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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Smallie Jigs of all kinds

Before tubes, before soft plastics, the mainstay of smallmouth fishermen everywhere was the hair jig or "doll fly". And with good reason they worked amazingly well. And still do. In fact there has been a huge resurgence in interest in hair jigs for smallmouth the last few years. Almost without fail half or more of my biggest smallmouth every year come on some sort of jig.
One of my most cherished possessions is a signed copy of "THEM OLE BROWN FISH" by Billy Westmoreland. Billy Westmoreland has to be considered the greatest trophy smallmouth fisherman of all time. He caught one fish over 10-pounds, three fish over 9 pounds and 50 to 75 fish over 8 pounds! Here's a photo right out of the book:

Yep that's a smallmouth. Most of Billy's giant bass came on a spin rite or a Fly n Rind. Later Billy also used a plastic grub quite a bit which is how I came to meet him. My brother at the time had a small business selling plastic worms, grubs, and marabou jigs. Well Billy liked the grubs so well that he offered to endorse them at first for free. Here's a photo of one of the old packages with Billy's photo on it:

It was quite a learning experience for me as a kid riding along as my brother peddled his lures. I think I went in every fishing tackle store and bait shop in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana that was open back then. And every now and then we would do a trade show like the big one coming up at the Cincy convention center or at the fairgrounds in Indianapolis. Which was where I got to hang around and listen to Billy Westmoreland talk fishing.
Back then lots of the older fishermen called hair jigs Doll Flies. All because of another legendary figure, Elmer "Doll" Thompson.
Elmer Thompson founded Thompson Fishing Tackle in 1952 and it grew unbelievably. At first all his jigs were tied with polar bear hair and Elmer soon became the largest buyer of bear hair in the world. Every Mom and Pop gas station, bait shop and hardware store in America it seemed had a card of Doll Flies hanging up. At peak production the company churned out 27 million jigs a year:

All for the price of nineteen cents each:

Remember Virgil Ward, one of the early TV fishing personalities? According to an old In-fisherman article Virgil's son Bill Ward was the first to tie and sell marabou jigs. His father did so well using them that he came famous as a fisherman. Another pioneer in selling marabou jigs back then was Leroy Spellman. Here's a picture of some of his old jigs.

Nowadays there are a million makers of hair jigs made out of hundreds of different kinds of materials. Why? because they flat out work. Like I said Billy in later years also fished a plastic grub on a jighead as well as a hair jig. Plastic grubs burst upon the world as the famous Mr. Twister:

Like the Doll Fly, Kleenex, and Velcro, the name Mr. Twister became so famous that the brand name just about became THE name.

Today a curly tail grub is still just about my number one go to lure for smallmouth bass. Besides having great action they come in every color you can think of. I'm partial to smoke metalflake to imitate most minnows and motor oil metalflake to imitate a central stoneroller, the most common little fish in the LMR. But I carry grubs in a variety of fishy colors. Here's a good photo of a grub:

I remember helping my brother hand pour our first grubs out of molds he bought from the Netcraft company. These first grubs were flat on one side and not completely round like modern grubs. It's ironic too because now I but my grubs in bulk from Netcraft. I think their Dominator line of grubs is just about perfect.
Mr. Twister later came out with the Sassy Shad which had a flatter more shad or shiner like profile and a paddle tail. This is the grandparent of todays swimbaits like Big Joshy's or the great Keitech. The one I use the most and love is the River Rock Striker:

This guy perfectly imitates the shiners that are so common in the pools of the LMR and GMR. This is also great lure to throw in January and February for trophy saugeye below the low head dams on the Great Miami.

I fish the different types of jigs all just a bit differently. The swim baits like the RR Striker I try to keep swimming just off the bottom and fish them mainly in pools and below dams. The grub I will also swim but I try to keep it really close to the bottom and ticking it every now and then. I'll also throw the grub right below a riffle to imitate a darter. When I do this I sometimes add a triangle cut out of old grubs to imitate the distinctive fins of a darter:

The Jewel Sculpin, another soft plastic bait, also does a great job of imitating these guys:

As for the hair jigs I really like to throw them in runs and current seams and let them sweep down on a tight line. Ill also throw them in slower water and hop them along the bottom like you might a living rubber jig. Hair jigs are a must have in cold water where their subtle action triggers smallmouth better than just about anything else. Most hair jigs I tie myself just because it's fun:
Personally I don't use rubber skirted jigs as much as other kinds of jigs. Not because they don't work great but instead because I just really enjoy catching fish on hair jigs I've tied myself. But in treetops or other places I might hang up a lot I'll throw a Bitsy Bug Jig. Again if I didn't tie so many jigs I'd probably throw them way more than I do now. If push came to shove, I'd probably give up all the other lures in my box before I'd give up my jigs when stream smallmouth fishing. If your not throwing them in the river you owe it to yourself to start.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Woof Jigs

So I've been looking around for some longer craft fur for tying hair jigs. I love the way craft fur jigs move and look in the water. They move like marabou but don't flatten out as much when you swim them as marabou does. They just seem to fit my style of jig fishing perfect. But the craft fur you see everywhere is just a bit too short. I found some at Bass Pro that was okay but just okay and everyone elses just stunk. Then I saw some great looking stuff online at Feathercraft and was going to buy that any day. Well today I found a years supply here in town for fifty cents! At goodwill of course. I just have to not let Kally see them! This craft fur is long enough to tie even 3/8 ounce jigs as well as the smaller ones I usually fish.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Saugfishes and snow angels

Things didn't look good. The river was clear as glass. It was seven or eight degrees below freezing. And a light breeze was blowing up the river. Honestly if I wasn't supposed to meet Dan this trip might have ended right then and there. But Dan was due any minute, might as well fish. I had a pocket full of jigheads and some ugly sauger colored grubs. The colors were way too gaudy for the ultra clear water, I rooted thru them and found a white one. Ten minutes later I felt a solid thump and landed a nice saugeye. If I didn't catch anything else I felt okay about the trip considering the conditions. I decided to switch colors and headed back to the truck where I had some more normal colored grubs. I got there just as Dandrews (AKA the carp whisperer) pulled up. I chatted with him watching carefully as he geared up. Dan is a big guy and dressed in several layers for the cold plus waders and a backpack. It would be easy for him to smuggle a live carp in there somewhere. For you see every time we go fishing Dan manages to find a new and weirder way to catch a carp and it's starting to worry me. Ive seen him catch them on minnow plugs, on spinners, on jigs, on a fly rod. Hell if I remember right he even snagged a line someone had broken off only to reel it in and find a carp attached. It's a bit frightening. I tied on a smoke with red flake three inch grub and went back to fishing. A few casts later and in a zenlike moment I set the hook for no reason and was fast to another saugeye. I honestly can't remember feeling a strike at all. I think it was the product of being at the end of a long year of fishing three or five times a week when I'm about as sharp as a fat middle aged guy in nine layers of clothing can get. By spring I'll have lost it all and will have to relearn it over again. By spring Ill have forgotten as well how to wade with any semblance of grace or daring and will be wallowing around trying not to fall. The older I get the more I find fishing, like life, can be a matter of trying to relearn things we used to know already. What I'm relearning today is how to fish comfortably in frigid weather. My problem today is gloves, mine are too bulky to fish well in. All day I find myself pulling them off and fishing for as long as I can stand it before putting them back on again. Soon I hear a thumping and look up. Sure enough there's a carp on the bank at Dan's feet flopping around making carp angels in the snow. A bit later I'll look up to see his rod bent into a capital C by another carp the size of a small goat that eventually pulls off. Like I said, it's a bit frightening. I quit after two and a half hours having caught three saugfish and snagging two carp of my own. Not bad at all considering the weather. I snapped some photos of the saugeyes in the gin clear water that I thought turned out pretty cool...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

A good day on the river

Really any day you can fish in December without freezing is a good day in my book. But I did have a pretty good day. I guess I caught around 15 bass. The first part of the day all came on a marabou jig then as things warmed up I switched to a three inch River Rock grub. Both fished very slow
in slack water next to current. It seemed the slower I fished it the more they liked it. But even though I was fishing it super slow they thumped it pretty hard and two smallies even jumped! Not sure what the water temp was the thermometer was broken when I got it out. Im guessing in the low forties up from 39 or so from a few days ago. Its amazing how even a little jump in water temps will turn on the fish this time of year. I used jigs ranging from 1/16 up to 1/4 trying to keep the jigs swimming just off the bottom. Saw a doe swimming the frigid river and a kingfisher fished by me all day. A pretty sweet day, but looking at the forecast the fun's all over for a while.

No saugfish which was a bit surprising considering I threw jigs all day. I stopped by on the way home to visit Dave who was fishing downstream and took a pretty cool picture of him right at dark.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Wipers, stripers and whites. Oh My

I left out a day early for the start of deer gun season and hit a couple creek mouths where they dumped into the Ohio. Its a good thing too as I had much better luck fishing than hunting. The fish seemed to staged just outside the creek mouth in the OR itself. The start of the day was really slow, I think by noon I'd had one strike. But as the day warmed up so did the fishing. Right around three there even was a five minute period or so where stripers were blowing up on bait at the surface. In a whole day of fishing I caught seven or eight hybrids and stripers, a few small white bass and four or five skipjacks. I also lost the biggest skipjack I've ever seen. Big enough that I texted House asking what the record skippy was. It was that big, looking like a little tarpon as it jumped and threw my jig. All fish were caught on a white bucktail jig tied from a deer I did happen to get bowhunting earlier in the season. Dandrews poured the jigheads and I painted them and tied the jigs so it was pretty sweet to get some fish on them. Two fish spit up small two inch shad, I imagine any white or silver lure in that size range would have gotten action. River wasn't up but it was pretty muddy.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Hair Jigs

Highs in the 20's today. More hair jig tying weather. My goal is to have three hundred tied by spring. So far I've got about 65 or 70 done. Here's some pics of several different styles I've got done so far...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

How to purchase my book on CD.

By spring we expect to have a hardcover version of my book, The LMR for sale. Right now all I have available is the Cd version. By print a few of the photos might change and a few more grammatical mistakes fixed but the content will be the same as the CD. You can transfer the book from CD to your computer and it opens like any other PDF book. You can scroll down or select any page you wish as well as zoom in or out. You can transfer it to any of the book readers too. It's worked on those I've tried. Well I haven't really got it set up yet to sell online with a credit card but If you mail me a check for ten bucks I'll make sure and mail you out one within a week. My address is Steve Coomer, 120 South Sycamore street. Lebanon, Ohio 45036.
Be sure and specify South Sycamore. If you put just Sycamore it goes somewhere else. The book will come on Cd in pdf form. Most reader programs will let you scroll down or put in the page you want to see plus make the type as big or little as you want. It costs around two bucks to package and then mail it so I think that's a pretty good deal. If you river fish for smallmouth you will enjoy this book.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Fly selection for the Little and Great Miami Rivers

Well it's that time of year. Time to venture out once in a while after saugers but mostly just wish for spring. And tie flies. I tell you what I do. I hit the Orvis store at the Dayton Mall and try to reverse engineer some of their flies. To me they have the best smallie fly selection around and some weirdly cool flies you just can't find anywhere else. Like for example my favorite crayfish fly, May's Clearwater Crayfish.

I love this fly. It has everything I'm looking for in a crayfish fly. Good color. It sinks like a rock. Rubber legs for movement. And only the suggestion of claws. Study after study shows smallmouth prefer crayfish with little claws, or no claws for that matter. This guy is pretty close to the perfect crayfish fly in my book. I fish it on a short line, usually across and down in riffles and runs.

Other flies I fish in this manner are weighted stonefly nymphs and two other weirdly wonderful flies, the Conehead Rubber Bugger and Shultzy's Red Eyed Leech. I think both the rubber bugger and the Shultzy look a little bit like a whole slew of stuff smallmouth are looking to eat in runs and riffles. They slightly resemble everything from a darter to some kind of big nymph to even a little crayfish. At any riffle on the Little Miami there's going to be a dozen kinds of little dark and rusty colored little fish in and among the rocks as well as a list of invertebrates as long as your arm. I think a smallmouth up on a riffle sees a lot of different stuff and isn't about to be as selective as a fish in slower water. That's why I really go for these generalized creepy crawly flies.

When fishing pools for smallmouth I try to imitate shiners more than anything else. Both the LMR and GMR have about a dozen shiner species and in most stretches of calmer water they are far and away more common than anything else. I like unweighted shiner flies because shiners are usually more active high in the water column and don't hug the bottom like riffle minnows and darters.

As a general rule I try to fish heavier weighted flies and darker flies the closer I get to the riffle and lighter colored flies the farther I am into the pool. This is in a broad general way following the pattern of the dozens of little baitfish in the river. But there are exceptions to the rule. There are so many variables that this only gives you a place a place to start. If the fish aren't biting don't be afraid to experiment. The food chain in smallmouth streams is more complicated than that of just about any other kind of water. If someone tells you they know exactly what's going on down there at any one time, you know just how little they do know. Sometimes we catch fish in spite of our best theories. We think we are catching smallmouth feeding on crayfish and they are actually feeding on rainbow darters flushed out of the rocks by crawfish too big for smallmouth to eat. Or any of a hundred other scenarios that might be going on at any given time.

And of course you have to have some topwater flies. This is stream fishing at it's very finest. I throw deer hair bugs a lot just because I have a huge supply of deer hair but a sneaky pete might be a better choice if your only going to buy or tie one. A sneaky pete lets you you fish the slicks in the tail of pools without getting waterlogged like a deer hair bug but is just as effective as the deer hair in quiet water. Some days a deer hair bug or sneaky pete can simply be deadly. Another fly I fish on the surface is a marabou muddler. I know its a streamer but dressed with just a bit of floatant it fishes in the film. I call it fishing it soggy, not wet or dry. Its exciting just like topwater fishing and just as visual.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Link to fishing gold

Below is a link to the complete list of water quality and biological surveys done by the EPA in Ohio. When you first open a study on one of your favorite streams you think what a incomprehensible miss mash. Why did Steve ever think this was worthwhile? Well what you gotta do is scroll down thru the hundreds of pages in the appendices of flow charts and nutrient loads and gobbligook till you get to the sampling data for the different locations along each stream. Here you will find a complete species list AND how common each is in that stretch of river. It may be cool to have one mountain madtom but if there are three hundred emerald shiners guess which one you should think about imitating with your lure...

if you take the time to really look at your favorite streams data it will change how you fish it next summer

Monday, November 4, 2013

My favorite kind of trip

I simply love to fish. I'd fish in a puddle for minnows with thread if that's all I could do. But everyone has a favorite kind of trip. I think mine is that early summer day when you feel the whole summer stretching out before you full of possibilities. A lunch thrown in the rucksack, a couple little boxes of lures, a spinning rod and nothing else. There's this one special place I fish. It's a stretch of river with small pools interspersed with small riffles and then a big chute no one could ever wade. Enough water to feel, like summer, seemingly endless. Even if neither actually is. During the week at least, more than likely I won't see another person all day. In the early morning, as the light shines golden on the very tops of the trees, deer are almost always somewhere. Wading the river in a shallow riffle, picking slowly along the bank, maybe just the flick of an ear or tail in the brush. In the early morning I wade slowly fishing things like pop-r's or minnow plugs, trying to coax a smallmouth to the surface. I remember last year throwing a pop-r in a tiny little pocket below a limb and twitching it once. A smallmouth, perhaps ten inches long, jumps out of the water taking the plug on the way down. It doesn't take many fish like that to make a perfect day for me. Later on as the bands of sunlight slowly slide down the trees and touch the water, I fish a spinner or a crankbait in the faster water. Maybe catching the slash of a good fish as it flashes out at the lure in the current. Before I know it the morning has gone. Maybe Ill hear the cry of a redtail circling overhead and look up to find the sun straight overhead. Then Ill find a big rock to use as a place to spread out lunch. Or maybe up in the woods if it's getting warm. But always where I can sit and watch the river while I eat. There's always something to watch sitting beside a river. After lunch is harder more technical fishing. Fishing the runs and deeper slots with a hair jig or grub. Carefully paying attention, trying to feel the lightest tick or even just the momentary pause in the drift that might mean a fish. As day slowly turns to evening, this will often produce the best fish of the day, a fat smallmouth lurking along the current edge or suddenly the heavy weight and the throbbing of a big channelcat taking the grub in the fast water of the chute. As I'm unhooking the channel I'll notice I'm in shade the line of sunlight from this morning has crossed the river and is now making it's way back up the trees on the other side of the river. I'll switch to a spinner and fish the shallow pools for the smallies that move up here shallow on summer evenings. These are some of my favorite fish of all. One second the pool calm and serene, the surface still or maybe only marred by the bulge of my spinner just under the surface. The next second a savage strike and the wild runs and jumps of a smallmouth hooked in really shallow water. Often one of these fish will be so perfect I'll use it as a perfect frame for the day and end with that fish. Other days Ill find myself caught up in the river, unable to leave and fish till the moon is high in the sky and I'm fumbling thru my pack for the headlamp to light my way thru the woods back to the truck.

Monday, October 28, 2013

How to purchase my book

By spring we expect to have a hardcover version of my book, The LMR for sale. Right now all I have available is the Cd version. By print a few of the photos might change and a few more grammatical mistakes fixed but the content will be the same as the CD. You can transfer the book from CD to your computer and it opens like any other PDF book. You can scroll down or select any page you wish as well as zoom in or out. You can transfer it to any of the book readers too. It's worked on those I've tried. Well I haven't really got it set up yet to sell online with a credit card but If you mail me a check for ten bucks I'll make sure and mail you out one within a week. My address is Steve Coomer, 120 South Sycamore street. Lebanon, Ohio 45036.
Be sure and specify South Sycamore. If you put just Sycamore it goes somewhere else. The book will come on Cd in pdf form. Most reader programs will let you scroll down or put in the page you want to see plus make the type as big or little as you want. It costs around two bucks to package and then mail it so I think that's a pretty good deal. If you river fish for smallmouth you will enjoy this book.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Twenty One Inch SMB

Ok so this has been the best week of smallmouth bass fishing I've ever had. I'll admit that, there's no way to act like "oh yeah, I've done that before". I've found big fish in two places and have hit em everyday. It's not often you catch three smallmouth that probably total 15 lbs and your not in lake erie or canada. I'll be the first to say I've been lucky and blessed. Today was the GMR. I bribed a guy that works the early shift to trade me today. Eric I owe you one buddy. The GMR had been a degree or two warmer than the LMR lately. I ran into Fischa yesterday on the LMR and he measured 52 degrees. That's pretty much getting down to saugeye fishing temps in my book so, desperate for that last bit of smallmouth bass action, I hit the gmr. Right away I did okay catching a 15 inch fish, losing another and catching one maybe eight inches long. Then things stopped. I hung up my grub and lost it and retied on a 1/8 ounce jighead instead of the 1/4 I'd been using. I also put on a 4 inch grub that I'd bitten about a half inch off of, making it a bulkier profile. My idea was that it would fall slower and I wouldn't have to reel as fast to keep it off bottom. I don't know if that did the trick or not because I only caught one fish. But what a fish. I threw like I have all week into a hard current break. The currents ripping along then 6 inches over way slower. Thump. I set the hook. The fish jumped. I didn't get a good look at it but it seemed pretty big. Then a screaming run and it jumped again. Time stood still. I swear everything stopped and it just hung there like in a magazine ad. Or at least it so seemed in my excited brain. Then everything went into hyperdrive. It's running, jumps once more, kinda wallows on top. And then I lipped it. A few days ago I was using braid in dingier water when I caught the 20 but things were clearer so I had 8lb mono on. So now swinging the fish up on the bank like the other fish was out of the question. I was so happy to lip that fish. Pictures, measuring, then holding in the water to rest then one last photo. I released the fish in a quiet little 8 inch deep pocket. It just kind of hung there resting. I snapped a photo then bent down and touched its mouth to lip it again and put it in the river. I jerked it's head away angrily and swam off strongly into the river. I swear it looked po'd even then. Gotta love that smallmouth attitude. I didn't fish anymore. From the sounds of the forcast things are about done after today anyway. I gotta admit I'm still a bit jacked up two hours later writing this one up...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Ligtning strikes twice...19" smallmouth

I texted Dave. "So you want to go fishing? I kinda been doing okay at this spot, cough, cough" The nice part about Dave is the guy is as paranoid about our fishing spots as I am. We've spent hours and hours each pouring over sat maps and sending each other ideas and wild theories. He's kinda like the neighbor on the old Home Improvement show. Remember Wilson that they never showed his whole face? Well Dave's posts are just close ups of fish so people wont recognize him and fish his spots. So Delta is the only guy on earth I'd trust with the exact spot I caught the twenty inch fish yesterday. He was already fishing when I got to the river. As I'm walking up he was taking a picture of a 15 inch fish and said he'd just caught another that size and had been there like ten minutes. I'm like cool. Now let's leave. He instantly got his stuff. You know Dave, the guy that caught three 18' fish in one day a week or so ago, he's all about catching a big smallie. So we hiked on up to the spot. I'm showing him, "Ok, so they are right here lying in this seam of really fast water right along that rocky bank. I caught the 20, a 17, and lost a 18 to 20 inch fish right here." I'm making casts, kind of showing him where the fish are and how I'm fishing it and Thump. Out of the water comes this huge smallie. At first I'm like...Ok this is a 20 inch fish! I fight it a bit and then land it without too much drama so I'm beginning to realize it's not as big as yesterdays fish but still a big bruiser. Dave gets his measuring board. 19 inches! I was pretty pumped, I'm sure I rattled on to Dave like a little excited kid. The potential of this new spot still has me excited three hours later. Water temp was 60 even, down a degree from yesterday. Only six or seven degrees till it slows with some cool nights in the forecast. Call in sick to work, take a vacation day, fake your own death. Whatever it takes, this might not last too much longer...

These two are from the next day. Water has dropped another degree. Fish still up in the fast run right on a current sleeve. Cold rainy, high in the 50's, The end is near...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

20 inch smallmouth bass

So it was the usual mad dash to the river after work. Today I did good, there was about an hour left of daylight. I went right back to the spot I caught the 17 inch fish yesterday. Same lure. A three inch grub on a quarter ounce jig head. It's swift. Really swift. I threw the grub right into this hard current break and let it sweep downstream in the fast water. Thump. A hard strike and I had a fish on. About a 15 inch fish. Then a few cast later a good fish that bent the rod double before coming off. Maybe five casts after that. Thump and the rod bent double and the line began peeling off the reel. It felt heavy. I'm thinking catfish. I was actually kind of disappointed, which I never am catching a cat. But I had high hopes for a good bass here. Then skyward came this fish. Profanities were blurted. Things speeded way up. It was jumping and line was peeling off then it was tailwalking almost at my feet. and then finally it was safely in hand. Its always so nerve racking with a big smallie, I swear I lose half of the big ones they fight so dang hard. This time I was lucky.

BTW go fishing! Right now is the best time of year to catch a good one.

20.5 inches

Tuesday, October 15, 2013