Can old worn out poppers be refurbished?

One of the many blessings my dad taught me was never to waste anything. Now, I know my mom is going to read this and say that she taught me this too, but I can still remember dad stopping on the side of the road to pick up an aluminum can to recycle it. He would collect bags and bags of cans and bring them to a recycle facility for cash. I guess that is the result of being born during the middle of the Great Depression and living through the effects of World War II.

So, the question arises: “Should I just throw away a deer hair popper once it has been worn out by hungry fish or should I just cut away the worn out and faded deer hair and refurbish the popper?”  I decided to retire a certain “fire tiger” pattern popper from a recent trip. This popper probably caught over 35 bass. Now, I know you think I’m just bragging but honestly, this popper was responsible for the catch and release of over 35 bass over the past three or four months. IMG_2932

I actually think I tried to refurbish the head (notice the extra glue). So I decided I would try to refurbish the popper since the hook is still very sharp. I used an old pair of scissors to remove most of the deer hair and then I cleaned it up with a worn razor blade.

I added a few more hackles for the tail, a fresh yellow marabou, and then I added fresh deer belly hair. He is what I ended up with:

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While it didn’t end up exactly like the original, I really don’t think the fish will notice and I should be able to catch another 30 or so bass on this refurbished popper.

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My first purely decorative deer hair bug.

So, I put a teaser out there yesterday when I said I’d be posting about what I did when I couldn’t fish this past weekend. I’ve been looking at punk rock poppers and other patterns and I finally settled on a mahi mahi pattern that I saw somewhere on the internet. I actually caught my first mahi mahi on a fly rod this summer and it was a hoot.

So, I sat down and tied this articulated mahi mahi. IMG_2820.jpg

Like I said, It’s my first purely decorative one. Honestly, it took way too long to finish but it was fun. I have enough practical flies for fishing in my box. 🙂 I will be tying at a conclave/expo in New Orleans in April and will donate some flies for Casting for the Cure. I may donate this one or I just may have to tie another one just to prove to myself I can replicate this one. I see areas where I need to improve (like making a better taper in the tail).  Someone asked how did I do the dorsal fin. It’s a peacock sword. I used a very fine wood burning tool to burn a like in the back and then I glued the sword in place using Fabri-fix.

 

You’re Once, Twice, Three Times a…what?

I just couldn’t resit the temptation to quote a famous song from Lionel Richie but I’ve noticed that for the most part; when I decide to try a new fly pattern, it takes me about three attempts before I “get it right.” That means three times to get my length right, three times to get the proportions right, and everything else that makes a fly attract fish and get them to eat. That goes for most flies I’ve tied, from clouser minnows to fluff butts to crab patterns and wooly buggers too.

Most of you who read this blog know that as of late, I have mainly been spinning and stacking deer hair to make poppers and frog imitations. For the most part, the same rule has applied to my poppers. It’s just I don’t always get the picture of my “first” attempt. In case you haven’t seen them, here are a few of my successfully-tied deer hair poppers.

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The good thing about deer hair is, if I am not totally pleased with my end result, I can just take the razor blade and completely give it a scalping and start over. Now, there have been exceptions to my “three times” theory…like for my first mouse fly: IMG_2687.jpg
My first baby birdIMG_2481.jpg

and my first frog imitation IMG_2691.jpg
where I actually got it pretty darned good the first time I tried the pattern.

That brings me to a variation of the deer hair popper that has been quite frankly, elusive to me, the Dahlberg Diver. Up until now, I haven’t tied them simply because I don’t fish divers very much. I love the topwater bite and the frog imitations and straight-up poppers have provided me with all the action I can afford. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t  try new variations and color patterns. So I decided to try the Dahlberg Diver. I researched the internet for various color patterns and even looked at a couple video “how tos” for some inspiration. Well, I have to admit. I nearly gave up tying divers all together. I wish I would have taken a picture of the monstrosities that I came up with. They were so badly proportioned and I even had two tries where I cut my tying thread while trimming the thing and then had to cut everything else off and start over. Finally, after what was probably my fifth attempt, I got it right.IMG_2684.jpg

I ended up tying two of those in the same color scheme before I figured I had it licked. IMG_2713.jpg

Then I played around with a couple different color schemes. IMG_2702.jpg
ChartreuseIMG_2716.jpg
And Fire Tiger.

In hand, and tied to the end of my fly rod, I am pleased with the results. After photographing and zooming in, I can see where I need to clean up my trimming, but to be honest, the bass will not care! However, with this heat pattern we are in right now, I may have to wait until the fall to give them a try.

Mice… A Father’s Day Breakfast Treat!

I bet I got your attention with that weird title 🙂 One of the advantages of neighborhood living in Baton Rouge is, many of these neighborhoods have their own lakes and ponds. I am blessed with having two lakes in my neighborhood. I have documented in the past about how good the fishing can be there too. Well the other morning I got up early and walked on over to my bank spot and I found that another gentleman had already beat me to it. No problem, there’s plenty of area to fish without actually getting into someone’s backyard. Well, come to find out I knew that gentleman and we struck up a conversation while I watched him fish. He was fishing with some very large swim-baits, one of which was a giant rat. I commented to him that I had never seen a bass eat a big rat like that and he told me he had caught several on it, including a 7 pound behemoth. He changed to another large swim-bait and I watched him pull out a 3 plus pound bass. This tweaked my interest and I set out to tie a mouse pattern that I could fish there.

I had seen great videos of fly fishermen catching big trout on mice imitations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QMvjbz8hG9s I just don’t recall seeing many videos where largemouth bass were targeted with mice. I just had to give it a shot. So I got my vice out and decided to do a segmented pattern using deer hair. Here is what I came up with. IMG_2562.jpg
I know it’s kind of crude for my first one but I planned on fishing it in very low light conditions and I didn’t think the bass really cared. So, I rigged up last night and set my alarm for 4:45.IMG_2569.jpg
I actually woke up early, turned the alarm off and drank a quick cup of coffee before making the five minute walk to the lake. I arrived there around 5 AM and things were still pitch black. The only sounds were the chirping of the frogs and the morning calls of the owls. My first cast in the dark was greeted with an explosion that frankly, I wasn’t prepared for. I set the hook like an amateur and needless to say, my mouse came back to me unharmed 🙂 By the way, It took me a while to tie that fly so I tied on a good, strong tippet. No bass was going to break my line this morning! A dozen casts later and I landed this opportunistic little guy.IMG_2571.JPG
As you can see, it’s still dark out and all I brought with me was a camera phone. It would have to do. Understand, I still couldn’t see where my fly was actually landing and the only guide I had to let me know I had a bite was to listen for the splash. Five minutes later, I heard a very loud splash and I strip set the hook. Immediately, I knew this one had “shoulders” and I felt the pressure of the fish on the rod. I recently bought a new reel and loaded it with a fly line that advertised that it was a 7-8 wt. specifically designed to throw big flies. I haven’t bought a 6-weight rod yet, so I’ve been fishing with an Allen 5 wt. I felt the fish take off to an area where I knew there was a sunken tree. OH NO YOU DON’T!! I’m not going to loose that fly! I was able to turn the fish and after a short while, I landed what I guessed to be a three-and-a-half to a four pound fish. It had a huge head IMG_2572.JPG
This picture doesn’t really do it justice. All I have to judge the size of this, is the same mouse put in the mouth of the only mounted fish I have.IMG_2577.JPG
I’ll be darned but the mouth on this morning’s fish looks to be about the same size or even bigger. By the way…the mounted fish? That’s my personal best, caught about 12 years ago on conventional tackle (before I ever began fishing with a fly rod) and it weighed 8 pounds. IMG_2578.JPG
This morning’s fish didn’t have the girth but it was nearly as long, so I think 4 pounds would be a conservative estimate!IMG_2575.JPG
I wanted to get it back in the water quickly so I didn’t waste time taking more pictures. After all, I was ready to catch fish number three for the day. Shortly after, the sun began to brighten up the morning and the shad came out in full force. The bass feeding frenzy began, but I couldn’t get one to eat the mouse again. I left and was back home for 6:30.

So, my summation of the situation. I think the bass assemble by the dam and wait for the shad to get there to feed or spawn or whatever they do in the slimy foam on the water. Once the shad arrive, there is a gourmet table of live bait that make easy pickings for hungry bass (of all sizes) to eat. During that feeding frenzy, it’s hard to get a bass to fall for foam, hair, and feathers. However, for that magical time when the bass are assembling at the breakfast table and the shad haven’t arrived yet, they can be fooled into eating…a mouse. On a sad note, my mouse lost its tale this morning. No problem, because I can tie another one on pretty easily. Stay tuned for more mouse fishing because…Mice…it’s what’s for breakfast! Happy Father’s Day!

 

Kisatchie Fly Fishers Clinician

I was the guest clinician/fly tier at this summer’s master class this past weekend. That means I get to make the road trip to Central Louisiana (CENLA) and spend some time with my good friend and fly fishing guru, Glen, “Catch” Cormier. With the recent hot temperatures and lack of rain, the fishing in the area’s rich warm water estuary has been slow at best. We hoped to catch a few bass early in the morning and then head to another lake to fish for bream. We got a late start, thanks Catch 🙂 but managed to get on the water around 6:30. By 7:15, I had landed two small, but chunky bass on one of my deer hair poppers.IMG_2540.JPG
Catch and I both finished our 3-fish morning by chasing schooling 11 and 12 inch bass out in the middle of the lake that were chasing shad.

After lunch and a nap, we headed off to another nearby lake and we both managed to catch a dozen bream each. I managed a nice bull bream on a small popper.IMG_2541.JPG

I also got this hungry goggle-eye to eat one of my frog poppers. IMG_2542.JPG

Saturday morning meant I was heading to the local fire station to teach a class to members of the Kisatchie Fly Club. The topic was how to tie my deer hair bass bugs. These guys were super nice and eager to learn. 35026439_1941795679217003_775784914585911296_o.jpg
I demonstrated and worked with them step-by-step to tie a fire tiger pattern. As a teacher, I can always determine if I was effective by the work of my students, and judging by Greg’s (I think that was his name) first tie…well…he may be teaching the class next year. 34747686_1941795982550306_1544549675061739520_o.jpg
Nice job for his first deer hair popper!!

 

 

 

Summer Bassin’

Now that school is officially out, I thought I’d have some time to do some fishing and head down to the coast to target a species that I haven’t had a chance to target yet…the speckled trout. Yep. When I look at what I’ve caught this year, it shows I’ve caught only 4 redfish, no trout, but a ton of bass. That’s because whenever my schedule does allow me to fish, the weather does not. I’ve been off this week and the winds have been blowing 10-15 mph all week long. I’m thinking I may have to say, “damned the torpedos!” and head to the marsh anyway.

No more venting here though. This is my fishing blog and I will conform and write about my last two or so trips. One of my friends had me over and told me they will be selling their home, complete with acreage and a small pond that has provided me with lots of fun mornings and late afternoons chasing small bass and nice bream. I decided to give it a shot one last time and I was rewarded with a nice mess of bream for the fryer. The bream didn’t bite until around 7 PM, but they were smacking a small popper in some moving water and I was able to put about 20 of them on a stringer before the mosquitos ran me off the water. I told my dad he would be so happy with me. He grew up in the Great Depression and he cannot stand to see anything go to waste. He cannot understand why I would spend a morning fishing and not keep any of the fish I catch 🙂 I Told him that the thrill for me is to catch them on flies I tie myself and I have a freezer full of bream, sacalait, redfish, tuna, and snapper. I don’t need to keep any more. I mostly practice “catch and release” these days. However, when I get on a good bream bite and most of them are between 7 and 9 inches long, I practice catch and release all right…release them into a hot skillet of grease 🙂 So, I kept eight for myself and I vacuum-sealed the rest for my buddy and his wife to enjoy. IMG_2469.jpg

I mentioned earlier that I’ve caught a ton of bass this spring. I made it out to my neighborhood lake and my doctor friend’s lake and caught 10 on frog poppers and shad flies. I find that I loose as many as I land, though, and it gets a bit frustrating. I think I have good hook sets but somehow, when the fish changes direction, it spits the hook. I’ve tried setting the hook harder but even then, I find I’ve pulled the hook right out of the fish’s mouth. I’m using sharp Gamakatsu hooks too. I guess it’s part of the game. A couple trips ago I had another friend and his wife fish the same lake with conventional tackle. I easily outfitted them 2 to 1, so I guess I’m not complaining 🙂

GOPR3896.jpgGOPR3894.jpgGOPR3898.jpgGOPR3901.jpgGOPR3899.jpgNotice, they are all healthy fish. The largest in these pictures weighed 2.9 pounds. I did catch one in my neighborhood lake that was 3.1 lbs on a subsurface shad fly.GOPR3902 2.jpg
When I haven’t been fishing, I’ve been preparing for my various summer band camps that I will teach and a deer fly tying class as well. That had led me to refine my tying skills and experiment with new patterns. One of my latest is this baby duck. While I know that bass are opportunistic and will eat anything that looks like food, this baby is going to go under glass somewhere and sit on a mantle. IMG_2481.jpg
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Here’s a commission job I did as well.

One more thing. Many people look at these flies and wonder about durability and fishability. I think the pictures of the bass speak for themselves about the fishability. As for the durability, I find that they hold up pretty well. Here’s a frog fly that I used during a recent trip. I landed 8 bass and probably lost at least as many. It did get messed up and the bass had knocked both eyes out of their sockets.

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Glue and eyes are cheap, so guess what? I think it’s going to catch another 8 or so before I have to retire it.

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It’s Frog Season (well, sort of)

Ribbit…ribbit…ribbit…sploosh!!!! That’s how my morning went 🙂 You see, now that school is almost over, I’m going to make up for lost time and get on the water as often as I can. Trips around the house are perfect for 1) therapy and 2) researching new patterns for my flies. This morning, I decided to make a quick trip (they have to be quick in this extreme heat) to a favorite man-made lake that I frequent.

I actually started at sunrise with my tried-and-true, crease fly simply because it was still tied on my fly rod. I got an amazing explosion by one bass that went airborne, only to have completely miss it. Then I got a huge swirl by another that didn’t eat it. That’s all I needed to switch flies to one of my deer-hair poppers. I decided to start with a frog imitation very similar to this one:

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It’s tied on a #2 B10S stinger hook and uses Pat Cohen’s legs. Lately, I’ve been having good luck with my deer hair poppers. For some reason, I get better hookups. You might recall this bruiser I caught earlier this year. They don’t just smash it! They eat it!GOPR3846.jpg

Anyway, it didn’t take very long to get my first hookup with that frog pattern. I actually brought my digital scale this morning and this one weighed 2.84 lbs. GOPR3878.jpg
Like I mentioned earlier. They don’t just smash it. They eat it. Notice how far down its mouth that fly is.GOPR3877.jpg

So, for the next hour or so, I kept catching fish. Yes. I did loose a bunch and I even had one break my tippet. So I tied on another fish catching color, similar to this one:IMG_2387.jpg

and proceeded to land a few more.GOPR3880.jpgGOPR3881.jpgGOPR3883.jpgGOPR3885.jpg

I ended up catching 6 on deer hair poppers. A little after 8 AM, the top water bite completely shut down, so I switched to one of my shad flies and went subsurface for them. I was only able to catch one on the shad fly.GOPR3886.jpg
But it was a nice one. I finished the morning around 9:30 with seven that I had landed and at least as many missed fish. Of the seven I landed, only two were under 15 inches and most were around the 2.25 lb range.

So, I accomplished both of my objectives for the morning. 1) I got some great bass therapy and 2) I was able to do some field research on some of my flies! What a great morning!!