Black Nosed Dace
By Bruce Schneck
To start this year out we will look at a fly that is very useful for both trout and steelhead early in the year. Seeing bait fishers going after trout it is common to see them using minnows, red fins, shiners and fatheads. This fly does a very good job of matching any of them. Fishing a stream working around brush piles, undercut banks, pocket water and deep holes can put you in contact with some of the better trout in that body of water. I enjoy watching some of the old timers often using fly rods with automatic fly reels and old fly lines skillfully working minnows, fully covering every bit of the water. At times it seems they work to slowly but their results show they know what they are doing. We fly fishers can mimic them using a bit more modern equipment. While it is usually not a good idea to weight these flies it is a good idea to have a small split shot about 8 to 14 inches up the leader from the fly. Imagine your fly is a natural minnow working around the cover in the area you are fishing. Usually a slow retrieve is the ticket but at times it pays to really rip the fly through the area you are working. Strikes to a fast retrieve can be spectacular, splashy ripping hits that get your attention and at times snap your tippet.
Leaving home waters and heading to Great Lake tributaries for steelhead and brown trout gives another great opportunity to fish these minnow imitations. Fish in the streams from the lakes are used to feeding on emerald shiners, smelt and regular shiners, all of which the black nosed dace can match. At times fishing a pod of steelhead with a minnow matching fly can really get them aggressive, rushing to see who can get the bait first. Again we will get some of the hardest strikes of the day by these aggressive fish. Here again a split shot or even two will get you to level fish are holding at. When fish are suspended high in the water column I at times have luck using a good sized strike indicator about 2 foot above the fly and using a pretty fast retrieve. Often this will just have your fly above the fish but at times it put you right into them and the fun begins.
This pattern invented by Art Flick many years ago has become very popular throughout the United States. I remember this being a staple fly during the 50s and it remains the same to date.
Basic pattern uses black tying thread, a red tag, some form of tinsel for the body and wings composed of a white layer on the bottom, then a black stripe and finally a brown back. Head will be formed with the tying thread and usually an eye of some sort is vital. A Mustad 9575, or 38941 or any streamer hook 4X long will serve well.
To get the most effective pattern we can mix some old methods with modern tactics. Modern tying threads allow us to form a small head which can be a problem when making three layers of hair in the wing. Going to modern goodies it works well to use molded eyes over the thread head. Makes the job look neater and the big eyes seem to attract attention. Older patterns had a white dot painted on the head to match the eye. Back in the 50s and 60s we struggled to get a good body with the metallic tinsels that were available. Some tricks employed to make a good body were to paint the hook shank white or wrap it with white thread, both to hide gaps in the tinsel. Now we have some great synthetic materials to use in place of the older metallic tinsel. Woven tubing can be put over the hook shank to make a very serviceable body. My favorite body is made by first tying an oval piece of Mylar tinsel so it sticks out the read looking almost like a tail. Then I tie from the front to back and then returning to the front a piece of flat Mylar tinsel by wrapping the tinsel front to rear and then back to the front it avoids a large tie in lump at rear of the fly. Now wind the oval tinsel to the front as ribbing. This makes a good looking and strong body. Colors of the wing are as shown before, white base, thin black stipe and brown back. A bit of a change up that seems to work well is to use olive for the back. White hair can be buck tail or my favorite calf Tait. Black stripe can be made from buck tail, squirrel tail, bear hair or calf tail (also called Kip Tail). Buck tail or calf tail does the job on the back. For the eye we can lacquer the wrapped head and then use a wooden toothpick to make the eye with model paint or put a molded eye over the wrapped head finished off with a drop of 5 minute epoxy.
Does not matter if you use older methods or all modern ways this is a productive fly that will work on Great Lake Steelies or browns and stream trout close to home. It is also a fly that looks good in your fly box.