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
Check out the summary of Norvise Ambassador Mike Corrigan's recent trip to western Manitoba to chase this great species, the Tiger Trout.
Where I live in the central part of Canada, we are blessed with a seemingly endless number of species that can be caught on a fly. Two years ago I landed 20 different freshwater species locally (to go with an additional 10 saltwater varieties).
Spring 2019 is late in Canada this year, most spawners are still "busy" as I write. The Pike are a few weeks late and the Smallies are still on their nests.
So, for an early season fix we headed off to the western part of Manitoba for one of my favorite species to target; the beautiful Tiger Trout. Tigers are a sterile hybrid, a cross between a Brook Trout and a Brown Trout. The province of Manitoba introduced Tigers to a lake 10-15 years ago and they have been a favorite for anglers from all over Canada and the USA. As seen in the pictures below. they have a vermiculited camo back and the white tipped fins of the Brookie. In the Fall they go through a mock spawn and get the orange bellies. Tigers grow quickly and reach an incredible 28"; my largest is 24". Tigers are incredible fighters and the best part......they take top water flies!
I fished with a relative newbie on this particular trip, who had never landed a Trout on a fly before. We also entered something called the Bug Chucker Cup; an annual 4 lake tournament based out of the town of Roblin, MB. Back in January 2019 we hatched a plan, during a -40C cold spell, in Winnipeg to enter the fun event. As I mentioned the season was late and we were hoping for the best.......
I still use my river boat for the lakes, powered by a 55 Minn Kota. The flat bottom and spacious interior make for a comfortable day.
We fished 4 different lakes on the trip, with the Tigers being our main focus. On day one my partner got into his first fish and literally had his new Orvis rod almost ripped from his hands. These are very strong and very aggressive fish. We both missed fish that day, and the Tigers won round #1.
We fished a lake nearby to our hotel the next morning before setting out to try round #2 with the Tigers. (Below are a few shots of the Rainbow and Brown Trout typical of the other lakes).
Arriving at the Tiger Trout launch at 6 pm we saw a still water fishing school just finishing up. After comparing notes, we targeted a portion of the lake the group had not tried. This time of year the sun is up until 10 or 11 pm, so we had lots of daylight ahead of us. Tigers, with their Brown trout genes, become less wary as the sun gets lower in the sky. They will hit most anything that is thrown within the ring of their rise; so that was to be the game. Find a rise, find a feeding fish! We both had my Foam Mouse on (Topo Gigio, for those old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan show). You can see the evidence in the corner of the Tigers mouth. We landed several fish to 19".
So, the day came for the tournament. Our first venue would be an afternoon session, on a Brown Trout lake which we had pre fished the day before and had caught 6 fish to 20". This day, however, we would be shut out! The second venue saw us back at the Tiger lake for the evening session, which was perfect. Without hesitation we tied on Topo Gigio! My partner landed an 18" Tiger and I a 22" beauty. After day #1 we were near, or at the top, of the leader board!
Day #2 was spent on two Rainbow/Brown Trout lakes and we ended up doing a lot of casting but no catching. The fish were deep because of the cooler waters. As a note, earlier in our pre fishing time period we woke up to ice in my boat, after an evening rain storm, to start one of the days.......ice in late May!
The post tournament banquet and social was first class. A total of 13 teams were entered in the tournament and we finished out of the top 3, but my partner did get his casting tuned up and he did land fish, so all in all a very successful outing. Thanks to Roger for his camera work!
So all in all we came, we saw, and we tamed the Tigers. Now we need some heat to get the Muskies to get their spawning done. It will be season opener in a week. On to the next species......
What a great story and even better pictures! Thank you Mike for sharing this with us. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim
For this weeks post we have a real treat for you. Dave Allison is one of our ambassadors from Utah. Dave is a fantastic fly tyer and has shot an entire series of these videos for us. As I was watching this video (I have actually watched it several times) a few things jump out at me. The first thing you may notice is that the hook is stationary for much of the sequence. Typically with the Norvise you are accustomed to seeing the vise spinning and material flying onto the hook. While we can certainly do that, this video shows a great example of a fact that we sometimes forget. If you choose, the Norvise can be locked into position and tied on like a more "traditional" type of vise. Remember, you always have the option to go back to the full rotary tying techniques or as Dave shows here blend the two. Honestly, that is what is so great about the Norvise system. We can do everything any other vise out there can do, but when you add the "spin" function to the mix, the sky is the limit and we can do SOOOO much more! Second, this video does a great job at showing the original function of the Fine Point Conversion. The Fine Point or "midge jaw" as many refer to them was originally designed to open up the bend of the hook so you can tie tales and the like on and around the backside of the hook. This video shows a perfect example of that. The way Dave splits and posts the wings is pretty cool, as is the way he uses the tail fibers to fill in the gap left by the back of the Calf Tail wings...ingenious! Perhaps the coolest technique in the video, and one that can be easily missed, is how he preps the hackle feather by stripping one side of the stem to prevent the hackle from rolling until you get a wrap or 2 on the body. I will admit, I have never seen this technique before and will add this into my tying for sure.
Check out the Video Below
After watching this video and seeing the finished fly I have a lot of thoughts where this can fit into my personal fishing. A great searching pattern or attractor dry, a great imitation of some of the darker staged Mayflies in a size #12 or #14 we get later in the season or a point fly in a Dry and dropper set up this pattern has multiple uses. Gotta love flies that fill multiple voids on the water and with all that hackle it will float like a cork even in the most turbid water.
You can find Dave on Instagram @westtexasbugs He is a good follow and a great ambassador for Norvise. Thanks for sharing this video with us Dave. Till Next time...
Tight Lines - Tim