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To Weight or Not To Weight
By Rick Zieger, Iowa


This is a question that I wonder about all of the time. Since I don't have a good answer, I usually end up tying flies both ways. Even worse than that is that I might use two sizes of metal beads and even a glass seed bead to get different drop rates.

In the spring I usually fish flies that are unweighted. The fish are shallow and there is no need for weight. As the summer progresses and the water gets warmer I start using more weighted flies. My thoughts were that they would get down in the water column a little farther and be more effective.

This works about as much for me as it doesn't. I find there are days that I have to be deeper to catch fish and there are days when I can't have any weight on the fly at all. There seems to be no rhyme nor reason for this.

Today was an example. I was out at the lake over my extended lunch hour. This was due to a cancellation of an appointment. Nice that it was the 1:00 and not the 3:00 one.

I had been catching some gills and some bass along the one flat on the lake. The water is about 3 to 4 feet deep out for about 20 feet and then slopes down to about 15 feet over the next twenty feet. I can usually manage to catch a fish or two in this area all summer. I think they swim along the breakline.

Today I was using a couple of flies with very small beads on the front. I was not having any success. I looked in my box to see what the next trial was going to be. I decided to tie on a Gilly, but to use an unweighted one. I did this because the weighted flies were not producing any fish.

The wind was at my back so I could get a forty foot cast out. I was letting the fly drop when I saw the end of the fly line moving sideways. I sat the hook and brought in an 8-inch crappie. This was a surprise as I thought they spawn was over and all the crappie were out in deep water.

I released her and made another cast. The same thing happened. Each time I let the fly drop I would hook a fish. I did this 12 times in a row.

I decided to tie a beaded Gilly on the other rod to see what would happen. I cast it out to the same place and nothing. I let it drop and I retrieved it slowly. Not one single fish. I went back to the other rod and caught seven more crappie.

After the crappie stopped biting, I started retrieving the fly very slowly in. When the fly was about 20 feet off the shore, I hooked a nice gill. I thought if it works once to try it again. I cast out about 25 feet and let the fly drop. I had just started to move it when another gill hit the fly. Each time I would cast the fly and let it drop and just twitch it I would have another fish.

I tried the weighted fly, same size and all, with no luck. I even changed to a fly with a seed bead on it and no go. The fly had to be unweighted to do anything.

My thoughts are that I may need to fish unweighted flies more often. When the flies that drop faster don't work, or flies that I need to retrieve are not working, then it may be time to use the flies that don't have weight.

I am also finding that I am tying patterns in smaller sizes. I have more 10, 12, and 14 size patterns in my boxes than I did before. These are the same patterns that I used before, but just smaller sizes.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

I hope you can get out on the water and experiment with this. ~ Rick

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