Merton Parks' original catalog, circa 1949.
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Merton Parks' original catalog, circa 1949.
A few fake caddisflies ready for the bins...
Living in Bozeman, and having a cabin near Cooke City since the late 1960s, I've grown up fishing the headwaters of the Yellowstone River, but Parks' Fly Shop's amazing selection of foam terrestrials has made it virtually a new experience in the last couple of years. The cutthroats can't resist them.
B. Derek Strahn
Parks' Fly Shop began as Merton Parks' custom fly tying business, based out of Cloquet, Minnesota in the late 1940s, so it's no surprise we stock a lot of custom and locally-produced flies, around 40% of our entire fly stock. Some of these are merely subtle variations on standard patterns, but many are local designs that are either available nowhere else or originated in the Yellowstone region. Sometimes having one of these patterns makes all the difference between fooling a fish and having it refuse your fly, because trout in our region see a lot of fake bugs and they get suspicious of those they see the most.
Two of our tyers, Matt Minch and Walter Wiese, are contract fly designers for Montana Fly Company, one of the more innovative wholesale companies, while Matt, Walter, Ben, Don McCue, Richard Parks, and Doug Korn have all had patterns featured in books and magazines. This page includes photos and descriptions of many of our custom flies, but we're experimenting all the time and this page usually lags behind. For the most recent updates to the website (but not our flyboxes), check our New Flies page. We actually stock quite a few more of our flies than we list on this page and New Flies page, since we don't include many of the more general patterns we happen to produce in-house unless we do something odd with them.
To view photos and descriptions of our custom flies, use the tabs below. Click the tab for the category of flies you wish to view. For instructions on how to tie some of our custom patterns, and for general tying tips, please check our Youtube Channel.
A note on how we name flies: if it has someone's name ahead of it, it's a fly designed by one of our in-house or local tyers. If it has "PFS" ahead of the name, it's a fly that's recognizable as some sort of standard pattern, but one we tie with several tweaks not available elsewhere. If the fly just has a name, it's a standard pattern we happen to tie in-house rather than buying from some wholesaler.
Ben's Bicolor ant has been a top producer in the Lamar drainage since 2007. It difers from most bicolor ants in that it is tied with red thread and a brown hackle, which have proven more effective than the standard black thread and black hackle. #16-20. See the sinking version in the Wet Flies section.
Walter's Bob Hopper has been BY FAR our most effective hopper pattern since he originated it in 2012. He ties over 250 dozen of these each season, and virtually all of them sell. If you are fishing anywhere in Yellowstone Country from mid-July through September, you need these. Nuff said. Available in too many colors to list, with the most important being the pictured pale pink. #14.
Ben's Midges can be critical in late summer and early fall in the Lamar drainage. When you see the trout sipping something invisible towards the tails of pools, especially in the morning, try this fly. Also a good bet in late fall, winter, and early spring on the Yellowstone and spring creeks. Available in black (pictured) and cream, #20-22.
This pattern has more or less overtaken the Coachman Trude as our favorite dry on the Yellowstone. Similar colors as the Trude, but floats low but visible and buoyant due to the synthetic wing and tail. Available to your local shop through wholesaler Montana Fly Company. Available in #12-16 Coachman, #12-16 pink, #14-16 tan, #14 olive, #16 lime, #16 amber, #16 White Miller, #16 gingersnap, #20 black, and #12 2xl chocolate. Check our Youtube Channel to learn to tie this great bug.
Cripple caddis have proven highly effective over the past few seasons, especially as droppers behind hoppers. Available in Coachman Trude, pink, tan, olive, and White Miller color combinations, all #16.
Original recipe by Blue Ribbon Flies, though the color combinations are our own.
Ants work great, but they don't float well and they're hard to see. There are also those pesky flying ants that sure drive the fish nuts. Why not add a white wing to standard fur ant patterns to aid floatation and visibility and match flying ants? Why not indeed? Available in #16 cinnamon and bicolor. These have been our best-producing flies overall during the month of August since 2013.
This series of foam loopwing drake emergers have been favorites in the Lamar drainage since Doug started tying them for us. Please note that our color combinations are quite different from similar flies available elsewhere. Available in Green Drake (pictured) #12-14, Gray Drake #12-14, and Brown Drake, #10, and #12 Hecuba/Tan Drake.
Our version of the ever-popular foam beetle is somewhat rounder in profile than most foam beetles, which helps if float correctly and allows for a bigger indicator. #14-18. Also check out the ladybug version.
We're really getting into cripples lately, and this version, with a super-durable spandex body, is our favorite. Purple might not seem like a "match the hatch" color, but we just kill them during Baetis hatches on this version, which resembles the super-popular Purple Haze Parachute. Haze Cripples are our most consistently productive fall dries. Available in #12-20 purple and #14-18 copper. Check our Youtube Channel to learn to tie this great bug.
Also availabe in "Hold Cripple" configuration, #16-18 purple and PMD.
The secret on purple cripples is out of the bag. Because of the number of other guides using our formerly-secret pattern, Walter designed this slightly "techier" version to regain the edge in September. It's also available in a PMD color variant that works great in the Lamar System during the summer. #16-18 in both colors.
This fly, based on Hans Weilenmann's CDC & Elk, suggests emerging caddis as well as egglayers. We stock it in the White Miller version above in #14, #16 tan, and #16 pink. Check our Youtube Channel for how to tie this great bug.
There are many Salmonflies out there that look like this one, but this is the original "Improved" Sofa Pillow. It differs from most similar patterns primarily in that it has a bucktail wing and a much fatter, brighter orange body, both of which more closely resemble the natural insect than most traditional "fur and feather" stoneflies. Highly durable and highly effective whether fished dry or drowned, the Parks' Salmonfly has been catching trout on the Yellowstone since 1954. #4-8. Check our Youtube Channel to watch Richard Parks tie this fly, which his father invented. .
This one works great in September, especially during heavy Fall Gray Baetis hatches, since this one has a more Fall BWO-like gray hackle. Floats forever with the loop. Production flies are easy to see due to the addition of the indicator tuft. #14-18. This fly may be available in your local shop, since it's now being distributed wholesale by Montana Fly Company. Tying instructions on our Youtube Channel.
Originated by former PFS guide and Lamar district ranger Dave Keltner, this biot-bodied parachute pattern is a great imitation of a wide range of mayflies found in the Lamar drainage, ranging from the big Gray and Green Drakes on down to tiny BWO. Particularly important on Soda Butte in July and August for the summer Green Drakes (#10-12) and August and early September in #14-16 for the smaller Heptagenia and Flavs. #10-20.
This is THE ticket when imitating both crippled or spent egglaying caddis. We have no idea how many times this fly has brought the most delicate big fish rises you can imagine on the Yellowstone for us. You can even swing it as a wet fly. Best fished as a dropper behind a Clacka Caddis or another visible dry. Available in #14-18 tan, #14-16 olive, #16 peacock, and #16 opal.
Over the past few seasons Spruce Moth imitations have been the most important terrestrials to have on sections of stream in or near evergreens. Falls of these terrestrial moths, whose populations have skyrocketed due largely to global warming and are at a cyclical peak now anyway, can get so dense that the fish become selective. Most commercial patterns float high, like large caddisflies, but spruce moths typically get waterlogged and sink or at best float low in the surface film, especially in the fast water that predominates in most wooded areas in our part of the world. Doug's version imitates this behavior perfectly. Fish and clients both love it. This would have been our top-selling terrestrial last season if we hadn't run out. #14. Fish it behind a visible dry like a Clacka Caddis, Soda Fountain Parachute, or hopper.
Walter developed this fly from Gary Lafontaine's original Double Wing. This version rides lower but is more buoyant, more durable, and easier to see due to the synthetic wings. Think of it as the big brother to the Trude, Coachman Clacka, and the baby, the Coachman Trude Cripple. $2.50. Tying instructions on our Youtube page. This is a great choice during the heavier flows of mid-late July, either trailing a Salmonfly during the big bug emergence or supporting a dropper nymph later in the month. #10.
This is Doug's take on the popular "hot butt caddis" genre. The tan version pictured here (available in #12-16) is a great imitation of egglaying summer Hydropsyche as well as an attractor, while the olive version (#12-14) matches the spring Bracycentrus or Mother's Day caddis.
A lower-profile "dry" spruce moth that uses a synthetic wing that floats well with a clipped hackle and a dubbed body you should leave undressed so it goes into the surface film. This fly covers the gap between Doug's wet Spent Spruce Moth and high-floating traditional patterns. #14. Tying instructions on our Youtube Channel.
These tiny, bright soft hackles have beenaces up our sleeves on private lake trips over the past few seasons, particularly when chironomid hatches were imminent or underway. Black, gold, copper, and purple, ranging in size from #14-18 depending on color. Don't hesitate to stalk the banks and sight-fish with these.
This revision of Ben's sinking bicolor ants, which had already accounted for some great fish on the Yellowstone, has made the original pattern much more effective, especially on flat water. Ants don't float well, so a pattern that sinks slowly and on an even keel, as this one does, can get spooky fish or those unwilling to rise to feed. Fish it behind a dry and hang on. #16.
This simple little caddis pupa is both easier to tie and more effective than many more complicated patterns. It works great as a dropper during and just before caddis hatches, and also works when fished on the swing in riffles. The olive version (pictured), in #14-16, is a great Brachycentrus or Mother's Day caddis pattern, while the tan version, also #14-16, imitates the summer Hydropsyche. Learn how to tie it on our Youtube Channel.
This was the first fly Walter Wiese came up with after coming west. It is our most productive pattern on the Firehole, and we'll fish it during any hatch situation, mayfly or caddis, either dead-drift or on the swing. We don't use it enough during dry fly season in the Yellowstone and Lamar drainages, but it's a great choice as a dropper then, especially when the trout are looking for caddis emergers. Available in natural #14-16 (pictured) and #16 olive. Learn how to tie it on our Youtube Channel.
After a customer came in in 2011 raving about how this simple caddis pupa series (which originated in Scandinavia) was just killer on Slough Creek, we had to try some ourselves. Lo and behold, he was right. Strip it aggressively through the film when the fish are making splashy emerger-type rises, or fish it as a dropper behind a dry, with or without floatant. If this sounds like how you'd fish a Crackleback, you're right. #14 White Miller (pictured), #16 tan/Hydropsyche, and #14 yellow.
The pupa version of the White Miller/ Nectopsyche caddis. This fly is vital on the Firehole in June and September. Fish it in tandem with another wet (usually the Glasshead PT) early in the morning, then fish it behind a Palmered CDC White Miller during the core of the White Miller hatch. Explosive action, often as it hits the water. #14. Learn how to tie it on our Youtube Channel.
Small beadhead peacock Woolly Worms palmered with brown-dyed grizzly hackle have long been among Walter's favorite lake flies, especially early in the season. With the increasing importance of area lake fishing with the high early summer streamflows over the past few years, and the increasing interest in stillwater fly fishing in general, we decided to start stocking them. Twitch them slowly under an indicator when the fish are lethargic or strip them, either alone or behind a streamer or leech, when the fish are more active. Also a good changeup dropper on the Yellowstone in the summer. #14-16.
We cannot overstate how effective this simple New Zealand-style nymph is. It has been our most-productive fall brown fly for five seasons, works for trout from coast to coast and as far away as NZ and Patagonia, and has also taken steelhead and even carp. Lately we've been using it more and more out of the drift boats. Fish it deep, fish it under a dry, swing it, stick it behind a streamer. This fly is also distributed by Montana Fly Company; you should lobby your local shop to carry it. #12-16. Learn how to tie the "BHC" on Youtube.
We love some oddball color variations of the BLM Nymph that we can't buy from Umpqua, the company that produces this pattern. Therefore, we tie them ourselves. We stock them in PMD (sort of a copper-gold) and olive-brown color combos. Both have long been favorites on area lakes, but they also work great for rainbows up to 6lbs on Walter's Missouri River power boat trips.
This odd-looking midge/caddis pupa pattern works great in the spring, particularly on tailwater rivers and private lakes. #18.
A customer gave us a dozen Disco Midges in this bead and color combination and told us they were his favorite nymph. We won't go that far, but in limited testing with the originals we sure did put some solid fish in the boat, including the biggest whitefish (24") we've ever seen, which had the misfortune to be on at same time Richard was fighting a 21" rainbow on the same fly. #20 and a good bet on October float trips.
Constructed of four of the best feathers in fly tying: lemon wood duck (okay, mallard dyed wood duck in the production versions by MFC), ostrich herl, pheasant tail, and peacock, along with gold wire, gold bead, and a bit of midge flash. We primarily use this one in the same roles as a beadhead Prince, as a sort of changeup. Particularly good just after runoff. #12-18.
This one's never the first fly we tie on out in the Lamar drainage, but on the tough days it is often the fly that pulls out three or four fish to save the day. Dredge it in the deepest pools with lots of weight. This is a fly we almost never fish as a dropper beneath a dry. #14.
Doug's Holiday Stones (#6 black, pictured, and #10 gold) offer a more realistic profile than Matt's Minch Stones. Doug likes these better. The rest of us prefer Matt's. We all carry both, and think you should too, especially at the tail end of runoff.
When Walter set out to create a "Coachman Trude Nymph," he came up with a bulky, Serendipity-type pupa pattern. This one is popular for fishing deep during high flows in #12-14 and as a dropper in July and August in #16. Some Missouri River guides have reported good action on it up there.
The Ice Bucket in tan and peacock were our breakout runner nymphs last season. These nymphs resemble combinations of the Bead, Hare, and Copper and the 20-Incher and serve as a valuable changeup to both patterns. Available in #12 tan and #12 peacock, as well as a few special tricks for guided trip clients...
This series of flashy, micro chenille-bodied Prince Nymph variations has been critical for us over the past two seasons. Now available in your local shop that stocks MFC fly patterns. Available in #14-16 amber (pictured, and more critical) and #14-16 purple.
At first glance this fly looks just like any other Bomber or Snow Cone-style chironomid larva pattern, but the pearl Krystal Flash "rope" used for a rib makes a huge difference in low-visibility situations; the flash glows with a greenish light and is easily visible to the fish. This version of the Bomber outfishes all others combined 2-1 on private lake trips from mid-June onward, after the lakes start to take on a greenish hue from all the algae and weeds. #12-16 black.
Tied in the round, this series of stoneflies (#4-8 black, #8-12 golden, pictured) combines modern flash materials with a traditional tying aesthetic and natural feathers with lots of fine motion and natural mottling. Along with the BHC, Minch Stones are the bugs you need if you're fishing the Gardner River at any point in the season or the Yellowstone at the tail end of high water just as the Salmonflies and Golden Stones are thinking about moving to shore. These flies have caught trout from coast to coast, including some of the giant ocean going variety, so they also make good attractors.
We don't really know what the name means, either. Doug developed this fly from the similar SCHWAPF. It's an excellent caddis pupa-type nymph. We fish the tan (pictured, #14-16) primarily as a summer dropper, while the olive (#14-16) is best in the spring, when it imitates the Brachycentrus caddis. The bright green Green Lantern (#14) is similar to the Schwarp, but has a glass bead and fishes well on the swing.
We're spending more and more time on area lakes and these scuds are among our top producers. #12-16 dirty olive and #16 pink. Try the pink on the Missouri, too...
Shimmer Nymphs are Walter's entry in the "bright little nymph" sweepstakes. They feature the body profile of a Pheasant Tail, the brightness of the Lightning Bug, and the abdomen segmentation of the Copper John. The rust/PMD version here (#14-18) is particularly good on the Firehole fished deep and as a dropper in the Lamar drainage, while the brown/BWO version (#16-20) is a great choice in the fall on the Yellowstone and on the lower Madison. Also available in #16 chartreuse and #18-20 black.
In the fall, especially on heavily-pressured water like the Lamar drainage, very slim-bodied mayfly nymphs can often interest fish that will refuse more-traditional patterns. Available in #16 PMD, #18 BWO, #18 Purple, and #18 Blue/Black. Note that they appear smaller because the hook model used is very short.
Splitcase nymphs have been taking the West by storm over the past few seasons. Josh Garris' version is faster to tie and arguably even more effective than the original. With a few extra tweaks from Walter and tied in two color combos, PMD and purple, this version is set to blow some minds next year... #16-18.
This one began life as a modification of the Shop Vac, but no longer really closely resembles the older pattern. It's a great choice as a dropper during caddis time, and has gotten some play on various blogs and web forums as such. #16.
This nifty little midge/BWO is one of the best flies you can have when you fish the Yellowstone in January, February, and early March. Yeah, we fish then, and do well. It's also prime on the spring creeks and tailwaters all spring. We've caught some very big rainbows (as in the size of many newborn babies) on the Missouri below Hauser Dam on this fly. #18.
Curtis Wright Outfitters have been bringing out one or more large hosted groups to fish with us each year, and this simple, heavy, generic caddis or sowbug imitation is one of CWO Head Guide Josh Garris' top performers both here and back in North Carolina. After producing good numbers of fall-run browns for PFS guides as well as some rainbows in the 5-6lb class on Walter's Missouri River trips, we just had to add it... #14.
Designed to imitate the small sculpin-like fish native to the South Island of New Zealand, this small, heavily mottled and speckled bugger has found a place here, as well. A great "second chance" fly behind a much larger streamer. Available in tan (pictured) and chocolate, #10-12. Try the chocolate on area lakes. A little bird told me you can catch some big fish on it, because it looks just like a leech.
Sometimes a Woolly Bugger is just a Woolly Bugger, but sometimes it's a PFS Fat-tail. The name is as it suggests. We tie them with twice the marabou of many commercial patterns, so they hold their shape better and displace more water, which makes them great choices in high, dirty water or when big fish hunting. #2-10 in olive and black (pictured), #4-10 in black, brown, olive, and white/pearl, and #4-6 in olive & yellow and olive & pearl.
This flashy Woolly Bugger differs from most flashy buggers in that it is tied very sparse, which makes it a good leech imitation. As such, we fish it mostly on lakes. If you fish the private lakes with us, especially in the fall, there's a good chance you'll catch some fish on this fly. #6-12.
You need this one if you're going brook trout fishing, either in the Yellowstone region or anywhere else. Tied very sparse so it fishes much smaller than it looks. We usually get at least half our yearly dinner brookies out of various lakes on this fly, and some "take pictures and laugh like a monkey because it's 14-20 inches long" brookies as well. #10-12.
You won't catch many fish on this beast, but they'll be big. Fish it on a fast sink tip on the Yellowstone or other big rivers, preferably with a 7-weight, and don't even think about using less than 10lb tippet. Fish a Minch's Bead, Hare, and Copper as a dropper to keep the pot boiling, then hope you connect when Mongo takes a swipe at this one. Available in black and tan, both available at your local shop if they stock MFC flies. #2 and #4 hooks, articulated for about 4-5 inches in length. Please note that this fly is not legal in YNP due to the dual hooks. $4.50
The "PT" stands for "Pheasant Two," because this is the second bugger pattern Walter tied with pheasant church window feathers. This one features the church window as a collar, which pushes a lot of water. These, along with the overall coloration of the fly and the barbell eyes which make it ride hook-up, make the PT-Bugger a great sculpin pattern. Big browns and cutts love it, as do smallmoth bass in the Ozarks. Available at finer Montana Fly Company retailers near you. #4-8, and we also carry similar olive and black buggers in the same sizes. $2.50
This selection of articulated Sculpin-types has been working well for us over the past few seasons. T The stinger hook gets those annoying tail-nippers, while the front hook will stick bigger fish, which typically attack the head of their prey. The rabbit wing and free-swinging bead body provide tons of movement. Available in #4 olive, black, and orange/yellow. Now available retail because MFC has picked up the pattern -these suckers are too time-consuming for us to do in-house. $3.50
This Clouser Minnow variation features an additional marabou belly too give it more movement, especially when fished slow, and a deeper profile, which trout prefer. The red throat suggests gills or blood. This is an excellent lake trout fly, fishes well under an indicator nearly dead-drift (like a jig), and can bring the big boys when fished aggressively. #2-4 Bighorn (pictured), #2-4 gray/white, and #4-6 Blacknosed Dace. Available from shops that stock MFC flies. $2.75
Design and (most) content by Walter Wiese
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