05-13-2005, 08:49 AM
Flyfishing Ducks 101: Matching The Hatch
Flyfishing Ducks 101: Matching The HatchBy Dennis Dickson
Sometimes it just feels good to get out and fish. A few years ago my brother Rob and I ventured out onto a little lake south of Arlington that is managed for "Mixed Stock" - which I think is the Game Departments way of saying, its got a bunch of scrap fish in it, and we don’t care when or how you fish it. It was one of those warm March evenings that you will see from time to time, the rivers were muddy, and we needed to fish. Lake Cassidy is open year round.
You don’t see a lot of trout in these waters, but being as it also houses some pot-bellied bass, as well as other spinyrays, only the large survive. And I like large trout. We guessed the weather right and this warm afternoon produced a jumbo-sized chironomid match. These flies are so big they look more like caddis, and the fish just love them. Fishing for cruising trout slurping adults, in the surface is a wonderful way of beating the winter doldrums.
When we arrived on the lake, swallows were already playing touch and go, picking off the midge adults. We paddled our belly boats towards the surface rings. I positioned myself along the northern shore, just out from a submerged log. My brother was 100 yards to my right.
Swallows were flying, trout were rising, and even a hen mallard was enjoying the bugs, as they would pop to the surface. I really never gave her much thought at first as I started covering rises......that is until she decided my fly looked like the real thing. We almost started having a contest, trying to cover the next ring, for she was conditioned to know that when a fish rose, there must be bugs around. So this is how it would go; a fish would rise, I would cast, and she would swim over to catch a meal.
At first I thought it was cute, but the cuteness wears off. Then I figured I would just let her inspect the fly, realize it was an imposter and leave it alone. No, she swam over, craned her head over (I didn’t dare move the bug) and finally picked it up.
I thought "****, what now?"
I didn’t panic. She chewed on it for a moment, and finally spit it out. She went off chasing real bugs. I assumed that was the end of it, but after I redressed the fly and made a cast (well off in another direction) she made a beeline for my bug. I guess after a while, I hoped that if I took it away enough times she would loose interest, and fish somewhere else. I also noticed my brother was playing another nice rainbow, no ducks around him.
I didn’t feel like moving, as a good number of large fish were rising around me now, but I was getting more than a little irritated, dodging the duck. Ms. mallard seemed to be more determined than ever, to eat this fly!
Finally, I got so mad I said, "Fine! You want this fly? Eat the darn thing!"
She swam over ate the fly, and I set the hook.
Now I learned something about duck behavior and anatomy in one simple lesson. a) you can hook a duck and b) they will fly away. They also do not have a lot of musculature in their neck, for when I drove that little hook home, she turned and flew off about three feet off the water for the other side of the lake. Only thing is, with the little reel screaming and the four weight in full flex, there was no way she could see where she was going because the line had her head pulled over her back almost to her tail feathers. I didn't know what to do! She finally crashed to the surface. I was into my backing now. She straightened up and flew off again. I did find that if I used side pressure I could actually steer her to the water. Rob hears all the commotion, and stops to watch the comedy act. He starts laughing so hard he almost wet his waders. Said he never seen anyone fly a duck before!
I could have broke the fly, but I didn’t want to be responsible for a fly lipped duck, so I worked her in like a fish and I finally could get my hands on her. Now I don’t have to tell you Ms. Mallard was pretty upset, and I am sure she was looking for he who was causing all this pain, for when I pulled her next my float tube, the next thing I know she was in my lap, beating the snot out of me, with her wings. She drowned my favorite fishing cap, and bruised my ego, bit my cheek, before I was finally able to get a headlock on her, and rid the fly. I fairly threw her away, and she was happy to go. Why is it when you are in the mist of doing something really stupid, there is always someone present, who can do you some serious damage?
We went back to our fishing - me, hatless of course. Every once in a while Rob would look over and bust out laughing. Brothers can be bad for that.
The good news is we caught fish. As afternoon wore into evening and evening into nightfall, the fishing just got better and better. We caught trout to 17", large mouth bass, perch and even a few crappie.
By the time we were spending the last half-hour, playing "Just one more cast" Rob was just a silhouette in the distance. I heard a "Oooohhhhh!" I couldn’t see exactly was going on, but it I did notice Robs rod was in a flex, but his yellow flyline was pointed up in the star lit night. He seemed to fending sometime like he was in a medieval sword fight. He was paddling erratically in circles.
What the heck are you doing" , I yelled.
I’ve hooked bat!" He screamed.
By the time I paddled over, the bat was gone but Rob was still trying to untangle flyline he had draped all over himself. He looked like something out of Charlotte’s Web.
"What did you hook him on?" I laughed.
Relieved, somehow I knew my flying duck story was safe.
Article courtesy of Dennis Dickson at www.flyfishsteelhead.com