A ‘Holy Chit’ Morning
Saturday morning my intentions were to tube float the Clarion river for smallies. I pumped up the float tube at home and put it in my van with the rest of the gear. Cruising up river road I was looking for a section of water I hadn’t waded or float tube through. Most of these areas are upstream from Cooksburg with private access to the river only. I found a nice section with plenty of deep water along the bank side. When I opened the back of the van the float tube was soft. In other words it had a hole somewhere. Good thing I didn’t fill it at the river and decide right then to take off with it. Knowing the Clarion River well I decided to wet wade the river up above Belltown.
As I stepped off the bank, into the water, I lit up a stogie and looked downriver. The water was shallow around me but there might be a smallmouth just hanging around cruising the shallower water for food. I tied on a bugger and slowly fished my way towards the bridge.
It had been about ½ hour of no hits on a variety of streamers by now. I was upriver from the bridge deciphering the combination of riffling current, slow deep water to my left, shallower to my right all emptying into a deeper stretch before the riffling water just before the bridge. I tried a couple of Clousers and was swinging a bugger when I was surprised by a ‘Holy Chit’ strike. I’m not talking about ‘Holy Chit’ the water just all of a sudden got deeper or the eye opening ‘Holy Chit’ that bikini is quite revealing! It was the unexpected ‘Holy Chit’ what just happened?! As I went to strip the bugger in something at the same time decided to grab the bugger and rip away with it. I’m talking like when the first time you went water skiing and the boat operator moves the lever full throttle to bring you out of the water. You got your hands gripped tightly, so you thought, and the rope shoots out of your grip before you even know what happened. It was that fast and an unexpected pull.
I reeled in and seen my line broken up from my bugger but below my knotted 3X tippet, at least I knew what color the fish wanted now and tied on a bigger hooked longer Zonker pattern. Within 5 casts of searching I got another strike. I wasn’t stripping in so harshly and not keeping the free line held as tight. The line straightened and I set the hook. All of a sudden I had a freight train on the other end of my quickly bent Vapor rod. The reel came alive and I hurriedly clicked more tension on the reel drag while trying to keep my wrist steadying the rod as the fish pulled away. I felt helpless waiting for the fish to at least give me a chance to turn him around or something as I palmed the reel. No, he kept pulling line out like he was going to beach himself on the far rocky shoreline. When he finally started to slow his escape I nudged the rod tip down and away like tugging on the reigns of a horse wanting him to change course. He hesitated and swam back reluctantly with his sides against the undercurrent.
I just came back from fishing the Shenandoah a few weeks ago. I caught some nice size smallies in the fast current they were feeding in. This bad boy was fighting just as heavy and with just as much vigor in this slower pool.
He started to rise, as I took in some line, but all of a sudden dove deep. The rod dampened the quick dive and pull and I was able to give him enough line to keep him overbearing the tight line. He was struggling furiously in the deep pool that it felt like a ten minute round 1. I just about had enough by this time and began to pull him closer like a mule that doesn’t want to come along. I reeled line in and got him to my legs. He swam around and wouldn’t let me get a lip hold on him just yet. The Zonker was hung up in his top lip so I had to watch how I lipped him. With the rod high I got him to raise higher in the water column and thumbed him lower jaw. What a nice river smallie.
I spent another 30 minutes or so trying to coax another strike but there was nothing doing.
I than turned my attention to fishing the water beneath the bridge and than concentrate casting poppers along the far bolder ridden shore. I spent about an hour wading downstream in the sunlight without even a tap. I waded to the roadside shoreline and made my way up river from the bridge again. Positioning myself in the same area as earlier I cast out a few different patterns without any luck.
I reeled in and reached in my shirt pocket for the big Quorum Toro I had waiting. I pulled out the Zippo lighter and lit the big ringed, darker leaf, stogie before tying on the Zonker pattern again. I took time to enjoy a few puffs and scan the water before my next cast.
I added just a little more weight to the dumb-bell eyed Zonker and than worked the deep area down from right to left below me.
This time my line tightened at the end of the swing after I let it dangle in the deeper current. I lifted the rod and sure enough the fish started to struggle beneath with good weight behind the pull. The rod was flexing good as my line hand kept tension waiting for what the fish had planned. Than all of a sudden..
“Holy Chit” the fish rose and exploded out of the water in full view. (This was the eye opening 'Holy Chit!) His flipping tail cleared the surface about a foot. This smallie was fatter and looked bigger than the last one. He splashed down like a space capsule in the ocean, water flung in all directions. I held on tight as he dove deep and swam to his left. I felt the rod pressure ease up than..
“Holy Chit” he explodes again out of the water like a largemouth trying to dismember a jointed plug. He didn’t hang as much air time but this energetic smallmouth put on an aerial exhibition. Upon splash down he swam deep. I had one hand on the rod grip and the other cupping the reel for support. I had no idea what to expect next. He swam with slow pulling force down to my right towards the two or so feet of water. The rod was flexed good with his force of the struggle when I heard a voice call down from the bridge. Looking up, there was a young man hanging out the driver side window wanting to know how big the fish was. I held onto the rod with one hand, took the cigar out of my mouth with the other and spit a little tobacco leaf remnants into the water before looking up again to answer him. We were carrying on an informal conversation as I muscled the smallie in. He wasn’t as frisky as the other and I was able to lip him up easily to show the young man my catch. After letting the fatty go we carried on the conversation a little longer before he decided to leave me alone.
I spent a little more time trying to tempt another fish but none were hungry. I thought maybe another angle of the swinging and drifting Zonker might cause a fish to take notice. I moved down to my left and took a few puffs on the big stogie before proceeding. I cast out up to where I was just standing and let the Zonker drift beneath the riffling surface water into the deeper tail out. The third drift through the slack in the line started to tighten and I reached back and set the hook. Right off I knew this wasn’t a big smallie but it had some fight in him just the same. I got him to me quickly and had no problem lifting him.
Well that was it as far as catching. I fished that area another 10 minutes before calling it quits. I traveled upriver above Hallton and fished for about a half hour without a hit. I drove downriver again and sat along the bank and enjoyed a bottled Yuengling watching the bikini hatch move downriver in canoes and floating tubes while smoking a Palma Real. Later on I stopped once more and fished under the sunshine without a strike or even a chaser.
On the way, away from the river, I stopped at the Knotty Pines and got myself 6, full sized, Bourbon BBQ wings and two Yuengling drafts. I was a happy fisherman and tired by the time I got home.