Monday, April 10, 2017

Ignorance is Bliss; or at Least, a Smallmouth

My wife’s Grandmother lives in Grass Valley, California, an area rich in history from California’s Gold Rush. It’s home to the historical Yuba River, along with a myriad of other streams, ponds, and lakes. We always went swimming above the covered bridge high up in the mountain ridge, upstream from Harry L. Englebright lake. The water is crystal blue, giving great visual of some of the fish where we normally swam at, although I was never able to get a close look at these critters; not knowing what I was looking at made me more eager and curious to come back and fish for them. I naturally thought that I could catch fish in the winter time, being from Oregon it’s feasible to catch some nice winter trout and steelhead up here. So my first outing on the Yuba was at the normal fishing spot in the heart of a nice Christmas vacation winter. I strapped on my waders, grabbed my rod and headed up to go fish for these mystery fish of the summer. I began at the normal spot, casting at every hole I could remember, switched bugs, techniques, and tippet a couple times before heading downstream, and, to my avail, luck evaded me. I tried fishing downstream for a couple more hours, while switching setups with an ever growing frustration.

One of my go-to Yuba River hopper patterns. 
Seven months rolled by while I planned my next attack on those mystery Yuba fish. Assuming they were trout, I tied up some foam terrestrial creations in preparation for the trip to the Yuba in July. Armed with my 2wt fiberglass rod, a box full of terrestrial and dry flies, I headed to the Yuba to defeat the fish that were toying with my mind. When I arrived, I had a weird idea, I decided to go downstream farther than I usually went; plus the river was crowded that day so downstream naturally had no people. When I got there, I saw no form of life besides the buzzards up circling in the sky, and the calm crystal blue Yuba river. I decided to give it a go anyways and try my luck.

On the first cast, there was no takes or any sort of movement. The second cast hit the water and had no action, so naturally, I started to pull line in to go for the third cast. As my little foam creation came closer and closer, I felt a random tug near a large rock. I decided to give the line a little yank to see what was going on and that’s when it hit me. Taught line, and a bent over backwards 2wt, I had a fish on! I freaked out, let a little shout of joy and excitement out as I began to reel in the fish. As I was Fighting the fish I noticed that it was fighting a lot different than any trout I had caught before, maybe it was just my first California trout and they had a little more spice to them than what I was use to. To my surprise I had a nice little smallmouth on the end of my line, dumbfounded and excited, I stumbled to take a picture of the little devil. I quickly released him after removing my foam creation and had the rush to get my line back on the water as fast as I could. The rest of the afternoon was a constant struggle to keep fish off of my line. Left and right, big and small, I was catching smallmouth. I estimated catching around 27 smallmouth that day, give or take a few; due to my excitement I stopped counting and just fished. After a while I decided to give the fish a break and head back to my family, catching fish all day warrants some good beer and good BBQ to wrap up an eventful day, a day that reminds me, this is the reason I fish.

- Tanner Moss

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Tutorial: The Motown Slider

     A couple days ago, I included a streamer in our recent Smallmouth article that I've called the Motown Slider, and have been asked by a few people how it's tied.

     My Motown Slider has been an effective bass fly over the past couple years for both Smallmouth and Largemouth bass. It's even taken its share of large bluegill! The body is the same body I've used in the past to tie some quick sculpin using Flymen Sculpin Helmets, but when I went to tie some of those sculpins up for an even for Reel Recovery, I realized I only had a few helmets left and didn't have any time to order some. The head is tied similar to the way an old wool sculpin would be tied...

     I'll usually tie these guys up in olive, brown, rust (see Ozark Bronze), or black, but I'm low on Zonker strips, and baitfish colors definitely work too!

     Hook: Allen Fly Fishing B200 Bass Bug hook in their size 6. Size 1 equivalent in a Gamakatsu B10S.
     Eye; Allen Fly Fishing dumbell eye.
     Thread: Danville 70 denier, Grey.
     Tail/back: Zonker strip.
     Tail 2.0: Angel Hair/Mohair mix, (available soon from Mountain Bayou) or flash of your choice.
     Body: Palmered Grizzly saddle hackle over Grayvy colored Bayou Dub... You can use pretty much any dubbing here, of course.
     Collar: Angel Hair/Mohair mix and fur from another piece of Zonker.
     Head: Senyo's Laser Dub.

1: Before you place your hook in the vise, pierce a 1.5" or so piece of Zonker strip with a bodkin and drive the hook right trough it. Place your hook in your vise, and tie on your dumbell eyes using figure-8's and cross wraps. Apply a drop of super glue or head cement on top of the eyes to help hold them in place.
 2. Tie in your under tail.

3: Tie in your saddle hackle by the tip, and wrap your dubbing body, stopping 1/8" or so behind the eyes.

 4: Palmer your hackle forward, tie off, and flip your hook over. Pull your Zonker strip over the hackle, and tie off at the end of the body. Tie in a small clump of the Angel Hair/Mohair mix on each side.
5: Tie in three clumps of hair, cut from another piece of Zonker strip. One on each side, and one on top.
 6: Tie in 4 small clumps of Laser Dub. One on each side, top, and bottom.
7: Pull the Laser Dub back, bring your thread in front, make a few wraps to hold it tight, and repeat step 2 or 3 more times until you're at the eye of the hook.
8: It looks rough now, but tie off, and cement your thread. At this point, you can leave it in your vise or take it out, whichever is easier, but it's time to grab a pair of sharp scissors and trim away!

The completed Motown Slider!

- Michael Spencer

Monday, March 6, 2017

Ozark Bronze

Late Autumn Ozark Smallie
     It was a warm summer morning the first time my buddy Erich and I decided to head a little ways out of town to chase some native, “mountain” bronzebacks. He, recently moving from Pennsylvania, and I, from California, were seasoned trout fisherman. Each of us having been dropped into a realm of waters we knew little about. I've caught Smallmouth in a number of places, including my home waters of Lake Mendocino and even the Umpqua River in Oregon, the latter of which is considered one of the best Smallmouth fisheries in the West. However, there's something incredibly different about wading in to a new river for the first time. A river where these fish have grown and developed over hundreds, maybe even thousands of years. Small rivers that flow for miles, uninterrupted. Rivers full of fish that have never had to travel in a tanker truck.

     Within the year prior, we had both moved from our respective states to Fort Smith, Arkansas. Working together in the outdoor industry, it didn't take long before our days off were spent heading north, exploring the multitude of rivers and streams that adorn the Ozark Mountains in the northwest quadrant of the state and discovering what the area truly had to offer. Once the two of us started figuring things out, I was even able to teach my dad something new. He taught me to fly fish when I was ten but fly fishing for bass was something something new to him. Supplying the flies and paying back what he taught me some twenty or so years ago is something I won't soon forget.

     For those who have not had the privilege, the Smallmouth Bass is, pound for pound, one of the hardest fighting freshwater fish out there. While most of the bass in the Ozarks aren't near what someone would call trophy quality, their tenacity, paired with a 3 or 4 weight fly rod, brings just as much challenge and enjoyment as the largest trout. Although a couple of the larger rivers do turn out fish up to and sometimes above 4 pounds, the smaller streams we'd fish would rarely spit out anything over two, though they'd often feel much larger.

     Without flies, there's no fly fishing. Ozark Smallmouth aren't picky by any means, but, over there few years of fishing the area, there are definitely some guidelines we've noticed and followed.

Motown Slider
     While my winters would be spent on trout, deer, and ducks, Smallmouth would reign supreme from Spring through Fall. This whole time, we'd catch more fish on streamers than anything else. What started with Wooly Buggers and Clousers eventually led to bigger, deeper flies, ultimately catching larger fish. Most of my favorite streamers mimic either Sculpin and Darters or Crayfish. Patterns including my Motown Sliders, Dave Whitlock's Near 'Nuff Sculpin and Crayfish, and Rich Strolis's Headbanger Sculpin were some of our go to flies to get down into those deeper holes.

Congo Hair Silversides
     Those warm evenings of summer and fall, however, meant topwater, with popping bugs reigning supreme, followed by large hopper patters. The only “bad” thing about poppers and hoppers is the amount of Green and Longear Sunfish you sometimes have to fight through to get that bass that's on your mind.

     When the days and the waters start to cool, baitfish flies are a great way to go. These rivers are full of Silversides, shad, and any number of shiner, chub, and minnow species. Bass fishing on the west coast has always taught me that spring is for craws and fall is for minnows. Congo Hair or EP fibers, along with a strand of silver tinsel on each side make a great, simple Silverside pattern.

The other guys:

Green Sunfish
     Aside from Smallmouth, Spotted and Largemouth bass abound, though they don't deliver the same amount of energy at the end of a rod. Bluegill, Longear, and the bulldogs of the sunfish world, Green Sunfish will often intercept your cast before a bass even has a chance to see your fly. One of the most overlooked, and, unfortunately, disrespected fish you'll often run into, however, are the Gar. Spotted, Shortnose, and Longnose Gar call these waters home, and all three will actively take a fly stripped past their face. A 30” Gar on a 3wt rod is definitely something to write home about! (There will be more on that subject later!)


A harmless Northern Watersnake,
observed basking along an Ozark Stream
     Fish aren't the only wildlife you'll see, either. Numerous mammals, birds, and reptiles call the shorelines of these streams and rivers home. Eagles soar overhead while roadrunners may be seen running along the many farm roads lining the landscape. Coyotes and deer roam the meadows while a flock of Scaup swim upstream, faster than you're wading. Watersnakes and Cottonmouths can be seen basking on rocks both in and out of the water. Remember to give them their space, and they'll give you yours.

I've since moved back to California, but I can't wait to go back.

- Michael Spencer

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Coming Soon!

     Mountain Bayou started in 2015 as an idea between a couple of friends. One hailing from the coastal mountains of Northern California, the other from swamps and bayous of Coastal Louisiana. What started as a means to meet other like minded individuals, while selling some flies and materials here and there, is slowing transforming into a new fly fishing gear and apparel company.