A “splasher” is a small, nearly weightless presentation that not only matches the hatch but attracts picky fish to the surface. When combined with a fly, it creates the “splash-and-feather rig” that can be deadly when targeting species with a preference for small food and feeding at the edge of one’s casting range.
Anglers have two options when choosing a splasher: the Casting Egg and the Casting Bubble.
The Casting Egg is an egg-shaped piece of solid wood with a screw-in line tie on each end, and sometimes has a pin or screw to hold the fly on the cast. The eggs come in various weights and sizes, typically 1 to 2 ounces, cast well, and are buoyant.
A Casting Bubble is a translucent plastic oval that can be filled with water to give it a variable casting weight. When totally filled, the bubble sinks slowly, but when partially full, it floats. Even when full, the bubble planes to the surface on the retrieve and can be splashed across the surface. According to On The Water columnist Eric Harrison, the sound of a splashing casting bubble perfectly mimics the sound of a feeding pelagic. He used a bubble and fly with great success when fishing for Pacific bonito in California, and it worked well when he used it here in the Northeast on false albacore.
The bonus of the bubble is its transparent quality, which is less likely to spook finicky fish because it does not cast a shadow. However, the casting bubble is less durable than the casting egg and is prone to crack if it hits rocks or the boat. A bubble has no line tie; instead, it’s slid onto the line (like an egg sinker), with the line passing through the bubble. This requires some additional rigging to keep the bubble spaced from the fly.
When to use the Splash-and-Feather Rig
False albacore are the primary saltwater target for this rig. It works well at getting a small fly into range of feeding albies both from shore or boat; however, it is also an effective blind-casting presentation because the splashing of the egg or bubble grabs an albie’s attention to the fly trailing behind.
It’s also very effective for trout in lakes and ponds, where fish can be seen rising out of fly-casting range. In situations where distant, stillwater trout are refusing spoons, spinners, or stickbaits, a weightless Wooly Bugger, pink worm, or other small fly fished behind a casting bubble can produce excellent results.
The splash-and-feather rig also works for finicky striped bass, such as fish feeding on anchovies or cinder worms, when spin fishermen struggle to “match the hatch” with conventional lures.
Making a Splash-and-Feather Rig
The target species determines the leader strength, but the standard splash-and-feather rig incorporates a leader of 2 to 8 feet between the splasher and the fly. The more finicky the fish, the longer the leader should be. When deciding between fluorocarbon and monofilament leader materials, consider that fluorocarbon sinks while monofilament floats, since this may impact your presentation, depending on your fly choice and target species.
Fishing the Splash-and-Feather Rig
There are a few ways to retrieve the splasher and fly combo.
- Rip It: Retrieve fast and steady, letting the egg gurgle its way along the surface. The fly will appear to be a fleeing baitfish.
- Splash and Pause: Generate a disturbance on the surface with big, violent splashes and an intermittent pause. The spray of water will attract a fish’s attention, while the pause allows the fly to float or slightly sink like a stunned or mortally wounded baitfish.
- Twitch and Rip: This method combines the previous two techniques. Keep the line constantly taut by retrieving the egg and fly with a flick of the rod tip for a splash, followed by a fast retrieve. Quickly repeat this action for the duration of the retrieve because an albie will track a fast-moving bait until it deems the right moment to strike.
- Slow and Steady: When chasing trout or worm-sipping stripers, a slow and steady retrieve, with intermittent pauses to let the fly settle, is most likely to get bites.