A 37-degree afternoon deteriorated into a 27-degree windchill by steady 20 mph wind gusting to 30 mph that sent me into the protection of a bluff-shielded pool. A small spring branch created by a slow eddy that extended over a deadfall and rock-infested flat. The area wasn’t large and I knew the fish would either be there or they wouldn’t. A slow (2 i.p.s.) sinking line and 4-foot leader delivered a bead-head fly called Bluegill Bugger to the deepest edge of the flat. A countdown enabled the fly to reach 3 feet of depth then I lifted the rod tip and began a slow retrieve. The line acquired “that heavy feeling” which required another lift of the rod tip that produced the feisty struggle of a thick green sunfish. Forty-five minutes of careful casts brought 11 to hand before the action stopped.
The rapid onset of winter weather has slowed the warmwater fishes’ metabolisms. In the hope of locating river fish that have entered spring branches to feed, I waded into a familiar spring pool with a constant 54-degree water temperature and began casting down and across the current with size-12 nymphs. Twenty minutes without a hit led me to a large slow eddy and a fly change to a size-10 white/silver Mini Minnie. The first strip of line was halted by a firm tug which led to the landing of a chunky Rock Bass, locally known as Goggle Eye. Eight more came to hand before the action ceased. Further upstream on the spring branch I went fishless as the warmwater immigrants had not yet moved that far.
A cold rain followed by bright sun sent my favorite pond’s residents into the depths. Casts from my float tube were counted into the depths and slowly retrieved. For two hours the catch totaled 4 fish, 2 largemouths and 2 bluegills! Each was taken at a different depth which indicated that most of the fish were suspended over deep water. Fishing my way back to the launch site, I noticed that a band of shade extended from a section of tree-lined shore. Casts into the shaded shallows with a white/silver Mini Minnie produced 26 bluegills of 7 to 9 inches in the final 45 minutes.
A favorite stream’s water is cooling now and fallen leaves skim along its surface like miniature sailboats. My 3-weight delivered size-10 Mini Minnies near rocky outcroppings and deadfalls where they were counted down into the inky depths. With surprising regularity, they were either smashed by big bluegills or the line simply acquired that “suddenly heavy” feeling that accompanies the take of a sizeable crappie. Even at a point where many would retire from the constant action, I persisted to feed my addiction to the hook set.
A friend and I fished in opposite directions from the bridge entry on a local stream. During his absence, I hooked a 13-inch largemouth bass. As it was brought toward the rod I saw two larger bass following the hooked fish and focused on the fly stuck in its jaw. Moments later I hooked a large green sunfish and, once again, two good-sized bass (both smallmouths this time) escorted the hooked fish to within a rod’s length of me. When my friend returned I recounted the two encounters and suggested he try a large streamer. In the next 30 minutes, he landed and released one of the largemouths and both smallies. It was a lasting memory for both of us.
Several cool evenings have invigorated the bluegill populations. They are spending longer periods on and near the shallow flats feeding to build reserves for the coming winter. Olive Bully’s Bluegill Spiders cast to the edge of the flats and counted down (one thousand one, one thousand two, etc.) to a depth of 3 feet before imparting action provided consistent action. Many strikes came on the vertical drop and others on the first short strip. A 10-incher’s valiant fight provided a fitting end to a memorable evening.