June 29, 2009

Gar on the fly

Gars are badass. Having swam in North American waters for over 50 million years, these living fossils still have what it takes to live in the modern aquatic ecosystem unchanged. The only other native fishes to North America that can even hang with the gar are bowfins and sturgeons. Toothy mofos.

longnose gar
Longnose gar, Lepisosteus osseus, image courtesy of cornell.edu

The buzz on catching gar with a fly has been glowing as of late. Uncommoncarp's recent tango with the dinos, and countless photos of fly caught gars showing up on facebook et al. just add fuel to the fire. I need to catch me one. Before this season even started, I set off with hopes of catching a longnose gar this year. If the opportunity comes along, I won't pass up the chance at a shortnose either.

Catching a gar can be quite tricky; their extremely bony mouths can prove difficult to set a hook properly. Thankfully, fellow roughfisherman Carpstalker passed along some solid info regarding the pursuit of gar with a fly. Rope flies are the only way to go to ensure a solid connection between gar and angler. Fairly easy to tie too. Just get yourself a tippet ring or a split ring, some garland or tinsel and a nylon rope. Run a length of rope and tinsel through the ring eye and double it back. Tie in just behind the bend to form a head section and tie off. Pull the threaded section of nylon rope apart, so that the body is frayed. This is what will catch the gar: the gar's teeth will get caught in the nylon fibers. Be sure to bring a heavy duty glove and a stiff brush to help release the fibers from the teeth after catching a gar; their skin is sharp! Just be sure to keep a solid grip on these fish as they have a tendency to play 'possum on you.

The hot, dank steamy days of July are perfect for gar fishing in Minnesota. Fish float up to the surface in shallow vegetated bays like stacked cord word. Spooky, much care is need to stealthy drift upon a school undetected. I hope to harvest a specimen this season. I'm looking to dry a fish and bleach the skeleton for display, celebrating the mana and beauty of such a beautiful creature. Underappreciated.

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  1. Have been trying for these over here the last few weeks.Much smaller that over in the States but still great fun. Looking forward to the finished product in the near future.

  2. I have a friend here in NY that fishes for them when the trout get slow in mid August. I think he has a couple of videos of them... let me know if you're interested in seeing them.

    All in all it seems like a whole lot of fun. Hopefully I'll be able to hitch a ride with him this year, or maybe try for them out of a kayak.

  3. JP I think we are heading out on the Miss again today. There has not been a day where we have not had gar swipe at flies so far! Time to tie up some rope bugs

  4. @Flying Ties: I'd love to see the videos. Use the contact form on this site to send me an email.

    @Uncommon Carp: Figure out those gar and so we can set up a trip for some shortnose.

  5. I bet the bleached skeleton will look sick... can't wait to see that/hear about the process.

  6. It seems like this is a popular goal this summer. I'm hoping to get a shot at some this weekend. Sounds like fun.

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  8. You kinda got to know your gars; I don't know what types you have there, but the most common gar in Texas is the spotted gar and you need to use a hook on them. The teeth aren't close enough for the rope to work. Same with alligator gar. But longnose gar, which I think you are after, you can basically never get on a hook... that's where the rope comes in.

    It looks like you're chasing long nose, and this wasn't to nitpick, just to save some poor bastard time when they kept flossing the teeth on spotted gar when the fish jumps and thinking "why don't I never stick that like them guys on the web?"

  9. Great point there Dave. The rope flies are specifically effective on the longnose and shortnose gars. For Spotted and Alligator varieties, feed them a meaty ass fly to get the job done.

  10. Another tip: get all the fibers out of their teeth. If you don't, they can retangle and essentially tie the gar's mouth shut. Since they don't have protein shakes and drinking straws to keep them going when they can't open their jaws, that's a death sentence. I've heard of people just cutting the rope off at the mouth and releasing the fish with a mouth full of fibers, like you'd cut the leader to release a big shark without losing any limbs. Might as well just shoot the gar with an arrow and toss it on the bank.
    Dave's right--I've heard a ton of people say they're hoping to tangle (literally) with a gar this summer. I'm one of them. So far no luck, but I've got some spots picked out.

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