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Monday, February 25, 2013

The Hair Pig...

So there's this little hole in the Little Miami. It's right in the middle of about three quarters of a mile of waist deep and shallower water. The kind of water you would never expect to catch a fish out of in the middle of winter. But this one little spot kept eating at me. Like an almost healed cut that bothered you just enough to let you know it's still there. Buried in the bank is a little wall layed up out of stone with a pipe coming out of it. What was there back in the day I have no idea. There's nothing up on the bank to give you any clue. But out in front of this old pipe(clay not metal)there is a little scour hole. Water must have poured out of this pipe long ago and dug a deep little hole. For the thirty years I've known about the place it has looked just like it does now. Which is to say it looks like nothing. But come the middle of summer it's a magnet for big carp. A spot for them to lay up when not cruising the surrounding mud flats. I'd always wanted to try it for smallmouth in winter, but like I said all around it looks awfull. Well Sunday I was stuck at home with two little grandaughters. Later in the day they spent an hour playing dress up with the poor dog. While the dog was getting it's nails painted I had time to tie a few jigs. I made them out of grey fox tail with ultra fine rubber trailing out a bit longer. I even glued on some googly eyes from the craft store. I like em alot. So today after work I headed straight for that little hole. Nothing. I let the jig swirl slowly around the hole suspended under a floater. The woods became still and darkness slowly crept thru the trees. Everything had that brown and foreboding dead look of some post-apocalyptic movie. Up in the woods across the river I heard the crack of a limb then the rustle of dead leaves. Was I finally going to see the dreaded LMR bigfoot? Nope, it was only a small doe moving quietly thru the woods. I froze and watched her till she was gone. I glanced back at my float. D@#N it was dragging under, I'd snagged up one of my pretty jigs. I yanked and the snag yanked back and began to slowly circle the small hole. I'd like to say it was an epic battle but it wasn't. It fought okay but nothing like a big smallie does in warmer water. It measured out just a bit past the 18" marker painted on the rod.(painted with more of the girls fingernail polish come to think of it.) I snapped a quick photo and headed in. Here the LMR was clear as glass and 39 degrees.

Monday, February 18, 2013

headwaters

Ok so I was way way upstream and it was 24 degrees so I didn't actually fish but thought you lower LMR guys might want to know what the upper river actually looked like. These are pictures from Clifton Gorge. Clifton Gorge is located just outside of the cool hippie town Yellow Springs in Greene County on State Rte 343. Here the LMR rushes thru a deep gorge way too narrow for the river between dolomite and limestone cliffs five or six stories straight down to the water in spots. Wierdly enough, from what I understand down there in the most inacessable part of the gorge here in the headwaters the river is the deepest it is for the entire 100 mile length of the river. Cut by the melting at the end of the last ice age the river reaches an amazing depth of 30 feet plus After our hike we went to Yellow Springs to eat and poke around in the shops. Bought a funny looking little clay guy that the lady behind the counter at the witchcraft shop assures me will bring me good luck fishing this year if I keep him on my pack...

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Master Angler Pin

I was a very happy camper to get this in the mail today. You qualify by catching four fish species that are big enough to win a fish ohio award. Not sure if I turned every one of them in but I caught eleven fish big enough to qualify, I guess I fish alot.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The snake, the shiner, and the lesson

I'll call it Buford Creek. It's real name is something completely different. But it is one of my favorite places in the world and I try not to let everyone know where it is. It makes me nervous enough that its right there on the map already for everyone to see. Anyways it's not really the creek itself thats the hotspot. Rather it's what the creek does where it empties into the Little Miami River that creates the semi secret spot. From what I can gather, around 14,000 years ago the last Ice age ended in Ohio. Huge torrents of meltwater cut the steep valleys of the Little Miami. This melting ice also created Buford Creek. So nowadays Buford Creek is a steep narrow gorge that really dumps a deluge into the LMR during violent storms. In quiet weather the creek is just about dry. Along with a flood of water Buford Creek also dumps hundreds of tons of rocks over the decades into the Little Miami, creating a big rock bar and riffle and pushing a bend into the Little Miami. This bend causes the river to cut into the far bank and forming a nice deep run and hole. To get to this spot you park out on the road the parallels the river and walk down the dry or at least almost so bed of Buford Creek to get to the river. It's here in this last bit of creek just before it empties into the river that years ago I had an epiphany that forever changed the way I fished. I was young then, and dumb, even though I thought I knew everything. I'd by then learned that if I circled enough farm ponds throwing a quarter ounce spinnerbait I could catch a lot of largemouth bass and I thought I was quite the fisherman. Well it was midsummer and hot. Too hot to try the farm ponds I'd been fishing during the day at least. So mostly to kill some time till evening I decided to fish the mouth of Buford Creek. I was walking down the creek, carrying my new shiny shimano rod with the cardinal reel held in place with electrical tape just like the pros in bassmaster did. Then there in front of me I could see a minnow above the water of a tiny pool. From my vantage point it looked to be hovering a few inches above the water flopping its tail feebly. I crept closer and then sat down to watch. From my new, closer look I could tell that it was a rather large minnow held aloft by a rather small snake. When the snake held the minnow aloft he held the advantage but every time he lowered the minnow it would pull the little snake frantically around in a circle as the snake spun to keep its grip. Slowly the minnow weakened till the snake was able to coil around it and began to work the minnow down its mouth. As I sat there I could see something else flash in the pool. The water was so clear it was hard to tell where the edge of the tiny pool was. There in the pool was another minnow. I'm not sure if it was injured by the snake or just sucumbing to the heat and the stress, but it was having a bad time of it. It would slowly swim along upright then list over to one side and slowly rise up towards the surface slowly beating its tail. Then the poor guy would struggle back down but only for a foot or two till it would stop exhausted and then would slowly float back up only to repeat the whole thing again in a slow dance of death. I had just read Homer Circle in Field and Stream and was struck by just how much the dying minnow looked like Homer's description of how to fish what he called a slim minnow plug. Finally feeling like I was ready to sucumb to the heat myself I decided to head to the river. I knelt beside the dying fish and slipped my hat underneath and then raised it catching the helpless minnow in a capfull of water. I quickly walked the ten yards or so down to the river and waded in to midthigh. I lowered my hat into the water and freed the hapless minnow. It floated almost lifeless on the waters surface slowly working its fins as it floated downstream into the heart of the hole. When it was roughly fifteen feet away it beat its tail a few times diving weakly before floating back up. In the clear water I could see it coming, a big smallmouth, bigger than any I'd ever seen up till that time. It coasted up under the minnow and hung there. The minnow struggled weakly. Then the bass flared its gills and the minnow just disappeared. I waded as quietly as I could back to shore and began to search thru my tackle box. It was a flat sided Plano tackle box, one of the first I'd seen and I was awfully proud of it. The box was stuffed full of things I'd bought and had been given to me by my dad. Mostly largemouth lures like big plastic worms and buzzbaits. There in a crowded compartment along with two big crazy crawlers was a little gold and black rapala dad had given me. It was too small to fish with the baitcasting rod I'd been throwing spinnerbaits with and I'd never used it. But this new spinning rod would throw it. I tied on the rapala and began covering the pool with it. Fast. Too fast just covering water like I had with my spinnerbaits. I began to sweat. I stopped wiping the sweat out of my eyes as the rapala floated out there. I guess in the perfect story this is where a bass would of nail it. Instead it floated back over some sunken brush. I slowly began pulling the lure back trying not to get it to swim too deep. Thats when the lightbulb went off. I'd been hit over the head with it, first by Homer Circle and then given a demo by the dying minnow but like I said I was young and knew everything. The next cast and I let the minnow sit there a minute then twitched it and then reel a bit and let it float back up and twitched it again. After four or five feet of this a smallmouth of about a pound exploded on my rapala. And as they say the rest is history. All thru the bend pool and the run below a dozen smallmouth fell victim to the little floating rapala. Last night while poking around my bookshelf looking for something to read on a winter night I found Homer Circle's old book Bass Wisdom and the memory of that day all those years ago came flooding back. Its funny how you can forget where you left the car keys this morning but remember every detail of a fishing trip thirty years before...

Sunday, February 3, 2013

smallmouth nymph fishing

What exactly is the hellgrammite? You hear everybody talking about them for smallmouth but in my experience most fishermen have never seen one. Well, this guy is actually the flat many legged larvae of the ferocious looking Dobson fly. Both the larvae and the adults can pinch the heck outta you so handle them with care. Actually its only the female adults that can hurt you. Just another example of how fishing is like life. Hellgrammites spend up to three years underwater in the larvae form before crawling out on land to become a Dobson fly. They only live like a week as an adult. The larvae lives under rocks and leaves on the stream bottom where they are miniature monsters devouring smaller insects. I cant imagine the horror of being a little bug and having one of these monsters crawl over and grab me. I'm always a bit afraid of them when I seine one myself. But to the bass they are like french fries, just with lots of little legs and pincers. When drifting hellgie nymphs, I use a floating fly line, long leader, weighted nymph, and strike indicators. I like the little pinch on foam strike indicators for this. Ill set one indicator about a quarter of the length of the leader up from the leader butt and then another about halfway. Then as the fly tumbles into deeper water, I can first watch the one indicator then the other as the fly sinks. You want the fly tumbling along as deep as you can get it. preferably just ticking bottom every now and then. Set the hook on any pauses or jerks during your drift. Use a short cast, as short as you can get away with without scaring the fish. (Its a trade off longer casts wont scare fish but you miss most of your strikes.) Cast upstream and across in the run right below a riffle. With only twenty feet or less of line out, you can follow the line with your rod lifting the rod to keep as much slack out of the line as possible without dragging the fly as it sweeps down and past you. Ill use Twistons to get the fly down if I have to. Twistons are little lead strips packaged in little cardboard books like matches. They make casting awfull but your only casting a few feet. (In really swift water in can become the old chuck and duck.) I generally tie my own hellgie flies, just generic black wooley buggers but with something like swiss straw tied along the back. Examples of better known flies I'd imitate a hellgie with are the EZ Mite by Orvis, Woolly Bugger, Murray's Hellgrammite, Delaware River Hellgrammite, bitch creek bug, Michael Verduin's Mighty Mite Hellgrammite pattern, or Braided Stone Fly Crawler by Percy's flies (worlds best prices on flies BTW) all in as big a size as you can throw on whatever rod you have.