Rain that raised the stream level enough to quicken the flow and persistent gusty winds forced a switch to Plan B. An upstream hike ground a long river bend brought me to a ridge that shielded my 5-weight’s casts to a series of deadfalls that harbored slack water downstream. from each. Several streamer presentations produced a swirl, but no takes. I snipped off the Black Nosed Dace but, as I contemplated the next selection, two rises dimpled the surface in the lee of a large log. Dun-colored caddis flies danced above the surface so a size-14 dark grey Bivisible was knotted to 4X tippet. Two dead drifts were ignored prompting the addition of a subtle twitch. The take was explosive and a 10-inch smallmouth skittered across the surface before diving toward the outstretched tree branches. In hand, the bronze beauty glared angrily at me through intense red eyes. The strategy was magical for the remainder of the evening as each deadfall pocket produced several smallies supplemented by a number of spunky Green Sunfish. At the end of the long pool, I became aware of the rattle of dry leaves as they scurried across gravel bars, and the wind acquired a chilly edge that required a speedy pace toward the bridge.
After several unseasonably warm days, I waded a favorite stretch of river armed with a 3-weight rod. A size-12 oft hackle was knotted to a 5X tippet and cast into clear water that exposed the rocky substrate. As the fly settled, I gathered the line preparing to impart action, but I was met with resistance that signaled the fly had been inhaled. The ensuing fight caused the light rod to throb and I elicited an audible laugh. A turquoise-flecked orange Longear Sunfish was admired and released. Another dozen of those beautiful battlers were subdued before a downstream wade of a few steps encountered a pod of equally hungry Green Sunfish. Again, a dozen were brought to hand before another move intercepted more longears. Seven turkeys momentarily startled me as they noisily flew overhead and across the stream into the large oaks on the river’s western ridge. The next cast resulted in a hookup with a small longear that was attacked by a sizeable Smallmouth Bass, but as I reached out to land the sunny my movement caused the smallie to drop its prey. Quickly I knotted a streamer to my tippet and probed the area carefully without success. As the sun slipped behind the tree line the air temperature plummeted, and reluctantly I waded ashore.
A 3-weight rod accompanied a late afternoon trip to a stream that is home to some large green sunfish. Interested in enticing a surface bite, I knotted a size-10 brown Bivisible to a 5X tippet and cast toward the rocky shoreline. As I had hoped, the action came immediately and often. Each chunky sunfish was fought, brought to hand, and released until an audible rise in the rocky outcropping of the pool’s tailout caught my attention. The line was stripped from the reel so that a longer cast could reach the disappearing ripple. The fly found its mark and was immediately inhaled by a small but feisty smallmouth bass. Three leaps and a head-shaking standoff preceded a happy release. Thirty minutes of casting that same tailout brought 7 more beautiful bronzebacks to hand. six were between 9 and 11 inches. The seventh and final fish sipped the fly delicately from the surface but quickly revealed its size with a heavy, bull-dogging run that threatened the 5X tippet. Fortunately, the bronze beauty sought the protection of a deep pool. A give-and-take battle ensued for several minutes before the 13-incher was lipped, admired, and released.
A blue sky enabled deep sunlight penetration into the clear pools of my chosen stream. Casting practice would be the only benefit of fishing then, so I reclined on a streamside log and waited for the west side bluff to cast its shadow over the fish-holding structure. The observation time revealed a caddis hatch that prompted me to remove the small streamer I had chosen to begin fishing and knot a size-10 soft hackle to the business end of my 3-weight setup. I hoped that sizeable bluegills would be feeding on the caddis larva as they rose to the surface to hatch. Gentle casts to the extended branches of a deadfall were counted into the deepest pocket and slowly stripped. Eleven chunky bluegills were coaxed from the site before repositioning. Two branches extending at right angles created a perfect ambush location, but four casts there were ignored. On the fifth presentation, the countdown was extended from 5 to 8. Upon fly activation, a gentle tug was soul-satisfying, but as the rod was lifted into a hookset, it was apparent this fish was larger than the others. My 8 1/2 3–weight had a deep bend that created doubt about the light tippet I’d chosen. A foamy spray sent rivulets of silver across the surface that removed any doubt that a hefty largemouth had intercepted the fly. Two strong surges toward the protection of the deadfall were halted by palming the reel spool. A run into deeper water accompanied by a series of head shakes were subdued before a circular tug of war ended by lipping the 16-inch fish. When snow is blowing against the window beside my tying bench, I will cherish the memory of that bass.
Cool evenings and low river levels have concentrated fish into smaller areas. Armed with a 4-wt. and intermediate line that sinks at 2 i.p.s. (inches per second) I waded downstream to a deep hole with a series of deadfalls. I was hopeful that fish had moved from the large reservoir 2 miles away into the river to feed before retiring to the lake for the winter. My initial casts to the edges of submerged branches brought two small bluegills to hand that I suspected of being river residents. Finally, I cast my size-8 Crappie Bully toward the extended trunk of a tree with large branches that were visible near the surface. The fly was counted into the depths and at the count of seven, the line lurched forward indicating it had been inhaled. I was surprised by both the strike and that my fly had survived the heavy brush. I set the hook much too late and missed the fish. The next cast made just a couple of steps downstream brought another hit, and this time the 9-inch crappie was netted and released. Two hours of constant action accounted for more than two dozen fish my Louisiana friends call Sac-au-lait (Sack-a-lay).
There’s been little rain here for a long while, and the small pond I at its lowest level of the year. Three mid-forty degree nights caused the pond to turn over, and the northeast wind blew the oxygen-depleted water against the dam. I could not induce a single strike from that end of the pond, but the eat side weedline produced a robust 17-inch bass and several of 10 to 12 inches. The east side water was unusually clear, and as a result, I actually “lined” small groups of these school bass that were moving along the weedline. That’s a very unusual occurrence in ponds. Most of the bass and the few bluegills I caught inhaled a size-8 chartreuse Bully Spider including the big bass, while a Black Ghost streamer caught the rest. This unusual trip concluded as I slowly finned my float tube toward my takeout while trolling the streamer. At midpoint, the fly came to a sudden stop, and my 6-wt. rod acquired a deep bend. I assumed that I had hooked a submerged stump or log until it began moving sideways. The pressure from my forward movement caused the fish to erupt from the water in thrashing head shakes that dislodged the fly, and the big bass was gone. It had been big, really big, but I won’t venture a guess as my eyes were as big as silver dollars.