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mikemac1

Humpys and Headwaters

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve fished the same reaches of a Rocky Mountain headwaters stream five times. This repetition takes some commitment as the variety of fishing opportunities in SW Montana in July is essentially limitless. But the repetition had a purpose—field testing some Humpy variations. This was an easy stream to fish, not necessarily easy to reach. It was a 2.5 hour drive from the home and at least 35 miles of gravel once you left the main highway. Nestled in a high sagebrush valley the stream held good water for July and the fish—mostly 10-14” cuttbows were hungry. Bug life was plentiful and there was no need to match the hatch. Anything that looked like food was readily attacked by tiny torpedos emerging from their lair.

This was classic humpy water and my goal was to test out a variety of humpys to find out which performed the best. I had three criteria. 1) How well did the fly float? 2) Visibility, how well could you see the fly on the water? 3) Recovery — how well did the fly recover after catching a fish? Before the first cast, each fly was treated with Loon Aquel. After a fish, the fly was dried with a desiccant. On the fish’s part, there wasn’t much selectivity. Most of the Humpys I fished, caught fish. After each trip, I tied new versions for the next trip, incorporating features that I thought would improve the fly. After five trips and at least 10 dozen flies tied, two variations stood out.

Although body color didn’t seem to make a difference for the fish, it certainly did for me. Light, bright colors were the most visible, thus allowing more control over fly placement and drift. Bleached moose was my favorite upper body material. Any bright underbody color—red, orange or yellow worked well. The most successful hackle was cream badger or Cree. Darker hackles did not show up as well.

I did tie some foam body variations which worked extremely well in smaller 16-14 sizes. Probably the most successful variation was the use of Z-Lon for wings and underbody. Impervious to water, the Z-Lon flies stayed dry and recovered after a catch very well. Bright Z-Lon for the wings on small flies also improved visibility.

Some of the variations I rejected were:
Trude style wings—tend to twist leader during false casting
CDC wings—good visibility and initial float ability, but poor recovery.
Calf tail wings—difficult to tie, no on stream advantage
Dark body and wing colors and dark hackle - poor visibility

Here are pics of the two successful variations and the waters they were tested on.

Foam Humpy.jpg

Badger Humpy.jpg

Headwaters_1.jpg

Headwaters_2.jpg

Humpy_Fly_Box.jpg

BZN40205 (2).JPG

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Mikemac1

Those are some nice looking Humpys of all things I have never thought about a foam Humpy I will have to give that a try and that water looks like pure fun. Nice

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Mike

Great job of investigating and analyzing the various options!  You were off the beaten path and able to eliminate a number of variables.  What a beautiful stream and it must have been a joy to catch those fish. Your pictures bring back memories of fishing in Montana. Thanks for sharing your process with us. 
Tom

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Horrible view and it's got to be tough dealing with all the other fly anglers but otherwise it seems like an "ok" place to fish. 😅

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Hi the humpies are great have you thought of using siliconised poly yarn the good quality stuff also have you tried flyrite dillywax an excellent floatant hope this help's        kind regards Steve  

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I agree with DFoster.  Couldn't you find a less crowded place to fish?

In all honesty, that is one beautiful valley!  Pretty fish to top it all off.

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55 minutes ago, mikechell said:

I agree with DFoster.  Couldn't you find a less crowded place to fish?

In all honesty, that is one beautiful valley!  Pretty fish to top it all off.

This is one of those places where you rarely see another angler, except on weekends or at a few campsites close to the road.  In the many years I’ve visited this valley, I have never actually encountered another angler on the stream.  Oh they do visit occasionally as the banks betray their tracks.  All that said, it can be lonely out there.  This is open summer range for cattle and sheep and you always have to have your head on a swivel for that ornery bull that may be secluded in the willows.  The occasional cow moose with a calf will scare the shit out of you if you stumble into them.  This season its only been a lone young adult wolf prowling the banks and an irate Pigeon Hawk who swoops down on you if you get too close to her nesting site.  As the summer wears on, the flows will tighten, waters warm, the wild flowers and grasses will brown up and the fishing will decline.  But in July, this is just a cool place to fish.

P6280713.JPG

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Sounds like a wonderful place. Hidden gems like that are my favorite kind of places, even if they are a little hard to reach. Gorgeous pictures too, the one with the rain clouds is amazing!

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Excellent work.  I fished for years with humpies in small fast creeks.  I can't see the traditional colored ones very well anymore (never could really). Sometimes white wings are even difficult to see in the fast bubbly stuff.   

As much as I don't like them, I find myself fishing a #10 amber bodied chubby a lot. Usually with a heavy weight prince hung below.  They just get it done.

For more picky creek fish, I go to a bright pink posted adams parachute in various sizes.  

I'm gonna give your humpy ideas a go and I'm sure it'll kill them.  I love tying and fishing humpies.

Thanks for the great research.

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20 hours ago, mikemac1 said:

This is one of those places where you rarely see another angler, except on weekends or at a few campsites close to the road.  In the many years I’ve visited this valley, I have never actually encountered another angler on the stream.  Oh they do visit occasionally as the banks betray their tracks.  All that said, it can be lonely out there.  This is open summer range for cattle and sheep and you always have to have your head on a swivel for that ornery bull that may be secluded in the willows.  The occasional cow moose with a calf will scare the shit out of you if you stumble into them.  This season its only been a lone young adult wolf prowling the banks and an irate Pigeon Hawk who swoops down on you if you get too close to her nesting site.  As the summer wears on, the flows will tighten, waters warm, the wild flowers and grasses will brown up and the fishing will decline.  But in July, this is just a cool place to fish.

P6280713.JPG

  You're lucky to live in such a beautiful state Mike-  Trout utopia!

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Mikemac1

I’m going to guess those stream pics are somewhere in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area?

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