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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Riding the storm out

Looking at the forecast for the next few days I'm thinking that today might be the last chance to fish the river for a few days. I'm also thinking there's a good chance to suffer a bit tonight but also a good chance of running into some good fish. Turns out I was right on both counts, I ran into some nice fish and I suffered. But not too badly, with both waders on and just my nose sticking out of the hodgman wading jacket I kept pretty dry. The only bad part was looking around constantly to make sure I wasn't the highest thing around to draw lightning. All the fish came on clear with silver grub but I did have something just about yank the rod out of my hand fishing a suspending rouge. But who knows I could have yanked it into a big carp or maybe a shovelhead swatted it. I just know I yanked it twice, paused, yanked and then the drag was screaming for four or five seconds and it came off. Hopefully the river just comes a little bit over the next couple days.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The creek monster

So we showed up for the white bass run. The story was the white bass ran up out of the lake to spawn up this little creek. The creek was small mostly about waist deep and an easy cast across. Well when we pulled up there was no doubt we were in the right place, it looked like we had drove all the way to the Maumee instead of here in SW Ohio where we actually were. There were cars pulled off everywhere and it was just general mayhem. Just one problem it was the classic case of you should have been here yesterday. A guy when we were rigging up showed us pics on his cell phone of a stringer culled from the two hundred they had caught a few days before. But he had only caught 6 today. Of course. So we began to fish upstream with everyone catching a fish just every now and then though Chris caught seven out of one treetop. Chris, Dan and I came to this pretty little pool a mile or so upstream.  I'm on top of this little cliff watching some suckers spawn and Dan catches a quillback out of the hole. I walk up to the next and Chris and I watch as two muskie come swimming right up in the crystal clear water. I cast my grub and when it gets to them it disappears and I set the hook. Into thin air as the muskies leave in a huge swirl of water like someone throwing a brick in the water. Dan is on the other bank on top  of the little cliff you see in the photo right next to the tree in the center of the pic. He has an ultralite and six pound test and  tiny white bass jig. Which he casts at a muskie as it swims by. Which eats it. He says I got one. I hooked one. The little rod bends into the cork. And Dans on top of the cliff hooked to a muskie on six pound test. Now what do I do he says. Kind of hugging the tree looking down the cliff trying to figure out what to do. There was nothing he could do. The muskie comes off. And swims calmly around the pool. Dan says I'm not sure it even knew it was even on. We stand around a bit watching the clear little creek and somebody says there they are again. And then There's another one! Three muskie in a creek that looks too small for sunfish. Some more fruitless casting and we kind of lose them I wander a few feet downstream and there one is kind of hanging out next to a sycamore. I cast on of Vic's five inch swim grubs in clear with silver past it and bring it close. I see the muskies mouth open and flex and set the hook. The fish surges across the pool. Then leaps. I'm lucky the fish i hooked on the outside of its snout. Lucky because I've got 8lb line and spinning tackle. I was after white bass after all. Lots of craziness followed with me saying oh he's tired now and Dan and Chris making fun of me as the fish took off again. Dan saved my bacon when the muskie ran under a limb. He waded out and pulled up the limb and freed the fish. I'd think it was ready to land only to have it take off again. It ended up being a bit of  goat rodeo but finally the fish was landed. Both of us were wore out and it took a bit of cpr but the fish stayed upright with gills working good the whole time. I can see how with their dogged fight to the end how catching a muskie on too light of tackle in the warm water of summer could actually stress one to death. Catching a muskie out of a river or stream has always been a bucket list thing and catching this one out of a tiny creek was simply awesome.  I'd actually went earlier today trying to catch a muskie and told a couple guys I ran into that if I didn't catch one long enough I'd evntually luck out and get one, I just wasn't expecting it to be later that same day.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Kally helping papaw paint the old john boat in preparation for some river float trips this summer

This week in fish

I havent posted in at least a week. The weather has been so nice I've just been fishing too daggone  much to post. Pretty much made the circuit fishing the LMR, EF. WWR and GMR looking for white bass. WB fishing has been slow for me. I think Chris and I caught four one night on the WWR along with some lmb and the gar and one night on the LMR i caught maybe ten. The smallie fishing has been much better not big numbers just quality fish. Anyways here's a dump of the camera, the real close up smallies are the same as a couple of the wide shots if i remember right...

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Fishing Jigs in Rivers

So I have to confess in the streams I fish the most I'm going to have a jig tied on any time I go after smallmouth. And most of the time, for me, the burden of proof is on it not working before I go to other things. I have to admit, I'm a big smallmouth junkie, I'd rather catch one 19" fish than a dozen 10 to 14 inchers. And I feel a jig gives me the best chance in most situations of doing that. Lets look at some facts.
The biggest smallmouth bass ever caught was caught in 1954 in Dale Hollow by David Hayes on a bomber trolled behind his boat. Not a realistic approach while wading in a smallie stream. The second biggest was a 10lb 14 ounce monster caught on a hair jig, then the next biggest is a 10.5 lb smb caught on a smoke metalflake grub. Every list of freakishly big smallmouth bass I could find was in fact dominated by some kind of jig. And then there's Billy Westmorland. I can find records of less than ten smallmouth bass ever being caught that weighed more than ten pounds and the late Billy Westmorland caught two of them! And it gets even more amazing. In his book, Them Ole Brown Fish, he tells of catching five nine pounders and seventy five eight pounders! Billy caught most of these giant fish on three lures. A heavy tailspinner, hair jigs and grubs. Again like the deep diving bomber a tailspinner doesn't work too well for a wading fisherman, but hair jigs and grubs sure do.
When I was a kid Billy endorsed silver buddy tailspinners and my brother Vic Coomer's grubs. I still have a few of the old packages with Billy's photo on them tucked away for safekeeping. It was thru talking to Billy at fishing shows back then that I got hooked on fishing jigs for smallmouth bass. While writing this I went out to the truck and dug out my ratty old backpack I carry while wading and took a photo of some of the variety of jigs inside. Here's a few and my thoughts on each off the top of my head;

A...The old marabou jig. I'm old enough to remember when there just weren't many or in some cases any sauger or saugeye in the small rivers and streams I like to fish. Which meant if you wanted to fish in the cold you had to target smallmouth bass. And catching smallmouth in the cold was done one of two ways, with live bait or with a little marabou jig. The subtle non action of a light marabou jig can sometimes tempt a cold water smallie to move a few inches and take one when just about nothing else will.
B and E...craft fur jigs. Craft fur jigs do many things well. They keep their shape a bit better than marabou but still have that subtle movement that catches fish. They have become almost the standard for hair jigs and do everything well. The perfect jig to tip with a small minnow also.
C... Fox and coyote jigs. A few years ago I called in and shot a grey fox bowhunting. The fine beautiful fur was a revelation and I used it for all kinds of flytying. I was so impressed I ordered some fox and coyote tails from a place in Montana and my hair jigs were changed forever. The long fur of these northern canids makes what is in my mind the perfect hair jig. It moves more than any other kind of hair I've seen in the water both on the retrieve and at rest but still keeps its shape and doesn't flatten. If your going to try hair jigs you owe it to yourself to give them a try. I thought craft fur was the be all end all of hair jigs but these have changed my mind.
D.. Bucktail makes a good looking jig but frankly I hardly throw one anymore. My bucktails are now reserved more for the flytying bench than tying jigs with. Bucktails to me just cannot compete with craft fur or fox jigs. I still own a zillion of the things and tip them with live bait or soft plastics to keep them effective.
F1 and F2...Shad body swimbaits with a paddletail. Wonderful baits that come in a huge variety of sizes and colors. Essential to matching many flat profile baitfish like shiners or shad. A must have smallie bait.
G...the modern paddletail swimbait. A great all around lure that I think just looks alive in the water more than it imitates any specific baitfish.
H and I...curly tail grubs. Named by Field and Stream as the greatest lure of all time and by In Fisherman as the greatest smallmouth lure of all time, I'd have to agree. My default and go to bait. Give me some clear with glitter or smoke metalflake grubs and a variety of sizes of jigheads and I'm comfortable with just that on any smallmouth river anywhere, something I'd say about no other lure.
J1, J2, and J3...Different sizes of the curly shad. A hybrid of the curldy tail grub and the shad bodied paddletail this bait does just about everything well, from finesse presentations in the smaller sizes to large and in charge presentations for active fish or at night.

You can just throw a jig like a curly shad or swimbait out and reel it back in and catch fish. Sometimes lots of fish, sometimes big fish. Likewise with bouncing a hair jig or grub along the bottom. But there's another technique that I hardly ever hear mentioned that will net you some trophy smallmouth if you take the time to learn it.
In fly fishing just about the most effective technique you can employ is to nymph fish with a "dead drift". That is a drift where you try to let the nymph drift along freely with the current. Not sinking like a rock but not being pulled along by the line either. But instead floating along like it was unattached to anything at all. But in conventional fishing there are very few ways to do this effectively.
This is what I strive for when fishing a jig in deep runs. That is, a free and natural drift down the run. I stand not upstream nor downstream but roughly across the stream from where I expect a fish to strike. I then make a short cast across and upstream. I then flip closed the bail and do not reel, or at least reel as little as possible. Instead of being retrieved the jig should sweep down and across from me on a tight line. Well not really a tight line. Instead try for a line with no slack but not tight. If the lines tight it will pull on the jig and it won't drift naturally. But if the lines too slack you will not be able to detect the strike. Reel just enough to maintain a taut but not tight connection to our jig.
Now a jig's by definition a hook with a big hunk of lead attached so it's going to sink not drift right?
Well, we have to stop for a second and at least subconsciously match the size of our jig head to the force of the current we are fishing. Too light and the jig will zip along too fast over the fishes heads. Too heavy and your jig will just hang up on the bottom. In most medium sized rivers something in the 1/8 to 1/4 ounce range will let you fish the faster deeper runs that often hold the very best fish.
But I will often search out the deepest fastest water in miles of river. Here I might even go to a 3/8 to 1/2 ounce jig head. It's amazing how often these spots hold trophy fish. And how little these areas are ever fished. After all, a huge smallmouth is still only twenty inches long. It doesn't take a very big spot to shelter it from the current, a calm spot barely bigger than a shoebox in all the turbulence is all we are trying to find. A single big rock or a pile of smaller ones is really all we need. A place where a big fish can lay and then murder any unsuspecting prey floating along in the current. Or even better our jig.
Now I know it's hard to fish a jig like a curly tailed grub wrong. You can just chuck it out and reel it back in and catch fish. Or better yet slow your pace and swim it back just off the bottom. But a grub fished like that is almost a completely different lure than our dead drifted one. Our grub is drifting along with the current. The tails working but because of the current, not our reeling it in. Just drifting along just like a helpless juicy delicious minnow being swept down the run. For me this is much more effective than bouncing a heavier lure along the bottom of the run. I think the look is just more natural. Not only does the size of the jig head effect your drift but you can also change the quality of your drift by the soft plastic you use. Sometimes quite dramatically.
There is one other thing I love about jigs that must be mentioned. They absolutely catch everything in the river from bass to whitebass to channelcats to carp to saugeye to crappie to hybrid stripers. Everything in the river eats them and its not at all unusual to catch five or six different species on a jig in a single trip. And last but not least, shovelheads are suckers for a well presented jig. In fact I've taken to prowling the river at night in summer throwing a big curly shad or grub just for a big flathead. Not much is more exciting than having a 20lb cat hammer your jig in a foot of water at 1am but I guess that's a story for another post.

Monday, April 11, 2016

rainy monday

Went to where I've been catching smallies the last week or so. Nothing doing, the last few cold nights had shut them down. All I could manage was a small shovelhead on a grub. Not ready to quit fishing yet, I made the drive to a lowhead and caught this guy on a clear with silver swim grub.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night .....

Woke up to a big surprise. A snow squall had passed during the night and when I looked outside the world was covered in snow. On April 9th. Sigh...The truck dash read 32 degrees as I headed out to where a bit of warm water dumped into a tributary a mile or so up from the Ohio river. What a moron, the wind was whipping and snow flying as as dawn broke. At least the fish gods decided to reward me for being brave enough (or stupid enough) to fish in such weather. Feeling the fish might be more active in the warm water dumping into the river than you might expect I tied on my favorite lure combination for these kind of places. A pop-r with about two feet of line tid off th rear treble and a small jig tied to that. My theory being the pop-r attracts the fish and they then hit the little jig. Today even a few hybrids nailed the pop-r but mostly the jig. The white bass and small hybrids were actually hitting pretty good and twice I even caught them on back to back casts. I also threw a grub some and caught a crappie, a channel, a couple white bass and a tiny smallie on that. I think the fish as well as me are anxious for spring to actually get here.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Still biting a bit today before the next couple days big chill. A couple smallies and a big channel thrown in for good measure on the swim grub

And then the fishing gods smiled...

It was just plain out n out cold today. When I left the river at dark the thermometer in my truck said it was 42. And a pretty good breeze was blowing up the river. But it was worth it. I found the smallmouth stacked right at the edge of a deep wintering hole, driven back in by the cold but still active. And for once I whacked em. I was using Vic's new swim grub, which after today is my new favorite bait. I added a photo of it next to a regular three inch grub so you can see the difference. A nice compact hunk of meat for a smallies dinner. I also included a close up of a nice smallie covered in those pitch black spots you sometimes see on them in cold weather. What a swell day for average size. The fish just nailed the bait with a good solid thump as I swam it back just off the bottom, life doesn't get much better than this for an old river rat.