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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

tired and wet

Hybrids liked the rain today. The smallies not so much. Fished a lot harder for smallies than hybrids today and only caught three but caught eight stripey fish. Starting to feel my age I guess because I'm pretty whipped from fishing in the pouring rain....

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Down south

Just returned from three days fishing in Tenn. Most of the time was spent chasing stripers below dams on the Clinch and Tenn rivers. That bite was fairly slow and about what you might expect this time of year. I did manage to land one dandy that was over twenty that somehow ended up back in the river without it's photo being taken. ( I dunno how the H#@ you do that, I don't wanna talk about it) During midday you couldn't have gotten a striper with dynamite so after the first day I headed to mountains during the heat of the day and chased brook trout with the fly rod. They were tiny mostly about five or six inches long but plentiful and heartbreakingly beautiful.
The real story of the trip though was what happened yesterday evening and throughout the night. The dam was releasing quite a bit of water when I came back from chasing brookies and there was a huge eddy on the near bank. And pushed right against the bank in a band about a foot or two wide and at least a hundred yards long were millions and millions of shad. Enough that one of the guides had his big twenty five foot boat full of coolers which he filled completely with shad using a dip net. I guess he was planning on selling them to bait shops since no one could ever use up literally hundreds and hundreds of pounds of shad. Anyways right up against the dam is a wall that runs at a right angle to the dam about the length of a very long cast. The big eddy hit this wall and the water shot up along the wall upstream to the dam. Fast. Very very fast. Fast enough that when one of the guide boats tried to fish it he couldn't hardly hold the big boat in place with the outboard and gave up after bouncing around in a scary looking ride. The reason he tried was you could see fish murdering shad in vast numbers all along the wall. Well with a bit of rock climbing and probably a tiny bit of trespassing I worked my way to the end of the wall. Up close the carnage was cool to watch. Blue cats were straight up and down in the water column just working there mouths open and closed sucking down mouthfuls of shad. And then every few minutes a big shovelhead would come streaking down the wall with his back out of the water looking like one of those killer whales chasing seals up on the beach on animal planet. There were so many shad of all sizes that the shovels would just drive into them with their mouths open. I caught catfish on topwater plugs and big curly shads on two ounce striper jigs. Finally trying to catch a bigger one I tied just a hook on. With a couple feet of line out I'd dip the hook into the band of shad and hook one. I'd rehook it thru the nose so it would stay on and flip it out along the wall. The current was too fast to hold it in place tho, the shad would just skip along on top of the water. The trick was to flip the bail open and the shad would hurtle along the wall till it hit the corner against the dam where it would swirl around for a moment before being swept along the dam. And a moment was all it took till a catfish found it. They generated from at least six in the evening when I got there till 1 am. And I literally caught a catfish nearly every cast the entire time!!!!  Now the current was so fast that even with the big 8.5 foot heavy action striper rod  from Little Miami Rods and 50 lb braid  five or six pound fish took a minute or two and and the bigger shovels might take ten or fifteen minutes. I had a big Okuma Avenger baitrunner reel with the drag cranked all the way down and with the raging current to help the fish would pull drag like crazy. Plus I lost about an hour fighting one giant shovelhead that eventually just pulled off. I have no idea really how big it was though since the swift current made even medium sized fish feel like they were huge. No channels at all, most were blues though one in ten would be a shovel. I lost track of numbers right away but it's safe to say I caught more blue cats in that one night than the rest of my life put together. Then they quit generating and everything just stopped. I was covered in shad scales and fish slime and exhausted and the today would find my right bicep sore from fighting fish.  It was easily one of if not the most outrageous and surreal experiences I've ever had out fishing.

Friday, July 12, 2019

A couple fish from the last two days

Finding some nice fish in very fast shallow rocks in the heat

Tuesday, July 9, 2019


I'm not by nature social. I'd rather swallow a fishbone than share my innermost feelings with more than one or two people on earth. If you know my family you know the loss we have suffered. If not there isn't any reason to go into it here. But the entire process had left me hollow and feeling like a trapped animal that needed to get away. Work was generous and after a day and the weekend there was still bereavement time. Which I planned to use away from people. I always when things have gotten really bad retreated to the woods. Sunlight thru the trees, the sound of water, the chores of making camp give my soul more peace than the best intentioned company. 
A few strokes of the paddle and I was away just as dawn first began to brighten the sky. I really did little paddling, mostly just to keep the kayak floating true as the woods slowly came awake and birdsong filled the air.  A muskrat slipped off a bank into the water and a bit further on a duck did a broken wing act to lead me past what were surely hidden ducklings. A heron lifted into the air with a croak of protest as I reached where I wanted to be. Here the river whooshed thru a riffle that was probably the fastest one for miles. Just the kind of riffle that would draw fish in the heat of July.  The morning saw four nice hybrids including one dandy and a decent smallmouth come to a curly shad fished in the seam where the fast water of the riffle rubs the slow water of the downstream eddy. As the sun climbed over the trees I unpacked the few things I'd brought in the yak. Along with tackle I'd brought a tarp, some para cord, a ferro rod, a knife, and a sawyer squeeze to filter water. The knife I've been carrying on trips like this lately is a new Buck with rubber handles but the same blade as the classic 110 hunter which has probably dressed more big game and been on more adventures than any knife ever made. A sawyer squeeze is a game changing gadget that reinvented water filtration. It screws on an empty pop bottle or water bottle and is pretty much all thru hikers carry any more on the long trails like the PCT or AT.  I don't know how many times I've watched hikers like Jessica Dixie Mills on you tube fill the thing from green ponds with cattle standing in them or even from roadside ditches. Filtering the comparatively clean water from our rivers is a piece of cake. 
Back in the trees but still close enough to hear the water I set up the tarp. With no rain in the forecast it was more to help the trees shade out the heat more than anything. I'm slowly learning a few more knots than bloodknots and palomars and I've found the prusik knot is the most useful knot ever for setting up a shelter. If you use one it's well worth learning this useful but simple knot. 
I wondered up into the woods to turn over some logs and rake back some leaves to find some bait to hopefully catch a channel for lunch. Alongside a tiny trickle of water in a dark hollow I saw the familiar leaves of ginseng. A lot of ginseng, maybe fifty or sixty plants in a spot twenty or thirty yards long. I'll have to remember this spot come fall. I knew from this I probably didn't have to worry much about talking to people if a spot was  visited seldom enough to have this much ginseng.
Once I'd gotten a few worms it wasn't much trouble catching a channel. After filleting I baked it on a flat rock sit on the coals of a twig fire. 
After sitting a bit I wandered back down to the stream. Now it was hot. Really hot. And believe it or not one of my favorite times to catch smallmouth. About a week ago I'd even said this in an interview for the Yak Legion podcast. You see when the river gets as warm as bathwater a basses metabolism is in high gear but the places they will feed in midday are few and far between. So you know where the best fish are going to be. If there are big smallmouth in the section of river you fish you can bet the farm they are in a pocket smack dab in the fastest water you can find in your stream. And I mean really fast, not kinda fast but sweep you off your feet fast. In midsummer no spot is too fast or too shallow as long as it is roaring dangerous sweep you off your feet in a foot of water fast. Exactly the kind of water that had the hybrid stripers up here at daylight. I used a three inch grub on a 1/4 ounce jighead in about 15 inches of roaring fast water which had some big rocks in it to create spots for the fish to lie. 
I honestly thought the fish was a big channel or a small shovelhead for the first half of the fight as it didn't jump but instead just bent the rod double in dogged runs in the fast water. Then It came up and things got real exciting for a bit. A few quick pics ( I posted two of this one fish)  and I knelt in the water and held the fish for a second till with a stroke of its tail it hit me with a face full of water and shot off back into the river. No tape measures, no scales, it certainly wasn't that type of trip and besides that fish was absolutely perfect no matter what its size. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

finally.. back to our regularly scheduled smallmouth fishing

Swell evening on the river. When I first got there a storm was somewhere nearby and it was really windy. I happened to look up just as a bald eagle went sailing by at tree top level about a million miles an hour. Soon after that it turned into a beautiful evening with deer everywhere. The biggest excitement of the evening was having a fish blast the curly shad then take off screaming drag thru a swift run. Then you could tell the fish was still on but it wasn't moving. Hung up. I inched out slowly into the swift water thinking for sure I had a huge smallmouth hung up out there. Finally I reached where it was hung and could by reaching down till not much more than my neck was above water feel around to where the line was hung up on a piece of metal sticking out of a chunk of busted up concrete. I freed the line and by a miracle the fish was still on. About a six pound  channel cat. I was having enough trouble just wading the water was so fast so I didn't snap a photo of the cat. The smallmouth were biting though. Everything was on a curly shad fished in the fastest water I could find. Except for one fish in calm water that absolutely hammered a buzzbait on three casts in a row without getting hooked. It sure is nice to be able to actually do some wading after all the never ending high water...

Thursday, June 27, 2019

jungle giant

A bit of jungle fishing last night. No trail to the stream, instead a long bushwack thru an absolute jungle. But I was repaid with a jungle giant on a big curly shad. Those are two photos of the same fish plus a few little guys. Right on the edge of a strong riffle and a head high cliff.