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.