Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Myakka Minnow works well, but some want to change it

The Mighty Myakka Minnow can be tied in a variety of colors and works whenever fish are feeding on minnows.

I get a kick out of people critiquing flies.

Don't get me wrong. They have that right. This is America. Isn't it?

Several years ago, I designed a small, epoxy minnow fly that has performed very well for me. Since its inception, I have caught thousands of fish on my Mighty Myakka Minnow.
Everglades oscars are suckers for Myakka Minnows

If you don't know the story, I came up with the fly after a very frustrating day on the Myakka River. I was casting a small popping bug to fish that were busting minnows along the shoreline. I couldn't draw even remote interest.

When I got home, I was determined to come up with a small, inch-long minnow imitation. I fiddled with several designs before finally settling on one. I've tweaked it over the years, but it has remained virtually the same.

I launched my kayak on the Myakka River a few days later and again was greeted by busting fish. This time, however, the results were different. I began catching bass and bluegill.

Since then, I have caught a variety of fish on the Myakka Minnow: bass, bluegill, shellcracker, stumpknocker, speckled perch, redbreast sunfish. tilapia, channel catfish, bullhead, oscar, Mayan cichlid, peacock bass and gar in fresh water.

Bass dig the minnow, too!
The fly has also taken snook, spotted seatrout, redfish, Spanish mackerel, bluefish, ladyfish, mangrove snapper, pinfish, grunt, little tunny and tarpon in salt water.

I've also heard it has taken rainbow trout, brown trout and salmon.

Since the pattern can be tied on any size hook, you can make it fit your needs.

However, some people are hellbent on changing it.

"I see you clip the marabou tail very short," wrote one critic. "I would leave the marabou long so that it would  offer a little more action."

Hmmm. Interesting point.

"Instead of Body Braid, I would use mylar tubing," wrote another.

"How about using Krystal Flash as the tail?" one fly fisher posted in a forum. "I think the flash would attract more fish."

I wonder if they want to modify Lefty's Deceiver? Or Del's Merkin?

I bet not.

Now, I'm not even intimating I'm in the class of Lefty Kreh, Del Brown or Tim Borski. However, I do tie some fish-catching flies that stand on their own.

And the Myakka Minnow has caught fish for anglers in Florida, North Carolina, Texas, California, Michigan, Ohio, New York, the Bahamas, Grand Cayman, Mexico and other places.

What more do you want?

I had a fly fisher from somewhere in the Midwest a few years ago. We were fishing a local river. I was catching some mighty nice bluegill on the Myakka Minnow while his popping bug was being ignored.

"I have plenty of Myakka Minnows if you'd like to try one," I offered.

He declined, but changed his mind after I caught three more jumbo bluegills over the next couple of minutes.
I cut his popper off and tied on a Myakka Minnow. But instead of catch fish on it, he made two casts, cut it off and retied the popper.

Go figure.

On another trip, I was fishing with fellow who wasn't having much luck while I was catching and releasing a good number of bluegill on the Myakka Minnow. I offered him one, but he declined. I must have caught at least 15 more before we decided to paddle back to the launch to call it day.

"Say, could I buy a dozen of those minnows off you?" he said.

I didn't have a dozen with me, but I tied up a dozen when I got home a sent them to him.

You would have thought he would have tried them on the water.

The Myakka Minnow works. And it catches lots of fish. Any time the fish are feeding on small minnows, it's effective.

There are days when I catch a majority of my fish on it. There are days when I don't use it. But isn't that like all flies?

The Myakka Minnows is not magic. You won't catch fish on it every cast. You won't catch fish on it every trip. But there are times when it will be the only fly that will produce.

For panfish, I tie it on a No. 10 nymph hook. I use monofilament thread. The tail is a short clump of marabou. I tie the marabou in and clip it. I then add 8 to 12 wraps of .20 lead wire. Then I'll tie in the Body Braid just in front of the tail and wind if forward, building up a minnow shape. I will wrap the braid  back and forth a couple of times.

When I achieve the minnow shape I want, I add 3D prism eyes and coat the minnow with Devcon 2-Ton epoxy. I usually epoxy at least a half dozen Myakka Minnows at a time.

I've found that the 2-Ton epoxy works best. If you use 5-minute epoxy, you can only coat one or two flies at a time.

Of course, I have a fly turner to help in the process. The flies must be turned on a rotisserie device so that the epoxy dries evenly.

When fishing the fly, I cast it out and let it sink. I then begin a slow retrieve with my rod tip pointing down the line. I watch the end of the fly line for any sign of a strike.  It seems like the slower I'm able to work the Myakka Minnow, the more effective it is.

Doesn't matter, however, how you work it. If you're catching fish, just keep doing it.

1. Hook: Bass Pro White River 396 nymph hook No. 10
2. Thread: fine mono
3. Tail: short clump of marabou
4. Weight: .20 lead wire
5. Body: Body Braid by Spirit river
6. Eyes: 3D prism stick-on
7. Coating: Devon 2-Ton Epoxy

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

When the action slows, go deep for fast, freshwater action

This Manatee River speckled perch was taken on a No. 12 nymph under a strike indicator by Patrick O'Connor.

I'm not your typical Florida fly fisher.

When I'm not guiding, I like to head for a local lake or stream to fly fish for bluegill.

Many anglers turn up their collective noses when it comes to fly fishing fresh water for panfish.

They want the big boys: snook, redfish, tarpon, bonefish, permit.

I like those species, too. But I also find casting a light fly rod for bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch  bass and channel catfish to be very fun -- and challenging.
Patrick O'Connor with a fly-rod channel catfish.

My favorite spots to fish are Lake Manatee, the Manatee River, Myakka River, Braden River, Evers Reservoir , Upper Myakka Lake and the Nine Mile Canal (North Port).

My fly fishing days in Florida go back to the 1970s. Back then, I cast popping bugs until the bite ended. When that happened it was time to go home.

There's nothing better than a panfish or bass busting a popper on the surface. But I don't think it makes too much sense to continue casting a surface fly when the topwater bite has ended.

That's the time to change tactics.

I learned long ago that when the topwater bite ends, the subsurface action is just beginning. Switching to sinking flies has extended my hours on the water and increased my productivity.

When it comes to subsurface fly fishing, I like three flies: 1. Gibby's Mighty Myakka Minnow; 2. Gibby's Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymph, 3. scuds.

A beefy bluegill on a nymph.
Carry those three flies and that's all you'll ever need.

A recent trip to the Manatee River is a perfect example.

Patrick O'Connor of North Port, a fly-fishing junkie, joined me a half hour beforee daylight. We launched our Native Watercraft kayaks at Ray's Canoe Hideaway (1247 Hagle Park Road) just as it was beginning to get light.

We paddled upriver, stopping occasionally to cast poppers around fallen trees or other structure.
Our hands were numb as we paddled or fished in the 47-degree air. It became obvious that it was too cold for the fish to rise to a surface fly.

We moved into an oxbox in the river, and O'Connor began casting a No. 12 nymph under a strike indicator.
That's just what the fish wanted. He caught a few bluegill and a channel cat.

I switched to one of my Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymphs and immediately began catching fish. In fact, I landed 15 or more of the biggest bluegill I've caught in a long, long time. Manatee River bluegill are consistently among the largest around. They're thick, lengthy and great fighters.
Aunt Sara's Homely Daughter Nymphs

I also landed a small bass and a channel cat.

"I've never caught a speckled perch in the river, " I said. "But I would think this would be the spot for them."

Would you believe O'Connor caught a speck on his next cast?

"Amazing," he said, as he landed the 11-inch black crappie.

When that bite slowed, we moved back into the main river for the paddle back to Ray's. We fished fallen trees and other shoreline structure. We landed five out of eight channel cats and a few big bluegill.

The Manatee River has a good population of channel catfish -- and they'll hit a fly. I've caught loads of channel cats over the years. Most have been taken on the Myakka Minnow or nymph.

On this outing, the fish average about 2 pounds. But I've landed catfish to 7 pounds. And I've lost many larger fish. The trouble is that I usually use light fly rods and tippets. I have a difficult time when a big cat inhales one of my flies.

For most of my freshwater fishing, I use light fly rods. I employ a 1-weight rod for nymph fishing. I will cast a popper on a 2-weight. I use a 3-weight for the Myakka Minnow. All of my rods feature full floating lines and 7 1/2-foot leaders.

I fished Lake Manatee recently with mixed results. Pro fly-fisher Joe Mahler drove up from Sanibel Island to join me. We both thought we were in for a great day when we found a school of big bass busting golden shiners along the shoreline.

I got a hit the first cast on a popping bug. I missed the fish, but quickly hooked up on my second cast. When the fish jumped, I knew I was in for a battle. The bass weighed at least 5 pounds. The bass made a lengthy  run, then threw the hook on its second jump.

Mahler hooked a big fish, but eventually lost it. And a second big bass pulled off a few minutes late.
The bass continued to herd minnows along the shoreline, but were oblivious to our offerings thereafter.

When we left the bass and began probing for panfish the action was very slow. I caught a stumpknocker and decent bluegill before we headed up the lake to another spot.

Mahler landed a small bass in a spot that usually yields nice bluegill. That turned out to be the only fish he landed.

Using the nymph and later Myakka Minnow, I landed 15 more bluegill and a beefy blue tilapia before we called it a day.

"Next time, I'll take you up on the offer of one of those nymphs," Mahler said.

Nymph fishing just isn't a cold-water tactic for trout.

It works great on Florida bluegill, shellcracker, speckled perch and channel catfish.

Friday, March 1, 2013

River action winds down, but Sarasota Bay heats up

Patrick O'Connor of Rotonda battles an airborne Myakka River snook. (Photo by Steve Gibson)

February was a month of diversity.
The weather fluctuated from balmy to brisk. And the fishing ranged from hot to lukewarm.
Author shows off a  river snook. (Photo by Patrick O'Connor)
We stopped fishing the Myakka River by the second week of the month. The action slowed to a crawl, so it was time to head back out to Sarasota Bay, In fact, the last four river trips produced only 14 snook. That might sound like a lot, but that's 24 hours of fishing.

On one of the last trips to river, I did manage a 37-inch snook. In addition, Patrick O'Connor of Rotonda caught a nice fish.
Dan Benbassett of Riverview joined us for a bay outing early in the month and experienced a variety of action. We totaled 14 spotted seatrout to 17 inches, four Spanish mackerel to 4 pounds, pompano, jack crevalle and all the ladyfish you wanted. Most of the fish were taken on D.O.A. CAL Jigs with D.O.A. paddle tails.
John Kis, a winter visitor from New York, had a field day fishing the deep grass areas off Stephens Point in Sarasota Bay. Kis managed a load of seatrout to 18 inches, bluefish, pompano, Spanish mackerel, flounder and ladyfish.
New Native Watercraft owner Pete Walocko of Sarasota found plenty of trout on his outing off Stephens Point. He caught and released 30 trout and a pompano.
 Fly angler Chuck Dodd of Virginia performed long-wand magic on his outing, fishing the deep grass off Stephens Point. Dodd caught spotted seatrout, bluefsih, Spanish mackerel, pompano and a load of ladyfish on Gibby's Big Eye Baitfish and another synthetic minnow imitation.
Pete Walocko christened his new Native Watercraft Slayer 14.5 in grand fashion. Twenty spotted seatrout, pompano, Spanish mackerel, bluefish and ladyfish slimed his new camo-colored boat. He caught all of his fish on D.O.A. CAL Jigs and paddle tails.
Frank Jablonsky of Venice had a fair outing near Buttonwood Harbor, he caught spotted seatrout, ladyfish and a Spanish mackerel on D.O.A. CAL Jigs and MirrOlure MirrOdines. Most of the action took place over the deep grass just east of Whale Key.
Travis Carmel joined us for a half day off Stephens Point and quickly got with the program. He landed plenty of seatrout, plus bluefish, mackerel and pompano.
Dr. David Hough of South Bend, Ind., had a fair day on the deep grass off Stephens Point, catching seatrout, bluefish, mackerel , pompano and a small shark on D.O.A. CAL Jigs and D.O.A. Deadly Combination.
Fly angler Derek McNeil of Colorado found slow going with the fly rod on a six-hour trip. He did manage a few trout, but did much better when he switched to a spinning rod and jig. It was just one of those days when the fish were keyed into the jig. McNeil caught a load of trout and a lot of ladyfish.
Dick Combs of Bartow had a fun outing in windy conditions on the last day of the month. He started the day by catching a snook on fly. We moved out over the deep grass off Stephens Point where he caught spotted seatrout to 16 inches, ladyfish and mackerel. He ended the day catching a mess of silver trout inside the Stephens Point Basin. Most of his fish came on Clouser Deep Minnows. He was using a Temple Fork Outfitters 7-weight BVK rod and matching reel with a clear, intermediate sinktip line.
We anticipate getting back into the large trout in March. In addition, we expect redfish action to improve on the flats around Sarasota Bay.
Night fishing for snook should remain consistent.

Steve Gibson
Southern Drawl Kayak Fishing
(941) 284-3406