Saturday, August 23, 2014

Tips on Fishing a Mouse

Duncan Mouse

1.) To begin with, angle your cast downstream especially if you are fishing out of a boat. This will prevent a downstream bow in the line which will pull your fly too fast away from the area you are trying to fish. If you must cast perpendicular to the boat or your position on shore, immediately throw a mend upstream to avoid the same problem. If you don't get enough of a mend or too much of a mend and skate your fly with the mend, don't cast again. Fish it as it is. It is your best shot!

Morrish Mouse in Kamchatka

2.) To fish a mouse effectively you must "swim" your fly. To do this you should not retrieve the fly in short strips like a popper. Mice do not sputter about. They do not pop… they swim. Your fly must swim too! To accomplish this, after your fly has hit your target spot, let the fly swing. To do this, lift your rod hand up to just below shoulder level. This puts you in direct contact with your fly. With your rod in this position, wiggle your rod tip with your rod hand. This imparts a swimming action to your fly. To take up line, make long slow strips with you line hand, then pin the line with your rod hand to move your line hand back up to stripping position. If done correct, a small wiggling wake will be seen behind your fly. This takes a bit of practice, but when achieved, your fly will look just like a rodent that is swimming against the current.

Mr. Hanky on a dollie
3.) Fish aggressively and energetically. Hit seams, the pillow in front of rocks and logs, small ledges, root balls, deadfalls, micro-pockets, behind rockets and logs, but especially in eddies right off the bank. Fish aggressively, but fish smart. Read the water. Try to decipher where a trout would lie out of the swiftest current, but still able to dash out to take a meal.

4.) Be especially mindful to hit the bank. Trout are often in ambush position very close to the bank so your fly should be too. A mouse falling into the river would start swimming mere inches from the bank not two feet away… guess where you fly needs to be!

5.) Cover the water. Don't worry about hitting every part of every likely spot. Don't recast to a spot 12 inches from where you just cast. If you made a reasonable cast, try a new spot. Trout will see your fly if it is anywhere in the vicinity. I've had trout move 20 feet to take a mouse.

Mr. Hanky

6.) When a trout attacks your fly, let him eat. Because you get to see the fish approach, open his mouth and inhale your fly, it is difficult to keep your composure and not strike too soon. Be patient, let him eat it. Let the fish close his mouth and turn... that is the time to strike. A mouse is a caloric bonanza for a trout. He will not spit it out. LET HIM EAT! If you don't, you will be pulling your fly away from fish all day long.

Hood Rat…
Tying instructions here

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Chosen River: Our Last Day

A sockeye salmon… grotesque in its spawning colors

Our last day was perfect. Big dollies and rainbows were caught initially with eggs and later with flesh and mice. We also caught a few silvers and a few surprises. One was when Dean hooked a huge sockeye that was meandering among a group of silvers. 

Dean and Billie… 
try to hold on!

In the same spot, fifty BIG dollies were stacked up trying to get up into a small side stream to spawn. They were all Halloweened up and very reluctant to eat. I finally broke the code with a very small orange streamer stripped very slowly in front of the males bright beak. The reward was a dozen 26-28 inch dollies!

A big dollie in his "I need a mate" costume.

Notice the teeth that line each throat rib. No salmon fry would every escape this trap!

Dean and I caught dozens of 20+ inch rainbows in the afternoon on flesh flies and mice. I remember one bow that I missed on my first cast (shoulda made a mend, he couldn't catch up to my ever accelerating fly), my second cast (he was now 20 feet downstream from my first cast), my third cast (he was ready to eat, but I was starting my backcast and missed him yet again), and I finally hooked him somehow on my fourth cast (he was 50 feet downstream from where I initially saw him). 

When releasing this 22 inch 'bow, I took a moment to lecture him. I pointed out that he should not reward such bad fishing technique by eating a fly on its fourth presentation 50 feet downstream. I told him no mouse could cover this much water in such a short period of time. I suggested he think about what he had done and make better choices next time. I feel confident my suggestions hit home and this won't happen again. 

Billie and Dean with another 24" 'bow
...and this is what I love about Alaska!
As he slid back into the gin clear waters of the river, I was happy such cooperative fish still exist and that I was able to spend a week in their company, If you would like to do this trip, give me a call at 800-211-8530.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Chosen River: The Weather Rolls in on Days 4 and 5

Over the course of the next two days, our fair weather disappeared. At first it was just the typical Alaskan on-again off-again rains, but by Day 5, we were consistently "damp". While our weather deteriorated, the fishing remained unfazed. Whether on an egg, a flesh fly or a mouse, the dollies and 'bows were plentiful. They could have cared less about the rain… they were after all, already wet. The 'bows were especially cooperative, In fact they seemed to just get bigger and bigger the more it rained!

As the rain fell, the 'bows got bigger!
Another monster
...and another!

As an added bonus, we started seeing some silver (coho) salmon and soon targeted the seams and sloughs on the downside of braids with great results. Fresh from the salt, these salmon were chrome bright, very acrobatic and eager to take both pollywogs on the surface and bright magenta and pink streamers underneath. Plus they were delicious!
Silvers were chrome bright

Over the course of these two wet days, we continued to batter our casting arms, catch big fish and try to photograph them through rain splattered lenses. It was heaven!
Big dollie on a king salmon egg.

We caught some rainbows that were a real handful!

Pollywog on the left, streamer on the right

Beautiful grayling ate eggs and managed to get a few mouse flies in their tiny mouths!

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Hood Rat… A Simple and Very Effective Mouse Pattern

Dan Armstrong works on his Hood Rat

One of fly fishing's greatest visual thrills is to watch the blond back of a big 'bow or the silvery-gold head of porky brown lock in on what it thinks is a helpless rodent. Trout can be extremely aggressive when attacking what they see as a big payday. These big trout will sometimes swallow your fly in one impressive gulp or at other times, pull your mouse underwater by the tail in an effort to drown the rodent before consuming it. In either case, a real mouse would still be alive when swallowed and must wiggle around for some time in the trout's stomach. Imagine what that must be like! (Imagine that chicken you've been munching wriggling around for a couple minutes before it expires. But I digress…) Back to mousing.

In addition to these heart-stopping takes, covering water with a mouse is very engaging. To be successful, you must accurately cast tight to the bank, hit seams, find lies and be able to read small pockets and ledges. Once the cast is made, you must make your mouse "swim" via a practiced swing and strip retrieve. (More on this soon)

And the final reason to fish a mouse… it targets bigger fish. A mouse is no egg or size 20 Adams. A mouse represents a huge caloric bonanza and will draw the most wary fish from their lair. Mousing offer proves the old adage "big trout like a big meal".

So, if you love to mouse or want to give it a go, whether it be in Alaska, Kamchatka, Argentina, Mongolia or Montana, you need to try Dan Armstrong's mouse pattern the Hood Rat.

It works on giant dollies too!

Dan has been guiding anglers every week for a bunch of summers on one of Alaska's best salmon and trout rivers. During that time, Dan has been developing and then refining a mouse pattern that he felt was the go-to pattern . After much trial and error, the Hood Rat was perfected in what is no doubt one of the world's best "research" labs.

While many mice patterns are tedious and time consuming to tie, the HOOD RAT is incredibly simple, fast and highly effective. Dan's mouse pattern floats high, swims enticingly and is very durable. As an added bonus, the fly's keeps score. Each fish that eats it leaves a record via tooth marks in the fly's foam back. I personally caught 20 rainbow on the Hood Rat below on my last trip to Alaska. The fly was a bit scratched up, but otherwise just fine. 

This Hood Rat is bruised, beaten but still quite fishable after 20 bows. 
If you want to order some Hood Rats, let me know and I'll get you in touch with Dan. He will be available in October. Contact me at: 
or 800-211-8530
Here are the tying instructions:

HOOD RAT by Dan Armstrong
Hook: Daiichi 2220 streamer hook #2
Thread: Kevlar
Tail: Natural Bunny
Body: Natural bunny and mule deer hair
Head: Spun mule deer Hair
Back: 3 mm foam dark brown

The hook

Cut 3mm foam into this design, when happy with it, trace a bunch on a piece of foam.

Attach Kevlar thread

Attach bunny strip for a tail. Don't make the tail too long to avoid short strikes.

Attach foam backwards with the larger end facing toward the hook. Make sure you don't cut the foam with the kevlar thread.

Bring thread to front leaving room for the head.

Palmer the bunny strip to the front.

It should look like this

Attach a clump of mule deer hair.
DO NOT SPIN, just tie down.

Trim off the front (in front of your tie-down) leaving the hair facing back for the body

It should look like this

From the front, it should look like this

Pull the foam forward and tie down. Again, don't cut the foam with the thread!!

Spin a clump of mule deer hair for a head.

It should look like this...

and this.

Cut the ears by notching the foam.

It should look like this… add eyes with a permanent marker if you wish. 

I think eyes on a mouse may catch fishermen, but the fish could care less!

It should look like this.

Try tying a Hood Rat, you'll like it!!
Coming soon: