Man on a Mission

Like most of you, you have all heard the saying, “He is a man on a mission.” I think that can best be described in one word, determination. Determined to be the best _______(fill in the blank) that I can be. That’s my mantra. To be the best father, best husband, best grandfather, best teacher, best ….fly tier??  No not really. But yeah, the best tier that I can be. I don’t have to be better than anyone else. I just want to be the best that Doc Andry can be. So let me explain.

Each year, during the late spring and early summer months, the bass in the two neighborhood lakes I fish, begin to gorge themselves on shad. Some mornings the feeding frenzy can be so crazy that I see 3 and 4-pound bass literally jumping out the water to catch these morsels of fish-scaled delight. When this happens, it’s truly a sight to behold but the fly fisherman is outmanned and outnumbered by the hundreds upon hundreds of schooling (and I presume spawning) gizzard shad. It gives a new meaning to matching the hatch when you have so many fresh live bait in the water. Sometimes I tell myself that the only way I’m going to catch a fish is if they get really stupid. Just last week, I did manage to catch 4 stupid bass (all between 2.5 and 4 pounds) in a span of about 40 minutes.

So, my mission these past few years, is to come up with a shad pattern that most closely looks and acts like the real thing. Youtube is full of videos about how to tie baitfish patterns and I have caught fish on many of them. However, I was still looking for a fly that had a good profile but wasn’t too bulky, one that had excellent movement when stripped, and one that was durable. If you look in my fly box you will see several varieties of shad patterns that I’ve tied over the years but nothing has gotten me giddy as a school girl than the pattern that I came up with this week.

Allow me to explain before I post pictures and a how-to-tie recipe. I wanted something that was about the size of the shad I’ve been seeing (mostly 1.5 to 2 inches long). Of course they have to have a lot of white. I want good action, which I thought I had achieved with white rabbit bonkers for the tailing section. For the heads, I had been using senyo laser dubbing and that worked well but I needed some flash. I tried crystal flash and ice wing but hadn’t found the combination I wanted. I tried weighted bar-bell eyes, tungsten beads and bead heads to weigh the fly down so it would get down further than just two inches below the surface. When I would come up with a new idea, I would test the fly in my swimming pool. Well, today when I saw the action of my latest test model, I started giggling. In my opinion, it was perfect. The tail fluttered like a real baitfish. The fly would sink, nose down and then dart upward when I stripped. It was the perfect length, and did I tell you, “it had great action when stripped!”

So here is what I came up with. It’s not a two-minute fly and it’s probably not for the beginner tier.

Materials.

  • Size 2 hook. Can be a stinger but I don’t think it matters. Don’t make the same mistake I made when I first started tying. There is a difference between a size 2 and a size 2/0.
  • Size .025 lead wire
  • Thread – I used 210 denier in white
  • A pinch of white calf-tail (kip tail) to start off with (I got that from making tails on my deer hair poppers)
  • A small clump of white bucktail
  • Ice wing fiber (Pearl UV and Light Blue Peral Smolt)
  • Strung rooster saddles, white
  • Senyo’s Laser dub (white and grey)
  • Eyes of your choice
  • Thin super glue
  • FabricFuse to glue the eyes on

Here is a picture of most of the materials

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Start by putting between 15-20 turns of the lead wire and bind it down with the thread. I then add thin superglue for durability.

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Then tie in a small clump of calf-tail at the the back end, about a hook shank in length.

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Then add about a shank and a half length of white bucktail.

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I think the bucktail adds more wiggle and gives the hackle feathers something to bounce back and forth off of.

The next step is to tie in some pearl crystal chenille (about half way up the shank).IMG_1449

In my initial photo of the materials, I forgot to add the ice dubbing. IMG_1450 2

A little goes a long way. I pull out a short bunch and I “tease it out before tying white on the top and then the bottom. There are lots of videos out there that demonstrate how to tie this in. IMG_1451 2

Then I tie a little bit of the light blue around the cheeks. Notice that I am building up a good-sized thread dam where I am going to tie in my saddle hackles. IMG_1452
Be sure to take your time to tie the hackles in straight as to provide that “baitfish profile” you’re looking for.

Next step is to tie on the Senyo laser dubbing. White on the bottom and grey on top. IMG_1453
Then comb everything out, trim it back to the shape you want and glue on eyes of your choice.

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Here you see two tied in a size 2 and one tied in a size 4. The real beauty of these is how they act in the water. The lead weight helps it dive, ever so slowly but erratically, the hackles weave back and forth with every strip, and the shimmer is well…let’s see how the fish like it. I’ll be giving them a field test soon.

 

Living to fight again.

Living to fight again.

On my last post, I showed what happens to one of my deer hair poppers after doing battle with over 2 dozen bass. Well, after cutting off all the deer hair with a razor blade, I retied the fly and had it ready to do battle again. See my last post 

It was kind of a slow morning at my favorite bass hangout but I was able to catch 14 on the same popper. Again I probably lost about 7 or 8 but that’s pretty good for a bunch of deer hair on a hook.

Warning! Graphic photo attached. Hide your wife. Hide your kids :)

Warning! Graphic photo attached. Hide your wife. Hide your kids :)

So here’s what happens to a deer hair popper (fire tiger) when you land 24 bass on it in one morning.

Pretty nasty, right?  I landed 24 bass on this one fly this morning and I missed another half dozen or so on it as well. In fact, early on, I had a big mama suck it down and she broke my tippet. I found the fly, intact, floating about 20 feet from where I lost her and I tied the popper back on. I kept count because I wanted to show just how durable these poppers are.

Not a bad fish story, right? But here’s where it gets interesting. I took the fly home, did some more trimming, added some more fabric mender glue, added eyes, and here’s what I got..

Not bad, if I must say so myself. All it took was about 3 minutes of work and I’ll have another popper ready to catch at least another dozen bass this week. Yes, I’m on Spring Break. 🙂  Let’s see you do that with a traditional popper. You’ll have to probably repaint the body, add eyes and epoxy the whole thing. Not that it can’t be done, but this took me all of three minutes to do.

Well, I said I caught 24 bass on that popper this morning. While, I won’t bore your with 24 pictures of bass, I will post a few here:

Most of them were in the 11-12 inch range, but I had about 6 that were 15 inches or larger. Most were caught on the Fire Tiger popper. I caught a few on a Tokyo Spider and a few on a shad baitfish fly. The good news is spring break has just begun. The bad news is, the wind will probably keep me from fishing my beloved South Louisiana marsh this week. Oh, well…there are plenty bass, bream, and sacalait that will want to play 🙂

 

How do I tie my deer hair bugs?

I have had several fly tiers in the fly fishing community ask me it I had a video demonstrating how I tie my bugs. Surprisingly, there are very few videos out there in the world wide web. I don’t know if it’s because it’s some sort of secret fraternity or what, but I’m going to give it a go. I really think the reason is it takes so long to tie one of these flies and no one wants to sit though a 45-50 minute how to video. So, I’ve decided to do mine in a series of videos. The first one is ready to view. It’s an introduction into tying and it asks, “Why would you want to tie these anyway?” It’s not an inexpensive hobby, it takes a lot of time, and it takes a certain level of skill that a novice fly tier shouldn’t attempt. I also go over my tools and I give links where some of these can be purchased.

Enjoy!

Doc

Covid thoughts (how I’m dealing with the stress)

This challenging time in our lives has got a lot of people battling depression. Some people are actually fighting the virus itself, some have family and friends battling the disease, and some are manning the front lines of the battle and will suffer from PTSD for some time afterward. On the other hand, some of us are fortunate to be able to work from home. Some people think I’m just enjoying a staycation. Nothing could be further than the truth. For a music educator whose classes are predominantly performance based, I’ve been scrambling to create online lessons that are engaging and are rigorous. My wife has noted on several occasions that she has never seen me work as hard as I have these past two weeks. At the tender age of 60, I’m actually in a high risk group (I’m older and I suffer from asthma). I tell my students that every morning you wake up, you have a choice to make. You can either be the person who whines and complains about your situation or you can be the person who makes the most of your situation. Either way, I think everyone needs to be able to deal with stress. Stress is a part of every person’s life. How we deal with stress makes all the difference in the world. I am fortunate to have a hobby…fly fishing.

Those of you who know me well, know that I work very hard, but I play hard too. So, I have had to make time for myself. Case in point…last Wednesday I received a call from a colleague of mine, our basketball coach, that he wanted to do some fishing and he wanted a change of scenery. I offered him a chance to join me for a couple hours one afternoon after we were through with online classes. I knew the bass would want to play but I’ve been intrigued by the sacalait (crappie) that I know good and well are in our lake but I haven’t “found them” yet. Well, about 10 minutes into our trip, my buddy yells out to me, “Hey, Doc. Are you keeping sacalait?”  I immediately stuck my paddle in the water and high-tailed it over to where he was. I knew there was a sunken tree in the bottom there so I started tossing a chartreuse and black fluff butt in the area. Five minutes later, I was bringing a chunky little 10 inch one in my kayak. I put on a VOSI (vertical oriented strike indicator) to keep me from hanging up on the tree and I caught 23 more. Most were around the 6 – 7 inch range (not my keeping size) but I was able to put together a stringer of 9 for our Friday fish fry. IMG_1113.jpeg

I went back the next morning and I counted 40! Again, I only keep the nice ones and I had a few that fit that requirement. IMG_1116.jpeg

Saturday morning, I got an invite to join a couple of my “band parents” and their son at our favorite lake for some bass fishing. Their son is in my high school fly fishing club and I decided to go and help him (from a 6-foot distance) with his casting, etc. While I wasn’t able to get him to catch a fish, I ended up catching and releasing nine chunky bass of my own.

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That last one was full of eggs and she weighed 2.8 lbs.IMG_1120.jpeg

So, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday all pass and all I can do is school work and house work. My Wednesday was going to start out slow with nothing to do until 9 AM, so I got up and carted my kayak on over to the neighborhood lake at 6:30. I figured I could fish for an hour and a half before I would head home, shower, and make my 9 AM class. When I got out there I began hearing crashes on the bank. It was the telltale sound of bass chasing shad. The shad spawn is beginning and the bass know it. I was able to land two and lose one in the first 15 minutes or so. Slowly my interest changed and I switched to my fluff butt rod. After about 10 minutes or so, I put my first sacalait on my stringer. The bite slowly began to pick up and by 8 AM I had landed 24. I had a heck of a stringer of big ones (I only kept 9), with four of them going at or above a pound and three-quarters. So, this Friday, we will fry fish and I’ll have some to pass over the fence to my neighbor (social distancing) too. GOPR0365.jpegGOPR0367.jpeg

I realized after taking the picture that I was wearing that shirt. “Poppy,” as some of us called him, was my favorite Irish priest, Fr. Michael Collins, who passed from this world and is now with our Heavenly Father. While Fr. Mike wasn’t a fisherman, I’m sure he was with me and I was feeling the luck of the Irish that morning.

While so many are suffering around this world right now, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed on me and my family. I am especially thankful for the gift of life and my health…and the gift of being able to blow off steam by taking a five minute walk to a quality fishing hole.