Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Perfect Bass Fly?

Although my writing may not show it, I am an avid warm water fly fisherman. I am forced to be, because the nearest quality trout water is an hour from my house. Fortunately, I am blessed to have a number of warm water venues minutes from my front door. Despite the fact that most of this blog's posts revolve around trout fishing, much of my fishing involves the pursuit of warm water fish.

One of the most effective lures for largemouth bass has to be the plastic worm. For decades, I have been searching for the fly fisherman's equivalent. I believe that search is now over.

At a recent fly tying course offered by Central Jersey Trout Unlimited, I took a break from instructing and sat in on a workshop put on by one of the chapter's most innovative fly tiers, Bill Ninke.  Bill introduced me to materials and techniques to tie very effecting looking worm and tube jig imitations. Bill was quick to point out that these flies were not his original patterns.  He stated he had picked up the patterns and techniques from a source on the internet. The originator of this wrapping technique is Rich McElligott who works hard for the Illinois Smalmouth Alliance.

These flies are quick and easy to tie and they look great in the water.  The pattern's design keeps the long tail from fouling the hook point, an issue I have always had with other worm style flies.  The fly is tied in two stages.  First take a length of yarn equal to whatever you want the overall length of the fly to be and touch the end to an open flame to taper it.  I have been working with a fly that is 5 1/2 inches long. Take the none tapered end and tie it in behind the eye, bead or cone. Take a second piece of yarn three to four times longer than the first and tie it in behind the eye as well. Begin wrapping this longer piece of yarn around the hook shank until you reach the bend. Then continue wrapping the long piece of yarn around the standing portion of the tail. Make seven wraps down the tail then reverse direction and make six wraps back towards the hook.  Now continue wraping on the hook ending back at the eye.  Whip finish, tie off and your done.

I am adopting this technique and material to several new patterns I am developing.  I can't wait to field test them this spring.  I also started tying these flies on wire guard weedless hooks which results in a near weedless version that can be cast into heavy cover without the risk of losing the fly.  It can be weighted by attaching wraps of lead wire to the hook shank before tying on the yarn.

Hook: Mustad 3366 1/0 or substitute a weedless worm hook
Weight: Brass or tungsten cone or wraps on lead wire
Body:  Patons Bohemian Yarn (available at local craft stores)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shad Flies

I needed to restock my shad fly box for an upcoming trip this weekend.  Normally I would recruit my 9 year old son to whip up a bunch off shad flies for me, but the lad broke his finger last night so I got stuck behind the vice.  I had only one hour to spend fly tying this evening.  Fortunately, shad flies are quick and easy to tie.  The patterns are only limited by your imagination and fly tying supplies.  For me it is crystal flash, and bright colored standard and crystal chenille, nothing to them.

When tying shad flies your looking for brightness and/or contrast.  These are all tied on an #4 Eagle Claw Nickel Teflon Salmon hook (model NT1197FS).  I carry a assortment of colors and sizes (2-6).  Follow the basic rules - bright flies on bright days, dark flies on cloudy days or low light periods.

Sunday, April 15, 2012


Many years ago I chased the Delaware River's shad with spinning tackle.  About fifteen or twenty years ago, I laid the spinning and casting gear down and chased fished exclusively with the fly rod.  Up until this year, I never pursued shad with fly tackle.   One of the main reasons I have never gone after shad with a fly is the timing of the run. It occurs during our primetime for trout.  This year, with so much excellent fishing opportunities this winter, I felt I could take a few days off from trout fishing and finally give shad on the fly a go.  Thanks to some friends who shared their expansive knowledge of fly fishing for shad, I have discovered a new thrill.

These fish are a blast!  Shad eagerly take a fly and on a 6wt fly rod they make a good showing of themselves.  On this tackle you will not land every fish! They will push 6wt gear to its limits and will escape from time to time.  Though they take a fly readily, their bony mouths can offer a bit of resistance to a hook, they are prone to leaping and on occasion a large fish will break a ten pound tippet on the initial strike like it was made of sewing thread!

When the fish are pushing through the action can be hot and heavy.  When they are not, you cast until your arm wants to fall off.  But they can show up at any time, so you cast away.  This time of year it is running lines and fast to moderate sinking shooting heads.  The use of a stripping basket is mandatory.  There is nothing graceful about fly fishing for shad but it can be terribly effective.  Although it is certainly not always the case, on the days I have been out, the fly guys have out produced the spin fisherman.

The flies are ridiculously simple to tie and they are a great patterns for new fly tiers, especially children.  The brighter and gaudier, the better, and the kids love combining colors that would have not have a place on any respectable trout pattern but are perfect for shad flies.  I'll put up a post in the next week or so on the flies used for this species.

But like most forms of fly fishing, you occasionally connect with a trash fish like this brown trout!  What did I say about colors that don't belong on a respectable trout fly?  I may have to rethink this one!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Opening Day 2012

For me, the season opener actually begins the day before on the banks of the very river that will be fished the following day.  A fabulous steak dinner is enjoyed by a fine group of friends and the evening is spent swapping lies around a campfire until one by one we slip off to the warmth of our sleeping bags.  The day starts just before first light with the smell of wood smoke and fresh coffe being brewed by the first man up.  Soon the smells of breakfast being cooked begin to mix with the wood smoke and that is usually enough to wake those that stayed up a little too late the night before.  After breakfast, a few anglers will rush into waders, gather their gear and wait in the frigid water for the eight o'clock bell of the season opener. Most of us continue to linger by the fire until the sun begins to poke over the hills and shares its warmth with us.  Then one by one we'll gear up, find a good looking piece of water and make the first "official" cast of the season. Which, on most years, has been preceded by several thousand casts by those of us who fish all winter long, except for those three long weeks in March and early April when trout season closes on most waters.

Opening day was a little different for me this year.  This year I had company.  This was the year I introduced my 9 year old son, William, to my opening day traditions.  William has been fishing with a fly rod for a number of years now, but mainly on local lakes and ponds for panfish and the occasional bass.  Last summer I introduced him to wet wading in moving water and once I was confident he understood the basics of safely negotiating rapids and could handle a dunking in moving water, we took a few short trips in preparation for Opening Day.  Armed with a new fly rod and a pair of Dan Bailey waders and Simms wading boots that were given to us by a generous friend whose children had out grown them, he was ready to hit the water

I was thrilled that he was able to make the cast, detect the strike and play his first fish to hand without any assistance from Dad and he did it over and over again.  I stood by his side to coach him, but it became obvious after a while that I was just getting in the way so I sat and watched.

Eventually he asked why I wasn't fishing and then offered to be my gillie if I wanted to fish for a while.  So I did, it was nice to have someone to net my fish for me.

After a few hours he wanted to put down the rod and kick back and relax so I slipped off and managed to tease a few more fish into the net before breaking camp and heading for home.

I'm sure the day created memories that will last a lifetime for the both of us.  Especially that big one that got away!  He'll have stories of his own for next year's campfire!