Got a big order of Sucker Punch materials in the mail the other day…
As soon as I get done chasing birds I had better start tying! There’ll be tailing fish in no time… February will be on us before we know it. Not that you can’t catch em the rest of the year, but, by the time snipe season ends on February 14th I’ll be about ready to start the carp thing again.
Pickerel are kinda like pike, they look similiar, and they like a big beefy meal. They’re an ambush predator- not a school bait chaser. One big morsel is what they want.
The only problem is, they’re not a big fish, so your mental kneejerk reaction is to fish a small rod. That makes casting the big flies difficult, so it becomes more about profile size than bulk. Another way to look at it is forego the theory that fight and fish size dictates rod size and just cast whatever rod/line combination the fly requires. I’m leaning a lot more to that school of thought lately. Fish fight “feel” really doesn’t seem to improve all that much by downsizing a line or two, so I just throw an 8 or 9. Or, more often, a 6 weight with a 9 weight line simply because the 6 weight is easier on my casting arm after machine gunning casts for 8 hours into cover. That extra ounce or two in rod weight savings adds up in a hurry, pickerel casts are short, and most rods these days can take a few line weights without suffering loss of accuracy.
As far as what kind of flies pickerel will eat, well, they’ll eat anything. Some days you do need a few dark flies mixed in for real clear water, but the majority of the time my pickerel flies are the most gaudy flies in any of my boxes. Due to lily pads, overhanging branches, and stumps the selection is heavy on the bendback side. I have experimented with all kinds of weedguards and I don’t really firmly believe they hurt the hookup ratio, but, more often than not I am just too lazy or forgetful to include them in my ties. The bendback takes care of most snags, and when you’re fishing lily pads it’s rarely the fly that is the problem anyway– usually the line gets caught between the pad and stem.
A great pickerel fly is a bendback tied on a 1/0 Mustad 3366 with 5 inches of red bucktail over 5 inches of yellow bucktail and with 6 inches of gold flash between bucktail layers. I don’t have any handy for pictures at the moment because I tend to fish these first and subsequently go through my supply pretty often. But, since pickerel will eat any fly, and since they are just so aggressive, it’s fun to throw in some bonus action once in a while. The fly below, a spinnerback, isn’t too heavy but sure adds some flash. The little bit of added weight helps keep the bucktail from skimming the surface too, so a fly like this runs about 4-6″, great pickerel bashing depth.
Wobblebacks are fun too, and if twitched and paused, will sort of walk the dog a bit during the retrieve. Real short machine gun twitches will really get the fly wiggling.
Then there is the propback, to be honest the fly looks cool, and sort of dirty in your flybox, but in the end, the action isn’t really all that noticeable. Sure the prop spins freely and might throw an extra flash of light or two under water, but most of the time I prefer the side-to-side action of a bendback on a loop knot.
After you run out of hardware, though, or just feel like fishing a little more traditionally, a deer head bendback is a pretty classy way to fish for jacks. Just don’t let troutholes certain people see you break out the bamboo rods when you start fishing these flies.
December 1st, 2009 | One comment - (Comments are closed)
Ah, the mighty pickerel. In East Texas they call them jackfish. It’s a winter thing here in Texas, as we are on both the southern and western edge of their range. It’s a lot of fun throwing topwaters at Christmas.
Pickerel have a lot in common with their larger cousin the northern pike. They like big food and they aren’t afraid to lunge with incredible speed in water so shallow you can see their wakes coming for your flies. What they lack in size they make up for in aggression. These are not your midge-slurping winter fish. You could put an entire season’s worth of tailwater trout flies in the same space it takes for one good pickerel fly in your box.
It’s officially pickerel bashing time in Texas. Oh, yeah, if the reference (“stoner bashing time”) is a mystery to you, click your way to your nearest Netflix browser and watch the ultimate in stoner comedy: Dude Where’s My Car?
November 6th, 2009 | 4 comments - (Comments are closed)
Every year, a week or two prior to Texas Parks and Wildlife’s kickoff to the annual put-and-take trout stocking program, the chatter on the now defunct forum Texas Fly Report turned heavy to the salmonids.
I’d let it go on for a little while, then change my avatar to this one for most of the winter:
It always got a few chuckles and always raised a few hackles, too. It was supposed to be an “if you have to ask, you’ll never know” type thing but invariably someone would end up explaining it to the unwashed.
Basically, the argument behind my avatar was that you don’t have to travel out of state to fly fish only once a year. And you don’t have to only fish for trout just because you’re using a fly rod, either.
I’ll admit that I really don’t have anything against trout, heck, I grew up fishing for them. And even now once in a while I might find myself visiting family out west and I might be persuaded to dangle some nymphs under a bobber or throw a hopper up tight to a bank. Trout belong in cold water rivers out west, and sand bass belong in Texas. Even though I do like trout, having my conservation dollars go to a put-and-take fishery for a species that can’t even survive on their own once it warms up seems silly. I’d much rather have TPWD blow up some dams and give the WHOLE state an alligator gar fishery, for example.
So on this one, the joke is based in the truth. Even so, the phrase “Screw Trout!” is just funny.
Since I’ve gone the shameless commerce route, I thought I’d add some Screw Trout shirts to the Zazzle store. Hey, sue me. I’m trying to figure out if it’s possible to be a capitalist and a carper. Here is the t-shirt design:
There, was that enough clickable links to the store? I mean, between the image and preceding paragraph there’s four links to the same products. I guess if you’re gonna go capitalist, you might as well go all the way, right?
You might hear them called rock perch or silver bass. Put a little color on a freshwater drum, though, and it would look almost exactly like its salty redfish cousin. I tend to find them more on boulders a little deeper than the carp flats I normally fish, but I really don’t catch that many. It seems like whatever fly I have tied on never sinks fast enough when I get the rare and fleeting look at one. In fact, these are the only two pictures I have of drum.
The first was caught in my kayak on the Brazos near Glen Rose, sometime in the heat of summer 2004.
Fast forward a couple of years to February 17, 2006. About 6-8 of us got together to fling flies at Caddo Lake and the cold rolled in the night we did. We fished a little in the evening, and the next morning any wet spot on the boat was frozen solid. If I recall, it was 16 degrees out so we were dressed like the Michelin Man. Lots of layers and if wasn’t for the fingerless gloves we probably couldn’t have fished at all. It was slow going but we caught a few.
The Caddo picture is over three years old, then, and it’s the last drum I caught on fly. I really wish I caught them more often. Maybe next year when it gets warm again it will be time for a gaspergou quest.
October 15th, 2009 | One comment - (Comments are closed)
This is one of my favorite carp pictures. It has graced my desktop for years. It’s not the largest carp ever photographed, but that’s not the point– check out the colors on this fish.
The blue on the eyelid.
The purple reflection under the fly.
The red orange stroke on the lower tail fin, or even the more yellow orange highlight in the fork of the tail. The dorsal line is deep black especially just before the tail. The eye that isn’t visible is ringed with a sage green. The dorsal fin is green, purple, and blue. Yeah, the sun is glistening and part of the mid section that should be yellowish-bronze is blown out, over exposed and lifeless, but surrounded by so much color. Take a look at the tail again… notice the net showing through? Notice how yellow olive the top of the fin is in contrast with the yellow orange bottom fork? See the one hundred shades of green on the forehead?
This carp probably only went 2.5 pounds. I don’t remember. I don’t remember when it was caught or where or under what circumstances, but I still marvel at the wide variety of colors on the fish. There is a time to write your name in the snow, and there is a time to shut up, take a deep breath, blink, and see what’s all around you.
September 28th, 2009 | Tags: carp | 2 comments - (Comments are closed)
Have you ever tried to take a picture of a blitz? There is bait flying everywhere and game fish doing cartwheels and water splashing and boiling and pure mayhem. So you aim the camera and take 10 pictures, and yet when you get home and look at them, the water looks calm and fishless, except maybe a ripple here and there. I found the tailing carp and buffalo mecca the other day and tried to capture four or five tails out of the water simultaneously, but nothing came out showing more than one. You’ll have to imagine it. Anyway, there were carp, there were buffalo, and they were all doing this, hard:
At one point, I cast to a tail and got stuck on a snag. On my way over to the snag to free my fly, another fish started tailing right over my snag. I was yanking the rod and whipping the water trying to get the fly unglued but the fish wouldn’t stop tailing on it.
The water was just that muddy: the fish didn’t know I was there, and really couldn’t see my fly either. I snagged a couple in the face just for good measure– I mean, I kept running the fly closer and closer to them hoping they’d see it until one cast would get too close.
Carp and buffalo weren’t the only thing tailing: this channel cat went about 3 pounds and would have been a good keeper size catfish– if you like catfish which I don’t, so I let it go.
Despite the “ugly water,” the fish kept things interesting, and if you looked hard enough, there was plenty of beauty on the mud flat, too.
September 16th, 2009 | Tags: carp, catfish | Comments are closed
I went back to the site of Apex Trash. I was hoping for another alligator gar– maybe even a bigger one. When I got to the spot, there were gar rolling, and I couldn’t see them while they were near the surface long enough to be sure, but, I hoped they were all alligator gar. After trying to hit them on the head mid-roll several times, I finally stuck one. Well the fish was smaller than my first and I’ve already forgotten its weight, maybe 6 pounds. As you can see looking down the barrel, it’s still got two rows of teeth and that made my day!
OK, two notches on the belt and I’m a PRO-GAR-MAN… or something like that. I kept firing off casts but the water was muddy so it was as much hope fishing as sight fishing. I’d see a gar, flop a cast out, and hope I got the sink rate and direction right so I could guess how far to lead the gar so it would see the fly. I hooked another fish but it turned out to be a 2 pound sandbass. Not exactly what I was looking for.
Back at the truck I ate lunch and broke out the travel fly tying kit– I needed something that would push LOTS of water, and on a sticky wire. Hey, these tarpon hooks ought to do.
I knew by the time I got done lashing together every bit of feather and fur I had that the fly would want to float, so I gave it a serious dose of lead wraps hoping to counter the effect.
There, that ought to do. A Whistler with enough colors to clash like a tie dyed t-shirt. The four or five chicken feathers up front ought to push a little water, too. I just wished I’d thought to put a beer in my fly tying bench.
I tied a trio of these affronts to nature and put them in the fly dryer to air out the head cement while I cleaned up the bucktail and hackle clippings that had accumulated in my truck.
I fished another couple of hours. It’s really a shame, I went fishin for gar– serious fish– and all I ended up catching with my fancy new flies was two pounds of green trash.