We started our day walking into the Swiss Valley Nature Center, Peosta, IA., just as the programs hosted by the Dubuque Fly Fishers and presented by Tight Lines Fly Shop owner Tim Landwehr and shop guide Nate Sipple were set to begin. Forty to fifty guests had come to listen to the men from the De Pere, WI, fly shop give their presentations. Topics included: how and where to fish for river Smallmouth Bass; demonstrations on how to tie smallie flies; and why the Midwest, and especially Wisconsin, is a fantastic & underappreciated freshwater fishery for fly anglers.
Of course Tim gave an overview of the offerings of his fly shop, including guide services with the 7 guides on staff, free winter programs of guest fly tiers, a large selection of flies for sale & the shop’s websites. He then delved into the meat of the first topic, which was how to successfully fish for river Smallmouth Bass. While standing in the heart of Iowa trout country, Tim reminded the anglers that trout live and interact differently in their habitat than smallies do in their habitat; therefore each species should be approached differently. For example: prey in the trout environment often move slowly whereas forage for smallies often move quickly & are generally chased; trout typically face into the current, but smallies face many directions; and trout hold close to, or in direct current, but river smallies prefer to hold in little or no current.
Then, with photos displaying on the video screen of river structure, interspersed with photos of happy clients with rotund 19”+ smallies, Tim provided examples of how to fish the given structure, the forage type & how it presents itself, and followed with how & when to fish top water, intermediate and sinking flies. Tim stated that 85-90% of a smallie’s diet is crayfish yet 2 of the most successful shop patterns used are the Bart-O and Mudich Minnows. Tim said, “Opportunity trumps quantity always”. More energy and risk are involved with eating a crayfish than a baitfish. Due to the aggressive nature of smallies, Tim also reminded the anglers not to cast in the same spot twice.
Nate presented the 2nd portion of the program. He demonstrated how to tie the Murdich Minnow & another un-named baitfish imitation he’d created. Additional tips, such as how & why to use an adhesive gel vs. the liquid version when attaching eyes, and why one should gently lift a fly tied with ‘Fish Lips’ to the water’s surface prior to casting again, were provided. The shop’s top 6 fly recommendations were given, and Tim gave a demo on how to tie a Fordyce Loop when attaching a fly, especially a popper or streamer pattern, such as a Clouser, to the leader.