Thursday, July 28, 2016

Complex Twist Bow River Bugger

The Complex Twist Bow River Bugger is a mouthful to say, and it is also a mouthful of meat for a predatory fish.  If there has been one pattern I have really fallen in love with tying, this is it.  The color combos are just about endless.  You can combine different colors of marabou, schlappen, and flash with different powder painted heads and produce some really cool results.  You can make this fly as simple or as truly elaborate as you want when it comes to color combos and schemes.  Once you get the techniques down, this fly doesn't take all that long to tie, either.  The recipe I use is as follows:

Hook - size 1 4XL streamer hook
Threads - 6/0 for everything but the deer hair, 200den GSP for the deer hair head
Weight - .030 lead and a medium Pocket Cone (powder painted)
Tail - wrapped marabou and some Flashabou
Body - Complex Twist of 2 schlappen feathers and Polar Chenille
Hot Spot/Gills - brightly colored schlappen
Legs - rubber legs 3 per side
Collar - deer body hair

There are a few things in the recipe I follow that are worth detailing a little.  Powder painting is incredibly easy and adds a little more detail to your fly.  Can you get away with a standard nickel or black nickel Pocket Cone?  Sure, but it's a fast extra step that takes a few seconds to do and adds some detail to your pattern.  There are lots of color options for powder paint, also.  I have been sticking with ProTec paint, and it has worked great for me.  Wrapping the marabou in the tail produces a tail that is a bit longer than "standard," but by wrapping it you lose the squared-end look of tying in a plume of marabou.  For the tutorial below, I shrouded the darker marabou over the lighter color, but you can also tie them in together and wrap together, doing more of a blend for the tail.  I am also convinced that wrapped marabou moves better in the water than a standard plume just tied onto a shank.  The hot spot/gill schlappen wraps for this pattern are also a detail touch I have recently started adding to this fly.  Depending on the color pattern I am tying, I typically use pink, orange, or red for this step.  This hot spotting is something I have been doing with most of my streamer patterns lately and the results have been great.

Here's the video tutorial link for the fly:

And here are some photos of other color combos of this pattern I have tied.  Give this one a shot, and I think you'll enjoy tying and fishing this one as much as I do!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Carp in the Mud Flats

When the SE Ohio weather heats up, and the "prized" game fish move deep looking for relief from the hot weather, it's time to look shallow for carp.  The hard part is not usually finding the fish, it's finding them in good weather conditions to target them.  By good weather, I mean wind, and no wind is the best wind.  The carp flats are shallow and tend to be silty bottoms that get stirred up easily.  Spotting fish, when they aren't breaking the surface with their tails, is really tough when the wind is up.  Calm conditions almost never last long, but when they do, take advantage.

These are picture-perfect carping conditions on my favorite local lake.

The fish were not cooperating much on this trip.  I found a lot of "roamer" carp, and they can be difficult to track down.  I would spot a good bubble cloud from a feeding fish from a long ways off, paddle to it, and by the time I got there the fish had moved.  They were not staying put for long.  I dropped the fly on feeding fish a few times with no responses.  I also lined a couple of fish with disastrous consequences.  Finally, I got on a feeding fish and was able to see it break free from the mud into cleaner water, dropped the fly in its face, and it ate.  

The fish didn't strip much line, I never saw the backing, but I got a good sleigh ride across the lake.  After a few failed net attempts, I got her in the net.  I never got any measurements, but it was a pretty good fish.  Long and heavy.  

This fish had a serious paddle.

The fly that claimed this beast is one of my original designs that flies in the face of most conventional carp fly design.  A few things important to my most successful carp flies are built into this design: a bold outline for visibility in dirty water, a slow fall rate, and a buoyant tail that sticks up at rest.  I nicknamed this fly Smaug because it reminds me of one of those Chinese dragon costumes with a bobbing head.

The most popular question I get with this fly is "What do you think the fish think it is?" And honestly, I have no clue.  It could be a huge dragonfly nymph, an immature craw, a small fish, a leech...all I care about is they think it's food.  This fly has claimed nearly all of my carp on the fly that go over 30" in length.  Most carp flies are dainty, sparse, subtle, and this fly is basically the opposite of all those things.   Here's a video tutorial on tying the pattern:


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Cheechalope

Last week, on my birthday, a buddy gifted me this killer fly design (as a joke, obviously).

Me, I saw this as a chance to tie the pattern with a bit of serious flare.  Since I had no material list, I made it up as I went.  The tail I tied with orange hackle tips, the purple abdomen was Ice Dub, the yellow fuzzies a collar of Ice Chenille.  My interpretation of the front half was chartreuse and purple hackle palmered over some orange Ice Dub.  The antlers?  I crafted them out of some black ultra chenille.  And thus, the Cheechalope was born.

Of course, now the only thing left to do was to actually fish this contraption.  As hilarious as it looked, I was pretty confident that a hungry sunfish would actually consider this thing food.  I wasn't wrong.

I retired the Cheechalope after that one fish.  It had served its purpose, both in artistic endeavor and utility.  Moral of the story: no matter how crazy the fly design, it just might work. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Back Yard Jewels

Almost within casting range of my back deck is a small tributary of an Ohio River tributary.  I usually pay it little attention because it's often filled with cattle, muddy, and I rarely catch anything but creek chubs.  I found myself last Saturday with about 90 minutes to kill and figured it was worth a shot if it was clean enough to fish.  The cattle were elsewhere, the water stained but not too awful, so I rigged the 1wt TFO and went over the bank.

I immediately caught a few chubs on a small yellow foam popper.  Then a few casts later, watched a decent sized bass (for this small trickle) blast the popper.  I fought the fish for a few seconds and had the popper come flying loose, the bass was gone.  I moved onto the next little pool and picked up a tiny green sunfish.  These things seem to be everywhere there is water in SE Ohio.

In some shallow water, I spotted the major hazard of this type of fishing...especially if you're wearing sandals.

After a while, I moved back upstream to the small pool where I lost the bass, and switched flies to a size 10 black buggerish/Goddess type fly.  I drifted the fly through the pool, deep, and got a strike.  It was, I believe, the same spotted bass I lost 45 minutes earlier.  I really don't think there are too many bass that size in this little creek, and two of them in the same small pool seems unlikely, to me.  It was a great little fight on the 1wt.

At the last stop, I put the popper back on and was rewarded with a small dose of my favorite fish in Ohio: the longear sunfish.  In my humble opinion, they rank right up there with brook trout on the beauty scale.  This little guy was colored nicely and was an excellent top-off for the short trip.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Jungle Bass

Where I am from, it can be fairly difficult to truly "get away." Even on what I would consider to be a remote section of a stream I like to fish, you're never more than a few hundred yards from someone's home or a roadway.  You can't escape the noise of the roads, you always have a cell phone signal.  A few years back, a buddy I met at a local fly shop got me started fishing a very different stream with him.  It's not easy, it's actually hard work.  It's a hike to get into the stream after a drive on a single-lane gravel road that borders on being called a path.  You're disconnected from the digital world.  There's nothing to hear but nature.  And the fishing is phenomenal for spotted and largemouth bass.  You're not going to pull any 5 pounders out of the place, but 15"+ bass on a lightweight fly rod is a blast.  Getting to the stream takes effort, fishing it takes a lot of work, as well.  The banks tend to be steep and slick.  The foliage around the stream is dense, making casting a typically ugly affair.  Just do what you have to do to get the fly where it needs to go.  There's swamps.  There are hordes of mosquitoes and flies that will make you pay for not using repellent.  The payoff makes all of this worthwhile.

This ended up being one of the easier stream access points we found.  Flat, stable footing is the exception, not the rule. 

A typical stream largemouth, taken on a brown/orange HD Craw pattern.

The foliage along the stream can be navigated carefully, but it's not easy.  Pawpaw trees stud the banks all along the stream.  Sinkholes along the edges of the bank can wreck your day in a hurry, as well.  And get too close to the bank and misstep over the edge, and you'll wind up in the creek faster than you would ever believe (or want to).

A slightly larger than average stream spotted bass.  These fish are aggressive, and put up a battle that I think rivals the smallmouth.

This little green sunfish had an appetite bigger than its body.  It's also a great example of the diverse bag of fish you can expect to catch.  On this trip alone, the species caught were: largemouth bass, spotted bass, green sunfish, longear sunfish, rock bass, bluegill, and crappie.  We saw a lot of carp but were unable to get them to take a fly. 

This was a solid spot for the stream, right at 15" and it buckled the glass Moonlit 3wt to the cork a few times.  This fish took the most popular fly of the day for me, a black/blue HD Craw.

I might be a bit biased, but I think a well-marked longear sunfish is as gorgeous a specimen as you will find anywhere.  I consider them Ohio's version of WV's brook trout.  They make up for a lack of size with unbelievable coloration and markings. 

Another solid spot for this little flow, and another HD Craw victim.  This trip was sort of the coming out party for this pattern, and the fly was designed with flows like this in mind. 

Fish of the day for both of us ended up being a double we pulled off in a deep run.  As I peeked over the stream bank, I located this bass close to the bank and it had no idea we were there.  Getting the fly in the water was about all I had to do, and the bass exploded on the fly.  As it was hooked and the battle began, another impressive bass tried to steal the fly from my fish.  As I worked mine towards the net, my buddy was able to get his fly in front of the other bass and hooked up. 

The second half of an impressive 3wt double.  Both fish were good examples of why it's worth the effort and weight to carry a good net with an extendable handle.  With steep banks and hard fighting fish, that extra reach can come in handy.

By the time we were done, we were both filthy and exhausted.  We covered a few stream miles and fished some water that was even new to us.  We fell on the muddy banks, nearly stepped in several sinkholes, were bitten by bugs, and were shocked that no rods bit the dust in any of our accidents and missteps.  I came home bruised, tired, muddy from end to end, and had a couple of tag-along ticks stuck to me that had to be removed.  Most people would never believe you can find this type of fishing in Ohio.  In my opinion, it's a great testament to finding your fly fishing adventure closer to home than you might expect.  All it takes is a little research and a whole lot of effort.