1. Catch Smallies With Salty Flies
When rivers heat up in late summer, smallmouths can get downright lazy. The same fish that charged fast-moving streamers and poppers earlier in the season often take to feeding at night, and if your river is loaded with late-summer shad or herring fry, getting bass to eat fur and feathers becomes even harder.
Delaware River smallmouth guide gets around this by leaning on bugs tied with synthetic fur and fiber for the salt, such as a Mushmouth. Flies tied with Angel Hair or Puglisi Fiber retain more buoyancy and a wider profile when wet compared with flies using feathers, bucktail, and rabbit fur, which take on water and sink faster.
Experts cast those artificials on the outside of bait schools or in the deeper, slower runs summer smallmouths frequent, and lets them fall broadside with the current. Whereas a Zonker or Clouser would sink away quickly, these synthetic baitfish imitators flutter down slowly, presenting a more accurate representation of a dying baitfish—and an easier target for lazy bass. Even if you don’t want to use saltwater flies, incorporating some synthetic fur geared for the salt into your favorite smallmouth patterns can up your dog-day catch rate.
2. Crappies: Float-Shoot a Jig to Slabs
Crappie fishermen describe the slingshot cast as shooting because it shoots a tiny jig far under boat docks or pontoon boats where crappies seek some summer shade. Crappies typically nab the jig as it sinks and swings like a pendulum back to you. At times, however, they won’t react quickly enough to catch the jig, such as after a cold front.
The noted Ohio crappie tournament team of Mike Walters and Rick Solomon have a simple but effective shooting trick to coax bites from these temperamental crappies: Add a bobber to the rig.
After much trial and error, their go-to combo is a simple foam flyfishing strike indicator and a 1⁄32-ounce jig dressed with a Southern Pro Lit’l Hustler Pro Crappie tube.
The strike indicator can be pegged for a set depth, but float-shooting works better if the float is allowed to slide down to the jig. Then the combination can be “shot” as a single unit. Walters and Solomon fish 5-foot 6-inch B’n’M SharpShooter spinning rods with 4-pound-test monofilament for this technique. “If the line is heavier than that, the light jig can’t pull the line down through the float,”.
3. Trout: Deliver a Wounded Dry Fly
Still-water spots like lakes, ponds, and glassy spring creeks can offer epic summer dry-fly action. They can also be terribly frustrating. You can match the hatch perfectly, tie on what you think is the right bug, lead the trout just so…and still get refused. When this happens, most anglers are quick to change patterns, yet almost nobody thinks to do the right thing—which is to change the character of your bug, rather than the bug itself.
In flat, calm water, trout have ample time to scrutinize your fly and are inclined to go after the easy pickings whenever they can. They key on natural bugs that are struggling at the surface—the ones that are unable to spread and dry their wings or shed their shucks. These insects are most vulnerable, and the smartest anglers always turn to cripple patterns—which float high enough for the angler to see but leave a tantalizing chunk of body suspended just below the water surface.
Just about every fly shop will have cripple variations of the most popular patterns, such as Hendricksons, Green Drakes, and caddis flies. Of course, you can tie your own. Tie the dry as you normally would, except wrap the hackle at a 45-degree angle, so when the hackle rides flat on the water, the tail end of the fly drags below the surface. —Kirk Deeter