Back in 2004 I came up with this flying ant pattern while sitting at the vice in my house outside West Yellowstone. Back then, I lived on Denny Creek and my tying bench overlooked a meadow filled of three foot tall sage and high priced breeder bulls, and the southern end Gallatin Range in Yellowstone was the backdrop. The vista alone was inspiring, and at times I found myself not tying flies at all, but staring out the picture window loosing myself to ideas I can’t remember. Back then, I tied most of the flies in my boxes; tying in the morning before guide trips or in the evening to alter a fly from the day’s testing. This fly came out of those days living on Denny Creek.
Years ago, Gary La Fontaine tied the original buzzball on the Missouri River. Some say this fly looks like dead and decaying matter often seen floating in back eddies and that Gary tied the fly for midges shucks while hanging out at the Trout Shop in Craig. The hackle points touch the water in numerous places, making this fly buggy as all get out. I can’t really remember exactly when I came up with my version of the buzzball, but it was on the Missouri river in July during a caddis, probably around 2006 or so. My boat was on anchor in between the Trestles and we had fish eating caddis about 20 feet away. They wanted the buzzball but it was hard to see, the night before I had tied in a compara dun wing along with a trailing shuck so we tested the variation. It drifted through the pod and fish moved out of their lane to eat our buggy bug. A few springs later, our buddy Jake Chutz at Montana Fly Company coined the name “Comparabuzz” after the two of us spent a few days fishing midges on the Missouri. I tie this fly in several color combinations and have fished it all over North and South America with the great success. Our friend and fellow guide in Esquel, Martin Weaver, called me before my trip to Argentina cancelled (I am supposed to be down south right this very minute) to make sure I had tossed in a few dozen of these for him; this is one of his go to flies on Rio Tecka.
Originator: Joe Moore, BSA Co-owner
Hook: MFC Model 7000, TMC 100 or equivalent, #14, 16, or 18
Thread: Unit Thread 8/0 Black
Tail: Sparkle Emerger Yarn, Brown
Wing: Deer Hair or Widows Web, Light Tan
Hackle: Brown and Grizzly
Color combos – these all work well for midges, caddis and mayflies. Smaller stone flies as well.
Each year we get asked for streamer patterns that we personally like, flies we fish with and have success with. It’s no secret that Kelly Galloup’s flies work and their bin appeal is second to none. Kelly has spent a ton of time at the vise and at the river testing these patterns out, which is what every fly tyer should do before offering them to the public. A couple of winters ago I was down at the Slide Inn hanging out for little bit and watching KG tie. He was working on a new pattern and when he was done, we took our beers outside and he worked this fly through a pool. No shit, he smacked a fish on the first cast. Maybe it was because he was fishing the fly, maybe it was the fly itself. None the less, it was super cool to watch his process of tying and testing. We got excited when he finally came out with the mini versions of the Sex Dungeon and the Bangtails. These two patterns have fantastic profiles in the water, their articulation and movement in the water is life like, they push just the right amount of water and they cast super well compared to their larger cousins. A bonus of the mini versions is that the size of the fly pattern still triggers large trout to eat. In Yellowstone National Park, the law says that the lure must have only a single barbless hook. So our solution is to cut off one of the hooks. But…which one? Well, we debate this to no end here the shop and what we have come up with are two theories.
When water temps are dropping or have been cold for quite some time (think mid October, November and most of the winter when swinging flies) we cut off the the front hook and leave the back hook. We like having the hook as far back as possible in cold water as fish tend to nip at the back of the fly and having the hook in the back will give you more successful hookups.
Throughout the rest of the season (May, June, July, August and Sept), we cut off the back hook and leave the front as we believe when big fish are hunting in warmer water, they focus on the front of the fly and maybe even focus on the eye of the baitfish. We even go as far as oversizing the eye on our custom tied flies for South America.
Shank: Cut off hook or pre fab shank, Straight eye
Trailing Hook: Owner SSW, #6 or 8
Trailing hook connection: Coated wire
Weight: Cross Eyed Cone, ¼”. Substitute tungsten for extra depth.
Thread: 6/0 black
Tail: Marabou blood quill, Pearly Krystal Flash, and a pair of matching grizzly hackle tips in matching or contrasting color.
Body: Ice Dub, color to match pattern (olive, uv black, pearl, rusty, purple)
Legs: MFC Barred Sexi Floss
Collar: Guinea hen, palmered, color to match pattern
Notes: This pattern is a real winner from the bench of my good friend Brian Chou. Originally tied to fish for trout from a drift boat on Washington’s Yakima River, the Fortune Cookie has, in recent years, become a real favorite among Trout Spey and swung fly enthusiasts from Montana to New Zealand. The fly’s moderate size makes it easy to cast on lighter Trout Spey setups, and the profile has all the right qualities to suggest baitfish, sculpin, or crayfish. Contrasting colors and wiggly materials help to move those fish who might not be on the feed, but are in the mood to be influenced into making bad decisions. The weighted head makes it very versatile in terms of action and presentation. On a straight swing it planes out, stays deep, and wiggles. Bounce the rod tip and you get a great jigging action and tons of motion. This pattern comes in great colors too: Olive, Black, White, Purple, and my favorite, Brown/Yellow!
Wing case/shell back: Olive marabou or mallard flank fibers. These can be coated with UV clear cure resin for durability.
Notes: About 20 years ago I had the good fortune to attend one of Denny Rickards’ stillwater seminars right down the road at Hebgen Lake. At that time, I’d really only fished dry flies on Hebgen during the Callibaetis hatch, and fooled around with a woolly bugger here and there on other lakes on other occasions. Listening to Denny (and seeing his big fish pictures) inspired me to buy an intermediate sinking line and get a little more serious about subsurface lake fishing. At the end of the class, he handed me a scruffy looking olive and orange fly and suggested that it would be a very good place to start experimenting. His words gave me the confidence to try it, and many of his other patterns. The Stillwater Nymph was a great fly for me from the start, and still is today. Fished slowly, with a hand twist or short pull and pause retrieve, this is a great fly to fish when you might not be sure what to tie on, or when you know the trout are around but there aren’t a ton of any specific insect hatching. It’s suggestive nature, and smaller size seem to get it done even in August, when the fish get a bit more choosy.