Smallmouth candy

I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to share a concept/work-in-progress. What do we know? The Hous is high and it’s loaded with rusty crayfish which smallies eat. I’ve done precious little bottom bouncing with crayfish patterns, and I want to explore that. So: dumbbell eyes, inverted hook, lots of marabou = lots of motion, rusty/orange/red/brown/green colors, a little flash. We’ll see what the focus group thinks.

No name yet, not even the final materials and colors, but if I were a smallmouth, I’d chow down.

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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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Some Mini and Micro Buggers for the Small Stream Box

‘Tis the season for replenishing sections of the fly box that have been found wanting. The past few days I worked on streamers for my small stream box. While I like to try new flies, I’ve decided on a simple approach this year: proven patterns that will have me covered in variety of situations. So, here we have small Woolly Buggers and variants, sizes 8 and 12, with tungsten and brass beads (and some thread heads) in three basic colors.

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I’ve color-coded the tungsten beadhead flies with red thread — you can see that on the black bugger in the front right. It’s a simple way to keep track of what’s heavy and what’s not. I’ve also swapped out chenille for Ice Dub on the body. You can find the basic recipe for these small buggers here.

The olive flies on the left are Tim Flagler’s Squirrel and Herl Bugger. The original is un-beaded, but I added tungsten heads to two of them. Hopefully Tim is not too horrified. You can find a tying video for this buggy pattern here.

 

Smallmouth bass streamers: TeQueely and Home Invader

I spent some time at the bench last week on two dramatically different smallmouth patterns, the TeQueely and the Home Invader. Neither of them are the kind of streamer that I’d typically fish. The TeQueely is, in a word, horrible. What a mashup of flash and garbage! But smallies love it, so I’m more than willing to suspend my principles in the interest of cartwheeling bronze. You’ll find it on several “best streamers for smallmouth bass” lists.

At first glance, Doug McKnight’s Home Invader is far too opaque for my tastes. And I’m no big fan of dumbbell eyes. Again, allow me to move past those objections and point out what there is to love about the Home Invader, namely marabou, fox fur, and hackle tips. And this fly knows exactly what it wants to be: a big meal for a hungry or uber-aggressive fish. You can read more about the Home Invader and find tying instructions here. Tying instructions for the TeQueely are listed below.

So ugly, they’re beautiful. The TeQueelys are tied on a size 4, the Home Invaders on a size 2 TMC 1710 (1x strong, 2x long). The Home Invader second from bottom is an all marabou variant. All flies pictured are at least 4″ long.

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TeQueely tying instructions:
Hook: TMC 2220 size 2-6
Thread: Black 6/0
Bead: Gold
Tail: Black marabou under black Krystal flash under yellow marabou
Legs: Chartreuse rubber or silicone
Body: Medium black cactus chenille

 

 

The best streamers for smallmouth bass are…

If you do a search for “best” or “top ten” streamers for smallmouth bass, you are presented with an eclectic mix of patterns, typically opaque, with big googly eyes and using all kinds of new-agey materials — often accompanied by seductive promises of fish-catchess prowess. And oh, by the way, you can’t have the recipe, but here’s where you may purchase the wonder fly.

Ahem.

I can’t claim to be an expert on the lesser pie-holed cousins of the bucketmouth, but when I sat down at the vice this weekend to tie some smallmouth streamers I kept things pretty basic. I have a strong suspicion this selection will be met with approval by the target audience — the key word being selection. Some will ride topwater. Some will swim just below the surface. Some will plumb the depths and jig on the retrieve. They feature colors that range from earth-tones to fluorescents. You know the drill: give the fish a choice.

Now, I just gotta get them wet.

Clockwise from bottom left: Gartside Gurgler variants (size 2), three sets of Woolly Bugger variants (sizes 4-6), Deep Threat variants (sizes 4-6), and in the center, some neutral buoyancy thingy I tied on a whim.

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Trout Streamer Leaders for Floating and Full-Sink Lines

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is, “What’s your streamer leader formula?” The answer depends on two factors: the kind of line I’m using, and what I want the fly to do.

When I’m fishing streamers for trout, I fish two kinds of lines: either an integrated full-sink line or a floater. Let’s start with the full sink.

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Here’s a pdf: Trout Streamer Leaders

I use the full sink mostly in winter. Sometimes I’ll use it during warmer weather if the river is running high. I choose the full sink when I want the line to help the fly get down; consequently, the leader is kept short, three feet or less. Anything over three feet and you begin to defeat the purpose of the full-sink line. Don’t worry about the fly being so close to that heavy, dark string — the last thing a predatory brown is focusing on is your line.

There are a few deep holes in the Farmington that I like to dredge in winter. Unfortunately, bottom structure — snags — is often part of the cost of admission to those lairs. That’s when I’ll use the lighter of the two sinking line leader systems, simply because it’s easier to break off the snag from hell.

As you can see, the floating line system is likewise simple. A standard-issue Ox or lx tapered leader does the job nicely. This is what I’ll use for the vast majority of my streamer fishing, or when I am fishing a big floating fly like a mouse pattern. I’ll add tippet material that matches the terminal end of the taper if the leader gets too short. I will also add tippet material if I want to get my fly down deeper. A floating line gives you the ability to mend, and consequently harness the power of the current or sink your fly. So, about 7 1/2 feet for most applications, and about 10 feet to help get the fly deep.

Big trout don’t care about that heavy black string snaking through the water ahead of your fly. Taken on a Deep Threat streamer and a full-sink line.

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A floating line, a 7 1/2 foot leader, a presentation near the surface, and all is right in the streamer world.

Big wild brown hen 8-2015

 

The Hi-Liter Soft-Hackled Streamer

I’m gotten a lot of requests to do a video on my soft-hackled streamers, so here you go with the Hi-Liter.

Hook: 4XL streamer, size 6
Thread: Chartreuse
Bead: Spirit River Hot Bead 3/16″ Chartreuse, seated with .010 wire
Tail: Hot or fluorescent pink marabou over 8 strands pink Krystal flash
Body: Pearl braid
Wing: 8 strands pink Krystal flash to mid-point of tail
Hackle: 4 turns chartreuse marabou blood quill

The following content draws from my original post on the Hi-Liter:

It was the mid 1980s. I’d just landed that coveted first job as a junior copywriter at a mid-sized Connecticut advertising agency. Every job that came across my desk included a creative brief: the background, current situation, brand essence, single most important thought, and support points for what I’d ultimately be creating. I’d pore over the brief with the eagerness of the cub writer I was. But then, I’d want that brief to be even briefer. So I’d reach into my drawer and pull out a highlighter marker. Usually bright green or fluorescent yellow. Sometimes pink. When I was done, that brief would be focused on the essentials. I could see at a glance what was really important.

That’s the energy behind the Hi-Liter streamer.

The moment it hits the water, trout can see what the most important object in the pool is. It’s that thing. That bright, moving, flowing thing. Can’t miss it. There it is. Never seen a baitfish in those colors. But oh, look how it moves and pulses and flashes. The heck with those little black stones. I want that thing. Now. Better eat it before it gets away.

I’d like to tell you that I thought long and hard about the Hi-Liter, and that I field tested it for months. But the truth is that I made it up on the spur of the moment several years ago just hours before I stepped into the river. The trout liked it that day. And they still do.

The Hi-Liter. It looks substantial here, but it casts small, and slims down dramatically in the water. 

HiLiter studio

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A wallflower this streamer is not. Subtlety escapes it. See how the colors pop against muted earth tones? I love the Hi-Liter on bright, sunny days.

HiLiternatural

All wet. My original prototype from years ago.

Highlighter Streamer

Tying notes: With the bead head and the wire seating, the fly will ride hook point up. The weight addition is subtle; this is not intended as a “carpet bomb the bottom” fly. For a more traditional style streamer, skip the bead and the wire. Besides the marking pen reference, the original color scheme draws from the extensive use of chartreuse and pink in striper files. I also tie this fly with a fluorescent yellow or chartreuse tail, and a white hackle. Try not to over-dress the fly; you want the hackle to act as a veil, creating a translucent effect against the body.

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The Hi-Liter Rogues’ Gallery:

Farmington River someteen-inch brown, 3/13/15

16%22 late winter brown

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Farmington River, 1/21/15

Streamer Brown 1:15

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Farmington River, 12/19/17

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