Monday, September 26, 2016

Another Hidden Gem Close to Home

When it comes to locating new water to fish, I turn to Google Maps and Google Earth a lot.  Roughly 4 miles from home is one of my favorite local lakes with a great carp flat that I love to stalk.  Recently, I had noticed on the maps for the area, which includes some public hunting ground, there's a secluded pond at the edge of an old overgrown field.  From the looks of the map, it would be a little under half a mile's hike from the closest parking area.  Only having a few hours to kill Saturday morning, I left as early as I could and tried to make the most out of my limited adventure time.  As I started up through the old overgrown field, I quickly realized this was not a path often traveled.  There was no path.  There was lots of chest-high weeds and briars.

Once I got through the worst of the briars, my legs taking a beating even through long pants, I then had to be on the lookout for the many large Yellow Garden spiders calling the deer path I found to walk on home.

I finally reached the pond and was pleasantly surprised.  The water looked good, there was good clarity, good depth, plenty of cover, and room to cast around most of the banks. 

Early on, throwing a size 6 deer hair frog, I had a very large (for SE Ohio) bass come hard-charging at the frog, only to refuse it when it was inches away.  It was a heart-stopping moment for a guy with a 3wt expecting small fish.  After I saw multiple 4+ pound bass, I realized I was severely undergunned and not prepared with large flies.  With the bass ignoring my smaller streamers and topwaters, I turned to the large sunfish I could see cruising around.  I picked up a few bluegills and multiple redears that put a good bend in the Shadowcast glass 3wt.

Although I came home with lots of cuts and scrapes, and no bass, it was still a pretty good short outing.  It's nice to know I have a good pond option close to home that should handle rain well. I saw no signs that rain runoff should greatly affect the water clarity.  Next time I go back, I will be properly prepared with some large streamers and my 7wt, and hopefully tangle with one of the big green bass I saw on Saturday.  

Monday, September 19, 2016

Flies Are Meant to be Fished

Something that I hear a lot on message boards is that some folks don't think they could fish a fly that was "too pretty." They would rather keep it as a display piece.  For me, that thought has never crossed my mind.  When I sit down at the vise, I do not do it to make something to look at.  Yes, I tend to put a lot of time and detail...most of which I admit is not necessary...into a fly, but the last thing I would do is put the fly on a shelf and never use it.  As a new father, my time has become increasingly limited at the bench.  If I sit down to tie a fly, you can bet it is going to get fished.  One of my favorite "niche" fly styles to tie is small deer hair bigs for panfish and creek bass.

I had sort of an epiphany a few winters back, that I tied a lot of nice, big, deer hair bass bugs, but ended up not getting to fish them as much as I would like.  I do not get to fish a lot of prime bass ponds, nor do I have real consistent topwater bites on my local lakes.  I wanted to catch fish on deer hair flies, so I started downsizing and also tying more small streamers and subsurface flies using deer hair.  The small stream behind the house has been a great place this summer to fling tiny surface bugs for hungry and colorful panfish.

Yesterday, I wanted badly to test out the little yellow size 10 sliders pictured above, so I took an hour to get them wet in the creek behind the house.  I used my trusty TFO Finesse 1wt setup, and had lots of action in the short trip.  I caught several creek chubs, and two more pretty little longears.

Another comment I get a lot in fishing circles is "I'd love to see your fly boxes." I think most people have this thought that I have rows and rows of pretty deer hair bugs and streamers, which isn't true at all.  My boxes are full of used, beat up, water-soaked then dried in ugly positions, working flies.  In my opinion, if your fly box looks like something from a magazine spread, those flies are probably not getting fished enough. 

Friday, September 16, 2016

Signing Your Work

Hot-tipping zonker strips has become sort of a calling card for a lot of my fly patterns lately.  It's a technique I started playing with this year, it looks great, the fish seem to dig it, and it's really not all that hard or time consuming.  Most folks assume you need to use a needle or mandrel to do this, but I have never felt it to be necessary.  Trim an 1/8" chunk of hair from the tail end of the rabbit strip, clamp it in the vise jaws, and start gently wrapping thread onto it.  You'll be surprised at how the thread wraps immediately solidify the tag of hide strip.  Then it's pretty simple to add whatever material you wish to the tail of your zonker.  I usually opt for arctic fox, but rabbit would also substitute well.  I have also added deer hair tips for a buoyant tail and flash for more shock value.

Here are some hot-tipped claws for the HD Craw pattern.  This little craw bug has been easily my best pattern this year, claiming loads of bass of all three primary species we have in Ohio (smallmouth, largemouth, and spotted).

This week I tipped a few barred zonker strips for a little streamer design I have been playing with, based heavily off a pattern tied by Brandon Mena, usuing arctic fox for the tips.

The Flash Ass Zonker uses Flashabou spun in a dubbing loop and wrapped onto the tag for the flashy kick.

And the complex streamer I call Woody that I started tying over the winter uses some stacked and flared deer hair for the hot tip.  The deer hair gives the pop of color, as well as adding some buoyancy for a little different motion in the water.  Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to test this pattern this year, but it does look really good in the water,


Monday, September 12, 2016

Small Stream Bass

Fishing smaller streams in southern Ohio for bass has become one of my favorite fishing trip options, and for pretty good reason.  The water tends to be clean and comfortable for wading, crowds and pressure are light, the fish are aggressive, and the secluded feeling is amazing.  Over the weekend, I tried a new stretch of water on a stream I had not fished before that I located using Google Maps for scouting.  Fishing trips like this usually result in a mixed bag, with the primary targets as largemouth and spotted bass.  As soon as I got to the water, saw the clarity and the cover, I had a pretty good feeling about the day.  It was in the first 5 minutes of fishing that I connected with the best fish of the trip, a pretty solid spot that measured just over 15".  It was a load on a glass 3wt.

The cover in the stream was some of the best I have seen in my part of Ohio.  There were plenty of logs and woody cover, which is pretty normal to find, but there were also large boulders and chunks of rock mixed in.  Water levels have been pretty low recently, so my approach was to skip much of the shallow stuff and focus on the deeper water with cover.

Easily the most frustrating and rewarding bass of the trip was this spotted bass.  It was a hair smaller than the early bass, but what I had to do to get this fish in the net was something I have never experienced.  I got this bass to eat a Murdich Minnow 4 times in the period of 6 casts, and each time this fish expelled the fly instantly after inhaling it.  After the 4th failed eat, I quickly swapped flies to an HD Craw, and popped him on the first cast.

I slowly moved upstream, catching fish at most of the better looking holes and pools I found.  It was one of those streams so full of panfish that if you wanted to have a 100 fish day throwing small bugs, it could be done without much trouble.  The bass were a little more spread out and closely holding by cover.

For a short outing not too far from home, barely across my home county line, it was a great trip.  I was nervous going in, as it always is with new water, but the research and effort getting there was well worth it.  The last few miles in to this spot were a pretty rugged single-lane gravel road through state forest land.  Gorgeous country, and further proof that you don't need to hop on a plane or drive across the country to find your adventure.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mini Deer Hair Week

I tied several downsized deer hair bugs in the past week for creek fishing on light tackle, 1wt and 3wt mostly.  Why tie tiny deer hair bugs?  They are fun!  Fun to tie, fun to fish, and the fish seem to enjoy them.  I started with a prototype for an idea I have been kicking around for a while.  I wanted a small hopper pattern with a popping face.  I'm not 100% sure it will ride correctly, so I only did a few to test with.  The failed experiments are in the back of the photo.

Next, I wanted to have a few small sliders, like Sneaky Pete's, in my favorite panfish color: yellow and black.  I had never tried slider heads shaped like this with deer hair, but I thought they turned out pretty nice.  These are on size 10 Gamakatsu B10S stinger hooks.

My most productive tiny deer hair popper color combo has been chartreuse/blue/black, so I added some backups to the fly box with a couple more of them tied on size 10 3XL streamer hooks.  Pre-trim and post-trim.

Lastly, for the deer hair portion of the week, I tied a couple of size 6 deer hair popping frogs, using the smallest size available in Cohen's Creature Frog Legs.  Pretty simple recipe, just the legs, a collar of Estaz, a bunch of deer hair, and some rubber legs and eyes.

For the non-deer hair portion of the tying slate, I refilled the creek box with my #1 subsurface panfish pattern.  It's by all rights a slight variation on a traditional bugger pattern, with a few material modifications.  The hot orange bead seems to really drive creek fish nuts.  You see this fly in the jaws of probably 75% of my creek catches.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Small in Size, Huge in Beauty

Brook trout have been one of my favorite fish to catch ever since I started fly fishing.  In WV, they are plentiful, but by no means are they the biggest fish you will catch.  They make up for that in sheer beauty and lots of aggression in taking a fly.  Living in SE Ohio, we simply don't have brookies nearby, but we do have longear sunfish.  I catch them on occasion, usually when fishing for other species, and they are the most gorgeous fish we have in Ohio, in my opinion.  I recently discovered the mother load of longears right in my back yard (almost literally).  When you compare them to brook trout, there are actually a few similarities.  I tend to find longears in cleaner, flowing water.  They tend to be smaller than most fish I catch in the same areas.  They also take a fly with ferocity.  In terms of aesthetics?  I actually think it's a toss-up in the beauty contest.  Enjoy the photos of my favorite Ohio fish species.