works well when swung through gnarly current seams and bubble lines.
Run it around the edges of exposed boulders and other types of structure. Its excellent contrast, slim profile, stiff wing and tail, and gentle flash will move steelhead from their lies even in cold fall and spring water.

Shunji's Redwing Blackbird (Ronin Fly) >>

Hook >>
Tiemco TMC 7999, size 4
Thread >> Wapsi UTC 210 Denier Ultra Thread, black
Ribbing & Tag >> Wapsi Silver oval tinsel, size medium
Tail >> Schlappen Fibers from Spirit River, red
Body >> #2 Chenille from Spirit River, black
Wing (optional) >>Long bucktail fibers from Spirit River, red

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos by Ian McNemar, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


The International Fly Tying Symposium comes to New Jersey

The Brits are coming to New Jersey! Nope, not the red-coats of revolutionary yore, but accomplished fly tyers from the British Isles and across Europe will descend on the Doubletree Hotel and Convention Center in Somerset, NJ for the eighteenth International Fly Tying Symposium November 22 and 23, 2008.

According to program director, Chuck Furimsky, this year's event will include more visitors from across the pond than ever before and an emphasis on new British and European flies that work in waters near and far.

The 2-day event is a favorite among serious fly tyers and boasts a full slate of classes, demonstrations, fly swaps, celebrity tyers, and a Saturday evening party. If you're looking for new materials, this is the place to be. There will be a room of vendors offering everything from fresh natural wood duck feathers to EP Fibers in all colors of the rainbow at excellent prices.

For more information on specific programs and events, where to stay and how to get there, visit the official event website.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Pattern: MJ's Swingin' Freight Train

For years now, Randall Kaufmann's Freight Train has been swung through the green waters of the Deschutes River in Central Oregon with great success.

Anglers know the fly by its distinctive purple and orange floss and sparse dressing. Summer steelhead know it as an irrisistible, if dangerous, staple of their watery environment, especially through the months of July and August.

Even though Kaufmann's original pattern is very modern in its angular lines, sparse dressing, and choice of few materials, Matt "MJ" Jones offers a pattern with softer lines and a more traditional feel to construct a fly that looks a bit more gaudy than Maupin is used to seeing on the end of a leader.

MJ's Swingin' Freight Train >>
Hook >> Tiemco TMC 7999, size 4
Thread >> Wapsi UTC 140 Denier Ultra Thread, orange, pink, green, and black
Ribbing >> Wapsi Silver oval tinsel, size medium
Tail >> Purple Chinese saddle hackle from Spirit River
Body >> Black Ultra Chenille from Spirit River
Collar >> Purple Chinese saddle hackle from Spirit River
Wing (optional) >> White calf hair from Spirit River

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

flies tied by Matt "MJ" Jones, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos by Josh L. Frazier


MJ's Dream Ticket: A Pair of 60-Degree Striper Flies

Well, it's November 4. You've stood in line, you've made sure not to leave any hanging chads or butterflies in your ballot, and you're feeling great about exercising your right to vote. It's time to put your feet up, let the exit polling and fierce vote tallying run its course, and take a look at two of this Fall's nastiest 60-Degree striper flies!

Matt "MJ" Jones' 60-Degree Half & Half is the perfect candidate for those anglers looking for big strikes in cold water this Fall!

The Half & Half: Just like rich Guinness Stout and crisp Harp Lager at your favorite Irish pub, right? Well, not exactly, but the Clouser/Kreh Half & Half is similarly designed. By ingeniously combining two of the most effective baitfish fly patterns in the history of saltwater fly fishing (a little Clouser Minnow on top, a little Lefty’s Deceiver on bottom), Bob Clouser and Lefty Kreh may have stumbled upon one of the most incredible Frankenstein flies a striped bass will ever lay its eyes and lips on!

The leading portion of this beautiful fly is composed of the heavy dumbbell eyes and bucktail of Clouser’s Deep Minnow. This solid, sinking head is trailed by a hackle-type tail which is highlighted by some flash and capped with another pinch of bucktail.

MJ has tied this pattern with a bit of yak hair blended into the bucktail mix, giving it a bit of extra bulk which he says has been useful this fall because of the colder water temperatures he's run across. He's also kept the flash material a bit longer, a preference of many modern tyers.

MJ's Pink Flashtail Whistler
, a variation of Dan Blanton's famous striper pattern, is the perfect blend of bright color and long flash for fishing stripers in the surf or stripping around structure.

MJ has tied this pattern with extreme length in mind. The hackle collar is neatly finished and the green thread nose is long and tapered with care. MJ is known for working with bucktail fibers of exellent quality and length. It can take time to select the proper materials, but the results reflect the hard work.

The 60-Degree Debate

Both of MJ's flies are tied on 60-degree jig hooks from Gamikatsu.
Since Lefty Kreh and Bob Clouser introduced and popularized the "Deep Minnow" during the 1980s, the jig vs. fly debate has burned through the saltwater fly tying and fishing community. Despite the school of tyers and fishers who frown upon flies like the Clouser Minnow and the Flashtail Whistler for their "jigging actions," a great number of saltwater anglers have taken the concept and run with it.

One of the most vocal proponents of the value of this kind of "jig action" is Dan Blanton. He swears by 60-degree jig hooks and their effectiveness in the water, tying all his Whistlers on Eagle Claw jig hook offerings.

Last week, MJ thought he'd give these hooks a whirl. He was impressed, catching three 5- or 7-pound stripers in a short morning trip. Whatever your leanings, 60-degree jig hooks are an easy way to increase the effectiveness of the flies you tie.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos and flies courtesy of Matt "MJ" Jones, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com


Fly Swap IV: George Revel's Steelie Lip Ring

This wicked fly was produced in the most recent Beyond the Bug fly tying jam in San Francisco, CA by George Revel, one of the best young distance fly casters in the United States and an avid steelhead fly angler.
George calls this fly the "Steelie Lip Ring" and it's, in a word, HOT. With a punk rock tail of paired biots, a trim and beautifully ribbed thread body, spiky hackle collars over flashy gold dubbing, and topped with a dark bead head, this stonefly-esque creation is downright nasty.

A native of Redding, CA, Revel grew up with the some of the world's very best trout and steelhead fly fishing opportunities right on his doorstep. His experience has given him a keen sense of proportion and how to get the most out of the materials he adds to a fly. George doesn't just tie flies that look good on the vise, he understands how they'll behave underwater, where they do all their best work. Imagine how those webby brown hackle fibers will hug the dubbing beneath them...

The Trinity River is Revel's Nor Cal home water and it's famous for its winter steelhead runs. Season after season, the right angle poly yarn indicator rig a la Dean Schubert and Dave Hickson proves to be one of the most effective fishing methods on the river. During the colder months, the half-pounders in the Trinity will key in on slow moving nymphs and crippled emergers, and no one knows this feeding behavior better than Revel (pictured below with a brilliant Trinity River fish).

Stoneflies are abundant in the Trinity's rich ecosystem, and Revel's Steelie Lip Ring carries elements of these distinctive packets of buggy protein. From the fly' slightly green abdomen to its two prominent black tails, beefy gold mid section, and dark head, Revel has illustrated how experience and field observation can (and should) inform the flies we design.

Evan LeBon is a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com

photos provided by Ian McNemar, a regular contributor to beyondthebug.com