When Steve Hollensed engages in coffee shop talk about the sheer delight in catching Lake Texoma stripers on the fly, some people look at the Tom Bean, Texas-based fly fishing guide like he’s lost his last marble.
But they should be looking at him like he’s E.F. Hutton.
Because when it comes to catching Texoma linesiders on the fly, there are few better than Hollensed.
Orvis guide Rob Woodruff shows off a Texoma striper caught on a topwater popper while fishing with guide Steve Hollensed.
I found that out when Hollensed took me on a scouting tour of Texoma a few days ago with eight-weight Orvis Helios fly rods in our hands.
We did so well that by 8 a.m. we had already lost count as to how many stripers we had caught on Hollensed’s hand tied poppers anchored atop #2 Gamakatsu stinger hooks.
And since then, the fly fishing action on the 89,000-acre reservoir has only gotten better.
Take a trip last week with a client from Houston and another from Kansas.
“It was a heck of a day,” Hollensed said. “Between the two of them, they caught five fish that weighed between nine and 11-pounds.”
Mind you, Hollensed (www.flywaterangling.com; (903) 546-6237) carries a Boga Grip on each trip so those weights are legit.
“These guys were saying that this was one of the best fishing days they had ever had,” he said. “The fish were slamming the flies so hard that they were almost hooking themselves and then they were quickly tearing into the backing on the fly reel.
“Then the guys would work them back up to the boat but when the fish saw it, they would sound and make some more hard runs.
“It was definitely a big striper day that they won’t soon forget.”
Ditto for the trip that Hollensed guided for two different anglers today. By the time this particular outing was over, more than two dozen quality fish had been landed including a couple weighing better than 10-pounds.
What’s really amazing about all of this is the manner in which all of these big stripers are being caught – on full sinking fly lines.
When most people think of fly fishing, they typically think of weight forward floating lines like those used to present a dry fly to trout or a deer hair popper to a bass.
But Hollensed says that the use of weighted fly lines – some which sink as fast as nine-inches per second – can actually help an angler catch fish through the entire water column to depths upwards of 50 feet.
Hollensed and his clients are landing plenty of double-digit Texoma stripers this summer on the Orvis Depth Charge sinking line.
“Fishing a sinking line improves your versatility, which also improves your chances for catching bigger fish,” said the Federation of Fly Fishers master casting instructor.
“A case in point was (that trip last week). These guys had never fished sinking lines before but before they were through they were catching big fish in 25 to 30 feet of water.”
Ditto for his trip earlier today. After a sluggish topwater bite, a short crash course with his clients on how to fish sinking lines commenced and the game was soon on.
So exactly what type of fly rod set-up does this take?
“It takes a good eight or nine-weight fly rod with a 300-grain to a 400-grain sinking line loaded up onto a lightweight large arbor fly reel,” Hollensed said. “A good example of that is the Orvis Depth Charge line loaded onto a lightweight large arbor Battenkill reel.”
To that fly line Hollensed ties a four to eight-foot long straight leader made of Berkley Trilene Big Game monofilament in green tint and 17-pound test.
As for flies, he recommends anything that mimics a threadfin or gizzard shad. Such selections include a wide assortment of Clouser Minnows, Lefty’s Deceivers, and Hollensed’s own Crystal Shad all in white, chartreuse, and pearlescent blue colors tied on #1, 1/0, and 2/0 size hooks.
If such a set-up sounds difficult to cast, Hollensed says that it isn’t. In fact, he has found that once people get used to casting a shooting head sinking line like the Depth Charge, they oftentimes prefer casting it over a floating fly line.
But as my recent outing with the guide showed, topwater poppers are often exactly what Texoma stripers are wanting to hit on that particular summer day.
Be forewarned however.
“When a big 10-pound striper slams a popper, you just better hope that your heart is in good condition,” Hollensed laughed.
For a topwater set-up Hollensed recommends a six, seven, or eight-weight fly rod; a lightweight large arbor reel; and a line like the Orvis Freshwater Bass line which is a floating line with an aggressive front taper that turns over big poppers with relative ease.
To that fly line he will then tie a 7 ½ or 9-foot Orvis Super Strong abrasion resistant leader (in a bass/pike taper) in either 16 or 20-pound test.
Hollensed says that at the end of the day he never feels that he or his clients have less of a chance at catching numbers of stripers or quality stripers from Lake Texoma’s sparkling water.
But that really isn’t the reason that he made the switch from being a conventional tackle guide and tournament fisherman more than a decade ago to being a full-time fly angler.
“In my case, it has put so much more fun back into fishing,” Hollensed said. “Because in my mind it really isn’t about how big the fish was that you caught or how many that you caught.
“It is more about how you caught them in the first place. And when that’s with a fly rod, well, I think it’s about as fun as fishing can be.”
Hollensed should know.
He’s got the pictures – and plenty of happy clients in recent weeks – to prove it.