FLY OF THE WEEK
Gayle and I were fortunate to be able to spend the month of January near Canaveral National Seashore, on Route A1A, south of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Canaveral National Seashore has two launch ramps suitable for outboard skiffs and the southernmost ramp, at parking lot number 5, also offers wading opportunities for redfish and spotted sea trout plus other fish species.
Salt water flyfishing on the "flats" of the world-famous estuary known as Mosquito Lagoon can be a treat. Redfish and spotted sea trout are the most commonly caught species. Tidal movement and weather can impact on fishing in the lagoons and good planning is necessary for wade fishing or boat fishing. In our case, a one mile drive from our beach house put us in the Canaveral National Seashore and on fishable waters. Since we did not have a "flats" type boat, we could only fly fish by wading the flats. We did note that some anglers kayaked along the shoreline looking for tailing fish. We made a mental note to return next January and possibly February with kayaks or a flats boat.
We were told to look
for redfish and sea trout in shallow water during the winter months.
According to the local anglers, the fish like to sun themselves over
sandy open areas when it can be found in the aquatic weed bottom. When
the fish are not sunning themselves, they are feeding in the aquatic
weeds for baitfish and shrimp. We were told to cast a fly that hits
the water very softly and does not spook the shallow water feeding fish.
That fly was the Bendback streamer. This fly is easy to tie and is easy
to cast. They mimic baitfish and shrimp close enough to fool most fish
and, as we were told, the fish take them readily. Some tiers of the
Bendback prefer to leave the bent portion of the shank bare, but the
guides in this part of Florida prefer to wrap the shank with sparkle
braid or other flash material. The Bendback is drawn through the shallow
and weedy water with the hook point up, much like the Clouser fly. A
guide and fly tier told us that the most common mistakes in tying the
Bendback are to over bend the hook shank and to add excessive bucktail
hair. A slim profile when wet is the preferred appearance for this streamer.
The shank should be bent no greater than 30 degrees. Recommended tools
to make the bend are the six-inch crescent wrench or the same size needle
nose pliers. The bend starts about a quarter inch behind the hook eye.
Not all hooks can be bent without breaking. I used the suggested Mustad
stainless steel 34007 with good results. A Bendback is a combination
of bucktail hair and synthetic material. The fly fishers I talked with
in Florida swear by Hologram eyes placed on all streamers. I plan to
carry that thought to my limestone and freestone trout streams when
using streamers. Like any other fly, one should carry a good selection
of sizes and colors so use your imagination when tying the Bendback.
I plan to use the appropriate sizes and colors (after on stream testing)
on our PA trout streams.
If you have not read Recent News and Happenings, I suggest you go back to it. The piece will provide the springboard to the Fly of the Week update. Specifically how the Stripper Midge caught my attention. Since my return from the South Holston River in Tennessee I have used the stripper midge in the Run and the Yellow Breeches with good results. Can't wait to try the stripper midge on Yellow Creek!
Prior to the Florida trip, which included a stop over in Tennessee, I contacted the South Holston Fly Shop for a bug update and was told that the small nymph patterns were still the fly of choice. However, staff member Matt Guinn informed me that the stripper midge was a good fly for the trout bite. The stripped peacock quill (in this case I am referring to a single eyed peacock tail feather fiber (herl) with the flue (fuzz) stripped off.) brought back fond memories of fishing Spring Creek in central Pennsylvania so I decided to tie a dozen or so stripper midges for the December South Holston River trip. Two size 22 stripper midges fished about 15 inches below a strike indicator of New Zealand wool was an effective rig. The white wool, which did not deter trout from rising to the flies, is fast becoming my preferred strike indicator because it does not spook trout even in heavily fished waters.
Stripping peacock quill for a segmented body appearance was popular many years ago. Peacock herl was used as a key fly tying material at that time and it is still used effectively in today's fly patterns. The multi-colors of bronze, black, green and some blue under varying light conditions could have been the first of the attractor materials for fly tying. I know it caught my attention. The stripped peacock quill has the dark and light brown bands running the length of the quill. These bands provide the segmented appearance when wrapped on a hook. I use the thumb and forefinger technique to strip the short hair like fibers from the quill. The thumb and finger approach is simple. Stroke the short hair like fibers toward the base of the quill several times until bare.
One last piece of
advice when fishing stripper midges in mid winter. When you notice trout
sipping midges off the surface, don't automatically switch from the
subsurface stripper midge to a midge surface pattern. Here's why. Bruce
McFate and I were fishing the Yellow Breeches Creek several days ago
when we had the last above freezing temperatures in our area. The stripper
midges were productive but I noticed several trout up sipping midges
and I changed to a dry fly midge pattern. Numerous dry fly changes later
I was frustrated. I could not interest the trout in any of my size 24
and size 26 midge patterns that had taken trout in the fall and in the
early winter. Scanning the water surface I noticed only one size midge
bug and they were about a size 32. I could not compete with the natural's
diminitive size so I re-rigged with the tandem stripper midges and white
New Zealand wool as a strike indicator. I positioned the stripper midges
at the eight inch and fifteen inch levels below the strike indicator
and caught trout. I noted a few times in my recently published book