My guide box in the drift boat reminds me of a library and the Dewey Decimal System with all the usual imitation fly patterns that I know may occur during a fishing season. However, there are days when average-sized 9- to 12-inch trout are stuffed with everything the stream has to offer and your reputation is going up in smoke.
If you're a guide on the river, then you know the feeling.
During these fruitless days, I like to think of unusual fly imitations and search for large fish that have pig-like appetites.
A good guide is observing and locating some good fish. The key is returning regularly and fishing the spots that big lunkers call home.
Normally, I like to cover a mile or so of water and pay little attention to small pan-sized fish, knowing that dominant fish have pushed them into shallow water or insecure places. Big fish are comfortable beneath undercut banks and there is logic in choosing that location.
Those areas normally are quite deep. They can guard the area from other fish and catch everything that floats downstream, including smaller mammals that fall off the banks. These trout lies are in all streams and there are many along the banks of our 300 miles of water in northcentral Pennsylvania.
It was no surprise, then, that while killing 20-inch trout for biological studies in Wyoming and for the National Park Service, the most frequently found mammal in their stomachs was the common field mouse.
To be successful in this style of fishing, it is important that an angler develops a mental philosophy of "big fish love big flies."
In my experience, I have found that a lunker trout very seldom refuses a tasty morsel such as a deer hair imitation mouse.
While fishing banks, I like to tie the mouse with a weed guard and a 10-pound test tippet. By flopping the imitation in the current above your located fish, it will move a hungry trophy.
Although the deer hair mouse imitation is a little more time consuming to tie, a half dozen imitations tied during the long cold months of winter and spring will save you time when the great mayfly hatches are giving you fits.
The deer hair body is simple to spin on your hook, and a long tail manufactured from a thin leather strip or rubber band will give your fly some life. You can add some leather ears or dark closed foam to keep it floating high on the water's surface if you like. Artificial glass eyes are nice, but if the lunker is hungry it will not make a difference.