Today’s feature is from Kory Boozer, SW Michigan and Smallmouth guide extraordinaire. CLICK HERE to see more info about Kory and how to book a trip to elevate your Smallmouth game.
When fly fisherman think of Smallmouth Bass in Michigan, they think of hot Summer days spent tossing poppers at the rivers edge and while this is a great time of year to pursue Smallmouth Bass, it is far from the only time of year fly fisherman can enjoy chasing these river assassins.
While many anglers are still chasing Steelhead or Brown Trout on Michigan’s Rivers, Smallies begin to put on one of the biggest feeding binges of the year, typically once the water temps reach the mid to upper 40’s is when you will begin noticing a sharp increase in activity. They have yet to vacate their Winter holding lies and are still congregated in large groups which means if you find them you can typically catch a bunch of them. Look for fish to hold in deeper water in slack water areas, such as natural wing dams, sharp drop offs in the river bottom, eddies, etc… Any area that provides baitfish, slack current and deeper water with access to spawning habitat nearby while retaining access to food is the ticket.
As far as gear goes, this isn’t time to fish floating lines and light weight rods, I recommend Scientific Anglers Sonar lines in the 250-350 grain range depending on the rod you are using. Some days you simply need to get down deep and I will throw a 9 wt and 350 grain line. As the water warms fishing deeper water becomes less and less of a necessity though and for the most part 7 and 8 wt rods are all you need. When you fish weightless flies as I do a heavier line is necessary to get them down, lucky for us a good sized Smallie will fold a 7, 8 or even a 9 wt to the cork. You do not want to fish large streamers, even if you are targeting big fish, streamers roughly 3″ – 4″ in length are ideal to properly match the forage at that time of year. Fish them slow with short and fast strips to provoke reaction bites, some times very slowly swinging through an area with minimal action is ideal, others they want more action, this can vary by the hour so something you want to continuously play with to maximize your effectiveness.
Fly choices are dictated by the most available forage where you are fishing. For example if Chubs, Suckers or Gobies are the dominate food source where you are fishing, you want to match the colors, size and flash these bait fish give off as closely as possible. If young Trout & Salmon or Shad are the most abundant food source in the area, then that is the type of forage you want to mimic. A flies effectiveness for Smallmouth Bass is measured by how much motion they provide without movement, how closely the color and flash matches the natural forage and how fast and cheap I can tie the fly in my opinion. I want a fly that swims without being stripped, matches the size, hue and flash of the naturals while being slightly transparent and one that I can tie reasonably fast. I also when possible want it to be cheap so I don’t mind losing them and will fish them like I stole `em so to speak. You can basically get away with 3 flies, a white/grey hue, an olive hue and a brown hue, which would do a good job of matching everything from Shad, Baby Bass, Sculpins, Gobies, Suckers, Shiners, etc… A pattern called the Bad Hair Day, developed by my Friend and Wisconsin fly fishing guide Dave Pinczkowski is a great starting point for flies emulating anything in the baitfish form. It utilizes craft fur which is cheap yet has amazing action in the water, various types of flash and wool or dubbing as a head. Simple, Cheap and Effective… Simply match the materials you are tying with to the forage you are imitating, and get started.
The pre-spawn bite will vary in duration, typically it takes place until water temps reach the mid to upper 50’s and the fish begin to spawn. Depending on weather and location, that can lead to a vastly different window of opportunity. If your into hard fighting fish and don’t like fishing around heavily pressured areas, early Spring Smallmouth Bass might be just the thing for you!
Kory Boozer – Boozer’s Guide Service – www.BoozersGuideService.com
A couple years ago I was on a streamer trip with friend Joe Donati. It was a day in late May and the weather was warm and overcast with water a bit up and stained, perfect for pulling bugs. Joe had landed a few nice trout and we came into a straightaway with grass tight to the bank. I was rowing and Joe noticed a trout shoot completely out of the water for some right along the bank. We dropped anchor mid-river and watched for a bit as more fish along the bank proceeded to come flying out of the water with reckless abandon. We soon realized they were going after damsels hovering near the grass. We sat there for a while just watching one after another taking shots at these bugs that were obviously driving the trout mad. Neither of us had anything remotely similar to a damsel so Joe just went with a hopper pattern and was able to get one to go. I took some video that really doesn’t do the moment justice but worth sharing.
After telling Bob this story that evening he laughed and said that he’d just taken the two or three damsels he had parked in his dry fly box out because he never thought he’d get a shot at fishing them.
If you’ve been living off the grid for the past couple years and haven’t seen this amazing video of trout crashing damsels then check this out.
Nothing makes a fish bigger than almost being caught. ~Author Unknown
Far more often than any of us would like fishing outings conclude with thoughts of “what the hell happened” or “what went wrong” instead of the glorious celebratory end to the day that we all yearn for. As I look back upon my past few years pulling streamers I have experienced a fair amount of success and have been fortunate to come face to face with a number of quality trout.
Thats all fine and dandy, and I feel honored to have been able to put a fish in the net – but thats not what drives me. I am unequivocally motivated by the fish that I had brief encounters with. Those ones that showed themselves in a lightening quick flash as soon as my streamer descended into their habitation OR the ones that charged the stripped bug all the way to the boat and inexplicably turned away without commitment OR (and the worst ones of all) those fish that ate or tried to eat and in a fit of excitement and stupidity I trout set the shit out of and they quickly came unpinned.
I spend way more time than I should trying to figure out how to elicit a reaction from a predatory fish with a brain the size of a dime. I lose sleep at night because of it. It’s a sickness in which there are only 2 cures – more whiskey than my bank account could afford or more time spent on the water. The biggest problem is, far more times than not I have a brief encounter with a fish that undoubtedly in my mind looks somewhere in the neighborhood of 2-3 times larger than it really is if I were to actually catch it and get a tape on it. The fish that we don’t catch seem to always be potential record breakers that would land us piles of “thumbs up” on Facebook, never before seen levels of street cred, piles of endorsement, and an endless stream of friend requests from women not trying to sell us Oakley sunglasses (seriously, what’s up with that on Facebook right now?).
The persistent challenge that exists of cracking the code of trout drives me. If it were easy I don’t think I would do it as much. Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not saying that if I had the ability or opportunity to walk out my door and start railing 30″ giant browns one after another any day of the week, that I wouldn’t do it. Of course I would – I’d also probably be unemployed. What I’m getting at is that the ever changing challenge of catching these fish on streamers is what gets me going. If I could go out and rail 30″ giants, I wouldn’t feel the need to devote so much time and energy into figuring this stuff out.
The sad fact of this is….this is a game you can never really win. There will be days that you are ahead in the score column, but in the end the fish will always be victorious more times than not. So, the reality of this is I’m going to spend an enormous portion of my adult life trying to win at a game that is impossible to win. Sounds like a great plan to me.
Michigan differs from most other states that have a trout oriented fishery, unlike the landlocked states of the Rocky Mountain west we are fortunate to have a migratory fishery available to us. Another often overlooked opportunity to enjoy the bountiful resources in our state is targeting warm water fish.
This year I plan to spend a considerable amount of time pursuing bass, pike, and pan fish in many of the lakes that are in my immediate geographical area. Instead of settling into the same routine of summer which is smallmouth bass fishing every weekend, I’m excited about learning something completely new and different.
I’ve made the statement several times over, that “if you put me in a lake, you might as well blindfold me because I don’t have a clue what I’m doing.” I said that to my wife not so long ago – and she surprised me with a guide that focuses solely on the lakes in our region.
Doing a fair bit of research between this guide and the internet, has more than peaked my interest this year – it has me really excited. I’m completely engulfed right now with gathering as much knowledge as possible to learn about how to fish these resources. Another exciting component is that while my normal trout/bass streamers will most likely work just fine, I have enjoyed seeking out new patterns to tie.
While I’ll always be a trout streamer and steelhead nympher first – finding a new way to further immerse myself in the sport isn’t a bad thing.
Now that the holidays are behind us, its back to our regularly scheduled programming…….who am I kidding, there’s nothing “regular” about us.
Spent some time behind the vice the past few weeks, spinning proven steelhead targeting nymphs and trying to come up with a few “new” patterns. There’s really not much new in the world of fly tying, we borrow materials, proportion templates, color schemes, and pretty much just about anything else fly construction related from others. However, that shouldn’t stop anyone from trying new things, developing new ideas and adding new bugs to their box.
Here are the “new” bugs that I put together for this year’s edition of my steelhead nymph box.
For the second consecutive year I commished a fantasy football league filled with a bunch of fish heads. A motely crue cast of charachters all bound together by our strong affinity to chase fish. I quickly found out that there is 1 thing these yahoos take as serious as fishing, fantasy football!
I spent most of my season last year getting repeatedly curb stomped but had a good time doing it as the near daily trash talk added good commentary to give me quick breaks from my work day. This year, I decided I’d spice up some of the weeks by publically calling out particular opponents on weeks I faced them and challenge them to a “side bet” of sorts. Well, unfortunately for me those curb stompings from last year carried into this year and it didn’t go well for me.
Throughout this I discovered I may have a bit of a repressed gambling problem, as the typical wager was 3 articulated streamers and each week I lost I would just double down the next week to try and win some bugs back. Let’s just say I burned through a lot of materials this year.
However, thats not where my punishment ends. Oh no…that’d be way to easy. My poor decision making and inability to set a good roster of players continues to punch me square in the throat.
Twice this year I lost to Jeff from Fly Fish the Mitt and had to contribute to his already loaded streamer box. Being that I was going to be fishing with him on this past Sunday morning, I worked late into the night spinning up a version of Galloup’s Boogie Man.
Jeff, not one to shy away from rubbing a bit of salt in a pal’s wound decided he would immediately lace one of his winnings up and fish it right out of the gates on our streamer escapade. I quietly chuckled to myself as I sat in the rowers seat and watched him struggle with the bug getting fouled around itself, as it appeared that I unintentionally provided him with a “dud” that had too much space between the hooks and not enough beads to prevent the hooks from becoming entangled with one another during casting. “Serves him right” I thought – but of course outwardly I appeared apologetic. “Jeeze man, I’m really sorry. I thought I tied those perfectly.”
A simple adjustment, opening the loop of this cast up a bit, allowed him to accurately sling the bug without it getting tangled. No worries, the color combination is surely not one we’ve ever seen work in this particular river – he even commmented on it himself.
That’s when the throat punches started rolling in. On his first shift he brought a few fish to hand. Then on his second shift, Mike Tyson punched me square in the neck and this fish decided this terribly tied bug looked good enough to eat.
He continued to fish the fly for the entire day and of course landed not only by far the largest fish of the day, significantly more fish than I did as well. Wasn’t it enough that I just paid my dept and suffered the humilation of proclaiming my Fantasy Football superiority only to be embarrased?
Stay tuned for the report following me paying my bet to Dan, as I practically have to row him around the river the whole day without me even fishing. Fantasy Football sucks.
The very nature of fly fishing mandates that we are forever adapting to the conditions that we are fishing in. Sometimes the water is high and dirty, sometimes its low and clear. Maybe it’s bluebird skies and high sun, or a downpour. Maybe the water temps are near freezing or just the right side of the comfort zone for trout. Perhaps there is the presence of a predominat or preferred food source.
When it comes to streamer fishing, anglers are always looking for an edge, the ability to unlock that secret code and find a fly pattern that consistently puts fish in the net. Its been very interesting to follow the trends of fly patterns as they are announced on social media, in magazines, on youtube videos, and other mediums – seems like every year a hot new pattern pops up and receives a considerable amount of buzz.
Well, through hundreds of hours of conversation with people “in the know” and even more time of my own personal research and observations I’m happy to report to you that I’ve cracked the code! I’ve finally figured out the fly pattern that will undoubtedly outfish all others for you. Are you ready for it?
The pattern that works far better than any others is the one that you have confidence in. Period.
Sure, I get it – not all patterns were created equal. Some swim differently, some have different color combinations, some are different sizes. At the end of the day, none of that matters unless you have confidence in it. There is an enormous hype train around certain patterns – you’d be lead to believe that fish will basically have no choice but to jump on your hooks if you just as so much throw it in the water. Do yourself a favor, don’t buy into it.
Instead, get out and fish and cast whatever bug you chose with confidence, because at the end of the day that will go a lot further for you.
Fly tying is an interesting thing. So many techniques and pattern usages are “borrowed” from other people – even so there is still room for innovation and creation. For the past few years Jeff at Fly Fish the Mitt has fished with good success his version of a pattern created by Thomas Harvey and tied by Brian Wise seen in the video:
My version is different than Jeff’s version, which is different than Brian’s version which is possibly different than the original version. Sometimes versions of the same pattern change because of material availability, tying skill, local conditions, etc., but none the less its good to draw inspiration from others.
- Marabou tail
- Bunny strip tied in, overhanging bunny strip, leave enough to pull over the hook shank towards the front
- Senyo’s aqua veil (I double up 2 strands to create a fuller effect)
- Pull remaining bunny over the top of the hook shank and lash down at the eye
- Beadlon and 4 beads
- Small tuft of marabou to cover junction
- Repeat steps with bunny and aqua veil as on the rear hook – but leave room at the head
- Tie in darker colored senyos laser dub (or fusion dub) on top of hook
- Tie in lighter colored senyos laser dub (or fusion dub) on bottom of hook
- Glue on Fish Skull Living Eyes
The 2015 B1F field is set, we doubled the participants this year and there will be 18 anglers, 6 boats total. Because of the larger group we will be fishing 2 different sections of river, with 2 boats in each stretch. Here are the teams:
In my latest readings of the book by Jason Randall, titled Trout Sense, a work that is subtitled “A Fly fisher’s guide to What Trout SEE, HEAR, & SMELL” the author draws an extremely interesting comparison. He compares fly fishermen in a sense to door to door salesmen – putting the entire act of chasing trout on the fly into an entirely new perspective. He writes:
We are marketing our wares to a skeptical consumer, one that is often not quite convinced it wants what we are selling. To help us make the sale, we need the equivalent of market analysis. A good salesman considers two things: the target audience and how the product appeals to the target audience.
Simply put, what can we do as anglers to cause an “EAT” reaction, instead of “DON’T EAT” response? With streamer fishing we are knocking on a lot of doors throughout the day – there are a extreme multitude of factors that play into enticing an “EAT” response that we must consider.
Size, shape, and color of the streamer often times plays an extremely important role in triggering a desirable response. Does the pattern that we are presenting to our ‘customers’ match or resemble what they want to ‘buy’? Also, action of the streamer plays an enormous role – does the pattern move or act like potential prey? Does the fly act like a fleeing or injured food item, making it an easy target?
The product that we are selling is ENORMOUSLY important – as any salesman will tell you, if you don’t have a good product that is marketable, it makes selling it much more difficult. However, I’d argue that at the very least equally important to the product – probably even more important – is the number of doors we are knocking on. In many sales type roles, it becomes a numbers game, streamer fishing is not any different. Simply put, the more doors you knock on the better your chances to make a sale. Even if your product is not the perfect offering, if you present it to enough fish the odds tip in your favor.
Get your bugs in the water and pull them around…..the more times the better. Don’t waste time making several false casts, don’t get caught up with frequent bug changes, and don’t waste time doing other things that prevent your flies from being in the water.
2014 marks the 3rd rendition of the annual Michiganfly smallmouth bass 1fli competition. At stake is the highly coveted and equally elusive Duke and Lily Cup.
This year to add some excitement into the event – everyone that follows this blog can get in on the action! Below you will find a complete lineup of the anglers that will challenge for this year’s championship – please send your pick to win the cup to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you choose the winner you will be entered into a drawing to win
some sweet swag a Mystic Inception Fly Rod (5wt or 8wt) and the entire collection of all the loser’s flies used during the competition, so that you can go out and be a loser on your very own water!
Please submit your pick in this format:
- Email Address:
- Winner Prediction:
Here’s the lineup – you only get 1 pick, make it count.
DAN MOSER (Tiny Elvis)
The reigning champion, 2013 winner of the Duke and Lily cup jumped out to a huge early lead and continued to post giant numbers of fish throughout the day. He closed out the competition in impressive fashion, catching more fish than the rest of the competition combined! The pattern used by Dan last year to propel him to the winner’s circle has been banned for use this year as it was deemed unfair to the competitor anglers and the fish.
He is relentless, and unafraid of deploying unorthodox methods and flies in a constant search for a competitive edge. Won by such a large margin in last year’s event, holds a significant psychological advantage over the rest of the field. Knows what it takes to win, unless (see below)………….
Suspect knot tying skills resulted in an extremely early exit from the 2012 competition, as he lost his bug 10 minutes into the contest during a routine retrieve due to a poor knot.
The 2012 champion suffered an upset defeat last year. Well known giant fish catcher, Jeff consistently puts fish in the net no matter the species (and they are usually giants). Thought to be part human/part machine – a CYBORG. Imagine Robo Cop having a love child with trout guide. Adding to the lore of his cyborgness – recently suffered a broken elbow, went to a scrap yard to secure some spare parts – patched himself up and is better than new.
Tireless with precision aim on casts and the ability to watch his bug with one eye and look ahead to plan his next cast with his other eye.
Has a propensity to find pike, even in waters that have very low numbers of pike. This may result in an unintentional ‘saw-off’ knocking him from the remainder of the competition.
Unquestioned leader in facial hair configurations using his man hair sculpting abilities to confuse and frighten other challengers. The 2012 version of the Winfield/Winchester man face threw all of the other competitors off their respective games for more than half of the competition. It has also been said that the fish were so terrified of it they refused to eat for an entire week as they feared having to come face to face with it when caught.
Solid all around fisher – great caster, great tyer – puts up huge number days. Facial hair grooming skills add in a significant intimidation factor.
Streaky – can put up double digit days or low catch days. If he’s hot, there’s none better. One slip of the razor blade could destroy his distinct advantage in the manscaping capacity.
Doesn’t do any one thing better than any other competitors, and is working to reinvent himself as a streamer fisherman. Placed 2nd in the 2012 and 2013 contests.
Will come to the contest with a thoroughly researched and developed unique fly.
Shoulder injury leaves his status as “questionable” to last throughout the entire day – may limit casting abilities significantly. Basically, he is a giant pansy that can’t cast and blames it on a bum shoulder.
2014 newcomer brings a hardcore streamer fisherman mentality to the fold, and is an avid pursuer of smallies. Is a real life commando – and uses his military expertise to eliminate opponents and fish.
Ties clean and precise flies that have great movement and lifelike qualities.
Casting tends to tire as the day continues. Can be easily thrown off his game by calling him “bro” all day – for some reason he hates to be called “bro”.
2012 participant failed to get on the board, although he did not enter the 2013 contest – he walked away with the prestigious Schultz Outfitters 2013 Bass 1 Fly tourney in 2013.
Best tyer of the group. Will come prepared with a proven fly pattern that is bomb proof and able to stand up to fish after fish.
Remains to be seen if he can overcome his 2012 performance in this competition format. Confidence will be high after wrecking the competition at the Schultz event last year.
Commonly described as a “Fishy Mofo”. He seems to be able to convert PBR into the only nutrients needed to survive and function at a high level for extended periods of time. He is a survivalist can probably trek all of mount Everest in a half day with nothing more than a gum wrapper, paperclip, rubberband, and PBR.
A fishy guy – seems to always have his bugs in the water at the right time in the right spot. Knows what it takes to get it done. Mental preparation is a strength as well.
May be very warm during the event, causing him to have to spend precious fishing time downing PBR’s. May run out of supply of PBR and will shut down completely.
A true king of the swing, Ryan is a 2 handed nut. While he prefers the way of the spey, he is an extremely efficient bug puller. He is a gifted talker, and will work his magical words to throw other people off their games. His trash talk is so effective that Super Bowl Champ Richard Sherman hired him as a part time coach during the off season to work on his trash talk game.
Strong overall fisherman, that has the ability to intimidate other competitors with his football player mentality and size advantage.
Swinging for smallies is not as effective from a moving boat. If everyone brings ear plugs or hums show tunes loudly, his trash talking can be easily negated.
Ever heard of the “Donati Vortex”? Google it – it’s a real thing. This dude is the real deal – solid and consistent with giant explosions of huge days. Is a multi species and environment fisherman – small stream trout to big bay bass/carp fishing.
Extremely adaptable and consistent. Joe has the ability to adjust appropriately to nearly any situation presented to him, and find fish. Stays confident throughout the day – is definitely the most positive fisherman in the group.
Gets extremely excited about catching fish – even gets equally as excited when others catch fish. He has been known to celebrate by jumping up and down, giving multiple fist pumps in the air. This could result in serious injury preventing him from fishing 100% throughout the day. Also, while he is extremely adaptable – he does not spend as much time pursuing smallies in the river as some of the other competitors – this could make him prone to finding himself well behind the other anglers after the first shift.
If you haven’t seen this killer new pattern from Jeff at Fly Fish the Mitt its worth your while to take a look.
Great Lakes fishermen tend to shelve the swing gear in favor of other techniques in the spring. Opportunities do exist when water temps bump a few degrees during the pre-spawn window and later on while fish are dropping back. This pattern evolved out of a deep desire to swing up spring steel when fry are abundant in softer water often getting kicked out into the main current when water rises.
Eumer teardrop tube 22mm
Senyo’s laser dub (minnow belly)
Hareline dub (silver)
Senyo’s laser dub (fl. fuchsia)
3-D molded eyes pearl white 2.5
Clear cure goo thin
This is a swing bug tied intruder style with a Eumer tube cone up front. The cone helps keep the bug from collapsing and allows the ostrich to move and pulse through the swing. I also tie this pattern in black / copper and olive / copper with or without the egg head (finishing with schlappen). This is my go-to bug when water is high with good stain.
Bend out the Mustad hook and cut it close to the chartreuse ball at the back of the fly once the bug is finished.
Trim about half of the Polar Chenille fibers then tie in and wrap forward. I also use the black Polar Chenille with this color combo.
The Clear Cure Goo application locks the cone in place perpendicular to the shank so that the bug runs true.
1. Mustad 36890 sz 1/0
2. Beadalon .015″ gauge
3. Gamakatsu Octopus sz 4
4. Senyo’s Laser Dub fl Chartreuse
5. Hackle Purple
6. Ostrich Purple
7. Uv Polar Chenille Silver
8. Flashabou Grape
9. Ice Dub Uv fl Hot Pink
10. Clear Cure Goo (Thin)
An extremely interesting streamer pattern that has been gaining a ton of momentum and interest lately is the Game Changer – originated by Blane Chocklett of New Angle Fishing <- Click there to see more about Blane. My version is no where near as good looking as Blane’s or as Pat Cohen’s renditions (click here to see Pat’s at Super Fly). Actually mine really looks nothing like theirs….I suppose I’m going to have to work this one through the water pretty fast so the fish don’t have much time to study it!
It is incredibly difficult to improve upon a pattern that is already at the pinnacle of streamers as far as production is concerned. However, there are times that subtle changes in either coloration, movement, size, or flash will increase opportunities on those really tough days. Here is a different version of Galloup’s Zoo Cougar that I have fished successfully for trout and smallmouth.
- Thread: GSP Olive
- Hook: Size 2 B10s
- Tail: Hot Orange Marabou + 3 strands of copper flash on each side
- 1 Green Speckled and 1 Orange Speckled Rubber leg on each side
- Body: Florescent Chartreuse Diamond Braid
- Underwing: White Calf Tail
- Overwing: Gold Mallard Flank
- 2 sets of Green Speckled and Orange Speckled Rubber leg on each side
- Head: Spun and trimmed Olive Deer Hair
Steelhead Bugger (Popularized by Ray Schmidt)
This a great bug for me in any and all water conditions.
- Hook: 2x Long, 2x Strong Size 8
- Tail: Black Marabou & Crystal Flash
- Hackle: Brown Saddle
- Underbody: Turns of lead wire
- Body: 5-6 strands of peacock herl
A pretty simple and quick tie.