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
O'Neill' Bearded Dragon Fly
Here at Norvise we always get excited each year when all of the new tying materials come out. We always wonder what new products we can work into our existing patterns or, a totally new pattern may emerge. The Bearded Dragon is a great example of new materials and new techniques coming together to make a functional pattern. This fly is one of Tyler's creations and it fills just about all of the O'Neill criteria for a successful pattern. It can be tied in multiple sizes and colors, it can be tied rather quickly, it can be used on many different species and will work equally well in fresh and salt water.
We are full on into our Smallmouth Bass season and this little (or BIG) fly packs quite a punch, responsible for many landed Smallmouth, Largemouth and Striper so far this summer. Check out the O'Neill's Bearded Dragon and tie a few up. When you see them in the water you will be glad you did. Till next time...
Tight Lines - Tim
Hook: Ahrex TP610 2/0
Tail: Magnum's Mini Dragon tail
Rear Body: 3" RD Fly Fishing Polar fiber Brush, 3 wraps
Middle Body: Blane Chocklett's Filler Flash
Front Body: 3" RD Fly Fishing Polar fiber brush, 4 wraps
Collar: Senyo' Laser Dub
Head: Flymen Fish Mask (appropriate size for pattern)
Eyes: Flymen Living Eyes (Appropriate size for Mask)
After clamping the hook in the jaws and "spinning" on a thread base use some 20# mono to form a loop at the bend of the hook. This is to prevent the tail from fouling around the hook shank while casting. The loop should extend back past the entire bend of the hook. This one should be a bit longer. Also notice, beings this is a 2/0 hook Tyler is using his Norvise Large Inline Jaws for this tie.
Tie in the Dragon Tail. It may be a good idea to lay down a little Flex Cement on the hook shank / thread wraps prior to tying down the tail. Also, you may want to dab the tip of the tail with a little Flex as well to prevent it from fraying.
For the rear body, apply 3 wraps of RD Fly Fishing's 3"Polar fiber brush, stroking backward each wrap
For the mid body, wrap roughly 3/4" of the shank with Blane Chocklett's Filler Flash. Filer Flash is one of our favorite new products. It is a great way to build bulk under the body material and gives the fly just the right amount of flash showing through.
This is what the Body will look like after the Filler Flash is tied off.
For the front of the body, add 4 more wraps of the 3"polar fiber brush, stroking back each time. We are trying the get the Craft Fur Brush to "veil" over the Filler Flash. The flash will help support the Craft Fur giving the illusion of bulk without adding actual weight to the fly. This is a great technique to build "shoulders" into your pattern.
At this point, Sadie, the Norvise Chocolate Lab approves so we can continue.
Finish off the body with a Senyo's Laser Dub Collar. Use the hi tie technique for this. We will will typically do one clump on the top and one clump on the bottom of the hook. Here we have used all red, more often we will use 2 colors to give a little contrast to the pattern. Example; when we do a collar on all of our Bleeding Shad series of flies the top will be white or grey laser dub and the bottom will be red.
After applying the Flymen Fish mask and the Living eyes you are ready to fish!
They always say the "proof is in the pudding" well, first time out with the Bearded Dragon, third cast....