BY BOB POPOVICS
n my lasc Masters Vise column (May/
June, 2008), 1 wrote about the evolu tion of silicone as a fly-tying material. Silicone was very useful in many of my patterns over the years, but one stands out in my memory of favorites: the Weedless Bendback Siliclone.
This fly evolved outside the saltwater arena — instead, it came to be while fishing for northern pike at Hatchet Lake in Sascatchewan, Canada. This is the land of huge northerns and some pretty challenging fly-fishing; the fish are aggressive, fast and love to hang in places that test an angler's presentation techniques. Lurking among the weeds and stick-ups, pike taunt anglers by pushing water, splashing their tails or nailing large critters from the surface. Getting a fly into their environment is little challenge — getting it back is the tricky part.
During my trip, fish would readily attack a fly in these spots. They struck them with reckless abandon! But the hookup ratio was often a different story. The flies available to me at the time had wire or mono weed guards. They worked fairly well, but most giants never felt the hook. The weed guards gave too much resistance, and flies would often pull right out while another big pike slowly swam back into the thicket.
Back at the lodge, I broke out my tying kit and some silicone. To solve the problem, I figured I'd try an old version of my Siliclone Bendback. This fly automatically eliminates interference from below as it rides hook point up.
But I needed more than that; I had to pull the fly through — and under — obstacles that could grab the exposed hook point. The basic Bendback design would fail me here. My objective was very simple: I had to provide protection to the hook point by either attempting to hide or cover it.
As it turned out, the solution was also very simple: I used silicone to coat some of the bucktaii fibers of the top wing, which covered the hook point and could be trimmed to suit.
Since the head of the fly was trimmed-to-shape sheep fleece and covered with silicone, I simply extended the silicone application to the rear on the bucktaii wing fibers over the hook point.
I letthisfirmupovernightand finished it off the next morning by trimming rhe siliconed weed-guard fibers about '/i6-inch past the hook point. The resistance of the weed guard seemed strong enough to move through and over obstacles. Hopefully, my hookups would increase as well once I put it to the test.
It did not take long to find out! I landed three fish in a row over 42 inches, all taken through nasty stick-ups and debris that no ordinary fly could get through. For the next 10 days of fishing on Hatchet Lake, the hookup ratio remained very high.
Needless to say, I made a lot of these flies while I was in camp.
Later that year, I was fishing for false albacore along the north jetty of Barnegat Inlet. Albacore would raid the inlet and feast on mullet that hung under weed patches drifting in the current. Luckily for me, I had a couple pike flies from my last trip to Canada, and as it turned out, they were also deadly on the albacore since they could be presented in and through the weeds.
On another occasion, weakfish were feeding in Barnegat Inlet, but only if there was current. The current would bring weeds at the end of the tide, however, which made it difficult getting a fly down through the patches of debris. The weakfish were still feeding, but catches by fishermen decreased dramatically because their offerings were often covered with weed.
I adapted the process once again. By applying characteristics from the weedless Bendback Siliclone, I coated the topmost fibers of my Jiggies with silicone, which made them weedless as well. It worked like a charm! Hie new Jiggies would slide through the weeds and descend down clean to rhe weakfish.
Give this idea a try next time you're faced with overwhelming weeds and debris in your fishing.
HOOK: 92608 Mustad, 66SS Eagle Claw, 911s Tiemco or 34011 Mustad BODY AND WING: Bucktaii HEAD: Sheep Fleece EYES: Witchcraft
SILICONE: GE (and Kodak Photo Flo to smooth) LEAD WIRE: Keel
Fashion hook Bendback style, and tie in desired-color bucktail at the bend of the hook.
Attach fleece in front of bucktail 360 degrees around the hook shank. Leave tapered ends to rear on first fleece application.
Bring thread %-inch forward of fleece.
Fill shank with fleece.
Trim fleece at angle from hook eye and then trim to shape the head.
Separate topmost bucktail fibers from wing — this forms the weed guard. Begin silicone application to the head and work to the rear. Apply silicone to selected fibers of bucktail.
Finish with a liberal coat of silicone with eyes positioned under the finishing coat. Smooth the finishing coat with Kodak Photo Flo solution or saliva. Position hook point directly under weed guard or allow hook point to rest directly alongside the weed guard. Let fly dry for 24 hours before using.
If desired, wrap lead wire (about 2 inches) to hook bend to increase Zara Spook action.
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Ditch Those Old Wetsuits
Performance Waders Keep You Dry When the Water's Cold BY MARK B. HATTER
t's the middle of February, the air temperature is 48 degrees and a 15-knot wind is snapping from the northwest. The water temp is hovering in the mid-50s, yet I'm warm and dry, thigh-deep in tailing black drum. I wouldn't be here if it weren't for a good pair of performance waders.
It wasn't always this way, though. Not many years ago, I'd start out warm and dry only to end up damp and chilled. The neoprene waders I used then would have served me better as a wetsuit — they trapped all the water vapor leaving my body as I paddled my kayak around the fishing grounds.
But things quickly changed after an unfortunate instance when those old waders blew out of the bed of my truck somewhere between Orlando and Cocoa Beach. It was the middle of winter, the fishing was going off and I needed a replacement pair, ASAP. I did my homework and purchased a pair of breathable performance waders.
What a difference! No longer did 1 have to wear layered clothing under the waders to keep warm. In fact, I could actually wear less. Through the miracle of physics, the sweat from my body found its way out into the water through the waders' semipermeable membrane. The advent of these materials, commonly referred to as "breathable fabrics," greatly expanded the comfort zone for fly fishers. From anglers plying the surf for stripers in New England to corbina in California or winter drum in Florida's lagoons, breathable waders are must-have equipment in your fly-fishing arsenal.
Because breathable waders are so important in fly-fishing, industry competition has produced a plethora of choices from at least five manufacturers. As you would expect, price points run the gamut from very affordable to high-end professional.
Core-Tex material arguably remains the best-known breathable fabric, but you might be surprised to know that several manufacturers have developed highly competitive proprietary materials that provide solid performance. Indeed, manufacturers are spending R&D dollars to refine the balance between breathability, durability and overall material weight (bulk).
Of course, there is a price relationship associated with wader designs addressing these three requirements. In general, the higher the quality of the wader design (its breathability, durability and weight), the more it will cost. All the manufacturers offer sizes to fir just about everyone, and four manufacturers offer models and sizes specifically for women. Custom sizing is even available from at least one manufacturer. Expect to pay more for unique or special features such as bent-knee designs, ergonomi-cally designed left/right neoprene feet or integrated gravel guards.
Regardless of the material type, all breathable waders are saltwater safe and require nothing more than a rinse in freshwater at the end of the day. Storage is easy: Just hang them in a cool, dry location and they will serve you well for years.
All the manufacturers below offer a choice in at least one of their offerings between an integrated boot foot and a neoprene foot that requires a separate wading shoe or boot. Anglers hunting fish in the surf or on muddy flats should consider an integrated boot-foot wader to avoid sand packing or mud building up. Additionally, integrated boot-footed waders are better for cold water or winter wading because the added air space in the foot area will keep you warmer.
Kayakers might consider neoprene foot waders. They are light, comfortable waders and can work without a separate boot for wading out of the kayak. If you're planning jetty work or wading in rock)' areas, separate felt-soled wading boots
offered by many manufacturers are recommended over a full-foot boot wader for better traction over slippery rocks.
Just as important as boot foot selection, picking the right under-layering is key to staying warm and dry. All of the manufacturers offer performance under-layering for a variety of conditions.
WADERS FOR FLY-FISHERS
Here's a quick look at some of the more popular offerings:
Simms offers 1 1 different models for men and women, ranging from $150 to $700, depending on performance level. Gore-Tex is the primary material used by Simms and, depending on the model and price point, available features include custom fitting, integrated gravel guards, multiple pocket options and built-in belt loops. Simms also offers a lifetime warranty on all of their products. For more information, visit www.simmsfishing.com.
Patagonia offers three different models for men and women from $250 to $350. The company employs a proprietary, three-layer Hydrostorm HD fabric that simultaneously achieves extreme breath-ability and durability. Special features include a left/right-foot ergonomie design, integrated gravel guards and adjustable belt, a wader repair kit and a customer-satisfaction warrant}'. For more information, visit www.patagonia.com.
Orvis' wader menu includes 9 models from $129 to $379, all constructed from proprietary fabrics, coatings and laminates. Special features on certain models include a relocation of the inseam to the back of the wader for reduced-abrasion wear, patented roll-down uppers transforming chest waders into waist waders, and waterproof stretch uppers for lightweight comfort. Orvis offers an unconditional warranty for materials and workmanship. For more information, visit www.orvis.com.
LL Bean offers fly-fishers five different models. The top offering is constructed with Gore-Tex fabric and retails for $300. Special features include contoured knees, five layers of Gore-Tex in the lower half of the wader for durability and puncture-resistance and three layers in the torso for comfort and breathabil-ity. Bean also offers an economical wader line for only $90. Ihe company's products offer a lifetime guarantee. For more information, visit www.Ilbean.com.
Cloudvcil offers 4 wader models. Gore-Tex material is used on some models, while proprietary fabric is employed on others. Price points range from $250 for a unique wading pant to $475 for their pro model. Special features on the pro model include built-in, compression-resistant neoprene and asymmetrically designed gravel gaiters with four-way stretch. Every wader is leak-tested to assure performance, and Cloudveil otters a lifetime materials-and-workmanship warranty for the original owner. For more information, visit www.cioudveilfishing.coni.
If you don't have breathable waders in your fly-fishing arsenal, you are either getting cold and clammy in those old, wetsuit-style waders, or you're missing a huge dimension in our sport. Shop, compare and then buy, and next time out, you won't be afraid to get wet.
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Fall along the Jersey Shore is classic blitz time as striped bass, bluefish and false albacore inundate our waters and are more than willing to hammer a Hy. Migrator)'bait movements along the beach, coupled with dropping water temperatures, send these fish into daily feeding frenzies, and I have witnessed blitzes in which the fish never leave and nearly every cast produces a strike.
When blitzes of this nature erupt, catching fish on a fly can become a no-brainer. But there are also days that aren't as magical; blitzing fish are around, but they are not willing to eat a fly. With this in mind, let's take a look at some of the strategies and tactics that can better prepare you for the blitz from either boat or beach on both good and not-so-good days.
Come Prepared I've always found it advantageous to have multiple fly rods rigged and ready when fly-fishing a blitz. No one wants to waste time trying to tie on a new leader or fly when the action is erupting right in front of you. Tying knots in situations like these can lead to suspect work and possibly a lost trophy. Therefore, I like to have a minimum of five rods ready to go, two of which are rigged with wire tippets in case toothy bluefish show up.
Anticipate the Action If you want to avoid fishing in a crowd, try to anticipate the direction blitzing fish are pushing bait. Moving ahead into this position will give you a chance to make several cists on your own.
After having positioned ahead of a school of bait and blitzing fish, don't overlook the value of blind casting. Many times, particularly with false albacore, there are more fish underwater and ahead of the blitzing pod than those visible on the surface. I like to begin casting into the feeding lane fish are moving in when they are about 50 yards away. Doing so can produce hookups before the major boat or beach traffic arrives.
Fish Below the Radar Allowing a fly to sink below a school of blitzing fish is another effective tactic, particularly when bluefish are mixed with stripers. Bluefish will tear through bait, leaving chunks and pieces behind that slowly sink to the bottom. They also regurgitate baits. Striped bass often can't resist either of these.
Casting ahead of a blitzing school is a good tactic that allows your fly enough time to sink to the desired depth without getting hit by bluefish. It lets you keep your fly in position for the approaching school. When utilizing either of these tactics, select quick-sinking lines from 350- to 500-grain weights or Rio's Custom Cut T-14 Outbound Series. This tactic is most successful when the blitz is occurring from the beach to about 25 feet of water.
Fish Behind the School Staying put and fishing behind the blitz is also an effective tactic, as big, opportunistic stripers often lurk behind the main pod to clean up the scraps. Smaller, more aggressive bass and almost all the bluefish move with the pod, competing with one another. Most fishermen will leave and follow the action down the beach. But staying put for an additional 15 minutes can put you into some of the largest fish around.
Vary Your Retrieve Don't zero in on only one type of stripping technique! Vary your retrieves if you are not getting strikes. Speed up, slow down, pause, jerk or twitch. Experiment to see what the fish want on a particular day.
Dead Drift Your Fly An effective method for drawing strikes when casting directly into rhe melee is to dead drift your fly through the pod while twitching it slightly. I his technique was taught to me by Rob Popovics as I watched him one day hook into blitzing false albacore while the rest of us were doing a two-handed super strip and going Ashless. Flies fished in this manner appear as dead or injured baitfish that make for an easy meal. Let me warn you, however: It does require control and patience.
Un-Match the Hatch The old flyfishing adage is to match the hatch. Many times in a blitz, however, your fly will be overlooked. This can lead to frustration when the baits are the only thing being inhaled.
At times like these, switching to a fly that does not match the hatch Is a good move. A fly that is much larger or smaller — or one that might be a completely different color — could be the ticket. The thinking here is that the extreme difference in profile or color will stand out against the real bait. Colors such as chartreuse or any of the bright fluorescents will reflect light in a different manner and may be just enough to draw a strike.
Watch That Wind The wind is a key component for fishing the blitz. It can literally make things explode in the fall. Here along the central Jersey coast, two wind directions are favorable for creating an erupting blitz. One is a hard west wind that blows offshore. West winds in my area cause bait to ball up and swim in tight to the beach. This presents ideal conditions for fly casters in the surf.
The other wind that can stir up some action is a northeast wind. This onshore wind produces a lot of white water, disorients bait and fires up the striped bass. Its onshore direction also traps baits along the sides of jetties, making them easy targets.
When the wind is in your face like this, fly casters in the surf cast heavier sinking lines, which allow you to cut through the air better. This heavier mass will have a greater momentum and require a greater force from the wind to knock it down.
Avoid Bad Attitudes To have a blitz all to yourself during the fall season is possible but unlikely. Cell phones quickly spread rhe word about the exact location of blitzes, and crowds of fishermen quickly flock to the action. In situations like these, bad attitudes and tempers can easily flare as lines get tangled or incessant jockeying takes place. When a blitz occurs along the beach, boaters often become the archenemies of surfcasters, and several ounces of lead are sometimes launched in a boat's direction should it venture too close to shore.
The best advice I can give is to realize that this kind of scenario is going to take place. There is nothing you can do about it. The reality is that everyone must work together in order to catch as many fish as possible. Give other surf-casters or boaters their space and demonstrate patience. Don't cast in front of them when they are fighting or landing a fish. If you can't work well with others, then it will serve everyone best if you move to a different location.
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