Monday, June 19, 2017

Mid-June 2017

Interesting storms, great sunsets, sporadic fishing has characterized mid-June 2017 here in central Iowa.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bigmouth Buffalo on Fly

Since the water was relatively calm upon arrival, I planned to try for bass with a topwater fly. But it was quickly obvious there were some Grass Carp working near shore around me. So, I started trying for them. Its amazing how such large fish can be invisible even in shallow water...and I'm wearing polarized sunglasses! But there were big swirls, and even an occasional fin sticking above the water. I had a grassie give my fly a good look-over, but didn't eat it. I was deep in concentration trying to spot where the grass carp might be as they moved around.

And then...PLOP!  A lure landed practically right in front of me. I looked over my shoulder and saw a guy who had just cast his lure right next to me. I didn't recognize him at first, so I resumed my fishing. He said hello, and then I realized he was an angler I have talked to (along with his friend) a few times out here. We started talking, he made another cast, reeled in, and then 2-3 GIANT Grass Carp just 15' from my rod tip exploded towards deeper water, right from where his lure was dragging through.

"There go my Grass Carp!" I said.
"You were fishing for those?" he asked.

Maybe it was guilt, but he then shared some "hot bite" information about one of the other nearby ponds. And then fished his way on around the pond.

I stayed put. I saw the tail of a fish in the water in front of me. It was moving around as the fish fed, but stayed close to the same spot. It was a smaller tail than I would have expected to see from a Grass Carp of the size that are in this pond, and darker. Since it appeared to be feeding on the bottom, I assumed it was a Smallmouth Buffalo. I put on a fly that has been catching carp and catfish for me lately (basically a cross between a John Montana's Hybrid carp fly and Chris Vargas's Black Ops fly), and I've seen Instagram pics of a guy that catches buffalo on something very similar to this. I made several casts, and finally had the fly placed about where I hoped the head of the fish would be. I let the fly drop to the bottom, waited until the line twitched, then set the hook.

YES! Turned out to be a 28" Bigmouth Buffalo, which is super-cool, considering they are typically filter feeders...but they do occasionally eat nymphs and whatever else they might find. On spinning gear it isn't unusual to snag one, or even have them eat a twister tail jig or other lure (especially in the river). I've caught a couple of these on flies in the past, and a couple other foul-hooked individuals. This one ate the fly, and it was lodged nicely in the corner of its mouth.
Bigmouth Buffalo, 28"
It was a good fight, mostly because of the size of the fish and trying to drag it in...but it did take a few good strong runs.  I got it to shore and tried to land it...had a hand around its tail and one under the belly...and it freaked and flopped out of my hands back into the water, and took off through/under the moss, throwing mud and water all over me and the new long-sleeved sun hoodie I was wearing (which seems to work pretty well, by the way).   In the process, the line was so buried in moss, weeds, and algae, I was afraid the fish would break the line or throw the hook.  I could barely even pull line back in through all that junk, and finally I had to just stop and reach out and start picking it off the line just so I could get the fish in.  Which I eventually did, as you can see.  Definitely glad I was using 2x tippet (11.9 lb test)!

By the time I decided to give up on the Grass Carp, the wind had picked up. And not just a little. It was considerable work to get reasonable distance on the bass popper I put on. I caught one smallish bass and missed several strikes before deciding to just target panfish instead.

I did catch a Pumpkinseed Sunfish on a floating fly before it got windy. Later I just went with unweighted slow-sinking flies.
I caught some Bluegills and 2-3 mid-sized bass (13"-15" range) before giving up for the evening.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Catfish (on Flies) for Lunch

During my lunch hour today, I went to the carp pond hoping to flyfish for....more carp.  Saw mud clouds and bubbles, but can't say that I actually definitely saw a carp this time.

Had a few decent strikes that I missed...who knows what they could have been.

I caught some bluegills and Hybrid Sunfish that were near/on nests...and 3 Channel Catfish that were hiding down in (and so probably MAKING) some of the mud clouds I was probing (with the fly) for carp!

Multiple Channels Cats on flies...during lunch??  YES PLEASE!

All fish were caught on a John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Carp for Lunch

A coworker chose to go flyfishing with me during lunch on Friday, June 2, 2017.  I had some bass and panfish flies I tied the previous night that I wanted to try out to check on their "action".
For at least the 3rd time in a row, others were fishing my usual lunchtime pond, and so we went to the carp pond instead.

I'm glad we did!  I didn't get to test the flies...instead, I spotted some carp in the shallows right away.  Some were following each other and splashing in the shallows....typical spawning behavior.  Others were near shore and willing to eat a fly dropped near them.

A very good lunchtime would be catching a carp on a fly.  Catching 2 or more is really special!  I did catch 2 (must be because of my LUCKY SHIRT?), and both carp fought really well.  The first measured 25", the second measured 25.5".  The second one I hooked just to my left....and then it took off and ran straight down the opposite shoreline to my right for@ 130' before I could finally get it slowed and turned!  VERY fun!

Check out the sail fin on this one:

Both hit a pattern called a John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly:

After the 2nd carp, the shallow area sorta cleared of fish, except for a few spawners.  I moved down the shoreline a bit, and saw a shadow in the water near shore.  I dropped the fly near it...twitched it, and thought I got a strike.  SNAPPING TURTLE!  I did manage to land the turtle AND get my fly back, so all is good.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Last Week of May 2017

We had a week or two of cooler weather in the 50's....surprisingly, the bass were hitting VERY well for the first week or so.  That aggressiveness has since tapered off considerably.
I used to catch a lot of these Green Sunfish...not as many anymore.
This Bluegill had a lot of orange on it...all the way to the tail!
Chunky carp caught during my lunch hour on a Black Ops fly:
While flyfishing mud clouds for invisible carp, I caught this catfish instead!  Actually, it was unintentionally foul-hooked...but still pretty cool.  Look how fat it is!

Crappies have been hitting right about dark, near the surface, out away from shore.
Snapping Turtle:
Next generation of lake-polluting crapping machines:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Shallow Water Fly Patterns for Bass

These aren't flies for every situation.  The waters I typically flyfish are local public ponds. Although the ponds may be 14'-22' deep, I fish from shore, and there is nearly always a broad shallow "safety shelf" around the entire perimeter of the ponds.  This usually results in a wide band of aquatic weeds and/or algae during the summers.  Predators such as bass often cruise the outside edge of that weedline searching for their next meal.

With weighted patterns, its becomes very difficult to fish this water without constantly cleaning algae clumps off the hook between each cast.  Unweighted patterns fare better.  And neutrally buoyant or floating patterns are often even better.  Maybe not because its the fish's favorite (if given a choice), but because its a fly pattern that can be fished with fewer cleanings.  Because "you can't catch fish if your fly isn't in the water", right?

Anyway, after a few years of trying some of these unweighted patterns out for bass, I feel I should share what has worked so far.  We are never done experimenting, are we?  Fish learn, so we gotta keep trying new things and innovating...trying to keep one step ahead of the fish.

These are in no particular order.  First up is a fly I recently came across that apparently catches some nice bass at Lake Fork in Texas.  I tied up a variant based on pictures I'd seen and materials I had available.  I'm sure I'm not doing the pattern justice, so please feel free to do a search for Dan Soltau's Wet Bandit.
Here's my version (wet...apparently I never took a picture of a dry one):
Its mostly marabou, some hackle/schlappen, chenille, palmer chenille, and a foam tab shaped  sort of like a guitar pick.  The interesting feature of this fly is that the shape of the foam causes the fly to dive when retrieved, and the marabou has excellent movement.  When paused, the fly floats slowly back to the surface.  Really cool!  I've used this foam idea and others in some of my other patterns.

For this next one, I was a bit limited for the time being on the colors of
"eyelash dazzle metallic" yarn (you can search that to find other colors) for the body.  Basically its a #4 or #2 streamer hook (3xl) with marabou tail, a palmered foam strip, and the palmered yarn I mentioned.  Your choice of colors.  The fly can be fished like a jerkbait...its close to neutral buoyancy.  Caught my biggest bass of the year so far (20") on one of these.

Next is some flies tied with the big Bohemian Yarn for a tail/body.  This tail has pretty sweet action in the water.  Don't make it too long...Color per your preference.  Like with a San Juan Worm, melt the tip of the tail with a lighter to keep it from unraveling.  The bottom one was designed to float....but the wetted Bohemian yarn is heavy...this doesn't float, but sinks slowly.  Might need to use 2 layers of sheet foam to make it float?  On the top fly, I used palmered schlappen over the body to try and keep the tail from catching on the hook while casting.  You could also tie in a monofilament weedguard.

On the flies below, I wanted the action of the bunny strip tail, with a fly that would float back to the surface like the Wet Bandit.  I've only tried the "electric chicken" version so far, but caught some nice bass on it, and had a couple others try to attack it from above!  So far, the fly does not dive, and pretty much stays on the surface, which can be good at times.  I may make the foam smaller or reshape it to fine tune the action I want.

The fly below is pretty simple...zonker strip tail and back, bohemian yarn body, hackle throat.  I used a mono loop under the tail to keep the bunny strip from entagling on the hook.  I didn't originate that idea, it works well.  This fly has caught some nice bass for me, including a BIG one that unfortunately shook free in the shallows before I could land it.  
This fly works SO well, I went ahead and tied it in some other colors.
The ones below are also color/material variants.
Like the white one shown earlier in this post, but I used a darker color of mottled Bohemian yarn and added a small glass bead at the nose.  The bead protects the nose of the fly, without adding much weight.
Below, I haven't tried this one out yet, but the idea is that the beadchain will keep the hookpoint riding up on this fly. It will sink more than the other flies shown because of that added weight.

I made a post about these bendback-style flies last summer.  They definitely work and catch fish!  You can swim them through moderately sparse weedbeds without snags, too.

And of course I still love these Blockhead Poppers.  You can cut your own foam, or buy pre-shaped heads from Tim Holschlag's website to purchase some (
I've caught a lot of Largemouth AND Smallmouth Bass on these poppers.  I recommend at least a 6wt fly rod/line to cast these.

The following is another baitfish imitator (firetiger can be a great color scheme) that acts like a jerkbait in the water, sort of neutrally buoyant.  The underbody is a segment of Rainy's Float Foam threaded on the hook before tying the rest of the fly.