Capt. Doc Lee has been tying flies for 52 years, in fresh and saltwater, but he’s never been able to tie one that catches them all.
“Over the years, I’ve created a lot of flies that I really thought, ‘This is it. This will catch anything in freshwater of any size,’” Lee said. “To later find out that’s not true.”
So over the years, he tried to improve each fly just a bit, whether it was tying on a different type of tail or feather.
Maybe Lee will never tie that perfect fly. That’s asking a lot out of possibly the most unpredictable sport out there.
But he’s found one that’s darn close.
It’s a grass shrimp imitation, in yellow and white, that has a pair of rubber legs that seem to have just the right action to get the attention of any panfish as well as big bass.
On Monday at Lake Evers, Capt. Doc Lee and I popped a couple bass at first light on white popping corks around the island just off the boat ramp. Then, we mostly fly-fished with sinking fly lies and the grass shrimp flies with No. 12 hooks.
The best action came just before heavy rains, as winds were pushing weeds from the mouth of the river through the lake. We set up in Lee’s 13-foot Boston Whaler on a side of the island we thought the fish would be holding — around the weed lines and on the wayward side of the island, where fish cruising with the food sources such as shad and grass shrimp might stop and stage up.
Fishing about eight feet deep with the flies under indicator corks, we caught at least couple dozen panfish in less than an hour. We had one double-header. The wind picked up, and so did the rain. Soon, I was looking through rain-drenched eyes at my indicator corks that twitched on the popping lake. The rain and wind became severe, so we took a break from the fishing.
Thanks to Lee’s flies, we had already kept 33 fish. The fly with rayon craft threads that waves in the water just like a woolly bugger does not just catch panfish. It will entice big bass as well.
“You go out west, or up north and they catch big trout with little teeny hooks,” Lee said. “It’s not far-fetched for me to tell a bass fishermen to go small. They’d be amazed at the fish they catch. A bass, all it’s got to do is see it. All it has to do is open its mouth and suck it in.”
It helps that Lee’s flies are designed so that the hook rides upward and will snag a fish in the toughest part of its mouth.
“I don’t think with 52 years I’ll ever come up with a fly that catches things all the time,” Lee said. But in the right conditions, he’s found one that could fool any fish in the water.
Nick Walter, outdoors writer, can be reached at 745-7013.