Gar rodeo 2.0 this year was spawned by a last minute tip by a neighbor. I was out casting in my front yard and my neighbor had his grandkids out checking culverts for bullfrogs. Upon checking my driveway’s culvert (which usually holds a good-sized croaker) the kids became interested in my fly casting. The neighbor brought them in to watch and he and I talked fishing. I told him about my latest trip to the river to catch gar and he volunteered that he knew a place where there was an abundance of gar and clear water. I was excited about this news and as the next day was Saturday, I decided to do a solo rodeo.
The next morning, after a little drive, I was standing in the rocked out area below a concrete water control structure. The water was green but clear enough to see two to three feet easily. In the green water I could see grey shapes everywhere which were gar, gently finning to stay nosed into the current. Out in the main current there were boils everywhere from gar rolling lazily.
I had a number of entanglement type rope flies with me as well as conventional hooked flies. I had hook less rope, hybrid rope/EP fiber and hooked clouser versions, all in various lengths as well as a variety of bucktail clouser type flies. The only thing I lacked were some flies tied from Widow’s Web. I had placed an order from a fly shop in California that still had some of the apparently discontinued material. I had seen and heard good things about the material’s snagging capabilities but the mailman had let me down and the material was still now almost two weeks in transit.
I figured the long, hook less rope flies made from carded parachute cord would be the ticket and started out with one of the longest ones, almost 8 inches long. Almost every cast had fish would following the fly but they would only nip at the very tip which wasn’t enough to get them tangled. I decided maybe the fly was too long as most of the fish I could see following were around 28-30 inches. I changed to another entanglement that was smaller, about 5 inches long. Finally I got a gar tangled enough to bring him in. I noticed that though most of the gar seemed to be alligator gar, I had caught a short nosed gar. When I caught another fish on the entanglement fly, I started thinking that maybe the entanglement flies didn’t work that well on alligator gar and was better on the long and short nosed gar.
Alligator gar have a shorter and broader snout and they actually have two rows of teeth which makes one think they would be perfect for the entanglement type flies, but it just didn’t seem to be working. I changed over to a white bucktail fly about the size of a crippled shad I had seen on the surface that I saw get picked up readily by one of the fish.
The white bucktail was the ticket. Every cast would get a take. I was hooking and jumping every cast, losing some but I was also sticking them too and I was soon wearing myself out bringing in gar, almost all of them gators.
The trick was to not set the hook when I felt the take but just let them take the fly and then wait as long as I could stand it before strip setting hard. It was similar to bass fishing with a plastic worm. After the fish stopped I would take out as much slack as I could and then strip as hard as I could. I even burned my fingers one time which is actually the first time I’ve ever done that even though I’ve caught numerous redfish without ever feeling the sting.
The gar were so plentiful that sometimes in the attempt to strip-set the take, I would snag another gar, which was probably in competition for the fly as I could see numerous gar in the clear water, all of them vying for what they thought was a free meal.
The August sun was beating down on me hard but I stayed with it as long as I could. I began fishing at 10:30 and finished at 3:30 when I was so worn out from the heat and the fish that I just had to quit. A couple of times I had to get in the truck and turn on the air while I emptied a water bottle. I guess it’s not for everybody, I was pretty much all by myself except for an older gentleman and his grandson. They were throwing soft plastic jigs and they left fussing about the gar cutting their plastic jigs in two.
It was good fun for when there are not many local options due to the heat. I was sight casting to fish and teasing them and watching the takes in clear water. Some of the fish would simply pull hard but then some of them would jump, skittter across the water and even tail-walk a little not unlike tarpon. There were big gar present but I just couldn’t get a fly to them without the smaller gar snatching the fly first.
I’ve since received my order of Widow’s Web and I am tying up flies with it. It doesn’t appear to be any different than EP fiber. Actually I think I like the material as it made a nice looking fly on par with EP fiber. WW is far cheaper than EP so I think I may be using it on my saltwater flies. I have also heard Congo hair is about the same and even cheaper than WW. My suspicion is that we may be just paying for the sizzle when it comes to EP. Unfortunately though both WW and EP make more appealing flies, the nylon rope material seems to tangle in the gar’s teeth better. After this trip where I was much more successful with hooked flies, I’m not sure I’m a fan of entanglement flies for gar. I will admit that they do work better on long nosed gar and short nosed gar. I need more field testing on alligator gar.
My truck is on the fritz again but if I can get it fixed I will try to take advantage of some good looking tides this coming weekend. My sight casting skills are tuned up from the gar trips so maybe the practice will help with the redfish. Stay tuned.