The Softy Minnow: the most versatile realistic baitfish pattern ever created.
When I heard that a single pattern, The Softy Minnow had caught 32 different species of fish over the last two years, I asked myself, “How many anglers can claim to have caught 32 species of fish with all the flies in their possession?” Not a fair question, I know. After all, how many anglers have had the opportunity to go to The Seychelles, British Columbia, Alaska, Harkers Island, North Carolina, Chile, South Africa, Homosassa, Florida, Laguna Madre, Texas, and the Henry’s Fork over the last two years as the Softy Minnow had?
How about this question: If you could go to all those places and more, would you bring just one fly? You could if the one fly you took along was the Softy Minnow.
To find out why the Softy Minnow is such a deadly pattern for such wide variety of fresh and saltwater fish, I spoke with the pattern’s creator, Blane Chocklet:
Orvis News Editor: What was the inspiration for the Softy Minnow?
Blane Chocklet: Soft plastic freshwater bass baits, actually. Summers I guide folks on the James and New Rivers. It’s a great smallmouth fishery and provides great action when the water is warm in the local trout waters. Occasionally I’ll get a spin angler in the same boat with a fly caster. In average temperature water, the fly anglers did well with the traditional, what I refer to as impressionistic streamers and the like. But in warm water, the bass aggressively slam the soft plastic bass spin baits and pretty much ignore the traditional streamers. So I set about to create a realistic fly that would duplicate the attention the soft plastic spin baits attracted. I shared my thoughts with an engineer buddy of mine who has experience in creating soft plastic materials. Together we came up with Sili Skin™, a soft plastic material that is easy to work with and makes up the body of the Softy Minnow.
Editor: Why do you think The Softy Minnow has become so popular over its short two-year life?
Chocklet: A couple of reasons: First, it’s not just realistic-looking, it’s not just same shape and iridescent color as the original, it’s nearly as supple as the original and “swims” better than any realistic pattern out there. It reacts to the current and to even the smallest twitches the caster wants to add while retrieving. Second–and this is related to the first reason–guides love it! I’ve given a whole bunch out to Captain friends of mine and asked them to report back to me. The Softy Minnow has saved quite a few days on the water with clients around the country and even the globe. It’s been effective in far more places that we would have imagined.
The reason guides find it “saves the day” is because it’s so realistic. Particularly when casting to schooling fish, sometimes you just want your fly to sit there and sink slowly, and not move it much at all. Even what I call “big-eye” game fish like false albacore can take as long as they want to contemplate the Softy Minnow and still be convinced it’s real. So when fish are being picky, studying and rejecting pattern after pattern, the Softy Minnow is effective. A lot of patterns–particularly impressionistic patterns–don’t work well when they’re not moving. The Softy Minnow works well either way.
Editor: It’s rare that a pattern works in so many different regions. I can see how the pattern is perfect for the range of saltwater fisheries. Can you explain why you think the pattern works in specific freshwater fisheries?
Chocklet: It sounds simplistic but big fish eat smaller fish, saltwater or freshwater. What makes the Softy Minnow different is, again, how realistic looking it is. As long as the size matches the size of baitfish in the fishery, and you’ve picked the right color, big fish will chase it. For example, in tailwaters across the country, baitfish often get stunned coming through the turbines. The Softy Minnow is realistic enough to float without movement. You can even dead drift it with a strike indicator.
Editor: The Softy Minnow works moving or not moving. What techniques do you teach your clients for using the Softy Minnow in various situations?
Chocklet: It depends on how the fish are behaving. Aggressive fish, like the smallmouth around my home, Midwest or Northwest steelhead, Alaskan rainbows, or east coast stripers in certain situations, for example, like patterns that dart around. Retrieve the Softy Minnow by making short, quick strips and from time to time twitching the rod slightly to the side. For schooling fish or fish that don’t seem to be keying on movement, let the Softy Minnow sink on it’s own, giving the fly an occasional twitch with the rod tip or by imparting a short, quick line strip.
The one thing big fish the world over have always had in common is an appetite for their smaller neighbors. Now big fish the world over have something else in common: a serious appetite for the Softy Minnow, the most realistic baitfish pattern available. Wherever you’re headed, pack a selection of the pattern that works when all other don’t, The Softy Minnow.