The Shaved Merkin


The Bitch is Back 0

The Bitch is Back January 2020

To all our Customers, Friends and Foe…..

Thank You for taking a moment to read the Shaved Merkin. We will see where this “newsletter” goes but I am excited to do this. Values to reading the Shaved Merkin include Regional Fly Fishing topics, area River Fishing Reports, East Rosebud Calendar of Events and then finally lining your Bird Cage.

Welcome to the 2020 Fly Fishing Season in South Central Montana. Yeah, I know it’s January, but it’s still the start of the new season so get your asses jacked up and excited for what’s right around the corner.

What’s new here at the Shop you ask?

*East Rosebud Fly Tying Classes- Starting Jan 9, Shop Tying Pro Dave Jennings will lead Beginning Fly Tying Classes on Thursday Nights and Saturday mornings. Class Max of 4 so sign up now!

*The East Rosebud Rod Building Class begins on Wednesday January 22. So you want to know how to build a Fly Rod? This is the class to get it done. From Cork Grip to Rod Tip Top, you will be taught how to build a quality Fly Rod in 4-5 weeks.

*East Rosebud is hosting a Streamer class taught by Local Outfitter/Guide Jeremy Gilbertson. This 4-week class begins Wednesday, January 15th at 6:00 PM. Three classes are in a classroom setting, the 4th is a ½ Day Guided Streamer Trip on the Big Horn River. This is a good place to start if you want to begin or improve your Streamer game.

*East Rosebud is also Hosting a Bonefish Trip that will take place from January 26th- February 2nd 2020 on Long Island in the Bahamas. There are still a couple of spots left so if you want to break into the Saltwater Game, Long Island is the venue to do that in. It’s still not too late!

Other issues to ponder as we enter the 2020 Fly Fishing Season include;

*Lingering questions about the Big Horn River and its decreased Trout populations.

*Will our area have a normal Spring or will we once again have Winter weather until early April?

*Why don’t more Anglers fish Freestone Streams in March and April?

The Shaved Merkin will touch on all these subjects and more with each new issue.

-The Bitch

East Rosebud Calendar

Monday Night Marabou Madness

Come in an enjoy Tying some Bugs during Monday Night Marabou. This is a casual Fly Tying Event held every Monday until March 30, from 6:00-8:00 PM. Bring your Vise, Tools and enough materials to Tie the Flies you want to Tie that night. There’s always Booze, Contests, the aroma of a good time and plenty of laughs.

Fly Tying Classes with Dave Jennings

Jan 9- Feb 13, Thursdays 6:00-8:00 p.m.

Jan 11- Feb 15, Saturdays 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Cutthroat Fly Tying

January 11, Saturday 10:00 a.m.-?

This is an event you don’t want to miss as tyers compete for awesome prizes in a cutthroat competition!

Streamer Fishing Class

Jan 15—29 in the shop, plus a 1/2 day Bighorn River guided streamer fishing trip with Jeremy Gilbertson.

Rod Building Classes with Greg Payton

Jan 22- Feb 19, Wednesdays 6:00-8:00p.m.

Long Island Bahamas- Hosted Fly Fishing Trip

Sun, Jan 26 - Sun, Feb 2, 2020

As of printing, 2 spaces are still open!!

Umpqua Pro Fly Tying Demonstration

Saturday Feb. 8, 10:00 a.m.-

Come in and watch Umpqua Signature Tyers; Andrew Grillos, John Bond, and Doug Mcknight as they demonstrate some of their most effective signature patterns.

Bolivia Dorado Fishing with Angling Frontiers

Sat, Sep 12 - Sat, Sep 19, 2020

For more details about East Rosebud events, go online to: https://eastrosebudflyandtackle.com/pages/calendar

Fishing Report

The Big Horn

Contrary to the general notion going around out there, the Bighorn River is not dead. There’s no doubt there are less fish per mile as reported by Montana Fish and Game during the Spring of 2019, however what winter anglers have been catching on The ‘Horn is bigger trout than usual. So even though you’re not going to catch the numbers you’re accustomed too, you will catch better quality Browns and Rainbows. The month of January on the Bighorn means nymphing; Midges, Scuds and Sow Bugs. Recommended patterns to fish on the Bighorn through the month of January include: Rainbow Warriors, size 16-18; Zebra Midges in red and black size 18; Orange Scuds in sizes 12-14; Sowbug patterns sizes 16-18. The Fly of 2019 on the Big Horn was a Sowbug called a “Carpet Bug” in Rainbow, Grey, and Pink. I would also have some Griffiths Gnats or Midge Dry Fly’s with you in case you see a few “heads” up eating some top water Bugs.


The Stillwater River does fish during the winter months. Though you may have to contend with floating slush and ice shelves, you will catch Trout if you Nymph or Streamer fish in open water. Recommended Nymph patterns to fish in the month of January include: Stone Fly Nymphs like Rubber Legs or Girdle Bugs in size 8; Standard attractor Nymph patterns like Red Copper John, Batman, Hare’s Ear, or Pheasant Tail. Your Attractor Nymphs can be fished in sizes 12-14. The Streamer fishing is on even in January by either “swinging” or dead drifting varied Sparkle Minnow patterns, Grinch’s or just your basic black Woolly Bugger. If you fish the Stillwater in January, as previously stated, be really careful navigating the ice shelving as it is treacherous wading during the winter months. A spike-tipped wading staff is always a good idea in winter.

The Yellowstone

Fishing the Yellowstone River during the month of January is 100% weather dependent. If it’s a mild January, then spots on the Stone can be way fishable. However, once there are ice shelves, the Yellowstone gets really tough to fish in January. Having said that, with the exception of some possible Midge Dry Fly action, angling this time of year on The Stone is Nymph and Streamer fishing. A two-nymph set up consisting of a big Stone Fly Nymph with a Beadhead or Midge Dropper is the way to go. Standard patterns include: Rubber Legs, Copper Johns, Larger Prince Nymphs, Hare’s Ear and Pheasant Tails. Winter Nymph hook sizing is in the 8-14 range. The Streamer fishing on the Stone is all Sculpin patterns. Galloup Mini Dungeons in olive or purple, Sparkle Minnows of course, Grinch’s and Yuk Bugs can all do the trick. Streamer sizes on The Yellowstone vary from 4-6. Dead drift your Streamers for best results.

Rock Creek

Rock Creek can be a fun winter getaway fishing a fly. A lot of the trout on Rock Creek are pooled up and easy to pluck out of there with a standard Nymph. The trick is navigating the ice shelves and getting to those pools without cracking your head open. Having said that, if we have a mild January, get out your Beadhead Nymphs. Rock Creek is an Attractor Nymph dynamo, that includes Copper Johns, Lightning Bugs, Psycho Princes, Montana Princes in blue, and the famed Batman Nymph. Stone Fly patterns including Bitch Creeks also work really well on Rock Creek. Nymph sizing on The Rock can be anywhere between size 10-14. If you don’t want to drift an Indicator, Streamers fish fantastic on Rock Creek. Streamer patterns to fish include Buggers, Buggers and more Buggers. Sparkle Minnows, Grinch’s and Complex Twist Buggers can also be effective Rock Creek Streamers just to name a few.

Fly of the Month- Rainbow Warrior

It’s January in Montana and that means midges, midges and more midges especially on the Bighorn River which, depending on how cold it gets around here could be the best option to avoid dodging ice flows. As midges go one of the best is the Rainbow Warrior, one of a number of highly successful patterns designed by competitive angler Lance Egan.

Egan’s original Rainbow Warrior is tied with a heavy hook and tungsten bead to get it down fast as part of a Euro-nymph rig. But since it became commercially available the design has seen tweaked by a number of tyers. Let’s face it, as tyers we just can’t leave a pattern alone. Since not every angler wants to master the craze that is Euro-nymphing the variation sold at East Rosebub has a glass bead making the fly much more versatile. The benefit of the glass bead version is that it can be fished anywhere in the water column without an indicator or dropped off the back of a small dry. When you do want to get it down just add weight to your leader or fish it in tandem with a heavy nymph.

According to Egan the Rainbow Warrior was originally meant as a mayfly nymph attractor pattern, but it’s proven to be highly effective at imitating midges in tailwaters, freestone rivers and lakes. The flashy appearance makes it highly visible while the profile is suggestive of multiple types of fish food, Egan believes it can also be taken for sowbugs and scuds when the collar is picked out and bushy. Who knows for sure? Trout are often sample feeders taking what looks like food as it passes by in the current, spitting out what doesn’t taste/feel right and swallowing the rest.

Rainbow Warrior is a sure bet pattern during the winter months on the Bighorn River and any open freestone water you can find in the area. I have a sneaking suspicion it will also take fish on the spring creeks in Paradise Valley in tiny sizes, a suspicion I hope to be testing soon.

Hook: Tiemco 2487, size 14-24

Bead: Iridescent Crystal glass bead

Thread: Red 12/0- 8/0 Veevus

Tail: Pheasant tail fibers

Body/Collar flash: Pearl Tinsel, large

Collar: Tan Rainbow, Sow-Scud dubbing

  • ERFT