Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fly Profiles, Floating Flies (Part 1)

                                           ( Perfect Profile Mouse)

Thinking back on developing floating flys, one thing always comes back to me , is, how a Trout may see the "fake" and think this is real . Over the past 30 years I have developed many fly patterns for all types of fishing, weather it be for Trout , Steelhead , or Saltwater. Being a professional trout guide , much of my attention has been focused on dry flies or, floating flies. I have worked on streamers, and yes , they work, but , what streamer always works? Fish can be very finicky, and it seems like on a particular day , that  a certain streamer will work better than others, color , size, and depth seem to be the most important factors determining the success of a  streamer fly .
I guided a person who specialized in streamer fishing  in Argentina back in the early1990's, it amazed me just how many different colors of woolly buggers one person could own. Hundreds of different "models" of the same theme, a woolly bugger, they came in every color imaginable, blue, green, black, yellow, brown, white, etc..The color combinations were endless, blue and white, with pearl flash, blue and white with gold flash, green and yellow with a small red collar, with gold flash, well , I think you get the idea, the colors where almost the same for most, with just one little detail being different, so it had another name. Literally, hundreds of different types of "'woolly buggers", and of course they all came in different sizes, from giant to tiny, from a 3/0 to # 18, there were more "woolly buggers" than I could ever want to see.The ironic part of all this is that on the rivers we floated in this part of Argentina, a green woolly bugger size #6 , or I should say, Flash a bugger, green, in a size #6 , was but far the top producing fly on these rivers. There is a small green (about a size #6) Crab ( Pancora) that lives in great numbers in all the rivers in Chile and Argentina in this area , of the Central and Northern Patagonia, it is the main diet of the trout in this area. I had many days that we caught over 100 trout using the "green woolly bugger", it just plain worked, and why not, it made sense, we were" matching the hatch", so to speak.
On the other end of the woolly bugger spectrum, we had a man come down and fish for four days that had "won"his trip at TU banquet. He was in my boat the first day of his trip, I asked him how he preferred to fish, he replied, that he had never fly fished, but, did go to the local Fly Shop and told them that he was coming to Argentina and needed some flies. The fly shop was very in tune with the flies needed,  in the past they had many of their clients fish in this part of Patagonia. The new comer was shown a variety of flies, Royal Wullfs, Pheasant tail nymphs, Hoppers, and woolly buggers. The man was over whelmed with all the new names, colors, and techniques to use these wide variety of flies. So, he asked which fly will be the best, the shop owner touched his chin and said , "well, I'd make sure I had a woolly bugger,  green, the best size is a # 6". OK, the "rookie" said, give me two, I might loose one. This is a true story, the man told me this when I was tying on his 15th fly of the day, he was laughing hysterically, and said, " that shop owner was giving me the strangest look, and I had no idea why".
The other flies that worked especially well, some parts of the year were, "hoppers" of course some years ( about every seven), there would be an explosion of the hard shelled leggy bugs, that would  bring the trout to near lunacy. On these rare years , it appeared that the larger , and more life like the bug , brought  much more success, body shape and legs were the two important factors. It was the profile of these jumping insects that brought the trout into a feeding frenzy. Color, did not seem to be the most important aspect of triggering a rise, tan , yellow, or even grey seemed to work equally as well, it became clear that the profile of the fly was the key ingredient.
(Brown trout ,Perfect Profile Eater)
The other "hatch" so to speak,  that was extremely important in Patagonia, it is much like the hopper explosion, not a yearly ordeal, but comes every 5-7 years when conditions are just right , is the  "mouse population explosion", or simply put, the mouse hatch. Some years on almost all the rivers in this part of Patagonia, the trout really key in on the small furry mammals.
There are two different ways to fish a mouse pattern, with movement, or dead drift. Traditionally, the mouse is fished much like a "bomber" for Salmon, cast down and across and skated across the river, to emulate the movement of a mouse swimming across a  stream  to reach the other side. This technique works to a degree on these rivers, but , the clarity of the water is a factor . This is when I developed the "Perfect Profile "mouse, or PP mouse ( Pictured top of page), it is a mouse pattern that is fished upstream, dead drift, very different that throwing  a ball with a tail , and dragging it over the surface .The key factors that differentiate this fly from other mouse patterns  are : 1) legs ,moving  in the water below the surface 2) body profile, with a fury  under body, mouse like profile, including neck and head, and tail. Color seems to be a factor, dull colors work best, mousy grey, light brown, tan....all seem to work .
I fished this fly on many rivers in Northern Patagonia area of Argentina, and some years , it was a "go to" fly, producing some huge trout and on some rivers, and "Land Locked Salmon" would rise to take this life like imitation. Size too did matter, a # 4 -8 worked best , medium sized , not too large, and not too small.
One of the years I was living in Patagonia, there was a huge mouse explosion, and the trout really did key into the floating  foam and fur imitations. That year I fished the "PP" as my #1 fly pattern, casting and fishing with an unusual enthusiasm, knowing that with ever drift could produce a large trout.
After guiding one day, I returned to the lodge to find a new car parked out in front , a rental car from Barliloche, a large tourist town some 60 miles to the south. There was a writer from "Cigar Aficionado" here for one day, and he wanted to do a piece about the Lodge and fishing here on the Traful river. I met the writer that evening, and explained that the fishing this time of the year ,( late Fall), was best mid-day and through the afternoon, due to the water temperature, and how it needed to warm from the sun for the fish to become active.

The writer was not a fishermen, he did not care, he said, " lets just go out in the morning, and see if one of us can catch something so I can write about the fishing". The lodge part of his article was easy, he had photos of the grounds , rooms , and dinner/food shots, he had eveyones names , some history, an instant article...Now , the difficult part, catching a decent trout with photos of him, with a huge smile, holding a Traful river trout. The problem was , that the writer had to catch a plane the next morning, his trip was over and  he was returning New York, he  had until 11:00 am to fish.
It was a clear night, which means" frost on the pumpkin", the following morning, we woke to a near total  blanketing of white. It was really cold, and it being late Fall would not warm until the Sun could penetrate from high above in the cloudless blue sky. We started early , in a run furthest from the house that held many small trout. I instructed him ( crash course) on some casting  methods to help him at least get some line out. He did catch some very small trout , just past the" Parr "stage, he was quickly coming to the reality that if he wanted a photo of a nice trout , I would be the one to hook it. Time was burning, the water was just too cold, we were starting to think about heading back so he could gather his bags and depart for the Airport. The writer was really disappointed, he said, " I'm not sure I can do the Article without the photos of the trout, it won't make sense without the photos". OK, lets try one more spot , I'll fish and see if I can hook one for you , and you can land it, that way I can take your picture with a trout. He agreed, and we stopped at an area of the river that is narrow, and filled with large "Angus Bull" sized boulders. I tied on a Perfect Profile Mouse, size #4 , and cast the mouse upstream and allowed the imitation to float in a natural drift back down towards the two of us.  With a fly this size , one needs to use Strong tippet, I had on 1 x which would be around 8lb breaking strength. On the third drift , I connected with a substantial brown trout, that came slowly , and just sucked in the #4 mouse imitation. I quickly powered the golden beauty to succumb beneath our feet, the writer was hystertical, " give me the rod, give me the rod, give me the rod", in a cadence that was disturbing to the ears. I told him to get the camera ready, he did, and we exchanged  tools. He not being a fishermen forgot about all his Pryor instructions, and like so many before him,  he grabbed on to the fly line not to give the huge slashing fury of gold, an inch.With clenched teeth, he pointed the tip of the rod straight at the desperate trout holding on to the fly line with an absolute "death grip". Let him run, Let him run, give him some line or he will get off , do not hold him!  I said with authority.This was all taking place right at out feet, we were poised above the fighting trout on a large boulder.I took some photos of the 7lb brown while it was in the water, the rod completely bent in a giant U. But something had to give, the brown trout had finally ripped the fly from it's mouth and swam off  as free as before he decided to eat the mouse imitation.
Three months later while I was in line at a local video store in Helena Montana,  I read the article , it and some photos appeared in "Cigar Aficionado", the article was quite different from the way I remembered that crisp Fall morning.
 The Perfect Profile mouse is a fly that will bring big trout out of their safe zone, even when the conditions are not ideal. Good Ammo!
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