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By David Kotok
Special to The New Jersey Angler

Dave Kotok     For 10 years I have tried to catch fish using a mouse imitation and never had success. On a recent trip to Patagonia I not only caught fish with this pattern, but I learned something about fishing it that I cannot wait to try here.

     In North America, stories about mouse fishing describe wading streams at midnight when the moon is full and the wind is low. Thatís because believe mice to be nocturnal. There are stories about fly fishermen who slip and nearly drown in their water-filled waders while walking a stream in darkness. Iím one of them.

     The mice in South America are different. They have less fear of birds-of prey and approach the water to drink in broad daylight.

     My guide, Kent Schoenauer, has used a mouse for brown trout for years. He showed me how to fish it productively.

Mouse Fly Pattern     Patagonian waters on the Rio Puelo on the Argentina Chile border are crystal clear; the fish are wild and spook easily so false casting must be minimized. If wind is light and water flat, trout will see the line overhead and become unsettled; that is enough to spook them from rising to any fly, mice included.

     Good casting skill is needed to present a mouse 60 feet away from a boat. The presentation of the mouse must be done so as to resemble one that came to the water's edge and accidentally fell in. Rocky shores along Patagonian lakes are conducive to this presentation. The cast is made so that the mouse lands on or bounces off the rocks. When the mouse lands on a rock, a small twitch will cause it to fall in.

     Getting the mouse there isn't enough. Brown trout like mice but rise for them slowly. The trout knows a mouse in the water is in trouble and doesn't have to hurry to eat it. Heíll swim from under a rock ledge or shadowed shoreline and slowly rise to feed. While the trout is deciding whether or not to eat the mouse, the imitation must act like it is swimming and struggling to get back to safety. Even then, mice swim slowly. So line stripping (pulling line in for non fly-fishers) is done only an inch or two at a time with a slight twitch. Swim the mouse too fast and the trout will realize something's wrong and won't take it.

Fishing Lodges and Camps

     Trout first pull a mouse down by the tail to drown it. That means the hook shouldn't be set on the first tug, to do so will pull the mouse from the fish's mouth. Wait another moment or so, allowing the trout to take the entire mouse in its mouth before striking. But don't wait too long! The trout will realize the mouse is a fake and spit it out. There's a split second when the trout bites the mouse by the tail and another split second when the trout gets the whole mouse in its mouth. That's when the hook must be set. Remember, the trout's mouth is hard and bony, so the hook must be sharp and set crisply.

     Kent showed me how to cast and strip. After two days of practice, the fish became interested in my mouse presentation. Many small fish would grab the tail but couldn't handle a whole mouse. So, fly fishing with a mouse is a good way to screen little fish away and give more opportunity for big ones.

     Finally, I was ready!

     Bright sun, blue sky, crystal clear water, we approached a rock ledge on the Lago Inferior, Rio Puelo in Chile. I threw 60 feet of line and dropped the mouse right on top of a rock ledge, 3 inches above the water. With a slight tug, the leader straightened, and the mouse plopped in, right next to the rocks. The cast was perfect. A big brown started to rise. My pulse went UP.

     "There he is!" Kent said. "Let him take it." The trout grabbed the tail took it down, put it in his mouth and slam! " The hook set was firm, and the brown, was running. He took 40 feet of line on the first run.

     I was using a 3X leader and had set a light drag so he wouldn't snap me off. In North America, one might use a lighter leader, but Patagonian trout, are not leader-shy, so using a 3X leader was perfect,

     Fifteen minutes later the fish was next to the boat and safely in the net. We wet our bands, held him for a quick picture, and respectfully released him A week with Kent Schoenauer of Patagonia Adventures in Alto Puelo, Chile was a glorious experience. Completion of a graduate course in fishing a mouse pattern was a bonus. In the lodge that night, I remember Kent saying, "The mouse should be viewed as a legitimate pattern, just like a caddis fly or a woolly bugger." Many anglers carry a mouse in their fly box or affixed to their hats or vests. They get them as gifts. Some give them as gifts. But few ever fish with them. I used to be among them. Hmmm. Maybe North American bass will take a mouse. Maybe if you present it under a tree limb - as if the mouse had accidentally fallen out of the tree - in daylight. Maybe I'll find out this summer.

Editors Note:  David R. Kotok is the Chief Investment Officer of Cumberland Advisors, Inc., a Vineland-based financial advisor. Reach him at P.O. Box 663, Vineland, NJ 08362-0663 or e-mail to dkotok@cumber.com.


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