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 (www.smallmouthflyangler.com).
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.

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