Housy Smallmouth Report 7/30/18: Zen and the White Fly

There’s an old zen saying I recently made up that goes like this: “The second white fly cannot come until the first.” Well, the first, second, third, and beyond are here. More on that in a minute.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon banging around the river shooting for my upcoming feature in Eastern Fly Fishing. Evening found me ensconced in a pool that proved to be a challenging wade at 600+ cfs. We had some difficulty, but despite a good-near-soaking stumble, we made it through.

So. At this height the bass were more spread out and definitely not as surface happy as they were last week. I did most of my business from 6:00pm-7:45pm on a TeQueely. The Gurgler was largely ignored. Saw my first white fly at 8:00pm, and although they weren’t thick the hatch built up some steam. As usual, the bass moved into the shallows and frog water as it got progressively darker. They were feeding on the surface (which was also littered with sulphur spinners) but they weren’t keyed solely on the insects. I know this because I did boffo box office with a Countermeasure from first cast to take out at 8:55pm.

Lost in all this white fly madness (sure, it’s fun!) is the black caddis. Size 16, and they were out in force. And I think the smallies like them as much as the white flies. Fish a Black Magic top dropper over an August White on point, and see which the bass prefer. Smallmouth always tell the truth.

That’ll put a good bend in the old five-weight.

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The Countermeasure: a smallmouth bass and trout bug

The Countermeasure is a riff on a bunch of proven patterns. It’s basically a Deep Threat in crayfish colors with a deer hair collar and head tied Zoo Cougar style. Bite triggers abound: a seductive Zonker-like tail; hints of flash; flowing soft hackles; dangly legs; bulky head. It’s a surface and film fly that you can land with a loud splat!, then swing, wake, strip, and/or dangle. (I’ve had smallies try to pick it out of the air.) There’s really no wrong way to fish it.  It shines on a floating line, but it also ventures into neutrally buoyant territory if you use it with a full sink line.

I’ve been field testing the Countermeasure for three years now, and rarely disappoints. There are times when the smallmouth can’t keep away from it, and will bull rush it the moment it hits the water. And did I mention it’s a killer pattern for those big malevolent Farmington river browns?

The Countermeasure smallmouth bass and trout bug

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Hook: Daiichi 2220 size 4
Thread: UTC Rusty Brown 140
Tail: 8 strands green Krystal flash on both sides of the shank; next, a crawfish orange rabbit strip, fur side down, leather section 2″ long
Body: Rusty brown Ice Dub palmered with fiery brown schlappen
Legs: Golden yellow/pearl flake Barred Crazy Legs, 3 on each side
Collar: Rusty brown deer hair, top of shank only, extending to hook point
Head: Rusty brown deer hair, moderately packed, trimmed flat
Fly length is 4″

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A closer look at the head, viewed from above. It’s not a super-tight pack; two pencil-sized clumps of hair spun on the shank usually do it. I start shaping it with a razor blade by trimming the bottom flat, then the top at gentle upwards angle. Scissors do the rest. 

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It took me a long time to come up with a name that I liked. Then, few weeks ago, I was watching The Hunt For Red October for the millionth time, and I saw the Dallas release these brilliantly devised gadgets that churned and boiled and made the torpedo think they were the intended target. Then I thought about how the smallies would rather kill than critique this bug. And there it was. So, Red October fans, repeat after me: “Release Countermeasures, on my mark!”

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The Countermeasure Rogues’ Gallery:

Housy smallmouth, August 2016

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Housy smallmouth, August 2016

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Farmington River brown, August 2017

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Housy smallmouth, July 2018

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Getting your word’s worth

The word machine is humming along. In fact, I’m taking a break right now from one of the many pieces I’m working on. (Despite the sunny weather, I made the command decision to write today. With all the high water and piss-stinking miserable humidity, and thunderstorms later, the fishing will have to wait.) Here’s what’s in the pipeline:

“Steel Deal,” a feature on Great Lakes steelhead tactics, coming this fall in Field & Stream

A feature on the Housatonic River for Eastern Fly Fishing, scheduled for March/April 2019

A feature on the Farmington River for Eastern Fly Fishing, scheduled for Fall 2019

“The Little Things 3.0” — I’ve completed this and I’m pretty sure Field & Stream is going to buy it for publication next year.

Please support these magazines, even if it’s just to buy a copy of the issue with the article. No readers means no more pubs which means no more interesting articles from folks like me.

Then, there are the new presentations I’m working on for the Fly Fishing Show…

And I haven’t forgotten about that new smallie bug. I promise it will be worth the wait!

No. Not happening right now.

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Housy Smallmouth Report 7/24/18: Feel the burn

And so we break the seal on summer smallies. The Hous was stained and rising (450cfs+) and warm, the air was thick and damp, and the smallies were on the hunt. I fished below the TMA — what a walk! — from 6pm to almost 9pm. Started out with a white cone head Woolly Bugger, and its production level was uninspiring. I wondered if they might like something a little darker in the stain, so I tied on a TeQueely. BANG! First cast. So I fished that for a while, cleaned up, then switched over to a Gurgler. Hysterical topwater action ensued. At 8pm I tied on a bug I’ve been prototyping and testing for three years now (I will release it very shortly, so stay tuned!) and the smallies attacked it with extreme prejudice, sometimes moments after it hit the water. No white flies yet, but I made my own hatch at dark with a White Wulff, landed one, and ended on a high note.

And I had the entire stretch of river all to myself.

Fun with Gurglers:

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Hello, boys, I missed you! I got into dozens of fish. The pipsqueak factor was very low, with this bass being typical of the evening’s take.

DCIM100GOPROG0042757.

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Last night was textbook: increased activity once the sun went behind the mountains, a feeding spike from 7:30pm-8:30pm, then shutdown at dark. Smallies will move into shallows as dusk approaches, and that includes some of the bigger fish. This guy was patrolling in about a foot of frog water. He clobbered the bug as soon as it landed. I can always tell it’s a good fish when my forearm starts to burn mid fight. Lousy photo, but this slob measured in the low teens and was the best bass of the outing.

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Needs must have Farmington River flies

The results of a wee tying binge for myself and customers: summer nymphs and dries for ye olde Farmington River. All eagerly awaiting a hungry mouth(s).

Rainbow Warriors, Frenchie variants, soft-hackled PTs, wingless March Browns, Usuals, Catskill Light Cahills, Magic Flies. Be prepared to downsize your dries to 20s this time of year. (Although I had success last week casting big (8-12) stuff to smutting trout in frog water.)

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Farmington River Report 7/19/18: Generation Next

Yesterday I had the pleasure of guiding the next generation of Farmington River fly anglers. Patrick and his cousin David and I spent the afternoon walking a stretch of water I call “The River Wild.” Wow, a lot of anglers were out enjoying the weather. Seemed more like a Saturday than a Thursday in the middle of the summer. The fishing was slow, but both Patrick and David got into fish. I had Patrick fishing a Stim with a small BHPT dropper, and David fishing a two-fly wet team. The trout liked the Stim and the top dropper on David’s rig, a Squirrel and Ginger. Good job, guys. That was fun, and keep on keepin’ on!

David working the seams of run. We moved into this pool moments after another angler left, and connected with a trout on our second cast.

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This is Patrick’s first ever Farmington River brown. He hit is a snotty riffle in about 18″ of water. 

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Afterwards I went dry fly fishing. Holy crowds, Batman! Nine anglers in Campground Pool at 5pm. So I sought my pleasures elsewhere. I had a tough night of sorts — I fooled well over a dozen fish (they were on larger sulphurs, Dorothea, and tiny BWOs) but only connected with four of them. I completely botched the hookset on one; another broke off at my tippet/leader connection (that’s the end of that old spool, and if you catch a nice brown with a Hendrickson Usual in its mouth, please remove it); the remainder made it in and were released to fight another day. We are now firmly in the summer dry fly fishing pattern. That is, lower water, smaller flies, trout on emergers and spinners, hatches (and therefore action) that seems to randomly wax and wane. I recommend a long tippet/leader setup  (I’ve been going about 13 feet) and be advised that the fish may not be feeding on those bright yellow bugs. The 7:30-to-dark window continues to be productive.

I think it’s about time I headed over to the Hous for some smallies…