From time to time, as the season progresses, I will take a look specifically at what Flies and methods are working at certain stages and see how things are progressing, and if there are any noticeable changes or patterns or preferences on the Fishes part, and try and make observations based on what is happening at that time. I’m sure there will be some interesting and notable changes as the season progresses, it may be that any trends will be time of year based, or venue based, or a combination of both. I already know that the Fish can show a preference for a certain Fly, or colour combination at different venues, particularly if they are not preoccupied with chasing whitebait, and are making use of whatever resident food sources there are at that particular venue. So i’m sure it will be fascinating actually documenting these observations over the season, not to mention useful for future seasons, as it will allow me, hopefully to spot any patterns and use them to full advantage in the coming years. Fish, like most other animals driven by their survival instincts, are creatures of habit, and will follow the same behaviour patterns year on year, which, for the observant Angler, can be very useful if you can spot these habits! For example the most obvious is Spawning behaviour, and Fish will turn up in their favoutite spot at the same time each year almost to the day and tide. This also extends beyond spawning time when fish can be found in certain spots for only short periods, probably capitalising on a matured food source, never to return again until the following year when that food source is again ripe for harvesting. So with careful observation it is possible to give yourself a pretty good idea of when fish are likely to turn up in any given spot, and what type of imitation or bait to present them with.
This of course, all takes time to learn, and whilst I have quite a few years of general Sea Angling experience to help me in My quest to catch Bass, Fishing for them on the Fly is a bit different to Fishing for them with bait, and it goes without saying the more you can learn the better, no matter how much you think you already know, they will still confound you at times and leave you scratching your head! So the more observations you can make, the more tiny pieces you can slot into the puzzle to help make the bigger picture…
On to what Flies have been doing the business so far then..
I think I am right in saying that the Clouser Minnow is probably the most widely used and abused fly pattern among Saltwater Fly Fishermen, why? because, in My view, it is actually an incredibly versatile pattern, one might not think so at first glance, but a deeper understanding of Fly materials can transform the way that this famous fly works. The standard model as tied by Mr Clouser himself revolves around the use of Bucktail, and rightly so, because Bucktail is an excellent material for tying Flies. As a product of nature it has certain inherent qualities that make it excel for use as a Fly material. It is hollow, durable, it sheds water very well, produces a very life like movement in the water, and is very easy to work with as a tying material. It is also very dense, despite being hollow, and this produces a fast sinking Fly when coupled with the Tungsten barrel eyes that help to make this pattern what it is, and great for fishing a bit deeper, but other materials can alter the way that the fly behaves in the water, and I am a great fan of synthetic materials as well as natural, because each has its own unique qualities that can be tailored to suit a variety of different presentations and Angling situations. These can be used individually or combined to achieve the desired results depending on how we want the Fly to behave in the water.
Having played around with a few different materials for the Clouser, and not wanting to fish the Fly too deep at the venues we have been targeting, I have found that SF flash blend suits my needs very well, it isn’t as dense a material as Bucktail and fishes a little hgher in the water. More importantly as well as having flash blended in with the material already, it also posesses a lovely translucent quality even if tied on the bulky side, so it is hard to over do it. The translucensy of the material also very nicely replicates the nature of the baitfish that the Bass are preying on at this time of year. We have been tying on size six hooks, keeping the material fairly short and tight and the resulting pattern seems to work very well. I also think tying them a little on the ‘bulky’ side has helped pick up the odd better fish as it looks more of a meal than a sparse tied version. Colour combinations have been the usual White and Charteruese, though I think there is room for other Colour combinations, Pink has worked well in the Glass minnow patterns and I think it may well prove the same here.
Alternative Stripping techniques..
I have been playing around with different stripping techniques this year, and I would say it has definitely made a difference to My catch rate and has also contributed to My catching a few better fish as well. Firstly I have slowed the retrieval rate of the Fly down, whereas last year I would retrieve, more or less in a mechanical fashion, at a reasonable pace, believing the faster strip would make the Bass want to grab the fly for fear of losing a meal, however it became apparent that they could keep up even if I were to attach My line to a high speed drill and retrieve it! Also when retrieved like this I would get a lot of hits but no too many actual hook ups. After some clear water observations I noticed they were just nipping the ‘tail’ of the Fly and not actually engulfing it instantly resulting in the missed ‘hits’. After some thought I deduced that what they were doing was trying to ‘disable’ the fly by nipping at the tail, something many predators do to prevent their prey from escaping. I also deduced that by keeping up the retrieval rate even after getting a hit, that I was causing the Fly to possibly behave in an unnatural manner, and that by stopping the retrieve after recieveing a hit, pausing the fly for a moment and then resuming the strip, I could make the Fly behave more like a wounded prey fish. Slowing the retrieve would also make the Fly act more like a wounded fish, and by adding an element of erraticness to the retrieve it would resemble an injured prey fish even more, making it an even more attractive potential meal for the Bass. Coincidentally there was a brief discussion about varying types of strip on the Forum I mentioned, which served to reinforce My conclusions, along with the results I have been getting lately. There is no doubt in My mind that I am getting more hook up’s as a result of concentrating more on what is going on at the end of the line, and by conciously making an effort to ensure the Fly behaves as a bait fish would, rather than just mechanically stripping the fly back towards me without trying to impart some ‘life’ into it.