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Thread: The Tale of the Fruit-Loop Leech

  1. #1

    Smile The Tale of the Fruit-Loop Leech

    In the long dark Alaskan winter a fly fisherman has the tying bench to keep him sane. On a Friday night in February, I sat down at the tying bench with a six pack of Alaska White beer to tie some steelhead flies for a trip still months away.

    The session started with several common fly patterns used for steelhead in Southeast Alaska. However with every beer consumed the common patterns gradually turned to wacky personal creations. Sometime late into the night a fly was created of epic ridiculousness.

    Upon review of my creations the next morning I discovered I had created what would later be named the Fruit-loop Leech. It was a 4.5 inch long, triple-articulated moal leech that had almost every common florescent color. Also, like the colors, the materials used were not even consistent. It had a dose of marabou feathers, cactus chenille, Estaz and even some crosscut rabbit strips, all tied onto a two stainless steel cotter pins connected by 30 pound spectra loops and a size 4 Gamakatzu trailer hook at the end.

    I named it the Fruit-Loop Leech

    Fruit-Loop Leech by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    Upon showing the Fruit-loop Leech to several fishing buddies I received several comments like:

    • "Ahhh…chasing the elusive “Bozo Fish” I see…good luck"
    • "That thing had me is convulsions like a Japanese kid on too much sugar watching rapid motion cartoons!"
    • "Dear God you could use it as a bear avoidance device…just wave it around and watch them run!"
    • "That fly has one thing going for it, it is more likely to scare all the fish down to someone better at catching and landing one."


    I can not say I didn't agree with them but there was something about this creation that I was proud of, so into the box it went.

    That fly sat in the box all season long. Several times I looked at the fly but could never bring myself to pull it out of the box and give it a try, even for Coho salmon. It was just too weird.

    Flash forward to November of 2011. I was headed to Lago Strobel, Argentina, also known as Jurassic Lake. The Fruit-Loop Leech was there in the box waiting to make the journey. It almost left it behind, They say every fly works at Jurassic Lake. I vowed I would test that statement with the Fruit-Loop Leech.

    A couple weeks later I was on my way to Lago Strobel with our guide Juan. During the 'Drive from Hell' we were making small talk about which flies to use, fishing spots, etc when the Fruit-Loop Leech was mentioned. Upon showing Juan the fly he started laughing and said; "That might be the first fly not to catch a fish at Jurassic Lake."

    We started fishing that afternoon and I should probably say catching because you literally caught a fish every 5 minutes and the average size was 8-10 pounds. Jurassic Lake was amazing and even that word does not do it justice. I will post a in depth review with more pictures later, this is the story about the Fruit-Loop Leech.

    One afternoon shortly after lunch, my friend Jason, his wife Cindy and I stumbled across a large school of super aggressive rainbow trout in a bay close to the Loop camp. Stripping the fly faster induced more strikes and every color, every size, every type of fly was working. The water was super clear and you could watch them chase it, miss the fly, strike it, etc. Doubles and triple hookups were common. Only at Jurassic can three friends hook and land three 12+ pound rainbow trout at the same time.


    Double Up by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    Our gear was stressed, arms were sore. We lost count of the number of 30+ inch rainbow trout we caught (estimates put it over 12 that afternoon alone) and they just kept coming. If anything the fishing seemed to be getting better. It was a feeding frenzy.


    30 inch + fish by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    A couple hours into one of the most amazing fishing experiences we have ever had, the guides wandered down from the camp to check and see if we needed anything. They could already tell that the action was hot. As the guides arrived, we were in the middle of a short break, to replace frayed leaders, choose a new fly, enjoy a beer and a Cuban cigar.

    Our guide, Juan, sat down next to me and jokingly said I should try the Fruit-Loop Leech. I pulled it out of the box and both guides had a little laugh at my expense. I wasn't fazed and I tied it on my line. If i ever had a chance to catch a fish with the Fruit-Loop Leech, this was the time.

    Juan said he needed a picture for the before and after shot, though nobody believed there would be an after shot.


    Fruit-Loop at Jurassic Photo by: Loop guide Juan by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo by: Loop guide Juan

    I wandered down to the little shelf we were fishing off of and cast the Fruit-Loop Leech out. It was so wind resistant it felt like I was throwing a whole chicken into the bay. It landed on the water and floated. I hear the guides start laughing, I now have a Fruit-Loop dry fly.

    A couple slow strips and the rabbit fur and marabou begins to soak up the water and the fly slowly starts to sink. In the clear water I see a fish break away from the group to come take a look. Everybody was shocked that a fish was actually even looking at the Fruit-Loop Leech and not running from it. But the trout did not strike the fly forcing me to cast again.

    This cast went a little easier and I waited a few seconds for it to sink. I then started short fast strips to entice a strike. After several fast strips, I saw a fish break away from the group at warp speed and slam into the fly.

    I set the hook and the fish went ballistic. The fish tail-walked for a distance then put on the afterburners, peeling line off my reel. I was ecstatic, I just hooked a fish on the Fruit-Loop Leech. I looked back at the guides who had looks of shock on their faces.

    I was into backing before long with the drag still singing as yards of backing peeled off the reel. Half my backing was gone and the fish was still going. I had to slow it down. I cranked the drag down as far as it could go and started palming the reel. Several bruised knuckles later I managed to turn the fish.

    We knew it was a sizeable fish by the way it took off but we didn't know how big. After several minutes we finally saw the fish as it rolled near the surface.


    Action Shot by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo by: Loop guide Juan

    I was going to need help landing this one, so I called out to Jason to help. I wanted this fish, not only was it the first fish the Fruit-Loop Leech ever caught but also a big fish. I was going to be careful fighting this fish because i knew the 14 pound fluorocarbon leader would not hold up if it got abraded by the rocks or if I tried to force the fish in. So it took almost ten minutes or more to get the fish into the little tidepool area near us so we could trap it and take pictures.

    As soon as the fish was into position Jason near dove on it. It was a lot bigger than we even expected. The fish was almost too big to hold. Pictures were taken, measurements were taken. Fish was revived and swam away unharmed for someone else to catch.

    The documented proof that the Fruit-loop Leech works and more than that, the fly designed on a cold Alaskan night caught my biggest trout.

    Fish Measurements : 34 inches long x 23.5 inch girth. Estimated weight: 24 Pounds


    Now onto the pictures

    Too big to pick up by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo by: Loop guide Juan


    My big Fish by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo by: Loop guide Juan

  2. #2
    Member Hunt&FishAK's Avatar
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    Great story and pictures! my dad always said when nothin else works, put on the most ridiculous ugliest gnarliest creation you can find.....and not only will you catch fish, but big ones....hes always been right...congratulations on an awesome trip and a beautiful fish! even Hippie will be interested in this one....thanks for posting sir....



    Release Lake Trout

  3. #3

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    Awesome!!! That is an amazing fish! And it's true, sometimes the ugliest flies are the ones that hammer the big fish!

  4. #4
    Member AKnook's Avatar
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    one word....WOW. What a fish!

  5. #5

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    holy mother of all fisherman

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    Member 900fusion's Avatar
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    awesome story and great fish!
    -Tight Lines & head shakin

  7. #7
    Member G_Smolt's Avatar
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    Nice fish, Josh. Strobel and Loop Camp are definitely on the bucket list.

  8. #8

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    Sweet fish, story and fly! I second that G_Smolt.

  9. #9
    Member danattherock's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing man. Those are some awesome looking fish and the images are spectacular.




    -Dan

  10. #10
    Member JediMasterSalmonSlayer's Avatar
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    Chronicled well, a very nice story indeed, and a amazing fish. I can only dream of going that far south for now...maybe one day.
    http://www.myfishingpictures.com/watermark.php?file=133776
    Jedi Salmon Powers Activated!
    www.alaskansalmonslayers.com


  11. #11
    Member power drifter's Avatar
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    Very Cool Story and fish!

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    Premium Member Wyo2AK's Avatar
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    my mind is officially blown. thanks for sharing a well-presented account of your trip and an amazing fish!

    that truly is one ugly fly! haha
    Pursue happiness with diligence.

  13. #13
    Member cube01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by halibutk View Post



    My big Fish by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo by: Loop guide Juan
    Good god!!!
    "If our father had his say, nobody who did not know how to catch a fish would be allowed to disgrace a fish by catching him." -A River Runs Through It

  14. #14
    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    I always wondered why they initially stocked that lake with fish from California. Either way, they are obviously doing very well. Nice fish!
    Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

  15. #15
    Member G_Smolt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishGod View Post
    I always wondered why they initially stocked that lake with fish from California. Either way, they are obviously doing very well. Nice fish!
    Because it is a fishfarm. Literally.

    Lago Strobel is an aquaculture operation, and the other thing they cultivate is mysis shrimp - prime food for big bows.

    Still, a place that is on my bucketlist.

  16. #16
    Member FishGod's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by G_Smolt View Post
    Because it is a fishfarm. Literally.

    Lago Strobel is an aquaculture operation, and the other thing they cultivate is mysis shrimp - prime food for big bows.

    Still, a place that is on my bucketlist.
    Ah, now it it's making sense.
    Your bait stinks and your boat is ugly

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by G_Smolt View Post
    Because it is a fishfarm. Literally.

    Lago Strobel is an aquaculture operation, and the other thing they cultivate is mysis shrimp - prime food for big bows.

    Still, a place that is on my bucketlist.

    No offense G_smolt but I am going to have to put this "Rumor" to bed. The rumor that Lago Strobel is an aquaculture program is false. It is true the fish are not native to the area and if that is what your definition of what an aquaculture program is than that is for another conversation. The fish in Lago Strobel are NOT fed (food or cultured Mysis), Not bred, not stocked yearly, etc. They spawn in the river (directly observed), feed on small native amphipods that reside in the lake and other than being harassed by fisherman are left alone.

    I think you may have heard about one of the operations that take clients to the lake. I would be happy to talk to you in more detail about this offline when I run into you next time.

    I have further information to suggest that Lago Strobel is not an aquaculture operation. This however will give me an opportunity to post more pictures as I argue against this rumor. So it is a win for everybody.

    There are three operations that will give fisherman access to the lake.

    The camp I went with is Loop. It is directly on the lake. It is on the beach next to the entrance of the Barrancoso river, the only river, that feeds into the lake. It is also the river that the fish naturally spawn in to support the population. It has a good relationship with the owner of the most of the shoreline of Lago Strobel.

    Picture of Loop Camp

    P1010473
    by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    Another operation fishes the North side of the lake, has a small cabin but no access to the river. My understanding is it is a bit more rugged and exposed. You can catch big fish still just not in the numbers like Loop camp. The good thing it is cheaper than Loop camp. You get what you pay for.

    The third operation is the one I think may be the source of aquaculture rumors. That would be Laguna Verde. Now Laguna Verde sits a mile or more from Lago Strobel on its own little lake, hence the name. It does own some of the shoreline to Lago Strobel, specifically the south eastern bay, and does allow clients access to Lago Strobel after a 45 minute drive on four wheelers and a 3/4 a mile walk down the cliffs. Honestly i didn't see their clients, saw the four wheelers once and passed them on the drive in but that was it. They are also newer operation.

    The story is that a group of businessmen in Buenos Aires purchased the Estanica ythat owned the eastern shoreline several years ago and are developing it as the luxury option for Lago Strobel. Because access to the lake is hard they are developing lakes closer to the lodge. The lodge sits on Laguna Verde that I am pretty sure is stocked. From a biological perspective the fish are probably fed as well. THIS IS NOT LAGO STROBEL. It is a different lake and different operation. I think the rumor that Lago Strobel was an aquaculture operation comes from people observing the activity at that lodge.

    I have further information to suggest that Lago Strobel is not an aquaculture operation. This however will give me an opportunity to post more pictures as I argue against this rumor. So it’s a win for everybody.

    First I should mention I am a fishery biologist. I traveled with two other biologists so our scientific curiosity caused us to research before the trip and be interested while we were there. The lake is truly unique and it would be awesome to do some studies on the trout population. Our sources were from extensive scientific literature searches and from interviews with several residents of the local area.

    From research and locals, aquaculture in the area was big in the 1980s this continued into early 90s but now it is pretty much gone according the sources asked. Remnants of that old aquaculture operation can be found in the wind swept boulder fields. Here is a picture of an old freezer used in the operation. I would say this thing had been sitting for 20 years at least.


    IMG_0532_HDR by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    The aquaculture was like a traveling caravan according to sources. They would drive from small lake to small lake stocking the fish and leaving them. Rarely were they fed. They would return later to harvest. This limited them to the smaller lakes that were accessible and harvest-able.

    Lago Strobel does NOT fit that description. It is hard to access due to cliffs that surround it and it is way to big to harvest from. From the owner of Lago Strobel and several other sources that reside in the area, fish were NOT directly stocked in Lago Strobel because access and size of lake would have prevented harvest of fish. That makes sense from a economic standpoint and further makes sense after having been there.

    However, according to sources, the trout that reside in Lago Strobel are a byproduct of that aquaculture operation that occurred over 20+ years ago. According to the owner (an 80 year old guacho that has lived on the lake most of his life) the origin of Lago Strobel trout came from a big winter that created huge snow melts and flooded some of these smaller lakes near the head waters of the Barrancoso river. The Barrancoso River leads to Lago Strobel and from there the population of trout started and flourished.

    Picture break. The Barrancoso river about 1.5 mile upstream.

    P1030085_HDR by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr

    Now to address the trout origin genetics. Rumor has it that genetically the trout are California steelhead. This is unconfirmed. Outside of one source on the internet, I found no reference to where the fish originated from. I was unable to find any credible source of that information. The people down there do not know where the fish originate from including the guy that owns the Estanicia Lago Strobel resides on. Being a fish biologist I would love to find that out.

    I will say that I think there are multiple genetic stocks of origin based on the fish I saw. There was massive variation in body shape, coloration, etc between some fish. I would guess at least three stocks of origin but I don’t know.

    Now the real reason you are here, some fish Pron.


    J00_6572 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo from our guide Juan. Big fish, I did not land this one, but I wish I had. Almost lost my fly line. The fish went into the rocks and I had no way to stop him.


    J00_6175 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Photo from our Guide Juan. A good release picture


    J00_5984 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    One of my favorite fish of the trip. Caught this fish on my 5 wt with a Chernobyl. I got lucky. Seeing a fish like this sip a dry fly was amazing. Photo by our guide Juan


    IMG_0783 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Some of the fish in the river were absolutely beautiful. Though smaller they were voracious for dry flies and using 5 wts ,we had a lot of fun.


    Silver_jason by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    I know this is weird but this is what I would consider an average fish.


    Coho Fly _jason by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    Sometimes we tried the weird and wacky flies. As mentioned above , everything worked. A southeast Coho fly.


    P1010402 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    One thing you can count on at Lago Strobel is wind. My casting is ten times better after that marathon.


    P1010487 by jkeaton_AK, on Flickr
    One more average fish

  18. #18
    Member G_Smolt's Avatar
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    Interesting.

    Yes, the folks that I got my info from were guiding in the area "pre-Loop" (one of them about 15 years ago), so it probably came from the Verde side. I was under the impression that both the fish and the inverts were introduced to a bunch of lakes on the Plateau, including Strobel.

    At any rate, not tryin' to take away from your trip. Those are some big fish and it looks like a hell of a time...one of these days I will get down there.

  19. #19
    Member icb12's Avatar
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    That fly reminds me of a tutti frutti llama. Only on crack.

    I wonder if it would work on the Situk.. Metal there seem awfully fond of Rodmans/Garcia, why not something similar-- only bigger.

  20. #20

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    That will def work in SE. We have tried very similar stuff and it works! That looks like an amazing trip! That is def on my list now.

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