Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dang Purists - fly fishing is for fun and not for idiots with money.

Today, I had someone disrespect me.  This person questioned why I tied feathers on a foam fly.  And this person mentioned he was a Purist and doesn't see the point much less sell flies like I do.  The following was my feedback.  I don't think he intended to tick me off but it's that whole Purist attitude that I dislike.

"The way i see it is that a fly is a fly. It can be tied however an individual prefers. Sure some of the bells and whistles added to a fly don't necessarily aid in catching fish more than fly fisherman. However, I have deccided to stay away from fly fishing clubs or tying clubs because of the elitism that has evolved with fly fishing. My grandfather helped establish the Texarkana hunting club. It was some good ol' boys at first. Now it's a bunch of money grubbers who don't know how to hunt and brag about being in a hunting club. When I started fly fishing, there were no clubs where I grew up in British Columbia. After that stupid movie with Brad Pitt, fly fishing exploded and those stupid TU clubs and local groups. Then the elitists started throwing around their high dollar gear and bragging about being a fly fisher even though a bait fisherman down the stream could load up on fish in 30 minutes what it would take the other all week.

So, I say this . . . a fly is a fly and a fish is a fish. To each his own. I catch a ton of small to medium smallmouth. Yet my friends say it's not a bass unless it's a 3 lbs. largemouth. They rarely catch fish. Yet, I enjoy myself and have been able to transition from fishing for lake trout in Canada to drifting for smallmouth in Ozark streams with homemade custom tied flies. You can step into the stream next to me with your Orvis outfit but that high dollar attitude and the purist BS better have been left on the bank."

I like to keep fly fishing simple.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  Think outside the box.  Don't limit yourself by going along with all the other fisherman.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Fishing the Lies - Fly fishing for smallmouth bass


Ever have one of those days that seems perfect?  It's one of those days that stick with you for a few days.  You know, an invigorating outing.  It's been a while since I had one of those days.  Sometimes, it seems that I'm pounding the water and having to work hard for those smallmouth bass.  Well, even with water continually receding, it would seem that those smallies were enjoying warm water on a 100+ degree day.

I've been wading the same stretch of water for the past few months.  It's usually every weekend that I hit this stream.  So, I've been paying close attention to how this drought is affecting the stream and fish.  I would say that we are probably on our third year of this drought.  We had some spring flooding last year which helped to raise water levels for a few months.  However, this stream level continually declines.  Unless we see regular rainfall or record floods as last spring, I'm afraid that it's going to affect fishing.  When the stream runs high, it enables fish to move from deeper holes into other areas of the stream which usually contain cover and structure.

Last year, the Clouser was my most productive fly.  I fished a deep hole that you could classify as a "run" - a very deep and log "run".  At the end of this deep spot, a fallen tree rested in front of some swift riffles.  Bass hung out along this tree and throughout this area.  They were easily taken on Clousers and popping bugs.

This year, I've had moderate success with that deep run.  I've had to look elsewhere within this stream for smallmouth bass.  Earlier in the spring, it was the riffles that  I had the most success catching smallmouth bass by drifting wooly buggers, crawdads, foam flies and poppers.  That "deep run" no longer has a good flow of water going through it.  The riffles at the end trickle and the level of this pool has dropped.  So, I've been hunting smallmouth.  It's enabled me to practice quiet wading, sight fishing, gentle casting and helped me to think smarter.  Most of all, I have developed patience by waiting those extra few seconds for a fish to take my fly.

With the continual heat and lack of rain, the stream is shrinking and the riffles are slowing and the pools are not as deep.  Fish were moving between holes a few weeks ago.  Now, as pools shrink and structure becomes crowded with other species, these smallmouth bass are hanging out in shallow riffles.  Instead of hanging out in pools, they are moving back and forth within the riffles and occasionally going back to the pools.

This year, I've been working within the water column and pools and riffles or wherever else for bass.  At this point, I've been working the lies.  Since the water level has dropped, the wider parts of the stream have shrunken and developed into riffles.  Since the smallmouth bass have been hanging out mainly in the riffles, obviously, I've had to work the "lies" - the spots or areas in which the bass are sitting or congregating as they wait for something to drift near them.  Usually, folks think of trout lies but I do think that smallmouth and trout share some of the same characteristics.

Yesterday, I caught smallmouth on the edges of the stream as they used weeds for cover.  The bass were also sitting behind large rocks and lying in wait at the ends of riffles.  I would say that a delicate presentation of the fly was necessary at times but as the frogs began to croak and the crickets began to chirp, the smallmouth bass began to slam my Clouser minnow - even as it made a kerplunk into the water or made a "ploop" - due to my lousy casting from the shoals at that point.

I had to fish the lies because the bass didn't have very much structure and they weren't swimming in a deep pool.  I had to wade soflty and cast deftly to these frustrating buggers.  I say frustrating but it was the little bass that were furious fighters as they fought off the bream and sunfish to slam my fly over and over.  Of course, it was the larger bass I was hunting.  I cast along some weeds and into some swift riffles about a foot deep.  A smallmouth hammered my Clouser almost immediately and took off upstream.  As I fought this fiesty bass, it kept trying to take me into the weeds.  I pulled him out several times.  Eventually, the line broke.  A great fight on a tightly wound 4 wgt. rod.  A few fish later, I cast a Boogle Bug about 15 yards and as it hit the water, something slammed it and actually pulled me into the water.  It ran upstream and I could not bring it back down and the knot came undone from the fly.

Yesterday, I landed a lot of bass.  Most were small but I caught some nice ones too.  I finally landed a smallmouth in a length of stream in which I always fished but never caught them.  And before I left, I caught another smallie in a pool in which I had always seen bass but could never pull one out.

I got my phone wet and some of the pictures saved and some weren't - mostly from after it become wet, lol. The past few years of fishing have been very successful for me.  I would say that since probably 2007 . . . I've done so much wading on these Ozark streams and tried so many techniques and flies.  It's taken me since about 1998 when I first moved here to find great success in fishing for smallmouth.  I worked hard at it.  At times, I almsot quit fly fishing.  In my heart, I knew I was good and probably could be successful.  But I found that not all streams are the same.  Not all lakes and ponds are the same.  And quite possibly, not all fisherman are the same either.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Popping Bugs - Bluegills and Smallmouth Bass

I've been tying up some flies today.  Figured it would be best to make some panfish flies.  I've loaded up on smallmouth flies and it's time to load up on those lovely little poppers.  This year, I have caught some of the largest panfish of my "career" just by drifting for smallmouth bass.  I've even had to fight them off just to try and fish for smallies.

We finally got some rain yesterday.  I'm gonna go out one last time until August.  I may hit Texas River Country for some Guadalupe Bass but all the guides are booked.  With the heat bearing down on us and some of my favorite tributary waters dwindling, I'm gonna use this time to make more flies for the fall.  I've already run into some large hoppers this morning as I rode the "weedmower".  

Foam flies are the best!  One reason I like to used foam body popping bugs is because they seem to last longer.  They definitely won't split or break on a backcast or if you hit a stump or tree.  

Sometimes I get tired of catching panfish and just want bass.  It used to be that I never tired of catching nice size panfish.  However, I may be spoiled.  I've been hitting good bass waters and it seems that I never get skunked by the smallmouth  bass.  I try to use larger flies but even they get hammered by fat bream.  

One thing to remember, if you go out just for panfish, use a decent size popping bug.  It will help to keep the small ones of your line.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Smallmouth Bass can be indicator of healthy stream.

I caught this bass sometime since last year.  The stream this hefty gal lives in is pretty healthy.  I know this because of the healthy smallmouth bass population.  How can we help maintain a healthy environment??  What may we be doing to unintentionally harm it??

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Learn what pollutants are commonly found on our streets and how to prevent them for entering the storm drains. Also learn what to do with used motor oil, gasoline, antifreeze, cleaning agents, pesticides and paint.

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Remember, dumping any material into the storm drains is illegal with fines.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Smallmouth Flies - not to be picky.

I caught this guy early in the morning before the sun became bore down on the stream and the back of my neck.  When I blog, most of the time, I present it in a way that should be simple to understand and is mainly for those new to fly fishing.  But what most folks don't know is that I live in the South.  The water temperatures differ from those in the north.  So, when I mention that bass are holding to structure and in deep pools, that's because it's time for summer bass.  Last summer, we had temps in the 100's.  It's pretty hot right now and the sun comes up early and goes to bed late.  With a lack of rain, riffles have slacked off and smallies are becoming less active.  As we all know, fall is coming and it's going to be a productive time of year for smallmouth bass.

If you notice in the top photo, I caught this smallmouth bass on a Bett's popper.  It can be bought at big box stores or sporting goods shops.  It's not pricy and can be effective for many types of fish.  The fly selection for a smallmouth bass is usually wooly buggers, Clousers, Gurglers, crawdads and medium size poppers.  That's not too confusing when you put a box together and most are simple to tie.

This smallmouth bass wasn't big but was a great fighter.  Again, I caught another smallie on a Betts' popper.  I may not catch a lot of really big smallmouth bass but I can catch a lot of them over a season. You don't necessarily need a large or expensive fly selection.  What matters is getting to know your stream or waters.

I drifted a Chernobyl Ant and landed two other smallmouth bass while out this Saturday morning.  I landed 5 smallmouth bass that day.  All of them except one were caught on top-water fly patterns.

I used some cheap bought flies and a few hand tied flies.  I didn't have to go buy fancy flies (although they are great to have).

I usually go out for about three or four hours and cover a certain water that I am familiar with and have learned.  Several good producing spots from last year aren't doing well this year and I have had to change up my game.  I found new spots to drift and find smallies on the same length of stream I enjoy fishing.

One of the most important things for you to know is this:  Not all waters are the same.  Some streams are stocked, some are protected, others have health issues . . . on and on.  I fished the heck out of some streams just they way I did on this stream on Saturday.  Those streams weren't as productive.  A few local streams have been stocked with smallmouth bass this spring and will be productive this fall and next year.

Fish around - find different places to fish.  Hit some ponds and lakes that you aren't used to fishing.  You may find that you are a better fisherman than you realize.  Remember, fly fishing doesn't have to be complicated.  Choose a few mainstream productive flies that everyone uses and cast a line somewhere.  I know that there are folks who catch bigger fish than me and more fish than me but I don't care.  I fish to enjoy myself.  I challenge myself such as trying for different species or wading different streams but it's most important to me to relax and realize that I have caught a lot of fish and I will be skunked.  AND if I don't relax, I'm gonna stress out and put the rod up - I'm gonna doubt myself.

Do what you gotta do to have fun.  I've got some flies listed for sale.  http://myworld.ebay.com/riverwalker74

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thinking unconventionally - Smallmouth Bass

I sometimes go out to my regular spot on a local stream.  The sun is coming up early and dusk isn't until about 9 pm.  The smallmouth are holding to structure now that summer has arrived.  I figure that deep holes is where the action may be most successful but those holes haven't been very active.

When I go out and know that there are smallmouth and spotted bass which are visible, I try to change up the usual approach to landing fish.  Smallmouth bass will usually hang out in pools and will swim their way into shallow riffles and back or even between pools.  Some of these riffles don't necessarily have to be deep.  I've caught some pretty nice bass in 8 - 12 inch riffles.  A few evenings ago, I had to change up my game.  Instead of drifting my favorite pool which is about 20 feet long and being shallow on both ends, I began with a cast into about 12 inch riffles.

These riffles were about 15 feet upstream from the pool.  There is a lot of traffic in these riffles between the deeper pool and a smaller upstream pool which is about 18 or so feet away.  The reason I began casting into these swift but shallow riffles was because there isn't much structure on the edge of the stream at this spot. The bass usually hold near larger rocks.  Since we are on our third year of a drought, the stream is becoming low.  Bass are going deeper and holding tight to structure.  I wanted to maximize my opportunities for fish and had to think outside the box.  I landed several bass in these shallow riffles.  I lightly presented my  Chernobyl Ant as I made my way downstream to my favorite pool.  I could not, for the life of me, catch bass because the warmouth and redeye hit every fly I tied on the line.  Large and hungry panfish too.

Further downstream at about forty yards the stream gets narrower and more swift as it pours into a pool about 5 feet deep.  There are a lot of large rocks, boulders, grass and plants.  It was getting darker and I couldn't see to wade well.  I began drifting at about 10 yards from where the pool drops off as the stream pours into it.  I would cast toward the banks and drift down a bit into the very swift current and as the wooly buggger would begin the drift into the middle, smallmouth and spotted bass would hit the fly.  But the key was to begin stripping the fly in as the line drifted away from the bank.

As it became darker, I waded back to the truck.  I landed a lot of bream but it was the pool in I first stepped into the stream on which I was concentrating.  It is that location which is the hardest to land smallmouth bass.  You can see them and they are skittish.  The riffles run swift but the bass spend most of their time hanging out in a small backwater pool on the edge of the stream where the stream widens out and deepens from about 8 - 12 inches to about 2 - 3 feet.  The bass will make an excursion downstream from time to time and hang out in a small pool that sits at the edge of very shallow riffles.  Which means that since the stream is REALLY shallow about 30 yards north, these bass don't have very far to go.

I began drifting with tugs being given by undersized sunfish.  I wanted to go home but from time to time,  I catch some nice smallies out of this spot.  I began casting downstream and popping a Betts' popper upstream.  I wanted to stir up some action of some sort.  It was dusk and there just had to be a hungry bass somewhere.  Sure enough, a few cast later, I landed a real nice smallmouth bass.  Sometimes, you gotta think outside the box.  It may not be drastic and you may only change your game up a bit but it could pay off.

Got some flies for sale.  http://myworld.ebay.com/riverwalker74

Simply smallmouth and panfish - Chernobyl Ant

In the sport of fly fishing, drifting top-water patterns cannot get an easier when it comes to enjoying a great day out.  There's no indicator involved, you're not trying to poke a tiny leader through a small nymph and you don't necessarily have to utilize a delicate presentation.  Simply cast out about 5 or 6 feet into a stream and drift.

The simplicity of using top water patterns in this method is the reason I love fishing top-water flies.  I went out the other evening and caught several bass and panfish on a Chernobyl Ant and Bett's popper in the short time I had before nightfall.

On my first cast, I lightly cast out and drifted my newly tied Chernobyl Ant.  The fly drifted about 3 feet before the smallmouth pictured above tagged it.  With this smallmouth in the riffles and him tugging on my 4 wgt. rod, it was a pretty decent fight.  Pound for pound, smallmouth are the toughest fighters I know other than maybe white bass.

You don't need to wade a deep stream or river.  All you need to have a good time is a light action rod, foam fly and a small local stream.  

Check out this fat panfish.  There's a good slab for a frying pan waiting to hit your foam fly.  These guys were so greedy the other night, I couldn't concentrate on smallmouth because they hit everything I tied on the line.  I enjoy frying up crappie, bream, white bass and catfish.  However, when it comes to eating black bass, I'm not a fan of the flavor.  Plus, when I release those bass, it makes me feel better about the population because some of the places I fish are hit pretty hard by folks who handle fish pretty rough when releasing and pretty much don't care about slot limits, etc.

When it comes to enjoying your day out, you don't necessarily have to load up on expensive flies at the shop.  You don't need to load up tons of gear and drive three hours to the local dam for trout.  And you don't need to wake up before the rooster crows to slam bass bugs on your secret pond.  Grab a rod, some foam flies and hit the local stream.  There's no telling what's in that stream.  Make it an adventure and see if you can pull a nice bronzeback or large panfish out of a small hole.  Go out for an hour and enjoy some fresh air.  Nobody is going to pull your man card for drifting in a local creek.

I've got some Chernobyls for sale.  http://myworld.ebay.com/riverwalker74

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chernobyl Ant - It's a Smallmouth and Panfish fly too.

My father and I were speaking about what we enjoy about fly fishing. Most of my friends us spinning rods and even though we can relate about fishing, there is one thing that upsets me.  They put a lot of emphasis on size.  What my friends think about fishing is that it is important to land large bass.  Occassionally, someone will pull out a magazine and show me what a bass really looks like.

I outfish them.  Sure, I'm not pulling in steady numbers of 3 and 4 pounders but who is??  They pull in small bass and chubs.  I land quite a bit of smallmouth while my friends continually try to land a big bass.  They won't even brag until catching something around 2 pounds.

So, as I was speaking with my father, I mentioned that the one thing that excites me most about fly fishing is having a fish - any fish - slam a foam fly or popper while I try to land it on a light action fly rod.  My father told me that he's just fine going out and landing one nice trout.  I said that it's the same with me.  If I go out and land one smallmouth on a foam fly that I tied, I can be satsified.  I try not to measure my "manliness" by the size of fish but the productivity such as how many fish I caught using a fly I made.

Foam patterns are my favorite flies.  I enjoy inventing my own patterns.  It's great to be able to think outside of the box and foam enables me to step away from traditional flies.  Drifting the Los Alamos Ant and Chernobyl Ants can be productive for me.  The Chernobyl Ant was initially tied as a trout pattern but it can be used for smallmout bass and fiesty bluegills too.  I've tied up a bunch of Chernobyl Ants and listed them on ebay.  Just trying to share the love.  It's about enjoying the trip out.


Friday, June 1, 2012

Fly fishing on a budget.

If you are fly fishing on a budget, it doesn't hurt to buy used flies, rods or gear. Go to eBay, yard sales or even pawn shops.

The industry tries to push a lot of gear. Yes, there are folks that buy new gear - and new fly fishing gear can cost an arm and a leg.  Even modest rods and reels can set you back a bit.  Basic gear can obviously be purchased at Wal-Mart or other discount retailers.

My point is that you don't have to spend a lot of money to have fun with a fly rod.  I've seen guys decked out in nothing but Orvis gear from the boots to the hat.  And I've seen guys step into the stream with old waders and a can of corn and a baitcasting reel outfish those guys decked out in high dollar garb.

I tie my own flies and I don't spend much on gear because it's not necessary.  I will admit that it does pay to eventually buy a mid-price fly rod for good action.  When you go out fly fishing a lot like I do, it pays to save money when having to top off the gas tank every weekend.

A few years back, I bought a new pair of new Simms waders for about $125 and that is a steal.  Keep your eyes open because you can get good gear at a great price.  Just because you don't have high dollar gear, it doesn't mean you have to feel like you are not up to snuff.  Never measure your fly fishing worth by trying to keep up with the Jones'.  I measure my success by how I enjoy myself.  That is done by catching fish.  I'm not great and I'm not lousy but I can go out and make myself feel good while casting a mid-price rod with old line, an old leader and self-tied flies.