How To Fish Stillwaters

December 1st, 2003

Stillwaters, lakes, ponds and reservoirs are the most underutilized fisheries in the North America. Why? Because the average fly fisher doesn't know how to fish them, or where to start. Stay tuned, you too can master stillwaters! ~ LadyFisher

Little Jewel

By Marv Taylor, Garden City, ID

Little Jewel

    Hook: Mustad 9672 (or equivalent 3XL), 8 - 16.

    Thread: Black 6/0, prewaxed.

    Abdomen: Dark-olive (peacock green) chenille, sizes medium to extra small, depending on the size of the hook.

    Ribbing: Small 16/18 gold mylar.

    Hackle: Brown furnace saddle hackle feather, 3 wraps, trimmed top and bottom.

    Thorax: Black chenille, large to small. The thorax should be one to two sizes larger than the abdomen.

    Head: Black.

TYING TIPS: Proportions are very important with this pattern. Tie it only as small as the chenille you can find. Size 14 patterns require extra small (00) abdomen chenille, with small (o) size for the thorax. Size 12 can get by with small for the body, and medium (1) for the thorax. Size 8s and 10s will need medium for the abdomen, and large (2 or 3) for the thorax. When I tie as small as 16, I generally use the new dark-olive 6/0 Flymaster thread for the abdomen, and 00 chenille for the thorax.

According to my fishing logs, I first dressed this pattern in the spring of 1971. I had been been camped at southwest Idaho's Crane Falls Lake, when I found some caddis stillborns floating in the film. I determined their approximate shape and color and experimented with several designs over the weekend. I eventually narrowed my assortment down to three patterns. During the following weeks, I eliminated two of them.

The pattern I kept still didn't have a name, when several years later, Boisean Ken Magee and I were fishing Jewel Lake near Sandpoint. I was catching lots of fish with the fly. Ken said we should name the fly. Since I was doing so well with it at this little northern Idaho cutthroat lake, we called it my "Little Jewel."

As with my other chenille-bodied patterns, this one has many potential variations. It can be dressed with abdomens of brown, gray, tan, cream, yellow, white, bright green, light olive, black, or any of my popular variegated chenilles. I usually use a black thorax on the fly, but at times will match the color of the abdomen.

As this pattern was being developed, I had been using Ernest Schweiber's, Nymphs, as my primary reference book. His color plate of Trichoptera (caddis) pupas on page 86, influenced a wide assortment of "Little Jewels" in my fly boxes. Schweibert shows 15 color variations in his plate and I suppose I've tied up chenille variations of all of them. Almost half of Ernie's pupas will be covered with my dark-olive bodied Little Jewel.

One variation I tied for several seasons, was my Horsethief Green Caddis. The abdomen was chartreuse green, and the thorax was reddish-brown. I developed the pattern after I saw a number of large, similarly colored caddis pupas hatch out one weekend at Horsethief Reservoir. My pattern was perfect. For a couple of years I caught quite a few fish with the fly. Then the caddis seemed to disappear when the lake was drained to eradicate an illegally stocked perch population. I haven't observed the natural in the lake for the past 15 or 20 years.

Besides Nymphs, I use two other entomology reference books: Dave Whitlock's Guide To Aquatic Trout Foods, and Western Hatches, by Dave Hughes and Rick Hafele. When I published my User Friendly Guide To Aquatic Entomology (now out of print), these three books gave me the answers to many of my questions. They still do.

FISHING TIPS: As with so many of my stillwater nymphs, this pattern needs to be fished with a fairly steep "angle of emergence." When caddis pupas emerge, they often do so in a hurry. Count your fly down to the bottom, then fish with a fairly fast retrieve. After a few casts, speed up your retrieve.

The tippet size is determined by the size of the fly and the size of the fish.

The knot to tie the fly on? If the fish are run of the mill, I use the Duncan Loop; If they are trophy size, I use a through-the-eye-twice clinch knot. ~ Marv

About Marv

Marv Taylor's books, Float-Tubing The West, The Successful Angler's Journal, More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume I) and More Fragments of the Puzzle, (Volume II) are all available from Marv. You can reach Marv by email at or by phone: 208-322-5760.

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