Sheltering-In-Place: The Fly Tyer’s Diary

Jay Nicholas Salmon Fly b

This fly started my spiral into the rabbit hole of fly fishing for Chinook.  This  sparkling-with-promise fly – tied by the right honorable Bob Borden – lured my very first Chinook to the beach one sunny afternoon at Clay Banks.  A light breeze drifted upriver from the bay; Gene and Pat Waller were anchored to my right, Bob’s blue pram was next, and Larry Cullens’ olive drab john boat the next.

This sweet memory is my gift to you today, April 8, 2020.

Please be safe, kind, and well  – on this and every day.


The Home-Bound Fly Tyer’s Diary – April 8th, 2020

My gift to you this day is my favorite watercolor of a Chinook Salmon. Enter this image full screen, take a screen shot. Print it out. display the image where you can see it.

Dream with me. Dream with the salmon. Dream of the time when we can all fish and swim and visit friends, and go to Keith Urban Concerts and Lewis Black shows, and grocery shop without masks, and hug our friends, and have neighborhood barbecues, and hug our parents and children, and gather at the 2021 Fly “Tying EXPO in Albany with a thousand fly Tyers.

Thank you for your patience, support, and kindness.

I hope you and the people you love are safe and healthy.

Jay ………………..

Jay Nicholas Dream Salmon

The Home-bound Fly Tyer’s Diary – April 3, 2020

The day got away from me today — again — and it is 10PM and i am really tired.
Got a walk today with Lisa
Wore mask today on walk.
Thirty minutes of very easy Tai Chi.
five minute nap.
shot a video for Chris – don’t know if it will be satisfactory.
For some reason my video looks blurred. Like my frame rate is too slow.
But i do not know how to adjust this.
Maintained positive spirit unless I fell into blackness for a short visit.
I was positive i had a better score than Lisa,
Nope. She whupped me again.
FaceTime with David and family.
FaceTime with Courtney.
Michael’sCraft Store is NOT providing face masks or sanitizing wipes to employees.
Micheals should be ASHAMED as a corporation,
Should be Ashamed.
I didn’t take calls from three very good friends, because
I was editing the god damn salmon journal.
I’m done.

Here is my fly for the day. This fly takes a lot of hard work, but it is killer.


Nite nite all you fine people doing your best to flatten the curve and save lives, maybe our own. Maybe our kid”s.Maybe our best friends.

Thank you


The Fly Tyer’s Quarantine Diary – April 3, 2020

“This is a new day,” I told myself, while doing my morning Tai Chi with Jake Mace (12 basic Tai Chi Movements in 37 minutes). Doing these exercises has been very good for me and I highly recommend this Youtube video to you. Tai Chi is very new to me, or i am very new to it, maybe only five times at most but anyway I am sure that it has helped me. I follow along when I can, i use a chair beside me to steady myself, and modify the exercises if i need to but many are entirely doable for a creaky old man with many injuries.

So after feeling a sense of dread and anxiety again i remind myself that this is a new day, and I can ……….

This is a new day and i see a brown tabby cat washing up, and the vining cat that was on the desk in front of me has wandered off – probably gone upstairs to nap on our bed.

This is a new day and I will fill it with joy and positive energy.

So with that in mind, and realizing that

I CAN NOT POSSIBLY MAINTAIN my wish to deliver one fly each day. Just can not do it.

So for today, here is a different thought. Here are a few words and terms defined from the Book Of Revelation the Ultimate Irreverent Fly Fishing Glossary. This is available on Amazon.

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This is an image of the front cover, and below is an image of the back cover.

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Here, for your daily entertainment, are a few of the definitions.


Formerly, this was the object, the common nail, used by fly anglers to tie a nail knot, typically used to secure the leader butt to the tip of a fly line, or to secure backing to the tail-end of a fly line.

Nowadays, nail knots are more likely to be tied with the assistance of a fancy nail-knot tool, or some such complicated official sounding fly fishing tool. Remember, if you come up short of fancy tools streamside someday, find yourself a nail, preferably not too rusty, and it will get the job done just fine.

nail knot

Nail Knot
The very first so-called nail knot was among a very few such knots ever tied with an actual nail. Why? Because the Fly Fishing Industry got hold of the idea and quickly began marketing a dozen or so Nail Knot tying devices that could be sold to gullible fly anglers. The nail knot is used to attach a large diameter monofilament leader butt to a fly line. This knot is also extremely useful, tied with about ten-pound leader, and applied to secure a braided butt loop to a fly line.

Nail Polish
Obsolete Fly Tying Product
We used to use plain old nail polish. Not now. Now we use fancy fly tying lacquers of all sorts. The stuff either packs an addictive carcinogenic effect or is worthless organic water-based slop that dissolves in water or we resort to the amazingly nice and EXPENSIVE Clear Cure Goo. But heaven protect us if we sneak off to the beauty section in the corner grocery store and buy Nail Polish!

See bobbin, jig.

Native (a)
Psychological transformation
This is what happens when a fly fisher spends three straight months trying to catch a steelhead on the north Umpqua River. In winter it only takes 3 weeks to go native. Said angler’s underwear rots off, waders disintegrate, beards sprout lichens, ears are adorned with at least nine Muddlers (weighted leeches in winter), and conversation is limited to grunts and moans.

Native (b)
This term refers to a wild born salmon, steelhead, or trout, and specifically a wild fish that has evolved naturally in a specific river or lake. Sounds slippery but it isn’t once you get the hang of it.

A wild rainbow trout is native to the McKenzie River in Oregon, because they evolved there over millennia. A wild rainbow trout is not native to the trout streams of West Virginia, because book trout are the native species there and the rainbow were most likely transplanted from somewhere in the western US.

Big boisterous wild salmon and steelhead in Patagonia and New Zealand, likewise, are wild but not native, because they are artificial transplants.


If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know the drill.

My best to you. Be safe always, and now especially so. Smile. Each out to someone today. Reach out to someone tomorrow If I fail to post again. The world needs all the sunshine and love we can share.

I’ll be back soon, with who knows what kind of a post.


And to close on a less serious note, I offer you another definition. Bye Bye ……….

Ice Fishing
Outlandishly humorous practice
Fly fishing through the ice is a practice fit to make anyone who is not a dedicated ice fisher laugh uncontrollably. The only thing funnier than watching a bunch of people fish though a hole in the ice is seeing seven tow- trucks and scuba divers trying to retrieve approximately 60 SUVs from a lake’s bottom. The only event funnier than watching a bunch of people ice fishing is watching one- person ice fishing. These dedicated ice anglers have specialized little fish finders that are so darn accurate that they can tell when a fish is approaching their bait or lure, and they can tell if it is a horse or a dink doing the approaching too. Sometimes when ice fishing in rivers, these persons dig one hole in the ice to lower their lure into – and then dig a separate hole down-current to place the high-tech under-ice fish-finder. The two holes are necessary to compensate for the river’s current pushing the lure at an angle downriver from the fishing hole.

And these people have the cutest little tiny fishing poles, usually not genuine fly rods, but heck they look like fun and really work even though they may only be a foot long and can crank in some darn huge, albeit probably nearly frozen, fish. Probably enough said. Secretly, I long to do some ice fishing myself, but sadly, I am in self-isolation with my family and besides, there are not any lakes that i know of nearby where I could  …… ice fish.

A Sea-Run Cutthroat Fly for today April 2 2020

Jay Nicholas Sea-run Streamer series

Jay’s Sea-Run Streamer series


Thread:  I prefer a flat thread, and this calls for UTC or Lagartun.
Thread color: Black gives this fly a traditional look.
Body: silver mylar or Lagartun silver flat tinsel.
Rib: this reinforces the Body, good when catching more than a fish-a-day.
Throat: Red. Something like fluorescent red angora goat to suggest bleeding gills.
Wing: white bucktail
Shoulder: a jungle cock imitation would be very nice at this stage, but is by no means essential.

Tying Notes: the biggest challenge in these flies is finding suitable white bucktail. Just a little crinkle int the hair. Not too hollow or too hard. YOU want it to flare a little, just a little. Make the wing barely longer than the bend of the hook. Color combinations are endless, and you can add hints of blue, green, olive, and brown over top of the white to suggest the backs of baitfish, The red puff is achievable by several means, and is, I think, important in our hearts if not in the cutthroat’s head.

Fishing notes. Throw it out, let it settle a little or a lot, depending on the depth you wish it to fish. This is an. unweighted fly, and if you want weight then fish a Clouser instead. Retrieve this fly with short jerks and pauses. every once in a while, put the rod under your armpit and give it your best steady strip back to rod-tip as smoothly as you can.

These are delightful flies to tie, they look sharp all lined up in a box, and they catch sea-runs dependably when the beasties are tempted by baitfish.

Thank you for joining me today. Get busy at your tying bench, and know that I wish health and companionship for you in these unsettling times. May you be free to fish when the danger of the VIRUS retreats, with a full fly box stocked with flies that will be most tempting to the Sea-run cutthroat..

It is now 2:17 AM PST and i’ve been nodding off at the keyboard.

Fly Tying Under Quarantine, March 31, 2020 – The Pink Shuttle Driver

3-31-20 FOTD

Let’s get straight to it today, because it’s very late.

Pink Shuttle Driver. This fly is pure steelhead in its aura, although I have caught Chinook, silvers, and chum on flies very similar to this,

Recipe: All of these materials  are available at the Caddis Fly Angling shop – But all of our local fly shops deserve our support in this most difficult of economic times.

  • Thread: I’ve been favoring black, but you can string this one up with hot pink, chartreuse, red, or blue for a very nice contrast.
  • Shank: This is a Fair Flies Intruder Shank – the package of a dozen comes with pre-formed trailer wires.
  • Hook: I’ve used a #2 AquaTalon hook, but the OPST swing hook is very fine as well.
  • Tail: None
  • Body: This is a single stage Intruder, a style that I have called the half-Intruder. I start with a good bump of hot pink fluorescent medium chenille. Then I form a dubbing loop that includes Senyo’s Eat-A-Peach with his pinkish predator wrap and build up a fairly substantial composite loop that still has a little opacity when wound on the shank
  • Wing: This is a Pro Sportfisher Marble Fox wing, but you will be quite pleased with Hairline’s Arctic Fox tail hair.
  • Collar hackle: I wound a few turns of bubble gum pink with shrimp pink to shroud the body with this halo of pink yumminess.
  • Wing: I pulled a matched pair of Metz Magnum Grizzly saddle hackles and faced the curve of the hackle inward.
  • Cheeks: Pro SportFisher Gen 4 Jungle Cock (pretty sure) or similar.

Tying Notes.

These flies come together with regularity because the materials are easy to obtain, achieving a pleasing proportion seems natural, and the collar does two things very well: 12) it hides any errors in your composite loop; and 2) it provides a soft bed to lay down the wing feathers and insist they stay in their intended conformation.

Fishing Notes.

This is a fly I like to fish when the water is green dirty, but not when it is coffee with creamer dirty. So I’ll swing hot pinkish flies in steelhead green water down to very cold high 30s clear water. This fly is a solid three inches, so it has considerable presence.

May you find entertainment or inspiration in the few moments you scan this fly. Join me in looking forward to a time when we have found the means to thrive after the pandemic. We are all likely to loose people we love to this bug. Let’s be able to look back to how we behaved towards our friends and community and be proud.

And forgive my preaching to the choir.


Fishing Trout in Lakes -Under Quarantine – March 30 2020


Photo Caption: Scrabble.

Players: 2
Letters per player: 10
Number of pieces left over: 0

This will be my challenge every morning.

Find a fly of the day to feature.

This might seem simple, but it is not. How do i avoid repetition? twenty seven consecutive days of Chinook flies might be OK for about four people in the Western United States, and two from Norway, but that’s about it.

I need to feature trout and salmon and steelhead and a few offshore flies and keep track of what i have and have not featured and then there are the distractions.

Take a break to try a Tai Chi warmup (day two practicing this new resolution).
Take thyroid pill on empty stomach.
put one day’s dose of one RLS medication in a plastic bag.
set alarm to remind me to take the daytime meds.
more measuring out daily meds.
Boomer is scratching chair in the living room.
that’s his demand attention move.
Give cat five minutes of rubbing hair wrong way to distract him.
Back to trying to find a fly.
more mundane stuff – pretty soon an hour and a half passed with no progress.
Remember my many blessings e.g., clean water, food, a toilet here in the house, with people and critters who love me.
Keith Urban sings in the background. Nice. Upbeat.

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Were’ going with one of my favorites, the Glass Bead Bugger today.

Thread: 6/0 or 8/0 black
Tail: Marabou (brown, color of choice)
Flash: One strand Krystal flash each side
body: coarse blend – medium-olive cream-orange-purple brown
hackle: brown, not too long or narrow – must be a soft fiber hackle
Rib: small copper wire, counter wrap opposite direction as hackle
Bead: Glass (orange, red, green, white, silver, gold, pink)

The video shows the fly nicely, and I can assure you that this fly fishing in lakes, creeks, bit wide rivers, estuaries.

I encourage each of you to give this fly a try today, if you are so inclined. I also encourage you to begin organizing your flies in their proper boxes. And if you have a means of cataloging your fly recipes, then by all means start today, or get caught-up if you are tardy in your record keeping.

This self isolation is going to be interesting. each of us, in our own way, will have the opportunity to figure out something or other.

if you are reading this blog, or any blog about fly fishing and fly tying and life, I’m guessing that you are blessed, comparatively, or relatively, to something like 6 billion people on the earth.

And you either know instinctively what I’m referring to or you don’t and I’m not going to spell it out.

My day today? Walk in the rain. maintain social distancing if anyone passes by. another dose of Tai Chi. Maybe look for my bread baking book. Maybe tie another fly.

We’ll see. Maybe text or call a friend.

File this away under “who really cares anyway?”

Be well. Hope to be fishing soon.




Let’s talk about Sea-Run Cutthroat today – March 29 2020

3-29-20 Jay NIcholals fly of thye day. IMG_0021.jpegMy apologies for the recent deluge of angst.

Reverse Spider Grizzly Caddis

Hook: TMC 3761 (#6-12)
Thread: To suit. I’m currently using a lot of Danville’s 70 D FlyMaster.
Tail: None
Body: Orange. Any material will do, but I prefer something that is fuzzy.
Rib: Gold oval – Lagartun or Uni
Hackle: Grizzly. Make it larger than normal, and webby. Tie in reverse style.

Let’s bust open the new week with a very versatile fly today. This is a fly that I tie and fish for  cutthroat, rainbow, and high lake brookies here in Oregon, adjusting the hook size to fit the environment.

The truth of the matter is that many of the flies that are promoted as having fish-catching magic for a particular species in a lake, creek, estuary, or local body of water are far more widely effective than most people know.

It takes a little practice to tie a reverse hackle, but to our mutual good fortune, I recorded a video many years ago when I was ……… oh well, and if you clidk on the link you will see. what I mean.

Photo Caption. Below, this is me oh my goodness something like a decade ago. Who would’a thought?

Jay Nicholas Screen Shot 2020-03-29 at 10.17.49 AM.png

I hope you enjoy this fly, it is a goodie. One of these days I’ll tell a story about fishing this fly in the pitch dark on Oregon Cascade lakes — yes, in the middle of the night. With brook trout slurping and grabbing flies in the surface film and tugging back on 6X Gladding Gladlyl leader tippets cast on Eagle Claw fiberglass fly rods and Scientific Anglers dark brown Air Cell fly lines. Fishing from a small yellow rubber raft rated for 45 people but barely big enough for two.


Meanwhile, the self quarantine goes on, and I gotta get going and tie me up some juicy wiggly hackler flies to use when I’m free again.

Jay Nicholas

And as always, my family wishes you health and good humor. You might try Keith Urban Live Concerts on YouTube as background music while you tie flies.

Jay’s Fishing Respite From What’s Actually Going on in the World – March 28, 2020


I don’t understand how I managed to post three consecutive articles titled March 26th, but yeah, that’s within my operational parameters.

So today is March 28th and I’m going to overlook the date gap. Surely there’s enough punky stuff in the world that no one’s going to be all fired up and take me to task over a few skipped mis-labeled days?

I’m going straight to the fly of the day, and then you can read past it or not, as you choose.


Jay Nicholas 3-28-20 fly of the day.jpeg

Photo Caption. This is a wet fly I was fishing for sea-run cutthroat two seasons ago. I was getting bit on every cast. Every cast no bull. Not hooking anything. I’d get the tug, the wiggle-wiggle-wiggle, and then with a little line pulling off the reel, my line would go slack. I finally pulled in my fly to check the point. The point was fine, as you can see in this photo. But my leader had an overhand knot in it with the hook though the loop, so that the fly was coming back at me butt-first. There was no possible way for the trout to get hooked.

I take pride in my fly craftsmanship and all that. But these trout were grabbing my fly being retrieved like it was a nasty blob of pocket lint.

This is a wet fly that I fish rather often in rivers and estuaries for sea-run cutthroat.

Fly Recipe
Hook: Daiichi 1550 # 8
Thread: Lagartun 95D Black
Tail: Pheasant tail fibers
Butt: Chartreuse Ice Dub
Rib: Fine copper wire
Fore body: Dark brown olive SLF
Hackle: Grizzly hen neck
Wing: medium brown deer body, rather fine with butts trimmed like an Elk Hair caddis

I’m sure that anyone who has fed and walked a blog knows just how much energy it takes. When Covid-19 hit us hard, and the nation shut down, it seemed like I could easily have time to run this blog and live my shut-in life and pamper my cats and take walks with Lisa and tie a zillion flies and whatever else it is that I do from day to day as a shut in, shuttered-up frustrated angler, want-to-hug my family here in town and in Portland …. But … it is the absolute truth that I’ve been running full tilt every day the last two weeks and falling behind every day.

You know it takes two hours to place an online order to Safeway? Then when you have your cart ready and try to. Complete the. transaction the fricking computer keeps insisting that I live in Flagstaff Arizona and delivery is not available at my address.

Then it says that my address cannot be confirmed with the US Postal Service.

So after an our crying in the shower, I sit back down at the computer and begin to enter my order from Instacart with the cute orange carrot icon. Two hours later my order is placed. No toilet paper or paper towels. No baby wipes. No flour. No instant yeast for baking. OK.

When I finally finish our order (two hours still), everything goes well. A nice lady named Melissa starts shopping for us and. the texts start to flow. This is out, may I substitute that? Sure. Thank you, Melissa. After thirty minutes she has the cart loaded and is on her way to drop the grocery bags at our front door.

Lisa and I begin bringing in the bags. Quarantined in the mud room.

Pull out the frozen and refrigerated goods. Wipe them down with disinfectant. We take turns, being cautious and washing hands as we work, stowing the cold goods where they need to go, and letting the dry goods sit untouched for 3 days. This may seem like going too far, but we feel like everyone has to make their own choices in these matters.

But by the time we have a few things put away in the kitchen, something like 6 hours has passed us by, it is late afternoon, and we’re exhausted.

Who these people are who are complaining about being bored-to-tears with nothing to do every day?

Post Script.
Next time you’re getting all flustered over whether the fly in your vise is perfect, remember this story. Remember that I have several times in. my life had salmon, or steelhead, or trout, or sea bass, or albacore pulling on flies that were all tangled up in a leader so badly that they couldn’t get hooked and the fly was all upside down and backwards, and gummed up and moshed up.

3-28-20 two catz.jpeg

I look out the window and see that it is barely misting. The sky is dark and it’s cool.  I have an orange Viking cat on a blanket on my desk in front of the computer, and a brown tabby cat in the basket under the table lamp.

There is nothing to see here that would suggest that the world is being turned upside down.

I think about how my dad went off to WW II.

I think about our dear friends Frank and Jeanne. How they got married as teenagers before Frank went off to fight the Battle of Normandy.

How brave they were.

May you find your way through this and be well.


Fly of the Day, March 26, 2020 – My dear friend ….

Jay Nicholas.jpeg


My dear friend
thank you for writing
It’s good to hear that you are feeling strong and healthy
Lisa and I are well
and as you write
we are feeling much the same as you describe yourself
as for me you ask
I’m in such a good state
likely better than ever in the last twenty years
and I’m a mess
full of hope one minute
anxious and terrified the next
full of fight
ready to curl into a ball and suck my thumb
but I never quit working
never quit planning
always writing
played scrabble with Lisa yesterday
wrote a few letters last week
been cooking lately, more than in the last ten years
sleeping more too
maybe because of the meds
probably because of the meds
the meds are a problem
the meds are dangerous
I don’t care
so much to do
the days race by
faster and faster
trying to catch up with old friends
with my kids
my dear Lisa
two cats
afraid it might be too late
love too many people
scares the hell out of me
dear friend
love you
wish the world for you
hope you are well
hope to see you
look to seeing you in my boat on the estuary
a cup of coffee on a rainy Saturday morning
miss you
filling fly boxes seemed so important
so many years
don’t know why
don’t know where they are now
don’t care
just want more time 
need more time
a little more time


SS Jay Nicholas 3-26-2020 Universal Soft Hackle.pngI tied this Universal Soft Hackle fly early this morning, shot the video, edited the video, might upload it to Youtube.

Hook:               Daiichi 1530 #12
Thread:            Danville’s 70 D Flymaster Chartreuse
Tail:                  Blue Dyed Coque De Leon
Body:                Cobble together some brown and olive and pale yellow and Adams grey. How to do it:   Finger-spin a slim noodle, then wrap it with a find copper wire please.
Wing:                Grab off a little bunch of grey CDC fibers for this wing
Hackle:             This is a brown partridge hackle a little oversized for the hook. Sorry.

This image will serve as my fly for today.

Until that time, soon, here is the scruffy little thing. wing too short, hackle a pinch too long. But i know darn well this fly with fish and fish and fish. and I will do nestled it in my box of “ready-to-fish” trout flies.