September Newsletter

On The Fly South September 2021

Alabama’s Little River Falls. Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

We are presently stuck in the sweltering dog days of summer, yet coming off flooding throughout much of the South. Neither are good for fishing conditions. Still, as they say, the fish have to eat, so they can be caught. In the upcoming September edition of On The Fly South, we’ll be looking at some places where you should be able to still find a few cooperative fish. In Missouri it’s Crane Creek and its McCloud River strain rainbow trout. We venture into Alabama’s Little River Canyon for Coosa redeye bass, and get you ready for the pompano action at Jupiter Inlet in Florida.

The Fish Hawk

We’ll also have our regular coverage of resorts, gear, fly tying and the End of the Line column. While you pay your next visit our home page, be sure to sign up for a FREE SUBSCRITION. You get just two emails per month from us notifying you when we put out a new edition and when the newsletter goes live. It’s having subscribers that keeps us in business and keeps the stories flowing, so sign up and tell an angling buddy about us.

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Around The South:

On The Fly South Garners an Award

Associate Editor Polly Dean and Editor Jimmy Jacobs accepted the second place award for the best Outdoor Digital Platform of 2020 on behalf of On The Fly South from the Florida Outdoor Writers Association. The award was given at the group’s 2021 annual conference in August in Venice, Florida.

Problems in Georgia Hatcheries

Georgia Wildlife Resources Division

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division (WRD) is investigating Whirling Disease (WHD) and Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHNV) in hatchery-raised trout at the Buford and Summerville Trout Hatcheries. Initial testing results indicate that both hatcheries are positive for WHD and IHNV.

“While neither WHD or IHNV are harmful to humans, these diseases can cause high trout mortalities in hatchery systems and in the wild, and there are no known therapeutic treatments to eliminate these pathogens,” said WRD Chief of Fisheries Scott Robinson. “As a result, Georgia WRD has temporarily suspended its trout stocking program and is in the process of collecting additional trout samples for disease analysis, investigating the source for both pathogens, and identifying disinfectant methodologies for treating the hatcheries.”

Whirling Disease: This is the first documented occurrence of whirling disease in Georgia. First detected in the U.S. in 1958, this disease is found in more than 20 states, including the Watauga River in North Carolina in 2015. Whirling disease can cause 90 percent or greater mortality of young rainbow trout and can have serious impacts to wild and hatchery trout populations. The disease is caused by the microscopic parasite Myxobolus cerebralis, which damages cartilage and skeletal tissue in trout causing diseased fish to swim in a “whirling” motion. 

Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis Virus (IHNV): While IHNV has not previously been found in Georgia, it has been documented in salmonids in the Pacific Northwest. The disease is caused by the Salmonid Novirhabdovirus and is passed through contact with urine, mucus, and other fluids. All species of trout are susceptible. The virus can cause high trout mortalities in hatchery systems and in the wild. There are no therapeutic treatments to eliminate the pathogen. Infected fish may exhibit lethargy, whirling behavior, darkened coloration, and swelling in the head and abdomen.

If you catch a trout that you think may be affected by WHD or IHNV, here are ways to help:

  • DO take photos and video of the fish, including close ups of its spine.
  • DO note where it was caught (waterbody, landmarks, or GPS coordinates).
  • DO properly clean all equipment such as boats, trailers, waders, boots, float tubes and fins of mud before leaving an area when fishing. Thoroughly dry equipment in the sun if possible before reuse. If you are traveling directly to other waters, clean your equipment with a 10 percent solution of chlorine bleach or use another set of equipment.
  • DON’T transport live fish between bodies of water or release or dispose of them anywhere other than the location they were caught
  • E-mail If you observe the symptoms of WHD or INHV in fish. Notify the Georgia DNR Wildlife Resources Division at trout@dnr.ga.gov.

RIO’s Pip Squeak

By RIO Fly Designer Patrick Kilby

Photo by Arian Stevens.

Mice were put on this planet to be food for all kinds of predators, from foxes to hawks to cats, and even to trout. Yup, plenty of trout eat mice, and many fly fishers take advantage of this with mouse-like patterns fished on a floating line for high-octane grabs from large fish.

 We tend to hear about “mousing” for trout mostly for nighttime brown trout on warm summer nights, or for Leopard Rainbows in Alaska and Russia drainages. There is no doubt that these are two areas you can have an amazing time fishing a mouse pattern, but let’s back up a second and explain what mousing is.

Mousing is done with a mouse fly that floats. The fly is cast, typically with a 6- or 7-weight rod, then fished in long slow strips, or by wiggling the rod tip and collecting your slack line to keep the fly moving as if a real mouse was swimming. Or if in current, casting the fly across and let it swing on a tight line through likely areas.

When fishing a mouse pattern, it’s important not to set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish otherwise, you’re more likely to pull it away from them. This is not an easy thing to do as it is an exhilarating moment when you see/hear your fly being attacked, and the natural reaction is to instantly set the hook.

If you have ever watched ‘Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel, just picture your mouse as the fake seal being dragged behind the boat, and the shark is the trout. Bang! Out of nowhere comes this beast intent on devouring your fly with all the rage and power it can muster. Try keeping calm in those situations!

I don’t live near big brown trout fisheries, or in Alaska, so I tend to fish a mouse in situations that are more fitting. I prefer low light conditions like early mornings, or in the evenings, but I will also happily fish a mouse midday in full sun, or along shady grass banks or log jams. It’s more about my own curiosity. I’ve been tempted to see if I can only fish a mouse fly for an entire year. I have not done it yet, but I want to.

When I set out to design a mouse pattern, I had great models to look at first. In a previous life, I had worked with Jeff Hickman, creator of the Mr. Hankey and Ken Morrish, creator of the Morrish’s Mouse. These were the top two mice patterns out there, and both flies have been extensively fished and have piles of success stories.

Let me start with what I loved about both. First, their natural colors and the use of a rabbit strip for a tail. The tail could swim freely and did not have hooks attached to it. I also love the size of both – slightly smaller than an actual field mouse, which makes them ideal for casting, and for fitting in a trout’s mouth.

When I designed RIO’s Pip Squeak, I opted to use a stinger hook, but attached with wire (not mono) so trout teeth would not damage it. I chose rabbit fur for the body, as this looks so realistic, but used a minimum amount so it would not be hard to cast when wet.

When mice swim their head is above water, so I tied this fly with foam at the front to help keep its head up, while the stinger hook design helps keep the back end down in the water, making it swim a lot more like the real thing.

A wet mouse is usually quite dark in color all over, except for their ears and back legs, which are generally an orangish/pinkish tone, so when designing this fly, I added two orange/pink rear legs, and shaped them to kick behind the fly like a real mouse. Most mice also have white chins or necks, so I tie the rabbit strip in a way that ensures the creamy white leather of the strip is underneath the pattern, and so that when wet, it looks like a white neck/chin area. Talking of rabbit strip, I only tie the strips in at the collar as this reduces material and hold very little water, but also covers the body perfectly with fur. For the ears, I matched the skin tone and shape. The cool thing is from underneath the fly you can only see the edges of the ears, but the angler, viewing the mouse from above, can see it a long way off, even in low light conditions.

As for the name, “pip squeaks” are usually picked on or bullied but as they find their courage, they learn how to stand up for themselves.

Fly shops all over the US carry RIO’s Pip Squeak, so if you want to try something new this season, tie one on and make your own version of Shark Week.

P.S. RIO has just launched a size 6 “RIO’s Pip Squeak Baby” which is fishable on 4- and 5-weight fly rods, and opens mousing up for 10- to 18-inch trout everywhere. If you’re like me and don’t live near big brown trout, or Alaska, give the baby version a try on your local trout stream.

Try The Saltwater Challenge

TakeMeFishing.org

Many people new to recreational angling wonder about fly fishing, which is one component of the whole sportfishing pie, and assume that this activity is just associated with using insect imitations and fishing for freshwater trout. But what about saltwater fly fishing? Can you fly fish in saltwater?

Sure you can. Fishing in saltwater takes many forms and can be enjoyed in many ways. You can enjoy saltwater fly fishing in the surf, from a pier, from a boat, and by wading. Perhaps the two most popular saltwater fly fishing activities are wade-fishing shallow flats – especially for redfish and bonefish – and inshore casting from a shallow-draft skiff – especially for striped bass, snook, redfish, and seatrout. Both of these activities take place along flats and in backwaters. And both often have the element of sight fishing, which is looking for, and casting to, observable fish. This requires stealth and precise presentation.

In general, fly fishing varies from other forms of fishing not only by virtue of the principle of casting nearly weightless objects, but also with respect to the selection of flies, lures, and bait. What’s notably different about saltwater fly fishing is the equipment, some additional casting challenges, and the playing and landing of fish.

If you’re completely new to angling, it would be a stretch to start with saltwater fly fishing unless you had an excellent mentor. It would be better to first get experience catching saltwater species with spinning gear, and to learn about the habits of fish and and general methodologies for catching them.

Before jumping wholeheartedly into saltwater fly fishing, you should become a proficient caster. For most people, their ability to obtain distance while flycasting is limited, and encountering windy conditions is common. It is essential, however, that you can cast a fly a reasonable distance under most circumstances. If you’re casting is good, your efforts will be more rewarding.

Many of the commonly sought saltwater species can get fairly large and will fight pretty hard. This, combined with a frequent need to cast larger and therefore bulkier flies (usually imitating baitfish), necessitates using longer and heavier rods and bigger reels (with more line capacity) than for most freshwater fly fishing.

It will usually take longer to fight and land saltwater fish than when using other tackle, so you have to get used to that. And you’ll generally play a fish off the reel, so drag quality, setting, and use becomes more of a factor than it is with freshwater species and lighter reels. Also, you’ll have to rinse down your gear after every saltwater outing, which is usually not necessary for freshwater fishing.

To get properly outfitted with saltwater fly fishing gear, visit a tackle shop that specializes in fly tackle and has knowledgeable staff. And don’t forget your fishing license.

Laguna Madre Seatrout Regulations Extended

Texas Parks and Wildlife Departtment

Photo by Jimmy Jacobs.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) has extended the emergency spotted seatrout regulations in the Laguna Madre thru September 27. These temporary regulation changes for spotted seatrout in the bays and beachfronts of the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre bay systems include:

  • a three fish bag limit,
  • a minimum size length of 17 inches
  • a maximum size length of 23 inches and;
  • no fish over 23 inches may be retained.

“The data from our Coastal Fisheries biologists clearly shows declines in spotted seatrout populations in multiple Texas bays,” said Carter Smith, TPWD Executive Director. “While the 60-day extension of regulation changes is warranted now in the Laguna Madre, additional focus on trout fishery recovery in the San Antonio and Matagorda Bay systems is needed as well. The Department’s next step is working with the TPW Commission this fall to further evaluate the data, to solicit additional public input, and ultimately to secure Commission guidance on what management and regulatory actions may be necessary to facilitate the quickest recovery possible.”

This data is preliminary and is still being evaluated by Coastal Fisheries biologists for quality control. But the trends are significant enough to warrant an extension of the April emergency rule in the Laguna Madre which would have expired on July 29. The TPW Commission will be given an update on the freeze impacts in a briefing at the Aug. 25-26 public meeting.

For these regulations, the Laguna Madre boundary is defined as south of the John F. Kennedy Causeway near Corpus Christi (including the adjacent beachfronts from Packery Channel) to the Brownsville Ship Channel on the bay side and to the Rio Grande River on the gulf side of South Padre Island. These changes were implemented to reduce harvesting pressure, thereby leaving more mature fish in the water during the summer spawning season. Along with TPWD hatcheries efforts, biologists believe this is the best course of action to improve recruitment and accelerate population recovery due to the fish kills from Winter Storm Uri in Feb. 2021.

In mid-June, TPWD Coastal Fisheries biologists completed their routine gill net surveys and began analyzing the data for trends. Data from these sampling efforts were compared to sampling efforts from previous years in spotted seatrout populations. Spring gill net sampling when compared to other years shows a decline in spotted seatrout in the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre bay systems. Spring gill net samplings were not completed in 2020 due to COVID-19.

Gill net survey data is available to the public on the TPWD website. The graphs shown in this data illustrates the mean catch rate per hour for spotted seatrout in a given bay system (i.e. the average number of fish caught in our gill nets per hour) compared to the numerical year.

In both the Upper and Lower Laguna Madre, gill net data found that the Spring 2021 spotted seatrout catch rates were both approximately 30 percent lower than the 10-year average. The data also indicated that there were noteworthy declines in the Matagorda and San Antonio Bay systems in 2021 spotted seatrout catch rates. Those catch rates were approximately 40 percent lower than the 10-year average.

For Aransas, Galveston, and Sabine Lake the data showed catch rates that were at or near the 10-year average catch rates.  Corpus Christi, in fact, saw a 10 percent increase in catch rates for 2021. Considering the natural annual variation in populations, the freeze impact to these systems appears minimal.

Also of note were low salinity levels in multiple Texas bay systems when 2021 levels were compared to the 10-year historical average. While the extreme weather of Winter Storm Uri in Feb. 2021 played a role in the lower catch rates seen, increased rainfall in May and June likely contributed to lower catch rates due to low salinity levels as well.

Bahamas Travel Update

Cat Cay Yacht Club Management

The Office of the Prime Minister of the Bahamas has communicated updated protocols for Travel Health Visa Applications to travel to the Bahamas and within the Bahamas that went into effective as of August 6th, 2021.

They wish to emphasize the following important changes:

  • Fully vaccinated travelers as well as all children between the ages of 2 and 11 must now obtain a COVID-19 Test (Rapid Antigen and RT-PCR tests are both accepted) with a negative result within five days of travel to apply for a Travel Health Visa.

For more information visit https://www.bahamas.com/travelupdates.

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