This fly was a collaborative project for between Texas guide Daniel Hughes and myself for the Devil's River in west Texas. Our goal was an all around fly that would catch, everything....in this case everything included carp, smallmouth, sunfish and gar. Since its inception, the leech has proven its worth and accounted for all these species in a number central Texas rivers and lakes. In particular this fly has done very well on carp. However, more recently I caught several smelt on the California coast on this fly. In New Mexico this fly accounted for my personal best catfish. While olive was the original and most productive color, purple and black has been proving itself more and more on the water.
A variant of the shad dart is probably the first fly you will see if you search online for shad flies. Usually these flies are tied in a combination of bright colors like chartreuse and hot pink or yellow and red. For my initial forays into fishing for shad I tied some of these for my box, but as a rule I like to carry "natural colors" with my bright colored flies. Natural colors in my mind means two things, earth tones and match the hatch colors. The shad dart variant featured here is one of the later. I wanted to have a fly that would represent a newly hatched baby fish. While I remain uncertain if this logic was the key to the fly's success, I am certain the fly works. I do however keep some olive colored ones in my box too.
Relocating for work creates new fishing opportunities or at least it should. I will always have pity for those that do not move to places with new fishing opportunities. Being one of the lucky ones, I have been continuing to explore new opportunities in Northern California. My latest endeavor has been shad fishing. For someone from Texas, shad are often just thought of as bait. However, as I recently discovered first hand, some species are worthwhile targets for flyfishing.
Shad had been on my life list for a while, but I had only known of fisheries on the East Coast. It was not until arriving in the Sacramento area that I discovered that American shad were introduced to the American River.
I break down exploring a new fishery into three things mentally.
1. Research: This step is straightforward. I gather all the information I can on the fish, locations to find them, and the flies to catch them. This info comes from online sources, fishing reports and most importantly the local shop guys.
2. Location: This comes from the researching portion too, but selecting where you will go can aid in the likelihood for success. Also, depending upon the fishery, it may change things like regulations, the time fish will be migrating through the area or even how often you can reasonably expect to access the same spot.
3. Expectation: While all of us want to believe our fishing skills are infallible, in reality we have equal chances of failure or success if all other circumstances remain the same. Thus, I prepare in part by taking a realistic look at my goals and likelihood of success. For example do I expect to have to cast all day to find a single fish? Is finding a school the key? Should there be many small fish, but few big fish? What is needed for me to consider the day a success?
So to break this down for my shad experience, I first researched on fishing for shad in the area and asked around at the local shops. Using that information and knowledge about accessibility I was able to select an access point on the river. Finally, I set my personal goals for the day. 1) I want to fish my switch rod and catch the shad by swinging flies. 2) I would locate a school by methodically working down stream until finding fish. Once hooked up, I would continue to fish the area more thoroughly. (Part of my research described that if you can find a shad, there are usually others in the same holding area). 3) Catching even one would be a successful day. Catching one on a fly of my own design would be even better.
Obviously from the photos, its obvious that I managed to succeed in my plans. American shad surpassed my expectations. They are now in my list of awesomely under appreciated species to target on the fly. I particularly enjoyed getting to swing flies with my switch rod which is not something I have had many chances to do.
The Bully’s Blue Gill Experience
The Bully’s Blue Gill Spider is a staple of blue gill and river bass fishing in Central Texas. Develop by Roxanne and Terry Wilson, this fly makes use of the aggressive nature of bass and sunfish by descending quickly and fluttering while stripped to mimic a struggling or escaping insect. With a body made of chenille, Bully’s blue gill spiders can be constructed in any color of available chenille. The legs MUST BE RUBBER! No silicone legs! The specific action of this fly requires legs with the flexibility of rubber. Silicone is not flexible enough at short lengths to achieve the same effect in the water as rubber. This versatile fly has even led to controversy in our club as rival sunfish anglers debate which color variant out fishes all others. Woolly bugger chenille in brown with brown rubber legs versus chartreuse medium rayon chenille with white rubber legs is often the local debate.
The Secret squirrel has become one of my go to river flies and might be the "fish catching-est" fly I have ever developed. The key to this fly is the jigging action combined with its size. By tying this fly on a barbless jig style hook for nymphs I obtain a small profile with a hook point that rides up.
The secret squirrel was developed during low water conditions when bouncing along the limestone bottoms of the central Texas rivers was not so much a technique as an inescapable fact of fishing. In combination with my regular habit of "perch jerking," the necessity for a small "jig-like" fly that could hit bottom and not hang up became critical. I would love to say this fly has gone through many hard tested iterations to become what is it, but the truth is that I put the idea together one night at the vice and it paid off big. The only real addition I made from the original first fly was to add lead wraps for a faster sink rate in deeper waters.
This fly is one designed to produce numbers.....The fly first proved itself on the Llano river when it pulled 28 fish (including 4 different species) out from underneath a single overhanging tree and later that day I lost my last secret squirrel to something big enough to drag me around the river and brake me off (ALWAYS RETIE!). At a later date it won Most Fish in the the local one fly tournament on the Nueces River with 69 fish in one day on one fly. (For durability in this scenario, I add super glue after all the steps.) Finally, this fly also has my personal best trout from the Guadalupe River to add to its list of accomplishments and this fish happened on one of those "no one is catching anything" days when I switched over to this fly because I had no better ideas.
Olive is my go to color, but I also tie it in red and tan and chartreuse. Enjoy the video.
One of the challenges of moving across the country several times in a single year has been trying to track down the local fishing shows. Upon discovering the Sacramento International Sportsmen's Expositions show, I knew I had to get my fishing show fix. The show was dominated by outfitters for both hunting and fishing which definitely have their place. However, anyone who follows this blog will realize I must seek out the tying tables. While there not numerous tiers at this outdoors show by fly fishing show standards there were plenty to keep me entertained. Enjoy.