Largemouth Bass Lineup

Largemouth Bass Lineup

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Year of the Bluegill is almost done

Panfish....the Rodney Dangerfield fish of the fly fishing community.  They never get any respect. Why do we, as fly fishermen, often turn our noses up at this species of fish?  To chase them on the fly is akin to slumming so to speak.  Why is that?

It is hard to believe that almost a year ago, Cameron hatched an idea late at night that would showcase an underrated and often under appreciated fish, the bluegill, for the coming year.  It was proclaimed that 2013 would be the Year of the Bluegill.  When I first heard about this, I have to say that I was super excited.  I am at heart a panfish fly fisherman.  I truly enjoy pursuing these awesome fighters on the fly.  I have tailored my poppers as such and created a business around my pursuit of these spunky fish.  Usually, fly fishermen start their journey into the fly fishing world via these fish.  They can be easy to catch, they readily take top water, and they live in places that allow for long back casts.  So, beginner fly fishermen can catch fish, see the strike and work on their casting/presentation.  Somewhere along the way, we switch to trout.  Some stay the course with trout and never look back.  Others, like myself, eventually find their way back to the glory that is warm water fly fishing.  I was so excited about the Year of the Bluegill that I had Melissa take a photo of me working on poppers while wearing one of my many TFM shirts.  That photo (thanks to the many friends and family who voted) was able to be the first winner of the spotting contest Cameron has each year.  January belonged to warm water fishermen and in particular the bluegill. The Year of the Bluegill was off to a bang!

Many months ago, I dug out several books related to panfish and fly fishing.  Once again, I had Melissa snap a quick photo of me with them.  I figured since I couldn't fish for them given my injury, I would at least read about them.  I have had these books for many years now.  I have read them before but I continue to come back to them.  I wanted to do a review of each one and share them with other panfish enthusiasts from around the world that may not have heard about them.  I, admittedly, am a little (lot) late on this but I still want to share these books with you all in case you haven't seen them before now.

First up we have an older book purchased by my father many years ago for me.  It is called America's Favorite Fishing: A Complete Guide to Angling for Panfish.  The copyright of the book is 1964.  My copy is a sixth printing dated 1971.  The book is divided into chapters that highlight various panfish.  The first one is the almighty bluegill but there are also chapters on crappie, rock and warmouth bass, sunfish, yellow perch, white and yellow bass, white perch and bullhead.  Each of these chapters contains information on the specific fish regarding habitat, feeding, reproduction, growth and size and geographical distribution.  There is a small chapter dedicated to fly fishing for these guys.  For me the two sentences of the chapter sum up fly fishing for panfish.  The author writes "If you are used to catching panfish on casting tackle of hoisting them aloft at the end of a long cane pole, then you have a thrill in store for you when you feel the remarkable fighting qualities of these fish on a light, limber fly rod.  Not only will you derive far more pleasure from fly fishing, but you will catch more and bigger fish, particularly in shallow water."  What more can be said on the subject?  I will say that I enjoyed seeing that in the book the "high-priced rods" were those rods over forty dollars!  If only....

The next book devoted to fly fishing for panfish is called Bluegill.....Fly Fishing & Flies by Terry & Roxanne Wilson.  The copyright for this book is 1999.  This book is all about bluegill and how to catch them on the fly.  Plain and simple.  Imagine a whole book based solely around that hard hitting, sideways pulling panfish.  The book is broken down into chapters on gearing up, completing your fly box, choosing the right water, bluegill in spring, summer and fall as well as effective presentations.  Under the completing the fly box chapter there are recipes to tie dries, nymphs, floaters/divers, soft-hackle, wet, terrestrials, bream killers, streamers, worms and crayfish.  Is this an all inclusive list of flies for bluegill or  It does, however, give you a great place to start with a lot of great and easy flies to tie in order to stock up your fly box.  The book is around 150 pages long and is an easy read.  It really shouldn't take more than a few days to finish it.  I would highly recommend this book for those who want to chase the bluegill on the fly.  Also, check out Terry and Roxanne Wilson's website called The Bluegill Pond.  They have a new book out now devoted to crappie on the fly.

Last but not least we have a book titled The Sunfishes: FLY FISHING techniques, tackle, and NEW THINKING in the pursuit of America's favorite gamefish.  This book was written by Jack Ellis and illustrated by David Taft.  The copyright for this book is 1995 and it has around 150 pages.  The book is broken up into chapters that cover everything from the sunfish clan to the bass and bream dilemma to sink or not to sink.  There is, as with others, a chapter on fly tying that contains both SBS and recipes for tying panfish flies.  For me though the author's conclusions may be what is most important.  On page 139 Ellis writes that "It was convenient and fashionable to look down our noses at "panfish" when we enjoyed countless miles of pristine, unpolluted trout streams."  He goes on to write that "I cut my fly-fishing teeth on trout streams and had a difficult time changing my attitude until I realized that sunfish are a lot harder to catch than I had assumed." Nothing rings more true in the fly fishing community than this statement.  Even now, I still get weird looks, turned heads and snide remarks when I tell people I mainly fly fish for bass and panfish.  

I am very glad that Cameron made a last minute decision to crown 2013 the Year of the Bluegill.  It has been a great year with a lot of well deserved attention given to an underrated and often under appreciated fish.  I have been able to meet anglers from all over the world who also have a passion for these fish.  In fact, despite not having met them face to face, I would consider some of them dear friends.  Maybe it should have been the year of the panfish?  Who knows?  I value all species of panfish on the fly but rightfully so the bluegill is king and at the top of the list.  These books are not the only books out there regarding fly fishing for panfish or bluegill specifically.  They are simply the ones I own.  I simply wanted to share my love of them with others out there in hopes that you too may find them useful and insightful.  

As the Year of the Bluegill comes to a close, the question was asked....what now?  What will 2014 be?  The Year of the Panfish?  The Year of the Bass?  The Year of the Smallie?  I don't know.  As of now, 2014 has not been crowned the year of anything.  I have staked claim to the Year of the Smallie.  I am not sure if I have the connections though to make it work like Cameron did with the Year of the Bluegill.  

Works Cited
Rice, F. Philip. America's Favorite Fishing: A Complete Guide to Angling for Panfish. New York: Harper & Row, 1964.

Wilson, Terry & Roxanne. Bluegill....Fly Fishing & Flies. Oregon: Frank Amato Publications, 1999.

Ellis, Jack. The Sunfishes: FLY FISHING techniques, tackle, and NEW THINKING for the prusuit of America's favorite gamefish. New York: Lyons & Burford, 1995.

Where to Purchase

Monday, December 30, 2013

Research and Development

A while back I sent Mike D. a few sculpins I tied using a pattern I found on the FlyMen Fishing Co. website which can be found here.  I wanted him to give them a work out and let me know how the construction was on the fly.  Normally I would do this myself but given my injury, I knew I would not be able to fish for quite some time. Mike has been doing a great job of slinging the flies around on his way home from work.  Mike has managed to land some nice largemouth given the time of year and temperatures we have had here in Maryland.  I have to say that I am more than a little jealous of what he has been catching.  I am glad though he has been giving them a real workout.  I only wish it could have been me!  Ha!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Epic Build from an Epic Rod Builder

Around the beginning of the summer last year, I decided to take a chance and buy a fiberglass rod. For a while I had been following some crazy manifesto blog that kept tooting the horn for fiberglass rods.  So, I decided that I would get one.  I started out my fiberglass adventures with the Eagle Claw Featherlight.  I figured it was relatively inexpensive which meant that I could afford it and if I didn't like the whole glass thing I wouldn't have blown a ton of money on something that was custom made.  I was immediately hooked.  If you missed it, you can read about it here.

Fast forward (I know not much of a fast forward) to around this time last year.  That is when I discovered Swift Fly Fishing and their Epic blanks.  After doing a little research and seeing a lot of photos, I knew I needed to get one.  Two questions came to mind: what color and what size?  If you have follow this blog, or my Facebook and Instagram pages/accounts than you know dear reader that I am a warm water junkie.  Based upon that, I knew that I needed to get a blank in a size that would allow for my continued quest of those magnificent warm water fish on the fly rod. I decided that I would go with the 686.  At first I wanted to get it in blue.  However, I quickly learned that Cameron from The Fiberglass Manifesto was getting another Epic in that color.  Well, I didn't want to appear as if I was stalking him (I was) so I decided to switch my color preference to salsa.  Now, who would I get to build it?  This would take some time to figure out... but that's ok, because I needed to save for it anyway.

As Beaver Island neared, gear was prepared.  I had a rod coming from Steffen Brothers as well as two Blue Halo rods coming from Shane Gray of Graywolf Products and Services.  I actually forgot about the Epic for a while.  I mean, it's not like I could ask Melissa for another rod.  No doubt that would have led to my untimely demise.  Anyways, as I stated Cameron was getting an Epic 990 built.  He and I had talked a few times about it.  He told me it was being built by Zeb over at Snowman Custom Rod Works.  I decided to look Zeb up and shoot him an email.  Almost immediately I got a response back from him.  Truthfully, I didn't expect to hear from him so soon.  I explained that in the near future I may be in the market for an Epic and I wanted to check prices.  Zeb and I talked for a while and I told him I would be back as soon as I got some money together. While at Beaver Island, I had the chance to cast Cameron's 686.  As soon as I picked it up, I knew I needed to get one more than ever.  The thing cast like a dream.  It was amazing.

Upon my return, I contacted Zeb and we got to work on my rod.  I gave him complete freedom on the build.  Like all the others I have bought rods from, I only asked that it look nice/sharp.  I have to admit that until very recently, I didn't pay a whole lot of attention to the fly rod itself.  If it looked good and could get the fly where I needed it to go, it worked for me.   In hindsight, I should have educated myself on the mechanics of fly rods many years ago.  Oh well.  Regardless, I told Zeb to just make it look nice.  Who am I to tell an artist how to paint or what materials to use?  That would be just pure silliness.  Zeb is an artist and I certainly wasn't going to tell him what to do.  I didn't do it with Shane Gray either.  These guys know how to build rods.  They know what works and what doesn't.  Why should I tell them how to do their job?  This is just my opinion, and how I prefer to do it.  As a buyer though you should have the option of getting what you want, exactly what you want.  I appreciated that I had the option of choosing everything with Zeb, I just chose to give him free reign.  Zeb asked some more questions and then got to work.

Zeb kept me informed about the whole process.  We kept in touch as the build progressed and he informed me of what he was doing.  It didn't take long for him to finish and ship the rod to me.  I couldn't wait to get it.  Upon arrival, I ripped open the packaging like I was 6 and it was Christmas. Man-o-man was it stunning.  I couldn't be happier with my decision to have Zeb build the rod for me.  I am saddened though that I couldn't at least lawn cast the thing since my hand is still practically useless.  I would highly recommend Zeb to anyone who is looking for a custom made rod.  He does amazing work.  Zeb does have a Facebook page which can be found here and a website (still under construction) which can be found here.

Blank: Swift Fly Fishing Epic 686 Salsa
ERN: 6.8
AA:  68°
Finished Weight: 3.72 Ounces
Reel to Balance: Mid 5 Ounces
Line Best Suited: Mid Long Belly AFTMA #6
Reel Seat: Lemke LC-10
Winding Check:  Goldem Witch Broad/High Polish
Stripping Guide: Lowrider Agate Arch Frame 12mm
Snakes & Tip: Snake Brand Universal
Silks: YLI Orange/Pearsall Cardinal and Straw

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

To all of our family, friends, fans, customers and loyal supporters we wanted to say Happy Holidays and thanks so much for making 2013 an amazing year for J&M Flies. We have struggled a bit in the past few months given the nature of my injury.  Slowly but surely we are making progress on orders and some will be shipping soon.  Never in our wildest dreams did we think that we would be so blessed with so many great fans, supporters and customers. Sometimes, Melissa and I sit down and talk about how amazed we are at the continued interest in our flies.  It is humbling for sure and we really do appreciate all of the kind words, comments and support from each and every one of you.  We sincerely hope that you have a happy and healthy 2014 with tight lines and tight wraps.  Scotty all tuckered out from the excitement on Christmas and Lila in the background ignoring everyone and staying in her bed.