Fast forward a few weeks from the time of the trip in the last post. A return trip, this time with flyrod in hand, to that river yielded #17 on the flyrod list – Smallmouth Bass, Micropterus dolomieu, and lots of them. An unpredictable combination of destination and tackle choices lead to a delayed inclusion of this species on the 2018 fly fishing list. Better late than never. Better small than nonexistent.
Unlike last time, I was not fishing solo. I met up with a long time fishing partner for this one. Like my last trip, the river had a “B” side.
I wasn’t successful right out of the blocks this time. After half an hour or so, I had only landed one tiny smallie on one of my trusty streamers. I crossed paths with my buddy. He stared at me in disbelief when I told him of my sparse results. He said, “I’ve got at least six so far.” That second rod just shortened the learning curve for me.
Back in the flybox went my streamer. Out came a woolybugger and a Clouser crayfish for a tandem rig. It wasn’t exactly what my friend was using, but my combo was quite similar in appearance and productivity.
By swinging tandem nymph rigs, we both ended the morning well into the double digits. My friend even had a two species double with a smallmouth and a rockbass together on his rig. That change in tactics saved my day.
Summer travel left me with a few hours to kill in a strange town. The logical thing to do was some fish prospecting. Small rivers with smallmouth bass seemed to be the most likely target in this region. Pre-trip planning gave me a couple waters and few access points to explore.
With ultralight in hand, I hit the water at mid-morning. Within minutes I was into a scrappy little smallmouth. First river, first spot, first lure; it was all clicking. The action continued. They took a tiny jerkbait at almost every piece of cover or likely run. This stream seemed like a dense monoculture of Micropterus dolomieu. What they lacked in size, they made up for in cooperative spirit.
My free time was running short. It was time to fish my way back to the car. Since I had just covered this water with the jerkbait, I thought a switch to an different lure might yield more results. An ultralight spinnerbait seemed like a promising choice.
Right off the bat, I was catching fish on the new lure. There was one difference. Now they were rockbass – exclusively rockbass. The same pools that just minutes ago seemed to only contain smallmouth now seemed like they only held rockbass.
What was my takeaway here? Experimentation isn’t just for the desperate times. Sometimes, even when the fish are biting on plan A, there is something more to learn by trying a plan B.
As a closer, I followed a hunch. I switched to a micro-jig and plucked a couple redbreast sunfish from a slow pool upstream from the fast stretch I just fished. That was three species for a “small river slam” to finish the day.
A flight halfway across the country seemed like a sure thing for an addition or two to the flyrod species list. Not so. I did find some beautiful scenery, and two weight paradise with these old favorites.
Non-fishing travel brought me back to a location I discovered last year (Roadside Opportunities Dec ’17). I couldn’t pass without dropping a line. The species variety was down, but the size was up. Here is quick recap video:
The fish are the obvious part, but it’s often the bits and pieces on the periphery that make the lasting memories. The otters on the ice at the beginning of a nearly fishless day, or the coyote pups resting on the mud flat while I stalked carp – these are the mental trophies that have stood the test of time. Fishing was just the vehicle that put me in position to see those things.
This is an encounter from last week that I will remember for a long time.
The species in the pic above is one of my favorites. As a kid, I incorrectly referred to these as longear sunfish. Looking at the opercular flap, you can see why. It is, of course, the redbreast sunfish. This colorful, willing biter is quite common in this river and many others in the east.
This redbreast, and many of his neighbors, ate a fuzzy nymph with a brass bead head. The tail of this specimen is worth mentioning. I would assume that he wore that down digging a spawning bed. The wound looked fully healed and he seemed none the worse for wear.
A couple small rock bass came next using the same generic bead head. There’s not much to say about a rock bass. They have lots of bite, but not much fight – especially at this size.
The green sunfish was the final species of the day. This little guy was the only one of his kind that I found that day. A switch to a glass bead head nymph lead to his capture.
To close out May, I made a quick stop at a stream I have been frequenting for the past few months. I only knew this stream to hold three species for certain, but suspected more. With a change of seasons and a little flexibility in tactics, I discovered three additional species dwell here.
The day started like my previous visits, with rainbow trout in fast water. Creek chubs and sunfish filled the middle by probing deep slow pools. A sprinkling of brown trout fell evenly throughout. The grand finale was a new fly rod species for 2018 – the Common Shiner (Luxilus cornutus).
The outing spanned just a couple hours and less than a mile of stream bed. Although the fish were diminutive, the variety and numbers of each were excellent. From a multi-species angler’s perspective, I picked it clean.
…I give you the Pumpkinseed. I am not going to try to describe it. Just look at the picture. This sunfish has to be near the top of the list of most colorful American fish. It is also #12 on my 2018 Fly Fishing List.
With nicknames like mudfish and dogfish, the bowfin gets short changed in the PR department. They are strong fighters. They can grow to an impressive size. They are receptive to a variety of presentations. What is often overlooked is an attractive, actually colorful appearance.
Considered a handsome fish year round by some, the beauty of the bowfin peaks during the spring spawning season.