Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Always Be Prepared...For Carp

Carp have been one of my favorite game fish (yes, I said game fish) for several years.  The obvious list of positive attributes is well-known, but one of the less discussed great qualities is availability.  Simply put, carp can be found just about anywhere.  Lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, all can hold them.  And they usually do hold them.  Several times I found myself wishing I had a carp box with me when I was fishing for bass or some other species.  A trick that has worked really well for me and paid off with some nice fish is to always have an emergency "stash box" of carp flies in the pack.  What works well for me for this purpose is a converted Altoids tin fly box.

I line the bottom of the tin with slit craft foam to make some cheap and fast mini fly boxes.  I have a couple of these boxes with a small assortment of proven carp flies and I keep them in my fishing packs at all times.  The tins take up practically no space, are extremely light, and come in handy when you find yourself a target of opportunity.  Having an emergency box with me paid off again today on my lunch break.  I was walking the banks and spotted a carp rooting in very shallow water.  I made a quick fly change, and two casts later was hooked up.

Although this was not a large carp by my local standards, it was a hefty handful on 3wt glass.  As usual, the fly that the fish ate was black.  This fish was extremely shallow, but the water was stirred up quite a bit around the fish.  I am a firm believer that the black fly has a more visible outline in these conditions and gets eaten more because it's easier for them to see.  Here are a few other memorable "bonus carp" that fell victim to flies from an Altoids tin.

If you find yourself fishing in warm water environments that are likely to have carp, carry a small stash of flies just in case.  It's easy to find room for them, and you never know when having a good assortment of carp patterns could pay off.  It might save your day, or take your outing from good to memorable. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fly Tying Tutorial: Craft Fur Minnow

Streamers have accounted for 80% or more of my tying for many years, and somehow I missed the boat on craft fur.  I finally picked up some Hareline Extra Select Craft Fur and have been really impressed with how easy the material is to work with.  The step-by-step below is a ridiculously simple craft fur minnow pattern.  It's nothing too new or original, but it's a fast tie that looks great both in and out of the water.  Here's the recipe:

Hook - Gamakatsu B10S
Thread - 6/0
Flash - Ripple Ice Fiber
Body - Diamond Braid
Wing - Extra Select Craft Fur
Head - Fish Mask

For this tutorial, I am using a Gamakatsu B10S in a size 1.  This is the largest hook size I have tied this pattern on, as it's a good match for the max length of the material.  Get your hook in the vise and start your thread.  I leave the thread at about the halfway point to start the flash.

Tie in a sparse flashy tail of Ripple Ice Fiber.  I start it at this point on the hook because the RIF is not exceptionally long, and I like the flash to extend past the length of the craft fur on the finished fly.

This step is probably unnecessary, but it's easy and, at minimum, it will serve to protect the thread on the hook shank.  Wrap over the shank with Diamond Braid up to about an eye length behind the hook eye.  

The craft fur will be tied in two clumps, a light color for the bottom (white) and a darker color for the top (chartreuse).  You'll need the full length of the fur, so trim as close to the backing material as you can.  It will take a generous clump on top and bottom.  Be sure to use a comb or brush and remove the thick "underfur" at the base of the material.  It's bulk and short fibers you do not need.

Tie in the white clump of craft fur on the underside of the hook, tips facing forward, and trim the butts closely.  

Repeat the cleaning procedure on a clump of chartreuse craft fur and tie that in on the top of the hook shank.  Again, trim the butts closely.

Carefully whip finish, add some half hitches, or cement your thread wraps and cut your thread.  Basically, at this stage, the tying is completed.  Using (preferably) an empty pen or pencil tube, or your fingers, push the craft fur back over the hook.  I like to use a small hair clip to hold the material in place.

Although it is not necessary, I like to add a little barring to the pattern with Sharpies.  You can do as little or as much as you'd like.  Barring, gills, hot spots, that's all up to you.  I like to have my first bar under the Fish Mask, so I add it now before fitting the Mask onto the fly.

Fitting the Fish Mask to the fly is another matter of preference.  My old "stand by" is to use gel CA superglue.  I have also experimented with Rich Strolis' method of using UV cure adhesive smeared on the inside of the Mask, then cured with a UV torch.  Either way will work.  Add some thread wraps in front of the Mask to help hold it in place.

I now add some additional barring to the back of the fly, and add the eyes to the Mask.  This is a 6mm Fish Mask, so 6mm 3D eyes fit them perfectly.  I attach the eyes using gel CA superglue.  And that's a wrap, a completed craft fur minnow.

This pattern can be made smaller by simply using shorter lengths of craft fur and smaller hooks.  So far, I have only tied the pattern in two sizes, size 1 and 6.  On the size 6 version, a 4mm Fish Mask is the perfect size to top the fly.  Other craft fur minnows I have seen use UV cure products to hold the craft fur back and form the head.  Me, I'm a fan of the Fish Masks and love their ease of use and consistency on this fly pattern.  It's a perfect head every time, fast.  Give this one a shot! 

Monday, June 5, 2017


During the past several years, I have become addicted to small stream bass.  While most anglers flock to larger flows with easy access points, a friend and I have been sampling some different stretches of smaller flows with good populations of spotted and largemouth bass that require a lot more work and effort to reach.  Typically, this effort is handsomely rewarded with fish who rarely, if ever, see other anglers.  Last week, on Memorial Day, I tried to hit a new stretch I located on Google Earth, but was quickly let down when I reached the stream and saw it in this condition: mocha.

Unfortunately, this is one stream near me that does not have an online USGS gauge for flow and height.  I guessed, based on recent weather, and guessed wrong.  I let it rest about a week without rain and returned to find it much more agreeable in terms of water clarity and flow.  It wasn't perfect, but it was fishable for the first time for me this year.  The trek to get there is not overly long, but does lead through the middle of nowhere on a single lane gravel road.

Getting there is the easy part.  The hard part is trekking through thick weeds, old flood debris, and various unseen (probably for the best) woodland critters to reach the water.  The banks of these streams are typically coated in what I call death mud.  You don't sink in it, but you go down in a hurry if you make a bad foot placement on it.  Sometimes the creeks are wade-able, sometimes there are deep stretches that have to be walked around.  But the "paths" along the streams almost always look like this. 

I found gorgeous water with depth, cover, and light current flow.  The scenery was good, everything looked perfect, but the bass did not want to cooperate at all.  Well, the spots and largemouths, anyway.  The rock bass were attacking the fly with reckless abandon.  I think I caught more rock bass in 3 hours that morning than I have caught in the last 3 years combined.  Some of the rock bass were fairly large, also.  Here's a glimpse at what the water looked like in the new stretch.

The popular fly on the outing was the HD Craw in both black/blue and brown. Getting the fly near any cover with a little depth produced rock bass all morning.  I did manage 2 largemouths on the trip, but both were very small.  My assumption is that the bass were not cooperating due to the recent water conditions and potentially being in a post-spawn pattern.  Given the cover, depth, and the presence of other species, I think the bass had to be there, as well.

I'll definitely be returning to this stretch in a few weeks or later into the summer.  It's very rewarding to battle through the cover, mosquitoes, and other hazards to reach waters that don't see much attention and have the place all to yourself.  I came back cut and bruised thanks to all the trail blazing that had to be done, but I feel it's going to be worth the effort to get back in there and find a big spot that will make the 3wt Moonlit glass buckle and beg for mercy.