Blane Chocklett is known as one of the most creative and skilled fly tyers today. With many patterns to his credit, his Game Changer fly has caused quite a ruckus within the fly fishing world in recent years. Not only is it big, bold, and supposedly swims with an impressive action, but it also catches a huge variety of species. As an enthusiast of conventional swimbaits both hard and soft, I look at this fly as the flyrodder's equivalent—and that's pretty intriguing. With this in mind, I thought it'd be equally intriguing to thoroughly fish and test this fly to see what all the hype is about.
Length: Approx 4.5 inches
Dry Weight: Approx 3 grams
Wet Weight: Approx 11.9 grams (after being soaked then lightly shook out)
Hook: Size 2/0
Colors: White or Rainbow Trout
Price: $12.95 each
The Game Changer is an articulated fly meaning that its built using various independent wire segments (typically four) that all link together and attach to the hook. The wire segments are different lengths (the tail portion has the shortest segment) and the fly's materials are tied onto each segment individually in addition to the main hook. When the chain-like segments are attached to the hook and the fly is complete, you end up with a long, jointed fly sporting a large body portion that can move more freely in the water.
My flies were tied on 2/0 hooks which appears to be the only size currently offered by Umpqua. Available in two colors, I chose a couple of the all-white versions so I could custom-color them myself using a few permanent markers.
While it's hard to say what all of the exact materials are used in Umpqua's Game Changers, these flies are commonly tied on Fish Skull Articulated Fish Spines connected to the main hook via Senyo's Intruder Wire, with the body typically built-up with something like Chocklett's Body Wrap along with a couple of large stick-on eyes. The two flies I purchased were tied very well and the eyes were sturdily set in place.
I flung the Game Changer at some local private waters targeting largemouth bass. Not surprisingly, casting this fly is not exactly what I'd call easy. It's large and bulky as is when dry, but when wet it holds a lot of water (see specs above) and becomes quite a handful. I used a Douglas SKY 9-weight along with a WF9F Coldwater RIO General Purpose Saltwater line when testing the fly.
After getting the fly wet, it was a bit too much for me or my combo to handle, so an ugly lob-style cast was about all I could do with it. Keep in mind I was shore fishing from a high bank with a lot of brush/trees in the way behind me, so that really hampered my ability to use optimal technique to toss this thing. I'm sure that when fishing from a boat, a Belgian Cast would make things WAY easier. Although the articulated body can curl around into a U-shape, I didn't experience any fouling issues with the fly.
In the last paragraph I mentioned how the fly will retain a lot of water. Before casting for the first time, I like to pre-soak my fly to help it sink without delay. When dry, it has a tendency to float, so a quick dunking beforehand helps. Speaking of sink rate, once wet it will sink at a relatively moderate pace and with a nice flat attitude.
There's no doubt the action of the Game Changer is pretty cool and varied. On slow, long, steady pulls it slips along with a mild swimming action. Speaking of which, a two-handed retrieve (with the rod tucked under the arm) works well here, too. Quicker and more abrupt strips and pauses will get the fly to also dart and shoot around erratically. The fly does have a tendency to rise up a bit during the retrieve which makes it easy to get the fly to wake or "bulge" just under the water's surface, but to help keep it down I like using a sink tip line and short leader. Additionally, just deadsticking the bait and letting it sink for a few seconds gets bit too. This fly is very much like a hybrid jerkbait/glidebait/wakebait/swimbait for the fly angler. I don't enjoy casting it, but the actual fishing part is pretty entertaining!
Durability of my test flies seemed excellent thus far. After knocking them against concrete walls and getting chomped on by some 2–4 pound largemouth bass, so far there's no body damage or destruction to speak of.
I can see why these flies have made such a huge splash in the fly fishing world the last several years—to say the least, they're pretty dang cool. While the Game Changer can be used for many species both fresh and salt, as a self-proclaimed "bass geek" I really like their conventional bait qualities and just the pure fun factor of fishing these things. I'm still not quite ready for the commitment of tying them myself, but the fact that Umpqua's versions are both productive and durable makes the cost much easier to digest. If you want to change up your fly fishing game, I urge you to give one a try.
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