For a fly-fisherman, matching the hatch is a big deal…in fact, for any fisherman, matching the hatch is important. In the fly fishing world we tend to get carried away…there are those who tie the smallest of flies, all the way down to size 30 and 32. You probably don’t know sizing but picture a mosquito, a small one, not the kind they have down in Texas…a size 30 fly is about as big as a mosquito. I draw the line when you have to have special equipment to even tie on a fly! On a more realistic side…us streamer fisherman (as well as most bait casting fisherman) also try to match the hatch and do our best to figure out exactly what it is that the predatory fish are eating.
On Thursday, May 2, I left school and traveled a few miles south to try a stretch of one of my most favored creeks. I knew I had lots of daylight and hit the stream at 3:30, knowing that it was about 5 hours to where my truck was parked (thanks to my gal Vickie for the drop-off). The first mile or so has lots of nice holes that I was quite excited about getting to fish. After about an hour I had moved slowly through all of these holes and hadn’t yet caught even one smallie…what in the world was going on? Knowing that I had only one way to go, I forged on and as luck would have it I hooked a small but powerful 12 inch smallies and upon removing the hook noticed that he had just burped up a small minnow like offering….upon further investigation I have found that this was a Bluntnose minnow. Whatever you want to call it…there in my fly selection was one of several that I had recently tied to look much like a minnow (you can see both the actual minnow and my fly in the photo above). So…it didn’t take long to make the switch and like a switch, the light went on over this particular creek.
I took just a moment to tie on a silver minnow representation onto size 2 tippet and once again started to work my way downstream…the second casts told me that I had hit a homerun, there on the other end of my 5 weight TQR rod was a nice 15 inch smallmouth. I grinned and wondered could it be that easy…the answer came just a few casts later as another nice smallie engulfed my silver fly…and as Uncle Si would say, “It was on like donkey kong”! The next couple hours was a blur and was filled with fish after fish…a couple were just a tad over 15 inches and very aggressive in their pursuit and take of my ‘minnow recreation’.
Through the years I have developed some techniques that prove to be too much for the smallmouth to ignore and on this day I was casting the fly about 45 degrees down and across then jigging the fly back across the stream, allowing for pauses and hesitations, but the real key comes as the fly nears my location. I have learned to slowly start to raise the fly through the water column by using my right or rod-hand to lift and jiggle the fly by putting pauses and twitches while raising the fly closer to the surface…this seems to be a trigger that most of the fish just can’t resist. This last maneuver is an easy way to finish each cast as I complete the cast by roll casting and then picking up the fly-line and making my down and across cast once again. On this night I caught several fish on the last 20 feet of line and with my glasses on could see that the smallies were following the fly across the stream, much like a trout will when it is staging and preparing to take a streamer.
I often carry along a fly box or several fly patches with different colors and sizes of flies with and without legs (rubber legs) so that while on the stream I can make most changes or get to a fly that is pretty close to what has either been eaten or I can see is being chased within the creek. I also try and have at least two different weights of fly line so that I can get the fly down into the strike zone and keep it there as long as possible while making it look as realistic and natural as possible. These are all things that take time to figure out each trip…but when you do, the results are usually very good.
The next time you are out…think like a fish and ask yourself a few simple questions; the answers you give yourself may just point you to a single fly that might just be the ‘magic bullet’ and if and when it all comes together…it is an awesome thing to experience. When all these factors add up to a couple flies and you start to haul in fish after fish…take a moment, look around and remember to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.