Friday, August 25, 2017

Tying Tutorial: Murdich Jig Minnow

Since starting to use the Murdich Jig Minnow late this spring, it has become the #1 streamer in my box.  The idea for this fly spawned from a desire to have a Murdich Minnow-style streamer that was weighted to fish deeper, and also ride point-up in the water.  I coined the name Murdich Jig Minnow because, even though a lot of the materials have been changed, it's still a Murdich style minnow at its core.  It's a relatively easy fly to tie, it's a fast tie, has been pretty durable, can be tied in tons of color combinations, and flat out catches fish.  Another positive attribute to this fly is that it can be tied in a variety of sizes.  I typically tie it in a size 6, but have also tied it in size 2 and 1/0.

Hook - DoIt Molds Wacky Jig Hook (size 6)
Thread - 6/0 white
Eyes - dumbbells to match your hook size
Tail - Bucktail and Ripple Ice Fiber
Cheeks - Laser Dub (or your favorite streamer dubbing, Bruiser Blend is a great option)
Body - Ice Dubbing
Extras - permanent markers to add coloration

Start your thread and tie in the dumbbell eyes on the bottom side of the hook near the 30* bend in the jig hook shank.  Seal your thread wraps with some head cement or other glue to help lock them in place.

Tie in a small clump of bucktail extending a little more than a hook length behind the fly.  I prefer to only loosely stack and align the tips to avoid a square looking end to the bucktail.

Tie in your first clump of Ripple Ice Fiber on the side of the shank facing the hook point.  I use Minnow Mix or Pearl for this step when I'm tying a streamer with a white underbelly.  Trim the Ripple Ice Fiber about the same length as the bucktail tips.

The next clump of Ripple Ice needs to be tied in with the butts extending forward at least a hook shank in length.  You'll trim this eventually, but I like to have excess to play with before trimming it.  I use a contrasting color for this step, here, Smelt Blue.  Trim the tips at the rear to be slightly longer than the bucktail and first clump of Ripple Ice Fiber.

Next, add a small clump of Laser Dub/Bruiser Blend to each side of the hook at the tie in point for the Ripple Ice Fiber.  This is a good place to add a hot spot or splash of color, if desired.  The options are pretty endless with this pattern.  Here, I used Pale Pink Laser Dub.

Fold the Ripple Ice material facing forward back over the top of the Laser Dub and tie it down.  You can now trim this extra Ripple Ice Fiber to be about the length of the Laser Dub.

More options, either create a dubbing loop of Ice Dub (as I have done here), or you can make a streamer brush of Ice Dub if you have the tools to make them.  It does save a lot of tying time to have the brush form, and there's very little waste.  I had no brushes left for this demo, so I used a dubbing loop.  The Ice Dub color I used is "Minnow Belly." Pick the brush/loop out a bit before you wrap it.

Wrap the loop/brush forward, tie it off at the eye, whip finish and cut your thread.  I know, this looks like a train wreck right now.  It gets better fast. 

Using a bodkin or a Velcro-type brush, pick some of the fibers on the underside of the fly out.  I do this lightly on the belly.

Trim the belly in two cuts with scissors.  The first cut follows the angle of the jig hook in front of the eyes.  The second cut goes back towards the tail at about the depth of the bottom of the dumbbell eyes.

Again, using your bodkin or brush, more vigorously pick the Ice Dub on the top side of the fly straight up.  It should look like it has an Ice Dub mohawk.

My trim on the top goes from the hook eye on an angle slightly upward in the direction of the hook point.  You can also trim away any "straggler" fibers of Ice Dub shooting out to the sides at this point.  I usually clean them up a little but it's not critical.

If you want to add some more color, now is the time.  For this color combo, I use a pale blue and a black marker.

The end result: a small streamer ready to rock some fish.  This color combo has been my most productive, but I also have done well with white/chartreuse, white/gray, yellow/olive, and white/olive.  The options are pretty limitless considering all the combinations of Ice Dub, Laser Dub, and Ripple Ice. 

Tie up a few in your favorite color combinations and let me know how you do!  This streamer, for me, has caught crappie, largemouth/smallmouth/spotted bass, bluegill, channel cat, gar, warmouth, and skipjack.  I think it will also be a deadly white bass/hybrid striper pattern on the Ohio River if I can get there this fall.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Lunchtime Surprise

Yesterday, while on my lunch break, I watched a really nice smallmouth bass track my fly from the moment I stripped past a large rock.  That fish was tracking my fly as it fell, getting closer, then as they went out of sight...nothing.  A couple of light strips, nothing.  The fish was gone and I was heartbroken.  I'm positive it would have been my best smallie of the year and a certain 18+ inches long, minimum.  Today I decided to return.  I hoped that the incoming weather would have the fish in a cooperative mood.  Instead of the craw, I tied on the trusty Murdich Jig Minnow I have had tremendous success with this year in my best color, white/smelt blue.  In the same location as the encounter with the big bronzeback, I feel a "tick" and set the hook.  I had something big, but knew it was not fighting like a smallie.  My 3wt was begging for mercy.

The guessing game didn't last long, as the fish came to the surface.  It was my biggest ever spotted gar.  I have caught gar on the fly in the past using rope flies and was honestly never impressed with their spunk or fight.  This fish changed that perception.  I was the recipient of several line stripping runs and was starting to wonder how I would actually be able to land and control this beast.

Finally, after several failed attempts, I got the fish into a shallow spot where I could get my hands on it.  Obtaining decent photos of a fish this long, by myself, was quite the chore.  I did the best I could do.  This fish had really cool spotting on its tail, flashing a little beauty for what most consider to be a trash fish.

No smallies came to hand in the brief outing, but the big gar made it a memorable time on the water.  As Forrest Gump famously said about life, this river is like a box of never know what you're gonna get.  As a few parting shots, this fish tagged me on the left arm and right hand, drawing a small amount of blood on both. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tennessee Weekend

About three weeks ago, I got a phone call I had been waiting to receive for almost a year.  It was my fishing buddy saying they were headed to TN in a few weeks if I was able to get away.  I cashed in every honey-do favor I had saved up for a few weeks and started prepping flies.  I was especially excited to fish the sluice on the South Holston River.  Typically, the TVA runs either no water or a lot of water during periods of generation.  No water means lower and slower flows easy to wade fish, but the generation times are a no-go for wading where we fish.  The water is just too high and too swift for it to be safe.  During periods they call sluicing, they only run a small amount of water.  This results in a little less water clarity, plus a little faster pace of flow which should make the fishing a little easier.  The time came Saturday morning, 3:00AM sharp, and I was up and getting the Jeep ready to roll.  I was on the road by 3:30AM to meet my buddy, who would drive the rest of the way.  After stopping at the South Holston Fly Shop to pick up a few things and share some lies, we dropped our non-fishing gear at our home for the weekend.

We changed and headed for the Watauga River, eager to get on the water and on some fish.  Due to the Watauga's generation schedule, we would have a window to wade and fish until about 1:30-2:00PM.  The fishing was OK, not poor and not excellent.  Other fishermen had already hit the section we were fishing a few times that morning and maybe that had something to do with it.  We still managed to pick up some fish, though.  All of mine fell to a tandem nymph rig, with most taking a size 14 Iced Hare's Ear in "pheasant tail."

We got off the water as the flow was picking up and the water rising.  We were all a little hungry, so we headed into town and stopped at our favorite local eatery, Jiggy Rays.  Awesome pizza, great brews, and a great atmosphere.  

Refueled and recharged, we headed for the South Holston.  There were some fish rising to hatching sulfur mayflies, but not in crazy numbers.  After many refusals on dry fly sulfur imitations, I added a dropper of a sulfur Mil Spec (see for the technique, it's easy and effective) soft hackle.  That was all that was needed for steady action.  I caught plenty of trout on the dropper soft hackle while dead drifting it, and also when I tied on only the soft hackle and let it swing down stream.  The other effective option was a tiny bugger stripped across stream or swung downstream.  Both flies kept my 5wt bent all afternoon and into the evening.

Once darkness set, we returned to the camp and stayed up way too late considering the time we all got up that morning.  The campfire was burning, the drinks were flowing, and the conversation kept us entertained until the wee hours of the morning.  The following morning, we returned to the South Holston and picked right back up where we left off the previous evening.

I finally got a bit bored with all of the smaller rainbows and decided to chuck a bigger meal looking for a bigger bite.  I switched from a tiny size 10 bugger to a cone and deer hair head in a size 1, a substantially bigger meal.  Within a few casts, I felt a solid thud and thought "Here's the big bite!" But it was yet another smaller rainbow with a large appetite.  I managed to pick up a couple of more smaller fish on the bog streamer, with the big bite never materializing.

After a few hours and needing a slight rest, I returned to the river bank.  Off came the pack, down went the fly rod, and out came a bottle of Johnson City's finest herbal soda: Dr. Enuf.  I'm a sucker for anything cherry flavored, and this stuff is GREAT!

A great time was had by all on the short trip.  Being in the area of eastern TN for a meager two days is simply not enough to take it all in.  The time flew by quickly and before we knew it, it was time to start the journey home.  Although no large trout were caught, the numbers caught by our group was pretty staggering.  It was the "easiest" the South Holston had ever fished for us.  Until next time, gorgeous.