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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 20-22, 2017

Fished a pond I had been to before, but had not previously fished.  Picked the wrong day.  The ground was soft, muddy, and vegetation was sparse. So, I picked one spot and fished that area, then left.  The water was super muddy as well...visibility @ 6" maybe.  Had a couple soft bites, caught one tiny crappie.

At least I didn't get skunked!

Next, I visited a 2nd pond.  Here I tried for crappies...caught 2, lost a decent one...but I was catching a lot of small bass.  My buddy Chad texted me from another pond.  He often flyfishes, but prefers to keep all his options open with other gear.  He was hammering bass on spinning gear.  I switched to a topwater fly and worked it aggressively.  Bass were loving it....but they were all small (13" or less).  Eventually I went back to trying for panfish.  Along with some bluegills, I caught 3 Pumpkinseed Sunfish.

Jay and I went out and fished a couple ponds together in the evening.
At the first pond, Jay noticed a big swirl as a bird flew close to the water near shore.  He cast into the area and got an immediate strike.  And promptly lost his fly.  He suspects a bad knot, because he said he never really even felt the fish.  Darn Grass Muskies! ;o)  He did catch a bass, and this really nice Hybrid Sunfish:

I was trying a new fly pattern I'd created, in an "electric chicken" color scheme.  It worked!

I caught a couple nice bass on it, and had a couple awesome strikes (fish trying to attack it from above!).
 I switched to topwater and caught another nice bass on the first cast.

At pond 2, I tried the electric chicken fly again, but the water was just super-muddy.  I switched to a popper and caught a good bass on the first cast.

I worked my way down the shoreline, catching a bass here and there, but the rest were all small ones (12" or less).  I switched to a microjig and caught a 14" bass on the first cast.  Then some bluegills.  And Pumpkinseeds....I measured one at almost right at 9".

I caught a couple tiny crappies.  Fish were hitting the surface occasionally, from the outside weed edge to the middle of the pond.  I tried 3 different flies and caught fish on all of them....small bass, small crappies, bluegills, pumpkinseed.  As the light faded from the sky, I fished my way back towards my car.  In one stretch, there was more surface activity.  Some were those small crappies, some were bluegills.  Finally, I caught a "normal"-sized crappie....maybe 9".  Then a pretty nice one for this pond....one I didn't measure, but would guess to be in the 10"-11" range.  And then a REALLY nice one, measured 13"!  And then mostly bluegills after that, so I called it a night.
The 13-incher is on the right:

Monday (lunch hour flyfishing):
Lunchtime flyfishing today was interesting.  At the first pond I went to, another angler had just arrived...so I went with the poor-quality Plan B pond.

Tried for crappies where they had been nesting a couple weeks ago.  Nothing.  Saw a bass chase something into the shallows.  Put on a popper.  Didn't see that bass again, but around the shoreline some distance away I did catch a smallish bass @ 12"+/-.  I saw some muddy spots further ahead and worked my way there.

I saw a carp.  I switched flies, and it was feeding still, nose down, but hadn't moved much.  2nd drag-n-drop into the area near its head (I couldn't see down in the water that far...but I could see the tail), my line twitched, and I set the hook.  NICE FISH.  What a fight! I saw a LOT of my backing.

I did eventually land it, but left my cell phone on my desk at work...so no picture.  Rookie mistake....rookie mistake!  But it was a beautiful golden 28" Common Carp with a nice red tail...and VERY healthy, but not obesely fat.   Probably 9- to 10-pound range.

Several minutes later at another spot, I briefly hooked another carp, but it came unbuttoned after just a couple seconds.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flyfishing for Mid-May (2017) Bass in Iowa

We had some windy days recently that I chose to flyfish anyway.  I caught a bunch of crappie that hit on a microjig/indicator.

Then we had a stormy day when winds reached 60mph.  The next day was decent, so I flyfished during lunch, and caught 8 bass from a pond where catching even one or two would be consider a good lunch hour!  Most hit a topwater (blockhead popper), and a few hit a dark-colored bunny leech variation.

That evening, it was cloudy and breezy-to-windy.  I fished 2 other ponds for bass.  They were still hitting well on the topwater, it was wall I needed to use.  I probably caught a total of 16 more bass in the 2.5 hours I fished until just after dark.
At one point I set the hook on a bass and my line snapped.  Fortunately, my popper came floating to the surface.  It was beyond reach, so I tied on a new one.  The old one was close enough to try to retrieve, so I started flicking my new popper near the old one, trying to snag it for reuse.  I was getting close to that goal, when I watched a large bass rise up slowly, ignore my moving popper, but instead sucked in the old popper floating on the surface, then sunk back out of sight.  I thought it would soon spit the popper back out, but it never floated back to the surface.  Darn!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

First Half of May 2017

Haven't blogged in awhile.  I've had plenty of observations while flyfishing, but nothing consistent or particularly noteworthy.

I have had plenty of interesting wildlife encounters at the local urban public ponds.  Muskrats are fairly common, and I've seen plenty.  But I actually saw a BEAVER at one of the ponds, which is UNHEARD of.  Very cool!  Plenty of adult and baby ducks and geese.  Mink.  A pair of martins were chasing each other and just missed hitting my legs by INCHES as I stood on the shoreline flyfishing. Osprey.  Some blackbird (or Purple Grackle) chicks on our front porch (from their Momma's point of view!):

I was flyfishing a very popular pond with a much-used walking trail around it, when a couple walking on the other side of the pond shouted across asking if THAT was my dog.  I looked down the shoreline on my side, and saw a canine slow sauntering along away from me.  I said NO!  That's a FOX!   We all watched for awhile.  When the couple made their way to my side of the pond, they stopped and said when they first saw the fox, it was sitting in the grass 2 feet behind me while I was fishing!    Very cool! I would have given it a fish to eat if I'd known!

Turtles.  One pond has a very high population of really big Trapdoor Snails.

I had an encounter with a Northern Watersnake.  I had seen it right in front of me in the water at one point, it appeared to be searching along the shoreline for frogs.  It eventually disappeared.  I was bringing in a bluegill I'd hooked, and before I could get it to shore, the snake swam out and tried to grab it!  Well, I got my iPhone out of my pocket and started taking video while I toyed with the snake.  Well, after realizing I hadn't actually STARTED the video and missed some great footage, the snake lost interest and got lost in some algae along the shoreline.  I finally got the video started and started splashing the bluegill on the water, and sure enough, that snake came back out and attacked the bluegill some more.  Anyway...here's some screen captures from the video:

I actually don't mind snakes at all, especially non-venomous ones.  I don't like spiders, though.
Goose eggs and nests (now that most of the chicks have hatched out).


The BIGGEST fishing story lately was I finally...FINALLY hooked another Grass Carp in the mouth.  I was SO EXCITED!  I fought it for what seemed like at least 10 minutes...even walked it down to the opposite end of the pond to land it....but in trying to horse it closer to shore, I eventually pulled the hook out.  I was SO BUMMED!  It was a really nice one...I'm guessing it would have weighed over 20 lbs.
So... no picture of that one.  But I do have lots of other pictures.  LOTS.  I will just try to pick some of the better ones, or compilation pictures.  I've been catching quite a few Hybrid Sunfish lately...really nice ones.  And some nice Pumpkinseed Sunfish.  Plenty of crappies but nothing especially large.  There have been some good bluegills, too, but nothing REALLY big.  Similarly, I've caught a lot of bass, but none over 16".