I woke up early in the morning, excited and ready for a day of sight fishing for gar in shallow water. I had heard that fly fishing for gar is was a challenging and thrilling experience. Grabbing my fly rod and some streamers I tied specifically for gar fishing and headed to the lake, hoping to catch some of the formidable fish that lurked beneath the surface. Once I arrived I put my wet wading boots on and started slowly stocking the shallows. The water was crystal clear! I surveyed the water for any signs of activity, ripples, shadows, or even the bottom moving. The gar blend in so well with the rocky bottom you really have to take your time and go slow.
Stalking Gar in Shallow Water
I saw some shadows in the distance and decided to head in that direction, slowly wading through the water, being careful not to make too much noise and scare away any gar. That is when I spotted a large gar swimming just below the surface. I took a deep breath and readied my fly rod. I carefully cast my line, making sure it landed in front of the gar’s path but not on the gar to avoid spooking it. The gar noticed the bait and began to approach it cautiously
I was holding my breath while I kept that bait moving, prey usually doesn’t sit still waiting to be eaten. Then, the gar’s mood changed and it snapped its beak like mouth and took the fly. I waited for the gar to turn so I could strip set the hook without pulling it out of the gar’s mouth, then the fight was on. The gar put up a fierce fight! Running, jumping and thrashing, but I eventually managed to bring it in close enough to get a hand on it. You definitely do not want to net these toothy critters, or get your hands too close to it’s mouth!
I landed this beautiful gar, and yes, I think they are beautiful. The spots, bizarre mouth, and awesome looking scales that feel like plates of armour are so unique! As I released the fish back into the water, I felt a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. I spent the rest of the day sight fishing for gar in shallow water, enjoying the thrill of the chase and the peacefulness of the lake. It was a day I would never forget, and I couldn’t wait to do it all again.
Flies to use when fishing for Gar
I did some research to see what flies to use while fly fishing for gar and stumbled upon an interesting way to catch gar. The most common suggestion was not your typical lure or bait, but rather a piece of yellow utility rope. Without a hook attached! The rationale behind this unconventional choice lies in the gar’s unique biology. With its long, narrow mouth, the gar lacks the traditional “soft spots” where a hook could easily penetrate. Unlike other predatory fish like pike or musky, which possess sharp edged teeth capable of slicing through fishing lines, the gar boasts needle-like teeth with sharp points that easily tangle in the rope. However, as with any method, there are potential drawbacks to consider. If the line ends up breaking during the fight, it may result in a tragic fate for the gar, as the rope may never come out.
After carefully considering the characteristics of the rope fly and the dietary preferences of gar, I decided to create my own fly. Drawing inspiration from a variety of fly patterns, I opted to tie the fly on a small articulation shank as the foundation. To attach a hook, I utilized a loop of 50 lb power pro braid. A technique borrowed from steelhead anglers who employ this method with intruder patterns. I made the tail of flash or EP Fibres tied in straight. I incorporated a dubbing loop filled with EP Fibres in a contrasting color for the head of the fly. The dubbing loop head helps to impart bulk and enhance the flies overall profile.
The Fly I Use
The result is a remarkably lightweight fly that seemingly hovers, making it a stellar choice for fishing in shallow water. To optimize hookups, I affix a number six treble hook to the loop, which slightly dangles beneath the fly. Since adopting this hook system, I’ve noticed significantly greater success in securely hooking gar that have taken my fly. My theory is that when the gar strikes, the hook effortlessly swings into action, effectively sticking into softer areas.
This is an easy fly to tie! I can easily whip up a half dozen of them in an hour. If you skip the dubbing loop it gets even faster! You can create the head in many different ways. One way is to tie in EP Fibres on the top and bottom of the shank. Another way is a hollow tie with the EP Fibres creating a bulky head. Or you can use the dubbing loop method I employ. I am pretty sure it will work just as well any way you choose! The key is balance. Creating a sparsely dressing this fly with enough material to produce push in the water. Of course you are looking for a silhouette that looks like bait fish. The EP Fibres also give the fly some buoyancy, and still make a fly that is easy to cast.
What Rods, Reels and Line to Fly Fish for Gar With
When targeting gar I use a 7 WT fly rod with Scientific Anglers Amplitude Infinity or Amplitude Bass Bug lines. They really let me load up the fly rod with a little bit of line off the end of the rod…which is a situation you find yourself in often when you are wet wading while sight fishing for gar. I put on a poly leader that sinks at two or three inches per second.
Do You Need a Bite Guard?
The gar don’t cut your line with their teeth. There is a lot of abrasion from the rocks and the fight of the fish. You need a tippet that can hold up to that abuse, thats is why I like fluorocarbon. I like to use ten or twelve pound Diawa J- Fluoro fluorocarbon as a tippet. It is stiff so your fly won’t swing around and foul and it is abrasion resistant! I carry some extra treble hooks with me, along with hook cutters and pliers. You do not want to get your fingers close tot he gar’s mouth…they will cut you up pretty bad! With a changeable hook it is easy to cut and replace the hook and keep fishing.
Fly Fishing For Gar is FUN!
While gar may not be the most widely celebrated sport fish, there are countless reasons why I believe they deserve more recognition. They are an easily accessible species that consistently exhibits an aggressive nature. They thrive in warm water environments and providing a thrilling experience while you are stalking and fighting them. It is almost as if gar where made for fly fishing.
It’s a little perplexing to me that gar fishing hasn’t gained a more prominent following. Imagine those moments when you find yourself feeling restless during scorching mid-summer days. When the river temperatures are too hot to pursue trout. It is too hot outside and you are lacking the enthusiasm to go bass fishing in a boat all day. That’s when you should consider wet wading shallow flats and embarking on an exciting gar fishing adventure. Take a chance, and you might just discover a whole new level of enjoyment on the water!