Friday, January 27, 2017

Old Becomes New

No matter how many rods and reels we have, I think most fishermen will fall into a pattern of one or two outfits they fish more than the rest.  For the past few years, I have fished my light weight rods a lot more than the rest of my "collection."  In particular, a 7'6" Moonlit Shadow Cast glass 3wt has been a workhorse for me for the past year or so.  The reel I had stuck on that rod was a cheap old reel that I had laying around.  In the past few weeks, the disc drag on that reel had been slipping badly, leading to a few overrun tangles.  I never liked the reel anyway, so I started shopping online for a simple vintage Pflueger Medalist.  The thought of a classic click/pawl reel on a glass rod felt like a good match.  I did some research on what was available, narrowed my searches, and found what I thought to be a pretty good deal on eBay.  Last night, my package arrived.

I found this Medalist 1494 DA as a Buy it Now, with free shipping, for $39.99.  This was a pretty good price in comparison to other reels of the same time frame I found online, so I was crossing my fingers it would be in serviceable condition.  Considering the reel was produced in the time frame from 1966-1969, it is in excellent condition.  It has the expected minor cosmetic dings, but was surprisingly clean. 

After watching a few videos on YouTube on cleaning vintage reels, as well as switching this particular reel from right hand to left hand retrieve, I got to work.  A few paper towels, several cue tips, and a few screwdriver turns later, the reel was pretty clean from dust and gunk.  Here's a shot of the internal components after I completed the process of switching the retrieve mechanism and had cleaned the reel.

All that remained was switching the line guard to accommodate the left hand retrieve, and the real work was finished.  Once everything was clean, reassembled, and oiled, I loaded the reel with my current 3wt line and backing.  I also did a quick test fit to see how well the Medalist balances on my glass 3wt, and it felt like it was a perfect match.  

To be perfectly honest, I'm not usually the nostalgic type.  I can't help but wonder, though, where this reel has been?  Where has it fished?  What has it caught?  Whose hands has it been in?  Not only does it feel good to revive a piece of history and put it back in use, it also feels good that it was made right here in the USA.  And not just here in the USA, but in my home state of Ohio (in Akron).  Hopefully I can load it up with good memories of my own, and maybe pass it down to my son one day.  

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Different Twist on Bluegill Flies

These last few evenings I have experimented with a different technique for forming the body on a bluegill fly.  Has it been done before?  Probably, but I haven't seen it and it was new to me.  I think the technique could be applied to patterns for other species, also.  What I did was tie in three strands of rubber leg material, twist it into a "rope," and wrap it.  I really liked the effect and end result.  It's a grubby, mottled looking body and the taper can be manipulated by either tension on the legs while wrapping or the underbody of the fly.  I chose tension.  Using barred centipede style legs, the barring produces a cool mottled effect.  Here's a look at the body of one bug before I added the soft hackle.

I tied just a pair of different test patterns.  The first was a larger, slightly more complex bug that I think the larger local bluegills and hybrid sunfish will enjoy.  The second was a simpler soft hackle pattern on a much shorter shank hook for a more bite-size pattern.  Here are the recipes and photos of both.

Hook - DaiRiki 280 Size 10
Thread - 6/0
Bead - 3/32" brass
Weight - 6 wraps .020 non lead
Tag/Tail - Lazer Dub and rubber legs
Body - three strands rubber legs, twisted and wrapped
Collar - deer hair tips
Legs - rubber legs
Head - Ice Dub

Hook - DaiRiki 135 Size 10
Thread - 6/0
Bead - 3/32" brass
Tag - Lazer Dub 
Body - three strands rubber legs, twisted and wrapped
Head - Ice Dub
Hackle - India Hen soft hackle

I wanted both to be lightly weighted, essentially just enough to break the surface and slowly sink the fly.  I added the 6 wraps of .020 on the larger bug to help sink the sparse deer hair collar.  Although they are both tied on size 10 hooks, the different hook styles produce very different sized flies.  The 280 is a 2XL "hopper" hook, the 135 a short shank "scud" style hook.  If the weather cooperates, I might try these out this weekend.  If the weather doesn't cooperate, I'll have to wait for a thaw!   

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Going Small With Deer Hair Frogs

Something that has been a lot of fun the last two years has been fishing tiny deer hair poppers and sliders on light fly gear.  I have tied deer hair bugs small enough to be castable on a 1wt with no issues.  Are they more work than foam bugs?  Sure, but it's a lot of fun watching them get blown up on by small stream bass and panfish.  I've been a fan of Pat Cohen's Creature bodies, and when I saw the frog legs were now available in tiny sizes, I had to try them.  I sampled two packs each of the 1/2" and 3/4" versions.  The 3/4" size I matched to a size 6 Gamakatsu B10S hook.

Next up, the really small ones.  I used the 1/2" legs on a Gamakatsu B10S in size 10.  This size bug is easily small enough for bluegill and smaller panfish.  Although the bug is tiny, I still stacked the hair in small amounts to keep the colors where I wanted them and keep them dense.  On this version, I blended some black and yellow hair to form the top, solid yellow on the bottom, and orange for the face.

I can't wait for spring when the panfish come shallow to spawn.  These frog popper should receive a good workout, and the size 6's will be excellent for popper/dropper rigs.  Check out Pat's website at for his creature lineup, as well as the best deer hair for spinning and stacking you'll find.  The frog legs are great, and I have had some really good success with his hellgramite bodies on a simple fly pattern for smallmouth bass. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Two More Sculpin Patterns

As previously mentioned, upon returning from the Mad River after Christmas, I had a few new ideas in my head for sculpin patterns.  For starters, here is a look at the beat-up pattern I typically fish over at the Mad, which has a really healthy sculpin population that the brown trout enjoy.  I tie this pattern inverted (point up) on a size 6 DaiRiki 700B, which is a 20 degree bent shank "craw" hook.  The recipe is as follows:

Hook - DairRiki 700B size 6
Tail - zonker strip
Body - Arizona Diamond Dub (spun in a loop, then picked out)
Collar - deer body hair (on the sides and top of the hook only, none on the belly)
Fins - Laser Dub or Bruiser Blend streamer dubbing
Head - powder painted Sculpin Helmet, size small

This pattern fishes well and has caught several Mad River browns for me, but I wanted to see if I could come up with a new version of a compact sculpin that would drop faster in the water column for the deeper water.  For those unfamiliar with the Mad, it's a strange river.  There are stretches with 2-3' of water, then small depth changes to slightly deeper water, and those depth changes tend to hold trout.  My thought was to use mostly synthetic materials and a more streamlined head to get the fly to drop a little quicker.  The result is what I am calling the Popcorn Sculpin.

Popcorn Sculpin

Hook - DairRiki 700B size 6
Weight - 13 wraps of .020 lead
Eyes - medium size dumbbells
Tail - rubber legs
Body - Arizona Diamond Dub
Gills - red hackle
Collar - deer body hair
Head - Arizona Diamond Dub

In tank testing, this little streamer drops pretty fast, as intended.  I really like the rubber legs for the tail.  In the water, in current, they streamline much like a zonker type tail, but will retain no water and sink a little better.  I sacrificed the flat, broad head of a typical sculpin in order to reduce some surface area and water resistance.  

For the other pattern, I wanted to blend the Game Changer concept with a small sculpin pattern.  In order to accomplish this, I used a "chassis" of two articulated shanks (cannibalized from a pack of Fish Spines) that I believe are 15mm and 20mm in size combined with a size 4 Gamakatsu B10S hook.  I am nicknaming this pattern the HD Sculpin, cousin to the HD Craw.

HD Sculpin

Shanks/Hooks - 15mm and 20mm shanks, Gamakatsu B10S size 4
Tail - Arizona Diamond Dub smeared with UV resin, trimmed to shape
Body - Arizona Diamond Dub (dubbing loop or brush, trimmed to shape on middle shank)
Gills - red hackle
Collar - deer body hair
Pec Fins - India Hen back feathers
Dubbed Head - Arizona Diamond Dub (for the Helmet to seat onto)
Head - powder painted Sculpin Helmet size small

The HD Sculpin might seem a little complex, but it really isn't that difficult of a tie.  At  glance it might seem like there's more going on then there really is.  After my first trial, I discovered the key to getting a good profile was picking/brushing the middle shank body out really well, then trimming it to a tapered shape towards the rear.  Otherwise, it was just a clump for a body that bled a little too much into the tail.  To speed things up and minimize how many dubbing loops I have to do for this pattern (and others), I made a few dubbing brushes from Diamond Dub.  

If you have never used this material, I would highly recommend it.  This dubbing simply seems destined for dubbing loops and brushes.  It works ridiculously well in those applications.  It's a great mix of spiky, buddy fiber and a strong hint of flash.  The 3 colors I use the most, as seen abovein the dubbing brush pic, are copper/olive, black/blue, and ice blue/brown.  I use this material on pretty much all of my sculpin and craw patterns now.  Give it a shot! 

As for these two sculpin patterns, I really can't wait to give them a real world test on fish.  In the tank, they both swim like champs, so I know they are going to produce.  I do not make it over to the Mad River often, and I know I can't wait until next December.  I'm going to keep an eye on the weather and find another day this winter I can sneak over and give these streamers a thorough test. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Lunch Break

We had an unseasonably warm stretch here in SE Ohio over the last 7-10 days which melted the ice on the local public ponds I like to fish.  I made a trip several days back and caught many sunfish on my glass 3wt.  With cold weather on the immediate horizon, and ice looming, I took my lunch break today at the pond.  It was likely my last outing on flat water for at least several weeks, given the temperatures coming our way.  It was cold, it was windy, and it was worth it to get a few more bends in the rod while I still could.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Winter Fishing the Mad River

My fly fishing buddy and I have developed what has become a tradition of making a trip to the Mad River for brown trout in the week between Christmas and New Years.  It's an easy time for both of us to get away and make a mid-week journey to western Ohio.  This time, I decided on a stubborn tactic change.  In the past, I have nymph fished and done pretty well on the Mad, but I'd typically catch nothing but small fish.  I decided I had caught enough of the freshly stocked small fish, and wanted to throw streamers in hopes of finding a better bite.  To be sure I would not fall back on the nymphing crutch in tough times, I simply left them at home.  Conditions were not great for streamer fishing, with low and clear water, but I was committed to the plan.  I used a small size 6 olive sculpin pattern for the majority of the day.  When I found deeper water with cover, I upsized the streamers looking for a trophy bite, but failed to get it.

The fish were aggressively attacking our streamers, but early on, short strikes were the name of the game.  We both had many strikes but no hookups.  Finally, in a small and deep run along one bank, I found a fish that connected.  Still a small brown, but I was on the board with an aggressive strike.

Later in the day, we met up with the local TU chapter president to fish with him for a while.  After fishing with him, I became even more convinced that local knowledge is just about the most important thing you can bring to the water.  The Mad is a subtle, sometimes fickle stream to fish, and that knowledge helped both of us catch some more fish.  So, when I was told "Put your streamer right behind that little weir, there's usually fish there," I did.  And I was rewarded with the best fsh of the day, a gorgeous fish that slammed that little sculpin.

My poor little sculpin got fished hard all day, bouncing bottom and bouncing off logs and trees when attempts for the perfect cast were just slightly off the mark.  It's a fairly simple little sculpin pattern on a single hook that has produced several fish for me out of the Mad.  It's one of those "don't leave home without it" bugs.  

Ever the design tinkerer, I brainstormed other sculpin patterns most of the latter portion of the time on the water, as well as on the ride home.  Watch for the results of that brainstorming later this week in another post.  I think I have a few winners to try next time I venture across the Buckeye state.