Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My #1 Winter Project: Completed

Typically, I go into the winter tying "season" with a few goals.  Maybe some new patterns, trialing a new idea or two I have brainstormed, building a surplus of commonly used streamers, etc...  This year, I kept it pretty basic and straight forward.  One goal: fill one fly box with my go-to patterns for creek bass.  Thanks to volunteering to participate in a Fly Tying Expo at my closest fly shop, I had the perfect opportunity to top off my box with the last (and most important) patterns I needed to fill it up.  Last year, my best creek bass pattern was the HD Craw, and that was the fly I was to tie at the show.

I was not sure how many I would be able to crank out in a show setting, because a lot of time is spent explaining steps and answering questions.  I had the materials with me to tie a lot of them, and figured whatever I can't fit in my box would be stored in a surplus box for refilling later in the spring/summer.  I was a little shocked at how many I was able to turn out in just a couple of hours.

Here's a quick run down of the other patterns I have stuffed my creek bass box with for the upcoming season.  Arguably my second most important fly is the Murdich Minnow in a size 6.  I can go to war with the HD Craw and the Murdich and be pretty much set.

New to creek bassing this year will be the unnamed generic streamer with the Slow Rolla tail that has tested so well early this winter/spring.

For shallower fish, the Hairy Mara streamer is a great little pattern that, fished as-is, will stay just under the surface.

Also new for me this year is a "critter fly" that has tested really well in the tank that I have dubbed the Trailer Park Ninja.  It's tied along similar lines to some carp patterns I have fished with success and is perfectly weighted for a slow fall to entice strikes.

Historically, my go-to fly for small stream bass has been the Bronze Goddess in the following color combos.  The white/gray/pink has claimed my best creek bass the last 3 years in a row, and the black/blue and craw color combos are also great producers when I need a fly to get down.

Once all was put into a waterproof double-sided box, as tightly as I could really get them in there, this was the end result.  I can't wait for warm temperatures and clean flows to put this box to work.  Typically, in this area, I will be lucky to get onto the small flows in good conditions until later in May to early June.  Spring rains muddy and raise these waters in a hurry.  It won't be long!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Slow Rolla SBS and Report

I have had a few requests for a SBS on the new small Slow Rolla streamer.  Since it tested well in the tank and caught several fish on the live animal testing, I'll post it up here.  The recipe is as follows.

- Hook: Gamakatsu SP11-3L3H size 8
- Weight: .020 non lead
- Tail: Slow Rolla (small)
- Body: Laser Dub
- Head: 4mm Fish Mask

Start off by wrapping the .020 non lead (8-10 wraps) onto the shank.

Secure the wraps in place with thread, leaving a little space between the lead wraps and hook eye.  Then, tie in the Slow Rolla.  I tie them onto the top of the shank.

This next step is to reduce fouling of the tail a bit.  Tie in and veil over the base of the tail a little Laser Dub.  You won't need much.  If you want some bleed-thru effect, use a brighter/hotter color here.  For this demo, I just stuck with white.

Smear a little UV resin into the Laser Dub, then hit it with a torch or expose to the sun to cure.  This will help keep the tail from fouling around the hook a little bit.

Create a long dubbing loop (or you could use a Laser Dub brush if you can make dubbing brushes), insert your Laser Dub, spin it tight and wrap.  You can pick out the spun material before wrapping or after wrapping, I have done both and both methods work.

Wrap your spun Laser Dub, tie off, trim the excess, and whip finish.

Use a bodkin, pick, dubbing brush, or all of the above to brush out the wrapped material.  I initially brush it straight out perpendicular to the shank like this.  Free as much of the material as you can.

Stroke or brush the Laser Dub back.  If some Laser Dub reaches back into the curled portion of the Slow Rolla, I pinch the excess material and break it off with my thumb nail. 

To add color, use the permanent marker(s) of your choosing, or leave it solid color if you want to knock these out really fast.  For this demo, I used a Sharpie highlighter in a chartreuse color, and black sharpie for barring.

Test fit, then glue on your 4mm Fish Mask and glue in the 4mm 3D eyes.  I always add a small thread dam in front of the Mask for extra security and holding power.

This is a really quick and easy pattern to tie that has also been incredibly effective for me in limited testing.  It's more than crappies could handle.  The fact that it tested so well in Ohio in February gives me a lot of optimism that the pattern will fish really well once the conditions get optimal.

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Slow Rolla

As I mentioned in the blog post on February 10, I had ordered some of the Kiley's Slow Rolla tails to experiment with at the bench.  I tied a few basic streamers with them very similar to what I used on the articulated streamer with the flash ball.  I wanted to see how well these tails moved in slower flows more likely to where and how I will be fishing them in slow-moving creeks/rivers and still waters.  This was my initial set of test flies for the Medium size Slow Rolla tails, dry and wet profiles.

It's the same simple streamer design as before, minus the ball of flash at the head.  A tungsten bead to get it to sink a little, Ice Dub under body, craft fur, lateral scale, Laser Dub, and some eyes.  It looks pretty nice at the vise and as a wet profile, but where you see what this fly will really do is in the test tank.

I also ordered some of the Small sized Slow Rolla's, hoping they would be a good size match to my standard size crappie and creek bass streamers.  I took simplicity to a new level with these versions.  The recipe is as follows:

- Hook: Gamakatsu SP113L3H size 8
- Tail: Slow Rolla small
- Weight: 12 wraps .020 non lead near the front of the shank
- Body: Laser Dub in a loop or brush, picked out and colored via marker
- Head: 4MM Fish Mask

This version also performed gloriously in the test tank.  I have mentioned it before, I'll say it again: when I built my little test tank, I bought a low-flow water pump.  This was for a couple of reasons.  Number one, and admittedly most important, was the price.  Lower flow pumps are stupid cheap.  In a practical sense, it is also a better representation of the water flows I will be fishing and slower retrieval speeds in pond and lake fishing.  Basically, if it moves well in my tank, it's going to perform well where I fish.


The Kiley's Slow Rolla's performed a lot better for me than I even expected.  These tails are really easy to tie with, move like crazy, and seem (stretch testing) to be very durable.  I can't wait to have my bass and creek boxes stuffed with some of these streamers to show to the fish this spring.  I have a sneaky suspicion they are going to bring a lot of fish to hand. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

When You're Given Lemons...

...make the best lemonade you can make.  Late last week, one of my fishing buddies called and wanted to run across Ohio to the Mad River on Saturday.  It was an impromptu sort of trip, but the water levels and weather looked pretty good, so we made the trip.  I had several sculpin patterns I had tied specifically for the Mad that I wanted to test, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do just that.  We met at 5AM and managed to be parked by the river as the sun came up.

The fishing started off, and remained, pretty slow for most of the day.  Air temperatures were about on par with what they were the last time we were there in late December, the water clarity was good, the flow was good, the fish were simply not cooperating.  Late into the first stretch of river we fished, I finally stuck a fish on an articulated sculpin, but it turned out to be a large chub.

As we walked back to the truck to head into town and grab lunch, we both remarked about how chilly the water felt that morning.  That would become a critical factor that was overlooked on this trip that I will touch on later.  We stowed our gear, and headed for our standard lunch time joint in the area: Hot Heads Burritos.

Hunger satisfied, we took off for another stretch of water I had never fished before and my buddy had not fished in years.  This section of river was a little bigger, had more cover, and just looked great.  However, the fishing remained very slow.  All I managed to catch were more chubs.  Normally I would look at these catches like a nuisance, but when the fishing is slow, any bend in the rod from a fish is a good bend.  

By the end of the afternoon, between the two of us we managed just one trout (an 8-9" brown my friend caught) and nearly double figures in these chubs.  Apparently they like to eat sculpins, too!  On the ride home, I got an interesting tidbit of information that explained why the trout were not so active.  Remember I mentioned the water was a bit chillier than expected?  Well, the day before we arrived, between 2-3" of snow in the area had melted.  This influx of cold, melted snow water was likely the culprit that made the trout so inactive.  We fished a lot of water that we know held trout, with only one caught and practically no short strikes or bumps like we typically get from smaller fish harassing streamers.  Most don't think of Ohio as a large state, but the weather can differ greatly from one side to the other.  In southeast Ohio, we haven't had snow on the ground in quite a while.  They had snow on the ground the day before we arrived, and we had very little chance of knowing.  It was still a good day on the water, exploring a new stretch and having enough bends from the chubs to keep the focus on the water.  We'll head back next time with better knowledge of a great stretch of water and hopefully it will pay off.  

Friday, February 10, 2017

Borrowing from Conventional Tackle

Boredom, for me, turns into brainstorming time.  Last Saturday, during a long monotonous drive through southern Ohio to Cincinnati, I came up with an idea for a streamer to somewhat mimic an inline spinner.  When it comes to fly tying, I see no issues with borrowing from the conventional world.  Sometimes there really is no reason to completely reinvent the wheel when it only needs to be adapted to fit fly gear.  See Tommy Lynch's Drunk and Disorderly fly.  It was spawned from the idea of mimicking the side-to-side wobble of a Rapala.  I adapted the Zara Spook to the deer hair spook I created a few winters back.  There's not an easy way to replicate the vibration of an inline spinner, but the flash and profile could be done.

I started the fly with an Attractor Tail from Pat Cohen tied to a Gama SP11-3L3H in size 4.  I did add a small amount of weight to the hook in the form of a 5/32" tungsten bead.  I wanted just enough weight to force the fly to sink, but not drop like a rock.  I used thread to lock the bead in place where I wanted it, towards the front of the hook at about the 1/3 mark.

I next spun and wrapped a dubbing loop of Ice Dub to form the underbody of the streamer portion.  I used a hot spot (orange in this case) right behind the bead to allow some bleed-through gills/hot spot.  Once the loop was tied off and secured, I brushed out the Ice Dub and trimmed it to a taper towards the rear.

The remainder of the streamer portion was a small amount of craft fur (I used Psuedo Hair), olive over yellow, extending just into the Attractor Tail.  At the hook eye, I added a small clump of olive over yellow Laser Dub, brushed it back, and added a 6mm Fish Mask with 3D eyes to finish off the rear portion.  Then, I attached the rear portion (which would be a perfectly fine stand alone streamer pattern) to a short articulated shank.

All I added to the shank was a dubbing loop of Flashabou.  On this version I used a combination of copper and gold.  An imporetant note, if you go the dubbing loop route (a brush would also work if you can make one) is to use some dubbing wax on your loop.  If not, the Flashabou is prone to falling out.  Spin it, wrap it, tie it off, and trim it down to slightly wider than the diameter of the rear portion's body.  Here's the result, in wet profile after a swim test in the tank.

I also did another test pattern in my #1 streamer color for warmwater species: a combination of gray over white with a splash of pink.  The flash portion of this version was rainbow colored Flashabou, which has awesome hues of silver, blue, pink, and lavender.

I think this pattern will be really effective on the local bass and crappie populations.  I also ordered some tails by a different manufacturer to try on this pattern, Kiley's Slow Rolla tails.  They come in slightly smaller sizes so I can downsize this a little farther and I think they should also work well.  I'll be testing this one heavily in the spring, and hope to have some good results to share.