As we head out to a river or lake in search of smallmouth, we all have high
hopes of explosive topwater eats. That, unfortunately, doesn’t always happen.
Enter neutrally buoyant, suspending minnow patterns. In the world of Midwest
smallmouth fishing, your suspending minnow pattern—basically a baitfish
imitation tied with little to no weight—is a staple. Most legitimate
smallmouth guides in the Midwest their own version of a suspending minnow
pattern that fits their needs. I’d say most are influenced by the famed
Murdich Minnow that Tightlines Fly Fishing Company popularized as a smallmouth
pattern in the early 2000’s.
These patterns, if designed correctly, are easy to cast and slow sinking
(appearing suspended) so that the angler can fish the middle column of the
water. This allows the fly to float above the bottom structure where
smallmouth like to hide. It’s hard for smallmouth to resist the effect you get
with this fly.
I prefer to fish my fly, the Wisco Cisco, on a Scientific Angler Bass Bug
floating line. My instruction to clients is to retrieve the fly at a pace
where they can visually see the fly—in other words, not so slowly that it
sinks out of sight. A strip-strip-pause retrieve tends to work best. When the
fly vanishes, that means it’s in the fish’s mouth—time to set the hook! Fished
correctly, 90 percent of your eats with this fly will be visual. This, to me,
is the great thing about this pattern. It may not be better than a topwater,
but it’s pretty darn close.
The Wisco Cisco is my suspending fly of choice for the lower reaches of the
Wisconsin River where I guide for smallmouth. Pike love this pattern as well.
It has become a favorite of many anglers and has been tested in many places
around North America. When tying this pattern, it is key to use a hook with
some heft to it. The hook weight is crucial to the functionality of the fly.
If the hook is too light, the fly will float and not suspend.
This fly can be sized up or down as long as the proportions stay the same. The
colors can be also customized.
|Hook: KONA USS Size 1
|Tail: White Bucktail
|Tail: White Saddle Hackle
|Tail: Silver Flashabou
|Body: UV Silver Polar Chenille
|Overwing: Gray Bucktail
|Gills: Red Laser Dub
|Head (top): Gray Ice Dub
|Head (bottom): White Laser Dub
|Eyes: 3D Adhesive Holographic Eyes
1. Load the hook into the vise and attach the thread, stopping before
the bend of the hook.
2. Measure a clump of bucktail about half the diameter of a pencil.
Tie it in so that is roughly two hook shanks in length and cut off the
excess. Tie this bucktail clump down securely on top of the hook shank with
tight wraps ensuring the bucktail does not spin around the hook. Add head
cement if desired.
3. Pluck out four hackle feathers; try to find matching ones. Pair
them up, adivgning their tips, and then measure them so they are a half inch
longer than your bucktail. Prep them by stripping them at the tie-in point.
Affix two feathers to each side of the hook.
4. Cut off excess hackle stems and clean up the ends. Add head cement
5. Prepare the Flashabou by separating out the desired amount and
cutting it free from the hank. Keep in mind this quantity will double when
folded back. Tie in the Flashabou so it sits between the paired hackle
feathers. (NOTE: the Flashabou should be sdivghtly longer than the hackle
feathers; it will be trimmed later.)
6. Fold the forward pointing Flashabou back towards the tail of the
fly and give a couple wraps to lock it in.
7. Tie in your Polar Chenille at the tie-in point of your tail
materials. Advance your thread 2/3of the way up the hook shank.
8. Wrap the Polar Chenille forward, brushing the fibers back with each
wrap so no fibers are trapped. Once the thread is reached, securely tie in
the Polar Chenille and cut off the excess.
9. Cut a clump of gray bucktail about half a pencil’s width in
diameter and measure it so that it extends to within one inch from the tips
of the hackle feathers. At the measured point, cut the butt ends of the
bucktail to produce a clean edge.
10. Firmly hold the bucktail in place and give securing wraps to
ensure the bucktail does not wrap around the hook.
11. Clean up ends with tight securing wraps. Add head cement if
12. Take a small pinch of red Ice Dub and secure it to the underside
of the hook shank, tying it in the middle of dubbing clump with 3
13. Fold the dubbing back and advance the thread in front of the red
14. Get a clump of gray Ice Dub about a pencil’s width in diameter.
Place the bunch on top of the hook shank secure it down so 2/3 of the
material is towards the back of the hook.
15. Fold back the front portion of the Ice Dub and advance the thread
to just in front of the material. Repeat step 13 but this time tie in the
middle of the Ice Dub bunch with only 2 overlapping wraps to secure it.
16. Grab a clump of white Laser Dub about a pencil’s width in
diameter. Place it on the underside of the hook and tie it in at the same
point that the grey Ice Dub is tied in with 3 overlapping wraps.
17. Fold all the material back and advance the thread to the front of
18. Create a thread dam here between the head materials and the eye of
19. Whip finish the fly and cut the thread. Brush the dubbing to blend
it. Trim Flashabou flush with the hackle tips.
20. Add head cement and affix eyes with gel super glue.