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The Mop Fly Controversy


Fly fisherman in the US are up in arms because some anglers are using the strands of kitchen mops as bait.

Anglers can spend much of the winter carefully creating imitation flies but then one American created a new kind of bait using material from a mop. Those who have copied his methods claim that they catch many more fish than before. However, traditionalists say that the bait makes fishing too easy. They believe that the key skill of fly fishing is the ability to create the flies and to select the right one at the right time.


 

Banned Bait

The mop flies have been banned from several competitions in the US but some anglers are claiming that they helped Lance Egan win the US national Fishing Championships. One American blogger said 'The mop fly is the most sinful fly of all time.' A slight overreaction perhaps! However, some angling clubs in the UK are now discussing whether or not the mop flies should be banned.


 

Testing the Bait

Angler and writer Sam Plyler decided to try out the mop flies. He found that no matter what he did, the fish would move large distances to eat this material. Their enthusiasm was a surprise as trout will usually simply wait for their food to float by. Plyler felt that it was an incredibly effective fishing bait but that no skill was required to catch the fish. In other words, the bait took the challenge out of fly fishing.


 

An Absurd Sport?

Meanwhile, English angler Simon Cooper has commented that fly fishing is "an absurd sport". He points out that you wouldn’t fish this way if you needed to eat because it would be much easier to use worms as bait or just scoop up fish in a net.


 

The Squirmy Worm

The mop fly is a recent innovation but similar bait was made in Victorian times and this also divided opinion. Anglers were already aware that trout would eat more submerged bugs than floating ones but purists believed that this wasn’t the point. The argument largely went away until the so called squirmy worm was invented by American David Hise. This was made out of the rubber from a ball but was soon ridiculed by traditionalists.

The squirmy worm was used by a US fishing team to win a fishing contest in the Czech Republic. The Czech fishing union then banned the bait from future competitions.


 

Retiree Inspired by a Mop

Then 72-year-old Jim Estes wandered into a hardware store and saw a mop with thick microfiber nubs. He immediately saw the material’s potential as bait and was proved right when he fished with it and the trout simply devoured it.

Estes passed his innovation to his stepson who was a competitive angler and then local fishing guides caught on to the idea and news spread quickly. There is no doubt that the bait works but is it the right way to fish?


 

  • Featured image - By Bjornwireen (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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