Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swamp Rabbits for Lowland Snook, Tarpon and Reds

Swamp Rabbit - Mangrove Minnow Coloration

Hook: Gamakatsu SP17 2-2/0
Thread: Olive or tan (go with a strong thread like GSP)
Tail: Olive variant zonked
Body: Crayfish tan cross cut
Head: Mottled soft hackle in a tan or brown
Eyes: 3D molded (glue on either side and fill in the gaps on the top and bottom with an epoxy or epoxy substitute like clear cure goo)

First, tie in a 3 inch piece of 15 pound stiff mono. Tie the mono in on the top of the hook shank with the majority hanging off the end. Next, tie in your olive rabbit on top of the hook shank above the bend.  Then, take a bodkin and poke a hole in the middle of the olive rabbit. The hole should be roughly a 1/2 inch back from the tie in point.  After that, take the mono run it the hole in the rabbit and pull it forward towards the eye.  Adjust the tension until the mono is tight and the rabbit lays straight back.  Don't worry, the mono will disappear amongst the rabbit fur fibers.  Secure the mono and clip off any excess.  The mono will keep the rabbit tail from fouling around the hook when casting.  Next, tie in the cross-cut tan rabbit and palmer it forward.  Don't worry about crowding the head.  You want a large head to allow a place to secure the eyes.  Once you've secured the cross-cut rabbit, take your soft hackle and strip one side. Then, tie the feather so the concave side lays back and make two or three wraps.  Tie off and whip finish.  Finally, glue the eyes on either side of the thread head and fill in the top and bottom with epoxy or epoxy substitute.  All done.

The Fly
You can't go wrong with rabbit strip flies.  They have unbelievable movement in the water.  Also, they rabbit material comes in every color imaginable so you can match the hatch or throw something loud and obnoxious.   This particular color pattern (tan and olive) is my go-to color pattern back in the mangroves for snook.  Also, purple collar with a black tail would be a good choice in low light or dirty water conditions.  The swamp rabbit is a popular back country saltwater fly but it has a great deal of potential in both cold and warm fresh water.  Off the top of my head, all white with a silver flash hackle collar would be nice. Or, all chartreuse with a copper flash hackle collar has smallmouth written all over it.

There are a few things to think about when tying and fishing rabbit flies.  First, they get water logged, which poses a couple of problems.  One problem is a wet rabbit fly is tough to present softly.  The heaviness of the fly's tail causes a slap on the water.  So, if you need a delicate fly try substituting the rabbit with a feather or fox fibers.  Another problem is that a heavy fly can become difficult to cast especially in the wind.  Again, you can substitute the rabbit for a feather.  Second, the tail is prone to fouling.  I use mono to combat this problem.  Gluing a small portion of the skin at the base of the tail with super glue is another option.   There are a couple other options but glue and mono are the easiest and most effective.

I'm heading to Naples, Florida in a few days to fish the lowlands and 'groves for some reds, resident tarpon and snookies.  Hopefully I will return with some good grip and grin shots.

Tight lines.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Winter's Hope Variation...

I could use some winter's hope for a lot of things including some warmer temperatures! Can I get some 33 degrees please.

Hook: Any upturned eye spey hook.
Body: Silver tinsel
Wing: Two-toned zonked rabbit - orange over yellow
Head: Dubbed ball of purple arctic fox behind a dubbed ball of kingfisher blue arctic fox
Note: Pick out the arctic fox for more movement.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Jack Gartside's Fish Head Streamer

Here's another simple fly that has a world of fishing potential.  This is my first attempt at the Gartside Fish Head Streamer (FHS).  I know I will be making some improvements but it's a good start.

The Fly
The FHS is relatively easy to tie.  The recipe calls for a hackle tail (schlappan), a palmered marabou body and an EZ body head.  You can add weight or foam before you form the head if you like.  It looks very realistic and I imagine it will swim nicely in the water.

The Story
I love streamers but most of the patterns in my arsenal would be considered attractors.  They are large, flashy and leave a significant auditory footprint.  They are designed to be fished fast and trigger strikes.  However, sometimes you need to tone it down a notch - in gear terms its like going from a rapala to a fin-s-fish soft plastic.  Up until now my subtle streamer choice was a murdich minnow.  If you've seen a murdich minnow it has a slimmer profile but is still very flashy and requires some speed to create movement.  When I came across this pattern I felt like I struck gold.

First, the FHS is easy to tie (once you get used to the EZ body head).  Second, it requires very few materials.  Third, it has a lot of movement at very slow speeds (at least in the bath tub).  So, you can twitch it and pause and the fly will continue to move.  Fourth, it is a highly realistic pattern, which is great for clear water situations where you need a more subtle approach.  Fifth, it is highly versatile, which is a very attractive characteristic.  Finally, although the fly is long and has a full profile in the water, it is very light in hand and should be easy to cast.

My biggest gripe with the FHS is that you need a pretty wide gap hook to avoid compromising hooking ability due to the EZ body head.  The pictured fly uses a size 2 TMC 8089. This model is TMC's bass bug hook; it has a very large gap for its size 2 designation.  My next attempts will be on a long shank hook such as a Daiichi 2461 or possibly a tube.  Also, EZ body is kind of a misnomer.  The material comes with two fabric ribs running long ways along the tube.  To achieve a rounded head you need to remove the ribs.  This is EZier said than done.  However embarrassing it is to say, I have not figured out an easy way to do this.  In any event, so far, the pros far outweigh the cons.
Seen Better Days

My conclusion is that the fly has a lot of potential.  I'm sure I will do some tweaking once I get it in a fishing situation.  For now, I think its a good fly to have on hand.

Click here to be directed to Jack Gartside's web page for tying instructions.

Tight lines.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Helpful Intruder Tying Demonstration

I figure if you want a helpful intruder tying demonstration video, then you should have one from someone who does it for a living. This is British Columbia based fly fishing guide Todd Scharf demonstrates how to tie his version of a blue intruder, a fly fishing fly used to catch steelhead and salmon. 4 videos total.

Visit Upstream Adventures Guiding Service, Inc. for more information on fishing in BC

When Playing Around With Intruders is a Good Idea

As I've said before, I enjoy tying steelhead and salmon flies in the west coast tradition.  Lately I've been playing around with the tube fly intruders.  If you are like me and just starting to tie these types of patterns or you are new to tying, I've learned a few things that may help you save some time, materials, flies and maybe fish down the road.


  1. If you are using rhea, ostrich, or other stiff stemmed feather, start by stripping the feather rather than cutting the fibers and putting them into a dubbing loop.  Although neither technique is quick nor easy, I've found that stripping and palmering the fiber creates less waste and fuller patterns.  See above post for a helpful demonstration on stripping feathers and tying intruder style flies.
  2. If you've stripped the fiber be sure to soak the stripped hackle in warm water before tying it in.  This step accomplishes three things.  First, warm water softens the stem making wrapping much easier.  Second, warm water controls the fibers that are generally wispy and difficult to manage.  Third, warm water will remove excess dye from the fibers.  I tie these flies as much for my enjoyment as for fishing.  Also, you often want to use contrasting light and dark colors.  So, the last thing you want is to dunk your new creation into the drink only to find that five minutes later the dark fibers have bled onto the light fibers.
  3. As usual, less is more.  The pictured fly is too fully dressed.  By that I mean I used one or two too many wraps of ostrich in both the rear section and front section.  If you are tying with damp fibers the fly with look sparse but once the fly dries (or is fully submerged under water) it will take on a fuller profile.  So, while at the vise, trust that this will occur and don't overcompensate by adding an extra wrap of material.  That being said, if you are tying a large fly for high water situations wrap away and create that full profile.
I hope you find some of these pointers helpful. I'm sure I'll have many more observations down the road. Also, if you have any tips on tying intruder style patterns or using rhea/ostrich feathers or the like I would love to hear what you have to say.

Tight lines.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Steelhead Trip of 2010 Report

As always we had a fun time fishing in Baldwin.  Water temps were around 35 and water conditions were low and clear.  We fished hard and had a few pulls but no fish to hand.  Nevertheless, we learned a lot more about swinging flies in tough conditions and there were a few fish in the river (we could see them as we floated over the hole after we fished it).  I expect if they get some more water in the system the bite will turn on.  Also, the clear water allowed us to see some of the PM's monster brown trout, which quickly directed our thoughts to streamers and terrestrials.  The PM gets a lot of attention for its steelhead and salmon but it is an equally outstanding brown and rainbow fishery.  Anyway, going back up in February 2011 for some pay back.  At least I'm down to probably around 500 casts and counting.

Tight lines.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Final Steelhead Trip of 2010 (Most Likely)

And then there were clothes (and more gear).  My dad and I are heading north to Baldwin Michigan for the final time in 2010.  The air temps are supposed to be near freezing on Saturday, which is workable.  I'm not thinking about Sunday. Water temps have been dropping this week but hopefully have leveled out.  I'm hearing some mixed reports on conditions but it is sounding like the steelies are swimming in some low clear water once again, which will make things fun.

I'm packing some pretty bugs, some ugly bugs, some heavy bugs, some light bugs, and some particularly grumpy lookin' bugs.  Also, a wide range of sink tips are making the trip. I'm betting one combination will find a fish . . . or maybe not but it will be fun trying.  Its always fun to get out and experience the peace and serenity that the woods and rivers have to offer.  Hopefully I'll return with some reports. Tight lines.
One of the pretty ones (not a novel design but I'm calling it a PM Hot Toddy)

I Wish the Midwest Streams Rolled like This . . .

Fly Nation TV: Skeena Steelhead Trailer from Nick Pujic on Vimeo.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

I'm jealous...these guys are doers

The Waters of Greenstone-Official Trailer from Taylor Kirkpatrick on Vimeo.

Blue Moon Marabou Spey

Hook: Size 2 heavy iron
Body: Black diamond braid with blue flashabou rib
Cushion: Blue craft fur dubbed in a ball
Hackle:  1/2 stripped light blue marabou feather (not too wispy); ten black rhea fibers sloping back; 2 strands blue flashabou doubled over; 1/2 stripped black marabou feather

First, at 3/4s down the hook shank, tie in a couple strands of blue flashabou.  Second, tie in your diamond braid. Third, wrap the diamond braid up the hook shank leaving about 1/5th hook shank between the diamond braid and the eye.  Fourth, rib the diamond braid with the flashabou.  Fifth, create a dubbing loop, fill the loop with craft fur (arctic fox or seal substitute would suffice) and spin.  Then, create a significant craft fur ball but try not to crowd the eye of the hook. Sixth, take your 1/2 stripped blue marabou feather, tie it in so the fibers will slope back and make three or four turns.  Seventh, tie in the rhea fibers so that they surround the diameter of the hook and curve inward. Eighth, take your 1/2 stripped black marabou feather, tie it in so the fibers will slope back and give it three or four turns.  Your head should be a moderate size at this point so tie it off and give it a swing.

The Fly
This fly is a cute little marabou spey pattern tied in the fish-catching colors of black and blue. Although I rarely turn to this kind of fly when fishing in Michigan or Wisconsin, I love tying steelhead flies that fall into the classic west coast and Alaskan tradition.  Sure, I'll break one out for a couple swings but all too often I quickly and cowardly turn back to my black leech and olive sculpin patterns that have put fish in hand.  Nevertheless, these flies are elegant, artistic, and in that sense they compliment their quarry like no other fly.  As I advance down the road that is steelheading I'm sure they will begin to play a more prominent role.  But for now they are just the pretty flies crowding a corner of my box and I'm glad they're there. 

Tight lines.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Say Ahhhh...Saw this over at This is Fly Daily


Michigan Sculpin Pattern for Steelhead

Hook: Daiichi 2461 size 2
Tail:  Arctic fox tied temple dog style
Body: Peacock Ice Dub with schlappan palmered through
Wing: Copper and green Flashabou
Hackle: Natural mallard
Head: Australian possum in a dubbing loop and fire orange in a dubbing loop
Again, sorry about the fuzzy picture.

The Fly
This fly is a regular steelhead producer on bright days in Michigan.  The fly pictured is a slight variation of Kevin Feenstra's Emulator Sculpin, which has become quite popular.  I like size 2 flies but you can certainly go bigger or smaller depending on the conditions.

First, take a clump of arctic fox and brush out any underfur.  Then, tie in the tail so the tips facing the eye of the hook.  Next, double the tail back so it lays with the tips behind the fly and cinch it down.  This tying procedure gives the fox a little extra life.  Then, tie in the tip of the schlappan and dub the body.  Next, palmer wrap the body with the schlappan leaving the front quarter of the hook for the head.  At this point you may tie in some flash.  I like copper, green, gold, and a little red at times.  Once you've tied off the schlappan and the flash, tie in a mallard feather by its tip and make one or two wraps.  Try to make sure the mallard feather fibers are sloping back.  After that, form a dubbing loop and fill it with the possum and ice dub.  Once you've spun the dubbing loop pick out the possum giving it a buggy look (the possum fibers will breath in the water). Wrap the loop up to the eye of the hook and tie off.  Time to let it swing. Tight lines.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I saw this over at Moldy Chum blog - Captivating Video of Steelhead on the Swing

Spey and Switch Fly Rods – Red Truck Fly Fishing Company from Leland Fly Fish on Vimeo.

My Attempt at a Fish Taco

Base: 25 mm Waddington Shank or 3xl streamer hook cut at the bend
Connection:  30lbs Fireline  or beading wire
Hook: 4 Gamakatsu Octopus
Weight: Small lead free wire (optional)
Rear Egg: Chartreuse chenille
Body: Pink diamond braid secured by medium gold wire
Wing: Pink ostrich in a dubbing loop with flash tied on top
Hackle: Pink schlappan


Secure your base into the vise.  Loop the hook onto the Fireline and lash the Fireline to the hook.  I like to add some glue for extra security. At this point you can add a thin layer of weight to the front third of the base, leaving some room at the front.  Once the glue has dried, tie in a ball of chenille at the rear.  In front of the chenille, tie in the diamond braid and wire.  Next, wrap the diamond braid up the base and tie off (still leaving room at the front).  Secure the diamond braid with gold wire and tie off at the same point as the diamond braid.  Then, form a dubbing loop.  Wax the dubbing loop and add the ostrich (10 herls or so).  Spin the dubbing loop and wrap. Try to sweep the ostrich back in between each wrap.  After you've tied off the ostrich you can add a wing of flash.  Make the flash as sparse or as heavy as you'd like.  Following that, strip one side of the schlappan hackle.  Tie in the hackle so the concave side is facing the rear.  The goal with the schlappan is to have the fibers sweep back towards the rear when finished.  Make two or three wraps of the hackle and tie off.  You're done. 

The Fly

This fly is my first attempt at a fly called a Fish Taco.  The fly was originated by Jeff Hickman for west coast steelhead in clear water situations.  The Fish Taco has a slimmer profile but plenty of movement and is easy to cast.  

I've read pink with gold and chartreuse flash or gold and blue/green flash work well on bright, cold days in the winter when you need to coax fish into action.  I have to be honest, I haven't caught a fish on this pattern but I haven't fished the fly very much and, frankly, I'm still trying to figure out the basics of the swing game.  I think it will be a producer.  If you tie one up and get a fish on it let me know.   Also, if you come up some adaptations that tailor this fly for our Midwest streams I'd enjoy hearing about those as well.

I really enjoy tying this pattern.  You can make it as simple or as complex as you want.  Additionally, with today's diverse selection of materials and colors you can experiment with the pattern to meet your needs.  I'm heading up to Michigan this coming weekend to swing some flies.  You can bet this fly will get some playing time.  Tight lines.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Highs in the low 20s in Chicago - Time for some fodder for the day dreams

West Coast Tarpon On Fly from Bryon Chamberlin on Vimeo.

Steve Farrar's Flash Blend Fly

Hook: Short shank saltwater hook
Body: Steve Farrar flash blend
Eyes: 3D eyes

I've been playing around with Steve Farrar flash blend.  The material is like EP fiber but a little stiffer.  Also, unlike EP fiber, it has a fine flash material blended in with the fly.  I find the best results when I use small amounts of fiber for each section.  Tying with SP blend is like sculpting.  Once you've completed the base amount of fiber you brush the fly and begin to cut your desired shape. This is a fun material for creative fly tyers.

Flies tied in this material have a subtle swimming motion that becomes more prominent as the stripping speed increases.

Although mostly talked about in saltwater circles, I think its worth giving it a try for fresh water species such as bass, pike, and the lake run trout and salmon.  I haven't fished them very much yet but they look pretty tasty.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Go-To Smallmouth Fly

Hook: Gamakatsu 60 degree bend size 2
Thread: Chartreuse
Tail: 1/8th or 1/4th cut rabbit zonker
Body: Cross cut rabbit
Collar: Copper polar hackle
Head: Rabbit fur in dubbing loop wrapped around medium lead eyes.

Play with weight, flash, and color to adjust for conditions.  Olive is a very productive color as well.

I apologize for the fuzzy picture.  It may be a while before I can afford a proper camera so please bear with me.

The Story

For generations my family has spent summers on a deep, cold lake in northern Michigan.  When I was little I fished with my grandfather for perch and rock bass, which was fun but a panfish is, well, a panfish.  At first glance, the shallows appeared to be barren. So, as I grew, my attentions turned away from the lake and to the surrounding rivers hunting browns and rainbows.  Until one day when I was swimming I saw a large dark shape beneath me.  A bass!  A large bass!  Cruising the shallows looking for the abundant minnows and crayfish.  Needlesstosay, I spent much of that summer fruitlessly casting from the dock.

The following memorial day weekend I was determined to catch that bass.  My dad and I hopped in a canoe and starting paddling.  Peering in the water we quickly realized that the large expanse of barren sand was dotted with structure usually anchors for rafts or bouys, old logs, small weed patches or a combination of the three.  We quickly realized that many of those small structures held bass.  We had a ball.  What was once a dead lake has become my location X.  I can only hope that every fishermen finds their own.

The Fly

The fishery teaches us something new every year.  Most flies produce well one year and poorly the next except my go-to.   Every year its one of three patterns that I start with and always the one I put on when I'm finding it hard to get bit.  The fly is my confidence fly.

My go-to is very simple.  Tie in some dumbbell eyes. Tie in the tail at the bend of the hook.  Palmer the cross-cut rabbit forward to the eyes.  Put some rabbit fur in a dubbing loop and wrap the dubbing loop around the eyes.  You can tie them in a variety of colors as long as they are olive and chartreuse.  Its worked for me wherever smallmouth are found including Lake Michigan.  The one tip I have is to retrieve it slowly across the bottom.  To accomplish this use an intermediate sinking line and long leader.  Let the sinking line sink to or near the bottom.  Place the tip of the rod into the water as deep as you can and use long slow strips.  The fly works with a more typical twitch retrieve but its magic with the slow retrieve. Of course a slow retrieve can't be accomplished in every environment, but where the structure allows I would employ the technique.  Keep it simple and get some bronze.  Enjoy, tight lines.

Luscious Leech

Luscious Leech Recipe
Hook: Daichi 2461 Size 2
Tail: Olive or Black Rabbit Zonker Strip
Body: Crosscut Olive or Black Rabbit Strip palmered to front of hook
Wing: Palmered barred Woodduck flank to front
Head: Orange Ice Dub

In fishing as in life, simpler is often better.  This is a simple leech pattern that is easy to cast, swims well, and produces fish.  Steelhead love this fly.  I haven't tried the Luscious Leech in the Wisconsin streams but I'm confident it will be a hit.  

The luscious leech is tied and fished by my friend and guide Jeff Hubbard.  He guides primarily on the Pere Marquette, White, and Muskegon rivers in western Michigan for steelhead, trout, salmon and bass.  

Time for a little shameless plug.   If you want to learn about fishing for trout and steelhead generally as well as swinging flies for steelhead give Jeff a call (click on his name to go to his website).  The cliché rings true, Jeff has forgotten more about steelhead than I will ever know and, frankly, he's one of the best fishermen that I have had the pleasure to fish with.  Take a trip down the river with Jeff and you'll end the day with some great grip-and-grin shots and some fishing knowledge in your back pocket.

Tight Lines.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cool Steelhead Video Clip

King Salmon Kill Shot - A Fly to Tame the Beast of Lake Michigan

Hook(s): Trailer -Diiachi 2461 2/0, TMC 600 SP 2/0
Thread: White GSP
Joint: Malin wire and 3 beads
Tail: Schlappan
Body: Both built up buck tail - see previous post of the GL Deceiver
Eyes: 3D
Flash Options: Flashabou over the schlappan tail and angel hair sparsely incorporated into the body

Epoxy head comes standard.

The Story

As Lake Michigan king salmon enter the tributaries to spawn in the late summer and fall, I imagine they are not unlike the Omega Fraternity from Animal House; self-centered, arrogant, with a chip on their shoulder.  The kings travel in groups, gang up in deep holes, river bends and log jams and take kill shots at any "inferior" river dwellers.

Honestly, I'm still figuring out the king salmon streamer bite.   But my few successful outings in northern Michigan have taught me a few things - most notably that King's Are Mean!  

For instance, in the fall of 2010, I finally timed the run correctly.  The area I was fishing received some rain, overcast skies, cooling temperatures, and water temperatures in the mid 50s, plus a fresh push of fish.  Loaded with a long and gaudy streamer, I secured a position at the top of some good holding water and started chucking.  I proceeded to watch king after king shoot out of the whole and swat at my fly without hooking up.  Some of the swats were close to the surface and I could see that the fish were hitting the streamer in the middle of the fly.  However, because of my fly design the hook point was located in the front third of the fly.

That night I went back to the drawing board and decided to add a trailing hook.  I'd seen flies like this on the internet and figured it was worth a shot.  Essentially it is an articulated GL Deceiver.  Once fully constructed the trailing hook point was in the middle or back third of the fly - perfect.

The next morning I returned to the same spot but this time at the tail-out of the hole.  First cast with the new fly brought a lazy chase from a king.  On the second cast the fly got blasted.  After a solid fight I tailed the fish with the trailing hook sitting securely in its jaw.

After releasing the fish, I moved back to the top of the hole.  A handful of casts later I had the coolest king strike to date.  As the fly passed over the hole, seemingly unnoticed, and into the shallow water near me a king bolted out of the hole and inhaled the fly.  Mind you, this fly was 7 inches long maybe 8 when wet and I watched the entire fly disappear.  Unfortunately, the fish bolted downstream and went air born dislodging itself. How I didn't get a hook in him is beyond me.  It was a great eat an even better jump but no fish.  I guess that's fishing.

Anyway, there are two things to draw from this story: first, stripping streamers for kings is one of the most exciting methods of fly fishing in North America; and second, most of the hits I got were what I call kill shots, which were missed absent a trailing hook.  By kill shots I mean the kings were angry; saw something small entering their space and they wanted to attack the intruder.  So, they aimed for the middle of the thing and blasted away.  The other strike in this story could have been an eat.  The fish was very bright and I was in the lower river so the fish could have come into the river a few hours before and maintained its feeding instinct.  It also could have been a massive kill shot.

Bottom line, when tying streamers for king salmon in the great lakes it behooves you to construct the fly so the  hook point is towards the back or add a trailing hook if your stream allows for it.  It should be noted that the west coast guys have known about this for years hence the intruder fly pattern with a single trailing hook way in the back.  I believe such a fly will increase your hooking average in the end.

The Fly

As I mentioned above, this fly is nothing more than a double GL Deceiver. The KSKS has an outstanding swimming action in the water.  My preferred patterns are: fire tiger, blue over white, green over white, chartreuse over white, brown/olive over yellow, and brown/olive over white.  Although this fly is a lot of fun to tie, it takes some time and a lot of material.  I like to add some glue at the base of each buck tail tie in point and epoxy the head so your efforts aren't wasted on one fish.  Also, I love this fly in smaller sizes when targeting early season browns and smallmouth bass.  Kings also like the smaller sizes when the water conditions are low and clear.  Enjoy experimenting with this fly.

Tight Lines. 

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goby Goby Goby...

Hook:  TMC 8089 size 6
Thread:  Olive GSP
Weight: Medium dumbbell eyes
Head: Arctic fox tail fur in a dubbing loop
Pectoral fins: Medium to large mallard flank feathers
Belly: Palmered white schlappan
Tail: 4 schlappan - 2 feathers on either side of hook
Minimal flash optional.

The Story

The great lakes region suffers from numerous invasive species.  Of late, two species of Asian carp have grabbed the headlines.  Before them was the  round goby and zebra mussel just to name a few.  And before those species entered the great lakes the notable invasive species were the smelt and alewife.  On a side note, invasive species are not always a bad thing.  For instance, smelt, though technically an invasive species, have become a staple for many of the great lakes trout and salmon species.  And now scientists are trying to protect the smelt from more modern invasive species.  To be fair, in the long run, I don't know if the goby and zebra mussel can exist without horribly disrupting the ecosystem.  I speculate that gobies may be more susceptible to contaminants.  Accordingly, they could damage predator populations by poisoning the fish that eat the gobies.  However, as this post suggests, for now, from a fisherman's perspective, they seem to have helped some predator fish populations by providing a consistent food source when other prey populations are in decline.

Goby Galore 

Take a walk down Chicago's lake front and peer into the water.  If you look closely you will see a one inch to four inch tan, brown, or olive fish  sitting on the bottom.  Upon further examination you will quickly realize that the one fish is not alone.  In fact there are hundreds, even thousands of gobies scattered along the lake bed.  As the picture above indicates, gobies look a lot like a sculpin.  They have a prominent head and dart along the bottom.  Gobies have mottled skin of olive, brown or tan.  They typically congregate around rocks, jetties and similar underwater structure.   They dart around the bottom quickly in short hops from spot to spot.  Any fly imitating a goby should be able to imitate their movements.  To help the cause, I suggest using a sinking or sink tip line.  I have a Beulah Guide Series eight weight that throws a 300 grain DC-24 reasonably well.

Goby and the Giant Brown Trout

Gobies appear to be thriving in lake Michigan and the fish species that have adapted to feed on them are thriving  as well.  I believe its no coincidence that after the goby invasion of the great lakes the brown trout and smallmouth bass fisheries started to produce monsters specimen and are now considered some of the best fisheries of their kind in the world.  For example, roughly in the last twelve months two brown trout in excess of 40 pounds were caught out of lake Michigan.  One fish was caught on lake Michigan's east coast, the other was caught on lake Michigan's west coast.  Both were world records one being the new all tackle world record.  Why is this happening?  Because brown trout have adapted to feed on the gobies.   Gobies have filled great lakes harbors and when water temperatures drop into the low 60s and 50s the brown trout fill the harbors to gorge on the buffet.  Click on this link to read an interesting article detailing the relationship between the goby and brown trout and what it means for fisherman.

The Fly

In an effort to take advantage of this feeding pattern I devised a fly to imitate a goby.  This fly was inspired by a fly called a chubby muffin tied by Nick Granato.  The two patterns only differ in the materials used.  My fly uses a four feather schlappan tail tied with the feathers concave side facing in.  Next, I palmer a white schlappan feather over the tail's tie in point. Then, I take some arctic fox and cut off a clump of the fur's tips.  I tie the tips sloping back thereby covering the top of the white schlappan and creating a solid dark back when wet.  Following that, I tie in a mallard flank feather on each side of the fly.  Tie the feathers in with the concave side facing forward.  The mallard flank feather serves as a nice imitation of the prominent pectoral fins of a goby (see picture) as well as a way to increase the fly's auditory foot print.  At that point, I create a dubbing loop, fill the loop with a generous amount of arctic fox and wrap forward.  Make sure to pack the head after each wrap to build up bulk.  The head will look pretty wild.  Just clean up the edges and you're done.  Remember, do not trim the head too much.  A large head on this fly serves as a proper anatomical imitation but also pushes water, which is an important part of any streamer fly.   You can add weight if necessary.  I like dumbbell eyes to cause the hook point to ride facing up.

By the way, I focused on brown trout and smallmouth bass but steelhead eat them as well.  Check out the belly of the steelhead pictured below.  She was caught within a foot from a jetty wall on the goby pattern shown above.

Tight lines.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Devil's Gold Video - In light of Chicago's first snow fall I thought it best to let our minds drift to warmer climates and monster dorado!

GL Deceiver - Perch Pattern for Lake Michigan Trout and Salmon

Hook: TMC 811S 2-2/0
Thread: GSP Olive or White
Tail: 4 Schlappan Feathers - 2 on either side of the hook, flash optional
Body: Buck tail
Eyes: 3D eyes
Epoxy coating over the head and eyes optional

The Story

Fly fishermen without cars in Chicago have limited options. However, the options that are available can produce some serious fish. Depending on the time of year fishing from shore can yeild king salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, lake trout, smallmouth bass, or big seeforellen and german brown trout (my favorite). Not to mention huge carp and freshwater drum as well as northern pike on occasion. Truth be told, this is not a numbers fishery. You need to put your time in and be tuned into the weather and water temperatures. Nevertheless, even the over-prepared fishermen will be humbled while fly fishing Chicago's lake front. However, if you time your trip right the fishing can be outstanding. I've had banner days fishing for smallmouth in the spring, catching bass over 20". Also, I've had solid days fishing for brown trout and steelhead. Watching a big seeforellen chase down your streamer will make up for the many fish less hours and dirty looks.

The Fly

This fly is a variation of the classic lefty's deceiver.  The pictured fly is a perch pattern.  Other successful patterns include fire tiger, chartreuse over white, brown/olive over yellow, brown/olive over white, and black over purple.  I first saw this pattern while hunting big browns with guide Jeff Boks on the AuSable river in Michigan.  However, I believe this deceiver variant was developed by Eli Berant of Great Lakes Fly in Michigan.

The key to this fly is its auditory footprint and profile, which is made by building up the buck tail body.  The large body accomplishes two things.  First, the large body pushes water, which helps fish track the fly in low light or dirty water conditions.  Second, the large body diverts water and causes the schlappen tail to swim vigorously.  I've found that the action of the fly is directly related to the size of the body.

1.  Body

To accomplish this you must tie the buck tail body in three to four sections with a clump of buck tail tied in on the top and bottom of the hook.  Begin by tying the first buck tail section at the base of the tail and proceed forward to the eye of the hook.  If you want a dense fly, then leave little space between the sections.  I prefer to leave about four to six thread wraps between the sections.  That sequence strikes the best balance between cast-ability and water displacement.  When you tie in the buck tail clump you must crank down on it almost like deer hair (but without spinning).  By cranking down on the buck tail you splay the buck tail up and out to the sides creating a three dimensional fly.  Repeat this step with each section both top and bottom.

2.  Tail

In spite of my organization, remember to tie the tail in first.  The tail is tied in in the traditional deceiver style.  I prefer to tie the feathers with the concave sides facing inward.  I believe this causes a greater s-swim but experimentation is what fly tying is all about.  Another tip: I like to throw some epoxy on the head of the fly.  I did this mostly because errant casts in harbors cause flies to hit cement - not good.  Epoxy-free flies didn't last very long.  Also, this is a big fly that attracts big fish, which have equally matched teeth and attitude.  I had a three foot king salmon demolish a fly which lacked some epoxy coating. Enjoy.

Tight Lines.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Great Video: Nymphing vs. Swinging for Steelhead

Initial Posting


This is my swan dive into the sea of blogging.  My friends and family will freely tell you that, like it or not, conversations with me will find its way to a fly fishing related topic i.e. fish, gear, water conditions, weather patterns, new flies, the next trip and so on.  In part, this blog is to divert some of my fly fishing ramblings off of them.


At age two, with my snoopy rod in hand and fishing buddy (my dad) behind me I caught my first fish.  Then, under my eighth Christmas tree lay my first fly rod outfit, a Berkley with matching reel.  As my dad and grandfather guided my casting in the snow covered yard a love affair with fly fishing began and I have never looked back.  Well . . . truth be told I dabble in the world of gear fishing from time to time but those occasions are continually less frequent.

Point and Purpose

With that said, my dad and I have had the opportunity to fish lakes and rivers both foreign and domestic.  Not surprisingly we have gathered a great deal of fishing knowledge, theories, and strategies.  Much of the information is useful, some of it is not, and the utility of some of it is yet to be realized.  So, I created this blog to serve many purposes.  First, is to record past, present and future tidbits of fishing information so that my dad and can improve as fly fishermen.  Second, is to share the knowledge with other fly fishermen and create a dialog so that we may learn from each other.  Finally, this blog serves as an outlet so that I may ramble about fly fishing without boring some of my friends and family to death.

Tight Lines.