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Big Flies Big Fish

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

It has long been said among anglers that "It takes a big bait to catch a big fish." In my personal experience, big flies have accounted for several trout up to 6 pounds and some smallmouth bass in excess of 3 pounds.

Big flies are fairly easy to tie but require some work to fish, and they require different techniques under different conditions. There are five flies that have worked well for me over the past 50 years; here is how to fish them and how to tie them.

Woolly bugger

The woolly bugger is perhaps the most versatile fly of all. It can be fished dead-drifted upstream as a nymph or stripped at varying speeds as a streamer. When fished upstream, the fly should bounce on the bottom, so use as much lead, both in tying and by adding split shot, as it takes to get it down.

When fishing the woolly bugger as a streamer, cast it upstream and let it sink and drift, twitching the rod tip to impart action to the fly. Use short or rather long strips to take up slack in the line as the fly swings downstream. Look for strikes to occur just after the first couple of strips or when the fly straightens out downstream.

Dead drift fishing requires the use of a floating line and a strike indicator. Cast directly upstream to a likely spot, then strip in line, keeping contact with the fly as it drifts downstream. The dead-drift is not complete until the fly straightens out below you, which is often where strikes will occur.

For big trout and bass, tie woolly buggers on a No. 2 or 4 streamer hook 4x long. Black is by far the best color, but olive also works well at times.

Wrap heavy lead wire the length of the hook shank, leaving room at both hook bend and eye for tail and fly head. Tie in a clump of marabou about one-fourth of the length of the hook for a tail. Wrap thread over the lead underbody a couple of times and cement the lead in place for a solid fly foundation.

For my version of this fly, tie in a neck hackle slightly longer than the hook gap when wound. Dub marabou onto thread and wrap forward short of the hook eye. Wrap hackle forward to cover body, whip finish and cement.

Mickey Finn

The Mickey Finn is an old fly pattern that

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