Using a fly with the proper sink rate is often critical to catching fish. You can adapt this new pattern for catching bass in a variety of situations.
[by Drew Chicone]
Having spent the better part of the last decade developing and testing new flies, I have learned a thing or two about what triggers fish to strike. Reading fish and learning the subtle nuances of a particular species’s feeding behavior takes patience and persistence; even after years of on-the-water experience, their behaviors can never be fully understood or easily predicted.
Whether you’re fishing in fresh or salt water, the sink rate is probably the most overlooked attribute of any pattern. In order for your fly to mimic the intended forage, it needs to sink and move at the same speeds to look natural. A fly that plummets too fast through the water column is often a red flag to skeptical fish, and an indignant refusal usually follows. This is especially crucial for warmwater species such as largemouth bass.
They Hit It on the Fall
All anglers are familiar with the axiom fish hit it on the fall. Spinning-tackle fishermen, especially bass fishermen, live by that rule, but fly rodders often focus on other traits such as the physical appearance, profile, or swimming action of a fly. Hook size, added weight, leader material, or any number of factors can affect how your fly falls through the water. Sometimes a minor adjustment in a pattern’s sink rate is all you need to make that fly appear more natural and turn on the bite.
Hook: Mustad 3407-BN, size 4.
Thread: White 3/0 (210 denier).
Tail: Craft fur.
Lateral line: Chicone’s Wide Cut Crusher Legs or Sili Legs.
Legs: Daddy Long Legs or fine rubber legs.
Underbody: Ribbed Tungsten Scud/Shrimp Body.
Body: Nexcare Waterproof Tape. (You’ll find this in larger drugstore chain stores.)
Other stuff: Bic pen plastic case
Starting the StrawBoss
Testing a pattern in a pool or tank is a good way to analyze how it will perform before making adjustments to its weight or buoyancy. The important thing is for the fly to look natural as it falls to the bottom. You know you have cracked the code when you start getting strikes on the drop. Oftentimes, a pattern with a slightly longer pause or a prolonged descent will outfish other flies because it is simply in the strike zone longer. A shining example of a fly with that coveted characteristic is Joe Mahler’s StrawBoss, which takes the ever-important falling motion to a new level.
At first glance, the StrawBoss has all the telling features of a classic topwater bass bug. You would think the bulbous head and broad bucktail wing would make the fly bulldoze over the surface and create a frothy disturbance, but nothing is further from the truth. Beneath the burnished shell of bucktail is a thoughtful balance of floating and sinking materials that Mahler refers to as “buoyancy management.”
Borrowing scud weights from the trout-fishing world, and a little first aid finger tape from the pharmacy, the StrawBoss maximizes time in the strike zone by casually listing back and forth on its way to the bottom.
Mahler views the StrawBoss as more of a tying platform than a pattern. He adjusts the sink rate, accoutrements, and appearance to match the fishing circumstances and targeted species. Adding monofilament eyes, rubber legs, or flash gives the StrawBoss versatility far beyond the bass arena. Joe tied the original pattern with the hook point down, but in recent years he dresses nearly all his flies hook point up, making them nearly snag-free and achieving what he believes are more solid hookups.