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.

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.

 

Bluegill save the day!

I haven’t posted here in a while. School has started and is going full blast. I graduated some very talented seniors last year and I’m hustling to get this year’s group up to speed. In fact, we had a gig today…after only one week of school. They did get to meet this guy, who graciously took a picture with them. IMG_2815.jpg

Anyway, enough of work. Since my wife was out of town this weekend and my son was working at the hunting camp, I found myself in a spot to do some fishing. I looked at the weather and I felt it was too much hassle to drive 2 and a half hours down to the marsh only to have to fight thunder storms all day. So, I started the morning off in my neighborhood lake. I’m telling you this heat has the bass sitting on the bottom somewhere where the water is cooler. I even saw schools of shad feeding on foam on top and not a single one got eaten (at least while I was observing them) by a bass. I didn’t get a hit. So I switched to a hare’s ear nymph and proceeded to catch a dozen bluegill. Some were real beefy, which made it a lot of fun on my 3 wt.IMG_2811.jpg

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Anyway. Here’s looking forward to some cooler temperatures. Football season starts this Friday, so any early Saturday fishing will have to be done with 2 cups of coffee instead of one. 🙂

I did spend some time during the rain working on a new fly project. I’ll be posting a picture here soon. I’ve got to get a good quality photo of it. I’ll give you a hint: This one will never see the water and I’ll probably donate it to a charitable raffle in the future.

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.

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!!

 

 

 

New frog patterns

I haven’t been fishing in a while; mostly because of home commitments and a back issue that has been very painful. I got a short-term fix on the back and most of my “honey dos” taken care of so I’ll traveling to CENLA to try to catch my buddy, Catch Cormier’s, big bass he entered already on the Massey’s Fish Pics Tournament. I also hope to catch some sacalait and big chinquapin for a Friday Lenten meal soon too.

In the meantime, I’ve found some time to sneak away to my tying vise and I’ve developed my version of a frog popper that I learned from master tier, Bill Laminack. I also learned a new way of putting a weed guard on my popper that’s frankly, ingenious. Again, kudos to Bill.

First, are a couple pictures of the frog popper/slider:IMG_2203.jpg

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Notice the hard mono on the back side. It fits well into any fly box because the mono is behind the fly. When I’m ready to tie it on my tippet, I just run my tippet through the weed guard and tie off through the hook eye. I used some backing in the following picture so you could see how I do it. IMG_2204.JPGIMG_2202.JPG
Her’s a view from up front. I can’t wait to see some bass gulp this thing up. I should be able to bounce it over cover too with that weed guard.

Cenla Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival

I attended the Cenla (that’s Central Louisiana) Fly Fishing & Light Tackle Festival this past weekend, not this year as a spectator, but as a participant. I use that terminology because I teach my students that there are two types of people; those who are spectators and those who are participants. Let me explain: There are those who sit at home on their couches and watch fishing and hunting shows and there are those who get out on the water or the woods and experience it first hand. There are those who discuss politics on social media and complain to the masses about how good or bad things are and there are those who get out and do service projects and make a real difference in other people’s lives. There are those who listen to music and there are those who create and perform music. Well, you get the point…so this weekend I practiced what I preach and I served as a speaker and a guest tier at the festival in Pineville, Louisiana.

Lately I’ve been really tying some pretty deer hair poppers so I thought I would feature that fly. I prepared a few in different stages of completion so I could demonstrate from start to finish how I tie these flies. Here’s an example of one of my fire tiger poppers.IMG_1628.jpg
I’ve tied several variations on that fly including shad colored ones, frog poppers, and even some salt water versions. Additionally, I was also asked to give a presentation on fishing from a kayak with an up-and-coming rock star in the fly fishing world, Sarah Giles.  Believe it or not, Sarah catches a lot of redfish from a ten foot, sit-in kayak with a fly rod. She gave the talk on salt water fishing and I added my two cents from my experience as a freshwater fisherman. I thought it was quite informative. We gave the basics of why fish from a kayak, how to rig your kayak (including milk crates, rod holders, anchor pulleys, “the pool noodle is your friend” tip), and how to cast while sitting or standing from your kayak. Oh, and we also gave the all-important point to WEAR YOUR PFD at all times!!

When it came to explaining why we fish from this minimalist perspective, Sarah gave the best reason, in my opinion, of why we fish from a kayak. I’ll paraphrase and embellish it a little, but it went something like this:

There’s nothing like the feeling you get when you stalk your prey; in this case, a big redfish and you’re at its level. It’s that stealthy approach that gets you sometimes within 10 feet of Mr. Redfish. You and he make eye contact with each other as you watch him flare his gills and smash your fly. Most of the time, this fly is no bigger than your thumbnail! Then you strip set your hook and spend several minutes (sometimes in excess of 20-30) to coax the spot-tailed beast into your landing net. Once you’ve successfully done that, you get to admire your adversary up close, snap a picture or two, and release it unharmed back into the marsh to continue to do its thing. 

Well, after that explanation, I’m sure there will be several people going to their nearest outfitter to purchase a kayak and experience that thrill that we all enjoy so much! Remember the participants 🙂

At the end of the day, we headed to Catch’s house in Boyce and we enjoyed a fabulous home-cooked gumbo prepared by Catch’s wife, who by the way, is a pretty accomplished fly fisher-lady herself.

The next morning we were itching to get on the water to do some fishing because we were enjoying some of the warmest weather we’ve had in over a month. Because Sarah is in the market for a new sit-on-top kayak, she fished out of Catch’s 14-foot Native. Catch and I fished from his canoe. Even though the temperature of the air got into the upper 60’s, the water temperature was still in the lower 40’s. We didn’t know if the fish would cooperate. We were pleasantly surprised as we caught 8 nice crappie (also known as white perch or sacalait) and Catch caught a couple of red-eared sunfish (shell crackers, lake runners, or chinquapin). The fish all ate some variation of a fluff butt. I’ve attached a couple of pictures. By the way, Sarah later told us that this was her first sacalait on the fly rod. We may have created a monster 🙂

180122 sarah casting.jpgNice tight loop there from a sitting position.
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Sarah was all smiles with her first two crappie on the fly rod. 180122 doc sacalait2.jpg180122 doc sacalait.jpg
I managed to catch a few in the front of the canoe too.

Check back here for a post in about three weeks when the water warms up a little and the fish really turn on. I plan on making a trip back to CENLA during our Mardi Gras break!