I recently caught up with Mike Grose of the Free State Fly Fishers. Yeah that Mike, of the Mike's Carp Candy fame. Our discussion revolved around the difficulty in finding a consistent fly pattern to take buffalo, specifically smallmouth buffalo. The search is on.
Mike recently had a close encounter with an IFGA tippet class caliber buffalo, only to find the fish foul hooked on the snout. Disappointing to say the least, but it sparked discussion and some experimenting at the vise.
A biologist by trade, Mike knows a thing or two about fish and has been numerously published in several scientific journals. Naturally, he approached the task at hand in a scientific manner. We conferred and came to the conclusion that those smallmouth buffalo are likely feeding on midge larvae off of the detritus on the bottom.
Fishing small chironomid patterns to big fish is always something I tend to wince at, especially in somewhat turbid water. I can see a trout taking a small sized 14 to 16 fly in clear spring creeks or freestone streams, but a buffalo taking a brassie in brown water? Likely not. The truth of the matter is, sometimes we need to overcome our fears and apprehensiveness and just do it. Easier said than done.
Mike liked the idea of a fly tied with super small lead eyes and a vernille weed guard or two to really hide the hook point. The hope being that the hidden hook point would give an angler more time to detect a strike on these stealthy biting fish. I tied a few variations of the Roughfisher Swimming Nymph, in a size 12. Rabbit fur tail, frosty naval dubbed body, glimmer chenille thorax, and size 3 bead chain eyes. I used olive micro chenille for a weed guard. I initially tied in the guard as a loop, but determined that this would impede the hook from properly embedding in the fish's mouth. I cut the loop and used a lighter to singe the ends of the chenille. This will still cover the hook point, yet allow for the hook to penetrate when setting the hook.
Figuring out these fish could open up a whole new world of big fish angling, out-fathoming captures previously held by fly anglers. This could be the missing link that could bring fly anglers into the same size class captures of our bait drowning brethren.
I love the challenge of roughfish.