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.

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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!!

 

 

Bass Therapy

It seems we have all kinds of therapies available to us today. Of course there’s physical therapy, music therapy, occupational therapy, and a host of others we won’t mention here. Today’s post is brought to you by the bass therapy. That’s the kind of therapy I needed today. I got a good report from some of my band parents after our spring concert last night and I decided to load the kayak on my truck for a couple hours of bass therapy. That is, a couple of hours of peaceful solitude on a quiet lake with hungry bass that eat what I’m tying.

Well, at least, that was the plan. I got to the lake a little after 5 PM and was throwing one of my deer hair poppers shortly thereafter. I got to one of my favorite spots in the back of the lake and I missed a monster strike by one of those hungry, post-spawn girls. She made one good jump and threw my popper. That’s OK. Being a fly fisherman, I get used to missed fish. Anyway, I was just really starting to relax when three vehicles approached on a dirt road and five young 20-something-year-olds got out and started setting up to do some target practice. They were very nice about it and told me things were going to get loud. I had plenty fishable water so I didn’t mind but the constant shooting did get annoying.

So I paddled away from the shooting and caught my first bass of the afternoon on a fire tiger deer hair pattern. GOPR3855.jpgThings were really getting slow when I noticed a nice bass that nosed on up to the popper but refused to eat it. I had a crease fly tied on to my other rod so I tried seeing if it would eat that. Still no bite. At this point, my bass therapy was going to need more therapy.

I paddled to the opposite end of where the shooting was taking place and around 6:45, someone turned the switch on. I proceeded to nearly be able to call my shots. The bass were taking some explosive shots at my crease fly and boy was that fun. Each one seemed to be right around the 15 inch mark with a couple that pushed 16. I tried to switch back to the deer hair popper, but they only wanted the crease fly. I finished the afternoon off around 7:30 with my largest bass of the day, one that pushed just a little over 18 inches and probably weighed over three pounds.  I wish I had gotten a good photo but my GoPro is acting up and I was only able to get a few pictures off the sim card. None of my video came out 😦 and I thought I had gotten some really good video of some good eats. I’ll keep working on the card and hopefully I can extract some of that video.

In conclusion, the bass therapy did the trick. I ended up catching and releasing a dozen bass and probably lost just as many. The action was fast for about an hour, as the fish were feisty and fought hard. Here are a few pictures that I was able to get off my GoPro.

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This is my last freshwater trip before my Mission Six Tournament this weekend. Catch Cormier and I look to defend our title from our big win last year. The trash talk has been going on for quite some time. Now it’s time to get out there and catch a couple big slot redfish. I plan on posting a good report here early next week.

I Love it when they eat what I tie!

I finally finished up with school for a couple of days (I take my band to Disney World next week, so I decided to do an Andry Good Friday tradition and do a little fresh water fishing. I had a couple flies that I wanted to try out so I made a trip to my wrist doctor’s lake for a little “research and development.”

First up on my fly rod was a new variant on my crease fly. It was tied on a barbless hook that a colleague had given me. After missing three fish early on, I decided to ditch it and go with fly number 2. Fly number 2 is a frog pattern that I’ve been tying with dyed deer hair.IMG_2203.jpg
Here’s my weedless version with Cohen’s frog legs. The one I used this morning was one that I still had tied on my rod from my CENLA trip. It’s basically the same frog but the legs are just a bunch of rubber skirt legs.

Anyway, I got a big blowup on the frog right away but I missed it too, so it was bass – 4, Doc – 0. By now the wind was starting to pick up. We had a beautiful blue bird morning after yesterday’s rain and cool front passed through and even though I wasn’t catching fish, I was relishing the beautiful weather. I figured I had better paddle to the back of the lake where I could get some protection from the wind by the tree line. On my very first cast, I got this big girl to inhale my frog! She, like most of the big bass I’ve caught throughout my life, just dug in deep and never jumped. That was a blessing because she was barely hooked in the top of her mouth.GOPR3846.jpg
Although she measured a little over 18 inches, she is probably my personal best by weight. I didn’t want to stress her by digging for my scale but I estimate she weighed over 5 pounds. As I’m writing this, I’m looking on my wall where I have my personal best (8 lbs) mounted, which was caught on a craw worm in a kayak that I made many years ago. Today’s fish was definitely over 5!

Anyway, the fish acted like they were eating frogs today. I actually caught the same fish twice within 5 minutes of it’s initial release. I know many of you would say that wasn’t possible and no, I don’t have a picture of it, but it had a very unique stress mark on its right side, and a flesh wound on its belly. When I caught the same fish 5 minutes later, it had the same two marks on it.

I ended up catching 7 this morning and only two of those were under 15 inches! GOPR3849.jpg
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Most of them inhaled may frog!IMG_2291.JPG

After 7 bass on that one frog, I needed to retie because the tippet had gotten tangled and was digging into the hair. I’ll do a little trimming on it and put it back into service soon. I did try a crawfish imitation that I tied last winter but I didn’t get any looks from the fish.

Now, another Good Friday tradition…eat some fish. I plan on pulling out a pack of sacalait out the freezer for tonight’s dinner. Happy Easter to everyone.