By the first few weeks of August there are signs everywhere that the end is near. I like to prod Mrs. Adrift with these facts as a reminder that the endless summer myth is not meant for our goodnatured midwestern virtues. She refuses to accept my grave thesis, and regularly gleans all she can out of the dog days. Whether it’s the premature changing of the leaves or the cool overnight lows, I can already smell the gas fumes wafting from my snowblower. Not that it’s a big deal, our 2014 offensive never really materialized in any significant way. After almost 20 years of residing in the great white north, I’ve just resigned to the fact that warmth is occasionally nothing more than a fleeting glance.
We haven’t talked turkey in any meaningful way lately, so I figured I’d offer up this ragtag bunch of buggers for further review. Most folks like to throw down their latest creation as if they’re an overbearing pageant mom hellbent on achieving perfection. That’s not the case for me, I’m all about exposing the warts in my amateur game. Is there really any way to improve the simple effectiveness of the woolly bugger? Perhaps not, but I’ve endeavored to plod forward nevertheless. I have to apologize up front for the unkept nature of these offerings. They were pulled right from the frontlines of duty. I procured them from the dark depths of my wet fly box for further analysis. Not only were they wet, they’ve been beat to shit by midsummer angling and I didn’t have any fresh ones to better illustrate my plight. I’ve been experimenting lately with a 3 tiered approach to buggerdom. On the far left is a garden variety #4 bugger tied up on a standard 2x long hook shank. I often throw this fly or a comparable Sloppy Joe, and it has served me well wherever fish swim.
The middle fly might be the most indecent bugger of the bunch. For starters, this particular tie looks like shit. It’s like a license plate, tied to a chick-o-stick, smothered in burnt hair, a real crowd pleaser. But there’s a method to my madness. This specific chunk-a-foam was my floating bugger/strike indicator prototype that I call a “Nobber.” In the land between a foam mouse and a foam hopper lies the foam bugger. If that wasn’t enough, this design is meant to serve double duty as an adjustable strike indicator utilizing Mikey Wier’s Super Hopper dropper system. I’ve tried a few different designs, but this one is the XL model for big fish servitude. It’s tied up on a spinnerbait trailer hook, and is meant to drop a meaty offering. It’s the t-bone version of a dry/dropper, and you can adjust it to accommodate different depths. I kind of laugh when I look at this “Nobber™.” Do you like how I add the ™ to things? It’s sort of a joke to myself since my world is chock-full of ™ ® ℠ and the nuances of said symbology? I’ve been experimenting with different foams to create a baitfish-like belly to the fly. It looks like crap, but emulates a dying baitish on the surface, and will elicit a strike. Like the colorful history of foolhardy flying machines, this thing is par for the course. I’ve improved the aesthetics since the first experiment, but why not bare it all? It’s not a bugger, it’s not a bobber, get yourself a Nobber.
The last suspect in the lineup covers the other end of the spectrum, and might actually be cheatin’ in the eyes of some folks. In the spirit of jig headed prospecting flies, this thing takes the cake. I’ve grown frustrated with not knowing what lies at the deepest of the deep pools that I come across. On many of my standard streamer designs I just can’t seem to get enough weight wrapped around the hook shanks. Like walleye fisherman everywhere I finally saw the light. The Orvis Tungsten Jig Bugger employs the same logic, only on a much smaller scale. Much of my tying utilizes my hoarder-like collection of angling paraphernalia. This batch is built on a jig head that I regularly use to entice bronzebacks from their murky lies.
For some reason or another I’ve always been fascinated with history and specifically military history (if you haven’t noticed from my occasional references). In college I was the goofy design guy stuck in a room with a bunch of ROTC jarheads discussing the intricacies of this or that battle. But more to the point this fly is meant to bomb the deepest pools and extract it’s inhabitants. It may not be PC, but I’ve dubbed this style of bugger a “Little Boy,” in reference to one of the catastrophic WWII devices that changed history. One must tread lightly with a Little Boy tied to the end of their line, it’s not for the faint of heart. If you try to unload a wide open cast you may be rendered unconscious from the chuck-n-duck experiment. A Little Boy requires a deft hand, and an arsenal of close quarters tactics. This is the pinnacle of all “sand wedge” designs and it’s not meant to be an all day fly. It took a stout Brown to 17 inches within two minutes of use. It’s worth noting that the tail on this one is virtually chewed off. I’m also a sucker for a good set of eyes (insert joke here). For this tie I made a pair from two gold beads tied together with some 100# saltwater mono. You have to get creative when tying in close proximity to the unwieldy mushroom shaped jig head. Why should walleye guys have all the fun? Flipping a Little Boy under your neighborhood logjam should answer all of the questions lingering in the back of your mind.
There’s no question that I had a bad taste in my mouth following the missed opportunities guiding the fellas. I still had a case of hopper on the brain that I just had to shake. I guess I’m also a sucker for the splat-n-take action of terrestrial season. A few weeks ago I had a meeting just down the street from The Fly Angler in Blaine. I’m an ardent support your local fly shop whenever you can kind of guy. As a matter of fact I feel kind of guilty for not giving a shout out to the new look Bob Mitchell’s Fly Shop (BMFS) in Lake Elmo sooner. Given the reality of my west side existence, and extremely close proximity to Mend Provisions, I’m often at warp factor 6 when sniffing the Wisconsin border. I’ve got fish on my mind, and I am powerless to turn north to BMFS for a visit. I’ll endeavor to remedy that malady down the road. But I digress, the reason for my stop at The Fly Angler (other sowing my counterproductive oats) was to pick up a few terrestrials for further inspection in preparation for a stout round of tying. I got to work on the vise tying up a box of this and that which proved extremely fruitful over the last few weeks of angling. I had one commercially tied pink/tan hopper from the Fly Angler (the above pic I featured in my last post). It went largely unmolested on a backup rod that I carried while the guys dissected their runs. I have put that hopper through it’s paces (along with many others) and it has served dutifully on a variety of campaigns.
It’s funny how quickly blog fodder can become dated. This thing has been half written for a few weeks, but I just couldn’t find the time to finish her up. Late summer has been a blur of angling activity and the camera is full of fresh content. To put a point on the point, I carefully put my beloved pink hopper to the top of a run and watched it gently get slurped from the abyss. It was the coolest take I’ve seen in some time. Once the full brunt of the beast came to bare I realized that this battle was bare knuckled. Time after time I’ve come to realize that I actually talk to myself when reaching the pinnacle of my efforts. I’m pretty sure I let out a hearty “fuck yeah” when I put this behemoth in the net. He splashed my camera lens and unknowingly wreaked havoc on my ability to produce a quality pic. On some levels the bad taste in my mouth had been successfully been replaced with sweet nectar, but not really. There’s more work to be done.
Sometimes the path is just too difficult to blaze your own trail. We’ve all been there before. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but ultimately it’s just an empty shortcut. Your 15 minutes are short lived. At least in my case, if just for a moment, I successfully exercised the demons.