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Inside the Box: Ray Schmidt

photos by Ray Schmidt
Fly shop owner and long-time guide Ray Schmidt has spent as much time fishing Michigan's Manistee, Pine, Pere Marquette, Au Sable and the Little Manistee rivers as anyone we know. He started in the sport as a young boy tying flies at the knee of his Uncle Clarence Roberts, a famous Grayling, Michigan fly tier and conservation officer. What does his personal fly box look like? Turns out it's stuffed with flies that small fish can't eat.
Ray Schmidt Flies

Ray Schmidt's personal fly box is stuffed with large trout bugs — some cross over into smallmouth territory, but all are designed to catch large browns.

“OK… I’M A STREAMER GUY, tried and true, and I guess I have been most of my now 47 years of fly-fishing. Shortly after I caught my first Brook Trout in Northern Michigan on a Royal Coachman Trude, my buddy Ruell up the road a ways talked me into tying a ‘Rubber Band Special.’ A Rubber Band Special was a fly that fished just under the surface and brought brook trout out from the log jams. Ruell is gone now, but his influence on my sub-surface twitching and stripping has stayed with me all these years.

This winter, while in Argentina floating my favorite big fish streamer water, a very heavy hatch of caddis came down the river and 18- to 22-inch browns began rising. I was disappointed because they stopped eating my Zonkora streamer pattern. That’s sick! My guide laughed and moved on to where the caddis were not.

Many fly anglers have come into my life, I’ve been a fly-fishing guide for 30 years and in this business about forever. My grandson says I’m older than dirt on Mars… hummm.

So, my fly box. Well, it has changed a little over the years and it continues to evolve. Almost all my fishing companions are streamer anglers, guides and tiers. We feed off each other about flies, rods, fly lines and techniques. We are plowing new ground each season with new stuff and ideas.

Ray Schmidt Flies

Schmidt likes off-colored, dark olive, black and purple flies that imitate sculpins, especially in off-color water. But he'll go with lighter patterns in bright conditions. Durable deer-hair heads with some dubbing shagged in move water and offer a big profile.

Our fly shop is a reflection of our addiction to streamer fishing. Our fly bins are loaded with flies from Kelly Galloup, Jack Dennis, Larry Dahlberg, Bob Clouser and patterns I developed like Madonna, Zonkora and Rattlesnakes. We have all the classics and all the new weird stuff with names like Butt Monkey, Lap Dancer and the like. We have more streamer patterns than dry flies.

In the box, you see Madonnas on the top left, Articulated Rattlesnakes in the top center, and a couple of Galloup Woolly Sculpins in the upper right with some standard bucktail streamers below them. (We go to the bucktails when nothing else works.)

In the bottom part of the box, the two flies in the top left are Kelly’s Zoo Cougars. Beneath those, with the doll eyes, is a T & A Bunker Rainbow. There are a couple of darker Original Rattlesnakes in the upper right, then finally two big Articulated Fatheads in the lower right.

A lot of these streamers are 4 to 4.5 inches. When you are looking for Mr. Big, it eliminates all the dinks. Of course you can use flies that are size 6 or 8 and catch more fish. The bigger fly reduces the number of fish coming to the fly by 60 to 80 percent, but the ones that come are serious fish.

Here’s the rod and line set-up I like. I’m a quick action rod guy, so the new Sage Z Axis is high on my rod list, but I like others also. A powerful butt section is essential for handling big flies and the streamer lines we use, not to mention the fish we are in pursuit of.

The new streamer fly lines from Scientific Anglers and Rio are the berries. If a 6-weight is your rod choice then the 200-grain streamer line is the right one. We use short leaders: 3-4 feet max. I like to use 2 feet of 20-lb. and 2 feet of 12-lb. And I like to use a small ant swivel in between the 20 and the 12 for two reasons. One is that it makes a great step connection and two it eliminates line twist if the streamer spins. I use the non-slip mono loop knot to tie my fly on with — more motion, more better! We fish streamer flies generally with a fast retrieve, twitching the rod tip and stripping the fly line. The more action you put on the fly, more fish will be attracted to it.

Streamer fishing is not for everyone, but if casting is your game and a bigger than average fish is in your sights, this set-up will make it happen.

MidCurrent Fly Fishing
 
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  • Starcraftflys

    we like to tie these flies.do you have recepies of these patterns?

  • Brian Koz

    always great to see what you throw Ray~
    Tight Lines,
    Koz