Squirrel Strip Leech
Stillwater fisherman like to spend more than one day on any given body of water because of the time needed to find the fish and match the hatch. On large lakes, hatches can be very specific to certain locations. You might spend all day trying unsuccessfully to match a damsel hatch in one bay while the fish out in the main channel are chowing down on bloodworms. I like to have at least two days to fish any given lake.
On our most recent trip to Coffeepot, Scott and I headed straight for the bay that has always held the most fish for us. This bay, we'll refer to it as "Starbucks Bay," is the most protected piece of water on the shallowest part of the lake. Thus, it warms up early and tends to hold huge numbers of fish. On our two previous successful trips, we caught the vast majority of our fish in this bay, especially on a trip just after spring turnover. While water temps on the main lake were around 38 degrees, this bay had water up to 42 or 43 degrees.
Scott and I fished Starbucks Bay for the better part of a day and a half on this recent excursion. Results were disappointing. We managed a few fish on black leech patterns, but these fish were in spawning mode. Finally, we set out to find new water. As we headed towards another bay, Scott spotted birds feeding on chironomids as they hatched from a flat that averaged 14' in depth. Sure enough, when we arrived to the flat, we could see bugs hatching everywhere.
I immediately started hooking fish on a VHS-mid, a chironimid pupa that uses old VHS tape for the body material. This fly goes by several names, but my name for it will be the VHS-mid. Although the fish were feeding on chrome colored bugs, this fly was successful for us over three days.
After catching a few fish, we were able to identify the pupae the fish were feeding on, a size 16 chromie with black rib. This was the fly of choice for matching these bugs:
Unfortunately, the tiny hooks used in this pattern tend to straighten quite easily. Nevertheless, this fly pattern is a fish magnet, and I've caught fish to 8 lbs. on it in British Columbia.
Finally, our before and after-hatch fly was the mohair leech. I've been carrying this pattern around for years. It was great to see it finally perform.
At times, fishing was fast. Often we had doubles, and more than once one of us helped the other to net a fish only to turn around and find a fish on the other line.
"Scotty, I haven't seen your bobber for a while."
"Nor have I, James."
"I guess you better set the hook, Scotty."
The best part of the trip came when Scott and I ditched our bobbers and started to fish naked. It's such a thrill to see some slight movement in your fly line and then set the hook into a 4 lb. rainbow. No bobber to interfere with landing the fish, and best of all, no need to reset your bobber to 14' after landing a fish. Free yourself of the bobber and your mind will follow.