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Slow Day Tactics


Terry Dodge
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I'm fairly new to fly fishing. I've been chasing the smallmouth with the fly on the Kishwaukee River for four years now.

My question is.......When the bite is slow and your searching for that one fly that will do the trick, how often do you

change flies? How long do you toss a fly before switching to another? If you're not getting any results no matter what,

do you pick one fly and stick with it with the frame of mind that if they're going to hit then they should hit this fly? Or

do you just pack it up and head for home? I don't like to head for home.smile.gif

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I do it this way. I start at the top with a popper or slider. Then I go to a streamer just worked below the surface (Murdich or Bart O Minnow). If those selections don't produce, I go to the bottom with my Mangy Craw. If none of these selections work, I either head for home or switch areas on the river. I usually stick with each fly maybe around 30 minutes or so.

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Jonn

 

Do you ever fish side by side with a spinfisherman (or baitcaster)? More often than not I get outfished, for sure by numbers but I can often come close to matching the number of quality bass we both get.

 

Seems like plastics are really tough to beat. I'm still very much on the learning curve when it comes to working deeper presentations.

 

Not about to give up!

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I kill fly guys with fast, noisy, presentations. Really ripping stop and go retrieves. They tend to work a bait too slow or gently.

 

Sometimes fish only bite when annoyed- IE buzzbaits.

 

Seems like a lot of times the fly guy is waiting too long in the season to fish. IE- low ultra clear water when fish are spookiest. When their presentations need to be relatively close. Spring and winter shorter casts and higher water hide the presence much better. Bass are also less likely to be buried deep in cover.

 

I also see fly guys spend too much time on areas that are marginal.

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I kill fly guys with fast, noisy, presentations. Really ripping stop and go retrieves. They tend to work a bait too slow or gently.

 

Sometimes fish only bite when annoyed- IE buzzbaits.

 

Seems like a lot of times the fly guy is waiting too long in the season to fish. IE- low ultra clear water when fish are spookiest. When their presentations need to be relatively close. Spring and winter shorter casts and higher water hide the presence much better. Bass are also less likely to be buried deep in cover.

 

I also see fly guys spend too much time on areas that are marginal.

 

When bass are chasing active baits is when I'm at my best. It's much easier to present a fly with a fast strip in current than it is to slow it down. Distance is also often a foe when up against a spin fisherman. They can simply beat you to the "spot" so to speak because they can cast for distance faster and also can work across current more effectively and from greater distances. I tend to get a lot of sloppy seconds when on a wade with spin guys.

 

You're bound to run into a variety of conditions during the course of a season. Not sure who is waiting and for what. Fish when you can is my motto.

 

It usually takes fly fishermen more time to cover an area, so I agree.

 

More specifically, when bass are on a plastic bite, I can't seem to match them.

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I do it this way. I start at the top with a popper or slider. Then I go to a streamer just worked below the surface (Murdich or Bart O Minnow). If those selections don't produce, I go to the bottom with my Mangy Craw. If none of these selections work, I either head for home or switch areas on the river. I usually stick with each fly maybe around 30 minutes or so.

Great reply, Jonn.

 

Buck sez,"The fish are on the top, the bottom, or somewhere in between." That is why Craig uses the ringer. No sense being a one depth wonder.

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A few of my observations:

 

Most of the time I think a spin fisherman fishing plastics will outfish an angler with the fly rod..........I said "most of the time". There are times and circumstances where the fly rodder can strut his stuff.

 

The clients I have taken fly fishing seem to exhibit two issues that bother me........one, they do stick in one spot way too long and do seem to fish marginal water. Secondly, they routinely throw flies that are too small, in my opinion, to garner serious looks from hungry, river smallies (especially larger smallies).

 

When I fish with the fly rod, I tend to revert back to my "old" spin/casting rod days. Throw something large enough to "catch" the attention of a big smallie, but not so big that smaller bass cannot be tempted as well. I still believe, and probably always will, big bait equals big fish. Does not always work, but it works more often than many anglers are willing to admit.

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A few of my observations:

 

Most of the time I think a spin fisherman fishing plastics will outfish an angler with the fly rod..........I said "most of the time". There are times and circumstances where the fly rodder can strut his stuff.

 

The clients I have taken fly fishing seem to exhibit two issues that bother me........one, they do stick in one spot way too long and do seem to fish marginal water. Secondly, they routinely throw flies that are too small, in my opinion, to garner serious looks from hungry, river smallies (especially larger smallies).

 

When I fish with the fly rod, I tend to revert back to my "old" spin/casting rod days. Throw something large enough to "catch" the attention of a big smallie, but not so big that smaller bass cannot be tempted as well. I still believe, and probably always will, big bait equals big fish. Does not always work, but it works more often than many anglers are willing to admit.

 

 

This was what I was trying to communicate. Good answer, Jonn. I agree entirely. I think a fly fisherman should do both, because tossing gear will make you a better flyfisherman. Tune your sense of when to move and when to switch baits! It will open your mind up to different possibilities.

 

No reason to take offense. If you are trying to catch more fish, and that's what fishing forums are mainly about (learning from one another) :) We're all friends here after the same objective. Having a great time on the water chasing smallmouth bass. Sharing fishing info with fellow fishermen isn't exclusive to one type of rod.

 

Us vs them snobbery is silly. We all band together because we want to protect the resource and catch some bass!

 

I spend a lot of time on the water and want to help. If you want to take it as being anti fly guys that's the farthest from the truth.

 

Fly fishing has been very important for the emerging catch and release ethos amoungst fisherman as well as a leading reason for the conservation of our rivers. A lot of guys are drawn to it because of the romance and that is great. It's not the flyrod's fault if a guy has limited experience locating fish on a creek. The learning curve is slower. The way Jonn's doing it is great because he has the experience to know when to switch up.

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Jonn,

 

It sounds like your sports have a lot of trout fishing habits to overcome since they are working small flies, in the wrong (for bass) places, spending a lot of time trying to get the perfect drift. The trout model that prevails among fly fishermen is not for Bass.

 

Terry,

 

Bob Long Jr's presentation on Fly Fishing SM Bass is the best antidote for "trout" fishing habits that I have seen. Jonn does not have habits to unlearn though I wonder how he would do on trout fishing in the wrong places with flies that are too big. :)

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A few of my observations:

 

Most of the time I think a spin fisherman fishing plastics will outfish an angler with the fly rod..........I said "most of the time". There are times and circumstances where the fly rodder can strut his stuff.

 

The clients I have taken fly fishing seem to exhibit two issues that bother me........one, they do stick in one spot way too long and do seem to fish marginal water. Secondly, they routinely throw flies that are too small, in my opinion, to garner serious looks from hungry, river smallies (especially larger smallies).

 

When I fish with the fly rod, I tend to revert back to my "old" spin/casting rod days. Throw something large enough to "catch" the attention of a big smallie, but not so big that smaller bass cannot be tempted as well. I still believe, and probably always will, big bait equals big fish. Does not always work, but it works more often than many anglers are willing to admit.

 

I couldn't agree with you more Jonn on your points.

 

Mike G. and Brenden made valid points as well.

 

Regarding the transition to fly fishing; it was fairly easy for me when it comes to smallmouths. The mindset(s) are already there; its just a matter of learning a new application. A "trout guy" mentality could be a handicap, but let's not overlook how easily a good trout fisherman could adapt as well, assuming they are well practiced at casting and presentation techniques. I learn a lot reading articles in fly fishing mags that are geared towards trout fishing. These guys know their stuff when it comes to stream/river fishing.

 

So, that being said, how do we turn the tables on our spin or bait casting comrades when they are smoking us?

 

Let's assume we've already eliminated the issues of smaller flies, trout presentations, and overfishing the wrong spots. I'm talking about standing shoulder to shoulder with someone that's catching while you're fishing.

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I favor bassbugs whenever the water temp is in the mid 50's+ particularly for pounding the banks which is my favorite strategy for stream smallies. I believe they attract bigger fish on average than streamers which I prefer for deeper water midriver fishing when weighted.If bassbugs aren't producing I do sometimes try a streamer but have found that switching usually doesn't produce better results.Therefore I prefer to stay with a proven method/fly& rely on maximizing the # of spots/ areas I fish to find willing fish.I believe that more often than not fishing more spots with a proven fly is better than fewer spots with a variety of flies for warmwater species since they're not only less selective but also far fewer & further in between than trout in quality trout streams where if you're not catching any it's often not because they're not there but because you're not giving them what they want at the time.Figuring out what they want & presenting it effectively is what trout fishing is mostly about& is also what makes it so fascinating whereas simply finding them is the main problem in warmwater fishing.

While a good flyfisherman will usually outfish a good spinfisherman for trout the reverse is true for warmwater species at least for #s if not size especially in high,off color conditions & always in deeper midriver fishing.The one lure I envy spinfishers for is a crankbait as it's deadly & is the one lure that cannot be approximated flyfishing.However a good flyfisherman should be able to hold his own pounding the banks or object fishing.He can actually cover more spots by not having to retrieve the fly all the way back after it leaves the productive area near shore but instead can pick it up to fire it to a new spot.BTW a bassbug can in fact be fished across the surface as fast as a spinnerbait.

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I enjoy fishing for a multitude of reasons and part the enjoyment of fishing comes from the challenge of figuring out how to catch fish. That's all I'm seeking; some insight on experiences.

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Well, I kind of learned bass/panfish with the fly rod before I learned to trout fish, so maybe I'm backward from the norm. The techniques are drastically different.

 

Back to the original topic. I've found when the bite is slow I can usually tie on a Clouser, cast down & across, and just let it swim downstream in the current. I do this a lot up at Mathiesen in the fall. It may hang there, swimming back & forth in the current straight downstream from me a minute or two before it will finally p***-off a smallie & he'll smack it. I believe bass usually strike out of sheer agression rather than out of the need to feed (like trout), and when the fly just hangs there on their noses they will eventually be annoyed by it and strike at it. When fishing like this, I'll usually get 3-4 taps before the fish will attempt to eat it. I've always figured they were trying to just knock the fly out of their area & when it won't leave, then they eat it. Its important to not set the hook before actually feeling weight on the line. When fishing like this the line is always tight & feeling every little bump is easy. Just have to make sure the rod tip is down & pointed straight at the fly.

 

I've used this technique for years, then attended a clinic given by Bob Long at the Chicago fly fishing show & he advocated the same technique.

 

Brian

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Brian

Definitely can be affective but it takes a lot of faith that the fish are actually there as well as patience to wait them out for a strike.Its affectiveness was once demonstrated steelheading.Couldn't get anything with flies.To demonstrate that the fish really were there but unwilling the guide pulled out a baitcasting rod and drifted a tadpolly back downstrream where my partner & I had no luck.As the lure hung in the current wiggling back & forth in front of their noses it wasn't long before the steelhead got pissed enuf to hit it.My partner landed several. The guide offerred me another baitcaster but being a hardcore flyfisherman I was content to just watch my partner's fun.To our credit as flyfishermen after this interlude we both went back to flyfishing & our skunking.

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Guest airbornemike

I'm fairly new to fly fishing. I've been chasing the smallmouth with the fly on the Kishwaukee River for four years now.

My question is.......When the bite is slow and your searching for that one fly that will do the trick, how often do you

change flies? How long do you toss a fly before switching to another? If you're not getting any results no matter what,

do you pick one fly and stick with it with the frame of mind that if they're going to hit then they should hit this fly? Or

do you just pack it up and head for home? I don't like to head for home.smile.gif

I'm gonna answer as fair minded as I can. Changing back and forth from one fly to another is not really as big a factor as your technique and presentation, than you can worry about size of your offering, speed, color, water temp.....it goes on and on. Me personally, I dont pick up a spinning rod or baitcaster because doing that aint gonna make me any better of a fly fisherman. I'm far from an Orvis snob (which I cant tollerate) but I try and stick with one tool at a time.

 

You can sit there and present a fly with a down and across presentation all day with every different fly in your box, but if they dont want it like that your gonna have to slow down and try an upstream presentation, or something on top maybe. If your new to fly fishing for SMB and want to learn a bit more there's alot of good advice here in the forum, but I would give Tim Holschlags book a look. He's from the midwest and has guided a few people I know, so his methods apply to alot of the type of SMB fishing we do here in the midwest. I've been doing this for a day or so and still use his book as reference when I run into on stream problems.

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Me personally, I dont pick up a spinning rod or baitcaster because doing that aint gonna make me any better of a fly fisherman.

 

Yes, perfect. I want to keep at and get better as well.

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With that being said, I've often wondered if there is a time for a

fly rod (summer months) and a time for the spinning rod (early spring & fall).

For some reason I have to grab that fly rod. So I do.

I want to catch that nice smallie on a fly rod.

I've never and will never fish for trout so I don't have those bad trout habits.

My main problem is I'm a self taught fly fisherman that has never fished

along side another fly fisherman.

If anybody took my "grandma" comment the wrong way I apologize.

I just thought that was the way fly guys were with the spin-heads.

Thanks for all the input.

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I fished with Jonn Graham and all the original ISAers back when Jonn was the king of the darkside and I was the only fly rodder. I learned from these guys, they were (are) good. First off, their finesse stuff is still larger than most really big flies. Fly guys fish too small most of the time.Most fly guys fish too shallow, they seem to get uncomfortable wading more than knee deep.Big fish like to be at least near the deep water. Long extensive shallow riffles are juvenile fish areas, nurseries. Buck Perry may never have cast a fly in his life but his wisdom of fish location transfers to any style of fishing. Big fish live in the deepest water in the lake or AREA. Like a three foot hole on a one foot flat,or the four foot ledge near the ten foot channel. When bass are active you can catch them any way you want. This is when topwaters work so well. When they get less active or down right negative, they hug cover and/or the bottom. Most fly fishermen never get or stay close enough to the bottom to interest these fish like a plastic bait does.These fish are not going to move to get your fly, you must spoon feed them. Flies will catch these fish just most guys do not fish properly, either they fail to use enough weight or mend the line correctly or do not like sinking lines or do not know how to detect strikes when fishing deeper because they do it so infrequently. High dirty water equals big fish, it's when we get our biggest shoal bass down here. Seen, heard, felt, large bright flies with rattles, can you say Hairy Fodder. We use 3/0, 5 1/2 inch bright yellow and red flies with 4mm rattles. It's as close to a crank plug as you're going to get without putting a lip on a fly. There are no fish you can't catch fly fishing, you just have to be willing to do what it takes, not want you want to do. I state these things out of truth. I have been fly fishing nearly forty years now, I've fished with a lot of folks and I'm not bragging but I've rarely been out fished. I routinely watch my partners make one or more of the faults that I've mentioned. I think a lot of it has to do with ot understanding your quarry, its preferences and needs. Most fly fishermen are more worried about making a pretty cast or a drag free drift than actually studying the water they're casting into for clues of where to fish. I think most fly fishermen if they really want to catch fish, not "look good" failing to do so, would do better to find a course on fish biology than to try to pass a master caster program.Get the original first three years of In-Fisherman Magazine. No greater learning tool has ever been written. It's not about spin fishing nor is it about fly fishing, it's about fish and why they do what they do.In my opinion, most fly fisherman fish for numbers, not size, no matter what species they're after. If more action makes you happy, then go for it. We both may catch ten pounds of fish in a day, they'll have a dozen bass, I'll have three. Enough soap box for tonight. We all can always get better but it only comes with change.

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Craig:

 

Great post. After fishing with you back in the day, I can attest that a fly fisherman can keep up with a spin fisherman if they know what they are doing (I am not at that point yet, but hopefully I will get there someday soon). I was always amazed at your ability to catch smallies on the long rod no matter where the fish were or what mood they were in.

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Fine post Craig.The only thing I would caution anyone reading it against is perhaps coming away with the impression that it's necessary to use flies as big as you allude to in order to catch big smallmouth.Flies of that size are necessary for big pike,muskies,salwater species etc but there's certainly no need for them along with the cumbersome equipment needed to fish them in typical smallmouth water.No need for a deer rifle to hunt squirrels(even big ones).

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Often in the fall, some of the biggest smallmouth of the year are caught accidentally by muskie fishermen. They are using lures that only a billfish flyfisherman could get close to equaling. If you are in the hunt for BIG fish and bankrunners don't matter, throw big a-- flies, your average size fish will go way up. I fished some very small streams in Illinois with some old club members and was shocked at the size of plastic baits they were throwing (and catching fish with) on so small a water. Smaller flies will occasionally catch larger fish, big stuff always will. The fish are not intimidated by bigger baits, fly fishermen are. Find some spin fisherman in the club who really catches a lot of big fish, then compare your flies to his lures and you'll get my drift.

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