Friday, October 28, 2011

First Bass Tournament!

On Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011, I fished in the first bass fishing tournament of my life! A friend of mine, Andy Kent, had invited me several times to fish with him in some small tournaments with bass clubs he was a member of, but fishing such events on Wednesday's were tough for me, as I have to work very early the next day. Since I've not done a lot of fishing this year, I decided, what the heck , and went along. This was not a fly fishing tournament, but rather one with conventional tackle and lures.

This was on the Chicamacomico River here in MD, a place I had fished many times before, and one of my favorite rivers, but had not been on in a few years. There were 6 boats total. The day started out fine, but it soon became very windy. Water temp at the 8AM start was about 58 degrees. It only got up to 61 degrees.

We had planned to flip & pitch, but the wind made that difficult. We did however, find some spots that we could flip. This river is shallow & tidal, with the deep spots only being about 4 ft. The channel in some places is 6-7 ft, but I've never caught a fish in the channel. All the fish holding features of this river are along it's edges, and at the two bridges that cross it. The fishing is pretty much limited to about a 2 mile stretch between the bridges because they're so low to the water. The one bridge, the one next to the launch ramp, does have enough clearance to allow the smallest boats, canoes, or kayaks to get under, but of the 6 boats this day, only one was small enough. The second bridge is so low, not even a canoe can get under it!

Andy caught our first 2 fish, both less than 2 lbs, one on a senko, the other on a spinnerbait.  I managed only one fish of about 2 lbs the whole day, caught on a shad colored Karu VibraShock with a chartreuse curltail grub trailer. All 3 fish were caught within the first two hours of fishing and on a single stretch of shore where we found about 4 ft of water. Then we went for a few hours without a bite!

We moved around to several spots we both knew we had caught fish on before, but the tide had changed some & the wind was still blowing, making it hard to control the boat & our baits. We passed a few of the others and all reported catching some fish, but with the same difficulty & results.

Finally, at about 3PM, an hour before weigh-in, the wind died down some, and they seemed to turn on & Andy caught 3 more fish, all on a senko, which allowed him to cull one fish, and give us a 5 fish total.

At the weigh-in, the others reported that they had started to catch some fish just as we did. One other boat had 5 fish, the small boat that went above the bridge. I don't remember the exact totals, but that fellow got first with over 13 lbs, and we placed second at over 8 lbs. Andy's biggest fish was 3 1/2 lbs, and the lunker pot was split with two anglers both weighing fish at 3lbs 12 oz. One fellow had said he lost a nice fish that may have been over 4 lbs when he had a problem with a new reel.

I had a great time just being out there fishing, but the point of my post here is about another subject. Time on the water. 

This event took place on a river that I thought I knew pretty well, and many of the features I recalled, were just as I had remembered them. However, since I had not been there in a few years, there were also many changes. Last time I was on this river, there was much more vegetation, mostly Spatterdock pads, this time there was very little. 

River systems will always change, but the longer we are away, the more those changes will likely affect our fishing. Won't matter if were fishing with flies or other tackle.

Get out there as much as you can. Spend the time learning about the waters that you fish, even when the conditions are not the best. This particular day, with the windy conditions, I could have fished with a fly rod, although not in this tournament, but it would have been real tough to do. It was difficult enough with the much heavier lures. But, often when we only fish our favorite waters under the best conditions, we get complacent, so when the conditions & fishing get difficult, we tend to not be prepared! Learning about our fishing should be a complete process, which means we spend as much time on the water as we can, in all types of conditions. Of all things we can learn or do to improve our angling success, this one thing will make us better anglers! 

Thanks for reading my post!
Tight Lines!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My Fly Tying & Fishing Theory for Bass Fishing!

Theories are just that, they cannot be proven to the point that make them fact. Theories also may not be valid 100% of the time. Over the past 45 years that I've been a fly angler & specifically a fly tier, I've developed my own ideas & theories about what works & what doesn't for the type of fishing that I do. Actually, this applies to most any fishing that I attempt, not just with flies.

I've been able to conclude only two things about what flies work & what doesn't. One, all flies will catch some fish, regardless of the design! Two, no fly works all the time! And although this is not a conclusion, there are fly patterns that will work the majority of the time, on specific waters.

When I sit down & tie flies, I usually have an idea what I want the fly to do. I attempt to use materials that impart action & movement to the fly. These would be various hairs, furs, feathers & some types of synthetics. I've always felt that a fly should have "breathing" qualities, and the materials used should be what adds this feature. I also want my flies to have a general shape & silhouette. For example, if I'm tying a baitfish pattern, intended to mimic a shad, then the fly should be generally the same shape as a shad.  However, I also keep in mind that since this is a basic criteria, my flies may also represent other forms of prey.

Many years ago, I was fishing in a artificial only section of a small trout stream here in Maryland, and was having a great day fishing my Black Stone Nymph in a size 6. (See my other post about this fly pattern). I had caught & released a Brown Trout, a Rainbow, a Smallmouth & a Largemouth in this stream that day, on just that one fly. I'm fairly sure there are no large Stoneflies in that stream that my fly might be matching, but I had noticed that the grasses along the bank where full of crickets. It's possible, although I cannot verify it, that there may also be Hellgrammites in that stream, and certainly crayfish. It's not outside of possibility that this fly could be eaten by these fish as all of these prey types, since it generally has a size & shape, and even color that might be mistaken for any of them. Really doesn't matter what we think it looks like, as long as they eat it!

Many of the flies I tie, especially for bass or saltwater use, are tied in three basic colors. I use a lot of black, white & chartreuse. I also select these colors a lot when making & buying lures. They are my base selection. If I'm going somewhere to fish, I'll often start with one of these colors or a combination. They all go well together & can both compliment & contrast with one another. Plus, they represent the range of color from white at one end, to chartreuse at the mid point, to black at the other end.

I also use a wide range of colors, particularly when tying a specific pattern type, but these three have always worked well for me, under a wide range of conditions. I often combine other colors with my three base colors. For example, most any baitfish pattern will include a white belly. Then, I'll add various green, grey or sometimes brown backs. I may also add other colors, such as a black lateral line or tones of blue, purple or pink, which many baitfish exhibit. I'm not convinced that these embellishments are absolutely necessary to catch fish, but when tying it's hard to resist the temptation to be artistic!

One of my favorite baitfish patterns is a simple streamer tied with hair, either bucktail or fox fur, and is nothing more than a white belly, a thin black lateral line and an olive back. I usually add some flash too! I like flash added to most of my baitfish flies. This fly can imitate a variety of baitfish, and is often called a Baby Largemouth Bass pattern. Substitute a bronze brown color for the olive & it would be a Baby Smallmouth. Substitute grey for the back, and it becomes many other baitfish or fry imitations. Again, substitute chartreuse, and you have one of the most popular & productive attractor patterns you'll find. The use of all of these color combinations generally mimic baitfish, and the colors both compliment & contrast. In some water conditions, especially where you may encounter stained or slightly muddy conditions, these combinations allow for the fly to be more visible to the fish. Often the light or dark color will prevail, and anytime you can use a fly that is more visible for conditions, your chances for success should be improved.

Generally, I'm an advocate of big flies for bigger fish. This is not an absolute, as there will always be exceptions, but the majority of the time, I've found this to work. If you compare other forms of fishing & the size of the lures used to flies, it only makes sense to use a bigger fly. For example, when other anglers are having success catching bass on lures that are 4 inches long, why would a fly angler choose a fly that is half that size. I tie many of my bass flies on big straight shank worm hooks sold for use with plastic baits. They're a much larger hook than most hooks sold for tying bass flies, and in my opinion, stronger, often sharper & I like the wider gaps which allow a better hook up ratio. The only con to using such hooks is the price & the sizes readily available. I've quit worrying about the price, even if I'm paying 60 or 70 cents a piece for these hooks, as the overall cost of the finished fly is still well under what a fly would cost if purchased from a shop. I tie many of my flies in sizes 1/0 & 2/0, which are not always the easiest to find, since 3/0, 4/0 or 5/0 are much more popular for plastics. I browse Ebay quite a bit & also the clearance listings for many of the popular bass shops, and purchase these hooks whenever I can get a good deal.

When I first started fly fishing, my father purchased an 8 wt Cortland fiberglass outfit for me. It was a very slow action rod, and much more than was needed for the panfish I caught. But, as a bass rod is was fine. An 8 wt is a good general purpose size rod for bass fishing and I still have an 8 wt in my current arsenal of rods. However, because of the large flies I like to use, and because I often fish in some backwaters of the many tidal creeks along the Chesapeake Bay, I use even heavier rods for bass than most others might use. I have a 9 wt & a 10 wt, both well suited for tossing big flies, and even more so when fishing around the many fallen tree's or spadderdock patches found in the tidal rivers. I have no qualms about casting into the thickest of the thick, and into places others may cast weedless jigs. These are the places you'll often find the bigger fish, and the only way to get to them is go in after them. I lose some flies, but I catch some decent size fish too!

So there it is! My basic theory for fly fishing.
1) Tie with materials that provide movement.
2) Utilize the base colors of black, white & chartreuse.
3) Use big flies, tied on big, strong & sharp hooks!
4) Use heavy enough tackle for both the flies & conditions!
5) Go into the thick stuff to find the bigger fish!

If you're happy fishing small flies for bass & catching the occasional larger fish, then stick with what you're doing. I've certainly caught plenty of bass on my 6 wt, and at times that's plenty of fun to do! You won't catch as many bass doing what I do. But, if you want to catch more quality fish, then give this a try!

Tight Lines!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Stonefly/Hellgrammite Fly Pattern

Although this is not a tidal water fly, it could very well be used in brackish water for bass or panfish. I suspect in appropriate colors, it could also work as a Bonefish or Redfish fly.

I originally tied it about 18 years ago, for both trout & bass. It was tied on a streamer hook, Mustad 9672, or 79580 in sizes from 10 to 2 to imitate large Stonefly nymphs and Hellgrammites, but I got away from tying it in any size but 2. The hook in the picture is a size 2 that I purchased from Togen's Fly Shop in Canada. It's a black nickel finished hook, and works well for bass flies. I like it particularly for this fly, which I primarily use in streams for Smallmouth bass. Togen's originally sold it as a Salmon/Steelhead fly hook, but now they call it a Black Nickel Curved Shank Hook. It's only available in size 2.

I now prefer this hook because it tends to ride inverted with the point up, making it snag much less than with other hooks.

Pattern Recipe:
Hook: Togen's Black Nickel Curved Shank, size 2
Thread: Black ( I use Danville Flat Waxed Nylon)
Bead: Tungsten, or Brass
Tail & Legs: Silicone or rubber
Under Body: Rabbit Dubbing ( black, olive/black, olive) Hareline makes some great dubbings, such as Haretron that can be used.
Ribbing: Transparent black vinyl, something with a rounded surface. ( originally Swannandaze)
Thorax: 2 wraps of Estaz. Opalesccent black, or olive

Wrap the dubbing by whatever method you prefer, and pick it out between the ribbing wraps with a bodkin to give it a buggy appearance.

This is a fairly simple & durable pattern, that could be tied in other colors as well. I originally tied it in black, olive, amber, & rootbeer.

Dead drift it with an up & across current cast, or impart some added motion with short strips. Vary your retrieve until you find what they want.

Tight Lines!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Seaducer Fly Variation For Striped Bass & Tidal Largemouth Bass.

This fly is a Seaducer variation with lead barbell eyes that is one of my most productive patterns. I use it extensively for Striped Bass, and Largemouth Bass in the tidal rivers I often fish. Chartreuse has always been a good color for me, but it can certainly be tied in many colors or combinations of colors.  Depending on what I intend to fish for, and sometimes where, I'll tie it on either straight shank worm hooks or saltwater style hooks. The hook is really not a major issue, as long as it's sufficiently strong & sharp.  There are many that will work just fine. Although I tend to use the saltwater hooks more for places that may have a high salt content, just to minimize rusting. This particular fly was tied on a Matzuo Sickle hook.

The pattern recipe is as follows:
Hook: Any you wish to try as indicated above. Some I use are, Eagle Claw 254's, VMC 9255's, Mustad 3407 & 34007,  Mustad Ultra Point, Owner or Gamakatsu straight shank worm hooks. Matzuo Sickle Bait Holder hooks.
Size: #4 to 5/0, (usually 1/0 or 2/0)
Thread: Danville Depth ray Nylon, Chartreuse
Weight: Barbell lead eyes, or other barbell eyes (brass, or tungsten)
Tail: 6 long, wide rooster saddle hackles, and a few strands of holographic Flashabou on each side.
Body: Palmered saddle hackle

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

First? Why A Blog!

I've been contemplating this for awhile. I've been an avid angler, fly angler & fly tier for most of my life, and feel a need to share some of what I've learned. Hopefully, it will help someone else along their road to learning about this wonderful sport & hobby.

I'm also still learning, and perhaps through this blog will be able to add a few ideas from others who share this passion.

Besides fly fishing, and tying, I'm also an avid lure maker. I enjoy making all types of tackle, and as such feel it has aided me in my endeavors as a fly angler, and visa versa. Learning is never a one way street. I believe I am a better angler because I've learned things in many aspects of angling.

As this blog progresses, I hope it to include as much as possible about my experiences in the sport of fishing, and how it relates to fly fishing, fly tying and more specifically to fishing in tidal waters.

I am first & foremost a warmwater & tidalwater angler. A blue collar angler for the most part. My primary experience has been with waters in the mid Atlantic states, and it is there I will try to focus most of my discussion.

I occasionally visit coldwater environments, but not as much as I would like. I'll include some information for some of the local waters I've fished and where I've had success.

I sincerely hope you'll join me & share some time with me in the World of Tidewater Fly Fishing & Tying!

Tight Lines!