When Far and Fine meet Big & Mighty!by Todd Berg
When the surface temperatures on a Midwest lake reach the mid to high 60's, I know it's time to break out the long sticks and hit 'em where they live. Many times, one of the best and most consistently overlooked presentation options on pressured waters is to take the "far and fine" approach (a phrase applied to fly-fishing for trout many years ago) and gently lay minnow, crayfish, leech and bug patterns directly in front of a bass, bluegill or pike's nose with a fly rod.
While it's very true that there are just as many equipment options and selections in fly-fishing as there are in spin or bait cast tackle, there's some simple rules that will make life easier on you and your wallet when you tackle this great part of our sport and gear up to take on nearly any fish that swims in the waters you visit.
Rod Weight: Rods are designated in weight from 1 to 15 or so. The larger the number, the stiffer the rod; for panfish, I like a 2 to 4 weight rod that's 7.5 to 8.5 feet long. For bass and small pike, a 6 or 7 weight that's 8-9 feet long is ideal; for big bass, acrobatic smallmouth and bigger pike, I prefer a 9-weight rod between 9 and 10 feet in length.
Reels: Reels are built for the rod weight in question and sold as such. While the reel comes into play on big fish such as big pike, salmon and musky, the basic function of the reel in the majority of situations with bass and panfish- is to hold the line- nothing more. A reel with the same weight designation as the rod will be just fine. Reels with click and pawl and disc drags are available- the latter preferable when working big fish such as large bass and pike or musky.
Lines: Fly lines are also designated by weight (match with rod and reel) and as they concern our discussions here, come in 3 basic configurations- floating line, sinking tip line and sinking line; each having a specific purpose. Floating line allows the fisherman to present topwater presentations like mouse imitators, minnow imitators and popping bugs. Sinking tip lines have a section of sinking fly line (usually 10-15') permanently attached to the main floating line and allow the angler to present baits at depths below the surface in the 2-12' range. Sinking lines are just what they sound. They sink at uniform depths and allow the angler to ply the deep water beyond 15 to 20 feet. Leader material (which attach to your fly line) can be pre-purchased or made easily at home. Leader lengths and strengths vary from 2-3 feet with sinking line to 8-10 feet with floating line. There's no mystery really to attaching a fly leader.
Flies: There are hundreds upon hundreds of fly patterns available. For most of my pursuits in the mid-section of the country, I try and imitate natural forage- crayfish, minnows, small perch, frogs, leeches and the like. I always find it amazing that some really big bass can be caught on quite small artificial flies.
As anglers, we often talk about "trying something different". With only a bit of practice (videos, magazine articles, seminars and lots of stuff on the web are available for your practice and improvement of the actual casting technique), fly fishing presentations offer us that chance. The look is more complicated than the act. Fly-casting doesn't have to (and shouldn't) be complicated and it isn't hard to master. The gurus in the sport have in a way made fly-fishing into something more mystical than it really is. Every single one of you reading this article can be accomplished with the basics of using a fly rod in less than an hour. You'd be amazed the kind of success you can have by going the route of far and fine. Let me know when you feel the big electric shock of a 3-pound bass slamming a leech pattern on a 5-weight fly rod on a warm summer morning. You'll be hooked for life and you'll understand how much fun it is when far and fine meets big and mighty.
Until we meet again, I wish each of you...
"Safe Travels, Tight Lines, Sharp Hooks, and We'll Look for You on the Water"!