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Winter Flytying

By Robert Piorkowski - February 1, 2002
Well I’m finally thawed out from the ice-outing at Fox Lake. The weather gives us snow one day, and 40 degrees the next. This isn’t winter, it’s a ploy to make us wade-fishermen go crazy. One thing is for sure, icefishing season is in stride, and attending all the outdoor/RV shows makes me forget about how many more weeks until open water. Currently, attending the shows is not helping my cabin fever, so to take a break, I started tying up bass and panfish flies for the upcoming season.

Beware, photos of the two patterns I have enclosed are ugly! I’ll admit, neither fly will win an award for content or elegance. Maybe what makes them successful for me is the fact that they do not represent a natural critter. I fish both of these patterns from March through September. This past year due to the extended warm fall season, I was able to catch bass and gills on these flies into November.

Fly # 1 represents a spider/nymph prepared with black chenille, pheasant tail, and white rubber legs. Proportionally, I like to leave the legs longer versus shorter. While retrieving, the longer legs tend to stay in motion even after the body of the fly has stopped. Black as the body color is important, but dark brown could also be used. I think the key to the fly is the cap of pheasant tail tied to the flies head. This gives the impression of wings, or antennae to a waiting bass or bluegill. This fly can be used as a dropper below a smaller nymph, float or surface popper, or by itself with a small splitshot. I’ve used this fly with great success, and suddenly the action quickly stopped. Upon examining the fly, I found the legs were gone! So, be sure to tie the legs to the hook prior to wrapping the chenille, and apply ample cement. Don’t learn the hard way, you’ll be surprised what hungry fish can do.

Fly # 2 is a bass surface popper that has a dark body (brown or black), dark hackle, pheasant tail, and white rubber legs. Like the previous nymph, I like to leave the legs longer versus shorter. While stripping your flyline, the cupped face of the popper causes surface commotion, and the longer legs tend to stay in motion even after the popper body has stopped. I think the key to this fly is the hackle and pheasant tail adding virtual mass to the fly. From the subsurface, the popper looks larger than it really is, and the hackle/tail gives the impression of legs. This fly can be used with varying retrieves from slow to shock stripping of the flyline (short very quick strips). As the weather warms up, I plan to use this bass popper, and the spider/nymph as a dropper fly. To complete the rig, I’ll tie an 18 to 24-inch leader to the hook shank of the popper, then tie on the spider/nymph. Casting the rig is easy with a 5-weight rod, just watch for tangles. As soon as one appears, stop casting and untangle the mess. When using this dropper rig, tangles quickly evolve into a bird nest with line slicing as the end result. The benefit of this rig, is that as you are working the surface with the popper, the nymph is undulating under the surface following the popper. Two flies are working for the price of one. (Check local regulations regarding usage of 2 hooks per your line).

I don’t get too crazy with my fly tying. I usually stick to patterns that work, or modify successful ones for experimentation. I’ve tried tying the cook book flies where I need $20 in supplies. But it usually takes me two dozen flies until my fly looks like the picture in the recipe. I’ve learned that these flies provide me with learning time on the water, practice time at the tying bench, and eventually wind up in the tallest tree.

Hopefully all my flytying will curb the urge to fish. I know I’ll still wind up attending more outdoor shows. Try my patterns and experiment with different colors. If I don’t fix my cabin fever with flytying, you’ll find me in my garage wearing waders and casting into a bucket by the camping gear. If your looking for specifics or recipes for these flies, email me at [email protected].

See ya on the water, or at the shows….

Author Robert Piorkowski
Robert Piorkowski
Rob is a Field Editor for Midwest Outdoors Magazine, Featured Columnist for, Contributing Writer for Illinois Outdoors and works as a Environmental Project Manager near Chicago, Il. When not casting for bass out of his boat, you'll find him wading local rivers searching for bass with a flyrod. If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, contact Rob at [email protected]
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