This week I scouted some new water in search of big browns. I’ve spent a portion of the spring season scouring lower sections of marginal water in search of bruisers with mixed results. The fishing last week was just too good not to go back to streamers. I threw them most of the time with the San Juan worm as plan B.
The bite was definitely tougher this week. I had a few fish sneak out from under cut banks only to refuse my offering at the last second. Ahh sneaky cut bank rejection trout, you are a cruel mistress! The few fish that did cooperate were “on it” like stink on shit. What did I say last week about the bites, hard and determined? Take a look at the placement of this bugger, he practically swallowed it to his tail.
The action for the most part was far from spectacular, though I did roll a beast swinging my fly downstream in to a deep pool. I worked the pool a few more times only to be denied. I’m not sure why, but I thought it would be fun swing my small Sage 4-weight. Many may scoff at this approach, but I throw anything from a 4-weight up to an 8-weight for Driftless trout. There are some spots where I use more of a steelhead setup if I think the stream and the fish warrant such a big stick.
I let the pool cool off for a bit after missing the big boy. I decided it was time to pull out the “Strawberry Twizzlers”. The San Juan worm must be the world’s easiest fly to tie, even a hack like me can whip one out in a minute or two. Last year I worked on several variations of this fly.
Late one night before an early morning outing in a cloud of a few adult beverages I tied up a few versions. I raided my daughter’s graveyard of unloved toys for the tying materials, as I didn’t have any chenille worthy of worm duty. It’s now standard procedure for me to review the bottomless toy chests of my offspring when tying new flies. I even caught fish on my recent Mexican bonefish trip using this method. Who would have guessed that My Little Pony’s head would elicit strikes from some of the most revered game fish in the sea? I borrowed from my experience as a walleye and bass fisherman with the implementation of the the candy-like colored walleye hook. Actually I’ve used these steelheading for years, they’re just somewhat new to stream trout duties. I’m not sure why more fly tyers don’t use colored hooks? I suppose it’s due to most tyer’s obsession with realism? Other anglers don’t have that problem. Bass and muskie fisherman have mastered the art of chucking something resembling a boat propeller or two by four to capitalize on the predatory nature of their prey. Thank god Picasso didn’t stop short at realism, so why should I?
I’ve tying these babies up in a range of colors. The red anodized have been the most popular for me, but my favorite color of all time is lime green. I blame the fascination with fluorescent green on the 1985 Haro Master. The prepubescent twelve year-old version of me spent countless hours drooling over the bike but never attaining it. The fact that it was featured in a killer Mountain Dew commercial just rubbed salt into the wound. Notice the color of my HouseFly illustration? I call my version of the San Juan Worm “Twizzlers,” ’cause there really is no finer movie snack as the Twizzler, I can polish the better part of a bag at the cinema.
Throwing a “worm” is no big deal to me. The epiphany came sometime in the late nineties. After a tough afternoon on the Root River I stumbled across a young lad worming a deep logjam. We chatted for a few minutes then he offered to show me the contents in his creel. It was loaded with a wide array of big trout. There’s no question the guy was kicking my ass. I’ve never really taken the coffee can thing from a River Runs Through It literally. The movie has done as much for fishing partisanship as Rush Limbaugh has in politics. I’m a whatever floats your boat type fisherman. There aren’t enough hours in the day for me to care how long of a rod a person uses, or what they tie on the end of it.
In my formative years I struggled with how to get down into deep runs and log jams the way that the worm soaker does with skill and precision. The Tungsten Twizzler is just the ticket. I have a version of this tied with Glitz Metallic Cord which resembles nothing in a trout’s diet, but works nevertheless.
Even the Tungsten “Pack-O-Twizzlers” will fit the bill (Gob-O-Worms).
Did I mention that I was fishing marginal water? There seems to be a run lately on people catching pike in trout streams, as I’ve read several accounts on Driftless forums and blogs. After I missed the big brown I went back at him with the Strawberry Twizzler. I did sort of a highstick/hopping technique through the deepest part of the run when something absolutely slammed my offering. For a split second I thought I had stuck the big dog, but the suspense didn’t last long as the pike shot out of the run like a chicken with his head cut off. I haven’t had my drag scream like that in quite sometime.
Not a monster pike by any means, I’ve caught fish twice as big. But “toothy” took me for a damn fun ride on the little 4-weight. This fish was no hammer handle either, it was “thick like can of Pepsi.” Clearly the big brown I rolled only feet away felt confident sharing the run with this dude who is clearly fattening himself up on juvenile trout! My apologies for the rod in mouth thing. I don’t fancy myself a rod in mouth kind of guy, but I was sitting on a sand bar and didn’t really want to put my reel in the muck. Hindsight is 20/20.
Highsticking the Strawberry Twizzler pike was like Stealing Candy From a Baby.