Small but Mighty

Hooks and patterns for summer stream fishing in the Colorado Rockies.

The early summer of 2021 allowed a return to Vail and almost 3 weeks of proper fishing exploring the free-stone Eagle River and its tributaries. The weather was warm and rivers low and clear, and even though the rivers ran anywhere from 6000 to 9500 foot in elevation, it was advisable to treat fish well by fishing early and going easy on fish as the water warmed. The fish are a mixture of the indigenous (rainbow, cutthroat, and the hardy cutt-bow hybrids) and the transplanted brown and brookies. I love the cutt-bows because they are a vigorous fish. They can result from natural hybridization between rainbows and cutthroats with a natural resistance to whirling disease. They are aggressive and fun.

When fishing out West, I always travel hopefully and dream of Western Green Drakes, stoneflies and hoppers, however biology does not always mesh with hope and dreams. And sometimes it is not the decent #10 mouthfuls with hook eyes big enough to see that work… 

Such was my lot. Sparse hatches of yellow sallies in about #14-16 brought fish to the surface, but the vast majority of fish, in over 14 days of fishing, came to small insect imitations, often the trico emerger, the zebra nymph, and the Hot Creek caddis.

So why do I like the Partridge K4A Grub-Shrimp down-eye hook in #18? This bronzed, curved medium wire hook has an off-set point that is extremely sharp and well angled for outstanding hooking. The microbarb is easily removed if barbless is your preference. It is strong enough to handle good sized fish and bring them in with a minimum of fuss, something that is important in hot summers. I use the hook to tie a variety of little midges or worms. The common annelid worm on Gore Creek is a bright, blood red sliver and goes well on #18. I tie in red thread leaving a tag of thread for ribbing. I lay a base of red thread, coat with a thin layer of thick UV-epoxy and rib to tie off behind the eye. A flash of UV light and a lovely curved tiny properly-sized red annelid is ready for the point

small but mighty

Small Annelid worm

Hook: Partridge K4A #18

Thread: Uni red 8/0

Layer of UV epoxy

Rib: Thread tag


The curve of the grub-shrimp hook also provides an excellent profile for the bead-head zebra nymph (a midge larvae mimic). Add a black, tungsten bead, then a layer of black thread to the apex of the bend. Tie in a fine silver wire for the rib, bring the thread back to behind the bead, rib the silver wire and tie the wire off, snip or helicopter, varnish the body, then tie in 2  fibers of micro-crystal flash in pearl and whip finish. Trim the flash into two, short wing buds. This tiny nymph sinks like a stone, drifts well under a dry fly indicator and is eaten with gusto.


The Hare and Copper nymph:

Hook: Partridge of Redditch K4A 12-18

Bead: tungsten copper

Thread: brown

Tail: English Partridge

Rib: Copper wire

Abdomen: Hare’s Ear to match entomology

Optional Thorax: Darker hare’s ear combed leggy

Chocolate Thunder emerger:

Hook: Partridge of Redditch K4A #18

Thread: brown

Tail: pearl flash

Rib: fine gold wire

Wing buds: white closed cell foam

The Trico Emerger:

Hook: Partridge of Redditch L5AM #22

Shuck: 2 strands Krystal flash

Body: black dubbing

Wing: white Aero or calf hair

Thorax/Head: Black dubbing

Hugh Rosen

Hugh Rosen

Hugh Rosen lives in San Diego, California, which is 400 miles from his favourite Eastern Sierra trout streams. He began to fly fishing in the early 1980s while a university student in his native South Africa. He retains a life-long affection for the Kloof streams of the Cape, and for dry flies of his youth, especially the RAB. He learnt to tie flies from that great exponent of Catskill tying, Matt Grobert in Summit, NJ and has tied flies with harmless obsessive intensity ever since. 

Hugh enjoys the camaraderie of fly tying and sharing photographs with the community by troubling billions of electrons on social media.  He combines a love of trout stream biology with his day job as a medical scientist and Professor at The Scripps Research Institute and has travelled for science and fishing to England, Wales, Austria, Slovenia, North America and Australia. He has a well-established reputation as a world-class shrubber and were he to fish a stream devoid of any shrubbery except the smallest bonsai, he would lose almost every fly in his possession to that minuscule sapling. Together with his colleagues, he discovered a treatment for autoimmune diseases most notably multiple sclerosis, for therapeutics is just a variation on fly fishing.

San Diego, California