Well, as you can tell from my last post I am a true Smallmouth junkie. I just think they are the coolest fish that swims. I have said many times "pound for pound no true freshwater fish fights harder than a Smallie". When you get them in your hand their body feels like the flexed bicep muscle of a Mr. Olympia contestant. They never stop fighting weather in the net or while you are trying to UN-hook them. The colors are absolutely beautiful, and under the right conditions can grow quite large. Smallmouth are very receptive to flies and fly fishing, I have heard it said that the Smallmouth Bass were made for fly fishing! With several Blue Ribbon Bronzeback rivers near my house, it is no wonder that the Smallmouth bass season is my favorite time of year.
I have been shooting a lot of video with my GoPro camera over the past month. Anyone who has ever done any video work will understand when I say shooting the video is a lot easier than editing it. I now realize for every minute of finished video there is about 45 minutes of editing! The video I am going to show tonight was shot about 3 weeks ago. I spent that Sunday walk and wade fishing 2 of my favorite Smallie rivers. In the morning I was with my buddy "One Boot" Ed. The morning started out a little tough, but by the early afternoon we managed to scratch out a pretty good morning. I was fishing the Crittermite seen here and was fortunate enough to have a few decent Bass eat it. IN the afternoon I was on one of my favorite sections of the Brandywine with my buddy Joe G. Joe is a customer from my days at the fly shop and this was the first time we were able to get on the water together. We had a great evening and I think my buddy has been bitten by the Smallmouth bug.
I used a new mount for the camera when I shot this video. The angle was a little off and you can't see the fish as I UN-hook them. I didn't notice this until I had downloaded the video and I have since corrected the issue. Also, at the behest of my mother I toned down the music a little for this one. I guess she is correct to a point, you cant have '80's hair band music (the best music ever incidentally) in EVERY video...I hope you enjoy "Smallmouth Sunday"
The past few weeks have been busy around the Irish Flies camp. My wife and I took a mini vacation to Atlantic City for a few days of rest and relaxation. We did get to see the Eagles (the band, not the Philadelphia Football team) for the second time in less than a year, and they were awesome. If you are a fan and you can catch "The History of the Eagles" tour I would highly recommend it! I have been tying flies, filling orders and I have started the preparation's for this winters classes. I also have several videos I am working on and will be posting them soon. The past two weeks I was fortunate enough to get out on the water with my good buddy "One Boot" Ed. We floated both of the last 2 Sundays, the first on the Brandywine and the second on a tributary of the Susquehanna flats. Smallmouth season is in full swing right now, the water levels and temp's are good and the fish are attacking our flies the way a Hobo attacks a Bologna sandwich. As mentioned we floated the Brandywine 2 weeks ago. We put in at the Brandywine River Museum and floated down to Smith's Bridge. Ed had recently purchased an Outcast "Fat Cat" float tube and he used it for this float. My Fat Cat had not come in yet so I used my IR-10 single man pontoon. You may ask "why if you have a pontoon would you need a float tube" more on that later...
We floated for about 9 hours that day landing a fish here, a fish there, a decent day, but nothing to get real excited about. Several hours into the float my buddy connected with this solid, shouldered up, Bronzeback. His personal best out of this river and a respectable fish any where in the country.
We had just finished taking pictures and releasing this brute and Ed started to fish the next hole. Within 3 casts I looked down and saw his Sage Method bent over and bouncing. He looked up and said two words "good fish"! Ed worked the fish out of the hole and brought it to the net. Not as big as the first one, but the colors speak for themselves. This is truly a beautiful Smallmouth.
After taking two good fish in a row on a stretch of water that is notoriously tough to take big fish on I had to ask..."what fly"?
Ed was fishing a fly designed by Chuck Craft and sold by my friend William Heresniak of Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing called the Clawdad. You may remember my last post was a step-by-step of a my version of a ETFF fly called the Crittermite. If you missed it you can catch it here. The Clawdad is another simple but VERY effective pattern. Kinda like the fly fisherman's answer to the "Jig and Pig" of hard tackle fame. You can dead drift it, strip it, twitch it, or let it lay on the bottom. After these 2 fish Ed gave me a few to use and I am an instant believer. Here is how effective this fly is. EVERY FISH IN THIS BLOG POST WAS CAUGHT ON A CLAWDAD!
We fished out the day landing several more smaller fish until about 2:00 when we were mobbed by tubers. When I say mobbed I don't mean we had a few around us and we had to let them pass. The heat index that day was 107 degrees and everybody must have had the same idea. At one point I was completely surrounded by tubers as far as I could see. I stopped fishing (I couldn't cast) and just floated down the river for about an hour. I have floated this section for the past 25 years, probably over 125 times and I have NEVER seen the amount of tubers I saw this day. Next time better planning is in order.
Maybe this is why this section of river doesn't give big fish easily!
All in all it was a good float. I got to get out on the water, get my pontoon wet, catch a bunch of fish and spend time with a buddy. What more could you ask for?
Pontoon vs float tube
As mentioned I have a single man pontoon and I just received my "Fat Cat" float tube. I am sure people are asking "if you have one why do you need the other"? As much as I love fishing out of my Pontoon, and I do enjoy it, they are not without issue. My boat is on a trailer, that is the easiest way to transport it IMO. Trailering a boat has its own unique set of challenges. First off you need a vehicle that can tow a trailer. The boat / trailer combo is very light, so you don't need much horse power, you do need a vehicle with the proper equipment to tow (ball hitch, light hook up's etc). You will also need to register and tag the trailer. I don't know about you but, if given the choice I would rather get my teeth drilled than go to the Delaware DMV! The other thing to consider are boat ramps. The Brandywine is not like the Schuylkill or the Susky, there are no true boat ramps on the Brandywine. This means carrying your boat, sometimes great distances, (a 2 man job) to the water. All of these are challenges that can be worked through and my pontoon will remain a staple in my fishing program. Combine these with the plan to fish some smaller rivers in our area this year and this makes the choice to invest in a float tube a no brainier. Enter the Outcast "Fat Cat"
Basically a floating reclining chair, these tubes are light, easy to travel with, and extremely comfortable. They fit easily in the back of a mid to large SUV, and with the optional back pack straps you can hitch the tube to your back and down the road you go to the fishing spot. Ed calls it the "Mummers Strut" when he has the tube on his back...those of you from the Metro Philadelphia area will understand. I got my tube mid last week and Sunday morning we were on the water by 7:00 AM
It is gonna be a long float...
Here is an Irish Flies tip...If you are floating a river for the first time err on the side of caution when setting up your first float, It is better to set up a float that is too short than a float that is too long. Why do I know this???? Read on.
Ed has been fishing this tributary of the Susquehanna Flats for years. He introduced me to it a few years ago and we have had some great days wading this river. A quick check of the map and some scouting shows this trib flows a long way, but the upper reaches would be extremely hard to wade. We decided a float would be the best way to attack it. Pontoons were out of the question. Getting to and from the river with the trailer would be a logistical nightmare, not to mention the distance and terrain we would have to carry the boats over to reach the water. The river is narrow at some points making passage in a pontoon difficult. It is just not a "pontoon" river. Today, this river, this float was the initial reason for the investment in the float tubes. We talked back and forth all week all the while looking at Google Maps. Ed scouted the put in and take out on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning we met up and headed out for a day of new discovery. As we were gearing up Ed said "you know this is gonna be a long float" Irish Flies tip #2 when your fishing buddy says something like that pay attention!!!! I think I said something like "more fish to catch" Yeah, OK. We put in at around 7:15 and started down. 20 minutes into the float I hooked a good, possibly a great fish! Three head shakes and one STRONG up river run and the line went slack and the pole limp. I stripped in the line and the brand new Fluorocarbon leader was snapped at the tippet. 1X tippet. 12 pound tippet! I don't know what it was, could have been a Carp. I do know he ate the Clawdad like he was starving and I will never know for sure what it was. We continued floating down having a great day catching many solid Small jaw's. About 3:30 I decided to check the GPS. To my shock (and horror) we had been on the water for nearly 8 hours and we were only about 1/2 way! We knew we needed to pick up the pace and as the day got longer we fished less and paddled more. The last 2 hours of this float were what I akin to hell in the river. About 3 miles of the nastiest, rock infested boulder field you can imagine. I bounced that Fat Cat off of bounders, drug it over rock and gravel bottom, blasted through dead falls, you name it I did it to that tube. It is hanging in my garage a little scratched up, but non the worse for wear. A cheap tube would not have made it through that stretch of river, I am confident of that because one cell phone, one swim fin and one rod did not make it through! An epic float indeed, we just need to come out with a better take out spot! What time did we make it to the lower end did you ask...8:30 pm! That's right, 13 hours on the water. Was it worth it? You be the judge, because I am still not sure!
As mentioned every fish in this post was caught on the Clawdad. If you are a serious Smallmouth junkie like we are, you owe it to yourself to check William's stuff out, it is as good as it gets! Check him out here. He is also on Facebook under William Heresniak as well as Eastern Trophy Fly Fishing. To check out all the great products from Outcast Boats click here. I am proud to have Irish Flies affiliated with both of these great companies.
We have about two more solid months of Smallmouth action this year. Get out there and stick a big one before it is two late! Till next time...
Timing and weather just have not been kind to me these past few weeks. It has been a while since I have been on the water. It seems when the weather is fit to fish I am tied up with one of my other responsibilities, by the contrary, when I have free time and I want to fish lately it seems that a new storm is moving in or the rivers are still blown out from a past downpour. Now, it is not that I am against fishing in the rain, (that is a great Hank Williams Jr. song lyric BTW) I will do it if absolutely necessary. I am very fortunate to fish many days each year and my thoughts are if the weather is nasty I just as well stay in and do other things, like tying flies. I have spent a fair amount of time at the bench the past few weeks getting my Smallmouth boxes ready for the season. I have been fishing for Smallies off and on for about a month now, but the season is getting ready to jump off at a fever pitch within these next two weeks. All of you crazy Smallmouth addicts, like me, had better be ready!
The fly I am going to share with you today is in my top five all time fav's for Smallies. I have been fishing this pattern for years, during all times in the season and have had great success. A lot of the people I take Smallmouth fishing for their first time catch their first Bronze Back on this fly. It has also accounted my second and fifth largest Smallie ever, it is that good! One of the regular readers of this Blog has scaled down the pattern to a size 8 and regularly bangs big Trout with it. Originally designed as a Damsel or Dragon Fly Nymph, this pattern is easy to tie and uses just a few, common tying materials. I added a little twist on this last batch using a Flymen Fishing Company Fly color bead in red. I think it goes nicely with the rest of the fly.
Before we start to tie let's take a minute and look at the natural. Damsel and Dragon flies inhabit just about every body of water where Smallmouth (and Largemouth) Bass live. You don't have to have a 4.0 at Harvard to realize if the Bass live there... and the Nymphs live there...well, you get the picture. Many is the time when I have seen a good size river Bass go totally airborne to grab a Dragon or Damsel out of the air. Just like in Trout fishing the bugs we see in the air usually start their life in the river bed. They are readily available to the fish as a food source and the fish become quite accustomed to feeding on them. The adult Dragon is a prehistoric looking bug with large wings, a huge thorax and typically big bulging eyes. They are quite noisy in flight and, although basically harmless, can be quite intimidating when they get close to your face. The Adult Damsel is a really cool looking bug that you will see in a variety of neon type colors. I seem to see the blue version the most, but green, red and a clear bug can also be found.
As different as the adults look the nymphs are quite similar. The Damsel has a thinner thorax and abdomen, but I do believe 1 pattern represents both naturals equally well. The naturals can range in color from dark, chocolate brown to a medium olive. The rusty brown version shown here has done will for me, and it is the only color I tie anymore.
Now that we have covered a bit about the naturals let's duplicate what we have learned at the vise.
The Clouser Swimming Nymph
Hook ; TMC 5262 size 6
Thread ; 6/0 flat waxed, color to match body
Bead ; Nymph Head Fly Color Bead 3/16 red
Under Body ; 20 wraps of .020 LEAD wire
Tail ; Burnt Orange Marabou
Abdomen ; Rusty Brown Nymph Dubbing
Thorax ; Rusty Brown Nymph Dubbing
Legs ; Whiting Bugger Hackle
Wing Case ; Peacock Hurl
Slide the bead on and place the hook in the vise.
Put 20 wraps of .020 dia lead wire. I know some will say OMG! he is using real lead wire!!!! The lead subsitute wire does not have enough mass weight to sink the fly. You are actually doing yourself more harm than good. By wrapping lead substitute wire. You are adding bulk or surface area with out much mass weight. More surface area means a higher drag coefficient while the fly is in the water. Higher drag without the mass weight to counteract it... your fly could actually float HIGHER with lead substitute wire than if you used nothing at all. Technical jargon for a fly tying post I know, but facts are facts...use lead wire!
Push the lead wraps up under the bead and build a thread dam at the back of the wire wraps to keep it there. Cover the lead with thread to bind it to the hook shank. This would be a good time for some Zap-A-Gap.
Tie in one Burnt Orange Marabou Blood Quill the length of the hook shank. Don't cut the butt section of the feather, we will use that in the next step.
Once your tail is tied in spiral wrap up the hook shank using the butt section of the Marabou feather to add some bulk to the under body of the fly.
Dub a nice, tapered abdomen with your favorite nymph dubbing.
Tie in your "legs" by the stem of the feather. This is Whiting Bugger Hackle. You can substitute Strung Saddle, Schlappen, or on smaller sizes Hen or Partridge feathers.
Tie in several pieces of Peacock Hurl for the wing case. This is my favorite part of the pattern. When the Peacock Hurl gets wet the colors are awesome!
Dub the thorax with the same dubbing you used for the abdomen.
Palmer the hackle forward to the back of the bead. 3 to five wraps, depending on the size you are tying will work nicely.
I usually trim the top fibers from the palmered feather off, then fold the wing case over the top. Tie down the wing case and clip off the excess.
Lately, I have been putting a little collar of dubbing at the junction of the thorax and the bead. I don't think this has anything to do with how the fly fishes, it does however, give it a nice, finished off look.
As mentioned, this fly is a go-to in my Smallmouth arsenal. Tie up half a dozen and see for yourself. Soon it will be a staple in your Smallie boxes as well. Till next time...
At some point during this three day excursion I remember saying that to "One Boot" Ed, and it is 100% true. Smallmouth are arguably my favorite fish to chase with fly gear. Smallies are tailor made for those of us that prefer to cast the long rod. They will eat a multitude of fly imitations with vigor, they live in some wonderfully beautiful areas, and they are one of the coolest looking fish that swims. I have said many times, and stand by the statement that pound for pound, no true, freshwater fish pulls as hard as a Smallmouth. Those of you that have done battle with a trophy class fish on a fly rod know exactly what I am talking about. One of the most exciting ways to fish for Bronzebacks is with a top water popper. The sight and sound of the popper as it is being retrieved can be hypnotic, almost mesmerizing... pop, pop, pause...pop, pop, pop, pause... pop, pop...CRASH!!!!! Few things in the world of fresh water fishing will jolt you out of your trance like the take of a good Smallmouth as they inhale your popping bug. The popping bugs of choice for "Irish Flies" are the Boogle Bug. My good buddy Ben, from North Carolina turned me on to these in July of 2013 and Ed and I have been fishing them ever since. If you are into top water fly fishing check em out at www.booglebug.com
This video was shot over 3 consecutive days of early season Smallmouth fishing. The weather conditions were VERY different each day; day one was warm, but rainy. Day 2 was extremely cold (for the time of year) but sunny and day 3 was the best weather wise, but the un-stable weather from the previous 2 days gave the fish a severe case of lockjaw. All fish on the video were caught using the Boogle Bug's of various colors. I do believe yellow has become my favorite!
For as early as this was I think we did ok, with Ed landing the best fish of the three days with this beautiful, dark sided, girl.
Check out "Smallmouth Bass vs Boogle Bug poppers" here. I hope you enjoy, and as always, comments are welcome. Till next time...
The end of May / beginning of June is a great time of year for us here in northern Delaware. Our Trout rivers are fishing well with bugs coming off regularly and our Smallmouth season is just getting started. About a week ago I was talking to my buddy "One Boot" Ed; "Have you seen the pictures Schultzy has been putting up"! He is, of course, talking about Schultz Outfitters Located in Ypsilanti Michigan and the great Smallmouth pictures they have been posting on their Facebook Page. A couple of days later I was texting another buddy of mine, Sean, and he said basically the same thing. "You see the fish the boys in Michigan are putting up" Now we usually don't start Smallie fishing until the middle or end of June, certainly never in May, we are usually still busy chasing Trout. Well, I have been watching an indicator drift down river since last November, and with exception of the few Shad from this year it has been basically all Trout for me, I was ready for a change. Also, you need the I.Q. just a little higher than that of a rock to realize if they were catching Bass in Michigan, we should be able to catch them here.
Now, If you are going to fish for early season Smallmouth You should be aware of a few things. The fish may or may not have spawned yet. For this reason you should keep your casting toward the middle of the channel and keep off the gravel beds with your flies and your feet. We are only shooting ourselves in the foot for next year if we disturb the spawning habitat. It is also my opinion that you never cast to a fish actively tending a redd, again my opinion and I will leave it at that.
On to the Double Dip...
As mentioned we usually don't fish for Smallies until mid June. Beings we were going after them this early we had a chance to put into motion a plan I have been thinking about for a while. It just so happens one of our favorite new Smallmouth spots is directly on the way to one of our favorite old wild Brown Trout streams. Again, being just a little smarter than a rock we realized we could get up early, be on the Smallie water at first light, then move to the Trout river later in the day. If things go as planned this would be a great day of dual species fishing. The truck was loaded, the alarm was set and thoughts of Smallmouth and Trout were in my head as I fell asleep.
Ed and I met up and headed to the Smallmouth water. We decided we would fish poppers, and the Boogle Bug has been my popper of choice for the past few years.
The Smallmouth fishing did not disappoint as we were fortunate enough to land several good fish capped off by a dark bronze back Ed pulled out from his lie behind a big boulder. This was the second time I was using my GoPro Hero 4 camera. I got some cool video and will have the edited versions on my You Tube Channel shortly. Here are some of the pics from the Smallmouth portion of the "Double Dip".
We fished till about noon and decided it was time to go. Ed had to be home so I would have to finish the second half on my own. We geared down at the trucks, said out good buy's and Ed headed East toward home and I headed West toward the Trout.
When I got to the spot the water looked clear and low, tough conditions for any fishing, let alone fishing for smart, crafty wild Browns. I tied up a Dry and Dropper rig and headed to my spot. Any worries of weather it was gonna be a good day were dispelled on the very first cast as this guy sucked down the indicator (A #16 Stimulator) and came to hand with the #16 Pheasant Tail stuck firmly in his jaw.
Usually landing a fish on the first cast is the kiss of death for the rest of the day...not this time! I spent the rest of the afternoon working my way up the stream picking up a fish here and there and having a great time. The capper of the day was when a healthy 13" wild Brown decided to eat the Dry fly in an aggressive style sometimes indicative of wild fish.
Here are some of the pictures from the Trout portion of the day.
What a great day this was and one I won't soon forget. I hope the weather holds so I can get another one of these multi species days in this year. This is one of the best things about living where we live, the diversity of angling opportunities. I want to thank the guys at Schultz Outfitters for allowing me to use some of their pics for this post. If you are ever in the area check them out, you wont be disappointed. For a link to their site click here. To check out some pics of some great Smallmouth Bass check out the Schultz Outfitters Facebook page here. Till next time...