Back in August Tyler and I had the pleasure of spending 2 days in the boat of Pennsylvania's premiere Smallmouth Guide Brian Shumaker. Brian is a friend that has been guiding Pennsylvania's Susquehanna river for over 30 years. For those not familiar the Susquehanna is the river where arguably the most famous streamer ever tied, the Clouser Minnow was born! Bob and Brian are close friends and have spent years bouncing ideas and theories about Smallmouth off of one another. You can check out Brian's guiding service, Susquehanna River Guides HERE The "2 rivers in 2 days" package is well worth the investment.
During lunch the second day the conversation turned to fly design. We had worked our way through many patterns, the in's and out's and what makes a certain pattern effective. About this time Brian pulls two Shimmering Minnows out of his box, one he tied and one tied by somebody else. He was pointing out the differences between the two flies and what made one of them "right" and what made the other one well, not so right. I will give you 3 guesses and the first 2 don't count as to who tied the "right" one. Anyway after pointing out the differences, subtle, but different for sure, we swam each of the two flies on the same rod / reel / line and leader. The swimming action of the fly tied correctly was un-mistakable! The subtle differences in the fly made a BIG difference in how it swam. I knew this post was coming up and at that point I asked Brian if he would do the step-by-step for me. I figured, "who better to show us how to tie it than the guy that invented the pattern"
I want to extend a personal thank you to Brian for taking time out of his busy guiding schedule to do this step-by-step for Norvise, we really appreciate it.
Below is the un-altered step-by-step sent to me from Brian, I assure you, this is the "right" way to tie this fly!
By Brian Shumaker
The Shimmering minnow is a pattern I developed to catch smallmouth bass somewhere around 2012. I was looking for something that was quick to tie and that I could easily match the bait fish that I would find in the rivers that I fished. I also wanted something that I could fish in the middle water column. I started out using a single hook and it worked well and caught fish, but I still wasn’t satisfied. I started playing around with shanks trying to add articulation to the fly and it worked very well, I had some trouble with the shank fouling so I add a bead to prevent this. The Shimmering Minnow was catching a lot of fish and I was happy and so were my clients. I was tying at a show one winter and stumbled upon the Flymen Fishing Company Fish Mask and I decided to try it on the Shimmering Minnow and it was the last piece that really made the fly look complete. What is good about the Shimmering Minnow is that you can tie the fly to match the baitfish that are common to the water that the angler is fishing, by coloring the fly using different colored markers. The possibilities are endless, from the different color combinations to the size you can make it by adding shanks. So far, the Shimmering Minnow has caught, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, trout, stripers, speckled trout, redfish, and snook. (Norvise note; it has caught Steelhead too)
Fish Skull Articulated Fish-Spine 15 mm Shank
Gamakatsu B10S Size 2 hook or Fire Hole 811 Competition Size 4
Thread 6/0 white
Strung Marabou White, Olive, Burnt Orange
Palmer Chenille Med Pearl
Fish Skull Fish-Mask #5
Fish Skull Living Eyes-Ice
3D Beads: White, Black, Gray, Light olive
Rio Powerflex Wire Bite: 20 lb
Flashabou: Pearl, Sliver, Gold
Loon UV Clear Fly Finish Thick and Thin
Marker: Copic Warm Gray, Baby Blue, Spanish Olive
Norvise products used;
Norvise Standard Vise
Norvise Standard Inline Jaws
Norvise LED Lamp / magnifier
Norvise Magnum Stainless Hubs (Coming soon to a fly fishing show near you)
Most of my friends locally that know me know that I am a self proclaimed Smallmouth nut! They are my favorite fish and they are tailor made for fly fishing. Myself, Tyler and my friends spend many hours chasing Smallies each Summer. We have our rods, reels, and watercraft dialed in. We each carry several rods with different lines so we can cover the entire water column from top to bottom and we are very familiar with the rivers that we float. What does all of this mean? Well, we are fortunate enough to land several 18 to 20 inch Smallmouth each year. Our Smallmouth game is tight, and we take pride in that.
I always say if you were to look into my working fly boxes you would probably be extremely underwhelmed. You may expect to see box after box with hundreds of different patterns in every color under the rainbow. While I do love tying flies, I love catching fish even more. and when I am all on the water it is all about the fish and catching them! While we are constantly experimenting, tweaking, and coming up with some new patterns. What follows are my core 5 Smallmouth flies. I call these "American Express Flies' because you don't leave home without them (you will have to be over 40 to get that reference) and you can bet if you see me on the river one (or 3) of these will be tied on my tippet.
We are full into summer fishing right now (the heat index is 108 as I type this) so I thought for the next couple of blog posts I could do a series of my 5 favorite Smallmouth patterns followed by a step-by-step tutorial in the coming weeks of each pattern. If you are a Smallmouth Junkie like me this is a great opportunity to fill your boxes with some proven producers. Here we go...
If you told me I could only ever fish one fly for Smallmouth this may be the one. This fly has accounted for more 20+" fish in the last 8 years than any other fly I fish. Spawned from the mind of Chuck Craft and available through William Heresnaik in materials or whole at Eastern Trophies Fly Fishing this could possibly be the perfect Smallmouth fly. I typically ALWAYS have one of these rigged and fish it on the bottom on an intermediate or sinking line. Brown (or moccasin) is my go to color, we have also done well on olive and black.
I tie mine a little bit different than the original dressing, just a few little tweaks. They probably don't really help and the original is probably best left alone. Fishing is 90% confidence and if I feel more confident in the pattern, I am going to fish it more effectively.
Any Serious Smallmouth angler worth his salt loves fishing poppers. The fishing is very visual and the takes can be explosive. We have used several popper styles over the years, some tied and some purchased. we have settled on these 2 as our favorites.
The Boogle Bug. A friend from Virginia turned me on to these several years ago. We got to talking about Smallmouth fishing and he said in his Virginian accent "you ever fish Boogles"? You have to say with the accent or it kind of looses the presentation. I had no idea what he was talking about.
Boogles are a hard face popper tied with a hackle skirt and rubber legs. They are very durable and catch a ton of fish. The one thing I noticed is the hard face poppers, especially the Boogles have a higher pitch pop when you strip them. Something I believe the fish really key on at times. If interested check them out here.
A few years ago the Flymen company came out with the Double Barrel popper heads. As soon as I saw them I knew I had to try them. The dual sound chambers and the semi-soft popping face gave us a sound that was very familiar. Remember the old Arbogast Hula Popper? The big gaudy, weird looking Bass hard bait? We fished these all the time as kids and they produced a deep, hollow pop it seemed the fish couldn't resist. Well, the Flymen Double Barrel popping heads come the closest to reproducing that sound. We quickly put these heads into some of our current designs (both mine and some of my friends) and the results have been fantastic.
O'Neill's Controlled Chaos
This type of fly is really more of a tying style rather than a pattern. Mike Schultz of Schultz Outfitters came up with a great pattern Called a Swinging D. This was the first time I saw a foam popper head turned around backwards to create a diver type of fly. The Swinging D is a GREAT fly, it takes a long time to tie with a lot of steps. Many people, including me, have taken Mike's pattern and tweaked it a bit for various reasons, for me it was strictly tying time. This is probably my favorite pattern in the bunch and, like the Clawdad you will be hard pressed to see me without one if these rigged up. Throw this on an intermediate or a type 2 sink tip on a short leader. The foam head want's to naturally float the fly up and the sink tip wants to pull it down. This self imposed Tug -of War creates an action that is incredible! This pattern is ever changing and here are a few of the variations I have used over the past few years. I am currently working on a all Synthetic version of the fly using some of the great new brushes that have hit the market recently. Like I said, this is more of a basic platform pattern so have fun with it.
The Feather Game Changer
About 8 years ago a fly hit the market that was truly a revolution in the fly tying world. Blane Chocklett's Game Changer is truly an innovation in the fly tying world. More of a platform for tying multiple patterns the Game changer is available in many variations today. My favorite is the Feather Game Changer. MUCH faster to tie that the original (not fast mind you, they still take 45+ minutes to tie) the best thing about this version is the taper is in the materials, there is little to no trimming. Now you are seeing variations with spun deer hair heads, popper heads and the like making this pattern very versatile. Check out one of the great videos on how to tie this great pattern by searching Feather Game Changer.
Shumaker's Shimmering Minnow
Brian Shumaker is one of the premier guides on Pennsylvania's Susquehanna River. You may have heard of the Susquehanna before as it is where the famous Clouser Minnow was born. The Shimmering Minnow is a bit of a wide body baitfish pattern, a perfect match for the juvenile Shad the Bass in my area enjoy. Easy to tie and fishy as any fly out there it is easy to see why this pattern has become a staple in my buddy Ed's Fly box. You can tie this in Multiple colors, we prefer the pearl / grey version. To date I believe the shimmering Minnow has landed something like 40 different species from Smallmouth on the Susquehanna to Steelhead in Erie, it is just a great all around fly.
Well, there you have it, my top 5 Smallmouth flies. Stay tuned in the coming weeks for tutorials on how to tie all of these great patterns. Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim