Guide Flies: Juan Ramirez

Not all Fly Fishing Guides tie flies. Some do, but poorly, and some are beyond master status. The guide who makes time at the vise to insure a peep's success, using years of experience in the art of observation can be a different level of dangerous. There is some serious behind the scenes sorcery going on before your guide trip and the majority of you have idea nada it's even happening. Guide flies are exactly as they sound; easy, quick, efficient and in many cases, specific to a region, water shed, shop or even down to a single boat. Exclusive use or knowledge of such weapons of mass destruction require membership. You have to know somebody who trusts you, trusts in the importance of trust when passing potent patterns about. Book a trip with a guide they say. I say book a trip with a guide who ties flies. Casts and drifts, mends and managing will only take you part way in solving the puzzle. The rest of the solution is in a fly box and frankly, a guide box is better.

Meet mad genius Juan Ramirez


Let the 6 people who read this rubbish in on who Juan Ramirez is and where you typically wreck fish with your clients?

I am a full time guide in Colorado Springs, CO and a fly tier and fly designer.  I’ve been guiding for about 18 years with the last 5 years being full time.  I’ve been tying flies seriously for about 22 years.  I have about fifteen fly patterns with Montana Fly Company that are distributed worldwide to fly shops.  Some of my more popular ones are the Hopper Juan, Jedi Master, Money Midge, Kryptonite Caddis and Slim Shady.  I guide clients on both the South Platte River and the Arkansas Rivers.  Most of my time is spent on the South Platte drainage where, on any given day in the summer, you might find me on Deckers, Cheeseman Canyon, Elevenmile Canyon or the Dream Stream sections.  Other days I might be on the Arkansas Tailwater in Pueblo, CO and some days I am on the upper Arkansas River freestone below Salida, CO.  Each one is different and presents it’s own challenges but that’s part of the fun and the challenge.  I think I’d almost get bored with just one or two of those locations.  


How long have you been tying flies? Who showed you the ways?

I tied my first fly when I was about 15.  I had a shoebox full of materials and I had no idea what to do with them.  There was a fly tying book I had, I believe it was written by Don Puterbaugh of Salida Colorado.  I tied a few flies but I didn’t fly fish so I gave it up.  While in college, I dug out that box and gave it another go.  It wasn’t until I was finished with college that I started tying everyday and I have never looked back.  Everything was self taught.  There was no You_Tube or social media so we all had to learn and figure things out on our own.  We didn’t have access to top-notch materials like we do now.  

Give us 3 of your favorite Movies, no particular order.

Dances With Wolves
Saving Private Ryan
Napoleon Dynamite

I really have a crush on the John Barr Bend Hook from Umpqua, love the shape and off set. Do you have a favorite hook?

I tie mostly for the South Platte so that means smaller hooks.  With that, my favorite hook is the Daichii 1110 straight eye hook.  It’s very similar to the TMC 101 but I think it’s a bit shorter and has a decent gap.  I can tie a variety of flies on this hook.  Everything from RS2s to CDC Compara Duns.  


You Jig? That is, do you fish and tie on comp or jig hooks?

I do tie some on jig hooks but not a lot.  Being on a tiny fly tailwater limits me on what I want to tie and fish jig wise.  My preference is to tie stoneflies on jig hooks as well as some caddis.  Once I get to the smaller mayflies and midges, I skip the jig hooks and use the standard smaller hooks to match the bugs better.  For almost all of my guiding, I am still running indicators.  For me, on the type of water that I guide on, this is the easiest, most effective way to teach beginners.  On the Arkansas River, I’ve been able to use more of the jigged styled flies as well as at certain times on the Deckers section of the South Platte during higher water.   I certainly need to tie and fish more! 

Material you can't live without?

It would be Slim Rib, a ribbing material that I offer for sale.   It enables me to tie small flies and it creates incredible segmentation while staying slim and stretchy.  I use it in several of my fly patterns including the Slim Shady 5.0, Money Midge, Super Nova, Pale Ale Midge and the Jedi Master.  

It's BWO time and I've stalked your Instagram page, you have a few things figured out when it comes to imitating them little critters. Whats your go to fly this time of year?

When nymphing pre-hatch, there are a few options I have to tie on.  The fish will be eating nymphs first and then emergers and possibly adults, so I need to be prepared to have all those stages covered.  I’d start with a Slim Shady and a Jedi Master first,  I have no doubt that these patterns will work.  As the hatch progresses, I would switch one of the flies off and add and emerger or two.  My first choice would be an RS2 and my second fly would probably be a CDC loop wing or something similar.  This should work for those fish that are focused on the emerger stage.  As the hatch progresses and I start seeing noses poke out of the water, I want to go to a dry fly.  I have several patterns that I like but one that I always end up tying on is a CDC Spun Dun in size 22.  It’s a simple pattern that has always worked and that would probably be my first option.  

Check Out Juans Vimeo page

Belize or Alaska?

Both!  I’ve never been to Belize but hopefully one day I will go there.  I’ve been to Southeast Alaska and spent about three weeks there and that was really cool. It was an extended studies class in college, so it wasn’t all fun and games, but I did a lot of fishing and caught several different species of fish including salmon and halibut.  I’d love to be able to go back there as well as other locations in Alaska to do some fishing. 

I know you spend hours at the vise keeping pace with guiding needs and filling orders. If you get caught up and you are tying for fun what does it look like?

I usually sit there and try to think up the next new design.  Often times, I do, but most of them don’t make it to the shops or even my fly box.  Sometimes I find those prototypes on my desk and give them another look and maybe I change them a little bit and then they make it to my fly box to test out.  I also spend a lot of time trying to make variations of my own designs to use in certain situations. I also like to tie other people’s flies that I like.  I won’t post a picture of their flies unless I feel like they match exactly.   

Music choice at the vice? Or maybe you are a Pod Cast guy?

I usually listen to music while I am tying, but I do find myself watching a lot of movies while tying.  My music taste is all over the place.  I can listen to a playlist ranging from Khalid to George Strait to Queen to Snoop Dogg.  I can find a music station on Apple music and let that roll for hours and be happy.  When I am watching movies, I find its easier to re-watch older movies I’ve already seen just so I don’t have to really pay attention.  Movies like the Star Wars series and the Lord of the Rings are great for this.  


Snowshoe rabbit gives me fits so I am taking some social distancing time to figure it out. What are you working on at or around your vise during the quarantine?

I am still tying to fill the boxes and tying some back stock for the summer.  What I really need to do is tie some trico spinners.  I am on year 6 of not having enough when I need them.  Maybe one of these years I’ll figure it out.  

Favorite UV Cure?

My favorite is Deer Creek.  It’s been my favorite for years.  The consistency is just right for what I use it for and it’s not tacky when you cure it.  I’ve been using it for about 10 years now.  

Besides the magic that dwells in your fly boxes, what makes a trip with Juan special?

I would have to say that depending on what you are looking for, I can cater to that.  If you just want to show up and catch fish, I’ll work hard to do that.  I’ll work with you to do that but some days the fish have a different idea.  My favorite trips are the ones when people want to learn how to do something specific. When they tell me that they’re not concerned about catching fish, they would rather learn how to do it correctly, that makes me happy.  On certain trips, I am the one asking the client all the questions.  I ask how they would set up their rig and why?  What flies and why?  What weight and why?  Why would you fish there and why not there?  What should be happening soon?  Do you anticipate any hatches and why or why not?  What happens if there isn’t anything going on?  Why would you move on and when? Usually these type of clients have the skills necessary but haven’t asked themselves the questions needed to understand the why and how.  Those are my favorite trips.  

I base my guiding on three things;  having fun, learning something and trying to catch fish.  Usually that works out to be a pretty good day.  

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