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We woke up to frost on our vehicles the next morning; it was cold as hell for Southern Mississippi. We met up with fellow Red Stick Fly Fisher and blogger Chris, the Fat Fingered Fly Tyer, and came up with a plan of attack that involved fishing the deepest parts of the southern end of the lake. The wind and the bitter cold made executing that plan difficult. We fished and gave it our best in a sheltered cove, but eventually decided that wasn’t working. It was starting to look like the morning was a complete bust, which wasn’t unexpected. There was enough time to try one more spot and I had at least caught fish in the upper part of the lake yesterday so I told them that’s where I was planning to head and Chris decided to come with.

We launched our kayaks at the northern end of the lake and fought the wind, paddling across to where the river dumps in. There the trees were tall enough to protect us from the wind and the channel was pretty deep too, so if the bass were holding on the bottom we could at least target them in the deep channel. The temps were starting to increase to the point of being comfortable, but the wind was non-stop.

Things were looking up once we got in the river. It wasn’t too long after we made it to the river when I was slowly stripping a Clouser minnow with my 7wt sinking line around some standing timber and felt an eat with some solid resistance. When I strip set the line started moving and I got excited. Not long after a fish comes rocketing out of the water! It clearly wasn’t the target fish though, too long and skinny, no this wasn’t a largemouth, it was a bigass chain pickerel! It bulldogged after the jump and put up a really nice fight before I was able to slip my net under it. No points were awarded for big pickerel so I decided to let it go. Chris had mentioned I may want to keep it as it could be a state fly rod record, and I contemplated it, but in the end I let it swim.

It was a great fish that put up a great fight, a really good representative of our southern species of Esox. I was thrilled with the catch and relieved to not skunk on this tough day. A day when I thought for sure that no one was going to catch anything in this crappy weather. Just as soon as I release my fish back in the water Chris hooks into a bass. At 11″ it wasn’t the monster we were hoping for, but any bass on this day was better than none. I was happy to see our change in location had paid off and we both avoided the skunk, and now Chris was at least on the leaderboard.

The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful, I don’t know that I caught another fish. We did explore up the river a ways and found a lot of really good looking water that would probably be worth fishing at a later date, much like on my scouting trip the day before. It was eventually time to head back to the “weigh-in” and see what everyone else had caught.

Fly tying was in full swing by the time we got back and shortly after we arrived back an awards presentation was held for the big bass contest. As I suspected Chris did make it on the leaderboard as there were only two fish submitted. His 11″ bass was good enough for 2nd, while Roger Apperley turned in a 12″ bass minutes before the end of the contest. After the awards came the silent auction and then the raffle prizes. I was lucky enough to have my named called for a Fred Hannie watercolor of a largemouth bass, which now sits in my office at work.

The Sweetwater Classic was the first event I attended put on by the FFI Gulf Coast Council and I really did enjoy it. I thought they did a great job curating an event that catered to area fly fishermen. It was great spending time on and off the water with Brian and Chris, and meeting all the other folks who made the trip up to Percy Quin for the event.

I think the plan next year is for the Classic to be held in early May at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama. More details can be found on the FFI GCC site, and it already looks like it will be bigger and better than this year’s event. If you’re a fly fisher-person in the South you may want to consider making the trip and booking your lodging now.

Brian and I stayed one more night at the cabin and left the next morning to make the drive back down to Baton Rouge. Music was one of the wide variety of things we discussed and we both figured that no trip to this part of Mississippi was complete without a stop at the Lynyrd Skynyrd memorial site. There are a lot of Skynyrd songs I like, but one of my favorite fishing related lyrics from any song comes at the end of “Don’t Ask Me No Questions”

“I said don’t ask no stupid questions and I won’t send you away
If you want to talk fishin, well I guess that’ll be OK”

I chuckle every time I hear it, because it’s so relatable.

If you’re in the Baton Rouge area and are looking for something to do on Wednesday May 11th, come on out to Rally Cap Brewing and drink some good beer and tie some flies with us(them). We are hoping to make Flies & Flights a monthly deal and this would be the second time we get together. The pilot run last month went great and we had about a dozen folks turn out. I’m hoping we can double that this time around – it should be a good time.

I mentioned in a previous post that I’d try to get Blake to send me a SBS of the crawfish pattern that I’ve had success with and wouldn’t you know the man came through. See his instructions below if you want to tie up a really effective crawfish fly that various species of bass and sunfish love:

This fly is a variant of the Crayfish X tied by Dron Lee. There wasn’t an SBS on his site and I liked how it looked so I tied it how I assumed it was tied. You can find more patterns by Mr. Lee here: https://flytyingnation.com/

Materials:

  • Eagle Claw 410 Jig size 2
  • Lead Dumbbell Eyes sized to match hook and sink rate
  • Spanflex
  • Sow Bug Dubbing
  • Fox Squirrel Zonkers
  • Mono Eyes
  • Furry Foam

Tie dumbbell eyes in at the front of the hook right at the bend. This helps to ensure that the fly falls hook point up and will allow space to whip finish later in the process.

Tie in the antennae and wrap to a point around the bend.

Make a small ball of dubbing right behind the antennae. This is to help splay out the claws and eyes.

Cut two zonker strips to length. These were 1” of hide that ended up being 1.5” in total length. Wrap them all the way up to the dubbing ball.

Pull each zonker strip out and hit the base with some UV resin (or super glue). Probably not a necessary step but I think it reduces fouling and also makes the claws spread out when the fly is sitting on the bottom.

Tie in some mono eyes on either side of the hook. I like to tie them so that they lay right above the claws to further reduce fouling. I make my own by heating up some 50 pound mono and then dipping it in some powder paint. I will then run it through the lighter again to smooth out the powder if needed. The final step is to use a cauterizing tool to bend them how you want them. You don’t have to actually touch the mono with the tool. Just get it close and the mono will bend towards the heat. Takes some practice to not melt other materials but makes setting the eyes in position pretty easy.

Dub the body to the hook point, tie in a leg on either side, then finish the area off by using figure 8 wraps to set the legs in a position you like. I prefer to add some dubbing before tying in the legs so that I’m not trying to build bulk in the area while having to deal with the legs. Build the bulk, tie in the legs, cover the tie-in.

Bring thread to the hook eye and dub back to the hook point.

Cut a piece of furry foam that is the size of the hook gap, cut a point on one end, and put it on the hook.

Place the hook back into the vise and tie the foam in somewhere near the point. Dub the tie in point to show some segmentation in the body, then dub your way to a point in the middle between the hook eye and first body segment. Repeat the process to right behind the hook eye.

Finish dubbing the final tie-in and whip finish between the hook eye and the furry foam. Trim the foam to form the tail.

I like to brush out the bottom of the fly with a dubbing brush.

Finished Fly