July 25, 2021 – I receive many emails and texts asking what fly Im using in the Forebay and in the Lake. The truth is that I dont really have more than 6 flies in any style that are identical. One of the aspects of fishing the forebay and lake as my “home” waters is that its a fly tyers dream. The Stripers at San Luis have a gourmet palate like perhaps no other stripers anywhere else. Aside from the Delta Smelt and Threadfin Shad that most people target with there flies, the stripers here feed on Damsal Flies, Midges, Scuds, Grass Shrimp, Crayfish, Gobi’s, Bluegill, Small Crappie, snails, cut anchovies, cut sardines, bloodworms, nightcrawlers and American Shad as well as weeds and algae -they are opportunistic feeders. One insight into their food supply is the fact that I do eat some of the stripers I catch out of the impoundments. Since 1973, I have never let a striper die without an autopsy of diet and I am convinced that most of the stripers in the Forebay and Lake spend their entire life in the water system. I draw that conclusion by the quantity of really small stripers that I catch and meter on the Panoptix. Much of what flies I use and when has to do with fishing reports from my friends, and the time of year. In the winter, the water is cold and the fish dont rush bait like they do when the water is warm which means they eat slower moving bait that’s easier to catch. In the summer months, stripers will chase and hit a fly multiple times looking for anything flashy to attack. When Stripers spawn, they will hit flies of any size and color just to attack it. To say that there are flies that work equally well all year round at the Forebay and Lake is a trap. Plus, commercially fly tying custom patterns for the lake and forebay at the Millpond starting in the mid 70s, for many of the best fly fishermen on the lake, I’ve seen many, many effective patterns on the lake.
Recently I cleaned out my fly boxes and surplus fly collections. I have thousands of dozens of unique San Luis Flies that I have kept just in case over a span of 50 years. Many were tied for expert San Luis Fly Fishermen that have long since passed away. Probably the most expert of them all was Len Bearden. As a young teenager, I would tie him a dozen yellow over white bucktail Clousers and he would reject all but a few of them. At the time, they all looked the same to me, but over the years fishing the lake, I understand more why he chose the ones he chose. Not all flies that are tied to pattern are identical enough to move through the water and drop exactly the same. Most of the time, you wont notice any differences in flies -large (6 inches),small (3 inches); pink, yellow ,red, gray purple, black, brown, olive tan or combinations ; long flash, short flash; weighted, unweighted ; bucktail, Arctic Fox, polar bear, craft fur or flash and slinky; or Puse Disc, no pulse disk, long leader vs short leader, T14 vs T11, rear weighted darting, straight unweighted with no pulse disc; Yada, not Yada.
Here is the flavor of the month for me. It’s not the MFSV Clouser which is a Yellow Red Yellow flashtail clouser made famous by Stephen Van Den Brand Horninge. The SV Clouser is a fly I love to hate. It didn’t fit into any of the theory I had developed. It was too bushy, the flashtail wasn’t long enough and cut straight across with even ends, it was too long for the hook (out of proportion), it was overdressed, under weighted, the eye was too close to the front of the hook, and it was not really a clouser in my opinion. Steph and then Brian kept having killer days out there with the one or two they had from some unknown amature tier. When he finally got down to the last one he had, he gave it to me to duplicate. It looked like it had been repaired with Dental Floss. It was a primitive fly that reminded me of a fly the Natives of the Brazilian Amazon tied out of leaves, bark and vines . I could tie one in 30 seconds. I tied him a dozen and didn’t keep even one for future reference because it was so ugly, too simple and I was pretty confidant it was a fluke that it had worked. Plus Steph also gifted me a couple pounds of Pig Sausage that he had shot and processed ( thanks!). But as Dan Blanton sais, “it’s the confidence you have in a fly that makes it work “.
One day, Steph and I ended up at the trash racks alone fishing a huge school of nice stripers. I was doing ok, and I thought I was out fishing Steph 2 to 1 fishing right next to him when suddenly the tide turned. For about an hour I watched Steph catch 4 to my 1 on the same school of fish. I didn’t think it could be the fly so I matched up my fly line wgt, sink rate and leader length to his and still I was getting outfished. After the second hour of humiliation. I begged him for one of the flies I had tied him since I didn’t keep one. He of course gave me back one of the flies I tied for him, I tied it on and in three casts I had fish again. It was dramatic but I I still didn’t want to think it was the fly. I switched back to my fly in the same size and ended up switching back. I became a believer that day. Over the years, Steph’s SV Clouser has held its own against many of the new patterns I tied for the lake and it’s basically the goto fly that Steph and now Brian fish. I sometimes use it to search when other patterns are also slow, Brian the “new guy” is using them exclusively and doing pretty darn good for a guy who learned to fish the lake only a couple years ago. I pointed out that the color scheme is an old classic pattern known as the Mickey Fin and that we should honor that by calling it the MFSV clouser. But I think that most thought I was referring to it as that “Mother Fu&$#*! Steph fly” that I love to hate on and it’s still the very last fly I’ll tie on looking to change my luck-the defenition of stubborn.