Panfish Chat- Host NorthLander (substituting
for Fritz Fratz)- Monday. 6-8 p.m. PST (9-11 EST)
By John Freund
Archive of Panfish
Tim cut the motor on the Evinrude. We were now in perfect position to
float a productive section of the Youghiogheny River in southwestern
Pennsylvania. He chose a fly rod (which at the time I considered a novelty)
with a chartreuse cork slider fly on the end. I would get down to the real work
with my assortment of crankbaits. My ever present confidence soon ebbed. By
the end of that rocky stretch the score was eight to one, in favor of the
flyrod. That lesson learned two decades ago was my introduction to river
smallmouth flyfishing. Since that time, thanks to a very healthy population
of smallmouth in the "Yough" and considerable time spent pursuing them, I
have developed four very effective patterns.
It was apparent to me early on that very large smallmouth will hold in
water that barely covers their back, right along the shoreline. When found
in these areas, the fly rod finesse approach will usually prove to be the
most productive. The reasons are twofold: 1)A featherlight entry into the
water is necessary at times not to startle fish; and 2) Due to the fly
offerings near weightlessness it can be kept in the fish's strike zone much
longer than lures with spinning tackle.
I decided there were four major food forms that were necessary for me to
properly imitate if I was going to be successful on my home waters.
Terrestrial based insects, minnows, a flash "attractor" pattern and
a hellgrammite/leech were the forms that I targeted.
Fish holding in scant inches of water (under overhanging bushes or trees)
were usually preying on terrestial based insects. I knew this to be true
from fishing with crankbaits. When the fish were in an aggressive mood a
strike would many times occur as soon as the lure hit the surface of the
water, even before it was given action. The fish were there expecting
something to fall into the water. My grasshopper was designed to float a long
time and provide maximum action with a minimum of forward movement. The
offering is already in the strike zone so the use of only slight
manipulations will keep it where it will do it's best. I should mention
I prefer two types of surface bugs depending on the season. During the
summer months, a hard-bodied chartreuse slider, preferably in size 2 is hard
to beat. As summer recedes I prefer the deer hair grasshopper in olive and
chartreuse. The deer hair on this pattern provides the"crush" that a smallie
is accustomed to on these long-bodied insects.
Float trips on the river are a "run and gun affair" with no time for
back-tracking. My attractor "flash" pattern was made to fish fast since most
casts can't last longer than five to eight seconds without getting too far
behind the canoe. The colors of chartreuse, silver, and a touch of red were
incorporated into a neutrally buoyant body to entice active roaming fish and
to keep snags to a minimum.
Minnow imitations should have eyes, don't you think? Most of the
smallies I catch on minnow crankbaits are usually hooked on the front or
middle treble hook. In my mind at least, I like to think the fish are using
the eye as a bullseye for their interception. This is an area where
traditional streamer patterns are often found lacking. The problem is with
traditional ties there is no room for large eyes necessary to be effective.
What is imitated in effect then is only the rear portion of the baitfish.
Ringo is a streamlined imitation tied with synthetics and peacock herl with
large eyes which has given many bass heartburn.
As you may have surmised by this point, I normally target shallow,
active fish. When I want to put on a show though, I pull out Ugly Moe, my
hellgrammite pattern (works as a leech also) Remember the real McCoy's
saying----no brag, just fish (or something like that). The last time out
with Ugly Moe I caught two twenty inch smallies. This pattern was designed
to be fished deep with a fast stripping action that is very unnerving to
I have much more I would like to share with you but a mans gotta fish.
~ John Freund
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