I'm a "road warrior". To
earn a living I'm one of those guys who gets on an airplane almost every
week to travel to nondescript hotels, typically in cities with nice names
but fungible business parks, to have virtually identical meetings in
thoroughly bland conference rooms where fun is certainly a foreign
concept. Still, it pays the bills. After a few hundred
flights you learn to just roll with the punches. Sanity, on the
other hand, is something every true road warrior fights to protect.
Some do this by playing golf, and some devote themselves to hunting out
sports bars where they dissect new techniques in scotch drinking. I
fish. And so, in July, I found myself a guest of the
Smallmouth Alliance at an event on the shores of the Fox River just
I'd been in touch with
John Loebach of the ISA regarding an event they'd planned. They were
getting a bunch of warm water fly rod designs together for
a grand morning of casting, coffee and camaraderie. A week or two before the my
scheduled journey to the Windy City I fired an email to John: "It looks
like I'll be in Chicago on Thursday and Friday of this week. I'm going to
try to extend my stay a day and fish on Saturday, leaving late Saturday
afternoon and driving back to Cincinnati. Fire up some details on your Fox
River outing, if its still on."
Not only was the event on, but
John took some time off on Friday afternoon to get me out onto the
Kankakee for my initial introduction to this beautiful, and startlingly
enormous, blue-ribbon smallmouth river. I'm going to do everything in my
power to have more "business" opportunities in the vicinity of this
Saturday morning was the day
of the event, a cooperative outing sponsored by
One More Cast,
an awesome Chicago-Land fly shop owned by Joseph Meyer. It was as we
were setting up a dozen or so state-of-the-art warm water fly rods that
Rich McElligot approached me with a small, plastic fly box and a sly grin.
"Joe, I'd like to share
this with you," said Rich. "These are my Wonder Worms.
I've been using them for largemouth and smallmouth bass for several years.
It's a variation of Jack Gartside's Wiggle Worm."
The foundation of the fly is a
product not normally found in fly shops. It's no secret that the
most inspired and creative fly tiers spend a lot of time shopping fabric
shops and hobby stores and that's just where you'll find
Patons Bohemian yarn. Patons Bohemian is the material Gartside
uses in his
Wiggle Worm, but Rich has made the pattern his own through the
incorporation of several new wrapping techniques.
The ISA Bug is a particularly
good fly for smallmouth bass in rivers and creeks. Essentially a
Wooly Worm with rubber legs instead of a palmered hackle, the unique use
of the Patons Bohemian Chenille delivers a large, lifelike body that fish
will hold onto for a while. Rich says; "I've used
the wonder worm for two years, and that morphed into the ISA bug, named
for the Illinois Smallmouth Alliance. Now the design has become an
ultimate worm when it's tied on an extra wide-gape worm hook. I'm
still trying to perfect a wacky worm type fly. Those experiments turned
into the nice legs that you'll see on the craw fly I gave you."
Rich says he prefers an Eagle
Claw 410 jig hook with a 60 degree bend or a Mustad 3388 iron for these
Medium lead eyes or plenty of lead wire wraps send the creation to the
bottom where most feeding is done by both bass and trout. Cone head
weights are also incorporated into pattern variations. The tail is a 3½- inch
piece of chenille. To get the right action, hold end over a candle flame
or lighter and melt the tail
to a taper. Rich cautions to try not to flame the chenille, which
will ruin the material and could cause a nasty burn if you're not careful.
For the body, use an 8-inch length of chenille.
Here's Rich describing the
tying steps: "Start with lead eyes or wire to weight the fly as needed.
Unweighted flies will sink once they absorb water and become almost
neutrally buoyant. Tie on the tail section on the hook shank just as it
starts bending down and remember to keep the tapered end pointed out!
tie on the chenille for the body right on top of previous tie in. Now, holding
the tail straight
back, wrap the longer body section backward around the tail 4 or 5 times.
Pinch the end of the overlap
spot and wrap forward 4 or 5 times. This forms the taper from the tail to
the body. Now make one wrap under the hook, then secure the chenille
with the tying thread. Advance the thread to the eye and finish wrapping
the chenille forward."
You can vary the amount of
wrap-over to make a longer or shorter body taper, and you can use multiple
colors to make the head a different shade from the tail. Multiple
layers of the chenille build up bulk quickly, and sometimes that bulk
making a sonic signature in the water is the equivalent of a bass dinner
bell. This is a simple pattern that really fills a need in the warm
water angler's arsenal. Get some Patons Bohemian and experiment for
yourself. I'll bet you're rewarded with an effective selection of
And thanks for sharing this
with us, Rich!