My friend, Theo Bakelaar, from Holland sends his salute to all U. S. fly fishers. He has been experimenting with eel skin sculpin designs for European waters. These are foam headed flies that are fished on a sinking line. In my forthcoming book, Long Flies — Streamers, Bucktails, and Other Big Fish Flies, I discuss this tactic. Here’s an excerpt:
The concept of using a sinking line with a floating long fly has been taken to refined heights (and depths) by British stillwater anglers. Using foam-headed imitations-often with paired Plastazote spheres-the specialized British patterns inherently want to head to the surface. The fly is cast on a full-sinking line (usually a type IV or V), which is allowed to sink completely to the bottom. The foam-headed fly, however, will hover above the bottom. As the line is retrieved, the fly remains elevated in the water column, but dips and rises with each pull on the line. Depending on the type of retrieve, the fly can be moved in different ways. This dip-and-rise motion can be thought of as an “anti-jig,” but with a similar quality of fish-attraction. It is a great example of coupling long-fly design with specific equipment and a specialized angling technique.
Depending on the gear used, these same foam-headed long-flies can also be fished at depths ranging from the film to the mid-waters. For example, by using an intermediate or type I sinking line, the fly can be worked along through the mid-waters, dipping and rising as it goes. This can be particularly effective when fish are stratified at a uniform depth in the water column, or when you want to fish a fly over a bottom where it is not conducive to drag a fly line. Of course, you don’t have to use one of the specific British-designed long-flies to make the tactic work on your home waters. Really just about any floating foam or foam-headed fly can be pressed into service. And you don’t have to restrict the tactic’s use to stillwaters.
One time, Jason and I were fishing a northern Wisconsin smallmouth bass river. The bottom was composed of rock slabs and boulders with mostly gravel and sand in between. It was an ideal place to employ an anti-jig. We’d been fishing most of the day with our usual line-up of smallmouth bass flies, and catching one here, and one there. Then I decided to try the anti-jigging tactic. The fly I chose was one of Lee Haskin’s Slide Ball Slider patterns that I had tied up in a bright yellow color. I knotted it to a 10-foot leader and crimped on a couple of split shot about two feet above the fly. Then, I cast down and across stream and used an anti-jigging retrieve. As soon as the fly landed, I’d pull it under with a loud “kerplunk,” and then work it back on a Jigging Swing. The shot held the fly under, and as I pumped the rod tip, the fly would dive near the bottom and then rise into mid-waters. The bass were indeed intrigued by the fly! Long flies have so much to offer to the angler who’s willing to explore some seemingly offbeat tactics.