Fall Fishing Festival:
A revival for the fly and rind
By Lee McClellan
Bass angler’s hearts sank all over the upper South when the venerable Uncle Josh Company announced in early 2016 that they would no longer produce pork rind jig trailers. Hogs go to slaughter younger than they used to and the company struggled to find pork rind old and tough enough to withstand the rigors of fishing.
Uncle Josh produced pork trailers and baits since the early 1920s, ending an era of one of the best jig trailers ever conceived, especially in cold water.
However, all is not lost. Several manufacturers now make synthetic versions of the pork rind jig trailer and one company produces them from leather instead of pork skin. Anglers fishing the world-class smallmouth reservoirs in Kentucky and Tennessee fished one the most deadly combinations for trophy fish in fall, winter and spring: fly and rind.
A fly in Montana means a lure for trout; a fly in Kentucky and Tennessee means a hair jig, made from tying bucktail, rabbit fur or synthetic craft fur onto the shank of a lead-head jig. The rind was a pork trailer, but now you can substitute one of the new synthetic or leather trailers for the realistic movement a pork trailer provided.
“With a hair jig, you get a small profile, which smallmouths in reservoirs like Dale Hollow prefer, especially in late fall, winter and early spring,” said Chad Miles, host of the Kentucky Afield television show.
Miles is a smallmouth wizard who routinely catches fish over 5 pounds in fall, winter and spring from Dale Hollow, Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland. He loves the subtle, flowing nature of the hair jig that perfectly imitates baitfish or crawfish movements in cold water.
The newer pork trailer imitations also move subtly and the combination comes through the water like a stick, a trait that goads large smallmouth bass into striking.
A small tackle box, satchel or lure wrap loaded with several 1/8 - or 1/4-ounce black, olive and brown hair jigs and a bag each of black or brown pork trailers are all you need for fishing the fly and rind. Its beauty is simplicity. This setup also catches spotted and largemouth bass, as well as trophy smallmouth, in the colder months.
Fish the fly and rind on a 6- to 7-foot medium-light or medium power spinning rod and accompanying reel, spooled with 6- to 8-pound test pure fluorocarbon or fluorocarbon-coated line.
The stealth of fluorocarbon line really helps in fall, winter and early spring and its density better transmits strikes.
It is easy for anglers of a certain age to wax nostalgic about fishing with a pork rind trailer, but they were actually a bit of a pain to use. They came from the factory in a jar filled with salt brine. The salt eventually caked the grooves of the jar top, making it difficult to remove, especially on the older glass jars with a metal top. The salt caused the metal top to rust and in combination with the salt crust could grow nearly impossible to open.
Anglers returning home late from a long day fishing often forgot to remove the pork trailer from their jigs. They would dry and harden to the point where it nearly took a power saw to remove them from the jig. They also rusted the hook of the jig as well.
The newer synthetic and leather pork trailers stay soft if accidentally left on the jig and do not rust jig hooks. They also absorb liquid scent, which attracts strikes, especially from smallmouth bass.
Fishing the fly and rind properly requires a swimming retrieve, targeting grumpy bass suspended above bottom. You simply cast it out, let it sink to the bottom and then swim it back just above the bottom. Swimming the fly and rind really excels on the clear waters of the smallmouth reservoirs of southeastern Kentucky, such as Laurel River Lake and Lake Cumberland.
A 1/8-ounce fly looks the most natural with its slow fall rate, but can be difficult for most anglers to work correctly from a boat. A 1/4-ounce fly is easier.
The small coves and cuts along the main lake or in major creek arms that slope in a “V” shape make the highest percentage places to swim a fly and rind. Smallmouth often suspend just above the bottom in these spots, so throw your fly right in the middle of the cut, let it sink and swim it back to the boat.
The best small coves or cuts lie near the submerged river or major creek channel with a bottom comprised of shale, gravel or fist-sized rocks. These areas draw crawfish burrowing in for the winter as well as baitfish. The ones that look the least “fishy” often hold bigger smallmouths.
These spots also offer excellent opportunity for bank fishing by using boat ramps, state parks or other public access spots to walk to these areas and fish. You can easily carry the hair jigs, a bag of trailers and a multi-tool. A 1/8-ounce jig works best for bank fishing.
Anglers should also swim their jig along the side of points in these areas and over the point well off the bank. Your drag should slip on the hookset as any fish that strikes in these spots will likely be large.
The fly and rind also excels at picking off spotted and largemouth bass suspended beside bluffs. Craggy bluffs riven with fissures and shelves and formed by the original creek or river make excellent cold weather spots for these fish.
Swimming a fly and rind along a channel ledge in mid-depth reservoirs such as Barren River, Green River, Nolin River and Rough River also fools lethargic largemouth, their vigor drained by the cold water of late fall and winter. A black fly with matching trailer makes the best color choice for bluffs and channel ledges.
Swim and fly and rind this fall and winter and fool a trophy smallmouth, largemouth or spotted bass. This combo still fools them after all these years.