Big Flies Big Fish

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Published on: Jun. 2, 2000

Last revision: Nov. 5, 2010

a crippled minnow plug and you have the idea of how to fish the black nose dace.

The recipe for the dace is exactly the same as for the Mickey Finn. Their is a red tag. The body is silver tinsel with wings of white, a wisp of black then finally brown, with the entire wing tied rather sparse.

Marabou Flies

Black and white marabou flies are basically attractors and attract they do! If you know the lie of a big fish or can spot one in the stream, swim a marabou in front of him long enough and he will usually strike. The marabou tail completed the metamorphosis of the woolly worm and turned it into a killer called the woolly bugger.

For smallmouth fishing, I like my marabous tied upside-down with heavy copper or gold wire for a weighted body. The upside-down configuration makes the fly semi-snagproof. It is most effective for smallmouth in rocky habitat fished on the bottom. For trout in still water or water without current the marabou is hard to beat.

One long ago October, Bill Taylor of St. Louis and I were fishing the Meramec River below Meramec Caverns. It was cold and windy and we weren't having much luck until we switched to the black and white marabou on fast, sink tip lines, which turned out to make our day.

Marabou flies will catch trout or bass almost anywhere under all but muddy conditions. In addition to the black and white marabou streamer, I fish the same pattern in solid white and solid black with a gold or silver tinsel body.

The black and white marabou is a minnow imitation tied on a No. 2 or 4 streamer hook 4x long. The body should be tied with thread the length of the hook then wrapped with heavy gold wire and secured with cement. Use clear fingernail polish to secure the wire body.

Olive Sculpin

The olive sculpin is definitely a big fish fly and it works for smallmouth as well as trout. Dave Whitlock, the great fly tyer and innovator, once told me of catching large trout on his olive sculpin that had already gorged themselves on live sculpins. I thought Dave was pulling my leg until I saw it for myself.

The sculpin needs to be heavily weighted and fished on a sink tip line to be effective, as it imitates a bottom feeder. Fish sculpins at the head of deep holes or in riffley pocket water wherever sculpins are found. You can often determine their habitat by turning over large rocks in riffles.

Fish sculpins much like some minnow imitations, by casting to the head of a hole and letting the fly drift and swing to a position down below you until it straightens out in the current.

Tying the olive sculpin is not difficult. The one I favor is a bit of a departure from the standard pattern. Using a No. 2 or 4 streamer hook 4x long, first wrap the hook with heavy lead wire from just behind the point forward toward the eye, then wrap over the first layer of wire from a point about one-third of the length of the hook behind the eye, being sure to leave room for the head of the sculpin.

Returning the thread to the tail position, tie in a clump of olive marabou about one-third of the length of the hook. This is the tail of the fly. At this point, dub olive rabbit fur onto thread and cover the lead underbody. Finish off the sculpin by spinning olive sheep wool for a head and trim flat. Whip finish the head and cement. Solid black and dark brown also are effective sculpin colors.

When fishing large bucktails and streamers and especially heavily weighted sculpins, wear a broad-brimmed hat and glasses to protect yourself from embedding hooks in your head or eye. An 8.5-foot rod for a weight 7 fast sinktip line with leader no longer than 4 feet tapered to 3x (about 6 pounds) is most useful. When opting for a floating line, I use a 6-foot leader tapered to 3x.

For float fishing, a 9-foot rod for 7 weight line works well. Fishing big, heavy flies is much different from casting dry flies. Use an open loop either by casting cross-handed against a prevailing wind or by carefully watching your back cast when there is no wind problem. In essence, you are lobbing the fly rather than trying to make a tight loop.

Fishing big flies is sometimes slow and tedious, but if you want to catch big fish, it's the only way to go.

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