Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Unleaded Belly

The Unleaded Belly
The Unleaded Belly (Whetted to Show the Beads)
Hook:  2/0 Mustad Hook (Saltwater)
Thread:  White Flat Waxed Nylon
Tail:  Gray Marabou
Sparkle:  Gray Ghost Krystal Flash
Body:  Gray/Tan Saddle Hackle
Counter-Wrapping:  Copper Wire
Belly:  Seven Strand Braided Wire w/ four 4mm Plated Copper Beads
Collar/Head:  Gray Deer Body Hair

Earlier today I posted The Redfish Slider on the blog...great video by Matt Wirt.  I love the pattern because it is relatively simple and has great mass in the water.  The Unleaded Belly is my Smallmouth Fly Box Version of Matt's pattern.  The picture above is whetted down because the dry streamer is bushy and hides the beads.

At just over 4 1/2" long this streamer is not the biggest offering, but it should get the job done!

Cookin' Some Garbage
I have piles of really webby saddle hackles in my collection - stuff I have been hoarding for a few years.  You know the stuff I'm talking about....long fibers and sometimes a little funky colored.  The Unleaded Belly will help you use those saddles up!  The body is a mass of counter wrapped, closely palmered saddle hackle that creates a chunky and active mid-section.

The Belly
I tie flies and my wife makes jewelry...  We share the same bench and while my fur and feathers have no real application in her hobby her beads have occasionally disappeared if the roll on my side of the bench.  The braided wire used for fishing is used in jewelry making for a fraction of the cost.  I took a small length of seven stranded wire, created a belly loop on the streamer.  I then dropped on a few el cheapo copper plated beads to eliminate bead chain, hourglass or cone heads.  The belly loop really turns the fly over quickly and rides well in the water.

This is my first attempt at this pattern and I wanted to try something different.  The belly weights are non-toxic and the cost is virtually nil.  They actually rattle a little too!

On my next attempts I think I might tighten up the belly and add a small weed guard.  I'm also going to consider a little more flash as well as maybe a few lateral saddles to spice things up.  Let me know what you think!

Olson's Slider

Umpqua's Olson's Slider

I spoke with Gabe Schubert a few days back and he mentioned this pattern as being a real winner.  The Olson's Slider is commercially available through Umpqua, tied by David Olson.  I am going to pick one up from my local fly shop and give it a gander.  Looks straight forward, but i want to see the physical size of the pattern to see if we can "go large" or maybe make a few alterations.  All in all a really nice pattern....deer hair, flash, hackle - smallmouth magnet.

More on this fly soon.


I stopped by Bob Mitchell's and picked up a few Olson's Sliders in red and white.  This is a very neat pattern that reminds me of a cross between the Wilderdilch and Ward Bean's Red Faced Wobbler.  See what I mean?

Red Faced Wobbler
 Gabe is right, this looks like a fantastic smallmouth pattern.  I'll be using it this weekend for sure!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Sea Pickle Floats!

New Interior
For those of you that have hung around this blog for a while, you know I bought an old Lund last year.  I have never owned a boat and thought it would be nice to get a fixer upper for me and my boys to work on together.  I found the old boat in White Bear Lake and paid next to nothing for it.  Once we got it home we ripped out the floor and nasty old water-logged foam.  Everything was painted black, so the boat was always hot to the touch!  We decided to go with a lighter color to help keep temps down.

I opted for a cedar floor and MDO hatch doors.  The seats will be replaced with light brown units, but the black ones will work for now.  My boys learned how to properly varnish exterior surfaces, pop rivet aluminum, use a router, drills, a grease gun, various saws and learned how to care for and use many other critical tools needed to become men.  They also learned how to disassemble the steering column and properly maintain the cable system. 

The real fun was cleaning and tuning up the motor.  The boys changed the plugs and cleaned off years of grease.  You should have seen their faces when they turned the key and she fired right up.  We serviced the lower unit and replaced the impeller too.

They loved working on the electrical.  They installed a horn, electric anchor, electric trolling motor, lights, pumps, stereo...all hooked up to a breaker panel. 

What a great project!  We will take her out tomorrow for a ride on the river.  Planning on painting the exterior a light brown color because my boys named the boat The Sea Pickle.  Their Uncle Dan calls turds sea pickles....what a fitting name for this boat!

Here are a few of the original pictures of the boat (1980 18' Lund Mr Pike).

1980 Catalog Picture
The Day I Picked it Up
Rotted Interior

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Favorite Fly Lines

Like many of you I hate buying fly line.  The stuff is expensive and I never know if I'm going to like it until after I cracked the seal and flipped it on the water.  Most times I let price dictate whether I buy line, but on occasion I'll splurge and get the good stuff.  I'd like to discuss what I think makes up a good fly line and detail a few of my favorites.  If you are a smallmouth guy I think you'll like the same types of line I do.


Before we get too far in this post I want to let you know what I expect from a fly line.  My expectations may be different than yours, so it's good to get this out in the open.  As I mentioned above, I expect line to be affordable.  Affordable to you may be different than affordable to me.  I expect to pay under $75 for a spool of line.  Now I want to be clear when I say $75....that is my absolute high.  The closer I get to $75 the crabbier I get.  I have spent $70 before and to be honest it was the best money I have ever spent.

I expect to be able to cast flies in the wind with a quality line.  Nothing worse than having wimpy fly line.  I had a spool of Cabela's Prestige line that was an absolute turd.  I think I paid $25 for it - a total waste of time and money.  The line was limp and could hardly turn over a tiny trout fly.  The wind pushed it everywhere.  So for that reason I don't buy Cabela's Prestige line.

If I pay boku bucks for line and I take care of it (keep it clean) I expect it to last a 3+ years.  So far the higher end lines have been incredible and many have lasted over 5 years.

The key here is to keep the line clean and conditioned.  If you do that it has been my experience that high end lines will meet and/or exceed your expectations.

Line Weights and Fly Rods
One thing I learned right away is that every rod has a favorite line weight and taper.  I have a rod that is only happy with WF Rio Clouser line.  I don't think this phenomenon is uncommon, especially if you use vintage gear.  Sometimes you need to poke around and find the line that bet matches your rod. Sometimes a double taper works better than weight forward...

My local fly shop recommend that you match the line weight with the line weight listed on the rod.  Makes sense doesn't it?  I have a 6 weight rod...I'll buy 6 weight line....well not necessarily.  Many people I fish with (including myself) over-line our rods.  Over-lining means you pair up a heavier line than is listed on the rod.  For example, you match a 7 weight line to a 6 weight rod.

Why over-line?  Well many times it helps you cut the wind and cast better.  Trout guys will recommend you take 6 months of casting lessons before over-lining, but if a slighltly heavier line makes me cast better....bring it on.  Here is what Tim Holschlag has to say about over-lining:
"Another common mistake is not using the right weight line for smallmouth bass fishing. A fly rod's line weight rating is suited to the shorter casts and delicate presentations used in traditional (trout) fishing, but this line weight does not properly load the rod to drive out a heavy fly. So many smallmouth bass fishers end up struggling with an underloaded rod. The correct line weight for smallmouth bass fishing is at least one weight up (9-weight line for an 8-wt rod), or even 2 weights up (8-weight on a 6-wt) for a beginner."
Cut to the Chase Already
I have 3 lines that serve me very well.  All three are weight forward, floating lines - one with shooting heads.  There certainly are others lines out there, but I have found these to be my go-to products for river smallmouth fishing.

Rio Coldwater Clouser
Rio Clouser Fly Line

The first high quality line I purchased was the now famous Rio Clouser fly line.  Rio teamed up with Bob Clouser to formulate a line that man-handles weight forward flies.  The bullet taper of this line cuts the wind like a knife.  This line lives on a Pflueger Medalist 1495 reel that is pared with a vintage Fenwick FF85.  The 8wt version works wonderfully with my setup.

Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance

Airflo 40+ Extreme Distance Fly Line

This line was a real surprise for me because I thought it was too good to be true.  A line can really help me cast farther,,,uh huh....right? I gave this line a whirl and was very pleased.  Even a hack like me can cast with this line.  The head portion of the line is 35' long with a low diameter running line.  Don't take my word for it, watch the clip below - seeing is believing.

Airflo knocked it out of the park with this line.  I use this line of my Lamson Konic/Ross FlyStick setup.  One of my favorite lines yet!

Airflo Supple EX

Airflo Supple EX
This is my bargain line of choice.  I picked this up at Cabela's for $30 - this is an outstanding deal!  The line itself is excellent, but what makes this line special is it comes with two shooting heads.  The poly-leaders give you options on the water.  All loop-to-loop connections allow you to adapt to water conditions.  If you want a sink tip, just loop on the leader and shoot away!  Here is the blurb from the Cabela's website:
"Made of a PVC-free polyurethane, this advanced taper line performs over a wide range of fishing conditions. It has low stretch properties that enhance pickup and hooksets. Factory-welded loop on front end for quick loop-to-loop connections. Resistant to DEET and other chemicals. Dry PTFE coating doesn’t leech harmful chemicals and ensures long-lasting line slickness. Includes two free 5-ft. Airflo poly leaders (a slow sink and a fast sink) for additional versatility, a $16.98 value."
This line lives on my Bronson Royalist reel and Fenwick F806 combo.  This line is a great value  - really good stuff.

Rio Smallmouth

Rio Smallmouth Fly Line

This is my newest fly line.  At the top end of my price range ($75) this line appears to be more than a marketing gimmick.  I have only spent a few days with this line on my Dream Rig, it has been nothing but a dream.  As the name suggests this line was designed specifically for smallmouth bass fishing.  From poppers to clousers this line flipped everything with ease.

The Rio Smallmouth line completed my dream rig.  It just seems fitting that I used smallmouth line on my ultimate smallmouth stick.  Any of the lines in this post would have worked perfectly!