USGS Stream Data

Kenai Rvr @ CooperLndg

  • Water Temp: 44.24 ° F
  • Flow: 7020 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.91 ft

Middle Kenai @ Skilak

  • Flow: 9440 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 10.15 ft

Talkeetna Rvr

  • Water Temp: 49.82 ° F
  • Flow: 10100 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 6.46 ft

Situk Rvr

  • Water Temp: 54.5 ° F
  • Flow: 143 ft³/s
  • Water Level: 65.40 ft
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Posts Tagged ‘fly tying’

Barra del Colorado Fly Tying Project

The fly-tying project was a huge success. I don’t know what I really expected, but the actual experience definitely surpassed all my pre-trip anticipation.
There was the logistics to deal with; this wasn’t like teaching a class in our local communities.

Damond and I did prep work for weeks in advance. We decided on a selection of patterns for tarpon and snook that we thought beginning tyers could handle. We chose patterns that started simple and got progressively more complex, while still being popular and effective for the fishing they do on the Rio Colorado. Since some of these patterns were new to us, we sat down and tied a few so we’d know what we were doing. (I did learn a couple new tying techniques that I’ll be incorporating into my flies.) I created step by step fly pattern sheets for each pattern, then translated them into Spanish. I pulled pages from my fly-tying manual about thread control, then modified and converted them to Spanish as well. We poured over a materials list for the flies, trying to balance cost verses quantity. Then we had to figure out how to pack all this stuff into the two suitcases each we’d be traveling with. I’ll share that both of us just squeaked under the 50lb mark on luggage, and our carry-ons were heavy; but we made it without any excess baggage charges.

However, we didn’t make it through Customs in Costa Rica. The vises, and an outboard steering unit Damond brought, flagged during the X-ray process and we got pulled out of line and asked for invoices on those items. Unfortunately, both items exceeded the allowable limit for import, and even though the vises were gifts, it was decided that they were subject to Costa Rican import tax. Which, by the way, would be decided later by another Government agency that we would have to deal with the next day. The short version of this story is that with a little help from our local contact, who was translating for us, we were able to pay the tax out of pocket for a piece of paper that allowed us to get our stuff out of lock-up. And it only took five hours instead of two to three days, which would have killed our timeline. We got lucky and learned a valuable lesson.

San Jose itself sits in a valley surrounded by mountains. However, like any big city, people and traffic are everywhere, and I would hate to navigate the through the barrios downtown without a GPS aid. Once out of the city and headed up through the mountains we saw some amazing landscapes, and since it was a four hour drive east to the river, we got to see some of the rural country side as well as we drove through some of the smaller communities.

20 kilometers of dirt road through rural countryside was the final leg of the trip.

Due to our delay getting out of San Jose, it was dark by the time we reached the river for the ride downstream to Barra del Colorado. The captain of the transport boat wasn’t very happy about running the river at night, but Franko convinced him to get us to our final destination. The transport boat runs back and forth all the time, so the captain knew the river like the back of his hand. We couldn’t see much, but what was cool was the fireflies. They were twinkling in the trees along the shoreline as we slowly made our way down river. The river was low, so the captain idled over several sandbars. The trip downriver took almost an hour. I understand that it’s only about 30 minutes when the water is up, it’s daylight, and the boat can run under full power. Once at the lodge, we met our hosts, had dinner, and decompressed a bit. It had taken us two days of travel and had been an adventure up to this point, but we had made it!

Rio Colorado boat launch at sunset.

Brisas del Mar (Sea Breezes) was hosting the tying classes and owner Lorena had arranged for us to use part of her covered veranda as a classroom. Being in the tropics, this area is also the main dining, sitting, and social space. Outside of the guest rooms and kitchen area, the veranda makes up most of the covered area of the lodge.

The covered veranda (on the right) was our fly tying classroom.

At the lodge, everyone is up early; anglers are off to their morning fishing as early as 6AM, and they’ve already been served breakfast by then. Since our classes started at 9AM, Damond and I slept in a bit, but spent time after breakfast prepping the tying area and sorting out materials. Once everyone started showing up, we realized that word of the tying classes had spread around the community and we now had twelve people interested in tying instead of ten. Nothing like being popular! To our rescue, one of the guest volunteered two of his (traveling) kits and we shared tools to make sure we could accommodate the extra people.

Getting ready to get started.

Like any class of beginners, it was pretty chaotic at first. Language was the biggest challenge. Fortunately, we had a couple of great translators. Franko (our primary contact in Costa Rica), Josue (a good friend of Franko’s), and Diane (an ex-patriot from Canada that lives in Barra) are bi-lingual and all had experience in tying flies. Between the fly pattern sheets, and someone translating what I was saying as I demonstrated techniques it went fairly well. Everyone would watch while I demonstrated, then return to their vises to duplicate what they had seen. With one-on-one help with students from Damond, Franko, and myself by the end of the first session that morning, we had tied the first two of the patterns on the list. Lunch break… for two hours! In Barra they seem to do a leisurely lunch. Anglers come back from their morning fishing and a hot lunch is served. Then everyone seems to just chill for a bit. Naps I would assume, but don’t know as we were busy prepping for the afternoon session that started at 2PM.

Two flies down, and the mess is just started.

It was during the afternoon session that we started seeing the interest level kick up a bit. Students were asking for help with techniques they were struggling with. There was more interaction between the tyers as they helped each other. And everyone seemed to be having more fun with the process. It was encouraging to see the effort they were putting into each step as we pushed through a couple more patterns that afternoon. The three-hour class went by fast, and by the end of the first day the students with natural skills, and the ones with the drive for doing it “right”, were starting to show themselves. It was a good day!

Students helping students.

That evening there was a bit of casting practice in front of the lodge and a cold beverage or two before dinner. We got to officially meet the anglers staying at the lodge; a group of three from France and a couple from Argentina. The guys from France were mostly gear anglers, but Daniel from Argentina was a fly fisher. Not only did we have an opportunity to talk fly fishing, but I learned a simple foam rubber-leg bug pattern from him that I incorporated into the next day’s tying class. Seems that Costa Rica has a few freshwater species that, although not as popular as the tarpon and snook, can be a lot of fun on a lighter rod. We stayed up way too late visiting; but hey, we figured we could rest when we got back home.

Clifford, a captain/guide is not only a good fly tyer, but a decent caster as well.

Day two – Intermediate level flies. Everyone showed up on time and ready to learn. The first thing Damond I did was teach the students how to do a whip finish with their fingers. We’d been using the whip-finish tool the first day, but Damond had brought his “sticks with strings” and the students had the technique down in no time. By the end of the morning session, we had four more patterns tied, including the foam bug I had seen the night before. Skill levels in individuals were really starting to develop and students helping students was common. You could almost see the excitement as their flies appeared in their vices.

The afternoon session only included two patterns, but both flies used unique tying techniques and we spend a fair amount of time going over the skills in-depth. Apart from material bulk, I have to say I was very impressed with the quality of the construction from all the students as they finished their last pattern. As an outsider, both in language and culture, it was hard for me to gage how much they recognized my praise; but I did try to let them know that as a groups of beginners, I had never seen so much improvement in such a short amount of time. They all worked hard at learning the skills we had come to teach.

A vise full of flies at the end of day two.

So, as I said in the beginning, I’m not sure what I expected, but the project went well past what I was hoping for. The project created excitement within the community of Barra; we had a fishing skipper (Cliff) volunteer to spend his time with students interested in continuing to develop their tying skills (Come to find out, he ties a pretty mean fly himself and showed us a box that he has for his clients. Good flies!); we were told that at least two of the students expressed interest in tying for retail sales and will be coached by Diane (mentioned earlier) in business skills and marketing outside of the local fishery; everyone kept expressing how grateful they were that we came down to teach and how much they had learned.

The Barra del Colorado fly tyers – What a great group of people.

It was decided that the equipment and extra materials would be kept at the lodge for any of the tyers to use on an as needed basis. They are going to run it like a co-op, with all the people who participated able to check out what they need to practice and/or tie flies with. Franko will stay in touch with Lorena to make sure they keep the equipment up and arrange materials as needed. (Franko lives in San Jose and has better access to tying materials.) I hope to make it back to Barra in the near future; to fish mostly, but to also check in and see how our kick starter project does in the long run. Hopefully we have made an impact and influenced the future of some lives through this project.

An extra loud shout out to the following that helped us make this project a reality.

Alaska Fly Fishers – Mossy Fly Shop – Peak Vises – Brisas del Mar Lodge – Franko Avarenga, our Costa Rican host, and everyone who contributed to our Go Fund Me account. This project would not have happened without you.

Some parting notes:

We did have an opportunity to fish for a day. However, the weather turned on us and temperatures dropped 10 to 15 degrees. When that happens, the fish go down and there is no bite. So, we spent the day “fishing”, not catching.

The day we left, we got out for about three hours in the early morning. The temperatures had come back up and Damond & I managed to hook a couple of Jack Carvalles on fly rods, and Josue (on our boat) hooked a couple tarpon casting jigs. Damond jumped one tarpon on the fly rod, but it threw the fly on its first jump. Saul (on another boat) lost one of the biggest tarpons of his life drifting a fly just inside of the river mouth. Tarpon do seem like flies!

The more we visited the more we learned that there’s lots more to Costa Rica fly fishing than saltwater. There is plenty of freshwater habitat for Machaca, Guapote, and Mojarra; all of which will come to fly patterns and are great sport on lighter rods. On our next opportunity to go down, we’re planning on exploring those options as well.  


Spear-It™ Hooks

Confession time; as a fly tyer I have an addiction to hooks.  Not just your “run of the mill” everyday hooks, but to really nice, custom, specialized hooks. Hooks that, like micro-brewed beer, are built for those of us that will spend a little more money for something special.

Cool looking hooks!

Cool looking hooks!

Even when I’m not shopping for hooks, I have to at least seek a glance at the hook rack; which is how I ended up with the new Spear-It™ Sickle Octopus style hooks. And not just a single package of a specific size; but four packages in a range of sizes. I just had to. I couldn’t help myself.

Spear-It Sickle hooks are not designed specifically for fly tying, although they are listed as a fly hook; but rather are designed to be use as a stinger, or trailing hook. Almost any short shanked hook will work as a trailing hook, although most tyers prefer an Octopus style of some sort. If you’re using something stiff to attach your trailing hook, you can position it so that the hook point rides up, with the hopes of minimizing snagging. The problem with a standard Octopus style is that the gape is usually big enough to have the hook point out away from the body a bit. (I’m not talking about offset bends, that’s a whole other design feature.) This new Sickle design seems to have overcome that design flaw. The hook point is in-line with the eye, and the bend is angular instead of a continuous curve. Read the rest of this entry »


Fly Flasher

Hey! Hey! Lance discovered (via Mossy’s Fly Shop) a  new and exciting site that just for flies and fly tyers.



Fly Flashers has been around for just over a year, but is gaining speed. We decided to help. Both Lance & I joined today and I listed several of our favorite patterns. We’d like to encourage you to give them a look see; and if you’re a tyer, or just want to share the patterns that you use that work, sign up and join us. Nothing like networking to get the creative juices flowing.







Find them on Facebook, or go online to for a visit.

We’re fans!

Search Lance Hankins or 2 Guys


It’s Fry Time!



For most Alaskan fly fishers spring brings melting snow and thoughts summer fishing, with (hopefully) sunshine and green things growing everywhere.  But some of us have discovered we can have frys with our spring.

Salmon eggs laid last fall have been hatching under the ice, slowly developing into alevins (yoke sac fry). As ice pulls away from the spawning beds, the alevin, having used up their yoke sac, become fry. New fry swim to the surface, gulp some air to fill their air bladder, and begin free swimming and feeding. It’s at this point in their young lives that fry become available to all the other fish that have been on minimum rations through winter.

Read the rest of this entry »


Tubular Smolt – Tying instrucions

The Tubular Smolt came from my desire to have a fly that imitated the young fish I grew up seeing in the shallows of lakes. In my younger days we had small Flatfish and Rapalas for our ultra-light spinning rods. Once I started fly fishing I missed that basic minnow shape, and the desire to imitate it never really left the part of my brain that fishes. When I began learning more about bait fish, I kept thinking that there had to be a way to create a pattern that would mimic the head down attitude of a crippled fish. I also reasoned that a pattern that floated head down could be twitched back to horizontal creating an impression of struggling to stay alive. I wasn’t so concerned about movement, there are plenty of flies for that, I was mostly focused on size, color, and shape.

Although I had played with a few different patterns over the years, it was the thermometer probe cover that finally got my creative juices flowing. Here was the shell for an underbody. I knew I wanted to use Mylar tubing as an outer cover; all I had to do is figure out a way to get this long, thin walled tube onto a hook. After a few failed attempts at prototypes I became frustrated in that I just could not come up with a way to create a solid enough union to a hook to tie materials onto and over the tube. So the probe covers sat in my material box for almost a year. Then, while looking at some tube fly materials, I noticed cone heads designed for small tubes. “Tube flies” I thought, (mentally smacking myself on the side of the head) that’s the answer! I had toyed tying tube flies in the past, but being a bit of a traditionalist, I had failed to think past the shanked hook school of design when working on this baitfish imitation.

It took three attempts to create a tube fly that suspended head down, looked like a small fish, and did not have the disadvantage of an extra-long hook shank. The material sizes listed in the instructional PDF are based on getting the fly to suspend with neutral density. I’ve since subsisted foam for the head, for a high floating fly, and I’ve been stuffing the front part of the probe cover with fluorescent glo-bug yarn and/or Everglow fibers. You can alter the length of the body to create a shorter or longer baitfish and color the body to match any local baitfish. It is important that the body (Mylar tubing) be sealed. I’ve used regular epoxy, rod wrapping epoxy, and am currently playing with a couple different UV cured coatings. All seem to have their pros and cons. I use nail polish, especially ones with sparkle, to add color and extra bling to the body. Once you have the basic pattern, variations are endless.

Rainbow that took Tubular Smolt on the Agulawok River

Rainbow that took Tubular Smolt on the Agulawok River

The pattern’s name come from the fact that I now fish areas where salmon smolts are a prime baitfish; and the fly has proven itself on a couple of different river fisheries for rainbows. The interesting point is that I’ve yet to get the chance to fish one in a lake, where the process started years ago. But then, life is still young!

For a PDF of the Tying Instructions for this pattern, go to our Patterns page.

If you have questions or other comments, please feel free to post them here or email me at


Sculpin Tube Tie

Bruce Berry of Pro Tube Fly Systems demonstrates how to tie really cool sculpin pattern on a Pro Tube Micro Tube.

Posted on YouTube by Caddis Fly Shop


New link to Visit – Flymage online

Added a couple of new links to my January Link list. Flymage Magazine (blow it up full-screen for best viewing) is another online FREE fly fishing photography magazine of EXCELLENT quality. Check it out – this month they have a great article on the Pebble Mine controversy. Excellent reading and great photos. They also have a blog – Flymage Magazine – Fly Fishing and Photography. Another great resource. Take a look at some of the fly patterns presented there. I’ve got some new stuff to try this summer… Oh, and if it should be that you’d prefer this mag in Spanish, they can accommodate. There’s a Spanish version online as well as the English. Enjoy!