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Fly and Bubble Tips?
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Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Fly and Bubble Tips? on 08/22/2013 12:18:08 MDT Print View

I'm in the PNW (Seattle). I'm very new to fishing. Just this summer I got myself a little collapsible trout rod and UL reel, 4lb line, a couple small torpedo bubbles, and a selection of flies. I've been out a few times, and recently caught a couple small trout in a high lake on the dry fly (Lake Ilswoot up in the Cascades). It's a beautiful little lake, with extremely clear water and tiny fish. I noticed that casting the fly and bubble spooked the fish more often than it attracted them. Once I started casting as far out as possible and slowly retrieving, I could get them to examine my bubbly and fly witout spooking, and once in a while they'd nibble at the fly, but basically I had to let the line drift to get them to bite.

My question is this: Were these just poor conditions for fly and bubble? Is it better suited to fishing when they're feeding off of the bottom and you can attract them with a wet fly? I guess I'm just wondering if spooking the fish when the bubble hits the water is a common problem, especially in shallow or very clear lakes, or if my technique is seriously lacking?

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Trout have keen eyes on 09/08/2013 12:44:14 MDT Print View

It's a little of all those things. I also try to cast beyond and drift or draw-in to my target area, due to the impact of the bobber on the surface of the lake. However, I have a tip you might find helps out well: use 24" of 2lb leader on your rig. You can set up your bobber with a swivel clip on the distal side, and then just attach flies you've snelled with the two pound. The fish won't see that finer line nearly so much and your luck should improve in clear-water lakes.

Curt Peterson
(curtpeterson) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Fly and Bubble Tips? on 09/10/2013 09:57:24 MDT Print View


I've been fishing almost exclusively fly and bubble in Washington mountain lakes and generally have great success. As much as I like the simplicity and lightness of a fly or Tenkara setup, the shoreline brush makes casting a giant pain and I usually end up catching more foliage than fish. Fly and bubble works extremely well here.

My setup is pretty dialed in. Years of tweaking it (does that ever end?) have given me a reliable experience.

I generally use a 4 lb line on the reel. I've spent years trying to find a very low memory line that comes close to disappearing. For me, that solution has been Ultragreen. The rod and reel are a whole other conversation for sure.

From there, I go bubble, then ball bearing stainless swivel, then about 6-8 feet of leader, then fly. For leader, I want the clearest, thinnest I can use without constant tangles. Usually I go with fly line tippet. Flourocarbon is great, but expensive. Typically 2 or 3 lb weight depending on diameter and feel.

When I cast, I get it really far out there. So far that it almost always turns heads if other fishermen are around. My theory is to cast well beyond the fish I am targeting then to slowly twitch it back through their path. While I'd like to think that this mitigates the "plop" scaring them off, the reality is I get a lot of hits almost the instant the bubble splashes in the water. If the bubble scares them, it's not for long! I also tend to get my shiny swivel hit a lot. I've thought about attaching a hook to it this happens so often :)

I don't think I'm a magical fisherman by any means, but I honestly can't remember the last time somebody on the same body of water had more hookups than me. Last week I was in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. First night, nobody catching anything. Honestly didn't see one fish caught by another person. Within about 30 minutes I had a 12", 13", and 14" landed and ready for dinner :)

Happy to answer any specific questions you might have.


Phil H

Locale: Northwest Iowa
success with both fly fishing and flies with bubble tip on spinning gear on 11/30/2013 19:50:07 MST Print View

Great to find this forum; my first post. Didn't know there were several others out there who would hike miles and miles to find remote fishing. I've been at it for about 15 years with a group who meet each year --sometimes with sons along--to hike into a wilderness area with all our gear to fish for a week. We hike to fish, so somewhat serious with our fishing gear, but we get older each year which motivates the search for lighter gear. We've had great success with both flies while fly fishing and attached to bubble tips for spin fishing. The latter worked great for our sons on their first few trips before they became handy with a fly rod. Typically we use dry flies at the end of ultralight monofilament spinning gear, and use the same fly we put at the end of 4X or 5X tippet on the fly line. The first few years we found spots to fly fish or spin fish from shore/wade into shallow areas along the shoreline of lakes. Very successful, but in 2002 we got a recommendation to try what has since become an indispensable part of our gear that has made every trip, every year since = Wood River Swiftrider and SummerBreeze float tubes. These are by far the lightest float tubes anywhere (a bit over 4 pounds), and they make it a blast to fish remote mountain lakes with either spin or fly gear. If you hike to fish, these can't be beat.

Kerry Wilson

Locale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
Bubble fishing on 07/15/2014 23:47:56 MDT Print View

I have fished with "fly bobbers" for 40+ years on lakes/rivers/streams and have a few observations of my own to share.

I have been very successful even when the lake surface is like glass which is the hardest time to catch anything in those clear lakes.

Use a long and light leader. 6' min. for me and 8' isn't too long. And generally a 2 lb. leader. Big end of the bobber goes towards the pole, not the fly. Use clear bobbers.

Cast out as far as you can when you are "searching" for fish and just before the bobber gets to the water, crank the reel enough to set the bail and then pull back on the pole enough so that the bobber starts to come back to you just "before" it hits the water. That causes the leader to straighten out and the fly to land behind the bobber in undisturbed water. (takes a little practice). Let it sit for a minute before starting the retrieve, but be prepared as many fish hit while you are letting it "soak".

Retrieve slooowly (lakes) and stop from time to time and "twitch" the bobber a little to cause the fly to move just a few inches. With a slow retrieve you will leave no ripples on the water. (Rivers and streams you can retrieve a litte faster, just don't drag it faster than the fish can catch it)

Fishing targeted rises, cast just past and bring the fly through the rise using same technique.

Just before lifting it out for the next cast, let it settle for a moment to make sure a trailing trout has one last chance.

I have found best luck overall with wet flies like yellow or black wooley worms and similar patterns with a taste of red at the tail or black ant patterns. Dry flies on lakes work, but its easy for them to get pulled under by the dragging and then they are no longer floating and fish seem to not like em then. Fish them even slower so they basically are sitting still.

The way I fish lakes, the retrieve may take 4 or 5 minutes/cast (longer with dry flies, but I tend to wet patterns). You can set the hook a little when they hit, then just make sure they don't get slack line.

If you expect bigger fish, set a light drag. Anything up to 12-14" should be no problem on 2# leader and larger fish are fine if you don't lock em up to hard with the drag. ( I once caught and landed an 18# salmon in the fast water of a river on 8# test line, just took almost an hour and a fair amount of patience)

I have used a fly bobber successfully with a bait hook and an impaled cricket, grasshopper and salmon fly as well, and fished pretty much the same way, esp. on moving water.

Don't forget that this same setup works for drifting flies (and bait) around on streams and rivers as well (on smaller streams/creeks you may want to shorten up the leader to around 4' or so, then its easier to "steer" the fly with the bobber). A fly bobber setup can be very effective and the spin gear provides lots of versatility that you won't get with a fly rod only.

Anyway, works for me...hope it helps ya. Good Luck all....

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Fly and Bubble Tips? on 07/16/2014 04:50:16 MDT Print View

Toby, you have some pretty good advice, already.
1) Light Leader (7x-5x)
2) Length of leader (from float) 2'-8'
3) Cast well beyond your t weight target, fish in streams often drift up and back with the current; fish in lakes often cruise slowly.
4) Use the lightest weight float you can make work. Two or three strike indicators work pretty well with a BB, B split shot.
5) Use a slow, twitched retrieve. Wait between twitches.

Yes, the bubble will scare a trout. If they are spookey, it may not work at all. I have seen fish hit the float, often enough to want to tie on a hook, too. Bows, Cutthroats are harder than brook trout. Brookies are far more curious. Bows just run.

OK. This is another methode. Use a fly tied before the float. This is often a matter of judgement how deep you want the float. Usually this is 2-6' above the float. The bubble doesn't necessarily HAVE to float. I twitch the line with dries and emergers to hold the fly in the surface film and to pull the float up. Sometimes a series of twithes will make a flie dance on the surface of the water. The float should just sink slightly. Wets do not work so well like this but can work when fish are swirling the surface. A bubble in the rise indicates an emerger or dry being taken. When twithing a caddis fly, the fish will often rise hard or jump out of the water to strike. Terrestrials are usually slower to strike, but often mean bigger fish. Do not give up on a sunken grasshopper. Especially on a stream.

For flies, I usually bring two small tubes of mini-muddlers, some general searching patterns, some ants, some midges (several colors of each, wet, dry, and emergers.) I also bring 4-5 streamers in the size 8-10 category: Micky Finn, Dace, Sculpin, and Fuzzy Wuzzy...maybe 20 flies in total. 20 is a LOT. I generally carry them in pairs.

Kerry Wilson

Locale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
Good idea on 07/16/2014 15:20:54 MDT Print View

Hey James, I really like the idea of using a fly in front of the bubble. In some areas, you may be allowed to have more than one fly in the water at once and so your idea opens up lots of ideas as to how this might be rigged.

I'm gonna play with that next time I get out and see what I can do. There certainly are times (esp. during a hatch) that a dry is the way to go and dancing one on the surface ahead of the bubble seems like a great idea. (Where have I been for 40+ years :0)

I wonder how it would work to cut off the front of the bubble and reversing it to make it concave to increase the drag might work....hummmm, kinda like a drift sock on a boat. This would help get the fly up off the water if it was rigged a couple feet in just need zoom eyeballs to be able to see the fly out there to tell what you are doing with it....

New day, new trick learned.....gotta luv it...

brian H
(B14) - M

Locale: Siskiyou Mtns
? on 07/27/2014 14:44:18 MDT Print View

to Phil from Iowa...whose PM is not active,

re - Wood River Swiftrider and SummerBreeze tubes

Those tubes sound like fun 4 sure. However I wonder what the net weight is, all told, if you include the xtra gear they necessitate?
waders, fins, neoprene sox, fleece bottoms [if heavier than normal].
Would you care to summarize these weights as well as the added volume requirements?

Another thing that would keep me from being too anxious is the simple fact that in typical high country lakes, most of the feeding happens within 15' of shore.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: on 07/28/2014 22:36:48 MDT Print View

Thanks for the great info. I put together my kit and have fished a few lakes and rivers successfully this year. I've had the most success with fly and bubble on lakes, and with tenkara on small streams. As someone who was completely new to fishing last year, the western fly fishing has been the most difficult to pickup (I have to have very little wind and plenty of backcast space to look respectable).

Having played around a bit out there, I actually have a follow-on question: My fly and bubble kit has been a really cheap eagle-claw type telescoping 4-ft rod and a really old shimano ul reel that I broke last weekend (crack in the plastic body).

1) Is there substantial added value in going with the $60 Shimano Sedona versus the $20 Shimano AXULSA? Will the more expensive rod cast further assume the same 4lb mono on both and the same rod?

2) My western rod is a Reddington Classic Trout 9ft 5wt. My now-broken spinning reel actually fits onto the rod and I successfully fished fly/bubble with the spinning reel on the fly rod for a few casts. Any reason this is bad for a fly rod? If so, I'll likely pickup a new 2-pc UL 5'6" spinning rod (either bass pro or shimano). But if it isn't likely to damage the fly rod, I might just use the new spinning reel on the fly rod for now. With the bubble on, it was actually pretty easy to do a sort of weak pendulum cast and throw the bubble pretty far. Plus my fly rod and tenkara rod fit nicely into my rod holder.


Edited by jraiderguy on 07/28/2014 22:37:52 MDT.

James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Re: on 07/29/2014 03:40:14 MDT Print View

"1) Is there substantial added value in going with the $60 Shimano Sedona versus the $20 Shimano AXULSA? Will the more expensive rod cast further assume the same 4lb mono on both and the same rod?"

That is a definite maybe. If the spool is smaller diameter on the AX-UL, then it will not cast as far. Larger spools will cast a bit further. But, like any good equipment, the difference between a 3 bearing AX0UL and a 5 bearing Sedona is mostly in comfort. Using 4 pound test line, a big fish could outrun the line you have. Simply open the bail and drop the tip of the rod if this looks like it will happen. Usually the fish will stop running. A 5 bearing reel will generally be smoother and more consistent in reeling action. Less stress on the hook, less stress on the drag, less stress on the rod and, oh yeah, less stress on the fisherman. Often machined spools are closer to true than an injected (plastic) spool. They do not wobble. Gears are a bit stronger and hold up better. I usually fish 2pound test line. If I catch something larger, I know I can beach him in most cases. My drag is usually set to just hold steady on a lure retrieval. I use a pumping action to reel in a big fish and snub the spool with a finger on a longer run. I have landed fish in excess of 10 times the line strength(21 pound salmon) on little size 16 or 14 hooks. And several hundred steelhead with their tail walking antics on light line on similar. My brother calls it "cobweb" and mini-lures. It works for hooking fish. I believe Lee Wulf landed a North Atlantic Salmon on a size 18 fly and 2 pound tippet.

2) My western rod is a Reddington Classic Trout 9ft 5wt. My now-broken spinning reel actually fits onto the rod and I successfully fished fly/bubble with the spinning reel on the fly rod for a few casts. Any reason this is bad for a fly rod? If so, I'll likely pickup a new 2-pc UL 5'6" spinning rod (either bass pro or shimano). But if it isn't likely to damage the fly rod, I might just use the new spinning reel on the fly rod for now. With the bubble on, it was actually pretty easy to do a sort of weak pendulum cast and throw the bubble pretty far. Plus my fly rod and tenkara rod fit nicely into my rod holder.

Well, again, you get a maybe. The tip may not be (often isn't) ceramic. Monofiliment can cut into the tip. It was common to carry a spare when you started breaking fish of at the rod tip 35-40 years ago. You heated the tip with a match and pulled it off. Then heated the new tip and pressed it on (with a bandana, of course.) Anyway, Fly rod tips are not really designed for mono. Replace the tip with ceramic. By shortening the mount and removing any braces, it will work pretty well for either. Also the larger eyes on a spinning rod will gradulay reduce line flutter during a cast. On a fly rod, not so much. Leave at least 24"-36" before starting to thread the guides, always skip the first one, maybe two or three, depending on how the guides are arranged, the size of your spool and weight of your line/lure. I use a 9'6" noodle rod, that is a rebuilt fly rod for steelhead fishing in winter. I use spring steel to make my own guides on various rods, but this is a custom technique. They are cheap enough to buy. often the snake guides are better in winter because of icing, they clean easier. It doesn't matter much inbetween, 95% of the flutter is picked up on the first guide while casting.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: James -- Thanks on 07/29/2014 09:22:28 MDT Print View

You've given me lots to think about. Given that the Sedona is still relatively affordable, I'm going to spring for that one, even though it is a half ounce heavier. I was constantly fighting with my old reel. Also I didn't know about tip/guide considerations on the fly rod. I'm not quite to the point of wanting to modify the fly rod, so I think I'll pickup a spinning rod.

For packability, I've been looking at 5'6" 2-piece rods. Does anyone know of any longer rods that still pack well (maybe 3-piece)? I'd like to not spend more than about $60 on it, which might be limiting. I'd been looking at these two: (in handle C)

Kerry Wilson

Locale: North of Eugene, South of Portland
Pack Rod on 07/29/2014 09:37:48 MDT Print View

For a good, inexpensive pack rod, go on Feebay and search for "wright mcgill trailmaster"
you will find more than one great deals on a take down style pack rod, many of which are designed to handle both fly fishing as well as spinning. I have used these rods for many many years and you won't find a better built rod that takes down into less than 2' pieces, and has great durability.

Jim H
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Re: Wright McGill on 07/29/2014 10:20:14 MDT Print View

Wow these are neat rods. Looks like Eagle Claw is selling a similar product still as the Trailmaster line. $75 for the 7'6" fly/spin rod on Amazon and comes in a few variations too (Eagle Claw). Torn between trying my luck on ebay versus grabbing a new one. Thanks for the lead!