Poppers, the Pause and the Shotgun Strike

Poppers, the Pause and the Shotgun Strike

Paul Arden | Monday, 11 November 2019

I’ve been experimenting a lot recently with both popper design and setting the hook. When Flavio was here I managed to miss six Snakehead in one week. Or maybe it was five with one straightening the hook? Anyway, looking back over the past years there has been a large number of Snakehead missed at the strike.

Recently I tried experimenting with fly design and tying tandem hooked Poppers. This worked to a degree but also caused one fish to bleed, made retrieving the fly from the fish’s mouth more difficult and I still missed fish. So not the answer I was after. In fact there is an additional problem with the fly landing harder and the increased weight making change of direction during the casts next to impossible.

I know not to strike with poppers; trout sets and strip strikes simply pull the fly out of Snakehead mouths. So my normal recourse is to continue with the retrieve until the fish hooks tight. The problem is when the fish turns immediately with the fly. Here the result is not what the fish expects; when it eats a fish or a frog the grabbed natural is not suddenly yanked from its mouth!

I rememberFlavio’s amazing take some two years ago. Here the fish took the fly whilst leaping out the water, there is slack, the fish turns and the hook is set when the fish is returning to where it came from.

So I’m trying to change what I do to not strike at the eat point; rather, as soon as the fish eats, I let it eat and cease the retrieve. Then, after some three seconds, I set with a “shotgun” strike. “What the hell is a ‘shotgun strike’, Paul?” It’s like the ‘Shotgun Lift’ in Spey Casting, but it’s performed as a strike!

I’ve immediately had success with this approach. I’ve switched from tandem 2/0s (FFS) back to single 1s and it’s working. I know it’s going to take a lot of training on my part. For example I will have to train myself to release line during the strip when a fish eats at this point.

These adjustments take time and then of course it takes more time to assess whether or not it’s a more successful technique. I’ll let you know more in a couple of months from now!!!

It’s worth the effort for sure because I’m looking potentially at a 1/3rd increase in fish hooked. And some days all of them. It makes a hell of a lot of sense logically. And furthermore it might change my results with the large Jungle Perch that I’ve been missing on Poppers too.

It will also be interesting because the rise and the cast both happen in slow motion for me nowadays. If I put this sort of attention into the eat and set then I expect that this will happen in slow motion too.

I’ve started to really appreciate the amazing colouration of Giant Snakehead. Some of these fish are stunningly beautiful. Nature always amazes me. Why a predatory fish have such beautiful colours, colours that change according to how the sun reflects on them, I have absolutely no idea. Greens, purples, gold? That’s certainly not some strange camouflage technique, or if it is then I want some of it!

They can turn black during spawning, or at least while waiting for their babies to hatch. There must be some amazing natural science at play here, because they quickly regain colours after their young have hatched. Free-risers have different colours again. In fact they are the best looking from my perspective.

I will spend the next five years of my life fishing for this species full-time. That will be my 3000 days plus a little extra. I very much imagine that after 10 or 20 years of sailing around the world that I will come back to them. Or maybe we will do a different jungle. I do know that this could be the very best fly fishing that Earth has to offer.

I’ve been very lucky. By the time I’ll have left for my next destination I’ll have fly fished more than 10,000 days in my life. If the next 10,000 are anything like the first 10,000 then I’ll be more than happy with life. If you are also a big numbers of days fly fisherman then I can thoroughly recommend spending 3000 here. It’s been the most remarkable fly fishing I’ve experienced so far - and possibly ever will.

I’m back for a day to edit Zhongxiang’s SLTV episode, restock and get back on the lake for a few days. This weekend I take my Bronze Medallion life saving certificate. The fishing is excellent right now; the best of the year!


PS lots of good stuff on the Board! https://www.sexyloops.co.uk/theboard/