Your housecat is not the only predator that likes to hunt for mice. A number of gamefish are also quite fond of the furry rodents. They’re more than happy to wolf down any mouse that takes a wrong turn and tumbles into a stream or lake.
Northern pike, muskies, bass, and trout will all gladly attack and wolf down these furry little rodents. Even though they are terrestrial creatures by nature, mice often stumble into lakes, ponds and rivers. Some voles, such as the red-back species, also swim across rivers in Canada, Alaska and the northern U.S., providing an easy meal for hungry rainbows, browns, smallmouth bass and northern pike if you venture to those areas on a fishing expedition.
One of the most appealing things about mice and voles from an angler’s perspective is that they float. This of course, means fishing them is a topwater game — the most exciting fishing of all. Another plus is that rodents are large food items and tend to entice strikes from big fish.
Patterns — Some mouse flies look so realistic you’d think they could easily scurry away. Such patterns will definitely catch fish, but aren’t necessary. Retailers such as Bass Pro Shops and local fly shops like Murray’s in Edinburg offer a variety of mouse flies. Virtually all of them will work if a bass, pike or trout is in a feeding mood. Even an untrimmed Muddler Minnow or large cricket fly will work in a pinch. But as a rule, a more accurate pattern is certainly preferable.
I tie most of my mouse flies with a simple tail of hair, wool yarn, soft leather or rubber bands. After the tail is tied in, I spin on deer hair for the body and trim it to the rodent’s natural profile—sort of an oblong blob. Natural deer hair is fairly close to a mouse’s color, or you can die it gray if you want a more realistic hue.
For most fishing, size 1/0, 1 or 2 hooks are best. Be sure to trim the hair back enough where the mouse’s belly is so you have good hook-setting clearance.
Mousing Tackle — These flies are cumbersome to cast and become even heavier when they soak up a bit of water. Use an 8 ½-9 ½ foot rod with a fairly stiff action taking a 7-9 weight line so you can control them effectively. A leader of 9-10 feet tapering to a 6-12 pound tippet works well. Add a shock tippet of 30-40 pound mono if you’re going after northern pike or muskellunge (muskies).
Fishing Mouse Flies — Several tactics work for fishing mouse flies. When float fishing rivers, you’ll be imitating voles and moles that sometimes get washed in and try to swim to the other side. Cast your offering tight to blow-downs, rocks, and logjams near shore where smallmouths and other gamefish wait for the rodents to enter. Then simply work them back with a slow, v-waking retrieve.
No twitches or rod manipulation is required. Simply swim the fly back slowly like a real vole or mole being washed downstream as it tries to swim. Wait until the fish firmly grabs the fly before setting the hook. Otherwise you might pull it away too quickly for a good hook set.
Sometimes this same retrieve works for pike and bass in lakes. Cast to cover, twitch the fly, and then slowly crawl it back. Other times a stop-and-go presentation works better. Try to simulate a mouse that accidentally fell into the water and is stunned and slowly realizing its dire predicament. Give a twitch, then pause. Wait a few seconds, then give the fly a more violent jerk. If you haven’t gotten a strike by then, work the mouse fly back in strips of 12-18 inches.
Keep the rod tip low to the water to allow a good hook set. And when a fish wallops the mouse, remember to pause before setting up. Chances are good that anything grabbing a mouse will be a worthy adversary. Hold on tight and enjoy the fight!