Driftless Trout Anglers

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William Schlafer  
#1 Posted : Thursday, November 3, 2016 5:09:08 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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Yeah, I love the Pink Squirrel.

I've tied hundreds of these things and have caught many Trout with it. It's my go-to fly. And it's an easy pattern to tie. After you get into a rhythm, you can crank out 15-20 of these an hour. And it's a good fly to tie to build up your tying technique.
UserPostedImage

I prefer the original John Bethke style. I was lucky enough to meet the man himself on a couple occasions at TrapFest (thanks Trapper!) and he was kind enough to give me some pointers and tips. He even gave me a tube of this custom mixed dubbing wax.

There are a number of recipes and YouTube videos on the interwebs with various versions of the Pink Squirrel, but I think this step-by-step instruction comes the closest to reproducing the Bethke original.

Here are a few variations and assembly tips that I've worked out for tying the Pink Squirrel.

A number of recipes call for a Daiichi 1130 (or similar) Scud hook. I like using a Tiemco 2457 which is heavier (2X wide, 2X heavy) which resists bending on snags, or if you should tie into a big Trout.
UserPostedImage

This style of curved hook produces a much more effective pattern and is one of the keys to its success. I prefer size 12, but smaller and larger sizes can be effective too. Size 14 or 16 Pink Squirrels are excellent for use in hopper-dropper setups.

Instead of a 1/8" brass bead head, I prefer a larger 5/32" Tungsten gold bead when tied to the size 12 hook.
UserPostedImage

The heavier bead gets down into the water column quicker than the brass, and is easier to cast and control in the current. I tie a few with some wraps of lead wire on the hook for a super heavy version use in really fast or heavy current.

For dubbing, I tie mine in various colors ranging from dark to very bright and shiny. The darker colors work great under dark skies or stained water, and the brighter colors on bright sunny days. The best overall color is the reddish Fox Squirrel mixed with a little grey squirrel and a bit of Antron Flash to add some sparkle.
UserPostedImage

I found this helpful video which shows a simple way to mix your own dubbing using a plastic bag and a can of compressed air. It produces a nice fluffy mix which works great for Pink Squirrels.
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Most other fly patterns instruct you to go light and tight when you twist the dubbing onto the thread. You can forget that for the Pink Squirrel. The thicker and the messier the better. Leave all those wild guard hairs poking out. It's another key to this patterns success.

I prefer to use Medium Pink Shrimp Chenille for the collar which matches the 5/32” bead head better than thinner material.
UserPostedImage

The color is probably not as critical as most people believe. But it does seem to me that the Pink Chenille does seem to catch more fish than other colors I've used.

One problem I have with store bought versions of the Pink Squirrel is that the collar often comes undone after they get wet and are cast a few times.
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To fix this problem on my ties, I make an overhand knot in the collar and tie it off the tag end with thread.
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To add a little more durability, a drop of cement, such as the water based Loon Head Cement, helps bind everything together.
UserPostedImage

Whip finish with a couple of loops and you're done. Do this, and your Pink Squirrels will not come apart.

Why is this pattern so effective? What exactly does it imitate? The best answer is that it doesn't really match any insect in particular, but combines a number of strike triggers that make it attractive to Trout. The shape and bugginess of the body look like a nice chunk of fish food, the gold bead imitates a fish eye, the pink color perhaps looks like a flash of fish gills, and the curve of the body mimics Scuds and other aquatic bugs.
UserPostedImage

You can dead drift, twitch and even strip and jerk the Pink Squirrel. I particularly like drifting the fly downstream to a sunken tree root ball, a cut bank, or other likely holding spot, and then frantically start stripping it back upstream. This looks like a fleeing, possibly injured minnow, and is simply irresistible to Trout.

Another effective method when the stream weeds are thick is to cast it on top a heavy weed mat, and then jerk it off into a open channel of water. The strikes are aggressive and you need to get your rod tip up quickly to skate the Trout over the weeds, or he'll bury himself and you'll never get him out.

The Pink Squirrel is arguably one of the most effective fly patterns you can use in the Driftless Area. If you aren't getting any strikes with this fly, then it's time to head home (or to the bar).

And for those who dismiss the Pink Squirrel as a small Trout lure, well, the evidence below speaks for itself.
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-Bill


Edited by user Wednesday, November 16, 2016 1:56:11 PM(UTC)  | Reason: damned typos!

“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
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NBrevitz  
#2 Posted : Thursday, November 3, 2016 11:11:32 PM(UTC)
NBrevitz
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I've still never seen anything, outside of live bait of course, that Brook Trout will attack with such reckless abandon. The crack of nymphs...
"I fish because I love to: Because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness."
vmthtr in Green Bay  
#3 Posted : Friday, November 4, 2016 3:33:21 AM(UTC)
vmthtr in Green Bay
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is it my machine or did the pics not work?
William Schlafer  
#4 Posted : Friday, November 4, 2016 6:25:15 AM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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PhotoBucket appears to be offline, so the pictures from my post aren't appearing. If they're not back up soon, I'll re post them from another host site.

UPDATE: PhotoBucket has been down now for over eight hours for "scheduled maintenance." Seems like a long time for just maintenance.


-Bill

Edited by user Friday, November 4, 2016 12:36:52 PM(UTC)  | Reason: added update

“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
OTC_MN  
#5 Posted : Friday, November 4, 2016 7:01:50 AM(UTC)
OTC_MN
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William Schlafer wrote:


Why is this pattern so effective? What exactly does it imitate? The best answer is that it doesn't really match any insect in particular, but combines and number of strike triggers that make it attractive to Trout. The shape and bugginess of the body look like a nice chunk of fish food, the gold bead imitates a fish eye, the pink color perhaps looks like a flash of fish gills, and the curve of the body mimics Scuds and other aquatic bugs.

-Bill




I think you're right. It's like an Adams - suggestive of lots of things but not imitative of anything. Flies like this are salvation for the indecisive - the always reliable answer to "Uhh...I dunno."

If there's nothing in particular happening hatch-wise, the shape and color suggest stuff that's abundant in the system and fish are used to seeing in the drift - sick scuds (they turn pinkish orange when they croak sometimes), caddis pupa, whatever. They're like a suick for a muskie fisherman. No real explanation. Fish just eat 'em.

This may be DTA heresy that'll get me excommunicated, but I sometimes wonder if it's more function than form with pink squirrels. They're compact and sink like a bowling ball, and get down where the fish are in a hurry. That's probably as important as anything else. That said, there is something about the pink color around here. As I said above, I suspect it's a scud connection. But I've fished them in the Black Hills in the same circumstances I'd use them here (no particular hatch or pattern evident), and didn't do as well as I did on other attractor patterns like a Prince or Bitch Creek. I know others that have had the same results. (The exception there is brook trout. My Lord, brookies can't say no to the things. If I can't get them to come up and eat a Humpy or Royal Wulff, out comes the squirrel.)

I have other patterns I have more confidence in I reach for first when most of you probably tie on a PS, so it's not always the first thing I tie on, but it's frequently the second....if that makes any sense.
"Our tradition is that of the first man who sneaked away to the creek when the tribe did not really need fish."
- Roderick Haig-Brown
William Schlafer  
#6 Posted : Friday, November 4, 2016 8:06:02 AM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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OTC_MN wrote:


This may be DTA heresy that'll get me excommunicated, but I sometimes wonder if it's more function than form with pink squirrels. They're compact and sink like a bowling ball, and get down where the fish are in a hurry.


Getting the fly into the feeding zone is the key. That's why I use Tungsten beads, gets it down to the right spot in a hurry. Sometimes that's right off the bottom, sometimes it's closer to the edge of the holding water or cover. Top surface fishing is fun, but most of the time Trout stay deeper to feed where they feel safer and expend less energy.

The exception to this is when the water starts to warm up. Then you can usually get aggressive Trout to chase and charge out from under cover to attack anything that looks like food. That's what makes hopper fishing so much fun.


-Bill
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
William Schlafer  
#7 Posted : Saturday, November 5, 2016 6:59:19 AM(UTC)
William Schlafer
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PhotoBucket finally fixed their problems so photos in my original post (above) are now visible.


-Bill
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
Ctrl_Alt_Dlt  
#8 Posted : Monday, November 7, 2016 9:54:55 AM(UTC)
Ctrl_Alt_Dlt
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I cannot get enough Pink Squirrel shares. Thank you for posting.
William Schlafer  
#9 Posted : Monday, November 7, 2016 8:11:04 PM(UTC)
William Schlafer
Rank: Super Fly

Joined: 7/24/2011(UTC)
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Location: Sussex Wisconsin

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Ctrl_Alt_Dlt wrote:
I cannot get enough Pink Squirrel shares. Thank you for posting.



I once had three of those plastic fly boxes full of Pink Squirrels. I gave a away a bunch and lost the rest in the trees, bushes and logs of the DA streams over the last two seasons. The flies I've tied this fall look and feel better than those from the past. I really like the color and texture I was able to produce by mixing my own dubbing. Learning how to use a dubbing loop greatly helped the quality of the tie also.

Looking forward to fishing them in the spring.


-Bill
“You'll never look back on your life and wish you had spent more time in the office." -- Brian Trautman, Captain SV Delos
catbag  
#10 Posted : Saturday, February 4, 2017 9:10:18 AM(UTC)
catbag
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Those are some really helpful techniques (and good looking flies)! Could you go into the dubbing a little more on your flies? I have a fox squirrel hide and I've tried just putting that on the thread but I cannot get it to stick very well. Part of my thought is that its a summer squirrel so there isn't a lot of under-fur like the winter hides get. Any suggestions on what to do/mix it with?
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