Bass On The Rocks: 4 Proven Baits For Fishing Around Rock

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A crayfish tops the meal menu for any bass living on rocky lakes.

Rocks provide shelter for crayfish so when you fish rocky lakes for bass you should consider selecting lures that best imitate a crayfish. Here are four mud bug imitators you should try when fishing lakes with rocky bottoms.

Jigs

A jig tipped with either a plastic chunk or craw is one of the most effective year-round crayfish imitators. You can drag a heavier jig and keep in close contact with the bottom to imitate a crayfish crawling along the rocks or you can lift and drop a lighter jig to mimic a crayfish fleeing from a predator.

Crankbaits

crankbait hookup

A crawfish-colored crankbait produces mainly for me in the spring but I have also caught bass from rocky lakes on this mud bug imitator in the late fall. In the early spring I retrieve a medium-diving crawfish crankbait slowly along chunk rock banks. As the water gets warmer I concentrate on banks mixed with chunk rocks and pea gravel where I retrieve the crankbait at a faster pace and try to frequently bump it into the bottom. I employ a steady medium-speed retrieve along chunk rock banks in the fall.

Twin-tail Grubs

double tailed grub

A double-tail plastic grub attached to a standup jighead produces best for me late in the pre-spawn and during the spawn when bass have moved to gravel banks. A variety of retrieves with this crayfish imitator triggers strikes from pre-spawn bass cruising the shallows. You can hop it, drag and shake it on the bottom or slowly lift and drop it. When bass are on nests, you can drag the grub into the nest and let it sit there. An occasional twitch of the rod will activate the grub’s tails and annoy the bedding bass.

Plastic Craws

cabin creek express craw

A Texas-rigged plastic craw worm is an ideal agitator for spawning bass. You can tempt bedding bass into inhaling this intruder by using the same presentation as I mentioned for the twin-tail grub. Bass have a hard time resisting a craw worm standing in its nest.

When bass move to deeper water after the spawn, you can catch those fish by attaching a plastic craw on a drop-shot rig or a shaky head jig. The shaky head craw works best for bottom-hugging bass while the drop-shot craw is a better option for bass suspended slightly above the rocky bottom.


6 Ways to Approach Teaching Fly Casting

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I think we can all agree that casting is often the limiting factor for confidence and success while fly fishing. Perhaps more than any other variable, the ability to get the fly to the right spot can make the difference between fish and no fish. More importantly: fun and no fun.

It is a balance, though. You don’t want to establish some hypothetical standard of how someone should be able to cast before you take them out and put them on the water. You also don’t want them to be so frustrated that it is not an enjoyable experience.

I don’t have a perfect solution, but I have an idea. It is one that has worked in a number of settings for a variety of people.

Casting instruction.

Certainly, you can have your friend – the potential angler – sign up for a class through a local fly shop or conservation organization. Or, you can buy them lunch, go to a park, and help them get the fundamentals in view.

But good intentions also require some forethought. Have you ever honestly considered every component part that goes into a fly cast? It isn’t as easy as handing them a rod and telling them to “just cast it.” You being a good caster also doesn’t translate into you being a good teacher. Here are six things to think about before you try to help somebody figure out this vitally important (and fun) part of fly fishing. Continue reading “6 Ways to Approach Teaching Fly Casting”

The key to becoming a better fly angler

Chances are you already know what it is, you’ve just convinced yourself otherwise

by Todd Tanner

Happiness, enjoyment, and success. Those three words are almost interchangeable when it comes to fly fishing. If we’re going to enjoy ourselves on the water, and if we’re going to head home with a smile rather than a frown, we need to be successful; if not all the time, then at least on a fairly regular basis.

It’s actually pretty simple. “Success,” however we choose to measure it, leads directly to enjoyment and happiness. That’s just the way it works.

So what’s the single biggest impediment to fly fishing success? I suppose we could make the case that it’s our lack of awareness, or our inability to slow down and fit in with nature’s subtle rhythms, or our difficulty in choosing the right fly or making the best possible presentation. At the end of the day, though, the highest hurdle for most beginning and intermediate anglers is almost always their fly casting.

Back in October, I had a chance to watch John Juracek, who is a truly incredible fly caster and instructor, take a dozen of our School of Trout students through the entire fly casting process. Before we started the week-long class, John and I talked about how much time we should spend on casting, as opposed to all the other vital elements we had to address. Since it’s a zero sum game — the time we spent casting was subtracted from the time we had for teaching everything else — I was a little nervous about going too heavy on the casting instruction. John, on the other hand, stuck to his guns. As he reiterated over and over, the foundation for good fly fishing is good fly casting. And as much as I wanted to argue with him, and as much as I wanted to steal a little more time for all the other important elements of the sport, I just couldn’t do it.

John was right. If you can’t cast, then your options as a fly fisher are incredibly limited, your odds for success plummet, and your opportunities for enjoyment shrink and shrink and then shrink some more. If you can cast, though — if you can put that fly right where you’re aiming at a variety of different distances — then every other aspect of your angling can start to move in a positive direction.

As John also pointed out to the SOT students, there’s something awfully special about the simple act of casting a fly rod. There’s an inherent grace and beauty to good casting that almost always shines through, and that can’t help but make our experience on the water more enjoyable.

So how do we become proficient casters? And how do we avoid all the common mistakes that plague poor casters? In the interest of keeping things short and sweet, I’d suggest the following steps:

First, take the time to watch talented casters and learn what a good fly cast actually looks like. While there are certainly exceptions, a well-executed cast typically unrolls in a straight line in front of, and also behind, the angler. The cast unfurls in a U shape or a V shape, and you can literally see the smooth transfer of power from the caster through the rod and then down through the line.

A quick aside: It used to be that you had to live near top-notch casters or famous rivers in order to see consistently good casting. But with the proliferation of videos and short fly fishing films, most of us can now watch talented anglers like Steve Rajeff, Joan Wulff, Pete Kutzer and John Juracek on our laptops or our smart phones.

Once you have a feel for what your cast should look like, you’ll want to focus on proper form. That means keeping your fly line moving in a straight path, accelerating your cast smoothly to a full stop, and making sure that you adjust the length of your stroke to the length of your cast. (The basic rule is that a short cast requires a short stroke; while a longer line needs a longer stroke.)

As for the obvious things to avoid … you should minimize excess movement in your wrist and your elbow, steer clear of applying too much power too early in your casting stroke, and avoid casts where the rod tip, and subsequently the line, follow a rounded or elliptical path through the air. Oh, and if you find yourself pushing and pulling your arm — if you notice that your elbow is moving forwards and backwards rather than up and down — then take a break and re-focus on your fundamentals.

There’s also one final step, and it’s absolutely vital. Please make sure you take the time to practice. Find an open spot free from hazards like tree branches, poisonous snakes, and overhead power lines and get to work on your casting.

How much should you practice? As much as you possibly can. Ideally, that’s once or twice a week, week in and week out, for at least half an hour. You’re trying to create strong fundamentals, and lock in good form, and develop the kind of muscle memory that will keep you on solid footing for the foreseeable future. You want to get to the point where you don’t need to think about your stroke at all while you’re out on the water.

What about casting lessons? From where I sit, they can be incredibly helpful. Still, you’ll want to make sure that your instructor is competent, and even more importantly, that you’re willing to listen. You can put serious time and energy into working with an ace instructor, yet if you don’t take the lessons to heart, and if you don’t practice what you learn, you won’t get the results that you’re hoping for.

Who would I recommend as a casting instructor? While there are a number of exceptional options out there, I’m biased towards the aforementioned Mr. Juracek, who is not only technically sound, but who has broken casting down to its most basic elements and made it far easier to understand and excel. You can reach John through his website at JohnJuracek.com.

“Poppin’ & Lochin’” by James Garrettson

A Quick Overview into a Deep Underworld ~

Lake fishing. Trout fishing’s most boring scion. At least that’s what I thought until I tried loch style fly fishing, and I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in my life (you ruined me, Norm). Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy fishing chironomids and balanced leeches under bobber rigs, but the fast paced nature of loch style is a natural compliment to my ADHD.

What if I told you that instead of doing whatever it is that you do during run-off, you could turn a lake into a river and fish the never ending streamer drift? There aren’t too many applications in the trout fishing world where you want to cast as far as you can, but loch style is one of them. Yes, anglers that Euro nymph can actually double haul. So what is loch style, what do you need to get started and how do you do it? Follow me below and you’ll be poppin’ and lochin’ in no time at all!

A rainbow from a New Mexico lake

What loch style means –

Loch style comes from our fly fishing forbearers across the pond in the UK. It is extremely popular over there, as the most easily accessible fishing for the average angler is stillwater. Basically loch style boils down to kicking your boat perpendicular to the wind and fishing down wind of the boat as it drifts…the opposite of trolling. By fishing down wind of the drifting boat you touch fish that haven’t yet been run over by said boat and you’re always presenting your fly to “fresh fish”. You can deploy a “drogue” (drift sock in ‘Merican English) off the gunwale to control the drift speed and use a myriad of different leader formulas and lines to control where your flies are presenting in the water column.

Boat –

First and foremost, you will need a boat, although you can certainly fish loch style from a float tube, kayak, personal pontoon, etc. If you have one, your drift boat will work fine for this application depending on the type of drift boat, size of the lake and conditions. Using a trolling motor will make your life a lot easier and in larger, windy lakes a necessity, especially when you need to make it back to the ramp ASAP. I wouldn’t know though because my Dad is Hercules and my arms are made of titanium.

Know your limits, know yours and your boat’s capabilities, and triple check the weather. Across the pond the Collum 15 and Irish Sheelin boats dominate the scene. In North America the serious stillwater folk will run jon boats with V and modified V hulls so they can deal with a myriad of conditions.

Setting up the drogue. When fully deployed it looks like an underwater parachute.

Drogue (Drift Sock) –

For light winds a drogue isn’t necessary but you will definitely want one when the wind picks up. Having the drogue properly deployed will keep the boat moving at a manageable speed. You can also vary the position of the drogue to dial in a perfect drift.

Casting. A nice change from my Euro nymphing obsession.

Loch Rods –

The 6100 (10ft 6wt) seems to be the what most practitioners of loch style lean toward. I must say I love my Echo Ion XL 6100! It’s an absolute joy to cast regardless of the conditions. The longer rod makes fishing long leaders more manageable especially when fishing the techniques like a “hang”. A 6wt is a crowd favorite because you want a rod that can handle a large grain window and a bevy of sinking and floating lines.

One of the most fun parts about loch style fishing is the casting! I said it. There aren’t too many practical applications to throw 80ft casts for trout. This is one of them.

Loch Lines –

Airflo’s very own Gareth Jones (The Lake Jedi) has helped design arguably the best still water lines on the market. Notice me Gareth. If you look at what the top still water competitors around the world fish, they most likely have a few Airflo lines in their kit. I say a few because you’ll probably want to have a couple of lines to match where the trout are in the water column.

I really love the Airflo Sixth Sense Fast Intermediate line for most of my lake endeavors. Next up on the list would be the Airflo Sixth Sense Sink 3 (3ips sink). There’s not a ‘one size fits all’ scenario for choosing a lake line. Most of the lakes I fish aren’t very deep and most fish seem to be taken in the first 10ft of the water column, making the fast sink intermediate a great fit for the locales I fish. Some lakes have excellent dry fly fishing opportunities as well, so don’t forget to have a floater with you, just in case.

A mix of woolly bugger variations and some flies from the mind of my 3 year old, they’re the ones tied with half a package of rubber legs.

Flies –

Fun fact: over in the UK, streamers are referred to as lures and stripping is referred to as pulling. But we’re not in the UK and I know if I refer to stripping streamers as pulling lures, a bald eagle will never learn how to fly. We don’t want that now, do we? A few other Loch (lake) vocabulary words are buzzers (chironomids), team (multiple flies), and “cracking”. I assume cracking is our equivalent of “sick” or “dope” because all the Airflo UK guys say it to each other when a nice fish is landed.

Loch style is the act of drifting with the wind at your back, covering water from a drifting boat. Being a technique, you can adjust your files and how you fish them according to your line choice and prevailing conditions and trends. You can crawl teams of chironomids back as you drift or even just strip in slack to keep up with the boat, fishing them on a drop or static. You can fish a mix of floating and weighted flies, unweighted, dries…the list goes on and on.

Fellow Echo Pro and EN fiend Pete Erickson knows a thing or two about poppin’ & lochin’.

Overview –

Loch style fishing is a fun and exciting way to experience stillwater fishing. The ability to turn a lake into the never ending drift, make long casts and cover lots of water keeps the day engaging and dynamic. If you have some trout stillwater opportunities available to you, don’t miss out. I know you’ll rethink what still water has to offer you. Are you ready to pop and loch??

~ James Garrettson is a member of the Echo Fly Fishing and Airflo USA Pro Team. He found love for the brook trout in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains and soon after getting a driver’s license, he could be found fishing for anything that could swim from New York to Florida. After bouncing around Utah, Costa Rica and Washington State, James has found a home in Northern New Mexico. From the small trout-filled creeks, the technical San Juan and The Rio Grande, New Mexico offers the angler excellent trout fishing year round.

James guides for About Trout, located in the heart of Northern New Mexico. When not guiding or fishing, James spends his time with his beautiful wife and kids, or fishing or both! www.abouttrout.com

Stillwater Fly-Fishing Basics

Fish need the essentials — food, cover and current. Any angler worth his weight in split shot knows that.

But what if you happen to fly fish a lake and there’s no obvious current? One of the three variables is gone. What to do?

That’s one of the reasons many fly anglers bypass lakes and ponds. Typically, they learn to fish rivers and creeks and simply fail to try stillwater situations.

And if they do, they struggle and return to their comfort zone. Below are a few basics to help shorten that learning curve.

TRANSPORTATION
We’re not talking about buying a new SUV. To fish lakes, you will need a boat, float tube, canoe or kayak. Wading simply isn’t an option. Shoreline fishing is possible, but you’re limited by the amount of water you can cover. And stillwater fishing demands a bit of prospecting. You can only do so much on foot.

THE EQUIPMENT FOR STILLWATER
We’ll keep this simple. A 9-foot, 6-weight Axiom II rod is a good all-around choice. It’s big enough for bass, but not too heavy for trout. Rod weight is not set in stone. The species and size of the fish as well as the size of your fly will dictate rod selection.

You will need floating and sinking lines and a long leader. The depth of the fish dictates your choices. Sinking lines work better for deeper fish, but are cumbersome to cast. Floating lines cast better, but limit how deep you can fish.

The reel needs to more than a storage unit for line. Fish in lakes, in general, tend to be bigger than those in rivers and creeks. You will want a reel with a sealed drag. TFO’s Power fits the bill.

HOW TO FIND FISH IN STILLWATER
An entire chapter coudn’t cover this topic, but here are some basics. Find the cover —- shoreline shade, rocks, logs, brushpiles and grass beds — and you’ll usually find the fish. Cover provides protection and yields food. This isn’t groundbreaking info, but the key is to find the cover near an inflow, which is possible a source of current. On many suburban ponds, this could be as subtle as a small culvert. Remember, the less energy fish have to expend, the more comfortable they are. A comfortable fish is a happy fish. Happy fish feed.

STILLWATER TECHNIQUES
We’ve covered sinking and long leaders. Many times in ponds and lakes, you have to probe different depths. The countdown method is the best way to do this. Cast, let the fly sink and count to 10 and retrieve. Do this again, with a longer count until you reach the desired depth.

Retrieves need to vary. In many situations, slower and shorter is better, but there is no formula. Finding fish is a trial-and-error process. This is where experience matters.

Stillwater fishing can be intimidating. New challenges are never easy. But those perseverant enough to navigate the initial obstacles are often rewarded in spades.