I was about 22 when I decided I’d had enough of being skunked by the Spotted Grunter, and began my quest to re-crack the code with my own fly, or at least find a piece of water I considered understood. Older, and (hopefully) wiser today, I know that I put far too much emphasis on fly design and wasted countless hours at the vice. 8 proven fly patterns later I’ve learnt that if anything, there is a new code for every flat and fishery and the defining characteristic in success is not the fly, but the anglers understanding of the fishes feeding habits and movements.
My most successful pattern to date is a variant of Henkie Altenas original segmented prawn, and although that seems to be the fishes favourite when I’m on the water, its not mine.
The JAM is a brilliant combination of realistic and impressionistic ideas. The tying in itself is an art, but for me the real genius is its behaviour in a static position. Static. A word and concept that I just couldn’t grasp as a young angler. I clearly remember reading an article written on the JAMs development which made reference to the changes needed to adjust buoyancy, and thinking, “why the hell would it matter? Surely when you strip the fly rights itself and swims hook down?”. The clue was a clear reference to the flies required presentation.
I sat with Conrad Botes, Michael Gradidge and Stephen Smith last night, and a recurring question from Michael was, “why all the foam?” “Surely it just lays on its side?”. No. A perfectly weighted JAM sinks fast and then almost hovers just off the sand (mud). The hook on my latest ones is almost always off the sand. Thats clever for three reasons;
1) On a mud flat there is a thermocline caused by the mud/water temperature differential, meaning that just off the bottom there is a section of perfectly clear water, even on the murkiest mud flats. That clear area is the strike zone. If you strip through and you’re not in it, you’re nowhere, unless the fish are in frenzy mode. I think this is the reason why the stationary presentation is so deadly. It means the fly is in the zone that much longer, and it also doesn’t get stuck in the mud. This occurs on the sand as well, and a conversation with a spear fisherman that has targeted Steenbras in big water will tell you about lying on the bottom in the “clear layer”, albeit on a much larger scale.
2) The buoyancy means that with the hook eye as an anchor and pivot, and the rest of the fly is free to move and wave around (note the rubber legs)
3) (most importantly in my opinion) The fly can be sucked in and moved by the fish with minimal effort, and moves hook (foam end) first. I often talk about the grunter “tap”, which I believe to be a hydraulic caused by the fish trying to suck in the fly. A heavy fly like the articulated EP pattern is just not that easy to suck in, that might be the reason why I feel the tap that much more on the EP fly.
That is the JAMs genius.