Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth

Photo of the Month: Ol' Gator Mouth
Showing posts with label PB&J. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PB&J. Show all posts

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Tying and Fishing David Knapp's PB&J Streamer [VIDEO]

The Motivation Behind the PB&J Streamer

Flies usually come about as the result of either a problem that needs solved or a wild night at the tying bench. Occasionally, both reasons are responsible. When it comes to tying streamers, I've experimented a lot at the vise over the years. I went through an articulated streamer phase. More recently, I've focused on jig style streamers. However, the first killer streamer I came up with was invented quite some time ago.

Over ten years ago, I got addicted to stripers for a couple of years. My good friend Trevor got me started on them and soon we were catching enough to keep us going back. This was back in my teaching days. I would teach all day, go striper fishing at night, sometimes until midnight or after, then make the long drive back home to get up and get to work by 7:00 am. I'm mostly past the staying out late every night stage, but the memories are good ones. 

Late in that first season of striper fishing, we encountered an interesting situation. Smaller threadfin shad were swept through the turbines of the dam at one of our favorite striper spots. The big stripers would set up shop downstream and we would find them sipping shad much like a big rainbow might sip a mayfly. When I say big stripers, I mean fish in the 15-30 pound range. While we have much larger stripers around, those were huge to us. I needed a fly that was weighted and looked like those dead and dying shad. The main purpose was a fly that could be used for sight fishing when these big stripers set up just under the surface to gorge on shad. Enter the PB&J streamer.

The Design Process for the PB&J Streamer

When I got home and set out to tie a great shad streamer, I remembered that my good friend Byron Begley of Little River Outfitters preferred tying shad with EP (Enrico Puglisi) fibers. His EP shad were and still are killer. The only problem is that they were tied weightless and I wanted something with weight that could quickly get down 1-3 feet under the surface without a sinking line to target those big stripers that were sipping shad. 

At that time, I tied very few streamers without some zonker strips. The natural movement of the rabbit fur is killer in any type of streamer. Thus, I combined the best of a couple of patterns. With Byron's EP shad providing the basis for the shape of the fly, I took the wing of a Zonker or similar style fly for extra movement and added dumbbell eyes like a Clouser. Instead of tying the eyes in on top like the Clouser, I found that this fly was easier to tie with the eyes on the bottom which eliminated threading the zonker strip over the hook point. Also, for whatever reason, I found that I was getting better hookups on stripers with the hook point riding down. Add a splash of color (the jelly in PB&J) as a trigger, and the PB&J streamer was born. 

Find the recipe for the PB&J HERE.

Tying the PB&J Streamer

Learn how to tie the PB&J streamer here with this video I put together. Let me know if you have any questions about tying this fly! 




Fishing the PB&J Streamer

This fly came together fairly quickly. Once I had the design down, it was a matter of learning if the fish would like it. That part turned out to be easy. The big stripers it was designed for loved the fly! In fact, I was soon catching more and larger stripers with this streamer. When sight fishing with this fly, I would use a basic 20 lb and 12 lb leader setup. You don't want to get much lighter than 12 lb test because the stripers will really put it to work hard. The key was to locate a feeding striper, then toss this fly 3-5 feet up current from the fish and let it dead drift down. More often than not, the fish would eat. 

Over time, this fly accounted for plenty of stripers along with a lot of random bycatch. I caught sauger, walleye, drum, white bass, largemouth bass, and of course trout on this fly. As I've become more and more interested in fly fishing the shad kill on area rivers, I've focused more and more on trout over the last few years. Ultimately, while I love catching stripers and other fish, trout are my target species of choice and what I keep coming back to again and again. As it turns out, this fly is deadly during the shad kill on trout tailwaters as well. 

You can fish this fly several different ways. One way is to fish it under a large indicator dead drift. You can also tie it on a short leader on a sinking line and strip the fly back to the boat. If you are stripping a PB&J during the shad kill, I recommend focusing on swimming the fly slower, not faster. Imitating the dead and dying shad, you should remember that the natural bait in the water is generally just drifting in the current or maybe twitching a little. Either way, it isn't moving fast through the water. Another good method is to cast upstream on a sinking line and let it just sink as you drift downstream. This technique is risky as you have a good likelihood of snagging bottom. It is usually a matter of if a fish eats before it snags. However, letting it run along the bottom at nearly a dead drift is often deadly. 

When fish are mostly focused high in the water column as often happens during the shad kill, try this streamer on a floating line with a 9 or 10 foot leader ending in 1x. The floating line keeps the fly from getting too deep and under the view of feeding trout. 


Variations on the PB&J Streamer

Over the years, several variations on the original PB&J have also been successful. First and foremost, you can try straying from the original white colors. This thing works in a lot of different color schemes to match various baitfish. Another variation that I really like is to use buck tail instead of EP fibers for the bottom. This gives a much more slender fly that matches various shiners and other baitfish well. Tie the buck tail in just like you would for a Clouser. 

Perhaps the most successful small variation on the original fly is to simply alter the weight. Use smaller dumbbell eyes and maybe tie the pattern itself a bit smaller, say #4 or even #6. This makes a perfect dropper for fishing behind your favorite floating shad. 

Finally, have fun with this fly! Let me know how it works for you and also what interesting variations you come up with. 

Monday, June 06, 2016

Remote Smallmouth Creeks

One of the great things about living on Tennessee's beautiful Cumberland Plateau is the abundance of great smallmouth bass streams, some of which also harbor the elusive muskellunge. These streams are mostly in remote, hard to get to areas which adds to the quality of the fishing both from a catching perspective and also just the overall atmosphere. The glorious thing about the Cumberland Plateau smallmouth bass streams is that they are almost always empty except for the people swimming and playing in the creek in very close proximity to the access points.

Given the choice, I would avoid fishing in crowds every day. Not seeing other anglers, except for those I'm fishing with of course, can make a good day of fishing out of a slow day of catching. That is why I love fishing the Smokies in winter so much. Empty streams, fish or no fish, are my overwhelming preference.

I've already been out to check on some of my favorite smallmouth bass streams a few times this year. Some of the trips were very good while only one was what I would term slow. On these streams, slow usually means at least a few fish were still caught and this time was no exception. The pinnacle of smallmouth bass fishing, at least so far this year, was on a trip a few weeks back with my buddy Jayson.

Everything came together at the last minute, with both of us having a day off from work, and we readily agreed that smallmouth bass should be the choice of the day. Arriving at the stream, we both rigged up our preferred smallmouth bass fly rods and were soon walking down to where we wanted to start fishing. I found one really good hole and started going through my fly selection process. Changing flies often is how I like to dial in the flavor of the day. One healthy smallmouth was willing to hit my PB&J streamer, getting the skunk off, but otherwise things were slow.


About the time I landed that first fish of the trip, I noticed that Jayson had disappeared around the bend upstream. Knowing him, I assumed he had found some good water and maybe even figured out the fish. Wandering upstream, I found him tight to a fish. It turned out to be a green sunfish.


Convincing him to get out of the water was not difficult when I mentioned the big bass possible downstream. We hit the trail again and before long got in to a good section that usually has some quality fish. Jayson had figured out that fish would readily hit a popper, so I decided a big black Stealth Bomber would probably work just as well. Turns out I was right!

We both caught a decent number of fish on the surface, not once going back to streamers or nymphs. Some of the fish were quality fish as well which kept things interesting. That big 20" wild smallmouth is still eluding both of us on this particular stream although we have seen some fish that are at least that large.



We ended the day on a good note, with Jayson getting a nice smallmouth while I watched from a perch high on a rock. The fish just couldn't say no to his popper.



The smallmouth fishing will stay strong through at least September. I have several other streams that I want to explore further, but time is not on my side. With some luck, I'll be able to enjoy a handful of other days out fishing for smallmouth this summer. Until then, I have some good memories of a day on the water!

Monday, January 04, 2016

When in Yellowstone, Fish...the Yellowstone: Yellowstone Day 5

Yellowstone River above Tower Falls

How many times can you squeeze "Yellowstone" into a post title? Apparently at least three times. Never limit yourself when greatness awaits. If you can't tell, my creative side is getting close to being shot it seems. Nothing that reliving a trip to Yellowstone can't fix (or maybe worsen, I'm not sure which). Either way, looking back over the pictures from day five refreshed my memory fabulously and I'm excited all over again for what transpired on that day of fishing the Yellowstone River.

The discussion on where to fish had began a day earlier, well after dark when we got back to camp from a long but good day in the Lamar Valley fishing Soda Butte Creek and the Lamar Rivers. My buddy Kevin only had two full days available to fish before heading on to fly fishing guide school and we had already used one. That meant the pressure was on to select a winner for the day's fishing.

Having fished the Yellowstone River on my last several trips out there, I knew what it was capable of. In fact, one of the most memorable days I've been a part of fly fishing wise in Yellowstone happened on that river. Anyway, it always has the potential to produce a quality day of fishing, and in fact, I can't say I've ever had a bad day of fishing on the Yellowstone. Since it was Kevin's first trip, he ultimately deferred to me in the decisions on where to fish so there was a bit of pressure to say the least.

For this day, I knew my stream-side breakfast tradition was in jeopardy. There are few places where you can drive to the Yellowstone in the canyon reaches we hoped to fish. Somehow, eating breakfast in a dry parking lot with a flood of tourists surging past didn't appeal, but something was tickling my memory. That great big breakfast from my first full day in the Park had been delicious, and as we were already driving right past Canyon, why not stop in for round two? Convincing Kevin was not too hard at all and we left in time to be there right as they opened. With a good breakfast behind us, we were ready to hit the water of the mighty Yellowstone River.

Hiking down from the shortest access at Tower Falls, I carried two rods. One was rigged with the hopper/dropper rig that had done so well on the Lamar Valley waters while the other was my 7 weight complete with full sinking line. In other words, I was ready to fish streamers. Tied on the end was my favorite, the PB&J.

At the bottom of the trail is a huge boulder in the edge of the Yellowstone's flow. I just had to fish there as I do most trips down into the canyon. While normally I'm smart enough to make the long and slightly dangerous hike upstream, trudging up and down slopes along trails belonging as much to the deer, elk, bison, and bears as to humans, this time we had people fishing ahead of us and had no idea how far they had hiked. Might as well enjoy the water close at hand since no one was on it.

Yellowstone cutthroat that hit a PB&J streamer

I had a solid swipe on the first cast and shortly thereafter teased the nice cutthroat back out from under the rock and onto my fly. A quick picture and I tossed the fish back to catch again another year on another trip. We moved upstream to a long deep run just upstream and started working streamers hard. Flashes, taps, and the occasional tug kept us going for longer than I normally would fish one spot. In fact, in all honesty, I believe we could have stayed in that one spot the rest of the day, but the urge to roam was strong and we kept pushing upstream.

Only once did we need to leapfrog around other anglers. The main group of competition apparently had booked on up the river to where I normally fish, leaving us the easier to access water down low. Turns out that wasn't a bad thing. We found more fat cutthroat than is fair for two anglers to catch in one day.

Yellowstone Cutthroat trout

We soon arrived upstream at a large pool that I remembered well from past trips. The one thing lacking from my recollections were any particularly great stories about fishing there. That would change on this trip. I had been working up through some pockets and told Kevin to head on up and fish that hole. When I moved up, I found him absolutely certain that a large cutthroat had taken at least a couple of swipes at his flies. A high bank loomed over the hole and provided the perfect spot for me to spot from. When I got up there, I started to get a little giddy, because sure enough, there were large cutthroat chasing his fly on most casts.

I've been fishing long enough to know many of my shortcomings as a fishermen, and one of those is that I tend to start seeing things by the end of a long day on the water, but these shadows were too well defined to be imagination. Deep bright red along the flanks suggested that at least some of the fish could have rainbow ancestry mixed in, but I've also caught enough large cutthroat to know they can be brilliant red as well so who knows.

Fly Fishing the Yellowstone River

Yes, who knows, because while some true giants that I'm convinced were in the 25 inch range showed, the best landed was in the 18-19 inch range. That said, both of us were ecstatic at the fish that were caught. I do my best to not complain about the catching. Complaints can affect your fishing mojo negatively.

What I can say is that I'm sure both of us will fish that same pool again the next time either one of us is out in Yellowstone. Best of all, we both know what fly they seemed to really appreciate. Notice I'm not telling here, but for the record, it is a fairly common streamer pattern you should find at just about any normal fly shop.

The rest of that day was anticlimactic. There were plenty more fish to be caught after this epic pool including some nice ones on the hopper setup. A few hit the hopper, while a good number hit the nymph that was trailing underneath. Eventually I set the hopper rod down and went back to streamers because the hopper rod was almost too easy. We didn't fish as late as sometimes, probably because we were both beyond satisfied.

The memories of those big fish though kept us pondering and both of us were ready to get up early and head back to the Yellowstone if it wasn't for Kevin's need to depart the next morning. I had some vague plans to sight see and enjoy the scenery the next day. Even though the sun set early at that time of year, both of us were tired enough to enjoy a good supper and a bit of conversation before turning in to our respective tents for the night.

Just before dark, the sunset lit up the meadow that was my usual early or late day fishing spot whenever I was in camp. The rich glow painted the perfect end of day picture as the moon rose to the east until, moments later, the sunset itself was worth a shot.

Junction of the Gibbon River and Solfatara Creek at Norris Campground

Sunset along Solfatara Creek at Norris


Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Golden Ribbon

Walking around a small lake on a farm just to try and discover something that will give me an edge as a fisherman is standard practice.  Thus it was not unusual when I met my friend Tyler at the lake that I asked if he wanted to head down the shoreline "at least a ways."  The sun was high, the sky clear, and the fish seemed to have headed out to deeper water.  Still, you never know when you might find a bass right up on the bank, and based on the boils and wakes we saw every once in a while, there were some decent ones.  If only they were less spooky...

By the time we had nearly circled the lake, stared down a few menacing bulls, and incidentally chased some cows off, the sun was getting low in the western sky and panfish were beginning to rise to the midge hatch that really gets cranking near sunset each day.  Here and there, the dimple of a rise form would break the surface.  I had caught two fish up to this point, one small bass and one crappie, but was hoping for that evening magic to set in.  Little did I know.

Just as the sun was sitting on top of the horizon, I noticed a swirl or two.  The gentle breeze had ended with the setting sun and the water looked like glass.  Sky and cow pasture met the water in one continuous scene as the reflections were now almost perfect.  Then I saw it, nervous water.

To a bass fisherman, there may be nothing as exciting as schooling baitfish.  The boils appeared slowly here and there, until I had probably six or seven good balls of baitfish in front of me with at least three within casting range.  Then it happened.  The nearest ball had an eruption as something attacked from below.  By the size of the splash it was a large bass.  Before long, bass were attacking each of the bait schools.  The incredible part is that these baitfish were bluegill and crappie.  Those were some big bass.  Of course, this is the same pond where I saw a bass come nail a 9 inch crappie off of a bed so there are some nice fish around.

Without knowing what else to do, I just tossed the same Clouser out that I had been using the whole afternoon.  My plan of attack was to cast either into or just beyond the bait balls and let the fly sink below it before beginning the retrieve.  In theory, any bass cruising a little deeper would notice my fly first.  And it worked.

Two quick bass in a row suggested I had picked a good technique.  I started feeling just a little selfish because my buddy was still fishing a little cove that has great potential, but I knew that the action in front of me was the best we would see that evening.  I whistled until I had his attention and waved him over.  Back to fishing, now with a clear conscience, I caught some more.

By the time he had arrived, the bait had moved off towards deeper water, probably following the hatch.  Huge midges were coming off and the bluegill were responding like it was their last meal.  For some it was.  By now the largest bass in the pond had moved in.  Some of the explosions were so big I wondered if my 5 weight would even have a chance. Promising myself to bring the 7 weight next time, I did what I could which was to keep fishing.

As darkness approached, we finally each took that last cast and headed out.  Walking through a pasture full of snakes and fresh cow pies in the dark sounds like the makings of a horror movie and we wanted enough light to make the short walk up the highway without getting hit.

That night, I lay awake going over the scenario again and again.  What else could I do to hook those big bass?  The next day I tied up a couple of different flies.  One was a Diamond Hair Minnow that I had done well on for bass recently on another lake.  The other was my PB&J but with lighter hourglass eyes.  I didn't want it sinking too deep.

By the time the next evening rolled around, I was armed and ready.  Bring on the big fish!  I got to the small lake and everything seemed ready for a repeat performance.  The only difference being that the wind didn't completely lay down this evening, but the baitfish were there chasing the midges.  Larger bluegill and crappie were cruising leaving their dimpled rises around the lake.  Occasionally, a boil would suggest some bass were out hunting, but where were the big ones?  

Like most big fish, it appeared that this was a one shot deal.  The first day was the day to catch a monster, and I had blown it.  Of course, it was early and the trip could still go either way.  I walked down the shoreline and spooked some nice bass.  One of them was big, but it wasn't out cruising, just laying up waiting to see what developed.  The slight chop made it a bit more tricky to decide where the nervous water was, but enough larger bluegill and crappie were mixed in that I could usually locate the schools by their rises.

Walking along the shore to the magic spot from the previous day, I decided if there was not a repeat performance, I could at least enjoy the evening.  Everything was exactly the same as the day before except for that chop on the surface.  Since the fishing wasn't as hot, I took time to look around.  Right in front of me was a golden ribbon thrown down by the sun, stretching out across the lake.  Absentmindedly I wondered where it might lead.


Maybe it led to fish.  Not having any other theories to work off of I started casting.  Once or twice I snagged some cow patties behind me, but other than that everything was going well.  I made sure my casts were laying out perfectly in that golden ribbon, just in case.  Then it happened.  After several casts, I felt the hit and set the hook.  A nice little bass with most of the emphasis on the little had eaten the PB&J.  Little bass are better than no bass.



Getting back to my fishing, I noticed with dismay that my golden ribbon was almost gone.  Did that mean the end of the catching?


As the sun disappeared and I prepared to navigate the cow pies in the waning light, the wind suddenly died down.  Sure enough, there was very little nervous water left.  Occasionally a bass would explode on something, but nothing was happening within casting range.  I didn't have long to ponder that, because the sky was going through the beauty of a spring sunset.  Maybe I didn't really come to catch fish after all.  Glad that I had a good camera, I paused to soak it all in.



The colors faded quickly, so I had to hustle to get out before dark.  The big bass are all still out there, and of course I still think about how to catch them.  We probably have a few more weeks at best before the pond becomes too nasty to fish as the summer heats things up and algae blooms.  I'll go back again of course.  One of these days I'll probably hook a big one, finally I might add, but if not I'll be happy with finding another golden ribbon.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fire Tiger PB&J

Think this might move some big predatory browns?  Try the PB&J in fire tiger colors and let me know if it works...