I fished the Tahquamenon River mouth, below the falls and upstream above the falls.Absolutely nothing happening, not a single fish moved on any fly I tried. The water was clear with a slight orange tanic tint, visibility to maybe 8 feet.
Below the falls, a few small fish moved sluggishly on a White 5/0 Bullet Dog fished Walk the Dog style on the surface. I have been tweaking the design of my 5/0 Dive Bangers after one of them showed some walk the dog action. I tried 3 of the modified 5/0 Dive Bangers and all would walk the dog. The white one was the best, more details about it later. I was covering water with it and only getting a couple of small pike to sluggishly come to it. Then I cast it against a pair of logs in a big log jam. About the 5th zig out, a big fish crushed it, coming about 3/4 out of the water. Its color was brown with a slight orange tint to its fins. It took the fly deep and was well hooked. I landed it without much difficulty. It was about 38 inches and the big hand net took it easily. The net could handle about 5 more inches of Musky.
Poking out from the lower gill cover, you can see one strand of the long Opal Magnum Flashabou from the deeply taken flashy 5/0 White Banger Dog.
When I fished upstream near Newberry in spots the locals call the Secret Lakes (not their real name). The same small sluggish fish were moving to my big 5/0 patterns that I realized they must be small Pike. Pike normally strike with great enthusiasm, speed and violence, so the water is probably too cold for them. I only found one bay that had deep enough water that I thought was likely to hold Musky. In some of the shallow bays and lakes, I switched to a 3/0 Dive Banger which hooked and landed two Pike about 18 and 17 inches.
The last day I tried down river in a big eddy bay where I have caught musky and some pike and smallmouth in the past. By then I had worked out about 3 rhythms that would get different walk the dog actions from that White 5/0 pattern I'm now renaming the Banger Dog.
For a fly or lure to get a walk the dog action it needs good mix of linear momentum, rotational momentum and a streamlined shape will allow each turn to swing farther to the side and glide farther to each side for a wider side to side action. Large lures or flies do it better than smaller ones. Buoyant foam head topwater patterns can exploit a head shape that turns each each strip around quickly to send it back around to the opposite direction. This Chartreuse Dive Banger had a pretty good walk the dog action I could get going for about half of a retrieve. All three of the Dive Banger I tried would walk the dog with the white one being the best with several rhythms and intensities working.
Generally to get the walk the dog rhythm, the jerk must short, sudden,and forceful. Fly rods have far to soft a tip to get this with a rod jerk. I am getting this with a combination of a "Hammer Strip", a "Dip Strip" and the quick "Let Off".
- Hammer Strip Start the strip with the left hand holding the line 5 inches behind the right hand finger holding the line against the rod. Move the left hand forward throwing a few inches of slack into the line before stripping back hard. When your strip comes tight against the line lying in the water, it will already have built up more speed and hit with a sharper jolt.
- Dip Strip This is using the rod tip to feed a bit of slack into the fly line in at the beginning of the strip so the strip comes tight against the fly line after the stripping hand has more speed. Start the strip with the rod tip say 4 inches above the surface, easy if you are in a kayak. As you start the strip lower the rod tip toward the surface. The beginning of the strip is taking up the slack your falling rod tip is making so the full force of the strip hits after your stripping hand has built up more speed.
- Let Off Walk the Dog works when the jerk stops when the lure's turn is half formed. It coast through the turn and forward a bit in the new, opposite direction without any force from the line. When your strip comes tight on a heavier fly and fly line, the inertia of the fly and line in the water in effect pulls back against your stripping hand. That's when you stop your stripping hand. If your hand happens to hit your thigh or hip at that moment, its easier.
- My latest production run of Dive Bangers were cut with a sharper angle on the front face. The tailing materials were all angled downward a bit maybe helping turn the fly into the turn.
- The hook eyes are low to bottom of the foam heads and the hook eye is bent downward slightly so the tug of the next strip would rotate the foam head so the slanted front face would help turn the fly back around heading toward the opposite direction.
- The white one had a shorter foam so a longer prism tape overhang behind the head. Water held in that overhanging skirt made for more momentum.
- The white one had a stream lined tail shape and somewhat fuller hollow tie construction carrying more water inside the dressing.
- It also was cut straight down for the bottom 1/4 inch of the face then cut at an lower, less vertical angle. That 40 degree transition was slight smoothed with fine sandpaper.
- Banger Dog Pattern White, Chartreuse, maybe Black
- Hook: 5/0 VMC 7250BN or similar predator hook
- eye bent a bit down, rear half of shank bent a bit down
Head: 15/16 inch River Road Cylinder cut to 0.5 inch length. Top 75% of front face cut to diving angle of 50 degrees above horizontal.
- Poke a hole through the foam about 1/16 inch above the bottom edge.
- Prism Tape: Cut a strip wide enough to overhang the back of the head by 1/4 inch, wrap the length of tape around the head. Decorate with stick on eyes, painted gill slit as desired. Put some clear glue on the sticky inside of the overhanging prism tape skirt and let it dry.
- Thread: Flat Waxed Nylon Fluo Yellow 210 Denier(Nice UV Chartreuse color)
- Under Tail: sparse bucktail, As Long As Possible, angled slightly downward
- OverTail: Three big saddle hackles tied in ALAP flat wing style.
- Flash 1 Opal Magnum, 4 pcs center tied, folded (ALAP) to each side
- Flash 2 Regular Silver Flashabou 4 pcs folded (ALAP)
- Hollow Tie #1 generous bucktail clump but not long, partly finger stacked, tied in 3/8 inch behind head, spread around top 2/3 of shank, 8:00 to 4:00
- Hollow Tie #2 Bigger bunch, and shorter than previous tie, also top 2/3
- Ice Wing Waist: Big clump of Pearl Ice Wing center tied on top of bucktail thread wraps, spread around top 1/2 of hook shank. It should but up against the back of the foam head as the hook fits into the hole in the foam head.
- Side Flash: Center tie Opal Magnum and Regular Silver Flashabou as before but cut an inch shorter. Fold in 2 more Opal Magnum on the top 11:00 & 1:00 also cut shorter
Details: Tie the tail assembly so it fits. First finish the foam head, then make the tail assembly to fit. Leave the the right length of bare hook to fit through the hole along the bottom edge of the foam head. Mark you thread base, but also keep visually checking by holding the head up against the remaining shank available as you tie in the bucktail hollow ties. I'm leaving bare lacquered chartreuse thread covering the gap between tail tie downs and 1st hollow tie.
The last head step is to put some clear glue on the sticky inside of the overhanging prism tape skirt and let it dry. I'm using Liquid Fusion pure urethane resin but it may not be available and more.
I'm bending the hook eye and the mid shank down a little to get a more direct angle to set this big hook in a tough musky jaw. I'm also breaking off the barb. This hook shape modification seems to help these big barbless hooks set and hold. It may also help the fly's walk the dog action a bit.
The 1st Hollow Tie is put in about 3/8 inch back from where the back of the head will fall. The final Hollow Tie is about 1/8 inch back. The bucktail butts are cut short and wrapped down. If some bulk builds up, the foam is flexible and some tapered bulk can be forced into the hole. I use a separate larger thread to build up a thick thread base around the vacant forward hook shank, 1/16 inch or more in diameter.