If you are a small creek or river fisherman like I am….now is the time as the past couple weeks has been very good….seems like the smallies and spotted bass are putting on the feed bag. Crayfish seems to be the only pattern! I have tried other things but keep going back to the fact that they are looking for and actively pursuing crayfish or crawdads. The past two weekends I have found a few hours to walk one of our better smallmouth creeks and while the fish are not totally “holed” up in a winter pattern they most certainly are not scattered out in their summer pattern; bottom line is to look for fish in deeper pools where food can drift and collect in the bottom couple feet.
I like to fish vertically and almost jig my crayfish patterns and have found that this is how I get the best result. The problem then becomes staying focused and getting a good hookset on a fish. I like to raise my rod slowly and give a small (2 inch) strip with my left hand and in doing so I look for the end of my fly line to pause or move and then make a snap set with my rod hand. I also beef up my tippet to 2X so I can give a sharp jab to really set and embed the hook. The 2X also helps me in fighting these bigger fish in sharp rocks and downed limbs.
My crayfish patterns are not terribly complicated but this past weekend I added a small step….I glued a small piece of 1/8 inch foam to the bottom set of legs. This allows the crayfish to be jigged and places the legs and hook in an upright position making it easier for the fish to get the business end of the hook. I used yellow for the foam and was surprised at how easily I could see the fly on the bottom of the creek….when the yellow legs disappeared it usually meant I had a take.
Slow it down…don’t be afraid to leave the crayfish pattern on the bottom for several seconds at a time…then a pop or hop of the fly will elicit a strike. I caught 2 nice smallies back to back in about 3 foot of water….I could see them staging over the fly and waiting to attack…then the smallest twitch was good enough to get a reaction strike…this is quite a rush! So….get out there and give the smaller creeks and rivers a try before the fish move into the deepest holes and their metabolism slows down completely.