Housy Smallmouth Report: White flies on the wane?

I fished from 5:30pm to 9:00pm. The hatch was decent enough, but nowhere near the numbers I saw last Thursday. Here are some of the lessons I’m learning.

Spot A was an area I’ve never fished before, below the 4/7 concrete bridge. A big, gnarly riffle that dumps into deep pool, then an even deeper pool, before transitioning into a placid run. I was disappointed to hook only one bass. I can’t imagine that there aren’t a lot of fish living in that stretch. Spot B was within the TMA. I tossed my TeQueely into some frog water on the edge of a riffle. The bass slammed into the fly the moment it penetrated the surface membrane. Best hit of the year, any species. Always investigate that transition water between current and frog.

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Think a Housy smallmouth might like a white fly soft hackle like this? (Size 10 hook, cream hackle, fibers, and white Pearsall’s.) You betcha. Trout, too. I took a pretty foot-long brown on this fly (no picture — quick landing and release), as well as numerous bass. Fishing a team of wet flies pre-hatch is sound in practice, but it can get problematic with smallies. I was fishing a team of two and had to cut one fly off due to excessive doubles. Same problem with the soft hackle I had dropped off my White Wulff and Convertible dries: too many doubles. I know, life’s tough.

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White flies get all the juice, but let’s not neglect their smaller photo-negative, the black caddis. Swarms of these flies everywhere. I even took a dozen home with me in my Jeep. Going to tie up some Black Magic soft hackles, about a 14-16.

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Last year, the bass would attack a streamer even if they were feeding on something small on the surface, and especially as dusk made its way toward night. Not so this year during the white fly hatch. So maybe smallmouth are more trout-like than I give them credit for. I was targeting one bigger fish that kept rising in some shallows — I got him to bump the streamer, but it was at best a half-hearted attempt. This dude came to net on a White Wulff size 12. 

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Farmington River Report 8/4/17: “To play him long is to play him wrong.”

The quote is from Stu Apte. Before we get to its relevance, a quick Farmy report.

I fished the Farmington from 8:15am to noon, dedicated to the nymphing cause. The action was spotty. I started on the lower river, and the first run produced two trout. Spot B was a blank. Up to the permanent TMA. Same deal: the first spot was a two fish pool, the second run a blank.

But why I remember most about the outing was the gross overplaying of a trout I witnessed within the permanent TMA.

I was wading into position when the angler across from me, who was nymphing, hooked the fish. My first notion that this was going to not go well was when I realized that several minutes had passed and he still hadn’t landed the fish. So I set my watch and began timing. Nine minutes later — that’s an accurate time — and the fish had still not been landed! The longer you play a fish, the more things can happen — and most of them are bad. This manifested during minute ten of the timing when the fish popped free. The end result was two very frustrated anglers — and very likely, a dead trout.

Clearly, this gentleman was ill-equipped to battle a large trout. (I saw it at one point, and it appeared to be a brown in the 20-inch class. Big, but certainly manageable and landable.) So, enough criticism. What would I have done differently?

  1. Don’t let him breathe. (The fish, not the angler. Though I was tempted.) This guy spent extended periods with his rod tip high in the air and the trout lounging in the current. All a Mexican standoff does is give the trout a steady supply of oxygenated water. I repeat, don’t let him breathe. If the fish wants to run, let him. When he stops, crank that reel.
  2. Find a better LZ. This guy chose to play the fish in the hot water where it was originally hooked. He completely ignored the plentiful frog water below him, which was a much better place to attempt to net the fish.
  3. Fight the fish with the butt and the reel. The angler had his rod way too high the entire time. Get the fish off balance by arcing the rod in a plane from side to side. That can help move a stubborn fish.
  4. Use a tippet you trust. I never nymph with anything less than 5x. That’s strong enough to handle anything I’m likely to hook.

Finally, keep cool. Fish can’t think. You can.

Housy Smallmouth Report: White Nights

I fished the Hous last night from 6pm-9pm. Things began slowly. The water was up (300cfs and lightly stained) and I’m not sure if that meant the fish were a little more spread out or just hanging on the bottom. I covered some prime runs, long since out of the sun, and only found a few dinks willing to eat. Even once the sun was well below the hills, there was very little surface action, and even fewer fish willing to jump on a surface/film bug. At 7pm I saw two white flies in the space of five minutes. Perhaps the start of something good?

I kept thinking that the pool would light up around 7:30pm. 8:00pm passed and still nothing, nada, bupkis. Then, the first rise ring appeared. I fished a size 8 Convertible on the surface with a size 12 Partridge and White dropped off the bend. The bass liked both flies: dead drifted, swung/waked, and very slowly retrieved. By 8:30 the air was alive with bugs, the water surface cluttered with fluttering white masses (as a fine contrast, there was also a good showing of black caddis, size 16.) I took my last fish at 8:45, and shot the video from the previous post on the wade out.

Some notes: the bass were keyed solely on the hatch. I could coax no interest in a surface bug or streamer. Also, the mosquitoes were fierce once my cigar went out. Bring bug spray or an extra stick. With warming and dropping water levels, I would expect tonight’s action to be excellent.

Best bass of the night, just over a foot long. He took the soft hackle as I performed a slow hand-twist retrieve in some frog water. A really good battle from this fish — he sounded after hookset, bulled and raced, and I didn’t see him until he reached the net.

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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

 

 

Long Island Flyrodders awarded the Legion of Cookout Merit

Many thanks to the members of the Long Island Flyrodders for their generous, welcoming spirit. What an impressive crowd — I believe it was nearly 60 — on a fine summer’s evening. The Long Island Flyrodders know that a fed presenter is a happy presenter, and I must say that my cheeseburger, dog, beans, and — bonus! — bag of Cheetos really hit the spot. (The beer was tasty, too.) Thanks again for hosting me, and I look forward to a return engagement.

These folks know how to hold a meeting. Good spread, good people, good energy — the bar has been set to a new height. 

LIFlyrodders

Housy Smallmouth Report 7/31/17: lukewarm bronze

We can endeavor for hot, but sometimes you’ve got to take what nature gives you. I fished the TMA from 5pm-8:45pm last night, dedicated to the smallmouth cause. I started off with a white/chartreuse conehead bugger in a mix of sun and shadows and caught a bazillion smallies from 4-6″. That was fun, but it really wasn’t why I was there. So I headed to another spot that would be completely in the shade.

This second run was a bona fide honey hole for me last summer, with plentiful bass, and some pushing the foot-long mark. On this evening, it was a bittersweet reminder that every year is different. One dink was all I could manage.

In fact, it took a while for things to get going. The best fishing really didn’t happen until full dusk, with the typical it’s-dark-now shutoff. The big one eluded me, but I took several fish that pushed 12″. Most of the smallies were keyed on emergers, and unlike last year there were stretches where they ignored the streamer. (And several instances where they pile-drived the bug the moment it hit the water.)

And you can’t make this up: around 7:30pm, I was swinging a Zoo Cougar through a pocketed run. Bump….BUMP. Fish on. As I was stripping it in, I said out loud, “You think you’ve got an 18″ brown, but it’s really an 8″ smallie.” A few moments later, I realized that it was a trout — a big old rainbow. Once I knew what I had hooked, I hauled it in quick. The fish was in great shape, high teens, fat, intact fins, deep pink band. I was going to take a photo, then thought better of it, and released the fish, which swam off in seemingly great spirits.

Water was 296cfs and 69 degrees. No white flies yet.

Handsome fish. This guy took the bug on the dangle near the surface, and treated me to several frantic aerials. I like the translucency of the pectoral fin.

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