Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Swellcat Craw

The Swellcat Craw
Hook:  Jig (#4 sickle above)
Tail:  Dumbbell eyes flattened with pliers
Underbody:  Orange Chenille
Overbody:  Feather (golden pheasant above)
Eyes:  Black plastic
Legs:  Rubber (spinner bait skirt)
Claw(s):  Ringneck rooster pheasant feather(s)
Antennae:  Flash
Collar:  Phezabou – ringneck rump hackle

This one one of favorite new patterns.  I just ran across it on the Fiberglass Flyrodders site.  Jeff Evans is the creator of this pattern, he's done a fantastic job!

This fly has proved very effective!  See Below!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Top Fly Box - Lamson Konic Fly Reel

Lamson Konic Fly Reel
Lamson Konic Fly Reel
Manufacturer: Waterworks/Lamson
MSRP: $139.95
Purchased From:  Ebay
*Assembled in Boise, Idaho
Highly Recommended Product

Top Product Review
Joe Cornwall posted an article a few months back called It's Lonely On The Bottom - Eagle Claw's Featherweight Fly Rod ReviewedIn the article Joe touches on how nutty fly fishing has become with a "mid-priced" rod ringing up at $300?  I'll be honest, I can't afford to spend $300 on a rod or a reel!  Recently I spent $75 on fly line this year and felt ill when I hit the Buy it Now button.  My biggest beef with fly fishing is the snobbery.  I know a guy that pulls an enclosed trailer full of gear to the river for an evening of fishing....a dedicated fly fishing trailer?  It's safe to say Mr. Trailer Fly Fisherman would never own a Lamson Konic reel simply because of the price point.  Let's look at the features of this reel and praise the fact that a company still makes such a practical reel for such a fair price.

I want to start by questioning the need for an expensive fly reel in the first place.  So far I have not seen a fish take me down to my backing.  I'd loved to tell all of you I can cast down to my backing, but that would be a lie.  Occasionally you latch into a carp or catfish that will buzz off some line, but to my knowledge my reel has only held line - nothing more.  So, if all the reel does is hold line then why does it have to be manufactured with specs similar to a lunar lander or a Formula 1 race car?  In my opinion it really doesn't.

Ross Reel Company has made a great product for years.  I'd love to support them because of the Made in the USA standards, but my budget won't allow it.  The Lamson Konic is a working mans Ross. The Konic has a super-smooth, fully sealed conical drag system and stainless roller clutch used in more expensive reels.  The frame and spool are comprised of both machined components and pressure cast ALDC12 aluminum alloy giving it plenty of strength. The reel and spools are anodized then finished with a 100% solid polyurethane coating to resist gouging and abrasion.  If you can afford a Ross then by all means go for it, but personally I'll settle for 2-3 Konics for the same dough!

I'll touch on the large arbor feature of this reel.  All I hear is how much better large arbor reels are over the "old standard."  Well, many of you know that my rod collection is mainly vintage fiberglass and click and pawl reels.  It's hard to beat a Browning Silaflex and Browning Arms reel or a Fenwick Feralite/Pflueger 1495 setup.  Those reels have served fisherman for decades BEFORE fishing became another place to dump serious cash.  Focus on if the reel balances the rod rather than the size of the arbor.

At some point we all need to realize that the end game is to fish, not collect high dollar gear to show our pals.  As they say in Alaska, "Shut up and Fish!"  Grab a Lamson Konic reel next time you are at your local fly shop or online and you'll be impressed.

Here is a sizing chart from the Lamson Website:

KONIC 1.5 3.10" 1.00" 4.40 oz 3,4 WF4 100 yds 12# $119 $60
KONIC 2 3.40" 1.10" 4.70 oz 5,6 WF 6 100 yds 20# $129 $65
KONIC 3.5 3.70" 1.22" 6.10 oz 7,8 WF8 200 yds 20# $139 $70
KONIC 4 3.90" 1.25" 6.80 oz 9,10 WF10 240 yds 30# $149 $75

*The Lamson Konis has components that are made overseas, but the reel is assembled in Boise, Idaho.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Top Fly Box - The Tremendous Twelve of 2011

The Tremendous Twelve of 2011
I'm just like the rest of you, I have a fly box I keep in my vest that contains my favorite flies.  After a long winter of tying my fly selection changes every spring.  Some patterns are irreplaceable, having a permanent place in my kit.  Others are replaced by the latest and greatest patterns in hopes of finding that perfect fly.  Obviously my favorites may be completely different than yours and some of these patterns may be familiar and some will be new.  I encourage you to look at the original patterns that are linked to the pictures.   If you live someplace with a long winter this single post should keep you busy at the vise all winter long.

The Blockhead Popper
The Blockhead Popper was created by Minnesota native and Mississippi River guide, Sheldon Bolstad.  The pattern was made popular by famed smallmouth guru Tim Holschlag.  This is one lightweight popper, good down to a 5 weight rig.  A time tested winner, this pattern will most likely be in my fly box until the end of time.  My favorite color combination is a black foam head pared with a gray squirrel tail.  You should also always carry a white and yellow option.

Shannon's Streamer
Shannon's Streamer came from the coffers of Joe Cornwall at the Fly Fish Ohio website.  My initial fly came direct from Joe in a smallmouth fly swap assortment.  I knew this one was a winner as soon as I saw it in the pile of flies.  Without a doubt this is my favorite pattern of the 2011 season.  Joe adds a touch of silicone on the head of giving it an incredible swimming action.  This minnow swims like the real thing.  So far white has been the winner for us, but I could see black as deadly option. 

The Hairy Fodder
The Hairy Fodder was created by a true innovator, Craig Reindeau.  This fly gives you options on the water, and I love options.  Craig added a small rubber band used in the optics industry called a "ringer" to hold the weight on the front portion of this pattern.  The ringer allows you to change the weight to match stream conditions.  In one trip I have gone from a bead chain eye to a large hourglass lead weight to match the conditions of the river.  No need to change the fly, just change the weight.

The Hopper Popper
The Hopper Popper is my version of Kent Edmunds-Stealth Bomber.  The Hopper Popper is incredibly lightweight and easy to cast with almost any rig.  I know I have had a few posts on this blog that questions the durability of foam, but I have reinforced all folds with Zap-a-Gap on this pattern making this bug as tough as a pigs ear!  The action on the surface is second to none with the legs constantly twitching and causing a scene.  If you decide to tie a few up, make sure to use a bright colored top wing to make it easier to see on the river.  This is one tasty morsel!

The Toothbrush
The Toothbrush came to be because of a rebate from VMC Hook Company.  I received a free worm hook assortment in the mail and really liked the bend of the hook.  The key to the success of this fly is getting the weight in the right place.  Once the lead is wrapped in the belly section of this streamer and covered with white palmer chenille the streamer swims like the real thing.  The hook rides inverted or barb side up making this streamer extremely hard to snag (weedless).  Swing the Toothbrush through grass beds and hang on tight!

Shenk's Streamer
Shenk's Streamer is one of those patterns that every smallmouth fisherman should have on them at all times.  The funny thing about this pattern is it has a terrible reputation as being hard to tie.  Rabbit hair dubbing loops are tricky to get right, but after a few test flies you'll fall in line.  Shenk's Streamer is outstanding in solid white and solid black.  This is a prime streamer for Tim Holschlag's Minnow Swing.  Do yourself a favor tie a few or buy them from the Smallmouth Angler.

The Ugga Booga
The Ugga Booga was thrown together quickly after a trip to a great local fly shop that carried an incredible inventory of smallmouth materials.  I grabbed a handful of materials and started experimenting.  This was the results of the first tie!  The long palmer chenille used along with the sili-legs works nicely.  This is another one for Holschlag's Minnow Swing.  The cone head on this streamer gets the pattern down in the water column, but it stays off the bottom.  This is an active fly in the water.

The Wilderdilch
The Wilderdilch is a Muddler Minnow style streamer that is very effective in calm water.  I first saw this pattern in a local newspaper and decided to make it my own.  The head is classic spun deer hair.  Typically I run out of patience with deer hair, but the Wilderdilch has just the right amount to keep me interested.  Skate the Wilderdilch across the surface, or strip it in like a wounded minnow.  I'll admit that this is not my "go to" fly, but I have had some amazing evenings with this pattern.  I will be tying this in silver/gray for next season.

The Win-Mock Streamer
The Win-Mock Streamer pattern was first published in 1973.  Armand at The Bass Pond posted the original article earlier this year.  I knew right away that this streamer was a winner.  After some initial attempts this fly begged for a materials.  The goal was to increase durability and make it more lively in the water.  I chose leech yarn instead of chenille because I can control the shape of the body easier and when it's done you are left with a buggier fly.  This is a great fly for both smallies and largemouth.

Ward's Articulated Streamer
Wards Articulated Streamer is a collaboration of sorts with Ward Bean of Warm Water Fly Tyer.  A few years back I tied up an articulated minnow on Ward's site, but I used palmer chenille instead of marabou and hackle.  I emailed the photo to Ward and he took the concept to what you see here.  The rear portion of this streamer wobbles and darts in the current like the real thing.  Swing this minnow in the current and watch the current put the tail into action.  The smallies will travel far to hit this pattern!

Flat Stanley
Flat Stanley was one of my favorites of 2011.  This one is hard to beat under a strike indicator and is deadly when cast above pools.  As soon as Stanley enters the head of the pool active smallies absolutely slam on this spoor thing.  Good thing this fly is bulletproof!  Durability is not an issue with this fly, the layered construction gives it a flat profile that is tough as can be.  Stanley looks like a crayfish, leech or hellgremmite...all of which are irresistible to smallies.

The Bronze Goddess
The Bronze Goddess was created by Mike Jacobs owner of the online shop The Hawkeye Fly Tyer.  This is my favorite fly to do Tim Holschlag's "Crayfish Hop" under a strike indicator.  The color scheme of this fly is so nice and the dubbed body is very buggy.  The Bronze Goddess ticks off the rocks luring in smallmouth from their surrounding haunts.  The Goddess is a very durable fly and is easy to tie.  I'll be posting a synthetic version of this fly in the coming weeks that should be more durable.  The color scheme of the original will be hard to beat with synthetics...stay tuned!

Well....that's it!  This season is far from over, but it is starting to get cool here in Minnesota.  We are getting to the low 50's in the evenings and the geese are starting to migrate.  Looks like it will be an early winter this year!  I hope you'll give some of these patterns a try.  Hopefully we can get on the water this fall and land some of those autumn hogs.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sheldon Bolstad's Blockhead Popper

Photo Courtesy of The Smallmouth Angler
I know, I know...I just had a blog post saying No to Foam, but if you are going to use foam use this pattern.  Hugh Langevin is the creator of this pattern and you'll be hard pressed to find a popper that works as good as these do.  Let's talk about some of the benefits shall we?
  • It's lightweight.  This sucker is so light you can cast it down to a 5wt.  Sometimes you just don't feel like lugging an 8wt around all day.  The Blockhead gives you options on the water and I like options.
  • The Blockhead Popper has great popping ability!  You can cast the Blockhead and have it sit quietly or you can cast it and raise a major ruckus.  I have never seen a popper with such popping action.  When you look at it it just doesn't seem special, but looks are deceiving - this popper can create a wake!
  • They are really durable - even for foam.  The foam used to form the heads is some super tough stuff.  Many guys hack the heads out with a band saw and others use a razor blade, either way you can't cut this stuff without exerting a little elbow grease.
  • The Popper is time tested.  Hugh LangevinSheldon Bolstad, Tim Holschlag and Dan Johnson have put this fly to the test and it has produced time and time again.
  • The pattern is actually pretty simple after you shape the head.  Once the head is in place you just have to tie on some marabou or squirrel tail.   Don't make the tail section too complicated because the magic is in the head with its flat face and super splashing tendencies.
  • It's a pretty inexpensive fly to put up.  The block of foam yields piles of poppers and you can't get cheaper than marabou or squirrel tails.  I get the blocks of foam for $3 and the hooks I use are the Mustad 33903 Kink Shank Hook or the Mustad 3366 and they work perfect.  Both of these hooks are available for a great deal at Captain Hooks.  It doesn't have to be complicated or expensive to be a producer.
I have some scans of notes taken at a fly tying event conducted in 1996.  Print the directions and give this pattern a whirl.  Your local fly shop will have the block foam and try not to get too frustrated cutting the is frustrating for everybody.  Besides, if you don't want to make them you can buy them from The Smallmouth Angler.

Blockhead Page 1

Blockhead Page 2

Block Head Page 3

Blockhead Page 4

Blockhead Page 5

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Fly Box Hero - Tim Holschlag

Tim Holschlag with a South African Smallmouth
If you are serious about river smallmouth fishing I'm sure you have heard of Tim Holschlag.  Tim is a true authority when it comes to smallmouth bass and how to catch them.  Three years ago I read Tim's second book Fly Fishing For Smallmouth Bass and it changed my attitude about fly fishing forever!

When I was a boy I spent my spring breaks with my Uncle Joe and Aunt Doris in Terre Haute, Indiana.  As I've written many times in past posts my Uncle Joe was and always will be my hero.  The best times I had with my uncle was wading for smallmouth in the Sugar Creek near Turkey Run State Park.  For some reason over the years I deviated from the type of fishing I truly enjoyed - wading!

The Smallmouth Angler Stream Smallmouth Class
I attended Tim Holschlag's Stream Side School in the summer of 2009.  During the class we waded with Tim on the Root River in Southern Minnesota.  Wading brought back many memories and I forgot how much I loved the experience.  The techniques I learned that day are with me (and my boys) every time I fish the river (usually on foot).

Tim is a real professional, but the best thing about him is he is down to earth.  From his flies, fly rod, boat and hip wagers Tim is very practical - demanding durability but balancing price.  I applaud Tim for being so down to earth even though he is one of the world's authorities of smallmouth bass.  You would expect him to look like one of those Nascar fisherman, but Tim is not like that.

Tim's three books are fantastic and even if you fish for smallies a few times a year you should really own all of his books.  I am adding 2 detailed posts about Tim's books this week, so check back if you need more information.  You can always visit Tim's website The Smallmouth Angler too!

The Holschlag Hackle Fly (HHF)
Tim is the creator of the Holschlag Hackle Fly (HHF) pictured to the right.  This fly is deadly if you use it under a strike indicator.  Tim calls the technique "The Crayfish Hop."  This fly is a prime example of Tim's practical nature.  Made with common materials found in every fly tyers cache of fur and feathers this fly is field tested, super fishy and very durable.

I can write for pages and pages about Tim Holschlag's professionalism, books, accomplishments, guiding abilities, knowledge, skill, passion and creativity, but all you need to know about Tim is he is a great teacher.  Since meeting Tim I have become a better fly tyer and a way better fisherman - what else can I ask for from a Fly Box Hero?

Before I close out this post I'd like to thank Tim's wife Lyn.  Last week I ordered Tim's new book, River Smallmouth Fishing.  I needed the book fast, so contacted Lyn to see if she would ship the book out right away.  The personalized book came in 1 day, just in time for my trip to New York.  Both Tim and Lyn do a fantastic job with The Smallmouth Angler.  When I called Lyn she immediately recognized my name from a class 2 years ago!  I had a great experience with The Smallmouth Angler, so please support them however you can.

Tom Holschalg with a Good Friend!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Heddon Tiny Torpedo

The Heddon Tiny Torpedo?  Many of you may think the Torpedo is an old relic.  After all look at it - the paint job is not very realistic and the propeller?  Does it really work?  

If you are reaching past the Tiny Torpedo to grab something else more realistic looking and expensive -you should stop and tie on this lure.  The Torpedo is an absolute awesome river lure and I think smallmouth actually hate it.  They hate it so much they can't resist it!

I first used the Tiny Torpedo on the Sugar Creek in Indiana.  Spending mosy of my spring breaks with my Uncle Joe, we flung Tiny Torpedos for hours and hours.  This lure, or "plug" to my Uncle Joe was our "go to" lure when we spin fished for smallies.  (When we fly fished the Cockatoush was our baby - more on the Cockatoush in future blog posts.)

Last week my son caught the largest river smallmouth I have ever seen on a chrome Torpedo.  The funny this is I had almost a dozen TT's in my tackle box!  My good friend Dick Gross sent the boys a few chrome Torpedo's for their birthday, so I thought "What the heck, for old times sake I'll give them a try!"  I'm not sure where the other TT's came from, maybe the fish Gods beamed them to my tackle box?  For years I ignored this lure because I thought it was an antique, I couldn't have been more wrong.  It is easy to cast and see in the water and the propeller really creates a ruckus that drives fish mad.

Here are some ringing endorsements for the Tiny Torpedo:

"Here's my favorite surface plug for smallmouth bass in the spring, when the fish are shallow and surface-aware. A 1/8-ounce Teeny Torpedo in a bullfrog pattern fishes well on light spinning gear with 6- or 8-pound-test, which perfectly matches tackle to quarry. The single-propeller tail makes just enough fuss when twitched to get the fish's attention. Big smallies often take this lure with a gentle sip." The 50 Greatest Lures of All Time - Field and Stream Magazine

Tim Holschlag writes: "The Tiny Torpedo is an old time lure that I think gets overlooked.  It's a good search bait, but you can also keep it near structure longer and work it slow.  I think it has a different acoustical signal the fish aren't used to.  You can also change the sound by bending the prop blades toward or slightly away from the hook.  I don't think color means much for topwater lures.  I like the natural perch pattern because I can see it well in the water."  Secrets of the Trophy Hunters - Field and Stream Magazine March 2011