Ain’t nothin like the almost-real thing

This Southeast Louisiana river is often overlooked by area anglers, but it can provide outstanding sac-a-lait fishing this month.

Crappie. White Perch. Sac-a-lait. Call them whatever you want, but in the Cormier household, we call them “dinner.” Nothing brings everyone to the table faster than a fresh-fried batch of these tasty critters.

For that reason, anytime I’m on the water and fishing sac-a-lait, I practice a different form of catch-and-release. I catch the sac-a-lait, then release them into my ice box.

The catching’s the tough part. Take a recent trip, for example.

Jake and I learned that the crappie were biting real good off cuts near the mouth of the Tickfaw River.

“Don’t even need a boat,” they told us. “You can catch ’em right off the bank.”

We brought a canoe for safe measure. As it turns out, the weather was turning nasty, and we couldn’t risk getting out too far. So we stayed on the bank, and gave it our best shot.

An hour passed by and nary a fish on our flies. Usually either a fluff butt, woolybugger or squirrelly picks up something with fins, just not today. The young guy on our left was using lures and also batting zero. An elderly couple on the right were catching now and then using minnows.

I don’t know exactly what Jake saw, but based on what he was about to say, I assume he saw me go over and talk to the woman, watch her dig into the bucket, and then a minute later watch me put something on the end of my leader.

“That’s cheating, Dad.”

“Whaddaya mean, cheating?”

“Tipping your fly with live bait.”

“It’s a fly, Jacob. It’s called a Gummy Minnow.”

I then tossed the fly over. As Jake examined it from every angle, the grin on his face just kept getting bigger.

“This ain’t no fly,” he said laughing. “It’s plastic … I think. Where did you get it?”

“I bought it over at Uptown Angler. Alec Griffin thinks it’ll kick butt in Louisiana.”

It took only five casts to prove Alec right. The first strike came from a small bass. Two casts later, there was the familiar tug of a sac-a-lait. A nice 1-pounder came to the bank.

With rain almost on us, I decided to release the sac-a-lait. Into the water, that is.

The Gummy Minnow is the hottest fly in America. That’s according to Cary Marcus, rep for Umpqua Feather Merchants, the top fly-maker in the world. Last year over 23,000 were sold.

That may seem small compared to sales of some lures, like Torpedoes or spinnerbaits. But realize that in fly fishing, there are thousands of different patterns on the market. We’re talking significant share numbers here.

The Gummy, as it’s nicknamed, would be even more popular were it not so controversial. Like the spoon fly — which purists abhor — you don’t tie it, you mold it.

Gummies are made of a flexible rubber called Sili Skin that has a texture much like Gummy Bear candy. You cut strips of Sili Skin, and fold them over a threaded hook, then add stick-on eyes, and trim the fly to look like a minnow.

Sounds easy to make, right? Good, because at the going rate of $6 each, and the way the fish eat these babies up, you’ll have reason to tie, uh, make, plenty.

The reason the Gummy can be called a fly is because of it’s composition. The IGFA, AFTMA and other organizations that recognize what qualifies as a fly have two strict rules: no metal and no plastic.

However, silicon is not defined as a plastic. For this reason, the Sqwirm Worm, developed by Ted Cabali of River Ridge, and made from twisted Sili-Leg strands, is considered a legit fly.

However, unlike Sili-Legs, Sili Skin has a property that really draws the ire of purists. If a piece breaks off, you can reattach it. No other fly-tying material behaves this way. Come to think of it, there’s nothing like this in lure materials either.

Sili Skin was developed by two Virginians, Blane Chocklett and Harry Steeves, about three years ago. Chocklett, an avid smallmouth angler, was tired of seeing plastic jerkbaits outcatch his flies.

He didn’t know it at the time — and likely still doesn’t — but he obeyed the Tom Nixon Principle: “When all else fails, match the commie hatch.”

Lots of questions have been raised about Gummy Minnows.

How do you fish them? Jake provided the answer. He’s been busy at the pond as of late introducing the inhabitants to this fly. He says the bass go crazy for a few short, quick strips followed by a pause (descent).

Do Gummies work in saltwater? I’ve not given them a test yet, but according to Internet boards, they’re popular with just about every inshore species.

The tough Sili Skin material is said to even handle a few bluefish bites before the fly is rendered useless.

Are Gummies really flies? Who cares. The sac-a-lait are starting to school up, and I’ve got hungry folks to feed. Time to go practice some catch-and-release-box.

About Catch Cormier 275 Articles
Glen ‘Catch’ Cormier has pursued fish on the fly for 30 years. A certified casting instructor and renowned fly tier, he and his family live in Baton Rouge.

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