Lighter Side
January 18th, 1999

Flyfishing for Squirrels

By M. Kelly

The most frequent question I get asked is about on my website ( is how to catch squirrels on a flyrod. Since our page is currently down, I thought I'd address that here.

Really, it's not much different that fishing for trout. I prefer to sight fish, where I see a big gray scurrying along the ground, or perched on a low limb obviously looking for food. Others like to lay the fly out, perhaps conceal themselves behind a bush, and wait until they get a bite. For me, this is a little too much like using bait, but to each his own. You try to lay out the fly gently, so it looks as if it magically appeared to the squirrel. He may show interest and refuse the fly, but in many cases he takes it, and then the fight is on!

Rods and Reels: About any rod will work, although I can personally recommend the tradition and quality of fine bamboo, which casts a squirrel fly like no other. There's just something about the way fine bamboo feels that you can't possibly get with graphite. Although there are plenty of very fine graphite rods, too. Slow actions work better for me, like a 5 wt. Winston, or a T & T; I like them for roll casting under heavy cover. You need a good reel, though; I've had a male gray take me to the backing on more than one occasion. Usually they head up the nearest tree, which is entirely the opposite of most fish, who like to go deep.

Flies: Almost all squirrel flies are tied from deer hair or elk. My favorite, the Jimmy Carter (Finally, a fly named for a Democrat) which looks like a peanut, the Pecan Gordon, self explanatory, and the Reddenbacher special, tied to resemble a kernel of popcorn. These work great for Park Squirrels and for the average, "Front Yard" variety, who are used to seeing these foods, and will sometimes fool a wild squirrel, particularly if the presentation is perfect. Those who fish exclusively for wild squirrels, however, prefer "Al's Acorn," in various sizes.

Some feel that going after only wild squirrels is a bit more challenging than fishing for what they call "tame" squirrels, or "pets", and I must agree. But the Park Squirrel is abundant, close by most urban homes, and plenty of fun, too! Still others fish only for red squirrels, or the big game version, the Fox squirrel. They take pride in this, and that's OK, too, but sometimes I wonder if they aren't a bit elitist.

Whatever type you go after, please practice C & R. It's OK to take an occasional squirrel for the dinner plate, and they're as tasty as the next rodent, but let's return these woodland creatures to their natural habitat with as little disturbance as possible. We owe them at least that. (Make sure you wear a heavy glove when releasing them; they've got sharp teeth!)

Hope this is helpful. Right now, while the page is down, we're working on next month's mammal fishing installments: "Dabbling for Dachshunds" and "The Chihuahua Challenge." ~ M. Kelly

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