Sunday, November 6, 2022

"Wet and Colder Than a Witch's Kiss"

 

Wet and Colder Than a Witch’s Kiss”

10/19 22

  I woke up listening to the patter of raindrops on the camper roof. It wasn’t raining heavy and it wasn’t just wetness falling off the limbs and scarce leafy branches, it was raining. I got up and looked outside. It was just turning daylight. Besides the rain it was windy out. Autumn colored leaves blew from their branches and whisked to the ground with the windy conditions. At times the wind gusts were strong enough to sway the 28’ camper just enough to be noticed. I was suppose to meet a friend at a local catch and release stream but there really wasn’t a promise. He had maybe an hour drive to get there and I was only 18 miles away. When I stepped outside to look at the thermometer the cold hit me like walking into a butchers freezer. The thermostat read 34°. I closed the door behind me as I entered back into the camper.

Dennis isn’t going to go in this weather”, I thought, “not just for trout.” I turned on the gas to the peculator and started breakfast in no hurry.

For the next 4 hours I fiddled around in the camper biding my time hoping the on and off rain would stop and the gusts of wind would calm down. Around noon I got bored enough to take a ride for cell phone service to see what was going on in the world I might be missing. My truck thermometer read 36° and it was still quite windy as I drove along the Clarion River. Up on the hill I got service and backed into a spacious area to park from the roadway. Instantly I got a message from Dennis and three pictures of the big rainbows he caught and netted. 


 


  That set a spark of hope and excitement in my trout bones. He braved the bad weather conditions, took the drive and fished. I sent him a message that I hadn’t made it. I drove off, back to camp, without checking anything else on my phone.

  At camp I put on warm clothes. I already had my Gortex rain jacket filled with my fly gear. I got in my truck and headed to the stream. After about 9 miles I texted Dennis to let him know I was on my way. He texted back and said he was already on his way to Punxsutawney homeward bound. I looked at the truck thermometer and it read 38°. My windshield wipers showed there was still slight rain falling but it looked like the wind had died down. I was 9 miles away from camp and the 9 miles I was headed would get me to the trout waters. I still had the excitement running through my veins and wasn’t going to turn back.

After parking, assembling my fast action fly rod and getting my gear on I headed to the creek.

  I crossed the creek and waded the shallow section of water upstream to the riffles. Below the riffles the water became much deeper on the roadside. I knotted on a Woolly Bugger and started casting into the shallow water stripping the bugger slowly back towards me. The slight wind made it tougher casting down creek but with the 9’ fast action rod and weighted bugger I was able to cut into the wind with a little more casting effort.

  The air was cold. Cold enough that as time went on my fingers were feeling the effect of not being as nimble as when I got there. The rain came and went and I’d cover my tossle cap with the hooded jacket. The wind blew more leaves onto the water surface and my casts had to be pretty accurate not to hit the moving targets. It was like shooting at a turning windmill trying not to hit the blades. The Woolly Bugger just wasn’t happening so I knotted on a Triple Threat streamer. I slowly waded down stream casting out and letting the streamer drift with the current and then slowly stripping it towards me.

  The first take was subtle. As I stripped it towards me, in the slow current, the line straightened and I felt a slight nudge. I yanked the rod back and set the hook. It felt like I had just dislodged a log from the creek floor and it was drifting heavily down stream with the current. I tightened my grip as the fish bullied down creek taking line. I kept tension on the line but let him take line as he wanted till I thought he would settle down some. With the head jolting and powerful turns down creek he was using energy as the arced rod took the brunt of the pressure he was putting on the line. Once he turned and headed for the far bank I started to tighten the tension I was putting on the line and when pauses permitted I’d crank the reel drag a notch or two tighter.

  (Though it may look strange, the advantage of casting right handed and reeling in right handed is that I can adjust the reel drag knob easily with my left hand while fighting a fish. Though I switch the rod to my left hand when reeling in, it has come a custom that I don’t really give it much thought.)

  He evidently didn’t like the more tension I was putting against him. He started to put up a stronger resistance beneath. Swirls of water disturbed the surface as he thrashed around telling where he was at. I got him headed my way briefly but he was in no hurry to give up just yet. He took off down creek and there was no way of trying to stop him. I kept tension on the fly line as he peeled off line from the spinning spool. He subsurfaced in the shallower water down stream splashing about before heading up towards me again. I took in line in a hurry trying to keep tension on the hooked fish. He kept his distance on the far side of the creek by the time he slowed down. I had a lot of line floating around me and I knew I better get it in the spool before I got him any closer. I changed hands and pinched the fly line between my finger and cork grip. I didn’t force him towards me but kept just enough pressure as the rod tip bowed slightly towards him. He struggled at times but didn’t take off as I wound in line. Once I had the slack line wound in I attempted to draw him closer to me to net him. He reluctantly swam towards me but as I lifted the rod he alligator rolled getting the leader and tippet around his thick body. With that he tried to swim away, and being all tangled up, I felt like I was attached to a branchy limb drifting down creek with the current. Now, not only did I have to get him in my undersized net but needed to untangle him before doing so. I thought for sure I was going to lose him.

  So, there I was with this big brown trout on the end of my line. I was twisting and turning the rod trying to untangle the line around him while he was struggling against me. It was like trying to untangle a snagged branch beneath the surface not wanting to lose your favorite streamer. Somehow he got untangled and through it all he was pretty worn out, at least I thought, until I tried to net him. He wiggled, squirmed and fidgeted before and after I got him in the net. I tried to keep the net upright trying to hold him in it till he settled down. Once settled I got a quick picture of the feisty big male brown before I dipped the net fully in the water. It didn’t take much coaxing before he swatted out of the net and swam away.


 

  No doubt that was encouraging. I don’t remember it being as cold all of a sudden though my fingers weren’t too flexible as I retied another streamer on. I continued in the same manner casting down and across creek letting it drift down stream before stripping it slowly towards me. This time a trout grabbed the streamer and took off like a beagle on a fresh rabbit trail not knowing it was still on a leash attached to my hand. My fore arm jolted down stream with the heavy take. I knew I had another big trout as line unwound from the spool and spat out the tip top. This fish was no easy catch either. I felt my forearm muscles tighten and my cold hand and fingers around the cork grip was tight but the tightness wasn’t as noticeable with my fingers so cold. We struggled back and forth for an advantage like two arm wrestlers in a heavy competition. I eventually won out when I got the beautiful brown in the net successfully.

  His belly was burnt orange in his spawning colors leading up to his buttery yellow jaw. His kype was hooked well and I knew any attempt to lip him would be as dangerous as putting a hand inside a gators mouth. His body was thick and big splattered black ink fountain blotches covered the rest of his lengthy body.


  I wasn’t done quite yet though my body started to feel colder beneath my layers of clothes. The wind got a bit stronger also but I just didn’t want to give up. Normally, by now with two huge fish, I would of called it a day but I was, after all, having fun despite the weather.

  After this one tore up the Triple Threat pretty bad I attempted to knot on another. It wasn’t easy with stiff fingers and it took some time and patience but I managed.

  I caught a smaller rainbow and a smaller brown trout and was about to call it quits. I started to wade down creek towards the shallower water to cross. I was still making cast down and across when I noticed the arc in the line stop. Maybe I struck bottom in the shallower water? I figured if it got stuck I could wade into the knee deep water and just unsnag it. I yanked the rod back to set the hook anyhow. To my surprise, after the line tightened and rod bowed as if caught on an underwater snag, a fish rose to the surface and shook the hooked streamer like trying to get a live bumblebee out of its mouth. Water splashed everywhere like an explosion was set off on the surface. He went under and shot up creek in a haste still head shaking flexing the rod top sections in incomparable positions. Leader cut threw the water heading upstream in the wake of the fleeing trout. I had another biggy! 

 

 After that I called it quits. I saw no use of torturing my body or fingers any longer. I had an excellent catching day and big trout to prove it. I couldn’t wait to get into a warm truck and back to camp to thaw out.


 

~doubletaper 

 

Friday, September 30, 2022

Yak'n, Bass'n With Glass

 

Yak’n, Bass’n With Glass

9/18/22


  I assembled my 2 piece 6 weight President Glass Wonderod. My kayak was filled with all the necessities for floating the river including smallmouth poppers and Woolly Buggers if needed. I looped a new 9’ 3X tapered leader to the F6WF fly line and threaded it through the rod guides. By 9:00am I was in the water 2 miles up from my camper and ready to enjoy the day.


 

  Above me was a clear baby blue sky with streaks of white clouds. The air was already warming up. Green trees lined the river and threw shade upon the lightly stained water half way across the river. There was a slight breeze that didn’t have much effect on the surface water.

  I was casting aimlessly, as I was drifting, getting a feel for the slower action of the fiberglass rod. My first take was a gulp after I watched my popper drift after a couple of strips across the slow current. I reared back on the rod and the line tightened. The rod bowed on the hooked fish as it went deep and gave a tug. The line went limp and the rod straightened. I knew right away what happened. I didn’t yank the rod back hard enough to set the hook into the bass’s mouth. I knew better that with the slow action of the glass rod I have to set the hook with stronger authority than with a graphite rod. Lesson learned!

  It took an hour or so for my next take. I was kind of stopped in a back eddy behind a big exposed boulder casting out from the bank downriver some. My frog popper plopped in the slow current under the shade of over hanging leafy branches like a fallen acorn. I gave a couple of strips towards me and let it drift down with the slow riffles caused by a boulder of some size just below the surface water. A fish rose in a surface swirl and sucked the popper like a high power car wash vacuum cleaner on a floor dropped milk dud. This time I gave a good strong yank and I could feel the glass rod flex almost into the cork grip I held tightly. The bass dove deep and took off with my popper. The glass rod arced as the tapered leader cut through the surface water heading upriver. I lifted the cork handle high as the rod bowed towards the fleeing fish as it took out line. Fly line slipped through my tensioned fingers briefly before I threw out the anchor to try and stop my drifting kayak. My anchor caught and I held the rod steady as the fish fought the tight line and bowed rod. Slowly but surely I brought in line getting the smallmouth closer to the yak’. He stayed deep till he was a couple of yards from the yak’ before rising to the surface. He splashed water in all directions as his body struggled upon the surface. He dove deep and the rod flexed and bowed towards the escaping fish. I put the rod butt into my gut for leverage as tensioned line again slipped through my fingers. He took off downriver with the help f the undercurrent and pulled out more line. I gave an upriver tug as he slowed and he turned upriver.

  Maybe with a medium to fast action rod I may have tired him out sooner but the thrill playing a tough fighting river smallmouth is nothing compared to graphite.

  I thumbed him carefully when he got to the side of the yak’. He inhaled the frog popper which was still firmly within his mouth.


 

    After a few more casts while anchored I took out a Gilberto Oliva 6x50 and lit up the light brown cameroon stogie. Looking up the puffy clouds started to move in and dot the blue sky. The breeze picked up some now and again and riffled the water surface like a washboard.


 

  I had to put a little more oomph in my casts to get the popper out further with the soft flexing glass action.

  I was casting the popper out from the banks in deep pockets. I had hooked 2 smallies and missed one as I drifted down river. I was heading towards an exposed boulder so I dropped the anchor to slow my drift. Every so often the anchor would catch and stop my drifting. I covered the area around me as far as the breeze let me cast before lifting the anchor momentarily getting the yak’ drifting downriver closer to the bank side boulder.

  The wind was hampering my casts so after the popper hit the surface I let it drift further downriver with the current before stripping it back towards me. I was stripping it towards me, from a distance, when a smallmouth porpoised after my popper as if the temptation of a swimming frog was too much to ignore. With the eruption he completely missed my popper as I saw it fly up in the air like a popped kernel from an open lid popcorn popper over hot campfire coals. He and the popper came down upon the distorted water surface. I gave a few quick strips that gurgled and splashed waves like a dazed escaping frog. This time the bass wasn’t going to let it get away. He porpoised again and swept the popper in like a Jai Alai player catching a fast moving ball in his wicket cesta. I waited a second and yanked back the rod with authority. The rod arced instantly and I could tell I had another nice size smallie. He took off towards mid river in a flurry. I gave an extra tug to make sure the hook stuck good as he took line. The extra tug must have hit a nerve like a dentist drill hitting a live nerve not completely numb from the Novocaine shot. He exploded out of the water, fully exposed, shaking his body frantically from the pain. He dropped back into the water and exploded again out of the swirls of disturbed water. He gave a big tug in mid air before plopping back into the water surface. He took off and the line tightened again so I knew I had a good hook set.

  I’ve fought hooked largemouth in pond water and steelhead in shallow slow current on my 8 weight glass rod. They don’t compare to the thrill and fight of a struggling smallmouth in river current.

  I got him near and he decided to try and swim under the yak’. I extended my arm out as far as I could holding the line tight in my left hand. The rod bowed in a full arc like a horseshoe magnet. I could feel him rise as the force of the arced rod kept him from getting under the yak’. The bowed rod lessened and the fish swam outward. He than gave a burst of energy across river strong enough I let him take line through my fingers. When he turned down river I tightened the line between my fingers not giving him any more leeway. He turned and swam towards the yak’ again as I took inline. Near the yak’ he rose to the surface splashing water in all directions. It took a few tries to lip him not wanting to get stuck with the sharp hook of the popper that hung from his mouth.


 

  After that the wind picked up drastically. It was blowing upriver most of the time into my face. It was around 3:00 when I got the yak’ and gear out of the water and back up to my camper. I didn’t hook many but the two big’ns made for another excited time on the river. Catching and fighting them on glass was an extra thrill.

 

~doubletaper


 

 

Monday, September 5, 2022

A Frog Popper Kind of Day

 

A Frog Popper Kind of Day

8/26/22


  This was one of my best days on the river catching smallmouth. Maybe not the biggest during the day but the action was quick, fast and seemed continuous. From within a ½ hour after I launched the float tube at 9:30 am. I was hooking smallmouth with a frog popper. The smallmouth were hungry for frogs all day so I stuck with them and was just rewarded.

  It was an overcast morning and looked to continue throughout the day. Green trees lined the banks of the Clarion River for as far as the eye could see. Heavy clouds covered the blue sky above like a kids foaming bubble bath. For now the water was calm. Maybe too calm like a calm before the storm. There was barely a breeze which is pleasant for fly rod fishing. I launched the float tube with my smallmouth assortment, fly rod, a few cigars, water, trail mix, and a rain jacket. The water was a tad on the cloudy side still clearing up from the past rains. I found this might be the best time to fish the river. I suppose when the water is real muddy the bigger fish can’t see baitfish to eat. Just as the water becomes clearer they must be hungry enough to go after anything they see beneath or rise to any commotion on top.


 

  It was around 9:30 when I pushed off for the days adventure. Looking down river along the bank looked deep enough to maybe hold some fish. I kicked off and finned my way just out within casting distance from the bank. With the higher water and clearing up I figured the bass might not be holding along the banks and out in not too deep of water looking for an early meal. As I slowly drifted down river I made a few casts into the slow water along the bank away from the main stem of the river. A fish rose to the surface at my popper with a gulping splash. I reared back on the rod and my first taker was on. Not a big smallmouth by any means but one that came up sooner than I expected.

  

 Well, that deserved my first cigar. I took out an AB sun grown and lit up the dark cigar. I was ready to relax and enjoy myself.


 

  Within about 5 minutes after lighting up the stogie I casted out and hooked into another hungry smallmouth.


 

  I looked at my frog popper and chuckled a bit. I see all kinds of beautiful painted and constructed poppers that people create on Face Book fishing forums. I couldn’t imagine how much time and effort they put into making them,

  besides the cost of the supplies. I know the simple ones I make take some time and effort but I’m sure not as much as the beauties I’ve seen. Being that mine catch smallmouth and largemouth I have no need to make them look glamorous. I don’t sell them and I’m not in a contest for best of show. I let the smallmouth decide whether my poppers fit their men. So far, they have been doing an exceptional job.

  Drifting down river I use a longer frog popper in the more wavy water for better visual effect and pop/gurgle it more noisily on deeper sections than in slower current. Today the smallmouth appear to be everywhere looking for food and just not along the banks.

 


  I’ll try another color when rises slow up but go back to the frog popper. Sometimes I think it’s the commotion on the water that causes a curios take but there are times, after popping it a few times, I just let it rest and a smallmouth will grab it. Kind of tells me my creations must look enough like food that the smallmouth are willing to grab it upon investigation.


 

 Around noon I was ready for cigar #2. I took out a Don Tomas Robusto Clasico Natural. The mild cigar was smooth and burned evenly throughout.


 

  The sun shown through the clouds for a moment and brightened the day some. I figured the smallmouth might head for the shady areas along the bank and concentrated on casting that way most of the time. Every once in a while I’d still catch one out mid-river.

There was a lengthy boulder along the bank that looked like it ledged just below the surface. The water along the bank didn’t look very deep but I found you never know how deceiving the shallow water my look than what really is beneath in pockets of deeper water among a rocky bank line. My first cast was just out form the ledge where the water began to flow into it. A smallmouth splashed at the moving popper and I reared back for the hook set. The line tightened. I could tell it wasn’t a big one but it was a frisky one at that. I steadied myself and brought him to the float tube successfully. 


 

  I was steady with my booted fins holding beneath on the rocky river bed. I made another cast near half the length of the boulder ledge and a fish surfaced almost as soon as my popper hit the water like it was trying to take it before another hungry fish did. I reared back and another smallmouth was hooked. I got him to the apron also. I actually caught 2 more along that boulder and missed one hook up. It was if I was catering to a training seminar of a small group of hungry repair technicians!


 

  Further down river there was a tree down, stripped of its bark, top siding the surface with branches extending in the air. It looked real fishy. I was able to stop just upriver from it and gave a few casts onto the water along the bank. One cast I laid the popper onto the surface of the water that flowed right into the downed tree limbs. I gurgled it a few times the closer it got to the limbs and a bass exploded up at it. I waited a second or two after he took it under and yanked back hard. The line shot up and tightened and I could feel I had a good smallie. I had to keep him from swimming back into the tree limbs so I gave him no line and had to really test my knots and rod strength. I got him to swim upriver away from the tree hazard. The rod arced deep as I drew him closer. He hurriedly swam between the bank and I upriver a piece. I could see big submerged boulders in the shallow water between me and the bank where the smallmouth was swimming through. I held the rod high and gave him some line as I turned the rod trying to guide him out away from the boulder strewn shallows and into the main stem. He followed with some forceful hesitation. Once in the main stem of the river I felt more positive about the situation ad carefully got him to the float tube. 


 

  I was tying another frog popper on do to the fact the recent smallies loosened the popper around the hook besides ripping the eyes off of it. As I was doing this I had a visitor stop by. I’m not sure if he was interested in what I was doing or just looking for a place to land and take a rest. He didn’t seem too worried about parking his butt on the float tube.


 

  There was kind of a lull in the action for an hour or so. The water was pretty shallow as I floated so I didn’t cast many times and just put my fins up in front of me and drifted. When I got into deeper water I was ready for more action. I was pretty far from the bank. Down river I could see a big long fallen log just out from the bank aligned with the flow of the water. I kind of walked my way on the shallow bedrocks within casting distance. Being the water was shallow I didn’t want to get too close to it and cause a water disturbance. ‘Just maybe’ I thought ‘there were a few smallies underneath or near the log in the shade of it.’ I hauled off a strong cast towards the log that fell well short. I gave a couple of hard noisy gurgles to draw attention and then started swimming the frog popper back towards me. The commotion did the trick. A fish surfaced with an audible gulp and took it under. I reared back and the line tightened. I could feel this was a weighty smallmouth also. He made for a good time battling before I got him close enough to lip him. Nice one!


 

  ‘Just maybe’ I thought there might be another close by. I gave another long cast towards the log. I didn’t make much of a commotion this time but hesitantly popped it towards me with short pauses. A smallmouth exploded on the popper as if he thought it was hurriedly escaping from him. Again I reared back after he took it under and again the line tightened. This one was cleaver enough to escape from my grasp though before I got it too close.

  By now I was pretty close to my exit point. In fact I was able to see the garage my bicycle was parked at across the road. I kept within casting distance to the roadside bank and casting over towards it. The water appeared to be pretty shallow but I kept casting as if there was nothing else to do before getting to my bike.

  There was one huge boulder up against the bank and ¾ of it was in the water. Maybe that boulder held enough water back to make it a deeper pocket of water. What ever the reason, after my popper hit the surface and after a couple of short pops, a smallmouth inhaled the frog popper in an overwhelming disturbance that sprayed water in all directions. It surprised me, no doubt, that I thought I was going to be late on the hook set after he took it under. I yanked back like I was going to rip the lips off of this one. The rod arced deep and I felt the fish tussle on the straight tight line. I watched as the wake was noticeable upon the shallow surface as he swam upriver through the shallows. He circled around me in deeper water and into the stronger current and I gave him some line. After he swam downriver some I held tight and I could feel him turn. He burst out of the water, full bodied, shaking the popper stuck to his lip. A big splash followed as he submerged beneath. I’m not sure if this one was ever caught before but he wasn’t giving up too easily coming to the float tube. Even once there I had to be real careful lipping him, not wanting to get hook stuck, as he pulled and tugged on the bowing rod near the tube.


Well, that ended one of my best, most hooked smallmouth fishing on the river.

It doesn’t get much better then that!


~doubletaper

 

 

 

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

I'd Walk a Mile For a Smallmouth

 

I’d Walk a Mile For A Smallmouth

8/28/22


  It was a clear blue sky morning with small puffy cumulus clouds dotting the sky like a hot air balloon festival without many entries. I drove the truck up river and hid my float tube in the brush along the river. From there I drove downriver a little over a mile and parked it where I would end my float along the river.

  I grabbed my Winston Boron 6 weight, put on my hat and started my mile or so walk up the road to my float tube. It was already heating up though the sun wasn’t quite over the far side mountain of trees. 

Why do I do this?” You might ask? 

For fly fishing for smallmouth!

  I got the float tube in the water and latched my flippers to my wading boots. I attached a silver popper to my tippet and rolled up the sleeves of my button down shirt. As I sat down in the float tube I instantly felt the cooler water from the warm air temperature. It felt relieving after the long warm walk up the road.

 It took a while before I came to the conclusion that the smallmouth didn’t want noisy poppers on the surface water. I threw out different color and sized poppers for a good hour or so in likely fishy holds I thought for sure to raise a fish.

  It’s been like that though the past week or so. I get out on the water by 9:30 before the sun rays brightens upon the river water. I cast along the banks and mid-river, that are still shaded by now, without much action. Maybe a small smallmouth or even a river chub might take a stab at one of my poppers but nothing of size or excitement.

  After knowing the bite doesn’t really happen till the sun overcomes the river around 10:30 or so I still get out earlier. It’s just hard for me to sit around in my camper till then after breakfast twiddling my thumbs waiting for the right time.

  To pass the time in the morning I light up my first stogie. I relax in the float tube and cast about aimlessly hoping for a hungry smallmouth wanting a surface popper.


  Well it took till around 11:30 to hook into my first good size smallmouth. Seeing that they wouldn’t rise to a surface popper I decided to go beneath the surface with weighted Woolly Buggers. It’s not something that I go too often for smallmouth but if they’re not interested for top water I cave and fish underneath.

  I was casting across river, letting slack line between the bugger and the rod tip. When the bugger fell it would sink deeper before the line pulled it down stream with the current. As the floating fly line was arcing on the surface I saw the line pull away and felt the take. I yanked back the Winston and the line tightened on a hooked fish. He must have been as surprised as I was that he was fooled and I was surprised immediately feeling the weighty pull of a good sized fish. As the fish took tensioned line out of the reel I was foot searching for bedrocks to stop my momentum floating down river. As he fought and tugged I got my flippers against a shallower boulder beneath and was able to steady myself. He swam upriver with force and turned down river using the undercurrent to his advantage. Without giving him anymore line, and keeping tension on the bowed rod, I slowly was able to reel him in closer to my float tube. He splashed water aside the float tube like a peddle boat before I was able to lift him to the apron. Now that’s what I’m talking about! A nice fat smallie. 


 

  Sticking with the weighted bugger I continued casting it out in the same manner. Within 15 minutes I had another grab at the bugger and I tightened the line with another yank of the rod over my shoulder. I felt this smallie was as weighty as the last one and put up a good wrenching battle all the way to the tube. 


 

  As much as I hated to admit it, catching smallies underneath instead of on top, I was having lots of fun. I hooked into a few smaller ones before another hour passed by. I hooked into one more nice size smallie in a faster run of water maybe only a foot or so deep. Once the bugger hit the surface it didn’t drift very far. A smallie grabbed it on the run and took off with it like the last bag of Cheetos on a snack table, at a yard party, he didn’t want to share with his friends. The line straightened out pretty quickly and I’m sure he wondered what happened when the force of the arcing rod slowed him down immensely. He kind of made a curvature beneath, downriver from me, as I held the fly line pretty tight. It was if he finally realized he wasn’t going in the direction he intended and exploded out of the water, full body, to see who or what was holding him from his intended progress. He twisted in mid air, with a head shake, before clumsily plopping back into the water. He must have used up quite a bit of energy because it didn’t take too much of my time getting him to the float tube and on the apron.


  By now my arms were getting tired of battling with these husky fish and constantly casting. I got into some shallow water and it was a good break in casting to just float down the river with my finned boots up guiding my way out of the shallows.

  I kept with the bugger beneath far a while and grabbed one more nice smallmouth in a deep run I wasn’t sure my bugger was getting down deep enough.


 

  I hooked into two more along that deeper section. One was not as big as the other and the other one felt like a pretty good sized one but got himself undone in the short battle between us.

  By now it was about 1:00pm. I’ve been in the water around 3 ½ hours by now and was getting tired. Believe it or not! I decided to put a popper on and just relax and not as determined as I was earlier. I continued on floating with the current pitching the popper out aimlessly. There was a big shelved boulder just out from the roadside bank that looked like a good resting spot for fish wanting out of the sunlight. The water wasn’t very deep between the bank and I but it looked to be deep enough to hold fish. The current was slow flowing against the boulder. I got my feet steady on the shallow rocks beneath and heaved a cast in that direction. I watched the popper drift and when I made a sharp short strip caused a fish to surface and grab the frog popper. I yanked back and tight lined the thief. He wasn’t a big’n but it was an excitement that had eluded me for the past hour or so. I finally was able to raise one to my popper. I actually pulled 2 more out of the same little area and missed one before moving on.

Within distance of my extraction point there was a shaded section under an overhanging leafy tree along the bank. I didn’t know how deep it was. I was in maybe 2 feet of water within casting distance and figured maybe a small bass might be holding under the shade. I cast out the popper within a short distance of the bank side brush and, after a short strip and gurgle, watched it drift into the darker water beneath the tree branches. I made a couple of short strips, barely making too much of a popping noise, when a smallie porpoised out of the water at my popper. I was immediately surprised at the sight of this big guy in such shallow water. I instinctively yanked back the rod quickly as if I was trying to set the hook on a quick rising trout after a Mayfly instead of letting the bass take it under before closing its mouth. When it flopped back into the water I wasn’t sure if I had him or not. When the line straightened with a quick swimming fish on the other end I was sure I hooked him but wasn’t sure how securely. As he made his escape I gave an extra tug on the rod. I wanted to either secure the hook set or if it wasn’t a good hook set than let it come undone. The line stayed taunt and the fish battled against my will. I got my last nice size smallie to the apron, on a popper, just before my exit point.

 



  By the time I got everything in my truck it was near 4:00pm. I was in the water for about 6 hours. I was tired, my casting arm was sore but I wore a smile on my face.

  Back at camp I steamed some leftover breaded walleye fillets, Ramen Noodle slaw and a dark Murphy’s Stout.

 

 After a short needed nap I got a campfire going and relaxed with a fine cigar. That Stout tasted so smooth and good earlier I couldn’t resist having another while enjoying my cigar and campfire.


 ~doubletaper

 

Sunday, August 14, 2022

A Break in the Action

 

A Break in the Action

7/29/22


  I had a friend drop me off 2 1/2 miles upriver with my kayak. I had a 6 weight fly rod and plenty of poppers to fish for smallmouth bass. I hooked one and missed one in the first ½ mile. Things were slow. I was about 2 miles upriver from my truck when my fly rod snapped do to my error. I usually carry a spinning rod with me in the extra rod holders in the kayak but I decided not to on this float. Bad choice! Disappointed, I paddled the 2 miles back to my truck and headed to camp. It was around 1:30 when I reached the campsite. Brian was still there and I told him what happened. I took my gear out of the kayak and put the stuff in my float tube. I assembled my Winston 6 weight fly rod. I wasn’t done yet! Brian took me upriver again and dropped me off about a mile from the launch site. I was back in the game.

  I started finning my way across river casting that way to get line out. Surprised, a smallmouth lunged at my popper unexpectedly and I totally wasn’t ready. He refused to show up again once I got settled and ready.

  The water seamed to clear up some from the morning. The bank sides I was casting to a couple of days before were pretty shallow. Know wonder why I wasn’t raising any fish to my poppers. I concentrated on casting further out from the bank and casting more often mid-river in deeper water. With the bright sun shining down and the warm temperature I figured the bass were holding in deeper water or in more riffling current. While drifting downriver a I did catch a couple of smaller smallmouth and missed one before I came into a deep wavy current partially out in the middle of the river.


 

  There was a big exposed boulder that had a calm back eddy behind it. I was finning my way towards it while casting the popper into the calmer water behind it. I made a cast maybe 15 yards in the calmer water across and down from the boulder. I made a few quick strips towards me and the popper splashed noisily as it skirted the surface my way. A smallmouth suddenly surfaced, half exposed, and quickly gulped at the slow moving popper like a guy in a hot dog eating contest seeing how many dogs he can get down before time ran out. I let him take it under briefly then yanked the rod up and back. The line instantly tightened, the rod arced towards the fish and the spool spun spitting out line as the smallie took off into the faster current. I started to fin frantically to get out of the wavy current and into the eddy behind the boulder. I could tell the smallie wasn’t a light weight and held the rod tightly like carrying a briefcase through a New York Subway. Once I was in the back eddy I had more control of the action.

  The smallmouth started to swim towards the far bank and up river some. I held the line taut without giving him much line as he was pulling off before hand. He turned with the current and headed downriver again tugging the line and flexing the rod. I held myself steady with the rod high as I watched the leader cut through the surface water. The smallie swam from my left, downriver from me, through the calmer water and beneath the faster current on my right. Though the rod was arced he tugged some more as if to be sure I was still on the other end. As he continued to struggle neither of us was gaining any ground. I couldn’t get him any closer and wasn’t giving him any more line. It was if who had who?

  Back through the calmer water he broke the surface. With half his body exposed he shook the popper that hung from his mouth. Water splashed about and then he disappeared into the river as quick as he showed up. It was if he came to the surface just to see who was on the other end. He sped into the faster current to my left so I angled the rod down to my right. He swam closer with force and semi-circled through the calmer water and back into the faster current to my right. I angled the rod to my left and brought in more line. He was losing strength and I was gaining ground. He made unsuccessful attempts, with tugs, not to come nearer to me as I reeled line onto the spool. He splash helplessly as I lifted him to the apron.

 

 Well, that’s what I’m talking about!

  A little later on two kids in their kayaks and a guy in a fishing pontoon passed by. They had spinning gear and were just drifting as they fished casting towards the bank. I wasn’t in a hurry and slowed my pace letting them get downriver a good ways.

  I was just out from the bank kind of finning and touching rocks with the tips of my fins. I was not that far from the bank casting out towards open water. There was big boulders beneath that I was able to steady myself against at times. The sun was high above the water casting shadows below the trees that overhung the river. I made a cast down to my right in a darker tree shadow the overhung from the bank side. The popper fell and I let it drift just beneath the leafy branches before popping it towards me. A smallmouth exploded out of the water, pouncing on it, like a male feral cat on a young rabbit. After setting the hook it was if he was terrorizing the popper trying to jar it loose. He took off out into the deeper water down from me. There were big boulders beneath surrounding me so I kept the rod tip high not to let the leader or tippet rub against the boulders as the fight with this mad fish continued. After he struggled out in open water he energetically swam towards the bank again. I was holding my flippers steady against the rock bed. The rod was arced good and I was slowly bringing in line. The smallie swam, from the bank, towards me deep. I could see there was a big boulder between the bank and I and wouldn’t you know it he got himself beneath he boulder before I could steer him downriver. I tugged and swung the rod trying to get him out as if trying to dislodge an anchor beneath a sunken waterlogged tree limb. It wasn’t working very well. With the rod arced, and pointing towards the stuck fish, I slowly drifted downriver. I got myself below him and angling the rod near the water surface I was able to force him out from under the boulder. Not liking that his escape plan didn’t work he desperately struggled furiously not wanting to get anywhere near me. It took some time and patience but I was able to get him to the apron also.


  Looking downriver there was a branchy down tree limb that laid out from the bank. The kayakers were casting towards the branches. I lit up a stogie and watched them for a short bit waiting for them to give up and drift down river.   

 

  When I finally drifted within casting distance of the fallen limb I spent some time trying to coax a smallie out from the branches. A smaller one tried for the popper but I missed it. Other than that the other fishermen must have spooked them enough the bigger boys weren’t coming out to play.

  I wasn’t very far from my exit point and just drifting slowly. The far bank was rocky and sometimes shady beneath the overhanging trees. I knew there was some deeper pockets along the rocky bank. I had a gaggle of geese watching me as a fished and drifted by.


 

  I made casts as close to the boulders as I could and stripped them towards me upon the calm surface water. In between coves of boulders, in the shadows, I tried to make soft casts and swim the silver popper towards me like a dying bait fish trying to recover upon the surface. In one of the coves the popper fell to the surface and a smallmouth rose and inhaled the popper like it was an easy meal. Maybe I had way to much slack line out but I reared back while pulling in line. The line shot up out of the water and tightened. The smallie exited the water like a kid jumping from a trampoline high into the air. His body was fully exposed in mid air and not seeing the popper I thought he shook it loose. He splashed down upon the calm water and went under leaving a whirl of bubbles on the surface like a bubbling hot tub. As he disappeared deep the line tightened again with the rod arced and quivering like that of a ham operators long antenna in a wind storm. We had a good battle as he covered water around me like a shark swarming in for the kill. Only thing was he was attempting to get away and I was determined on bringing him in. Eventually I won out. The reason I never saw the popper was that he inhaled it further into his mouth before I was able to set the hook in his jaw.

 

 As I was crossing the river to my exit I was able to coax one more smallie before calling it quits.


 

  Though I wasn’t happy about breaking my fly rod I didn’t give up and it turned out to be a fine day of catching after all.



~doubletaper