You see them all over the tidal Potomac in spring. They come to the surface in pairs, spawning. They have no interest in flies. You cast over them, to them, behind them, to their sides. No luck.
Then one day you are fishing for snakeheads and bass and they are all around you. You see some chasing bait to the surface. They are no longer in pairs. Solitary fish. You cast your fly to them and you start to feel the chomp, chomp, chomp on the end of your line.
You hook into one and strip in the line (I'm done with reeling in fish, honestly, I've lost so many big fish this year doing that) and the fish surfaces with the fly in its mouth, then the fly dislodges and flies back at you. You hang your head in shame as you now have lost half a dozen fish that are as long as a Home Depot yardstick.
These are some primitive fish. They have long beak like jaws with rows of needle-like teeth. Its very hard to set a hook in their mandible. That is what Cathy and I found out yesterday when we lost 8 or 9.
The trick is to get those teeth snagged and tangled up in the fly. Thus the 'rope fly' was invented. This fly is just a piece of rope with loose ends that the fish eats and get snarled. I got home and took the rope handles off the bags of basmati rice. I tied one to a hook. Looked ok. Then I tied on dumbell eyes. Looked better.
I just was not satisfied that this material would get tangled. The plan was for me, Trent (Orvis Bethesda), and Jereme Thaxton to go out and get the fish to eat on film.
I was pondering what tying material I had that would fit this niche. Then I remembered about this stuff from Orvis called 'widows web.' I had used it to tie Clouser minnows back in the day. The flies go tangled up on everything. From the dumbell eyes to the own hook they were tied on. The two toned materials got snagged on each other. I had abandoned the material and it has sat in the bottom of my tying drawer for over a decade. The stuff was tangled up in itself and the other colors it was next to.
I got the green and grey colors out and tied up two flies. I super glued the eyes down and tried to brush out the material. They were a mess. Not pretty but they could solve the problem.
My morning client had just hooked into a nice largemouth bass. He was fishing a popsicle fly. We kept it on in the same hole and he hooked into two gar and lost them. I tied on the widows web fly and no luck. Our time was up so we motored back to the ramp to drop him off and pick up Jereme and Trent.
We fished that fly along the shores on the way back with no luck.
Half an hour we are back at the 'Southern Comfort' hole. That is what I have named it. You have to fish with me there to understand why. I drop anchor and there are fish all around us. I have on the fly my client was using. Trent is tossing a deer hair Clouser (the only pattern he can tie, it works great for him as he catches a lot of fish.)
Just as the film starts rolling I hook into a fish. I figure its a big bass. The I strip in the fish to the boat and Trent informs me its a GAR. The fly is half way down its 'beak.' Trent grabs the net and pulls in the fish.
I quickly learned how slimy a gar is. It was slimy and stinky. The next thing I found out is that their scales when facing backward are sharp. I grabbed the fish gently and the scales dug into my flesh. I felt bad as I dropped the fish. I hope that was not on film. So I'm cut up and covered in slime. Trent had handed me my rowing gloves to hold the fish. They were now covered in slime. My finger stripping guard too.
And the interesting thing was the hook never touched the fish. The widows web was all tangled and knotted up in its teeth. I held the fish over the side and with my hemostats grabbed onto the hook. The weight of the fish with a couple of shakes loosened the material and the fish was gone.
We fished some more, several hours in fact. Trent and I both 'hooked' into fish but never landed another. I had on something big at one point. Trent stated it was 'bulldogging' toward the shore. I fought the fish on the reel and lost it. It was bigger than any gar I had gotten into earlier. Maybe a big catfish, carp, or snakehead.
The clouds built up toward the west and a traffic jam of boats coming back from the river told us it was time to return. We pulled anchor and headed for the boat ramp. We'll have more widows web flies for the next time. Be sure of that.
Blue Ribbon Flies