Fly fishing is an art filled with a mosaic of flies, and having an ample assortment in your box is always a good strategy. However, it’s the classic, time-tested flies like the mop fly that often save the day when trout are being particularly choosy. So, what is a mop fly and how can you master the art of fly fishing with it
What Is a Mop Fly?
Mop flies get their name from their unusual material source —mops or old carpets. They typically measure about an inch long, adorned with tungsten beads for weight, and are attached to either a standard j-hook or a jig hook.
The mop fly’s purpose is to mimic juicy delicacies found in the wild such as insect larvae, worms, or grubs that are typically found in the damp land surrounding bodies of water. These flies come in various appealing colors that include green, cream, white, and yellow, and some may even be adorned with dubbing at the bead or hackles.
When Should You Use a Mop Fly?
An essential part of being a successful fly fisher is anticipating when certain food sources are available for fish. Grubs and worms enter their food chain when heavy rains or high water wash these critters into the river. This makes mop flies particularly effective during spring and summer when hatching begins.
However, don’t underestimate the power of a mop fly during the colder seasons. This irresistible pattern can lure fish throughout the year, with its effectiveness peaking during high water after rain or snowmelt in spring.
What Fish Can You Catch with a Mop Fly?
While mop flies are primarily used to catch trout, they also work wonders for bass and panfish like crappies. Trout are often the primary catch due to their aggressive nature and popularity among anglers.
How to Fish With Mop Flies
Mop flies should be used similarly to nymphs. They’re weighted and about an inch long, making them perfect for upstream nymphing.
During upstream nymphing, aim to cover pocket water or deep slow water. Allow your fly to drift naturally in the current. The weight of the bead should guide the fly into the feeding zone of a trout. As long as the drift is natural, the trout should take the bait.
How to Rig a Mop Fly for Different Situations
To rig a mop fly effectively, start with a generic nymph rig on a weight-forward floating fly line. You’ll need about 9 ft of 3/4x or 8/6lb leader. Then, tie a 3ft piece of either 4x or 5x fluorocarbon tippet to the leader using a tippet ring or your favorite knot. Finally, tie the mop fly onto the end of your tippet.
The depth of the water and the speed of the current will dictate the necessary adjustments to your rig. In deep water, add a split shot or two for extra weight, and in fast water, fish a heavier mop fly or add an extra split shot for quicker sinking.
Perfecting Your Drift
Achieving the perfect drift is the most challenging part of fishing upstream with mops. The key is to make sure the mop fly is the first thing coming downstream in the water, not your fly line. To do this, mend your line up and over the mop fly once it’s begun to sink.
The Retrieve & Hook Up
The mop fly should be fished with a dead drift. Keep stripping as the mop fly comes slowly towards you, maintaining contact with the indicator without disturbing the drift. Any signs of the indicator bobbing down, lift your rod to hook the fish, and you should be in.
Fishing the Mop on Still Water
Mop flies can also be effective on still water. When fly fishing on still water, fish the mop like you would a static buzzer, slowly retrieving with a figure of 8 to keep in contact with the fly so you can set well when a fish bites.
Which Mop Flies Should You Have in Your Box?
It’s best to have a variety of mop flies to match the water and habits of the fish you’re targeting. Green and cream are the most popular colors, with cream being the preferred choice due to its resemblance of most grubs. Also, ensure you have mop flies of different weights to match the flow and depth of the water you’re fishing.
Are Mop Flies Easy to Tie?
Yes, mop flies are simple to tie. Attach a bead head, tie your mop/carpet material to the back, and finish it off with a few wraps of dubbing at the head. Here is a great tutorial on how to tie a mop fly.
Why Is the Mop Fly Controversial?
Mop flies have a reputation for being a ‘dirty fly.’ Fly fishing purists often debate whether a fly complies with the age-old laws of fly fishing. But, fly fishing is meant to be fun, and it’s all about fooling a fish into taking a fly that looks like something they feed on naturally, and a mop fly does exactly this.
Whether you’re a seasoned angler or a beginner, the mop fly is a must-have in your fishing arsenal. These deceptively simple flies can turn a slow fishing day into a successful outing. If you’ve never tried fishing with a mop fly before, I highly recommend giving it a shot.
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