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The Murdich Minnow for Smallmouth Bass

We floated a small river yesterday in central Minnesota. I’ve fished this river for over 30 years and it has had its ups and downs, relative to fish numbers. It is a tributary to the Mississippi and one of the longest small rivers in the state – the Rum River. This river originates in Lake Mille Lacs, currently the most mis-managed fishery in our illustrios state. 

The Rum is a small river that winds through the towns of Onamia, Milaca, Princeton and Cambridge, before entering the Mississippi in Anoka. This river has always been a solid smallmouth fishery and also contains walleye and northern pike. The main food source for the smallmouth are crayfish and minnows. 

This river, not surprisingly, has a reddish brown cast to it that gives rise to its name.  It is an extremely rocky river that requires some quick paddle work at times, depending on the water levels. Early in the summer water levels are such that canoeing is fairly easy but things get tricky when water levels are low. 


We started throwing poppers and had a few fish come up infrequently. I told the bowman-fisherman to put on a Murdich. The Murdich Minnow designed by Bill Murdich is  originally a saltwater fly I discovered at a fly
show about ten years ago. One day while striking out on other flies, I tied one on and WOW, the smallies were all over it. 

Since then we’ve tended to use two variations of the original pattern seen at right.

I like to add a little color to them as a variation and many times it will perform quite well. I used to call this one the Santa Fly because it has Christmas-like colors FinishedFly225Sharpand brings lots of joy. Seen below left. 

I add some green marabou behind the head and glue on some red eyes. This pattern is generally one of my “go-to” flies if fish won’t take a surface offering. 

Another off-shoot of the Murdich Minnow is one tied by Joe Cornwall of Fly Fishing Ohio fame. Joe ties the Murdich with a different twist, building up the head area with synthetic hackle material as seen on the right. 

Cornwall MurdichAll variations of this fly work very well as was evidenced yesterday, throughout the day. The smallies were hesitant to take poppers, so we fed them Murdich’s and they liked them. 

One of the advantages of these flies are their visibility. Since they ride high in the water column, just below the surface, you will often just see the fly disappear. Other times the fish will roll or boil on them as well as blast them from a distance. 

Everyone has their favorite “go-to” subsurface offering for smallmouth fly fishing. Clousers have long been a favorite but if you don’t require a heavily weighted fly – try the Murdich Minnow and you’ll be surprised by the results!

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