Charlie’s Airhead (Gray/White)
Tier: Charlie Bisharat
Schmidt’s Take: Killer baitfish profile? Check. Pushes water? Check. Responds to stripping variations (has awesome action)? Check. Durable? Check. Innovative use of materials? Check. Catches multiple species? Check.
Creek Crawler (Olive)
Tier: Duane Hada
Schmidt’s Take: Duane is an artist, and it shows in his flies, which are very durable but still realistic. This crayfish pattern not only has amazing bin appeal, it fishes incredibly well for both cold and warm water species.
Gold Bead Poxyback (PMD)
Tier: Mike Mercer
Schmidt’s Take: This is an amazing representation of a pale morning dun nymph. Mike Mercer popularized the use of epoxy on the wing cases of nymphs and emergers, a tying technique that has “stuck” around for years.
The Geezus Lizard (Crayfish)
Tier: Jay Zimmerman
Schmidt’s Take: Jay says it the best. _”The creation of the Geezus Lizard hinged entirely on the conception of the ferruled dubbing loop tail. I have tried for years to build a worm-like fly, or fly appendage, to mimic the rubber worms conventional bass anglers have in their arsenal (Texas Rig Rubber Worms). The long, narrow look of a worm undulating and jerking near the bottom of a pond or lake is well known for triggering big bass strikes…conventional bass fishermen have know this for decades, one of the reasons long, soft plastics are one of the most frequently used lures. I tried chenille, rabbit strips and a whole assortment of other tying materials. The rest of the Geezus Lizard is modeled after bass flies I have tied and fished all my life. Simple, “pig-n-jig” type stuff using crosscut rabbit strips and rubber legs.” _
Supreme Hair Rattle Shrimp
Tier: Larry Haines
Schmidt’s Take: We have been told on many occasions that these are purchased by conventional bait users because they work as well and last longer then the real thing. How cool is that!? The addition of the glass rattle under the epoxy carapace adds a little weight in addition to the enticing sound that triggers bites.
Tier: Blane Chocklette
Schmidt’s Take: Innovative yet controversial. Is it a fly or is it a lure? I think that says enough about how cool this FLY really is, and yes, it catches fish like crazy too.
Missing Link Caddis
Tier: Mike Mercer
Schmidt’s Take: Beauty in simplicity. This fly is both sparse and detailed at the same time. The Missing Link has a fantastic buggy profile without getting too bulky. The light elk-hair wing aids to the pattern’s visibility while imitating the wing of an emergent insect. Parachute-style hackle gives the footprint the fly needs to stay afloat, but is just sparse enough to mimic an insect’s dangling legs. This is another example of a very well thought-out fly; almost every step in this pattern has dual purpose, which is important in keeping the fly in proportion and limiting the material tye in bulk. I hesitate when calling this a Caddis though. Not because it isn’t a good caddis pattern, but because it’s also an excellent mayfly emerger.
Tier: Charlie Bisharat
Schmidt’s Take: Finally, a fly that “walks the dog” (and it truly does). Years in the making, Charlie Bisharat figured it out after burning through a few rotary cutting tool motors and more foam then you could raise the Titanic with. The Pole Dancer requires a little technique on the anglers part to achieve its full potential, but it won’t take you more than a fish or two to learn.
Tier: Larry Dahlberg
Schmidt’s Take: This is such a cool fly because of the way it swims, and where it will swim back out of, too. The design of the head allows the fly to skip across the surface, and the rubber skirt provides the drag necessary to keep the fly on track. Skipper Frogs ride hook up to minimize weed drag and allow the fly to get out of pretty sticky situations. Coloration mimics a frog well, and while at rest the fly sits with its head high on the surface and legs far below, as a frog would.
Clouser Deep Minnow (Crabby)
Tier: Bob Clouser
Schmidt’s Take: The Clouser Minnow, or “Clouser” as it is commonly referred to, has caught more species of fish world-wide then any other fly. When learning to tie flies, the Clouser is always on the list of patterns to try. It is the platform that so many flies, both saltwater and freshwater, are tied on. Why? It catches fish. Plain and simple.
Tier: John Barr
Schmidt’s Take: What can I say about the Copper John that hasn’t been said before? It is what it is — essential. The perfect mayfly nymph profile, materials that allow the fly to get down now in the water column, and if the fly spends more time in front of fish, it has a better chance of getting eaten. That is just what the Copper John does, it gets eaten. It’s also been our best selling nymph for years.
Tier: Charlie Craven
Schmidt’s Take: Charlie got it right with the Two-Bit Hooker. Because he used two tungsten beads (one as the head and one as the thorax), Charlie managed to keep the skinny mayfly profile and proportions correct while creating a fly that still crawls the bottom even when tied in small sizes.
Tier: John Barr
Schmidt’s Take: The Meat Whistle wasn’t thought up over night, it was created and tested over years of use and pitted side-by-side with conventional jigs. I’d say this is the popular choice on this list — if you were to ask a bass, that is. John Barr didn’t only create one hell of a bass fly with the Meat Whistle, it catches all kinds of species, from bonefish to steelhead.
Tier: Tim Borski
Schmidt’s Take: This fly is a staple for flats fishermen. The goby-ish pattern was designed to mimic the small fish that swim the waters where spooky bonefish eat. The head has lead eyes, but are surrounded by spun deer hair which allows the fly to slide thru grass and weed without getting hung up. Well weighted to enable it to be fished towards and on the bottom, but has enough of a footprint that it doesn’t send fish for the deep when it hits the water.
Umpqua Feather Merchants, headquarted in Louisville, Colorado, is the largest manufacturer of fly patterns on the planet, and their Fly Production Specialist Brian Schmidt is the guy who gets to
decide which new patterns they should produce. We asked him for a list of flies he thought were the 15 coolest his company makes. Here are his picks.