April’s Fly of the Month Club is brought to you by Dan Wells.
I wanted to start by saying I consider myself an “adaptive” fly tier not an “innovator”. All of the flies I have created that are “new” are all from blending together elements of existing patterns that I have learned from “innovative” fly tiers like Bob Popovics, Rich Murphy, Jack Gartside, Joe Cordiero, or Niklaus Bauer. Its quite possible someone has already come with a very similar or identical design and I am just unaware it exists.
Rich Murphy has been the most influential for me personally as his book’s section on night flies helped me decide on important characteristics to include in all of my night patterns. I have also had several conversations with Rich in person talking about fly design. Rich has looked my flies during those discussions and given very helpful feedback that was incorporated in later versions of the flies. Thanks to all of these great fly tiers for sharing their knowledge with the global fly tying community.
Mitchell’s Dancing Minnow
This fly is a general purpose night surface fly for prospecting for striped bass. It particularly shines in an estuary where silversides are present. In the dark, silversides lose their ability to school and transition from deeper channels to very shallow water to avoid predators. They will try to follow the incoming tide in the dark until they can escape in to the marsh grass from predators. The silversides will hang near the surface and jump out of water to avoid predators. A splashy surface slider is a great way to fish the night incoming when silversides are the predominant forage in shallow water areas.
Some key attributes of the fly are the angular front face that keeps the fly riding towards surface and pushing a wake even in choppy water. The jig rattle adds a sound component that helps draw fish to investigate the fly in the darkness. The mesh body has slack left in in so that when a fish strikes the body can bend and not give fish leverage that a rigid body would cause the hook to be thrown during the fight. The V tail feathers help fly track and give very interesting movement in rear third of pattern.
The other key thing is making sure hook point comes out centered so the tail feathers are in correct V position when hook is point down.
What does matter is getting the eye as close to centered as you can and making sure its perpendicular to the 45 degree face of the foam.
I use a very thin UV resin to coat the stick on eyes and remainder of exposed foam head.
Fishing Mitchell’s Dancing Minnow
- Waking Swing: Waking employs a down and across swing to present the Dancing Minnow. The fly is cast quartering across the current in the same manner as a wet fly, but rides the surface as it comes across leaving a V-shaped wake trailing behind it. The angle of the cast across the current varies with the speed of the current. Water current you will cast further downstream to decrease angle and flies swing speed. In slower water you will cast more of a cross-stream cast get fly to swing at better pace and form the wake.
- In areas with limited current a very slow two hand retrieve is the generally the best approach to begin with in the dark. Keep the strips smooth and even no more than 3-4″ each strip.
- The fly can be popped and with long pauses. Think 10-30 second pauses. Slower movement with this fly at night is key to success.
- My absolute favorite tide for fishing this is in an estuary on a full moon clear night. I want to start fishing at 1 hour before low tide and all the silversides will be concentrated in the remaining water. I listen for fish feeding and generally the bait keeps moving back into the shallower part of estuary with tide with bass on their heels. Generally the bite dies once the tide gets high enough the silversides can enter the marsh grass and avoid predators.