Friday, August 16, 2013

When It’s Hot, Feed Panfish and Bass A Fat Grasshopper

In late summer and early fall hot temperatures slow fishing success and frustrated anglers swear the fish are suffering from severe cases of lockjaw. But, fly flingers can dial-up the action by casting grasshopper patterns to spots where panfish and bass wait to feed on live hoppers that are blown off of shoreline vegetation or otherwise fall into the water.

It’s not hard to find grasshoppers in late summer when the afternoons and evenings are dry and hot. Great numbers of them can be found in grassy spots along rivers, streams, creeks, lakes and ponds and some always fall or are blown from vegetation along the banks into shallow water. It doesn’t take long for a fat, slow-swimming hopper to become a meal for bluegill or largemouth bass.

There are many types, colors and sizes of grasshoppers and all the angler has to do is choose a hopper fly that is the approximate shape, color and size of those living in the area being fished.  

You don’t have to be too careful when fishing with hopper patterns, just find a spot with lots of vegetation growing on the bank or where tree branches hang out over the water and cast near those spots.

When a hopper falls or is blown into the water, it lands with a noticeable “splat” and almost immediately starts to kick along the surface towards the safety of dry land. When you cast, don’t be afraid to “slam” that hopper fly down onto the surface, you want to demand the bluegill or bass’s attention. Then skitter the fly slowly and erratically across the water’s surface towards shore as if it is anxious to make dry land.

It is important that the fly floats on the water’s surface after the cast and during the retrieve. If the hopper sinks in the water the fish will ignore it. After every cast, and especially after I’ve landed a fish, I squeeze the water from the fly and add floatant if necessary to keep it afloat.

One of Maggie’s and my favorite grasshopper patterns for largemouth bass and bluegill is a knock-off from an old fly I found in one of my dad’s fly boxes. I don’t know the actual name of the fly, but Maggie and I call it “Dad’s Hopper.”
Dad’s Hopper
Hook --  Mustad 9671 #8
Thread – Danville’s Black Flat Waxed Nylon
Body – Medium Olive Chenille
Legs – Olive Green Raffia  Straw
Hackle – Olive Green Rooster Hackle Feather

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Cure for the Dog Days of Summer

It’s mid-July.
It’s HOT in southeast Nebraska and other parts of the country.

Mulberries on the bush. Dark purple and black berries are ripe. 
Days when the temperature tops out in the high-80s are a welcome relief from other days when temperatures approach the three-digit mark. The humidity reading is often almost identical to the temperature. It can be hard to breathe as you shuffle from the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned house.

The old-timers call these “the dog days of summer,” when heat from the sun drives the fish into cooler areas such as weed beds and stump fields , deeper water, and shaded flowing water where there are cooler temperatures. That makes the fish less active during daylight hours and the spots where they go to avoid the sun and warmer temperatures more difficult for the fly angler to fish.

That means the fish move to places where there is protection from the direct rays of the sun, which makes the water cooler (shade), where there is an acceptable level of oxygen in the water, and where there are aquatic insects, small fish or other food sources. It also often means they are hiding in submerged growing vegetation where the angler finds it difficult to present a fly, or to fight the fish after a strike.

The “dog days” mean tough fishing.

But, late yesterday morning when I was taking Gabe, our Chesapeake Bay Retriever, on a short walk in the pasture, slipping from the shade of one tree to the next, I noticed the mulberry bushes growing near our barn were still producing fruit. The branches were loaded with berries and the ground beneath them was littered with dark purple and black mulberries.

“Mulberries!” I said out-loud, “It’s time to go carp fishing!”

Gabe looked at me out of the corner of his eye, as if to say, “Hey Boss, I do ducks, geese, pheasants, quail, maybe a dove or two, but I draw the line at scales. You’re on your own on this one, buddy.”

If you’ve never caught a carp on your fly rod, you’re missing some great action. Carp have kind of a bad reputation in this country (more because of their social skills than their sporting qualities), but in many other countries they are considered to be superior game fish.

I’m not going to go into all of the carp’s attributes here, other than to say they are abundant in most areas of the country, they grow to large size, fight well when hooked, and are great at the table after being smoked, grilled, fried or baked.

During “the dog days,” carp are easy to find and aren’t affected by the heat as are other species. One of my favorite ways to catch them when nothing else will even look at my fly, is with mulberry flies.

Mulberry flies fool hungry carp.
Mulberries grow along the banks of creeks, streams, rivers, farm ponds and  the quiet coves of many lakes.  The plant’s branches bend and reach out over then water and ripe berries fall into the water where carp often gather and suck them up.

When I’m fishing a creek, stream or river, I like to cast into the current flowing along the bank above the mulberry bushes and let the current carry my fly over feeding carp.

Carp don’t make dramatic strikes at the fly like a bass or northern pike, instead it slowly sucks the fly into it’s soft mouth, feels and mouths it a little and then leisurely turns and moves away.  That’s when you should set the hook and be prepared for a fight. A carp is best described as a “brawler”. Think late nights at Irish pubs.

As I mentioned earlier, the carp is not known as America’s most popular sport fish, but it is one scrappy fish well worth the attention of warmwater fly angler.



Mulberry Fly
Hook -- Mustad 3367 #6
Thread -- Danville’s Black Flat Waxed Nylon
Body -- Medium Black Chenille
Rib – Purple Krystal Flash
Stem -- Black Goose Biot Fiber

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easy, Tasty Fried Panfish

Bluegill, crappie or other panfish, filleted or pan-dressed
Cold milk or buttermilk
Peanut oil, vegetable oil or bacon drippings from breakfast
Flour, yellow cornmeal or pancake mix
Salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper

Fillet fish in normal manner or clean them by gutting, removing the head, tail, fins and scales. Wash fish well in cool water and place them in an ice chest or refrigerator for 15-30 minutes before frying.

Mix dry ingredients well and place in shallow bowl or plastic bag.
Mix egg and small amount of milk or buttermilk in a second bowl. Completely cover pieces of fish with mixture and then dredge them in the dry ingredients.

Fry the fish in the hot oil or grease in a cast iron or other heavy skillet until the flesh easily flakes with a fork at its thickest point.
Drain the fish on a paper towel and serve with potato, salad, your favorite vegetable and an appropriate beverage.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

LM Bass Candy – The Orange and Yellow Spook Diver

It’s time to be on the water getting after the largemouth bass.
The last couple of weeks Maggie and I have found bass hanging along the edges of shallow water weedbeds and along banks where trees and tree limbs have fallen into the water, especially in coves which are protected from winds. Bass feed heavily during the approach of a cold front , then shut down when the front actually arrives. The rule of  thumb at our house is, “when the barometer is falling, head for the lake and start casting surface and diving lures towards shallow-water cover.” Oh yeah, one more thing ….  Hang on to your rod….tight!
One of the flies that has produced well for us is the Orange and Yellow Spook Diver. It is easy to tie, casts well and produces strikes. We cast “the Spook” parallel to and as close as we can to the shallow-water cover and retrieve it with quick, short jerks of the line to make the fly dive a short distance and then pop back to the surface. It sits there for several seconds (the old standard is to let it sit motionless until the disturbance it made in the water is gone) and then jerk the line again to repeat the performance. Continue that retrieve along the edge of the cover.  

The Orange and Yellow Spook Diver
Hook: Mustad 9674 size 4-2
Thread: Black 3/0 monocord, waxed
Tail: Yellow and orange marabou fibers, gold Krystal Flash:
Collar: Yellow, orange and red deer hair
Eyes: 7 mm doll eyes  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Howdy, Glad To See You Again!

It’s been a while since my last post and I apologize for that. A lot has happened while I was away, but now things have settled down and returned to normal, and I’m finally able to get back to talking with you about fly fishing.

Spring came to southeast Nebraska late this year and brought with it several days of heavy rains which replenished reservoirs, lakes and ponds that had been shrunken and crippled by last year’s drought. Thanks to those storms, we have plenty of water and it’s time to go fishing.

Have you tried using a black woolly leech to catch largemouth bass in the spring?

The black woolly leech is not a new pattern by any means, but for some reason many fly fishermen after bass overlook it in favor of more “flashy” patterns. The woolly leech is the best imitation of a small fish I’ve found. It can be fished in a variety of ways and is at its best when moving slowly through the water with short jerks and pauses.

I like to fish this pattern in turbid water when bass are working shallow weed beds trying to locate small fish near the bank. Wade out into the water and cast parallel along the outside (deep water) edge of the weedbed and retrieve the fly just a few inches from that edge. Vary the depth and speed of the retrieve and make the fly imitate the erratic movements of a small fish darting in and out of the weeds.

The black woolly leech is weighted so it will sink to the depth you want to work and the materials it is made with provide plenty of attractive action as it is retrieved through the water.

Weighted Black Woolly Leech
Thread: Black waxed 3/0 monocord
Hook: Mustad 9672, size 4-8
Tail: Black marabou
Body: Black chenille
Hackle: Black rooster saddle
Eyes: Small bead chain
Weight: Additional weight may be added to front portion of fly with lead wire
Head: Black waxed monochord
Weedguard: 20# monofilament line