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Fly Tying
Mark Knapp

Fishing at a snails pace.

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Nothing was at a snails pace this weekend. Many of you know that I am experimenting with snail patterns and midge patterns for ice fishing. I'm sure that these will fish as well in summer as they do through ice.

 

This is what inspired me to tie some snail patterns.

 

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Some of these were in virtually every fish I cleaned this winter, lots of them.

 

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So I tied up some of these.

 

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I also tied up some of these and fished them on an earlier trip. They did great, we caught about fifty fish on them.

 

This weekend I fished both the snails and the midges to compare the effectiveness of them and I have to tell you I've never had so much fun in my life (almost).

 

On Sunday I had a buddy fishing with me and he was using jigs with bait. I was using the midges with the snails as a dropper, no bait.

We caught about fifty fish, even numbers of char, rainbows and land locked silver salmon. I was catching fish and answering my bait chucking buddy fish for fish.

 

At times we had four fish all flopping around on the floor of the fish house at the same time. In Alaska we're allowed two poles each while ice fishing, we do the two handed jig. It was a lot of fun. I was fishing the snails on the bottom, where a snail should be, with the midges suspended above them. I caught most of my fish on the midges. I was a little disappointed in the snails.

 

I put down an underwater camera to see what was going on down there. We filmed some foraging behavior ( heads down in the weeds, tails up) as well as lots fish getting caught.

 

On Monday I went back, just myself, and it was a real eye opener. The holes were still open from the day before because it's actually warming up up here. I decided to just drop a line into a hole to let a snail soak up some water while I unloaded the truck and got the fish house ready for the day of fishing. As soon as I did, I saw a flash down in the hole so I gave it a jig. Right away I caught a fish on the snail, then another and more, one after another. I had caught four fish before I shut off the truck, all on the snails. Before I could get a camera set up I caught ten more the same way, on a snail with the midge hung above it. For the first half of the day I didn't have time to fish a second pole, I was too busy fishing the one pole to put in another.

 

I decided to just quit fishing and got things set for the day. I set up two underwater cameras, situated things in the house.

 

I watched the screen as fish after fish hit the snail. I learned a lot. This time instead of fishing the snail in the grass I fished it mid-column with the midge above it. I caught about fifty fish again and all of them but 4 or 5 were on the snails.

 

Another thing I learned is, these fish, where there's a lot of fishing pressure, bite differently when there's bait in the water than they do when only baitless flies are fished. I put bait on the second pole and watched the fish. These fish have seen a lot of bait and when there was bait in the water they quickly changed how they bit. Instead of swimming straight in to hammer a fly, they hovered by the jig for a little while, sniffed the bait or the unbaited jig, nuzzled it some and tried to take little nips off of it instead of biting the whole thing. I went back to no bait and they changed back to hammering the fly.

 

I also learned that the flies with less weight in them fished better, they had better movement. The lighter ones required a split shot to help bring them to where I wanted them in the water column but they looked more realistic (to me) and when a fish bit them they where more easily sucked into the fishes mouth. Better bites, better hook-ups.

 

I have several hours of video to edit but, I will post it when I get a chance to go through it all.

 

For now, here's some stills.

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Interesting observations. Do you guys use tip ups up there? How do you think the snail would work set on a static tip up?

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Interesting observations. Do you guys use tip ups up there? How do you think the snail would work set on a static tip up?

 

No, I'm not using tip ups.

 

They're used quite often for large predator fish up here like pike and large lakers, always with bait.

 

I'm sure some of these rainbows, char and silvers could be self-hooked but an immediate hook-set is required to hook these bony mouthed fish to catch them consistently. I have been caught off-guard way too many times and watched fish spit the fly out in a millisecond, before I could set the hook. It doesn't take them long to find out it's a fake.

 

Many of the fish that hit (when there was no bait in the water) came in like a torpedo, never stopped and took the fly on their way through the hole. Some of them might have been hooked even if I hadden't set the hook but from what I saw, percentages would have been low.

 

It's amazing to me how many strikes we get that we don't even feel, the only way I know it happened was because I saw it on the screen.

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Looks like a depth thing to me, both days most fish came on the fly in the middle of the water column.

 

Yes, I agree, they hit whatever was the most convenient (obvious or vulnerable) to them. If I had fished just the snails on the bottom I think I would have caught fish on them. Probably not as many as I did in the water column. I didn't try that though.

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Mark,

 

Is there a Recipe/SBS available for your Snails? Looks like you slayed them out there... Bravo!

 

I will do one if you like. I found lots of snails on the internet but none of them seemed right for me. Most were made with foam. It seemed silly to me to make it out of foam and then try to sink it. Some were made with hot glue. I wanted a traditional fly.

 

I tried about 20 different recipes of my own, starting about two years ago, before I settled on this one. I'll try to do an SBS tonight.

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Mark,

 

Is there a Recipe/SBS available for your Snails? Looks like you slayed them out there... Bravo!

 

I will do one if you like. I found lots of snails on the internet but none of them seemed right for me. Most were made with foam. It seemed silly to me to make it out of foam and then try to sink it. Some were made with hot glue. I wanted a traditional fly.

 

I tried about 20 different recipes of my own, starting about two years ago, before I settled on this one. I'll try to do an SBS tonight.

Wow, that's awesome... thanks! Yours look very simple to tie (I hope).

 

Quite looking forward to your SBS!

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