While it took a few weeks longer than we are used to, Michigan's summer sunshine and heat are now here. That means long, hot days tailor-made for paddling, swimming and casting flies to hungry fish. If you work a typical 9 to 5 schedule and find that extended fishing getaways are too difficult to plan for, you may benefit from keeping a rod, reel and gear in your trunk for the occasional opportunity that pops up.
Keep a weather eye open for small, out of the way spots near your home, school and work. These might be ponds, rivers or even that canal you cross every day during your commute. Keeping a few close locations in mind means you can be rigged up and on the water quickly. This makes a huge difference when you can only get free for an hour. Remember that the best spots are often small, discreet and have fish that are eager to bite since they don't get fished regularly.
Since your rod and reel are probably rigged up, fly selection is your next big hurdle. What goes in your fly box is an infinitely debatable subject, simply because every fly fisher has their own personal favorites when it's time to hit the water. I have my go-to flies that occupy most of the space in my vest - these are the ones I tie on when I'm looking to get bit. I'm attached to them for two big reasons, the first being that they reliably fool fish on most of the lakes and rivers that I fish. The second reason is that I tie these flies myself - the knowledge that I made something responsible for fooling a cold-blooded critter with the brain capacity of a cheeseburger is strangely rewarding.
Anyway, keeping in mind that the majority of my fishing is for bass, pike and carp - check out the attached list for my five go-to summer flies. Tight lines!
Dahlberg diver - this surface bug is made almost entirely of packed, spun and trimmed deer hair. A tail of marabou, tinsel and flashabou completes the package, but the chief attraction with this bug is the diving/floating action that it has when stripped stop and start style. When properly tied using strong thread and plenty of glue, these divers can last for years.
Killer mudbug - this little critter is tied to look buggy and ugly, with rubber legs and arctic fox fur shimmer and look alive even when it's allowed to lay still on the bottom. I've started tying these on plastic tubes as the hook is easily replaced, and my habit of fishing these along the bottom warrants frequent hook changes.
Murdich Minnow - this flashy streamer is tied with an internal rattle and plenty of bulk to push water when the fly is stripped. Those two features make plenty of vibration and noise underwater, getting the attention of most predators looking for a mouthful. Lake St. Clair fisherman and fly tyer Eli Berant swears by this streamer as a go-to fly for one of the two rods he keeps in his kayak - whether he's chasing smallmouth, pike, or musky.
Clouser minnow - one of the most ubiquitous streamers ever created, the Clouser minnow can be tied with deerhair, krystal flash, marabou or egg yarn. It sports heavy dumbbell eyes and a sparse body that sheds water quickly to ease casting. Numerous variants (Deep, Half n Half, etc) incorporate different materials and long saddle feathers to make the fly appear thinner, run deeper or fish differently. However, the Clouser gets hit frequently, making it an excellent first fly to keep rigged up.
Gurgler - this nightmare of foam, estaz, marabou, and rubber is made to chug, bloop and gurgle across the surface, drawing strikes from bass, pike and any other species that eats big ugly bugs. When tied on a tube instead of a long, heavy hook, the gurgler is almost totally weedless and can be fished directly through lily pads and other heavy weeds.