Noel Dawes: In Defense of the Mop Fly

Blog reader Noel Dawes has some great perspectives. So, after reading some of his comments, I asked him to write a guest post. Here it is. It is insanely insightful. I hope he writes more posts!

______________________________

 

Warning: I am about to go into some techniques that will make purists cringe. If that’s you, now’s your chance to turn away.

The Mop Fly has been growing in popularity for several years now, and was brought about largely by the competitive fly fishing world, which also has popularized tightline nymphing, jig-style flies, and so on.

I’m not going to say that the Mop Fly is some magic bullet: a fly so effective that anyone can tie it on and instantly catch fish anywhere. Instead, I’ll make the case that the mop fly is the single most versatile fly that’s out there. Yes, even more so than the Woolly Bugger, Hare’s Ear, and San Juan Worm.

I’ll talk about the variations of the Mop Fly that are going to be most effective, how to tie them, and when and where to use them. The Mop Fly is the one fly that, with a handful of variations in your box, I think can fool trout on any river, under any conditions, any time of the year-and not because it’s magic or irresistible to trout–but, because it is as versatile and can be fished in so many ways and cover so many techniques, you can almost always fool trout with it. Combine that with the fact most trout have never seen a Mop Fly, and assume have not yet learned it isn’t food, and you’ve got a fly worth adding to your arsenal.

I first started using the Mop Fly about three years ago, back before they picked up the attention they have now. They had been making a little noise in the competitive fly fishing world, so I gave them a shot. At first, I wasn’t really sure what to do with them. With a 4mm tungsten bead, those things dropped to the bottom so fast that I struggled to get a good drift.

So, I turned to the unweighted Mop Fly (essentially a Green Weenie), and found that with it’s painfully slow sink rate, it was readily gobbled up by trout in slack pools or slow stretches of water. The unweighted Mop could even float if dried thoroughly, and I had some insane days twitching that floating Mop Fly across flat pools.

Here are the variations of the Mop that I use. Keep in mind, there’s a surprising amount you can do with these pieces of mop segments. But, usually, these are flies that you can tie in about a minute. I don’t use dubbing, flash, or anything like that. Just the mop piece, hook, and bead (when applicable). As TroutLegend says, “Don’t get fancy! Trout don’t give a damn. Tie em’ fast. Tie em’ simple. Don’t add collars or other accouterments just to be fancy.”

JIG HOOK WITH EXTRA WEIGHT


 

NO WEIGHT
This essentially is a Green Weenie that takes a quarter of the time to tie.

I also tie the Mop in the first picture without a jig hook, if I just want to use it as I would a Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail. I’m usually using a size 10 hook, but will use all the way from size four to size 14. Beads are tungsten (~ 4mm) for the jig style hook, brass for a straight shank hook. But specifics don’t matter much, just make them look roughly like the pictures.

The reason why the Mop is so effective is comes down to two parts. Like I’ve said, I believe that being able to fish them in so many ways is a huge benefit. And secondly, trout just don’t know what they are, and assuming they’re food, are going to eat the Mop more often than not. If a trout sees that fly coming at it, and doesn’t know that it’s not food, it’s going to take a bite. And promptly have a hook driven into its lip.

Let me expand on the second part of that for a moment. Giving the fish something that they can’t recognize, haven’t seen recently, or is incredibly vast as far as things it imitates, is something that all trash flies do. TroutLegend, a great website that explains the tricks competitive fly fishermen use to effectively compete mentions this:

All around the world, from World Championships to dinky little regional comps, 80+% of fish caught and finishes earned are on relative versions of “junk flies” and strike detection (again, add in a few simple nymphs). That’s because trout just don’t give a damn. If you can get close enough, deliver a tasty meal, and see them take it…you’ll have a fish in your net. It’s that simple. Predatory instincts. Strike detection. Winning.

This is absolutely true. Trout see the junk flies as a large meal, not requiring much energy to eat, and they slurp them down. So really, I would argue that all trash flies (eggs, worms, squirmy worms) could catch more effectively than conventional nymphs, but (going back to the first of the two reasons), the mood versatility makes it the king of all trash flies in my opinion. Here’s how I fish them.
 

ON TOP

I’ve had plenty of days on highly-pressured waters when trout couldn’t get enough of the weightless Mop, twitched across the top. In the chartreuse color, the Mop makes a good inch worm imitation, although I don’t think this is the sole reason why it’s so effective on top. I’ve done equally well with floating mops in brown and blue, so again, I think it goes back to the fact that they haven’t seen it before. They assume it’s food, because they haven’t been fooled by it before, and don’t know to avoid it. I think it works similarly to why something like the Chernobyl Ant or Royal Coachman works.

There’s not a lot to this… basically either drift it downstream like you would a traditional dry fly or foam terrestrial, or twitch it across the top in a slow moving or slack pool.
&nsp;

STANDARD NYMPHING

This is really no different than fishing a Hare’s Ear or Pheasant Tail, and often offers no advantage over said flies. Remember, the Mop Fly rules because of its versatility, but it doesn’t particularly excel at any specific technique, although sometimes trout will eat it, again, not knowing that it is not food. With a lightly-weighted Mop, just drift downstream. I use tightline techniques, because the takes are often very light, and the direct mono connection let’s me feel every time a trout mouths the fly.

You can use an indicator If you prefer, but it’s not really necessary.

Also worth noting, usually these flies are big and bright enough that you can see the takes, which is a huge benefit. Just be watching for the color, and if it disappears, set.
 

BOUNCING BOTTOM

If you’ve dabbled in tightline nymphing, you’ve probably done this with standard nymphs. The theory is that trout are usually sitting right on the bottom, and by keeping your flies right on the bottom for longer, you’re fishing higher-percentage water for more of the time.

And, using the effectiveness of the mop fly, you can use the same technique and do very well. Go with a big Mop in size eight or 10 (big hooks will keep you from getting hung up), matched with a 3.4 to 4.2 mm tungsten bead. Rods over 10 feet are ideal but not necessary. Then you’re just lobbing these flies upstream and leading the flies downstream with your rod. With a sensitive rod, you’ll feel it bouncing along the rocks. And, anytime you feel anything weird, set the hook.
 

DRAGGING BOTTOM

Now, while this may seem like the last technique I mentioned, there are a lot of differences. I have another post in the works regarding this specifically, but I’m a nutshell, here are the basics….

In a river, when nymphs swim up from the bottom, they often drift downstream right along the bottom. This is precisely why bouncing bottom with nymphs is so effective. But another situation that happens all the time – yet almost no anglers realize – is when trout root around along the bottom to find food. Rather than always suspending right on the bottom, waiting for food to bounce right to them, trout will actually search between rocks, dig through moss, etc., to search out food.

A few years back, I decided to spend the summer swimming down trout streams with a snorkel (and wetsuit when necessary), observing trout behavior. The most surprising thing I noticed was how many trout I witnessed rooting around on the bottom, just like carp do. These fish are looking for scuds, typical aquatic nymphs (mayflies, stoneflies, etc) that are right in the bottom, and crawfish, so they are always looking down, as well as looking up for dries.

So you have fish sitting near the bottom, often looking down for food below then, so what next? The Mop, of course! Other than a weighted crawfish (typically a bass fly) or some standard carp nymphs, there is no better fly than a mop for fishing right along the bottom. It’s streamlined and compact, and with a 4mm tungsten bead it will get down quick. The jig style hooks keep it from getting hung up, and if you’re using a tightline setup, having one diameter of tippet below the water will make it easier to keep the fly from moving in a way or direction that is unwanted.

Additionally, the tightline setup will make this more effective because a floating line can drag your fly off the bottom as it’s pulled downstream. So basically, chunk this fly out, and crawl it back in, as slowly as possible, feeling the bottom and for strikes as you go.Dragging bottom is an incredibly effective technique that almost nobody is doing for trout. I’ve had some great days dragging jig nymphs, carp flies, crawfish, and such for trout, and yet I’ve never seen another angler doing it, or read a major article on it. I’ll try to have another post soon going deeper into this, so keep an eye out.
 

LAST THOUGHTS

  • The Mop owns stocked trout. Bright colors of weird looking blobs are irresistible if you want to bash a ton of stockies within a month of stockings.
  • Don’t pass the Mop Fly off as a fly that only works right after stockings, though. It will catch heavily pressured fish and holdovers, too. Trout just don’t know what it is.
  • I’ve had some of my best days of fishing ever, dragging the Mop Fly through big pools in the winter.
  • I have caught plenty of fish on it at all over Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine, New York, and in every state I’ve fished out west.
  • Chartreuse is one of the most popular colors, but don’t get hung up on it. Some days brown or blue will outfish it 5:1.
  • Tie them in various weights, colors, and sizes to cover all your scenarios.
  • Get your mops from the Dollar Store! Car rags are $1, much better than you’ll find in most places, and will tie over 100 flies. For other colors, I hate Walmart, but it’s probably the best place to find a variety of colors for cheap. Target, hardware stores, etc., should have them too. Don’t pay over $3 for a mop rag or you’re paying too much!
  • Buy your beads in bulk online. 100 packs are a lot cheaper.
  • The Mop Fly is a great pattern if you want to take the kids down to the neighborhood pond and catch some sunfish. Lightly weighted or floating flies (topwater strikes are fun with bluegills!) should work all day long.
  • When I used to fish bass during the spawn (while they’re prepping and on the beds), the Mop Fly was a killer. I know that bed fishing for bass is controversial, and while I rarely do it these days, that’s a topic for another day. But, I have taken some bass in the 3.5 to 5 lb. range on size 10 brightly colored mop flies over the years.

So that’s all I’ve got for this topic….

Thanks to the the guys for letting me share some of my experiences with this fly, and I hope to write some more guest posts in the future. If you have any questions, I’ll keep an eye on the comment section of you can reach me at my Gmail: noeldawes1983.

1954 views

10 thoughts on “Noel Dawes: In Defense of the Mop Fly

  1. Well, that does it. After reading the above and reading another blog writer extolling its virtues, I have to tie some up. Thanks for the tutorial above.

    Have you been doing any fishing lately? Not much for me unfortunately with the short days and work obligations.

    1. Noel is too modest to say so, but I suspect he put in a great deal of time into the post. It is amazing.

      Also, he clearly is very experienced and doesn't mind sharing what works, which is in the vibe of what this blog tries to do. We are "for anglers, by anglers" and want to expand the fly fishing tent to include everyone.

      I hope Noel writes more posts!

Leave a Reply