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Fish or Salad?

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

It is the oddities of the weather that allowed me to go out to the lake over my lunch hour. The temperatures had gone up and the ice was off the ponds. That means it is time for me to go out and cast a line upon the waters.

This is the time of year when I go for flies that seem to be more realistic than attractor types.

The fish are not moving a lot and I think that they need to see something that looks more normal to them. That is why I tend to really have leeches tied on the line more at this time.

I had tied a black marabou leech with a small bead head. I tie on the feather with the end of the feather for the tail. I then twist the feather around the thread to form a rope. Then I palmer this up the hook shank. I put a drop of super glue just behind the bead head before I twist the marabou to help hold the marabou in place. As the fly gets chewed up the thread holds the marabou spikes in place and helps the fly last longer.

I went to the settling pond as I figured there was a better chance of fish being around there than in the main lake. I decided to start shallow and keep adding depth as I went. Fish will always come up to a fly, but may not go deeper to get it. That is the conventional wisdom but I have seen some times, not often, that fish will be head down grubbing along the bottom. That is time to let the fly lay on the bottom and let the fish pick them up. So they will go down to eat the fly.

I was casting out into the pond, letting the fly drop for a count of two more than the last time I cast. That way I know about how far the fly is dropping. This gives me about four inches of drop each time, maybe because I count slow. At some point I start to pick up green slime on the hook point and I know that I am about as deep as I can go. Hopefully somewhere along here the fish have decided to let me know what depth they like.

I had found that depth as I had a lot of slime on the hook. I got it cleaned off and cast out again. I let the fly drop for a count of two less and stated to retrieve it, very slowly. A slow strip of about one inch, and then a three to four second pause. I want the fly to set in front of the fish for as long as I can. This is not a time when fish will chase a fly a long way.

I had moved the fly a few feet when I saw the tip of the fly line start to go into the water. I set the hook and had a crappie on the line. What fun to be catching fish in December, after the ice had formed over the surface and then gone off. BONUS TIME!

I caught fish on about half of the casts that I made after that. On the other casts I caught the salad to go with the fish fillets. The bottom is uneven enough that I think I was hitting some high spots and getting the algae on the hook. But I had to be that deep to get the fish to take the fly. If the fly was not that deep then they did not come up to take it.

I was fan casting around this area so that the fly did not come back in the same place every time.

Then it was time to have to go back to the office and go to work. But it was December and I still caught fish. This was after I thought the ice was on the ponds until next spring.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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