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First Top Water of the Year

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

It is the second week of July. I have not had any success with top water flies this year.

I think that part of it is that the water has been too dirty for the fish to see the flies. Also the water is just really starting to warm up. I was told today that in Little River Lake, where I fish over the noon hours, the temperature down 10 feet is now 50 degrees.

When I go out at noon I can see the wind is coming from the west. That means that the first 30 feet or so of the settling pond has flat water. This might be a chance to tie on one of the ants that I found at Sow Bug. This is the simple ant made out of the non-slip matting. I was curious as to how durable the material is. Also, how well the fly floated in dirty water.

I tied on a red ant. It was the first one I found in the container. I cast it out about 12 feet and let the fly set for a few seconds. It took that long for the first bluegill to come up and take the fly. There was a little slurp, and then the line tightened. The fish was on. I let this fish go back into the pond.

I flipped the fly out again about 5 feet from where it had landed before. It sat for a little while, before I saw the bluegill come up underneath it. The fish was moving so slow. I wanted her to come up and smash the fly, not be dainty about it. The fish finally opened its mouth and took the fly in. I promptly yanked the fly right out of her mouth. I was in too much of a hurry to set the hook. I know better, I just don't always do better.

I dropped the fly in almost the same place again. Maybe the fish would hit it again.

I am not sure if it was the same fish or not but a fish hit the fly on the run and hooked itself. No doubt about this strike. I was just getting this fish out of the water, when one of the old geezers showed up.

He said he had his bucket in the trunk of his car and would like to have that fish. I got the bucket and put some water in it and then he took the fish off the hook and put it in the bucket. I flipped the fly out again. It did not take long for another bluegill to come along and take the fly. This time I waited long enough to set the hook. This was another scrappy little bluegill. Another contribution to the bucket.

This was not only the first top water action of the summer for me, but also the fastest fishing I have experienced this year. There seemed to be fish all over the place. I was getting several fish to put in the bucket.

I had a green sunfish hit the fly. This proved to be the fish that damaged the fly. The hackle came off the fly and the material was pulled back on the shank of the hook, almost to the bend. I pushed the material back onto the shank of the hook. Then I wondered how the fly would work without the hackle.

I flipped it back out and let it set. It slowly began to sink. Not very fast, but just easing down in the water column. I saw a couple of fish come up to it, but they were not taking it. I gave the fly a little tug and a fish took it immediately. If it works once then try it again. It worked several more times for me. I would cast the fly out and let it set for about 5 seconds. That put it about a half an inch under the surface. I then began to make slow one inch strips with a few second pause between them. The fish were coming up and taking the fly with authority.

I was still curious so I tied a black ant on the other rod and cast it out. I then started retrieving it the same way I had the hackle less red ant. It did not work. If I let the fly set I had a fish take it.

The fish wanted the fly on the surface to set still, but the one under the surface had to move a little. I am not sure why that was happening. All I know is that they took the flies differently and I did that to catch them.

I ended up giving the old geezer 35 bluegills. They ran from 5 inches to 8 inches long. The old geezer was happy to get them, as he had not had many meals of fish this year. It was then time to head back to the office and try to make a living.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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