September 12, 2008

operation clam dig

Today's mission was to field test my assortment of newly crafted clam fly prototypes. Although I was fishing under Fall conditions, phase one of the testing was considered a success. Here's the report:

When I arrived at the river this morning, first thing I realized was that I forgot my phone at home on the charger, and subsequently left my camera behind as well. Any documentation of today's trial were going to have be kept in my head. Air temps were hovering right around 50, and a dense fog hung over the sky. It held tight well past 1000 or so, until the bright Fall sun finally burned it off. Temps quickly shot up into the upper 60s. The breeze was calm to light, coming from the west and south west. Even with the recent heavy rains, water levels fell slightly from the day before, running at 324 cfs. Water was slightly less turbid and beginning to clear.

I tied a roughfisher death clam on my 6 and quickly went to work. Unlike last weekend, fish had moved back into the shallows to sun. I rolled a cast into a group of fish, and had to fight off of a couple of foul hooks to start, since the fish were packed in so tight. I finally got a fish in a pod to take my fly. It was a medium sized carp and fought fairly well. I landed it near shore and swiftly got my fly back out there in to the mix. I managed to catch another carp near the same size a few minutes later. Happy with my success, I moved downstream to see if I could find some redhorse to tempt with my clam. I worked the water for a while and couldn't dredge anything up. Not to fail, I moved back upstream and decide to evaluate the RFC (roughfisher foam clam).

The one thing I noticed today was that even though the fish numbers were back in the area, the bite was slow. I didn't have a stream thermometer with, but the water was considerably colder than it was a few weeks ago, even in the shallows. I overheard another conversation earlier this week that stated that water temps in some local lakes were losing about a degree a day, with temps already falling past the mid 60s. I knew I needed to slow my presentation down.

I tried to cover some water with known mussel beds with my RFC pattern. While I wasn't able to hook a carp, I was moving a bunch of quillbacks. Fine by me. There are plenty of good carp flies out there, but lesser known are effective quillback patterns. I'll have to revisit this in the future. I ended up catching a decent sized sheepshead (freshwater drum) on this pattern. It was a solid take. The hook was firmly planted in the side of its mouth, the furry foam shell dangling in its mouth. This was THE defining moment for this pattern, as a drum's diet mainly consists of crustaceans and mollusks. They have a set of large phyrangeal teeth designed for crushing shells. This absolutely confirms the fact that the fish think that this pattern is a clam. Success!

stock photo from 2008

I couldn't get a whole lot more fish to move with the RFC for the time being so I tucked it back in my fly box and put on my swimming nymph tied in orange. I started moving more quillbacks. I got a nice specimen up to the surface before it came loose. The one thing I notice with these fish is that they have a tendency to come off the hook real easily. It likely has something to do with the orientation and structure of their mouth. The main thing with quillbacks is to keep your line taut at all times once hooked. Slack line often results in a lost fish. I drifted my fly back through that same stretch several more times and finally got a solid hookset into another quillback. I was able to bring this fish to hand. The magnificence of these fish are sorely understated and underrepresented by any photograph. It's true beauty is visceral, and can only be appreciated live and in person. Every time I bring one of these fish to hand it is a real treat.

another stock photo from 2008

I didn't stay for my entire allotment of time today. Even though the numbers weren't there, the day was still a success. I could have pushed it for another hour or so, but I didn't want to cheapen the fruits of my labor. I wanted to leave with a sweet taste in my mouth. I wanted to leave on my terms. It's possible that this may have been my last outing before my son arrives, but I didn't want to dwell on that fact and let it overshadow my outing. The window of opportunity is rapidly shrinking and like Bobby Weir once sang,

"I may be going to hell in a bucket, But at least I'm enjoying the ride".

Phase two may have to wait.

- the roughfisher


  1. Great report. Interesting stuff.
    I've been thinking about a spot where a I fish spring seatrout. They hang above an eroding bank that is full of little clams about the size of my thunbnail. I always assumed they were grabbing the shrimp and worms that washed out of the bank on the tide but I'm starting to wonder if it may be the small, soft shelled clams as well. Anyway, I can't wait to try a couple of these clam patterns just for the heck of it. Who knows?


  2. That's the beauty of uncharted waters, you don't know. It could be the fly is only attractive to a couple species - or the discovery that clams are the fourth horseman - behind the mayfly, caddis, stonefly, triumverate.

    I tried the Death Clam on a trout stream this weekend JP - just testing to see if I could scare something up. Ran it through a pocket water riffle (aided with a split shot) - and had no confirmed grabs.

    It doesn't mean too much, as I went through it again with other (traditional) trout patterns and had no grabage either.

  3. Why do suggest that drum require a tighter line than other fish? The exceedingly small mouth?

  4. no, the tight line was in referral to the quillbacks, because the have a small soft mouth.