White Bass delayed — still time to tie flies

Usually by the end of March we have White Bass starting their spawning run up out of Beaver Lake into the tributaries. However, this year we’ve had unseasonably cold weather (including some non-accumulating snow twice in the last week!), and the water temps have stayed below the 56F magical point that sends them upstream. But, that delay gives me time to work on stocking the white bass box, something that’s been delayed by illness this year.

The White Bass box is a pretty simple affair. It contains some Whitlock’s NearNuff Crayfish for early in the run, then mostly Clousers after that. I usually tie in them in chartreuse/white, olive/white, olive/yellow, and all white. I tie them on Size 4 Mustad 3366 hooks, which really gives me more like a size 6 fly. I use the small or xtra small lead eyes, mostly in red and yellow.

This year, I’ve added a sort of turquoise/white recommended by Brock at McLellan’s Fly Shop. I’m also using some whitish eyes with them. Can’t remembe what brand/style the eyes are. We’ll see how those work this year. I’ve got at least a week before things warm up even close to enough. Will be tying every evening, I imagine.

This year will be the first time The Boy has been flyfishing, and he’s been working on his Chuck ‘n’ Duck casting with Clousers. I really hope I can get him into some White Bass this Spring.

Smallmouth Flies: Whitlock’s Near Nuff Sculpin

It’s no secret that my favorite fish to chase here in the Ozarks are Smallmouth Bass, and I’m getting my flyboxes restocked and ready for when smallmouth fishing starts getting serious. You can fish for them in the winter, but it requires the sort of “low and slow” deep fishing that I don’t find all that enjoyable with a flyrod. Plus, I need some time to get my boxes refilled.

Now that I’ve gotten back into tying again and am working on those smallmouth boxes, I remember how well tying reinforces the fishing. When you tie flies, it gives you time to anticipate those trips coming up and, well, to be honest, fantasize about days on the river chasing fish.

Whitlock's Near Nuff Sculpin This week, I’vbe been tying some Dave Whitlock’s Near Nuff Sculpins. Just as with the Near Nuff Crayfish, Dave’s simple sculpin pattern is one of my favorites and thus one of my go-to flies. Both are great producers for me on Ozark smallmouth streaks (they’re pretty good trout flies, too).

I usually tie the sculpin in the olive color, though I have tied brown ones in the past. Most of the streambeds I fish are darker and greener.

Smallmouth Flies: Near Nuff Crayfish

More on this later, but I recently rewatched Dave Whitlock’s video on tying and fishing his NearNuff Sculpin and NearNuff Crayfish. Dave’s tying videos are top notch, and those two flies are my go-to patterns for smallmouth and trout in the Ozarks.

s7_321863_008_01My smallmouth boxes are looking pretty sparse these days after years of virtually no fly-tying, so I started in on some tonight. Got six bodies started on size 6 Near Nuff Crayfish. Need to get some brown paint to cover the lead eyes before I dress them. Will do both of those things tomorrow. Enjoyed tying something I can actually see with my aging eyes (damned trout flies!).

After years of tying on a Renzetti Traveler, I’m back with Dyna-King. I recently picked up a Dyna-King Squire, which sadly is being discontinued (but I got it for 25% on a closeout deal). It’s not true rotary, but I can live with that, because my preferred right-hand tying position (I’m a lefty) just doesn’t work well with the Traveler. Plus, I really love the jaws on the Dyna-Kings.

Was fishing at Roaring River State Park today, and we observed a big crayfish with one claw missing. The relevant thing to this pattern we noticed was that the tips of the pincers on the remaining claw were bright orange-pink, just like Dave recommends painting the tips of the claws on this pattern. He’s dead right.

Boy, trout flies are smaller than I remember

One of my resolutions this year was to tie flies. To be honest, as much as I love being outdoors and flyfishing, I used to love tying flies almost more. Maybe it’s the sense of anticipation in tying, thinking about the fishing trips to come. Before The Boy came along, I fish and tied a lot. More than I realized, and now that I’m 10 years older, I’m realizing the changes in my eyesight mean more to my tying than my fishing.

bifocalsI’ve always enjoyed tying bass flies more than trout flies. My bass flies look better, and I just think they’re more fun to tie. Part of that is while you can tie pretty dry flies all day long, they’re not what catches trout in Arkansas for 95% of your flyfishing here. So, they’re less potential-packed than nymphs or streamers. Scuds, sowbugs, midge pupae — those are your bread and butter Arkansas trout flies. And they’re small, especially the midges. By the time I hit 40 a few years ago, I hadn’t tied trout flies much in several years, and I hadn’t realized how much my close-up detail vision had suffered in the meantime.

Despite the bifocals I’ve been wearing for the last 18 months, the itty-bitty stuff (and by “itty-bitty” I mean only size 18 and smaller) is really hard to see. I’ve tried wearing reading glasses over my regular glasses, but I get a nasty headache after about six flies when I do that. I may invest in a magnifying lamp. Though, the better idea may be to just stick to the bass flies and let The Boy’s younger eyes tie the itty-bitty stuff from now on. I’m afraid he’ll prefer the bass flies, too, though. There are worse things that can happen.

In the meantime, we’re going trout fishing tomorrow, and I need some midge pupae. At least they tie fast.