This popped up on one of our social media platforms last week. When I read it I was moved by the message and by how well it was written. I immediately asked Keith if I could post it. He was gracious enough to say yes, so here you go.
The Muddler Minnow, by Keith Hendrickson
When I was a kid, we had a small pond down near the house. Pop had a fly rod and a few flies. One was a muddler minnow. Mainly pop and my brother used that rod. It was too complicated for me. I remember that pop bought a Herter's Fly Tying Kit. It had a poor excuse of a vise but it got by. The tying material was anything from some small popping bug corks to some brightly dyed chicken feathers. We kids quickly used up all the good materials including the tying thread....so we would raid mom's sewing thread. Gawd we made some ugly flies. Seems like I remember that muddler minnow being about the best fly pop had. He caught pickerel, bass, bream...you name it...if it was in that pond, he caught it on that fly. I can recall that when that fly got totally torn up, we tried to repair it with some of mom's sewing thread. Once I got my own fly rod...a whole other story...I would save my yard mowing money and ride my bike up to the hardware store to buy a fly kit. They came with about a dozen different flies, one of which was a muddler minnow. All the rest were about useless to me...that muddler though...… So here's to killer flies that rank high in your memory. The Muddler Minnow.
With the advent You Tube, Facebook, and Instagram fly tying has become, in my opinion, a big melting pot of ideas, twists and tweaks of different fly patterns. In our last post, I talked in depth about how the particular pattern we were tying, O'Neill's Controlled Chaos, was really a stripped down version of 2 other flies. I do believe it was different enough from the originals that I could call it my own, some may disagree with that statement and that is fine, what I am saying is in today's day and age it is challenging to come up with a truly new idea for a fly pattern. Think about some of the staple patterns invented years ago; The Clouser Minnow, Lefty's Deceiver, Brooks Blond, The Gurgler, Ray's Fly, The Adams, Pheasant Tail, Zebra Midge, The list goes on and on and on. These patterns are originals and many, many flies have been designed using these as inspiration. I am not saying designing a new pattern can't be done, I am saying that 1) it is not as easy due to the great evolution of fly tying over the past 20 years and 2) many people come up with “original” patterns that are basically the same as flies tied years ago and they really are not “original”. Sorry guys, but it is the truth. Every so often something comes along in the world of fly tying that is truly revolutionary that has never been done before, Blane Chocklett’s Game Changer is one of those patterns.
I guess I first saw the Game Changer close to 10 years ago, a bait fish fly that actually moved like a fish…who would have thunk it. The challenge is many times coming up with the idea is the easy part, bring the idea to life well, that can be the challenge. The game changer has gone through many variations over the years and I believe the “Feather” version to be the best. It is a pattern with fantastic movement, both in the design and the materials, it is faster to tie that some of the other versions, and you can tie it in a multitude of colors. It is lighter and easier to cast than some of the original flies, and they are very durable.
Truly a revolution, below is a step by step of a Feather Game Changer tied and photographed by Norvise ambassador Braden Miller.
Norvise Legacy Vise
Norvise Automatic Bobbin
Norvise Standard Inline Jaws
Norvise Fine Point Conversion
Norvise Magnum Stainless Hubs (Coming soon to a fly fishing show near you)
This picture shows how the Fish Spines chain together and where the proper hook placement is. The sequence that we like to use is a tailing shank (the one on the end with the 90 degree bend) 10 mm, 10 mm, 15 mm, Trailer hook (optional) 15 mm, 15 mm, 20 mm, Front hook. The secret is to gradually lengthen the shanks as you move up the fly. You can play with sizing and combo of your shanks, as mentioned, this is what we like to use.
After placing the tailing shank in the vise (this is what the 90 degree bend is for) Put a SMALL amount of filler flash at the bend of the shank. 1 to 1 and a half wraps MAX! this bit of material will support and separate the tail.
Prep 6 hackle tips to use as the tail of the fly, 3 for each side. You have options here for the tail, you can use marabou, hackle tips, I even saw Blane use material used for tying mop flies here.
Put 1 to 1 and a half wraps of filler flash on at the bend of the tailing shank. This will help support and separate the tail feathers.
After prepping the tail feathers and cutting the shafts to length tie 3 tips on each side of the shank. The feathers are tied on each side of the shank with the first section of filler in the middle of the feathers. Here we have added second tie in of filler flash at the tail. Palmer it up about 1/2 the length of the shank. Remember this is a small shank, it is VERY easy to overdress these. Less is more, we still have to get 2 Hen Saddle Feathers on here.
Here is the completed tail section with the Hen Saddles tied in and palmered to the front. You can see how the filler flash is used to support the Hen feather. All of the materials work together to give this fly incredible movement. Tie off and whip finish a neat head and use head cement on EVERY section. I had mentioned this version of the fly is faster to tie than the original and it is. Fast is a relative term here, you are still going to invest over an hour in this fly. A long time for sure, we typically are throwing these on heavy tippet so you don't really loose that many so you want to glue the heads on each section so they are very durable. I have FGC's that have landed over 50 pickerel and they are still going strong so dont let the tying time scare you off.
Here is a view of the tail from the top. You can see the filler flash in between the sides of the tail. You can also see how we are building a natural taper with our materials.
As mentioned we are using feathers from a Hen saddle. Hen feathers are a shorter, webby feather with softer fibers that make them perfect for this application. To build the taper is simple. As you move from the tail forward to the front of the fly you will select feathers that are progressively longer for each section. The easiest way to do this is to start at the top of your cape for the tail section and gradually pluck from a point lower and lower on the cape as you move up the fly. The lower on the cape you go the bigger (longer the fibers are) the feather is. The longer the feather the more taper you get. The picture above shows how to prep the feathers for tie in. We are tying in by the tip and palmering forward. Do not use the fuzzy part of the feather, I will typically strip this off before I tie in. On the tail sections we are typically using 2 feathers. As we move up the fly we are adding feathers on each section. By the time you get up to the head you are tying 4, maybe 5 feathers in at the same time. Always tie the feathers and palmer them at the same time, regardless of the amount using the filler flash as a support.
The progression is actually pretty simple;
With the exception of the tail section it is filler flash - feathers - whip finish- glue - repeat. you will need to adjust the amount of filler flash as the shanks (or hooks) get longer. Toward the tail the filler flash may be too wide, you may want to trim it so it is a little shorter (Measuring from the core out to the end of the fibers) than the fibers of the feather you are using. as you get to about the middle of the fly you can use the full width of the filler flash. We will use wider and more feathers as we work up the to the front of the fly. This will build bulk and natural taper into the fly, two very important things you need to get the silhouette and the movement you are looking for. The most important thing to remember is DO NOT CROWD THE EYE OF THE SHANK! if you do the fly will not move the way it is supposed to.
Here the second section has been added.
Here, several more sections and the trailer hook has been added.
When you get to the point where you are adding a hook to the pattern we like to use a wire type leader material. This product from Berkley works well as does Surflon or a product called Beadalon you get in the craft stores. To make your connection cut a small piece of wire (about 4") and thread it through the eye of the shank folding it so the half way point is looped through the eye of the shank and equal lengths are pointing forward. Lay the section of the wire pointing forward on tip of the shank and use 3 or 4 loose wraps of thread to hold the wire on top of the hook shank. At this point you want to adjust the length of the loop coming off the back of the hook so the tail section of the fly has freedom to move, but is not so big it can foul. A good rule of thumb is to make the loop about the same size as the loop in the adjacent shank.
Here we are working our way up the pattern by adding more shanks in front of the trailer hook.
Here we are ready to add the front hook.
This picture is a good example on how to do the wire connection. It also shows that Braden used a few wraps of lead on the bend of the front hook. this will help keel the fly and keep it swimming true. You can use lead wraps for this or, depending on the size of the hook, Tungsten Scud weights work fantastic for this step. Also notice Braden switched from the Norvise Fine Point jaws to the Standard inline jaws. We will typically use a hair clip to clip the back of the fly to the jaw to prevent it from flopping around when we are tying. Clipping the back of the fly to the jaws will also help to prevent us from sticking our fingers with the rear hook point. The Norvise Large, Saltwater jaw would be a good choice here as well.
OK, we are tying on the front hook and close to bringing this pattern home. This is a cool technique that will really help bulk up the front of the fly. Tie in a long piece of filler flash in on the hook by the opposite ends at the bend of the front hook. This will make a loop of material hanging off of the shank of the hook. hang your dubbing twister in the loop and twist the 2 halves of filler flash together. This will tighten the core of the flash and really make the fibers stand out creating a platform for the 4 feathers you will use to finish the fly.
After wrapping the twisted filler flash and the 4 hen saddle feathers to finish up the body of the fly we have added Hackle tips of either side of the fly to act as pectoral fins. This will help the fly swim and they just look way cool. NO we have a decision to make, what to do with the head. Just like the tail we have options here. We have used spun Deer hair, Slider or Popper heads, Fish Skulls or Masks, or my favorite palmered Schlappen. Here Braden has chosen to do a stacked laser dub head. This is the same technique we used in the collar for the popper and the slider on the last 2 patterns we tied. Pull a clump out, even up the tips and tie on the shank in the middle of the clump. Here Braden has tied 4 clumps, one at every 90 degrees. How far you bring the flash and the feathers will determine how big the head is. I like to use about 1/3 of the front hook shank for the head of the fly. Once the stacks of laser dub are tied in use a brush to brush out the fibers. Brush everything forward first, then brush everything back. This will give a very nice "airy" head that will veil back over the rest of the front section of the fly.
Repeat these tie in's until you reach the eye of the front hook.
Now you could call it quits here and this will fish just fine.
Always tinkering and pushing the techniques of fly design. Here Braden trimmed the head a bit to give it the shape he wants and added some Flymen Dragon eyes. Here is the finished fly!
The Feather Game Changer really is not a difficult pattern to tie, it is basically repeating multiple sections of pattern over and over again. Once you see one of these in the water and better yet see how they produce fish I think you will understand why we spend the amount of time that we do to tie these. Your investment will be rewarded, trust me!
Thank you Blane for coming up with such a fantastic pattern and a special thank you to Norvise ambassador Braden Miller for tying and photographing this step by step for us. I am sure the Norvise faithful appreciate your effort buddy! Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim
We have been Pretty busy the past few weekends here at Norvise. We will get back to the top 5 Smallmouth flies next week, I promise. I wanted to share this with you first.
Many of you may know that Project Healing Waters is a program that was near and dear to Norm's heart and we have continued that tradition. Anyone involved in PHW as a participant, volunteer, program lead or administrator will receive a 40% discount on any Norvise product. We believe wholeheartedly in this organization and believe it to be one of the best programs out there for helping our veterans. This past weekend we got to see an organization as passionate about PHW as we are.
Stars and Stripers is an annual outing for disabled veterans from Project Healing Waters. The Kent Island Yacht club id located right off of Rt 50 in the Stevensville, Maryland area. One day, typically in August many boat captains, mates, cooks, and volunteers descend on the club to host this great event. This year, the tenth year for this event, around 25 boat captains donated their time (and boat) to take close to 50 PHW veterans fishing for the day. We were invited down to set up a area to tie flies and show the veterans how we do what we do.
This was such a rewarding day getting to tie and talk with several of the veterans. The event was very well run, and the food was fantastic! We would like to thank the Stars and Stripers organization for having us, we are already looking forward to next year! Check out some of the pictures from Saturday.
As mentioned it was a great day, very fulfilling and for a great cause. I would encourage everyone in the fly fishing industry to be involved with Project Healing Waters on some level. These great men and women risk it all so that we can live in the greatest country in the world and do things like this everyday. Honestly, we owe it to them and it is the least we can do. Till next time...
Tight lines - Tim
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