I checked sunset the other day, and it said 4:40pm. With the time change and the ridiculously early sunset, maybe it’s time I accept that winter is just around the corner. Perhaps the fishing won’t be good again until spring.
Just like I did last year, I’ve been doing fishing-related stuff to prepare for the long winter. Lately, tying lots of flies. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around all the different types of materials and techniques, and all the different kinds of flies. I’ve been going through “The Fly Tying Bible” and learning a few new flies each week.
There is one style of fly I don’t quite understand, and that is the “wet fly.” Or “hair wing.” It’s confusing, because when you’re fishing, all your flies are wet! Based on my internet research, it seems that “wet fly” often means anything other than a dry fly, which is a fly that floats on the surface.
But there is another distinction that I don’t understand yet- there are nymphs, which emulate little bug larva; streamers, which emulate larger prey like minnows or crayfish… and then there is that other kind. The old school kind. The kind that certainly don’t look like anything quite way an elk hair caddis certainly does look like a caddisfly. These flies are more impressionistic I suppose. They don’t exactly copy anything, which might be why they work.

I still don’t know if they’re called hairwings or wet flies or what, but I really like them. It sure seems like fly fishing in general is preoccupied with “matching the hatch.” The fly must look like a real food item or else it won’t get eaten!
Obviously that’s a generalization, but perhaps not too far off. I guess it’s not unlike crankbaits with holographic finishes and lifelike eyes. I’m sure they catch fish, but so do my unpainted crankbaits with metal hardware everywhere.

aluminum foil and bucktail Mickey Finn

I’m drawn to these wet flies- they are pretty, and although I don’t think of a minnow or a bug when I see them, I could certainly imagine a fish taking them. In the past few weeks I’ve tied a few, and as it turns out they do catch fish!
I’ve made a bunch, some with bucktail for the wing (like the two above) and some with feathers for the wing. I’ve made a few “matuka-style” flies I think turned out pretty nice:
Matuka-ish

One in particular has caught more fish than the others… Maybe it’s because I like it more and fish it more, or maybe it really is more of a fish catcher.

I used white marabou instead of stiff bucktail or feathers, and it has an amazingly life-like quality in the water. In moving water, the current animates bucktail just fine… But in still water, every little movement from my fly line causes the marabou to pulse with life. It’s amazing. I’ve caught plenty of green sunfish and bluegill on this one, and plan to tie many more like it in various colors.
Thinking about the winter and the unavoidable cold that’s coming, I’ve been researching winter fishing techniques. Not ice fishing, but fishing in really cold water. The consensus seems to be tiny baits fished very slowly.
Seems to me fly fishing is the perfect way to achieve that combination. Last winter I tried fishing with 2″ tube jigs and white twister tails, but I probably didn’t fish slowly enough, and they were likely too big. I’ve been wondering if I could catch any bass in cold water with a little tiny fly…
So I headed to the pond at lunch, for just a few minutes. Working on my casting, I am now able to cast pretty far out into the pond. I’m no real judge of distance, but if I had to guess I’d say my limit is 50 feet. Once I got my fly out there, I waited 15-20 seconds for the tiny fly to slowly sink, then very slowly stripped in my line.
No takers on a clouser minnow I tied with white and black marabou, so I tied on that red and white and neon-yellow-ish one above. As I watched it in the water, I doubted any bass would go for it. Too small! Maybe I’d find some bluegills.
As I practiced my casting and retrieving, suddenly the end of my fly line was pulled into the water, and it swam away.
Fish on!
The fight was short and lacked the fast runs and jumps those pond bass usual display, but hey- it’s cold! If felt like a fairly large fish; this was my first good-sized fish on my new 6 weight fly rod.
I didn’t realize how cold the water really was until I picked up the beautiful 15″ largemouth bass out of the water. It was a cold fish!

The tiny little hood ornament I tied looked nice in the big bass’s mouth.

The fish wasn’t really trophy size, but it was certainly big for that pond… A veritable monster compared to the tiny size 8 fly.
I was happy to discover that big bass in cold water really will take tiny baits dropped in front of them. This was something of a revelation to me, as many fishing experiences are. I’d read that this was possible, but never seen it in action. Obviously, now I will be tying many more marabou-winged wet flies for cold water bass.
Big pond fish, little muddy fly


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