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Surface Slurping

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

I went out on my normal Saturday morning excursion following the celebration of the 4th of July.

Headed out to a pond that I had not visited for a while. Cattle were out of the field and the gates were open all the way in. Got to the pond at about 6:00 am to beat the heat.

I loaded all my stuff in the canoe and headed out into the pond. I stated casting with a fly and felt hits but I could not hook anything. After this happened a dozen times I went to a smaller fly and a different pattern. Same thing happened to me. I would feel the hit but I would not get anything when I tried to set the hook. This continued to happen as I downsized my fly. I had stated with a size 8 Miss Marabou. I went through Perch-a-bou, Streamer nymph, Bead body minnow, marabou leeches, other nymph patterns.

At this point I had managed to catch about a dozen fish, but all of them were barely hooked on the lip. I had a hit on almost every cast but whatever I was doing was not working the way I wanted it to. When this happens it is time to set still and watch what is happening.

The wind was blowing enough to ripple the surface with waves about an inch high. This broke up the surface enough that I could not really see down into the water. As I was watching the water around me, trying to figure out what to do, I had a bluegill come up and slurp something from just under the surface out three feet from the canoe. I thought I had heard this but I did not expect it to happen when the wind was blowing this much. I dipped some water up but I could not see anything in the water.

I decided it was time to go much smaller. I have some size 18 Pheasant Tail Nymphs tied up and I put one of those on. I cast out and let it drop just a little and started to bring it in. I had something swirl at it and I felt the hit, but again no fish. I cast out again and repeated this for another seven or eight times. Then I got lucky and landed another bluegill.

I was starting to call myself names and doubt my ability to catch fish. This pond seemed to be full of fish but I was not catching any of them. Then I had a gill come up and nip at the tail of the fly but nothing more. I felt the hit but there was no way to hook the fish. I tried a few more casts close to the canoe and saw this repeated.

I may not be the brightest bulb in the pack, but I know when something like that is happening it is time to go to a different approach. I decided last fall that I had not tied any small flies, say size 20 to 24, and that as a fly tier I should do this. I got some materials and hooks and tied some up. I still like larger hooks as those little hooks are harder to do.

I had a few of these along with me so I decided it was time to put one on. No tail to hit and if they nibbled on this the hook would be there to greet them. I tied on a size 22 midge pattern, using orange and yellow horse hair with a grizzly hackle. I cast this out and I am sure that it was under water almost immediately. I think the wave action broke the surface tension and allowed it to drop.

It had not dropped very far when I saw the line move and set the hook. I had a nice gill on and got it into the canoe. Then I had the fun of finding the fly and getting it out. Having the yellow and orange horsehair colors do make it easier to see.

I cast out again and had the same thing happen, after about five seconds the line moved and I had another gill. This seemed to be a pattern. The fish seemed to be just under the surface and cruising around looking for some small insect life to eat. I did figure out that if I tightened the line after about three seconds that many times I would feel the fish and the fly would not be as deep in the fish's gullet.

I was making casts and getting a fish on almost every cast. I think the ones I missed were when I got too excited and struck to fast. I would catch a few fish and then move a little on the pond just to see what would happen. I got to the point where I knew there was a breakline. The water goes from about five feet deep to about nine feet deep. I cast the fly out and had a hit. Was I ever surprised to see a crappie coming in. But if it works, try again. I caught 18 crappie at that point, using this fly and they all hit just after the fly hit the water.

At this point I looked at my watch and saw it was much later than I thought. I decided that by the time I got home and cleaned the fish it would be hot out, time to head home.

After I filleted the fish, I found that I had caught 70 gills and 18 crappie. Most of those were in the last hour and a half. I was very surprised to catch fish on a fly this small in the wind.

If I hear that slurping sound again even if the wind is blowing, I am going to change flies. I also put more small flies into the boxes in my vest.

It was a fun morning. Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick written 07/07/03

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