Field and Stream - - THE MIXED-BAG CHEAT SHEET - —J.C.

Did you put your top­wa­ter bugs away months ago? Get them back out. Pike pre­fer cooler wa­ter, and the fall months have them mov­ing from deep sum­mer sanc­tu­ar­ies back to the shal­lows to feed. With win­ter near, they’re all about a big, easy meal, and a loud top­wa­ter fly will get de­stroyed. The trick is know­ing when and how to present these pat­terns.

The Warm-up: Wait for the warm­est part of the day, of­ten be­tween 2 and 4 P.M., be­fore you tie on a top­wa­ter. All it takes is an uptick in wa­ter tem­per­a­ture of a de­gree or two to get for­age mov­ing in the shal­lows. Fo­cus on log­jams and rock­piles with weeds close by, as the hard struc­ture ab­sorbs heat and makes the sur­round­ing area warm even faster.

The Slow Grind: Keep your dis­tance from a likely hotspot and make a 30- or 40-foot cast. The more you can draw out a re­trieve, the more likely you are to get smoked. Let your fly sit still for 30 sec­onds af­ter it splats down. Some­times just the noise of a top­wa­ter hit­ting the sur­face will draw a strike. If it doesn’t, work the fly back slowly. Pop it once or twice and let it sit. Try one ag­gres­sive pop fol­lowed by a sub­tler gur­gle. You can even try slowly but steadily strip­ping the line back just fast enough to make the fly wake. And al­ways work the fly al­most all the way back to the rod tip.

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