A hardbody Stimulator that sits low in the water
Attractor dry-fly fishing is the most fun you can have in a river. I don't know of a single fly fisher who doesn't enjoy bouncing a bushy dry along a broken current while trout try desperately to kill it.
While fishing attractor patterns is entertaining, tying attractors in smaller sizes can be a chore. Hairwing flies like Royal Wulffs and Stimulators come immediately to mind when attractor patterns are mentioned, and we all know that tying these, particularly in small sizes, can lead to light frustration and heavy drinking.
Enter Greg Garcia of Rojo Midge fame. Garcia works with me at Charlie's Fly Box and is constantly coming up with new twists and improvements, as well as original renditions of patterns tailored to broken, choppy water where attractors work best. Some of his other commercially available patterns include the Mother's Day Caddis, Rojo Grande Chironomid and, of course, his widely popular Rojo Midge.
With the Mini Hot, Garcia has come up with an easy-to-tie, sturdy, fish-catching attractor that is also fun to tie and fish—even in small sizes.
And while I categorize the pattern as an attractor, it also accurately imitates adult caddis as well as small stoneflies like Yellow Sallies. Patterns that can cross over like this, imitating several food sources at the same time, are high on my list of favorites, and the Mini Hot's ability to do double duty as an imitator and attractor puts it right up there near the top of my favorite flies.
Creatively designed to imitate a wide range of fish foods, Garcia's Mini Hot sports a durable body made from Micro Tubing overwrapped on a thread underbody with the addition of a steelhead-inspired hot spot of Flashabou at the butt. His inventive use of SLF Prism Dubbing as an underwing lends a bit of sparkle and movement to the wide flared deer-hair wing, which in turn provides surface area and floatation to the pattern. Finished off with a dubbed thorax heavily palmered with stiff hackle, this pattern is a durable, buoyant, fish-catching addition to any fly box.
Tan or chartreuse Mini Hots imitate caddis, and the brightly colored versions of orange, blue, and purple fill the niche of attractor hues. The Yellow Sally version is a dead ringer for these small summertime stones, and has been particularly effective on western headwater creeks.
At first glance, the Mini Hot looks strangely familiar and clearly shares some lineage with many fluttering caddis patterns and of course Randall Kaufmann's Stimulator. I find myself substituting the Mini Hot for most of these patterns as I find it easier to tie, more durable, and more fun to fish.
The most important and distinctive attribute of the Mini Hot is the tubing body construction. The tubing makes the body ride low in the water, creating a bigger dimple in the surface film than other patterns with a palmered body. This low-floating characteristic anchors the fly in the surface film allowing the wing and thorax hackle purchase in the film.
I find my hook-up percentages to go up with this fly over conventional high-floating attractor patterns, and I believe this is because the fly sits in the film rather than on top, keeping it from being pushed or bounced away from a rising fish.
I also think that the dense, hackle-free body helps the fly land and sit upright on the water far more consistently than flies with palmered body hackle, and it looks more natural on the water. If you look at a stonefly, hopper, or even most big mayflies, they don't sit above the water on their tippy toes. They ride low in the water, not above it like some heavily hackled patterns do.
The widespread bleached deer hair wing makes the Mini Hot easy to find and follow on the water as well, and a generous coating of dry fly powder keeps it floating all day.
Charlie Craven co-owns Charlie's FlyBox in Arvada, Colorado, and is the author of Charlie's Fly Box (Stackpole Books, Headwater Books, 2011). He is also the featured tier in the iPhone app FlyBench, available at apple.com/iphone/flybench.