Basic Selection of Sub-Surface Flies

This section deals with fishing just under to mid levels within the water column. Here we generally work any number of streamers. A selection of streamers in everyone’s fly box might contain some of the following in sizes 1/0 – 6. :

  • Minnow imitations: Sculpin, Mad Tom, and Minnow imitations all work well. One of the most famous is the Whitlock’s Sculpin, Shenk’s Sculpin and a soggy Dahlberg diver also doubles as a decent sculpin wannabe. Don’t leave the house without Clouser minnows in various colors. And don’t forget to tie up or buy my number one minnow imitation: The Murdich Minnow.
  • Marabou Muddlers – Another great sculpin-like pattern
  • Matuka – A great soft hackled fly originally designed for trout, works great for bass and pike.
  • Crayfish patterns like the Clouser Crayfish, which is realistic and many other (probably better)
  • Whoolly Buggers – Where would you go without at least one a woolly bugger?
  • Red & White Hackle Fly – Feathered dynamite
  • Lefty’s Deceiver – A standard in any fishing situation
  • Zonker – white and natural colors look like a chub

Strategies On Strange Waters: The fly list goes on and one. If you’re on new water, ask the local fly shop what’s working and where. If no fly shop is available do some homework before you go. Bait shops will rarely have sound fly fishing information. Not to worry, with the list above you’ll score on most smallmouth waters. The bait shops may tell you the name a the local fly fishing zealot you can then contact. This is by far the best way to go. Even though the zealot will not reveal specific locations, he/she may offer up the very best flies imitating local critters. People enjoy being recognized as an authority on something, and when properly approached – are a gold mine.

Erratic: There are an infinite number of retrieve to try that all work under varying conditions: fast, slow, erratic, long or short strips. A combination of the aforementioned a very effective. For example, a hard strip, pause, then 5 – 6 mini-strips, pause and repeat. Keep experimenting until the fish let you know their preference. Remember the preference will change as the day goes on or conditions change.

Dead Drifting: Dead drifting is always worth trying in any fishing situation since this imitates real life to most fish. Aquatic invertebrates break free of underwater holds or swim to the surface. In any case, they drift along in the water at various levels and it is up to you to discover in which level the fish are feeding at a specific time. There are two basic techniques for dead drifting which is similar to nymphing with trout:

  1. Upstream: Since the fish are facing upstream in most situations, you cast either directly upstream or just off to one side. Lower the rod tip and strip in line commensurate with the stream flow. Watch the line intensely for any hesitation or unusual movement. Keep slack out of the line while allowing for current tongue correction with mending.
  2. Across: When fishing across stream cast across and up at about 2:00 on the dial. You will no doubt need to mend, that is throwing extra loops upstream to compensate for current tongues wanting to drag the fly instead of a natural dead drift. Any dry fly trout fisherman knows about drag. Drag will also pull your fly up off the bottom. You throw up stream quartering initially to allow time for the fly to sink. Once it is directly across, it’s best to “high stick it” or raise the rod up to draw up the slack as opposed to strip. You do this so you can lower the rod tip as the fly floats down below you, feeding slack back into the drift as the current demands.

As the line begins to belly below strip the fly in with the rod low. You rarely need to strike hard when fishing streamers since the take is often on the downward swing on a tight line. Simply raise the rod tip or perform a “strip set” ala bonefish, and the fight is on!