Snails and Snail Fishing
Snails- Most anglers who fish lakes and slow moving waters are aware of snails. They are found floating in the surface, attached to those trophy weeds we all hook almost every cast, and many times the reason that some large trout that are caught feel like they are full of gravel. Most lakes and slow moving waters have snails, but they are particularly more abundent in bodies of water that are more alkaline. While snails are not of major value for food soure in some lakes, at other times they are a primary source of energy. If you are fishing lakes that have snails, you should always have some snail patterns in your box. While there are prime times to fish snails, fish will usually take them year round. We will limit our discussion of snails to some simple biology, a description of imitations and a discussion of strategies and methods of presenting these important food source critters. Please note: I hope the snails that dissappeared afte the last poinsoning come back soon.
Biology - Snails belong to the Family Mollusca order Gastopoda (which meand stomach footed and describes there body style). There are several hundred species that vary is size, shell type, and general habitat but we will deal in generalities not try to teach a science lesson. Most have several generations each year and live in the shallow edges and weed beds of freshwater lakes. They prefer attaching themselves to local weedbeds and can live as deep as 30 ft. Most live in weeds from 8 to 15 feet deep. Fly anglers don't have to worry about different stages to imitate, but just sizes. While snails vary in size between something I can't see well with my flip focals, up to almost an inch in diameter, most autopsies of trout seem to revel snails from 1/8 of an inch up to about 3/8's of an inch. I would stick to the 3/8's in variety vor ease of tying and remembering the return on investment trout are looking for in the energy race. Last consideration is that those large shells (which cannot be digested) hurt passing out the other end. Snails don't move around much, but seem to be more available in the late hot summer monthes and again in the fall. During the hot summer monthes, snails will leave there wedbed condos to float to the surface for more oxygen. They usually will float upside down and fish take them in definate swirl rises. The other and more important time snails move when the weed beds they live in start to die off and break up in the late fall. Snails start drifting at the mercy of the currents and wind effects on the lake. If the winds are reasonably consitent, then the snails will start to accumulate on the shores opposite the wind. Fish are bulking up for the winter and these wind blown snails are easy prey. Many times the fish will be seen taking the snails right at the edge of the water.
Fishing Strategies- Snails are very easy to imitate, with some special exceptions, and require patience and concentration. One method that is very effective at times, is to cast the pattern and let it sink. Many times the take is during the sinking period and very violent. Another effective way to fish snails is to fish them under an indicator during mild to stron winds. The wind and the indicator allow the snail pattern to drift and move naturally. In addition, you can utilize a slow strip or hand twist retrieve. Another interesting way to fish snails comes from my friend Doug Oulette. Doug points out that snails have trapped air in their shells and when they detach from the weeds, they float QUICKLY to the surface and then begin to sink SLOWLY after losing their air bubble. Doug likes to imitate this motion by starting with your stripping hand next to the rod hand and lifting the rod while letting the stripping hand separate from the rod hand as you lift. This gives a sudden long pull on the snail that imitates the quick air aided migration to the surface. Once executed, just let the hands come back to gether and the rod lower so as to return the exact amount of line as you started with . This lets the snail rise quickly and then sink slowly coming down. It looks a little strange, but works very well. If you don't mind having people stare at you, give it a try and hold on, 90% of the takes are on the decent. Fishing a snail on an intemediate line very slowly seems to be a very consistent strategy, and is usually my first try.
Snail Patterns -I will limit the pattern choices to very few. Most are easy to tie and some are just old standards from inovative anglers.
Note: Photos will be added in the next few days.
Crystal Snail, Peacock Snail, Seals Fur Snail
|Hook||TMC 2457,105,2488H,2499Bl (supper point)|
|Thread||6/0 to match body color, red for weighted|
|Thorax||crystal chenile, small shuck, peacock, black, tan, brown, yellow, etc... Tied in ball, Peacock herl tied in ball, dubbed fuzzy material ball. Be creative. There is lots of flexibility hear.|
|Legs/Hackle||dyed mallard or partridge or single turn of hackle|
Floating Foam Snail
|Hook||TMC 2457, 105, 2488H, 2499Bl|
|Thread||6/0 to match body color|
|Thorax||dubbing to match body color , chenile, peacock herl, dubbing etc...|
|Wingcase||Black, brown, tan, yello closed cell foam to help with floatation.|
Rainy's Realistic Snail
Step one cut 2 to 2 1/2 inches of Rainy's round float foam in black, brown, yellow or white. Slice in half lengthwise. trim one end to a point. Trim the other end into 3rds 3/8's of an inch from the end. Cut off the outside pieces. apply Zap a Gap to the inside or flat edge. Use a pair of tweezers or needlenose pliers to roll up the foam creating a snail like body. Hold until dry. Slice the bottom of the body lengthwise and glue to the thread base on the hook. Paint with permanent markers if needed and fish. Check out the photos if you have any questions.
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