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.
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.
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.
My 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.
Absolutely nothing beats spending time outside with your kids. Today, I took The Boy up to Roaring River State Park near Cassville, Missouri, for his first flyfishing live-fire exercise. He’s really enjoyed fishing the last few times we’ve gone, and I haven’t pushed the flyfishing on him at all. Rather, I’ve let him come to it on his own terms after fishing with a spincast rig for the last couple of years. But, he’s been practicing in the yard with his yarn-equipped practice rod for the last couple of months. He did pretty well today. Papa was proud. He needs to work on not dropping his backcast (don’t we all?), but overall, he did well, and he put the fly more or less where he intended most of the time. Plus, we got to see some great negative examples of how (not to) cast.
Roaring River is pretty easy to fish. It’s sorta like fishing in a parking lot. Was pretty windy today, and that resulted in some weird drifts. No fish were caught, but he still declared it his “best fishing experience ever!” So, that was good.
We also took time to poke around in the water (and look up occasionally — and we saw four bald eagles today), where we saw this big crayfish that was missing one of his claws. He was actively crawling around in a slow pool that also had quite a few sculpin in it. The trout seemed uninterested. Hell, the rubber stocker trout in there (RR has one of Missouri’s rainbow trout hatcheries) might not even know that crayfish and sculpin are food, they’re so used to Trout Chow pellets.
It was a great day, and I was thrilled that he had a great time, even if no fish were molested. It was a nice warm day for January (high was about 60F), and it was great to be outside with my son. I’m looking forward to many more days on the water with him.
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.
I’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.
I haven’t tied flies seriously in, well, longer than I’d like to think. Six years? Nine years? A long damned time in any event. But, now that I’m getting back into flyfishing, I’ve discovered that my flyboxes are inadequately filled. They are dangerously low, especially the trout box, but the white bass, smallmouth, lake/pond largemouth, and panfish boxes are slim, too. So, it’s time to start reloading them over the winter.
I’ve discovered that my eyes aren’t what they used to be. So, I wear “cheaters” (drugstore reading glasses) over my own glasses. I need to tie bigger flies, maybe.
So, tonight I started with three Red Fox Squirrel Nymphs, one of my favorite Dave Whitlock patterns. I love a LOT of his patterns, and you’ll see a lot of them on this blog in the future. But, I need some crossover panfish/trout nymphs, and I’ve always like the RFSN in all it’s permutations. These are simple unweighted nymphs. The only bit of fancy is I tied them on TMC 600R curved nymph hooks. I just like the look of nymphs tied on that hook.
It’s a start.