: Topwater Poppers getting shortstrikes....why?
10-03-2005, 03:25 PM
This past weekend I cruised up to my favorite hole, a small one acre pond, filled with Bass, Bluegills, Crappie and cats and usually start early with topwater and as the morning grows change patterns unless something is working effectively then I fish it till it is trashed or until where I'm standing is overworked then I move just enough to get a fresh spot. The topwater efforts this Saturday rewarded me with only ONE small Bass but I had numerous rises and some LOUD slurps and SWOOSHES at the bug. It was nearly nerveracking at times beause I pinpointed an area just at the deep water line where fish (one or more) were just ripping the surface to pieces but not taking the fly. Some rises were dainty swirls while a few were like a brick thrown into the pond. Something below (a small pod of BIG bluegills?) really wanted to clobber it but I never hooked up. Being the fly noob that I am I only changed flies once and both tried were similar sized and colored: red and white. I think now that smaller and darker would have been the ticket, but any enlightenment would be appreciated. Later I got into the fish regularly and pulled out this nice Papermouth for a photo-op before sending him back on his way. The fly is nothing more than a grey guinea body feather with two strands of mylar tinsel and black thread.....real crude and ugly......but I got some minnow and clouser materials at lunch today and will try for some better results to target Crappie.
10-03-2005, 03:44 PM
If those fish weren't entirely committed to taking the topwater fly, a change to something that runs just under the surface (wooly bugger, bully spider, etc.) probably would have done the trick. The other thing to try is to ignore the standard strip, pause, strip, pause retrieve and just rip it back like a machine gun. If it moves faster, the fish really has to commit to taking the fly without getting a really good look at it.
Bear in mind that this loud approach is better as a technique to use after you've determined that the fish don't want the usual retrieve. Starting with this retrieve from the beginning has the potential to actually spook fish.
10-03-2005, 08:03 PM
Agree with Double Haul here. You might try a salt water style hand over hand retrieve when they get like that. It will give you a fast/less jerky retrieve. ( You'd be amazed at the nice fish I've taken with a lefties bug as it gets dragged behind a canoe at 6 knots!.) Play with your retrive untill you get them figured out (for that day!) I would also say that your initial thought to drop a size may have paided off. Sometimes a #10 bug will draw commited strikes that a #6 won't. I'd have changed size before color.
Also, as mentioned, often a half hearted or missed surface strike leaves a fish still wanting to eat. An old trick is to have another rod rigged with a subsurface fly ready to go . ( with line stripped off in a pile/bucket.)If you miss a surface strike. Just drop the rod and throw a subsurface pattern ( Black WB is my favorite) to the same spot FAST. Most times, you'll get that fish as the subsurface fly drops.
BTW, BE gratefull for any action, worked my home pond ( In Tiverton RI) HARD today on a perfect weather day. Just enough wind to cause a ripple, overcast and 48 hrs into a warm front. Fished poppers in all the usuall places. Clousers and WB's in 2-12' of all the good bolder fields and dropoffs. Not one bass and only a few panfish in 4 hours :( Fish in that pond have really turned off this week!
Just when you think you got something figured out :redface:
10-03-2005, 11:50 PM
An old trick is to have another rod rigged with a subsurface fly ready to go . ( with line stripped off in a pile/bucket.)If you miss a surface strike. Just drop the rod and throw a subsurface pattern ( Black WB is my favorite) to the same spot FAST. Most times, you'll get that fish as the subsurface fly drops.
good trick but if you want to be really lazy :wink: run a two fly set up with the popper at the lead and a similar colored wet fly tied behind the popper.
10-04-2005, 02:13 PM
During the heat of the moment the thinking brain shut down and the reacting brain took over. While the explosive shortstrikes were occurring, all I could do was lift the line and lay it right back down in or near the same spot expecting to hook up each time. Never did happen in that weedline/ drop off to deeper water area and the adrenaline rushes from the big splashes kept me doing the same thing. Guess the fish were having a big laugh on me. When I get this way I start ungluing my backcasts and usually find a piece of terra firma post haste! lol! Hard to believe I get that way just a week or so after returning from Alaska where EVERY fish was bigger than most stuff in my little pond.....sigh.....
Anyway I'll keep your tips in mind and use them when the shortstriking happens again.
Jared- sorry to hear your home pond shut down. Makes me think of the old B.C. comic strip character who always had his head in the river watching fish. Something I would probably do just to see where the fish were and what they were doing. ...maybe holding little picket signs around a sunken can....
10-04-2005, 04:21 PM
I'm betting the reason you were getting so many short strikes is because the fish hitting the fly were small sunfish that had trouble getting the fly in their mouths. Next time try a small Coachman pattern wet fly when that happens and I bet you'll start catching a lot of small sunfish. The size of the splash doesn't always indicate the size of the fish. Many times the smaller splash (or just a sip) will yield a bigger fish. Lots of people talk about using poppers for sunfish, but I don't bother. A small nymph or anything bright will pull them in all day, and your hookup ratio will be much better. I also tend to get bigger fish.
When it comes to bass, you need to put on a bigger fly. I fish huge poppers or if I'm going with streamers or drivers, they're at least 3" long, and sometimes larger. And you can bet that if a big bass is close by, sunfish won't hit the fly, so pick up your cast and move it elsewhere if you get into a lot of sunfish. You'll often see your big fly get pulled down a little when sunfish nibble at it.
10-04-2005, 04:27 PM
I am always amused with how many times each year after repeated "short takes" when I reel in to move locations the darn fish seem to take the fly very well as it is traveling across the surface under a steady speed instead of the almost impeceptible pause that occurs between strips.
I never tried the "Saltwater strip approach but hey thats a good idea and I will do that today thank you for the thought!
10-04-2005, 08:14 PM
Some of those short strikes were probably crappie too. I've seen them swipe at a fly several times without actually getting hooked. I bet the trailing wet fly method would work great for them!
10-04-2005, 08:47 PM
This is gonna sound strange, but when bluegill (or bass) hit the popper, don't set the hook. Many times bluegill will just smack at the popper or nip at the tail/legs (maybe to see if it will bite back). Bass often actually miss the bug because of the bow wake they push.
If you set the hook & the fish doesn't have the fly, you will yank the fly out of the target zone. Don't set, just continue to strip - if you feel weight then you can set. But if the fish has nipped or missed and you don't feel weight, just keep stripping. He will often come back and hit it again. He may even miss it again - if so repeat. I often have fish hit & miss numerous times before finally hooking up. But you gotta leave it in the target zone for that to happen.
Now, the main problem here is how to refrain from pulling the trigger when a blows up on your fly. Saying it is one thing - doing it another altogether. ;)
10-04-2005, 09:59 PM
Good points, Ken. I find myself needing to do that with topwater flies in saltwater, but don't really bother with doing it in freshwater.
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10-04-2005, 10:41 PM
Lots of good stuff in this thread. Have to echo the comment about using small poppers for bluegills -- they tend to nip so if the popper has any size to it, any hookup is mostly accidental. My favourite bluegill rod is quite soft so the hookset consequently, is slow and lazy. Give them time to turn with it and most often, they hook themselves. They can't suck it down with the force of a bass, but if they seriously want it, they usually don't miss.
If you're hearing a lot of "tick", "tick" on the retrieve, then the 'gills are nipping at your popper but they can't inhale it -- it's usually a sign to go much smaller. My bluegill poppers are about 1/4" across the body.
10-05-2005, 09:17 AM
Great stuff guys! Now if the next time I hit the pond early wtih topwaters, and my photogenic memory has perfect recall, there should be a substantial increase in the ratio of takes over shortstrikes. Once the light got fairly bright I put on my polarized specs and could see the target area where the shortstrikes were occurring and the lie is like this. Ten yards from shore at the shallow end of the pond opposite the dam with thick mossy weeds and thin clearwater(about a foot, clear) with a fairly abrupt dropoff to 4-6 feet of open water with thick mossy weeds making a shelf like break. Some downed tree structure was also present about 10 feet past this hotspot where the shortstrikes took place. I was casting about 40 feet away. The pond (almost an acre) is at least 25 years old with healthy Bluegill, Largemouth Bass (lots of small ones and up to 3 pounds have I seen come out and go back) , Crappie (10 -11 inch fish),and at least one 6 pound channel catfish. Spring fed, shallow to maybe 12 feet deep, no fishing pressure other than myself over the last 5 years. I don't wade it because of one VERY, VERY large old alligator Snapper with a head like two fists big and a briefcase sized shell lurking around that could bite a toe CLEAN OFF; but walk the bank or take my canoe. This just to fill you in on the particulars. Having never seen the shortstriking fish, I really could not tell the size only that some fish made very deep, full bodied, SWOOSHES at the popper indicative of a larger fish. The two poppers I tossed were about 5/16ths wide head and one inch long total feathers included so I don't think they were inordinately huge. The nipping scenario sounds best to me over small fish since I have yet to hook up any biscuit sized panfish from this pond. They're there I'm sure, just not getting caught by me very often unless I get desperate and tie on a bare hook to attach live terrestrials (hoppers) to. (gasp! heresy!)) Most bluegills I catch are at least 6 inches tip to tail and some push past 9 inches by just a bit as evidenced by the pix and my hand measures 9 inches fromthe center of my watch face to the tip of my middle finger. http://img351.imageshack.us/img351/9291/handpanfish5qd.gif
I really should get a 3 weight to enjoy these bruiser 'gills but around here always tote the 5 wt in my truck. I will try the bead nymphs and small wooly buggers behind the poppers next time. How long should the dropper line be? 6 inches? A foot? or more? Later the topwater shuts down and I go to deepwater bass patterns or some scary creation I've tied. Most of my flies come out the front yard......I have guineas (2 colors), chickens (black, white, red) a rooster for hackles, geese, and muscovy ducks. Had some turkeys too but only feathers from them now. I also get the occasional supplement of Fox tail (chicken coop raiders donate fur), Buck tail, Squirrel tails, Groundhog (great hair source-FREE), rabbit and sometimes possums donate fur. Guess you can tell I'm describing a small homestead farm with poultry, livestock, wildlife, and predators. We have everything except the water and fish. Anybody got a Snapper fly recipe?lol!
10-05-2005, 11:02 AM
I think that 18 inches is an ideal length for a dropper fly to be behind the popper. Even if they only come within a few feet of the popper, they'll see the dropper. And if they check out the popper without hitting, they may take the dropper on the way back down.
Geez, I just rhymed like Dr. Suess there. :Eyecrazy:
10-05-2005, 01:56 PM
I have been fishing topwater poppers for searun cutthroat and Pacific salmon exclusively for over 15 years now. When I'm guiding flyfishers on the beach and see that they are "missing" fish that are "shortstriking" it is usually because the flyfisher is shortstriking. The fish needs to turn down with the popper in order to get hooked. I always recommend the two-handed retrieve, either fast or slow because while you're retreiving with two hands it is virtually impossible to strike and set the hook.
Maybe it will work on bass and panfish also,
10-05-2005, 11:57 PM
FWIW, In my (limited) experience with droppers behind a popper , you need to pay attention to the stiffness of your leader & tippet and /or open up your casting loops to keep the fouling down. They can be frustrating to cast.