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  • Friday, February 01, 2008

    The Groundhog Flies

    Imported From The Allegheny Mountains
    a winter diversion
    .. It's Groundhog Day in West Yellowstone and we had just enough of a break yesterday to dig out. Winter is back to normal and the snow is beginning to pile up like it did just a couple of decades ago.
    .. Surprisingly, (or not so!) the old farts in the neighborhood are "knockin'em ded" on drowned groundhog flies and maggots: under the ice at Hebgen Lake, of course.
    .. Again, (just like last year,) the town is suffering a shortage of both meal worms and maggots. Crusty critters of the all-season-fisher variety are doing well despite the lack of wiggly carnivores and snow depths of 5 or more feet.
    .. The trick, learned before maggots and meal worms were commercially available, is to put a bit of rubber band on the hook of a Groundhog Fly and fish it just like you would a maggot. This involves a very short spinning rod and a bit of weight. The ideal rod is made for ice fishing and the preferred model is a "Thrumming Rod," which has a bit of spring steel under the thumb or forefinger. The spring steel is "thrummed" (rapidly or slowly,) and sends vibrations down the line to gently impart motion and sound to the bait -- Works well.
    .. The fly is originally a Pennsylvania innovation that has become rather standard fare for the Brook Trout of Vermont. Although seldom seen in these parts, (due to the lack of groundhogs,) an identical fly is tied with the fur of our Yellow-Bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris.) It's nothing fancy, and it's fished dry, wet, and drowned - both under the ice and in flowing water.
    .. Interestingly the best illustration of this fly is in a blog about Terriers - Terrierman's Daily Dose. Excellent original references to this fly, (and others using groundhog fur,) are found at Fishingwithflies.com. The recipe is simple, straightforward, and the one given here is from that source:
    Hook: Photo shows size 14 Tiemco 100.Thread: Color and size to suite. Photo shows Danville 6/0. Abdomen: Dub the rear half or two-thirds of the hook shank with woodchuck dubbing made from underfur. Directions for making dubbing are in the article Working Wonders With Woodchuck. I used the dubbing-loop technique here. Hackle/Legs: Dry fly hackle to match the hatch. Photo shows cree-colored rooster saddle hackle over the front half to one-third of the hook shank.

    .. Fished well waxed and dry, this is a very corky fly that is well suited to our boisterous waters. Tied in the smaller sizes, (down to 18, for those with nimble fingers,) this is a genuine killer as a generic nymph or maggot imitation - sans flotation, hackle, and with short fur - of course.
    .. We lost all of ours in 30" trout between the lakes or we'd show you some. They will be illustrated on the flies page as soon as we tie some more.