Enjoy the Site, But…

…I haven’t tied any flies for resale for quite a while.  I own and operate a busy guitar repair business, as well as a busy guitar shop here in Red Wing, MN.  You can see what I’m doing now over at treestrings.com.  You can also check out Tree Strings, LLC on Facebook & Instagram.

I’m not ready to take down this site yet.  The patterns are very useful to the Driftless Angler, and when I do get out to fish, I use the fly patterns found on this site almost exclusively…as I have done for well over a decade.

None of these flies are too hard to tie, and I suggest that if you don’t already, take up fly tying and copy these patterns!

If you are looking for quality tying materials, fly tying gear & fly fishing equipment in general, I wholeheartedly recommend Lund’s Fly Shop in River Falls, WI.  They are hands down the best fly shop in our region.

Thanks for visiting this site.

Brian Stewart

Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

Tricos on 5x, and A Word About Hooks


Trico caught trout. Concentrate on that DRIFT!!

“Back in the day”, I used to fish the trico spinner fall A LOT.  I still remember the wonder and frustration of fishing my first major spinner fall on the South Branch of the Root River down in Fillmore county.  The bugs were thick and trout were rising everywhere.  That was the start of my infatuation with this “hatch”.

Tricos can hatch almost daily from the end of June to the end of the trout season, so that gives the dedicated angler a lot of opportunities to learn how to best fish this hatch in any given season.  So, for several years in a row, I fished the tricos a lot…as much as I could.  After a season or 3 I developed several “rules” for successfully catching fish during the spinner fall.  I’ll summarize them here:

1. Use a long (15ft) leader with a long, fine tippet to facilitate a drag free drift.

2. Make your casts across, down and across, or down stream to the fish on a slack line (pile cast, reach cast, etc…).  This gives the best drag free drift, which is essential.

3.  Choose your fly wisely. Once you tie on a fly, DO NOT CHANGE IT.  Have confidence in your fly so you can concentrate on your drift.

4.  Try to concentrate your presentation on one fish (not easy, but not always necessary).

5.  Most important:  Concentrate on getting a DRAG FREE DRIFT.

After several years of enjoying the trico phenomena, I kind of just quit it.  My life had changed and I found that it was just not possible to get out much in the mornings.  There were seasons that I’d try to fish it once or twice, and seasons where I missed it completely.  Thankfully, I was able to hit the hatch once so far this year.  Not only did I have a blast catching a lot of trout, I also learned a little lesson.

I was on the water early.  The tricos were just starting to hatch.  A few trout were taking the hatching flies, but the main event -the spinner fall- had not started yet.  I tied on a 15 foot leader that tapered down to 7x.  I did not have any 7x or 6x tippet on me, so I was relying on this one leader to get me through the entire spinner fall.  Ha! The gods of fly fishing choose that moment to teach me a lesson.  As I was unraveling the leader a hopelessly tight knot formed right where the leader tapers down to the fine tippet section…I had to cut off my entire 7x section of leader before I even started fishing!  The lightest tippet I had was 5x, which many will tell you is too thick to get a good drift with a size 20 or smaller dry fly.  It’s all I had, so I tied on a 3ft section, to which I attached my trico spinner pattern.  Well, it worked!  I focused on my five rules and caught fish after fish.  The only time I’d get a refusal was when I made a bad cast that resulted the fly dragging, and that only happened twice.  So now I know for a fact that 5x is not too heavy for tiny dry flies and drag free drifts.  As a bonus, the 5x allowed me to put more pressure on the fish in order to quickly drag it out of the pod of risers, lessening the chance of spooking the other fish.


The large gap and offset bend give the Daiichi 1640 great hooking and holding power for its size. This trico spinner pattern is simple and deadly.

A significant part of my fish catching success during the trico hatch is the fly.  Early on I found that this design was not only simple to tie, it is quite durable, hooks fish well, and just plain works day in, day out.  The pattern is basic: white poly yarn wings with a couple strands of UV krystal flash, black Superfine thorax, olive thread abdomen, no tail.  The real secret is the hook, a Daiichi 1640 in size 18 or 20.  The hook is 2x short, so a size 18 has the shank length of a 22. It also has an offset bend and the gap is the same as a size 18,  giving it really good hooking and holding qualities when compared to a standard size 22 hook.  Take a look at the photo and you’ll see what I mean.

I’ve really missed the trico hatch.  Getting out and fishing it again this year was blast, and I hope I can do it again.  I hope you can too!


Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

Splat Beetle Wins the Evening…Slurpster a Close Second


Feisty 15 incher that smacked the Splat Beetle

With reports coming in of the water clearing on one of my favorite Pierce County, Wisconsin streams, I figured I better get out while I had the chance.  The weather is so unpredictable these days, you never know if the next thunderstorm will blow out the creeks or not.

The water was still not perfectly clear, but the fish were still looking up.  As usual, I tied on a black Slurpster and started searching the water.  After a slow start with one smaller fish, I hit the jackpot.  I cast my fly to a bankside rock at the tailout of a large pool.  A fish swirled at the fly, but did not take.  Knowing that fish rarely take the Slurpster on a second pass, I quickly tied on a Splat Beetle.  The fish took on the first cast with the new fly.  I soon landed a healthy 15 inch male brown trout.  Often times if a fish swirls or looks at the Slurpster, it can be taken on a smaller fly…just don’t keep pounding away at the fish with the Slurpster…change up right after the first miss!


Splat Beetle takes another 15 incher!

Overall, the Slurpster caught the most fish, but Splat Beetle took the two largest…both fat, healthy 15 inchers.  Both of those fish first refused the Slurpster, too!  As the stream started to come alive with hatching mayflies, and rising trout, I also took some fish on a size 16 UV Parachute.  What a great night for dry fly fishing!





If you are looking for a fairly priced guide service, look no further!  I guide fly fishermen on many of the popular (and not so popular!) streams within approximately 30 miles of Red Wing, Minnesota.  I guide in both Minnesota and Wisconsin & can usually book a trip on fairly short notice.  Whether you are a novice looking to learn the area, or a grizzled veteran from out of town, I can help put you on trout for a very reasonable cost.  Please see my Guide Services page for complete details on what I provide and how to book  your trip.



Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

Hay Creek & the Hendricksons

Light hendrickson dun from lower Hay Creek.

Light hendrickson dun from lower Hay Creek.

Heavy rain that turned our local streams into chocolate milk had kept me off the water for several days.  The last time I’d been out, the river was clear and the fish were there, but the hatch activity was sporadic at best.  “Everything is late this year”, is the phrase we’ve all been hearing this spring.  Not only is everything late, but the hatches are sporadic and unpredictable as well.  So it was under these conditions that I found myself lazing at Hay Creek Campground, eating chili-dogs with visiting family, with no thoughts of fishing the creek that flowed a mere 100 yards away…until I took the kids for a walk down to the bridge to look at the water…

The first thing I saw was the mass of mayfly spinners swarming over the water.  Whoa! The next thing I saw were the trout, lots of trout, feeding on the spinners as they deposited their egg sacs in the water.  Well, at that point I knew what I’d be doing the Friday night!

First trout of the evening, taken on a UV Parachute dry fly.

First trout of the evening, taken on a UV Parachute dry fly.

Friday night came and I was on the water by 6pm…apparently at the tail end of the Light Hendrickson hatch.  There was one fish rising in the small run I chose to start the evening on, and I got him on a UV Parachute.  I was using a size 14, even though a size 16 would have more closely matched the hatching insect.  The trout aren’t usually too picky on the lower end of Hay Creek.  Since this was the only trout rising, and there wasn’t any more decent holes in that stretch of creek, I moved a few miles up to the pasture.



The UV Parachute does it again!

The UV Parachute does it again

Now I was in the “slot-limit” section of Hay Creek, so I decided to keep some fish for lunch the next day.  All fish kept here have to be under 12 inches, and I bonked the first 10 incher to come to hand.  Keeping some fish out of this slot section should help reduce the population of trout, making it easier for what trout are left to grow to a larger size.  Here’s a blog post I wrote for MN Trout Forums regarding slot limits and keeping fish.

As the evening progressed, I picked my way upstream, catching several small browns, but none that I considered big enough to keep, and no larger fish that would be over the slot, either.  I found that not much was going on hatch wise.  As far as I could tell, I had missed the Hendrickson emergence.  Still, there were a few fish rising and the UV parachute took them handily.  I kept my eye open for a spinner fall…and it never came.

12 incher on a cream Mini Bent Head Streamer.

12 incher on a cream Mini Bent Head Streamer.

Seeing how there was no trout rising, and it was getting near dark, I tied on a cream Mini Bent Head Streamer.  This took a few fish here and there, including a couple in the 12 inch range that I released.  Thankfully, I was also able to creel a couple more smaller fish for lunch the next day.

At around 9pm I realized that the spinner fall was not going to happen where I was, and I packed up and headed out.  I decided to drive down to the campground area just to see if the conditions were any different there.  Sure enough, there was a hendrickson spinner fall in progress!  I’m not sure why it didn’t happen on the stretch of stream I had been fishing, but there was no question it was going strong right there in front of me.  It was too dark and there were too many campers for me to break out the rod again, so I went home.

As I cleaned my trout, I found that one fish had a very full stomach, so I decided to poke around its contents to see what it had been eating.  What I could identify: LOTS of light hendrickson duns (mainly identified by the undigested wings); caddis pupae; caddis adults; small snails (I almost always find small snails in the stomach contents of Hay Creek trout); deer flies; mosquito; black caddis (1); small scuds & midge larvae.  Lots of variety!

So, if you are looking for a hatch, the light hendricksons can be found here and there, but be ready to fish attractor patterns, nymphs, streamers & whatever else if you want to catch fish, because you never know what you will find once you set foot in the water.

Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

May 18, 2014 Fishing Report

Sunday afternoon found me dozing on the couch after an eventful weekend camping trip. Sunday evening found me itching to cast a fly onto one of my favorite local trout streams. So, I went.

I was on the water by 6:30pm and there were a couple fish rising, but no real hatch going on. There were a few caddis on the water, but when I tried an imitation, I caught no fish. I had absolutely no desire to dredge a nymph, so I put on a Slurpster…and started catching fish. I think it’s offical: the trout are looking up for food, and will be the rest of the season!

As I worked my way upstream, there were relatively few rising fish, but fish were coming up to either look at the Slurpster, or slurp it down. All in all, I think I caught somewhere around 10 fish, and had several other close calls fishing the dry. Most of the fish were around 12 inches, with a couple going 14 inches.

As darkness was getting near, I tied on a Bent-Head Streamer and worked my way back downstream, casting as I went. I immediately started catching fish. What was funny was that most of the fish I caught on the streamer were a fair bit smaller than the ones that took the dry. I did have a couple larger fish have their way with me in some fast pocket water. One looked to be in the 16 inch range.

All in all a great night to be on the water. Attractor dries should now be on your list of flies to try for the rest of the season. Read this blog post on the MN Trout Forums for more on fishing attractor dries.


Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

Coming Soon To a Stream Near You (if you live in The Driftless…)

004 (3)

March has slipped away and April is just a couple days away.  Snow will (hopefully) make way for rain, and the creeks will rise and fall.  The stream banks and sunny hillsides will turn green and spring will be upon us.  Although a few hearty anglers have been out for the winter season, the “real” trout season is about to begin, and with that, some reliable dry fly fishing!

Sure, winter has its midges and tiny black stoneflies, and if your lucky, maybe some of those larger “early” stoneflies, but soon we will start seeing one of every fly fisherman’s favorite hatches: the ubiquitous “Blue-Winged Olive” (BWO) mayfly.  This little tidbit of trout treat can seem to bring every fish to the surface when it starts hatching.  This makes fast action for the fly fisherman who can keep his cool during the mayhem.I have a couple favorite patterns for this hatch that have proven themselves reliable fish catchers over the years.

My first go to fly for the BWO hatch…or any mayfly hatch for that matter…is my basic UV Parachute, tied in the appropriate color scheme.  This fly is easy to see and has a great wing profile.  If the trout are taking the adult duns, this fly works well.  Because the UV Parachute is tied on a curved hook, the back of the fly gets below the surface of the water, and can imitate the emerging mayfly as well.  Of course this fly typically fishes best with a drag free presentation.

The second hot fly is a Gary Borger original:  The Wet/Dry Fly.  Gary describes this fly in his book: Designing Trout Flies.  The Wet/Dry Fly is essentially an “emerger” pattern.  It can be fished…as the name implies…either as a dry fly or a wet fly, and is especially useful during the BWO hatch.  BWOs seem to be pretty active while hatching, and a wet fly swung down and across through a riffle can be very effective.  Fished on a drag free float as a dry, the Wet/Dry Fly can be hard to see, but with its longish soft hackle and antron tail, it makes an excellent emerger or cripple imitation.  Just watch for a rise in the vicinity of where your fly should be and gently set the hook.

I know that when I have these two flies in my arsenal, I’m ready for the Blue-Winged Olive hatch on any Driftless Area stream.  Order yours today and be ready for this great spring mayfly hatch.


Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

Fishing Report…The Trout Are Biting!

Bluff Country Flies Simpleton Midge

The Simpleton Midge works great on trout rising to a midge emergence.

I was recently out on one of my favorite streams in Pierce County with one of my favorite fishing partners…who is also in Pierce County.  We hadn’t fished together for months, and were both very happy to be out enjoying the great weather.  Catching fish was not a high priority.

We worked the stream slowly.  Scuds were very productive and we also ran into a midday midge hatch.  The Bluff Country Flies Simpleton Midge worked well…if it was presented right!  The day was very sunny and trout that were eating midges were in the shallow heads of the pools.  They were easily spooked by a sloppy cast, and when you hooked one, several others would just stop rising.  Regardless, trout were caught on the dry fly.

All fishing reports I’ve heard from other angler’s have been positive throughout the Driftless.  Scuds & pink squirrels are catching a lot of fish all over.  Some are having luck on streamers like the Baitfish Clouser.  Some winter stoneflies are hatching, but the majority of the dry fly action is on midges.

Posted in Driftless Trout Fishing

June, 2014