Of Mice and (Fly Fisher)MEN — Wilderness North

Celebrating 30 Years of Wilderness North  –          

Of Mice and (Fly Fisher)MEN

A good fly angler should always have a few mouse patterns in his or her arsenal. Mice are often overlooked by anglers – but not by fish. Virtually every species of fresh water game fish will take a mouse that has fallen off the bank. This happens more often than you’d think – and by species of fish that would surprise you. One of my most enjoyable outings was on the Albany River at the base of Miminiska Falls where I caught several nice walleye on a mouse fly. I was actually hoping for brook trout as an angler in another party had recently caught several twenty-inch-class brook trout here on mouse patterns. I was casting my mouse fly (basically a large “ratty” clump of deer hair with a wispy tail) into the base of the rapids. When that mouse fly was pulled under by the current, it was almost instantly grabbed by an eager walleye.

Mice are often swept into fast moving water while they are feeding near the bank. Swells of water sweep them into the current and they become instant fish food. Similarly mice often fall into the water along the waters edge – particularly where an undercut bank occurs. Often large pike lay underneath these banks in swampy areas where Labrador tea shrubs hang well over the undercut bank.

I fish these locations with mouse patterns by casting right against the bank – even bouncing the fly off the branches into the water. Then I begin stripping the fly in short jerky motions. Mice are not good swimmers but make a lot of commotion on the surface. This action will get the attention of nearby fish most of the time. If you’ve fished a popper fly for bass before, this is basically the same action.

I use a heavy leader when fishing a mouse pattern like this so I can easily untangle my line from over hanging branches. A lighter leader will wrap so many times you’ll likely loose your fly; whereas the heavier leader – even as big as 30-pound – will often come unravelled with a twitch of your fly rod. If I’m angling for big pike I use a steel bite leader so I don’t donate all my mouse patterns to these toothy critters.

You can buy mouse patterns at most fly shops, but if you want to tie your own they don’t have to be pretty. Simply wrap large clumps of deer hair onto a large streamer hook as you would for a Muddler Minnow. Then clip the deer hair to the desired shape. You can add a loop of heavy monofilament as a weed guard if you like, and many patterns have some kind of leather tail attached to the hook bend. Eyes and ears are optional – and really more for the angler than the fish. But if a cuter looking mouse gives you more confidence I say go for it.

Next time you’re up fishing our northern waters – don’t forget a pocket full of mice.

Tight Lines,

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