The Squirrel and Ginger Caddis Emerger

When it comes to soft-hackles, feathers get all the juice. That’s perfectly understandable. But certain furs – like fox squirrel – make excellent hackling material. The results are often deliciously buggy.

This humble creation is something I made up a few summers ago. I took the Ginger Caddis Larva fuzzy nymph and swapped out the standard wet fly hook for a 2x short scud hook. Added a flashy rib. And replaced the rabbit fur thorax with a hackle of fox squirrel.

The first time I fished this fly was on a brilliant July day that was devoid of hatch activity or rising fish. The sun was high, the air was steamy, and felt a little foolish for making the drive to the Farmington. Until I started hooking fish after fish on this little caddis emerger. It was the middle fly in a team of three, and the trout stated in no uncertain terms that this was their favorite.

The Squirrel and Ginger is a fine introduction to fur-hackled flies. It is fairly easy to tie. Best of all, it’s a wet fly you can have confidence in.

The Squirrel and Ginger


Hook: TMC 2457 (2x strong, 2x short scud) size 12
Thread: Orange or hot orange
Body: Ginger Angora goat
Rib: Green Krystal flash
Hackle: Fox squirrel fur

The Squirrel and Ginger Rogues’ Gallery

7/8/13, Farmington River

Brown Buck 7:8:13

4/24/13, Farmington River

Bigbrown hen

7/31/13, wild brown, Farmington River

WIld Farmy Brown 7:13

4/29/15, 17″ holdover brown, Farmington River

Fat Farmy Hen 4:15

Two-handed casting practice.

You don’t know if you don’t go, so this morning I headed to Ye Olde Spring Striper Spot to see what the outgoing would bring.

I can’t remember the last time I saw ice in saltwater, but there it was, a hoary reminder of last night’s unseasonable cold.  Water was slightly off-color and a sparkling 41 degrees. A most unbenevolent 10-15mph wind lashed at my face, turning the water into a frenzied chop that made riplines hard to see. The four fly anglers who had been fishing were retiring for the day, and the two spin guys weren’t very far behind.

Yup. Didn’t look like it was going to be my day.

On the plus side, I got to re-acquaint myself with my old friend the sea. My morning cigar was splendid, though the wind made short work of it. And I got to shake some of the rust off my two-handed casting (to be fair, there was enough oxidation there to want a wire brush). I test-drove the four-foot T11 sink tip I made over the weekend, and discovered that I could easily get my fly to the bottom in current  with some strategic mends. Best of all, I had the whole place to myself.

So, not yet. But soon. And, like Ah-nold, I’ll be back.

How to take better photos of your flies

“I hate the way my pictures of my flies come out. How do I make them look more professional?” This question recently came up in one of the forums I participate in. Like the person who asked it, I was frustrated for years with the fly photos I took. I’m no pro, and I’m still learning how to make my shots wonderful. But, here’s a little of what I’ve learned: some basic steps to better fly photography.

1) Lighting is everything. To create consistent lighting, I use a light box. The front of a light box is open; that’s where the camera goes. The top and both sides are cut out and have translucent panels (in my light box it’s old t-shirt fabric) to diffuse the light I’m generating (three shop lights with natural spectrum bulbs). The back of the box holds my background, a sheet of light blue artist’s craft paper. I made my light box for about $30 or so in materials. At some point I will post my setup, but the meantime there’s plenty of online reference. Just google DIY lighting box.

2) Use the right camera and camera setting for the job. 
A good camera helps, but small, more inexpensive digital cameras have come a spectacularly long way in the last few years. I use one camera (nothing special, a Pentax W90) for smaller flies because it has a narrow field of focus. I use a spiffier SLR camera, a Canon Rebel XSi, for larger flies. In both cases, I use the macro setting, although I don’t have a macro lens for the Canon. Gotta get one, though.

A Herr Blue bucktail shot with the SLR in the light box


A smaller Kate McLaren shot with the standard-issure Pentax, again in the cozy confines of the light box. The camera’s nothing special, but the detail here is pretty darn good.


3) Use a tripod and the timer shutter function. Vibration/motion = bad. Again, you don’t need a high-tech aircraft-grade aluminum professional model tripod. As long as it has three legs and is stable, you’re good to go. I have a cheap plastic portable tabletop tripod that I use for the lion’s share of my photos. With the timer function, you eliminate the movement of your finger on the shutter button. Sometimes it’s the little things.

4) Edit, edit, edit your work. Take ten shots to get one great one. Be ruthless in your editing. If the shot comes out sucky (and a lot of mine do), I don’t ever use it. I will often use the zoom function in my photo editor to make sure the focus is tack-sharp, even at an extreme close-up.

5) Learn to use your photo editing app. I’m a Mac guy, so I use iPhoto. Learn how to crop, straighten, and play with other effects. Having said that, a good photo should require very little desktop manipulation.