Written by: Ted Putnam, Hawk Lake Lodge
Ted Putnam owns Hawk Lake Lodge in Ontario – the 2019 Orvis International Destination of the Year – known for fantastic blackmouth fishing. We asked him to name three flies he would never leave home without when chasing the wild fish he knows so well. Not only did Ted provide that, but he also gave some valuable tips on how and when to use each element. –Evan Jones
One of my mentors once told me to always be prepared to attack the water column in three different areas – surface, subsurface and bottom – no matter what the water initially looks like or looks like. Fish will inevitably feed in one of these three zones, and you should pack flies appropriate for each of these zones when setting out on the day trip. If I were stranded on a lake, river or creek and only had to choose three flies to catch Blackmouth, I would choose a Bass Popper for the surface, a Woolly Bugger for the bottom and a Clouser Minnow for the bottom. The beauty of these patterns is that they can cover almost any depth and are effective in a wide variety of conditions. By having multiple colors of each, you can lure bass in dozens of different ways, all with just a handful of flies.
For surface fishing, a is the obvious choice bass popper. There’s no better way to catch small critters than watching the explosive punches as they shoot out of the water. Insects and other invertebrates are an important part of the perch’s diet, and this fly can mimic many of them. color is important. So make sure you have both light and dark specimens, as well as species-specific color patterns (think a frog). If you don’t get any hits within a few minutes, try changing the colors until you find out what the fish prefer at that moment.
The Woolly bastard should not be missing in any fly box as it is both simple and versatile meaning a few different variations can make it look like everything from leeches to crayfish, both important food sources for hungry bass. With no weight or with a lighter bead head, this fly fishes well in the middle of the water column. With a heavier tungsten bead or some lead wraps it can also be used for fishing in deeper waters. In addition to catching many species of fish, Woolly Buggers can be used in any type of body of water, from ponds to streams to larger rivers.
There’s no better fly than this further down the water column Clouser Minnow. Almost every species of fish feeds on minnows, and bass are no exception. The beauty of a Clouser is two-fold: First, the colors can be changed to look like just about any type of baitfish in your ecosystem, from bass to cisco fish. Determine what your bass is feeding on and adjust accordingly. Second, Clouser can be fished throughout the water column. When stressed, they scurry along the ground like prey in search of cover. Without weight, they could suck up microscopic insects on the surface. How you fish this fly is up to you and the possibilities are almost limitless.