Smallmouth DVD now On Demand

With future project just around the corner about to be released, working with Vimeo Mangled Fly and Snap T Pictures have launched a Vimeo on Demand page.  First video  on our page is the Big Appetite Small Mouth DVD that we launched a couple summers ago.  Now you can watch this DVD at anytime on your computer.  Look for this page to grow over the next couple months, as Erik and I will be releasing more videos here very shortly.  Next video to be released with be the Midnight Creeper.

Big Appetite Small Mouth DVD from Mangled Fly Media on Vimeo.

Michigan is home to many great freshwater game fish. In this DVD, Michigan guides Jon Ray and Kevin Feenstra explore some of the great waters of West Michigan for smallmouth bass. Both Jon and Kevin have a great deal of experience with these hard fighting gamefish. The complete DVD features tips and techniques, as well as detailed, step-by-step instructions for a handful of their favorite smallmouth bass flies. Basics such as equipment and knots are also covered. This DVD is produced by Erik Rambo of Snap T productions. Erik is a professional videographer, known for his work in other fly fishing films. Music done by Mike Moran check out more of his work on his website.

Fly Minnow’s and Jigs

If you have heard me talk about smallmouth over the past couple years, then you know all about the crabbing technique we use to catch smallmouth bass when they become “neutral” in their feeding behavior.  Well during the early spring we will often see similar trends with our steelhead and trout regarding their foraging behavior.  Egg patterns are a staple for catching steelhead in the Great Lakes region. Every spring we experience a short window where steelhead tend to go off the egg bite and there are some commonalities associated with this phenomena.

Steelhead Behavior

Typically our steelhead population at this time of the year is skewed heavily towards fall and winter holdover fish that are getting ready to spawn and a few new or chrome fish entering our systems.  Some of these holdover fish are in pre-spawn mode and/or actively beginning to spawn during the early warm-ups associated with late winter and early spring.  As with most fish species, spawning activities will result in changing fish feeding behavior and consequently will induce periods of tougher fishing.  Most of the chrome fish will still readily take and egg, but sometimes the holdover fish disappear in our catch rates even though they make up the bulk of the in-stream population. Over the years we have noticed some common themes associated with this trend and this article is only to offer some insight into how you can improve your success during this timeframe, keep in mind this is not meant to be “the answer”.

Black Stones & Salmon Fry

During the early spring the winter stonefly hatches and the annual spring salmon fly hatches occur with some overlap. As I type this our salmon fry have started to hatch on most of our western streams and we are starting to see some stonefly activity on the snowbanks and fluttering adults on the water during our more recent warmups.  The result is our steelhead and trout are starting to take notice!  When feeding fish are “hot”, using louder presentations like big flashy flies and brightly colored eggs are a great way to take advantage of the days when fish are feeding aggressively. However, when fish are “neutral” and not feeding aggressively, how do you make something out of nothing?

Sometimes it’s just as simple as fishing something totally different from what the majority of other anglers are using from day to day, but also understanding that there are a couple of things happening below the water’s surface at this time of year that fish may be keying in on.  The stonefly hatches are the most obvious to me as you commonly see the insects above the water’s surface and on the snowbanks along the shoreline.  The salmon fry hatch is a little less obvious, but equally as important!  Most of the faster riffle sections of our western streams that have salmon runs are saturated with developing salmon eggs that begin hatching in early spring. The Pere Marquette being a great example. Have you ever wondered why the guys fishing jigs and waxworms do so good during late winter and early spring?

Jigs and Waxworms

I can’t honestly say what a jig and waxworm combination represents to the fish, but it does have some resemblance to a young salmon fry or alevin to me.  As fly anglers we are programmed to “Match the Hatch” and I would argue the early stone and salmon fry hatches are critical to our success during this period.  Eggs will always make up a large part of your success fishing for steelhead in the Great Lakes, but they aren’t always the answer and on some days it becomes obvious.  By using a similar technique that I have successfully used fishing for smallmouth, (outlined in chapter 3 of the Big Appetite Smallmouth DVD),  replace the crayfish or hellgrammite pattern with a 1-2″ minnow pattern.  Fishing weighted minnow patterns under a similar float (bobber) rig can bring you a couple of extra fish per outing.  The key is to get your offering tight to the bottom, so heavily weighted patterns are more important than elaborate flies with lots of movement in the materials.

Jigs and tungsten beads offer the tier options for heavily weighting their patterns to achieve the proper fishing depths.  One of the best sized steelhead jigs that I have found is made by Wapsi.  I like the preformed jig head/hook combinations in the 1/32 ounce size 6 hook or the 1/16 ounce size 4hook.  If you like to get creative, you can buy your own preformed jigs and paint to come up with your own color combinations.  I powder paint mine to match the colors that I like. White, pink, light blue, and black are all good combinations for the waters that I am fishing on a regular basis.

Switching it up

During a recent outing we experienced the “Egg Blah” as I like to call it, so we switched our presentation to the minnow jigs and small heavily weighted stones which ultimately saved our day.  Being observant and willing to change when things are slow are important aspects to any type of fishing. Having some prior experience fishing a body of water always helps too, but understanding what your options are can greatly improve your success.  Fishing a small baitfish pattern near the bottom, dead drifting under a float, may not be the most logical solution in the winter or spring, but the rewards can be worth the little extra effort.

Spirit River Swamp Rat Zonker

Found a new material from Spirit River at The Northern Angler in Traverse City to play with on these cold Northern MI days and nights. It’s called Swamp Rat Zonker strips(SRZ). This material comes in Natural, Hot Pink, King Fisher Blue, Orange and Purple. I have been experimenting with the blue and orange for steelhead tubes. There is a sexy translucency to the fur that makes it shimmer in and out of the water.
When the weather breaks I will put in some more on the water R&D, but I fished these flies on the Big River with Jon Ray and Erik Rambo back when the weather co-operated in January and had 2 grabs on the swing, so the fish seem to like them too!
These flies are kind of a hybrid of old school streamer and “scandi style” tubes with few little twists. The first twist is that the SRZ has a hole punched into it and then is slid onto the tube so that it stands up nicely against the hackles as opposed to being lashed down flat on the tube. The other technique is that the front collar(s) are the SRZ spun in a dubbing loop with the skin cut away. It is then picked out with a needle. Speaking of the skin, it’s very thin and holds very little water making these flies very easy to cast. The wing also undulates, shimmies and shakes very freely.
This material is perfect for substituting in any fly that uses rabbit strips- Zuddlers, strip leaches etc.
Happy tying!

Working on Something New

Getting closer to releasing something new that Erik and I are really excited about.  First trailer is coming in the next 10-14 days.  Also have new logo for this series, just a quick teaser below.  Getting hard to not share more details.  But the last couple weeks editing, email with musicians and fancy logo designers has gotten to the boiling point and had to post something.  Check back here shortly for the first trailer.

something new

Nomad Anglers and Schmohz Beer

Ed McCoy and I (Jon Ray) will be tying some signature trout and steelhead patterns on Jan 28th at Schmohz Brewery  , contact Brian at Nomad Anglers .  To sign up for the seminar call the Grand Rapids location (616) 805-4393.  This is a first come first serve and space is limited.  Looking forward to the good night of tying and some new beer.

fly tying nomad anglers

Steelhead Blues

Not like the “blues” you are accustomed too, but blue flies.  Not sure why it is when the snow starts flying that blue works.  Actually I’m sure blue works just as well the rest of the year, but for me blue only comes out when the snow flies.  Today was the first day of steelhead “blues”.


Egg Sucking Leech – Picture of the Day

With everything about perfect right now to swing flies.  Perfect river temperature, plenty of steelhead around, and the desire of anglers and guide.  The fly tying bench has been getting some serious use the past couple days.  Shot this photo with the use of a UV light to bright up the egg sucking head of this leech pattern.  More photo’s of patterns and successful steelhead trips coming soon.


True Mangled Fly

The death of a fly at the hands of a fish, is the inspiration that started the name Mangled Fly Media.The sad part of this story is this fly was never the same.  After Mr. Esox got ahold of it and turned it into true Mangled Fly.  It did not swim right ever again.  We had to put to rest this buck tail, rabbit strip, rubber leg, flashabou creation.  Will always have found memories of the fish we shared.

Flymen Fish Masks

Experimenting and liking what the vise is turning out.  But the tail of the tape is on the river.  How will it swim, how are the materials acting?  But so far so good, the new Fish Mask from the Flymen Fishing Co. are pretty cool.  Check them out here.  A great product that really finishes off a fly well.  Again the water test will determine how it effects swim action.  I look forward to the testing.

More to come of this type of pattern (feel like I’ve been saying this allot lately), but seriously more to come soon.  Hoping video and still pics of this pattern in action.  Tying up more muskie patterns for the annual adventures.  Love the chase of this predator before the chrome.

Working with new materials from Flymen Fishing Co.  The fish mask -