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The Fisherman

Dr. Sparsefly or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Grass Shrimp Hatch

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Nikoli's recent post about fussy feeders on the surface got me thinking about a similar experience I had this spring.


We were fishing a tidal spot a bit inland that had stripers holding in current, feeding on station as trout would during a spinnerfall. This spot is a series of connected swampy ponds, and the presentation challenges were immense: you can't wade in many places because the sod banks drop off into nothing; there are many places that have fly-eating trees and/or overhead marsh grass; and to present you have to cast and then mend across several murderous currents. In this one particular hole, the stripers were holding in current A; current B was in front of it moving significantly slower; and current C extended from B to you, and was an eddy that was moving in the opposite direction from A & B. Sound like fun? Read on. :-)


The first night they kicked my butt. Not even a tap. Fishing with a floating line and a three fly dropper rig of a GP, a clam worm, and a Ray's Fly. The only victories I took away were: I know there are actively feeding fish here; I know they are on tiny 1.5" grass shrimp; and I know I can theoretically catch them.


Went back the next night and had more of the same. I could not figure out why I was not even getting a refusal. The third night I just went there and watched. And I came up with a plan.


I figured I needed to have the right fly. I knew they were on small grass shrimp: why were they ignoring my GP? I remembered reading in Bergman's "Trout" that if you know a fish is on a certain fly and it won't take your artificial, try something smaller and sparser. Ken Abrames is a modern proponent of sparse and lifelike. I also knew my friend Jon had caught them on a sparse River Shrimp pattern tied by our friend Ed Simpson. So I went to my tying bench and came up with this:




Hook: Mustad Atlantic Salmon #8


Thread: Grey


Feelers: Sparse grey bucktail taken from the tip


Eyes: Golden Pheasant tippet


Body: Dun wet fly hackle, palmered


It looked shrimpy enough, but what I was really going for was: match the profile of the bait, and act lifelike in the water.


The next thing I did was to go to the spot in the daytime during the same tide I would be fishing that night to see how my presentation was. What an eye-opener. Current C had been, unbeknownst to me in the dark, completely cocking up my drift.


Armed with this intel and a very positive attitude, I went back to have at them. I decided at the last minute to bring my 5-weight, as I felt this would help my presentation. Fishing a floating line and a shorter (about 7 feet long) brace of three flies (the dun GP, clam worm, dun GP). I was greeted by risers. I picked out a fish and began to cast. First cast...nothing. Second cast...nothing. Third cast...WHACK!


I hooked three of them that night. And that's how I learned that sparse grass shrimp patterns are the bomb. ;-)

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