past October proved to be one of my busiest.
I spent time in Manitoba, Idaho and California providing seminars and
hosted trips. With each trip I was
fortunate to spend time on the water chasing the last stillwater trout of my
|Staples such as bloodworm are an excellent fall pattern choice|
is one of my favorite seasons when it comes to stillwater fly fishing. As frost begins to predominate the daily fall
forecasts, trout prowl the shallows continuing to build the fat reserves
that will carry them through the long cold winter ahead. At this time use
pattern and presentation techniques to suggest staple food items such as
leeches, forage fish, scuds, immature dragon and damsel fly nymphs and perhaps
the most underrated stillwater staple, chironomid larva (bloodworm).
patterns are one of my favorite stillwater staples to imitate. During the fall months this bread and butter
prey item is often on the menu. When I was
down in Idaho I spent time on both Henry’s Lake and Sheridan Lake. Sheridan is a private fishery known for its
large rainbow trout. I had the pleasure
of fishing Sheridan last year and I was looking forward to fishing it once
weather was perfect, bright clear skies and crisp just below zero temperatures
to start the day, my favorite combination for fall fishing. Water levels were low and fish were rolling
on the surface. It seemed to take
forever to get my gear ready and my Yamaha G3 1756 VBW into the water. I loaded my first two students, Dustin and
Jared into the boat. Off we went in
search of trophy trout.
we didn’t have to go far. The water was
clear as the frigid overnight temperatures caused the algae to clump and
sink. Fish were moving at the opening to
a large shallow bay that sloped gently into deeper water. As there was no definite structural
transition such as drop off I chose to take advantage of another form of
transition, light to dark. Trout love to
prowl in the cover of shadow or shade. In
low light conditions they hunt confidently and aren’t as spooky as if they were
in shallow clear water. With this
approach in mind we anchored the bow of the boat just where it was difficult to
make out the bottom. We anchored the
stern in dark, deep water. This placed
us in roughly 10-12 feet of water.
|Large trout love chironomid larvae|
lines and indicators were the order of the day.
Experience taught me that a leech or bloodworm pattern on the bottom with
a chironomid pupa on a dropper would be a good place to start.
three of us were in the boat we all positioned our flies at different depths to
quickly eliminate non-productive water. Dustin was into fish in short order. A healthy plump Sheridan rainbow took his
small black and red Ice Cream Cone roughly nine feet down. After a spirited fight the rainbow soon lay
in the net.
quick throat pump confirmed I was on the right track. Dustin’s rainbow was stuffed with #12-#10
bloodworm. The 5/8th’s to ¾’s
inch bloodworm were writhing like mad. Just
a few seconds ago they were moving just above the bottom or within the
tube-like homes they construct along the bottom. Trout have no issue vacuuming larvae right from
the relative safety of the their homes and if the bloodworm are free and moving
about their feeble head to tail swimming motion offers zero resistance to a
on this information we soon changed flies to represent bloodworm. Jared and Dustin each tied on Vernille or Plush
Chenille San Juan Worm and I swapped to a #10 Bionic Worm on the point and a
straight shank Holo Worm on the point.
I wanted to see which shank profile trout preferred. If trout favor wriggling bloodworm then a
curved shank pattern is the better choice.
Conversely, if trout are taking the bloodworm as they rest after
wriggling about, which they tend to do in an extended position, then a straight
shank pattern is the wiser option. If I
am fishing a long leader without an indicator I often start with straight
shank patterns as with this method the flies are pulled through the water
more than when using indicators. Some days
it doesn’t matter and either philosophy works.
patterns don’t inspire angler confidence.
To some they are nothing more than a slender red or maroon stick. Successful patterns need to be slender, just
like the naturals. If you want some tips
on bloodworm patterns please check out Bloodworm Basics in the Fly Patterns section of my website.
|Jerry McBride's Bionic Worm|
bloodworm are found on or just above the bottom I left my point fly hanging
about one foot off the bottom and wasn’t having much success. Dustin had three or four takes in a row with
his flies at nine feet. That was enough
information for me and I slid my indicator down towards my flies and hung my
Bionic Worm at nine feet. This tactical
change was the ticket and we had a great couple of hours. Rainbows show a particular affinity for Jerry
McBride’s Bionic Worm. Make sure you
have more than a few rows in your fly box ready to go.
|Bloodworm patterns need to be slender to match the naturals|
approach continued throughout the day with each pair of students that joined me
in my boat. I went back to the same spot
each time and took fish. To quote an old
guide’s adage, “Don’t leave fish to find fish.” One large fish we caught regurgitated over
20 bloodworm in the landing net. They
were definitely the priority food that day on Sheridan.
|Sheridan rainbow loved Bionic Worms|
next time you aren’t sure what pattern to tie on consider something that imitates
a staple prey item and bloodworm in particular. Chances are you won’t be disappointed
with the results.
|Sam, with one of Sheridan's trophy rainbows taken on using a chironomid larva (bloodworm) pattern|
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