Saturday, September 5, 2020

Kayak'n the River


Kayak’n the River


  I sat in the kayak for a moment observing my surroundings. The sky took on a powdery white feel to it. A morning fog was still rising downriver gracing the tree tops like low cloud cover on a western mountain slope. The river flowed lazily before me with patches of bubbles that were stirred up by a shallow riffle. The summer green trees and hemlocks line the banks overlooking the river water. Exposed rocks and boulders also lined the river banks looking like ideal places for smallmouth to ambush prey. The air was cool upon my bare arms and face but a calming coolness that mixed well with the quiet and solitude of the early morning weekday.

  I paddled across the current towards the far bank. Within casting range, with my fly rod, I dropped the anchor to slow my progress of floating downriver. I casted poppers towards the boulders, stripped them in and watched the bubbles created with the gurgling popper. Now and then I would let the popper drift with the slow current like a frog enjoying some rest after a hearty swim. In no time a fish gulps at my offering. I lower the rod, wait just a second or two and bring the rod up with a jerking hook set. The line tightens and a smallmouth fights the line with the under current. It’s not a big smallmouth by any count but an aggressive one at that. It’s always a good feeling to get the first one to the kayak.

  Within a half hour sprinkles of raindrops start to fall from the overcast sky. I continue to fish hoping it will stop. Anther 15 minutes and the sprinkles start to become raindrops. I put on my plastic poncho rain coat I had taken along. I feel like a scarecrow with a camouflage tablecloth draped over my shoulders. As the steady raindrop continue I take cover paddling over to the bank under overhanging hemlock boughs.


 I watch raindrops dot the surface water. I listen to birds chirping and relax in the calmness. I take out my first stogie and lite it up. Smoke rises from the lit foot and lingers in the windless air. 


 It isn’t long before the boredom is too much. The rain isn’t getting any heavier and being it’s not cold I paddle out into the sprinkling rain and continue my float. I mostly cast towards the banks hoping for a take. Every once in a while I’ll cast out towards the middle of the river. On occasion, and unexpectedly, a smallmouth attacks my popper but I’m either too slow to react or just not timing it right to get a hook set. An hour or so passes by. I drop the anchor within good looking smallmouth locations and cover the area thoroughly without a take. I’m still patient though in hopes the bass will start feeding.

  The rain had stopped and the sun starts to shine above. I notice the water appears to clear up but it could be just the sunshine upon the water now that makes it look clearer.

  I cast towards an outcropping of boulders mid-river. A fish explodes out out the surface at my popper while I’m stripping it towards me. I wait a second or two after it takes it under and rear back on the 5 weight fast action rod. The fly line and leader lifts off the water and with it the popper rises into the air free from the fish that grabbed it. Another miss, ugh.

  The smallmouth kayaking fishing becomes more like a joy ride in the kayak and casting practice. I aim for leaves drifting with the current as I myself float downriver at a slow pace. My accuracy increases. I cast between boulders and with confidence land the popper just inches from downed leafy tree branches that have fallen into the river. I whip tighter loops underneath overhanging tree limbs into back eddy coves with ease. I finally come to a narrower deeper section of water I have caught quite a few bass before. I drop the anchor and cover the reachable areas with cast after cast. I’ll pull up the anchor and drift further downriver a bit before dropping it again to either slow me down or stop completely.

I change color poppers often. I decide to switch to a silver cupped popper with extended gray feathers trailing behind it. I figure it mad look like a dying chubby minnow trying to gain strength. I strip it towards me in short gurgling strips acting like a minnow trying to escape and then let it rest upon the water. I let it drift freely with the current and then it happens. A big gulp at my drifting popper accompanying by an audible splash. I drop the rod tip, wait and then yank a hard hook set. The fly line and leader whip upward out of the water. The line straightens and I can feel the hook set was real. The top section of the rod flexes downward and I hold the cork grip tightly as I fight with a heavy smallmouth. It takes line off the spool as it swims deep and away. I click the drag a little tighter and grab the spool knob controlling the tension. The smallmouth just about encircles the kayak and fearing he might tangle up with the anchor rope I force the play and aim him away from the anchor side of the kayak. He follows staying deep but fighting hard. After a bit more fighting I angle him towards the left side of the kayak where I can get a hold of my net. He appears quite heavy to try and land him in the kayak and I’ve lost quite a few nice size smallmouth trying to lip them in the water next to the side of the yak. This one feels pretty hefty so I decide to try and net him. He comes to the surface a rod and a half away as the surface water swirling with action. He dives deep and I let just a little line out and then let the rod flex for resistance. I can feel his fight ending quicker with shorter bursts. I reel in line and grab my net. Lifting the rod high he rises towards the surface just enough I get the net under him and capture him. A fine fish and a good fight!


  A couple of pics and I set him free to catch another day.

  I grab for one more stogie to relax for the rest of the float. I stay on my guard hoping for some more takes and action. I only miss one take, that I believe was a small one, before I paddle over to my river exit. I leave my kayak on a flat boulder aside the river bank but take my fly rod with me. I get on my bicycle, I had left with some reliable campers, and pedal 3 miles up to my truck. Upon my return I gather my equipment and put it in my pick up before hauling the kayak up to the road. I get it in the bed of the truck, along with my bike, and bungee them down. I thank the campers for watching my bicycle and I head for home.

  It wasn’t as productive as I would have liked but it was enjoyable none the less. A couple of smallies, great river scenery, calm and quiet relaxing solitude. 


Monday, August 31, 2020

The Winston Break


The Winston Break



 I loaded up the float tube with my fishing gear and laid it on the back of my truck bed. My plan was to drive up river around 2 miles and fish my way back to camp. After parking along the road I carried the float tube down to the river. Back at the truck I assembled the Winston Boron 6 weight with weight forward line. Though I have done well catching the smallies on Woolly Buggers in the past the main course for the smallies today would be poppers. At least I would start with a few. There’s nothing like watching the sudden explosion of water on a moving popper. I set the float tube in the calm water shielded by boulders from the main current. Being a week day I was ready for a nice quiet float without many disturbances from other river users. 

 By 8:30 am, when I put in, the morning sky was pale blue with the sun just beaming over the south side of the mountain tree line. The water flowed slowly around river strewn boulders that were exposed by the low water conditions. The wrinkly surface water reflected the sun rays and glimmered as far as the eye could see between the green forested banks. 

 It all started off well. The hot sun shown down and brought heat with it. The cooler water surrounded my lower body in the float tube keeping me wet and comfortable.

As I floated down the river I tried to keep within casting distance of the river banks and protruding boulders. I had missed a couple within the first hour or so but nothing I figured was a big enough gulp to say I missed anything big. By late morning I had landed a couple of smaller smallmouth that weren’t worth picture taking. I knew there were bigger bass in the river so I kept on casting and throwing the popper in every likely area I thought that looked good but they just weren’t hungry. Maybe they already had their morning meal before I arrived. Hopefully by lunch time they would start feeding again.

 In the faster runs I tried streamer fishing with Woolly Buggers and a couple of Clouser Minnows but the bass weren’t interested. I floated over most of the shallower water and concentrated on the deeper and shadier areas along the bank closer to noon. 

 I was free floating down river in slow current when I finally got a good gulping take. I lowered the rod briefly on the snatch and yanked it up. The line tightened and a smallmouth surfaced briefly before going under and fighting in the current. I played him to the float tube and landed him on the apron. “Nice going” I sort of told myself under my breath. 

  After the release I took out a stogie from my front pocket and lit it up. Smoke feathered from the lit end of the Sancho Panza Double Maduro. A couple of relaxing puff and I went back to floating down river and concentrating on smallmouth fishing. 

 I had good footing against a submerged boulder and started casting near the roadside bank. I could feel the heat upon my shoulders as sun shown bright in the blue cloudless sky. I was still puffing on the stogie with my shades on to cut down the glare. There was hardly a breeze so I kept shifting the cigar from one side of my mouth to the other to keep the rising smoke from my immediate vision. My first two casts were across and downstream. I’d twitch the popper with rod tip action to get the popper to gurgle up water as I watched it drift with the slow current and then arc below me. I whipped the line and popper up off the water and behind me and then shot the popper up and across stream from where I was stationed. I took in the excess line quickly and gurgled the popper on the surface. The popper drifted within a couple of feet from the over hanging brush along the river bank. I gave a couple of more short strips to liven up my gurgling offering. Straight across from me there was a sudden gulping splash at my popper. I lowered the rod long enough to give the bass time to close its mouth and then yanked upwards taking up all slack in the line. The line sprung from the water and tightened straight towards the disappearance of the popper. Then snap!? The fly rod collapsed and folded like an open book in a wind storm. It sounded like a sprung mouse trap. I looked and noticed quickly that the rod broke somewhere near the first eye from the butt section. I was dumbfounded.


   Holding the cork grip I realized that my yanking hook set was good and there was a fighting smallmouth on the end of my line. I laid the rod on the float tube apron and began to tire the smallmouth out and bring him to the float tube hand over hand pulling in the fly line and leader. I was in shock that the rod just snapped.

  I had got the Winston rod last fall as a replacement for a broken Vapor rod I had used for years. I specifically use this rod for smallmouth fishing in the river. I hadn’t used it but a few other times and have caught some nice size smallies with it previously. I have no idea what caused the break. The smallmouth wasn’t all that huge.

  After I got both the broken rod sections on the apron I held the caught smallie in my hand and made sure the picture included both the smallmouth and the broken rod.

 That was it!!! I was done fishing. I figured I was about a mile upriver from camp. I was rod-less and unhappy. I picked up my finned booted feet and floated down the river like a lost beach ball. I tried to ignore anyone getting into the water with their floats or kayaks. I tried to not appear angry when someone would ask me “how’s fishing?” I was angry. Not so much that my rod broke but that I had to drift a mile without fishing.!!

  Warranty on a broken rod, when fishing, is worse then a warranty on leaky waders. At least with leaky waders you can keep fishing.

  When I got to my extraction point I got everything on the bank. I made a couple of trips carrying some gear to my camper before grabbing hold of the float tube and carrying it back to camp. After that I got on my bicycle and pedaled the 2 miles up to my truck. By the time I got back to camp it was only about 1:30. Clouds had moved in to give some relief from the hot sun but there wasn’t any sign of rain. I thought for a moment, a quick moment, and put the float tube back on the truck bed. I went into the camper and grabbed my 6 weight fiberglass Wonderod. I wasn’t about to call it a day. There was plenty of time left to fish. I drove up river a piece and put the float tube back in the water. After stringing up the glass rod I dipped in the water and sat down in the float tube. The rod was quite heavier than the Winston Boron but I managed to cast the poppers OK and enjoyed the rest of the time on the water fly fishing for smallies.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Smallmouth Junkie!

Smallmouth Junkie!

  By the time I sat in the float tube it was 8:30 am. A little later than I wanted to start my 3 mile float and a lot longer in miles I wanted to go. I couldn’t find an easy place to get out of the river before 3 miles. I didn’t have anything else to do so whatever time it takes me to get to the extraction point shouldn’t be a problem. It’s suppose to be in the low 90’s so that will be the biggest concern as far as being under the sun most of the day and heat wave floating the river. It’s a Tuesday so I should just about be by myself for most of the day on the river. Usually around 10 a few water crafts may show up and closer to 12 is when the tube floaters enter the water. Being it’s Tuesday though I don’t expect much traffic.

  The wetness on the boulders across the river show that the water is still dropping. Without rain the past 10 or 11 days the river has been pretty shallow. There are good and bad points I’ve learned fishing the river for smallmouth in lower water conditions. Good points are there will be a lot more places I can get a foot hold to stop the float tube where I want while fishing. In the wide shallower areas of the river the bass should be congregating and holding in the semi-deeper coves along the bank. The bad points are that in the narrow parts of the river the bass may be holding in the deepest part. With me going to concentrate on surface poppers might be a bad choice in trying to bring them to the surface but that’s how I love to fish for smallmouth in the river with the fly rod. The 90 degree weather might also hamper the bite and keep the bass deep and not so active. I guess I won’t know till I’m out there.

After kicking off, from in front of my camper, I fin out to the far bank and start casting poppers near the big boulders strewn out along the tree lined bank. It won’t be long before I drift down to a shallow part of the river maybe a couple hundred yards or so. I know I’ll have to walk it till it gets deeper but checking over the water beyond it all looked like good bass holding areas and very few shallow sections. I hadn’t fished this area before so it will be all new territory.

  By the time I got to the shallow riffles I hadn’t had a rise to my popper. The sun was practically in full view and I already could feel the warmth it was bringing. I shuffle through the shallow rocks and stones taking care not to trip over my short flippers I wear on my felt wading boots. I get to the end of the riffles and sink down in the web seat and refreshing cooler water. I look downriver and it all looks fishy with boulders hugging the banks and no noticeable shallow water. There isn’t a soul in sight and being the first on the water fishing should be an advantage. Now to get the fish thinking that way.

As I slowly drift in the current I use my fins to keep me away from the bank but within distance to cast to. There isn’t any wind to speak of and the blue sky above shows no sign of foul weather. With the clouds moving slowly below the sun now and then cuts down the glare at times and also gives me a break from the heat beating down on me.

I cast out along the banks as close to the bushes that over hang or the slow pocket water behind exposed boulders. I watch the popper gurgle with each tug of the line and find that letting it drift by itself more often than not gets more frequent takes. At the end of a the small narrowing riffle, that developed from a bolder upriver, a splash occurs and my popper disappears. I consciously lower the fly rod before yanking it up hard to set the hook. The line tightens and I have my first smallie on and get him to the float tube apron. The first fish is always a good sign and the sooner the better. At 9:30am I didn’t really have to wait that long.

Being a trout bum for many years I always set the hook on a trout as quickly as possible especially dry fly fishing. I was missing a lot of bass when I started being a smallmouth junkie during the warmer seasons because of my quick reactions. A few friends, who bass fish a lot, told me I have to wait for the bass to run with it or at least close their big mouths on it before trying to set the hook. I tried the one or two second rule and it helped some but in instances I’m not concentrating on a take and surprised I forget to count. Trying to let them run when using a fly rod just doesn’t make much sense being there’s not a bail to open and my line is usually pretty straight to the popper without much slack like those that use silicone or rubber baits on a conventional rod. I just taught myself to lower the rod instead of quickly raising it to set the hook like trout fishing. Lowering it appears to give the inhaling bass enough time to close its big mouth after inhaling the popper before I yank the fly rod upward to set the hook. I found this works best for me but there are times I will miss a bass on occasion that surprises the heck out of me and I try to set the hook too soon.

It doesn’t take long after my first catch that the action picks up.

 My frog popper plops in the shade of the overhanging tree limbs. I make a couple of short tugs and the popper gurgles upon the slow moving cove water. I let line out as the popper drifts so it travels further down river closer to the huge boulders that lay against the rocky bank. My fly line is arced towards the bank and picking up some speed in the faster current outside the cove. I stop letting out line and watch my popper start to swing out of the cove. I give a couple of short tugs and it gurgles with little splash like a frog swimming without a care in the world. From the distance between the huge boulders and my popper a smallmouth porpoises at my popper like a prowling tabby pouncing on a field mouse. I hold the line tight with one hand and yank the rod high above my head to take up the slacked arced line. The smallmouth springs out of the water like a mongoose quickly jumping upward out of the way of a striking cobra. Upon reentry there’s give in the rod tip and the fly line moves deeper in the cove nearer the bank. I start bringing in line hand over hand trying to keep it tight pinching the line against the cork grip with my rod hand. I swing the rod over my left shoulder and watch the fly line move up the right bank. I hold the line tight against the cork handle and start to wind in the excess fly line onto the spool. As I feel the rod tip arcing more I let line slip through my fingers until all the excess slack line is off the apron and into the spool. Now I play him with the reel drag as I reel in line as needed. His fight diminishes and turns towards the float tube. The popper is fully in its mouth but I’m able to dislodge it safely.

  Well that deserves a cigar. I pull out a CAO Cameroon, nip off the cap with the cigar cutter that hangs from my lanyard, and light the foot. The smooth Cameroon aroma touches my nostrils and I watch the smoke from the burning foot embers dissipate in thin air.
  I hear a faint splash from mid river and turn in time to see an expanding swirl on the calm surface current. I shuffle my feet, keeping foot holds of the shallow boulder beneath, towards the swirl. Within casting distance a find a good foothold beneath and take a relaxing puff of the CAO. I see bait fish rise and dart which tells me there’s a bigger feeding fish chasing the small bait fish. I change over to an elongated silver stick bait popper. After a few casts my popper should drift within sight of the feeding fish. I watch the stick bait popper drift slowly mid river and twitch it now and then to give an appearance of a dying minnow trying to gain conscious upon the surface. A fish rises and gulps at the popper. I lower the rod and then jerk it up and another smallmouth fights the tight line. 

 As I free float down the river casting towards the banks I pick off a few small smallmouth. The heat is getting to be overbearing as I'm in full view in the sun. I dip my cap in the water and let the excess water drain and then put the cap back on. The cool water is refreshing as it drips down my head and neck. With the heat now I figure the bigger bass might just be holding in deeper water away from the sunny bank sides. The water is clear enough that they should be able to see a surface popper from quite a distance below the surface and a couple of good loud gurgles might bring them up to investigate.

  I come to an area in the river that narrows some and is much deeper than I’ve been fishing. The current is real slow and I feel I am hardly drifting down river. Huge boulders jut out of the water spaced out in this deep section of water looking like good rocky bass water. I slowly fin my way and brace myself against a boulder a third of the width of the river. I cast out a few times towards mid river and give a couple of loud gurgles without a response. I turn and cast towards the bank. It still appears pretty deep so I also give a couple of pulling tugs making the popper gurgle loudly on the surface. I watch it drift just for a couple of seconds before a huge gulp grabs it and takes it under. Instantly I feel the force of the battling smallmouth and know it’s a good one. I’m anchored solid with my feet to the big bolder and battle with the fighting smallmouth. He puts up a good fight with an occasional rise and surface swirls before getting him to the apron.

  I spend 10 minutes or so casting and trying to fool another before slowly moving on. Out of the deeper water I start casting towards the bank again and pull in a couple more smallmouth.

 I can feel the heat of the sun still bearing down and notice there’s hardly a cloud in the sky. I check my watch and it’s near 3. I’m not sure how far I am from my truck but no matter I have no place I need to be. I’m having fun, no fatigue to speak of and the smallmouth are biting. Oh, and I have a few more cigars to smoke.

  I notice the roadside cliff is pretty steep to my right facing downriver. The left side isn’t as steep but there really isn’t anywhere to actually dock. The river begins to narrow some and few huge boulders protrude out from the middle of the river or so. I bump into one and steady myself against it and cast out towards the far bank. Not sure how deep it is I only give a couple of easy tugs and soft gurgles not wanting to scare any sleepy fish. On the drift a fish, more or less, slurps in the popper as if it knows it is unaware of its presence and is an easy prey. I jerk back the line and have a good skirmish with another nice smallmouth.

 After a few more casts, within reach, I notice the road side bank is beginning to shadow from the setting sun. I slowly fin my way towards the bank but am well away from it when I find another foot hold. Not as steady as I like but my extended fin appears to hold me still in the under current. I cast out towards the middle of the river and gurgle the popper loudly. After bringing it in towards me some I single haul my next cast and throw a long line down and across river. The fly line shoots through the air followed by a silicone leg whistling frog popper. Upon the drop I let it set just for a few seconds and then gurgle it towards me with a couple of quick tugs. The surface water suddenly implodes splashing water everywhere like a depth charge exploding not far beneath the surface. I could hardly wait before yanking the rod up and rearward The long length of line whips from the surface and tight lines to a swirl left by the implosion.

This is what I’m talking about” I say to myself.

 By the tugging force and hefty swimming action I know I got a good one. He swims deep and I keep my rod high not wanting any excessive drag on the water. He does some quick turns and heavy tugs that I have to let him take line off the spool. I’m in open water so I’m not too concerned about him dragging the line against any subsurface boulder. I’m gripping the cork handle and let him play himself out in a heavy tug of war battle. I lose my footing and start to fin towards the closest bank hoping to get a hold of a boulder with my fins or wading boots. Just beyond the bank I find a foot hold and get better leverage on the battling smallmouth. Nearer to me he surfaces with body twisting and splashing. He dives deep before the float tube and I extend the rod out trying to keep him from swimming beneath me. I get him under more control and thumb him to the float tube apron. The good size smallmouth is definitely one to remember. I take my phone out of the zip lock bag in the pocket of my float tube ad take a quick snap shop of the bass on the apron. As I lift him I go to take another picture and a black screen comes up on my phone and reads ‘emergency’ and something about the phone is over heating and I can’t use it till it cools down. I’m upset not getting another photo of the big smallmouth but that’s the way it goes I guess in hot weather. I unhook the bass and let him swim free in the warm river water.
 I look to my right and see shade beneath overhanging tree branches along the bank. I bring in my line and popper and fin over to the shade. I sit in the float tube with my phone sitting out in the open on the arm rest pocket. I reach back and grab a couple of granola bars and my water bottle. I relax under the shade of the tree. I’m not in a hurry by any means and time is on my side! I rinse my mouth and light up a CAO Flathead 554. The 54 gauge cigar will last a while. 
 I kick off from the stony bank and drift freely in the river. I make a few casts mid river in the deeper water and gurgle the popper for commotion. On one cast the popper drops with a splash. I retrieve it like it is being chased by something and then let it rest and watch it drift. Another couple of gurgles in the same way as if being chased and a bass explodes out of the water at my popper. His belly exits the water upon the rise and I drop the rod momentarily and rear back hard taking up the slack. The line tightens and immediately I feel the force of the fish on the arcing rod. He upsurges out of the water surface showing his fat belly and hefty body. He splashes down only to be described like a small keg of wet gunpowder being thrown overboard. He takes off downriver with me in tow. I have no foothold in the deep water and can only hope he stays hooked while I try to fin my way to shallower water. He turns the float tube and pulls me along as I desperately back fin towards the bank. I know there is no use trying to land him on the float tube while aimlessly floating without a foothold. We battle with him having full control or where and how fierce the battle will be. I get to shallower water and wedge my fins and boots between a couple of underwater boulders. Now with leverage I take the initiative of controlling the battle. I add more resistance to the line and tighten the drag a bit. The arcing rod becomes a little more fierce and forces the bass to use more energy to defend. I slowly reel in line and stopping at every forceful tug without releasing line. Nearer to me I reach to get a thumb hold but it takes a few attempts to grip his lip and bring him to the apron.

  I drift on but the water starts to get pretty shallow and I know I’m getting close to my extraction point. Somewhere along the line I notice I lost my right flipper. How that happened or why I didn’t notice it earlier is beyond me. I backtrack walking the shallows a good 10 minutes or so without finding it. I end up walking upon the shallows until I hit some water I can sit in without scraping bottom. I concentrate and cast out towards the roadside bank. I have a couple of strikes but nothing I can say that is of any size. I kick my way to shore and carry my float tube up the bank to the truck. It is 5:00 when all is packed and ready to drive upriver to the camper.

It’s one of the best days I’ve had on the river aside from losing one flipper.


Friday, July 10, 2020

Float Tube and River Smallmouth

Float Tube and River Smallmouth


 Gurgle, gurgle and rest. Gurgle, gurgle and… a fish inhales the popper off the surface with an audible gulp and detectable splash.

 The river was dirty from the heavy rain over the later part of the week. Saturday I set up the camper along the river. On Monday I took the kayak largemouth swamp fishing. let’s just say it was an exercise session. 2 miles walking the kayak in, about 4 hours fishing without a bass to the boat and a 2 mile walk out. The only extras were seeing deer during the morning walk in and a big snapping turtle on the lane walking a little slower than I was pushing the kayak on the way out.
I went to bed early Monday night and was ready and willing to float tube the river for smallies Tuesday morning after breakfast.

I set the float tube in the water equipped with all I needed for a 2 mile fishing expedition. 2 miles doesn’t sound very far but while fishing it takes a bit longer then just floating for relaxation. I lined my Boron rod and attached a good size frog popper to the end of the 8lb tippet. I placed a few more poppers at the ready on my wool fly patch attached to the float to for easy access.

After getting my flippers on I dipped into the water and sat upon the webbed seat. The air was chillier than the late June water temperature. The river had cleared up nicely with just a touch of tea stain. A gurgling popper should bring up the bass from their bank side hide outs. Well, the first hour and a half appeared that it was going to be another exercising day. Of all the casts I made thus far accounted for 1 small smallie only when I switched to a brown Woolly Bugger. Nothing was coming up for my poppers. It was about 9:30 when I decided to light up my first cigar for the enjoyment factor and wishful float down the river hoping the bass would wake up. 

  The sun pretty much crested the mountain tops leaving a little shade along the banks where the tree limbs overhung their abundant green leaves. The water was mostly a sheet of glass in the morning except upon the shallow riffles or surface boulders and log hazards that appeared to be placed just far apart to provide cover throughout the river banks. It had turned a bit breezy but still calm enough not to hamper my long casts with the poppers. I started to fish the sunny side of the river only because nothing was doing along the shady side. I looked forward and saw a nice cove of slow moving water ahead to my right. I just had a feeling that if one was going to take my popper this was it.

  The surface was mostly shaded with spots of sunshine glare that found its way through the leafy overhanging branches of the bank side trees. I was drifting slow anticipating the likely lie ahead but was still casting toward to bank leading up to the cove. I got a good cast that plopped the popper just before an overhanging bush. After a couple of gurgling tugs I watched the popper float slowly downriver along the bank. I was glancing ahead to where I would make my first cast in the cove when I heard a faint gulp and a splash in the corner of my eye. I jerked back the rod and the line tightened with a fighting smallie. I was still floating slowly near the cove but didn’t want to ruin my chances by disturbing the water with a fighting smallie. I consciously finned my way upriver as much as possible until I felt a good foot hold on a rock. I got the smallie in safely to the float tube apron. Not a big smallmouth but it raised my hopes and excitement level a few points. I let the smallie go and decided not to cast until I was within range of the cove.

  I could see underwater that it was becoming shallower. I saw just enough of a protruding boulder, below the surface, that I could anchor my feet against and stop my momentum. I was now stationary and within plenty of reach of most of the cove.

 Each of my casts were further out into the cove as the previous one. Each drift and gurgle I anticipate a take but it doesn’t happen. I bring the popper to hand and look at it to make sure the wound feathers aren’t unwound. I make sure the tail feathers aren’t twisted around the hook bend. The silicone legs are flexing and the fast-snap is perfectly snapped on the hook eye that protrudes from the light green foam body. It’s almost as if I look at it and ask why it can’t make a smallie “take you”? I start another cast in the same area hoping one smallmouth came in to feed or finally gets annoyed enough to punish this creature that’s disturbing his peace.

  Gurgle, gurgle and rest. Gurgle, gurgle and… a fish inhales the popper off the surface with an audible gulp and a detectable splash. I wait a second or two and yank back on the full well cork handle. I watch and in an instant the line raises off the water, straightens and tightens. The rod tip arcs and there is surface disturbance swirling where my popper had once been. I hold tight on the grip, my left fingers feeling the force and pressure in the line between them. “Not bad” I say to myself as I hold the rod steady. It swims towards the bank and I leave some line out. I feel the fish hesitates in quick spurts like a running back jogging for position waiting for a hole in the line to speed forward. He makes a decision and heads upriver along the bank. I reel in line as he keeps his distance. Just in time I see a log up against the bank with a few branches poking up through the water surface. I lift the rod above my head and hold the line tight trying to keep him from tangling up in the debris. He continues to swim up past the log jerking the line trying to get nearer to the log. I keep my hold not giving any line or letting the rod tip drop. He finally turns towards me and bolts back downriver into the cove. I let him take some line to relieve the pressure on the 8lb tippet. He gives me a good last stand in the cove coughing up bubbles and swirling the surface water above him. He gives in and reluctantly comes my way. The popper hangs from his jaw.
  From then on the smallmouth kept me on my toes. What I thought was strange that it took till noon before they started to take my offerings. Maybe I just missed their morning meal but am around for lunch!
  Most of the strikes were just off from the bank a few yards or so. The bass weren’t really hugging the bank side boulders like usual. One particular smallie I caught was mid river in deeper water. I’m not sure exactly how deep. I was slowly drifting with the current letting my legs dangle below. I turned from the bank and shot a good lengthy line out towards mid river. The popper fell to the surface and I gave it a couple off hard tugs which made the popper gurgle like a frog gasping for air and splashing the surface for fear of drowning. I figured if anything would draw a fish up from the deep that surely should. I didn’t let it rest too long and gave it two more gurgling tugs towards me. A smallmouth rose and grabbed the moving popper like a stadium fan chasing a home run ball continuing over the outfield fence. I reared back the long length of line and it tightened toward the hooked bass. He gave me a good battle. It was if we were jousting side by side moving in the same direction as I was free floating, with him, down the river. I got him to the apron safely
  That evening I cooked up a venison steak with onions and mushrooms thinking about the morning float.
Later I sat beside a crackling campfire enjoying a beer and a Fuente Double Chateau Toro.

It was a good day!


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Morning Brookies

Morning Brookies


 I stand in the cool water up to my knees watching the morning fog hover over the river downstream. Not a breeze to speak of making the water surface like a sheet of glass and the mirror images of its surroundings are distinct and unraveled upon its surface. The blue sky is just as blue above as it is on the water surface reflection. The mixture of green shades to olive hues of trees and foliage on the water surface also mimic the colors that align themselves along the river banks. I take a deep breath of the crisp morning air and feel my lungs with its pure freshness undiluted by the fumes and odors of city life. Birds chirp in high pitched short bursts and in the distance I hear crows calling out in flight. I’m sure the tent campers aren’t as gleeful as I listening to these early morning boisterous feathered and winged friends of the forest. 
 I stop and watch a gaggle of geese and their young along the waters edge. They splash and clean themselves before swimming along the banks. They pass by me like children following school teachers on a field trip.
While fishing I stop and watch a deer stroll into the river. It laps up water and casually walks through the river to the other side as if being unseen by me.

  I take the time to watch its intent. I find once on the banks of the other side of the river it eats something off the tree leaves. Than, much to my surprise, it reenters the river and crosses again back to where I first saw it enter the water earlier. A frog, somewhere near the far bank, croaks its two cents worth making sure all know its presence also.

 They don’t stock the river with brook trout that I know of. If you find one though there’s bound to be more in the immediate vicinity. Fishing for them will be a lot of fun. The ones I found were fat and wild. Wild in the sense they fought viciously as if everyone of them was hooked in a nerve that would drive a person crazy.

Each cast I prepared for a quick strike. At times it was as if they were toying with the Woolly Bugger, slapping at it like a cat pawing a toy mouse wanting it to move more erratically. A couple of strikes were so hard that they should of hooked themselves but I never got a good hook set on these hard strikes. 
 I’m fishing very slow current at an inlet of the river. Swinging the bugger is, though I do try now and then, risky because of the slow current the bugger may hang up on the bottom at any time. I cast out and wait a few seconds so my offering can drop a few inches below the surface and then sharply strip it in with hesitating short strokes most of the time. Most takes appear to me as being swatted at. If I pull back at the right time the line will straighten and tighten and I’ll have a vicious frisky fat brook trout wildly fighting to get loose.

 I have to be quick on most of the hook sets. When I do swing the Bugger I’ll see my line being quickly pulled outward without even feeling the initial take in the line between my fingers. In such cases it’s maybe luck to hook the fish.

I’m not one that believes in luck though. I’ve been trout fishing long enough and hooking a trout I consider skill. When someone asks me if I had any luck I naturally say ‘no’. If they persist in conversation I tell them I consider it skill. Now, when I’m trying to hook a trout in slow current that’s slapping at it, maybe it is luck. I know of no one that can consistently hook brook trout that slap at a small streamer in slow waters. Call it luck of pulling back on the line at the same time a trout slaps at my streamer and I hook it. Call it coincidence that I happen to anticipate the take and pull back at the time a trout takes the bugger daintily. Call it whatever you want but if you ask me if I had any luck I’ll still tell you ‘no’.

Once these little colorful devils are hooked you’re in for a wild fun ride. On a glass rod it’s especially grand.

  Once hooked these lively fighting brookies will flex the glass rod in every position possible. The brookies will dart one direction and change directions at any moments notice, with speed, like a pinball ricocheting off a rubber bumper. It will b-line straight away like a scared chipmunk hiding under a leaf almost being stepped on. Then all of a sudden make a swift turn and start zing-zagging as if avoiding objects beneath the water that isn’t there. Closer to the net they’ll attempt an escape and skip across the surface like a flat stone that has been frizzbee’d level with the water, splashing the surface into a spray of droplets. I feel the glass rod flex and rebound with each exertion of the fleeing and darting brook trout within my grip of the cork handle. At times, just for fun, I’ll let the reel click line out in rapid succession just to add some more excitement to the thrill. It will usually take a couple, if not more, times to corral these high-spirited brookies into the net. Even once captured I’ll have to wait for them to calm down in the net web to unbutton the hook from their mouth safely. Upon their release they’ll still have enough energy to flee away similar to a held house fly when you open your hand.

  Though these brook trout may have been stocked at one time each one of these are as colorful as a native brook trout. I swear some have been living for years to acquire such coloration from once being a hatchery raised trout. 

 Each one is different in color like a raw gem buffed to a brilliant show piece.

 I take time to light a cigar and further enjoy the morning activities.

  Of course all things must come to an end. The afternoon is upon me and the heat rises to a level of uncomfortable conditions for both me and the trout. I wade to the bank and thank God for this opportunity of excitement in this peaceful setting.