Fret not, this isn’t an article teaching you how to fish with conventional gear, or why you should. No no no, the exact opposite in fact. This mini article is about the natural truth that at times, especially when warm-water fishing, conventional gear out-fishes fly fishing gear. But you can combat that by adjusting your tactics and what you’re fishing with.
So let’s all start by admitting that conventional gear can and does out-fish fly fishing gear a lot. Some people seem to have a problem with agreeing to that. Why is that though? Who cares what method catches the most fish? It’s not like we’re getting payed per fish, at least I’m not. I’ve done a lot of fly fishing next to conventional fisherman and I’ve learned a trick or two that can help you close the gap when they’re getting it done and you’re not.
Let’s focus mostly on bass fishing because that’s traditionally when I fish with conventional fisherman the most. There are pretty much four broadly grouped techniques that bass fisherman use. The first is fishing on the bottom (worms, grubs, baby brush-hogs, etc.). Second would be some form of swimbait such as a superfluke or a spinnerbait (I’m going to group those in the same category some
people may not). Next are jerk baits and plugs. And last are of course, topwater lures (jitterbugs, torpedoes, poppers, etc.).
So let’s start with the bottom fishing. Often times this is the hardest technique to mimic because: a) it’s on the bottom which would generally require a sinking line and b) this is such a slow way to fish. I’d say to catch fish this way you have about three options.
#1) Use a deep indicator or a slip-cork type indicator and just experiment with different depths until you get it in the right zone. If you try this method I’d recommend using a big bucktail jig, clouser, or leach pattern with a lot of movement. Pump your line from time to time to give it a little action but overall you’ve got to fish it slooooooow.
#2) Fish a full sinking line with some type of grub, leach, or crawdad pattern. Retrieve the fly extremely slowly and use a strip strike hookset if you even want a chance at hooking the fish.
#3) Swallow your pride and pick up a spinning or baitcasting rod. To be completely honest when the fish are slow, hot, and just plain un-aggressive the only thing that will work is a big, boring senko worm. It is really hard, not impossible, but really hard to catch fish on a fly when the worm bite is the hottest.
Okay, now we can talk about when fly fishing, at times, can be just as good if not better than conventional fishing. If swimbaits are working then just use your best instincts and pick out a nice streamer that should work too. If spinnerbaits are hot then all you need to do is fish a high volume streamer with similar colors and a ton of flash.
Now if your buddy’s throwing plugs or jerkbaits that the fish are just smashing simply ask him: “hey what depth are those running at?” And he’ll be like: “I don’t know, uh, five to eight feet.” All you’ve got to do then is pick out a nice streamer
and a weighted line that’ll get you to that depth.
For topwater baits you should be out fishing him/her anyways. Topwater flies far outrank conventional tackle in my opinion because you’ve got so many different options Not to mention the movement of fly tying materials in the water is much better than, uhhhh, hard plastic. That being said, if you are getting out fished here’s what you do.
#1) If they’re fishing a jitter bug then you should fish a mouse or a gurgler.
#2) If they’re fishing a rapala or a zara spook then you should be fishing a slider of comparable size.
#3) If they’re fishing a frog, and you’re not, you should probably reconsider your hobbies then tie on a frog imitation of your own.
#4) And lastly if they’re fishing a popper, and you’re not, you should run yourself through the NFL concussion protocol then put on your own favorite popper and catch some fish.
The next time you're fishing with someone using spinning gear use these simple rules to help yourself catch more fish. Remember that despite the difference in tactics and gear, conventional fisherman and fly fisherman can help each other catch more fish. And don’t forget: It’s not a contest, except when it is.