J.E.B. Hall is more than just The South’s Cultural Ambassador to Alaska West. He’s an actual ambassador for Feel Free Kayaks, the author of the Southern Appalachian Fly Guide, and he takes real good photos. Most importantly though, he’s one heck of a fly fishing guide, and he knows his rainbow trout, and he’s one of the funnier guys you’ll spend a day with on the water.
Today we’re starting a short series of posts on the the rigs that J.E.B. uses to chase rainbow trout at Alaska West. They’re all built around the same rod, reel and line combo, but the rigging and techniques vary an awful lot. The meat is in The Commentary.
Let’s check out how J.E.B. fishes mouse patterns!
- Sage 690-4 One – A 9 foot 6 weight
- Sage 4250 Reel
- Scientific Anglers Textured GPX WF6F
- 150 yards of 20 pound Dacron backing attached to the spool with an arbor knot.
- Fly line is attached to the backing with two 7 turn nail knots coated in Aqua-seal.
- Leader is 4-5 ft of 25 pound Maxima Ultra Green attached to the fly line with a 7 turn nail knot coated in UV Knot Sense. [Editor’s Note: yes, a 25 pound leader for trout.]
- Fly of choice is Kevin Price’s Five O’Clock Shadow attached to the leader with a no slip loop. Stock Five O’Clock Shadows need the hook loop coated in UV Knot Sense to prevent “hook wrap” during casting.
Mousing rainbows is probably the sexiest thing going at Alaska West. Brilliantly colored salmonids aggressively eating flies that imitate wayward voles can best be described as Freakin’ Awesome!!!!!!!
Getting a rainbow to eat a mouse requires two things – accurate casting and fly motion. Being able to place flies in small sketchy pieces of real estate is an essential skill for successful mouse fishing. “One and out” shots into spots no bigger than a square yard are very common, and the risk of losing flies for those who haven’t practiced this type of casting can be quite high.
Shooting any quantity of line in this situation reduces casting accuracy and typically puts flies in the bushes. I recommend anglers pull out a set length of line and keep very little in their hands or on the deck. This will prevent both over casting and crazy tangles.
When drift fishing you have to keep in mind that not every inch of river is a target. Attempting to cast to every spot may lead to missing the opportunity to place the fly on a fish’s dinner plate. A great way to float and mouse fish is to allow the guide to call out each shot as you drift along. This gives anglers maximum fishing time in the best spots with fewer snags and missed shots.
Once your mouse hits its target the key is to get it moving. Unlike mayflies, small mammals don’t tend to quietly drift along with the current. They move, and move fast. A combination of wiggling the rod and stripping line will produce a skittering, hurry-scurry action that will get some attention. If wading, make sure to place your casts down and across to allow the current to help your mouse move out from your target as you wiggle the rod.
Once a fish takes, a slight delay on the hook set will give the fish time to turn with the fly resulting in a more solid hook up. Setting the hook on sight can lead to many a missed opportunity. Hook sets should be upward sweeps of the rod combined with a pull of the line. Save your strip sets for warm places with salty water and fruity drinks.
- Fish a rod with a slightly softer tip. Super fast tournament rods or saltwater sticks are too stiff for most trout fishing. A little flex will help cushion the shock when fish jump and thrash on the surface.
- Strip fight your fish. Putting them on the wheel gives them more time to shake free and stripping line recovers more slack when fish swim toward you.
- Practice casting at home by casting to small targets with set amounts of line using only one back cast. Practice means a minimum of once a week.
- Only fish mice tied with small articulated hooks or mice tied on tubes. Fixed hooks tend to cause missed strikes and increase fish mortality.
- Make sure your mice are visible. Gluing a small piece of thin bright foam on their back with Gel Super Glue or Zap A Gap will help.