Friday, December 8, 2017

Flies That Worked Best for Me in 2017

Does it seem like the most productive fly patterns change each year?  For me it does.  I definitely have my favorite patterns, and I do think that over time the fish get wise to them and learn to avoid them, especially in the waters I fish most often.  So, folks that fish often like I do need to keep trying new fly patterns to keep one step ahead of the fish...or at least just to show the fish something they haven't already seen a few times.

Here are some of the fly patterns(in no particular order) for various species that worked well for me in 2017.

Largemouth Bass:
-Blockhead Poppers
These are basically identical to Tim Holschlag's blockhead poppers.  I just draw eyes on the sides (and one on the bottom) with a Sharpie marker, rather than glue eyes one.  I do like using rubber legs on these, I think they work better, and both the smallmouth and largemouth bass like them.

-Gamechanger (and variants)....This Blayne Chocklett pattern works.  And I admit I was very skeptical.  But bass jumped all over these.  I tied my own, experimenting with various materials for the bodies.  There are still other materials I want to try....some of the Feather Gamechangers look really good.  Mine are ugly.  I know it.  Fish didn't care.  I'm sure I'll get better as I tie more of these.

One thing....they take a long time to tie.  I probably spend an hour each on the 4-5 segment versions.  So, I've tied some up with as few as 1 articulation (probably not a Gamechanger at that point?), and they still have great action when retrieved with an erratic jerk-pause type retrieve, and they still caught a bunch of bass.

-FC Shiner:

-Float-n-Fly jigs:
These are baisically the same as the microjigs/Springbrook Wunders I use for panfish, and bass like the small ones too. These are slightly bigger and heavier (these are 1/32oz) with a bit larger hook.  The idea is to keep these under 3"...and in fact I tied these to be @ 2".  With them, I caught some really nice bass when the water temperature dropped.

-DDH Leeches:
This is a Stu Thompson pattern that catches a lot of fish, and many species.  I caught some nice largemouth bass on them this year, and my buddy caught a bunch of smallmouth bass, and even some carp and white bass/hybrid striped bass on them (and maybe even a trout?). You can read his article and see his tying tutorial on his website:

 I also did well with a variety of shad imitations, but apparently didn't take good pictures of those specific patterns.  It seems like ones with flash, marabou and/or craft fur probably performed the best.

Smallmouth Bass:
I successfully used several of the same flies for Smallmouth as I did for Largemouth.  I won't repost the same pictures again...but these flies caught plenty of Smallmouth Bass for me:
-Blockhead Poppers
-FC Shiner
-DDH Leech

Common Carp:
I didn't readily locate my pictures of these flies, but you can find these patterns online.
-John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly (along with color variations) caught most of my carp this year.
-Black Ops (by Chris at

Channel Catfish:
I caught catfish on a variety of patterns this year, from bass-sized zonkers, to blockhead poppers, to microjigs, etc.  But the following patterns caught multiple fish each this year:
-John Montana's Hybrid Carp Fly
-Black Ops
-small black Woolly buggers with a glass beadhead

-Chartreuse microjigs and silver microjigs/Springbrook Wunders
-Chartreuse mylar chenille buggers....these worked well after dark when the crappies were feeding near the surface out away from shore over deeper water.

These worked in NE Iowa trout streams as well as for stocker trout in some urban lakes.
-Gold microjigs/Springbrook Wunders
-beadhead gold Woolly Buggers. 

Did you have some fly patterns that worked especially well for you this year?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Float-n-Fly for Late Season Bass

Here's something we can all use....whether you are using spinning/baitcasting gear or flyfishing gear:

The Float-n-Fly.

Historically for me, bass have stopped biting when the water gets cold, so I usually finish off my open-water flyfshing season targeting trout and crappies.  This year, bass held my attention later in the year than usual.  In September and October, I mainly went to using larger flies, some as big as 4-4.5", like Blayne Chocklett's Gamechanger, and my own variants of that pattern.   That works great for awhile.

But once the water dropped to 45 degrees F or less, the bass didn't seem to want to chase a bigger fly at all, no matter how slowly it was worked.  I switched to using 1/80th oz microjigs under a strike indicator first, and caught some good bass.  But I wanted a jig with a bit larger body, and a larger hook....because those little microjigs aren't really designed to hook and hold a fighting big bass.  They will hook and hold one, usually....but that small hook always worries me when a big fish is on.

I found some 1/32 oz South Bend jigheads that had a decent sized hook, and a head design that let a jig ride close to horizontal when suspended at rest.

I'd read an article that suggested using jigs SHORTER than 3" late in the year.  Most of the ones I tied were around 2" in length.

These are too heavy for my usual Fish Pimp medium-size strike indicator, so I floated one of these with a large size Fish Pimp Strike Indicator.  This rig is still somewhat heavy for a fly rod to cast....I managed it with an extra-fast 6wt Allen Azimuth fly rod overlined with an 8 wt SA Titan Taper fly line.

I was able to leave work around 2pm on Friday, December 1.  I flyfished from 2:45pm until around 5 pm....which is when it is getting dark in Central Iowa at this time of year.

Based on a very credible tip, I visited a pond I don't normally fish.  Fishing wasn't fast or particularly exciting...which is to be expected since the water temperature is so cold and....its DECEMBER in Iowa! :)
I ended up catching 5 bass and 4 crappies.  The bass were mostly pretty nice ones....with the 3 largest measuring 17.75", 18.5", and 20.5" (in that order in the picture below).

These are really nice bass for Iowa...I was THRILLED!

I may have gotten lucky(?)....I tried that pond again the following Sunday, and only managed 2 crappies an 1 bass (17").
I then went to a 2nd pond and managed to catch 4 bass there...with the biggest, again, being 17".
I went to a 3rd pond, and ended up getting skunked there.  I wasn't surprised.
This Float-n-Fly technique absolutely works on late season cold-water bass.  I'd read that folks typically fish this system in deeper 5-15' down.  I tried to fish it deeper in the deeper pats of the public ponds I was fishing....but I ended up catching all the bass closer from water @ 3' deep, with the jig set about 2' below the surface.  Experiment to see what is working for the waters you are fishing.  Give it a shot!