big bluegill sometimes chase mm flows and fry, they feed primarily on
insects and other small organisms that are unable to escape. Bass, on
the other hand, hunt baitfish, amphibians and aquatic reptiles; animals
that are at home in the water and fully capable of a swift dash to safety.
When he sees such a creature, the bass must decide if attack is feasib1e
whether he can catch it or Just calories in a fruitless chase. If the
organism appears to he injured or preoccupied, the odds are stacked in
favor of the predator. Simulating vulnerability, then, is axiomatic when
using lures that represent aquatic foods.
Minnows, shad and sun- fishes, the main components of the largemouth diet,
are extremely difficult to imitate with flies - especially in stillwater.
Standard streamers, heavily- dressed with marabou to present a deep-bodied
profile, are effective when bass are schooling or feeding intensely, but
will only rarely entice fish lurking in ambush or cruising the bank. Action
patterns of the Stewart/ Popovics genera, with diving bills, articulated
bodies and spinner blades, do a better job of simulating wounded baitfish,
but not as good as the casting plugs they seek to imitate.
Increasingly, I am using lure (cast on the fly rod whenever possible;
switching to conventional bait casting when necessary) for subsurface
presentation and restricting flies to topwater food forms - water snakes,
frogs and, especially, large terrestrial insects. I use the rabbit strip
slider for snakes, the Dahlberg Diver for frogs and a standard, flat-faced
hair bug for large insects and other creatures that occasionally fall
from the hardwood canopy.
Snakes hunts in the shallows, close to cover and weeds, only occasionally
venturing into open water - behavior
that's easily represented with standard fly fishing techniques. My Grinnel
Fly is by far the deadliest pattern in my box. I slither it through "snaky"
habitat with short steady pulls to maximize the action of the rabbit strip.
Frogs are more difficult to imitate than snakes because they don't swim
on top, but simply float motion less, suspended just beneath the surface,
and dive quickly to the bottom when threatened. An appropriate Dahlberg
pattern is the obvious choice. The diver, not surprisingly, is typically
taken while dead on the water -- especially when it floats back to the
surface after a dive. I catch a lot more topwater bass on sliders and
bugs than on divers. The bug lets me take advantage of the bass's legendary
willingness to eat any living thing that will fit into his mouth. The
operative word here is LIVING.
The first step in fishing a bug is to conjure a fantasy creature in the
mind's eye - a newborn cat squirrel or fledgling wood thrush that has
tumbled from its treetop nest, or a spent cicada that, having deposited
her eggs in the branches of an ancient oak, has fallen into the pond to
die. Then manipulate the lure as that creature would behave if trapped
in an alien, aquatic environment. Most terrestrial organisms are helpless
in the water, struggling futilely, drowning, dying, unable to make any
headway and utterly at the mercy of the nearest predator.
When the bug lands, slowly remove all slack from the leader and line but
do not move the lure itself until all the rings have disappeared. The
bass will slide back into his cover when it hits the water and then, after
a period of time, he will cautiously ease toward the object. Relax and
wait awhile. Then give the bug a solid, deliberate "pop" WITH
AS LITTLE LATERAL MOVEMENT AS POSSIBLE. With practice, you will be able
to pop the bug without moving it more than a couple of inches. Let it
sit a few moments between subsequent chugs.
Most importantly, don't retrieve the bug too fast. Bass will sometimes
observe a floundering organism for as long as two minutes before attacking.
Fishing that slowly takes more discipline than many of us can muster,
but at least try to slow down. Never start popping the bug right away
unless you have some very specific reason for doing so (to discourage
pesky bluegills, for example) when mimicking a swimming hopper. Largemouth
bass, especially the bigger fish, are reluctant to chase-down an alerted