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Thursday, June 30, 2016

6/29 and 6/30

Its been slow for me the last couple days. I caught a few small bass yesterday on a rebel squarebill and today managed this guy on an Vic Coomer electric blue 3" grub. Proof positive that catch and release works because she had fresh marks of having been hooked and released by somebody recently.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

summer time...

Did a little fishing with the grandkids this past weekend. Good old doughballs below a dam for carp. Cailyn was fearless as you can see from her holding the channel by herself. Gavin had to be convinced but he finally petted his fish before we turned it loose. Kally was doing a swell job fighting hers till it got in close. We were standing in ankle deep water and it ran right at her feet. Her eyes got big and she tossed the rod at the fish and ran for shore. Luckily papaw was there to save the rod....
Then a bit of smalljaw flyfishing in a stream right on the Ohio border in Indiana. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

No country for old men...

Three days on the river. As much as I love the yak this was a job tailor made for the Pequod. The Pequod is an ancient jon boat that allows me to haul much more along. Named after Ahab's ship in Melville's Moby Dick. Because like Ahab I've been known to go a bit too far chasing my own white whales. I sometimes wonder what it says about me that if my pressed on my choices for the best fishing book of all time I'd pick Moby Dick and The Old Man and the Sea, neither of which ends very well for the fisherman.
With hot dry weather in the forecast I left the tent at home instead loading a hammock, a seine and bucket for nighttime catfishing, four rods, a cooler and some small odds and ends. Tackle selction was sparse as well. A small box of flies, a bunch of Vic's soft  plastics and jigheads, some topwaters, a square bill crankbait and a couple minnow plugs and a bit of terminal tackle for baitfishing.
Rivers are not static. About the only thing constant about a river is change. So I choose to use lures and techniques I know. Things that I've fished so much, so long, over so many years that I feel I always have at least some idea of what they are doing. Even in an environment that is always changing.
When a musician tells me that listening to Beethoven (or Bill Monroe for that matter) isn't just a matter of just listening to music but it's a connection with his soul, with universal truth, I don't look at him sideways and label him a nutjob. Instead I'm jealous, I envy him. I wish I could comprehend music on such a level, where the music itself is a part of who I am. But in a lot of ways I know how he feels. Those zenlike hours where I'm right there. Down there with the jig like it's another appendage feeling the stream bottom, the current, the river. When that quarter ounce of lead and soft plastic and line is my antennae, my lateral line. A connection to another world.
I don't want to lie to you. "The old lie to the young," said Thorton Wilder. We often go on and on about how it's more than just the fishing, it's the whole experience, being out there and one with nature, yada yada yada... But I've noticed in my old age I see a lot more eagles, I appreciate a great tree, the quality of evening light on the water after I've caught a few nice fish first. My one bit of advice is too google what are effective lures and techniques for river smallmouth and pick out two or three of them that interest you and try and learn all there is to know about them. You will spend a lot less time mindlessly changing lures, hot and frustrated, eyes stinging with sweat and a lot more time catching fish. And being a lot more receptive to the beauty of the natural world around you. I think attitude is everything when it comes to nature. Nature will let you see when your willing to see, when you are open to seeing. I was lucky this trip and landed  a fine smallmouth off of a bridge abutment a half an hour into the trip. A fish hefty and beautiful enough that the trip would be a success if I didn't land another.
Have you seen Flip Pallot's commercial for Yeti Coolers? The one where he says: "If you walk thru these woods,and go slowly, and are observant, you will see things, and find things, that are unbelievable. Other people are visiting a place that's exciting or dangerous, or mysterious. or cold, or hot, or wet, or dry, I don't care. That's just where I'm supposed to be." Which is exactly how I feel when I'm on the river. A Taos Indian chief once told the psychiatrist Jung that white men were covered in wrinkles because they were crazy. And they were crazy because they thought only with their heads. After a day or two on the river things have slowed enough, that my heart, or at least my gut, does more thinking than my head. I feel that spot over there is better than this one, even though they may look exactly alike, for no other reason than my gut tells me it is.
There is no substitute for time on the water or intuition no matter how long you have been fishing. Though I do think that getting that "feeling" is easier with every year on the water. Proper technique is essential but it cannot stand alone. No amount of casting skill will make a natural fisherman out of a person lacking the mental or emotional equipment.  Pay your dues, spend your time on the water, listen to your gut and as silly as it sounds really try and think and feel like a fish. It will make you a better person. No really a better person. When I haven't heard birds at sunrise or the crackle of a fire at night or a good fish taking drag in a while I can't stand to be around me. Which was the main reason for this trip, it had been a while.
Towards the end of the first day I'd floated much further than I thought I would. Had seen a beaver, jumped in a couple times to cool off and had caught a couple more small bass. I ended up at a lowhead dam. A day ahead of what I'd planned. In the shallow water below the dam I seined a bucket full of shiners. Fishing these under a float in a fast run below the dam I had  fine time catching channel catfish who didn't seem to mind the heat one bit. Supper was brats over the fire and I was too tired to fish much that night instead mostly just enjoyed the fire and the moon.
Half next day was spent exploring a small tributary. It was in the nineties and wading the creek in the shade was pleasant. I caught three smallmouth all twins, all about seven or eight inches long. And two carp on a brown wooly booger on the fly rod. Seemingly every hole in this creek had several carp tailing in it and I had plenty of chances, which like always, I blew 90% of. The creek was swarming with baby crayfish about a half and inch long which I'm guessing were making for happy carp. I must have seen at least a hundred of these little crayfish all the same length. I also rounded a bend and surprised three wild turkeys. Two jakes and a tom with about an eight inch beard which all sort of milled around on a rock bar confused for a minute before taking off. It was a swell little wade.
Back at the main river I pondered my options. Ahead of schedule I could continue down river thru an unappealing piece of river thru a town, stay here or there was a close take out spot. I chose the latter. Called my ride and relocated to float another stretch. Nothing too eventful the rest of the day, just floating the river in the heat catching the occasional five or six inch bass and looking for a good spot to camp. I found a great one. A big gravel bar with a nice riffle blow it and a big pond like eddy.
I had kept the bait I'd seined the day before and it was doing great. I'd put the minnow out on a rope and let it drift alongside the boat all day and had lost very few. I made camp threw out a rod baited with a big shiner and began to search for firewood. The baitrunner was singing when I stumbled into camp with an armload of wood and I was fast into a nice shovelhead. Before the night was done I'd caught another small one and more channels. Right now seems to be primo channelcat time BTW if your in the mood to catfish.  Then more sunset and campfire time. It's the  "strawberry moon," June's full moon and also the summer solstice. The longest days and shortest nights of the whole year. And according to folklore and my granddaughter's bedtime stories the time of year your most likely to interact with the world of the Fae or Fairies. I remember thy are supposed to grant a wish if you throw a pebble in a fire on the solstice. On a whim I picked one up and wished for big fish. Looking back I should have wished for a winning lottery ticket or a long and healthy life after what happened the next morning. 
I woke to a dying fire and the sounds of the first birds. The phone said it wan't quite 5am, still a while till full daylight. It was calm the full moon was now low on the horizon and somewhere downriver a barred owl called. It was beautiful. I tied on a buzzbait.  A big 3/4 ounce one. A three bladed strike king with the skirt replaced by a clear with silver five inch grub. I'm not sure why but when river smallmouth are in the mood for a buzzbait they seem to like a big one just as much as a little "smallmouth" sized one. I cast it out and was unprepared for what happened next. From 5:30 till I'm guessing around 6:30 every few casts would be interrupted by a nice smallmouth. Sometimes a very big one. It was simply the best hour of river fishing I've ever had. Then as the sky got brighter and it became what you would normally call early morning it was like you threw a switch and it was done. But what a glorious hour it was, I'll let the pictures do the talking on fish size. It would have been a fine days fishing anywhere, much less an hour in southern Ohio. After the fishing slowed I found a sandy comfy spot where I could lean back against a sycamore and just watched the river for a while. Every thing was right with the world.  The rest of day was pretty uneventful. It got hot and you could hardly buy a strike from a bass and then it was a small one. On of the scrappy little guys that I always feel like have to always be on the lookout for food if they are ever going to survive long enough to get big enough to easily chase down food and become picky. Probably the thing that sticks out in my mind most about the day was almost stepping on two big softshell turtles in two separate riffles. The second I actually nudged with my foot before he scooted off. Evening found me at a takeout point a bit sunburned, smelling like a dead carp and very very content. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

The Toad Float.

My fishing heroes have always been a lit bit different than everyone else. Instead of Kevin Van Dam or Ike or Roland my heroes have a lot less flash. . Billy Westmorland, Dan Gapen, Al Linder, and of course Toad Smith. Toad who? The late Otis "Toad" Smith, the world class hunter and fisherman who put fishing for big flatheads on the map. Toad once had an operation where the doctor was going to have to remove part of Toad's heart. So what did Toad do? Of course he had the doc save the piece and when he was better Toad caught a six pound channel on it.
Toad was also a proponent of fishing small to medium sized rivers for channels. Not parking at the nearest bridge and throwing out some stinky concoction, but doing it right. Toad would float a river, fishing each likely bend or piece of cover a bit, catching a few, then going on the next. More like the typical itinerary of a smallmouth float. By days end Toad would have scouted miles of river for flathead holes and caught dozens of quality channels by fishing off the beaten path.
Ever since getting a stable sit on top yak I've been wanting to do a Toad Float in it.
The other day was my chance. In one rod holder I had a typical river spinning outfit. A fast action spinning rod and alure in one rod holder in the other a heavier rod with braid. This outfit I fished two ways. One was a floater about two feet up from a regular 1/0 baitholder. The other was a Santee Cooper rig with a circle hook. The Santee rig I would pitch out then put in the rod holder and either drift or slowly paddle along. Then when I'd find a likely looking pile of wood I'd work right against the edges of it with the float rig. These proved to be a winning combination. I probably caught more on the drift rig but I think a little better fish on average on the float rig fished around cover. For bait I used cut bait and crawlers. No monsters but by days end I'd caught 10 or 20 plus a couple bonus smallies that hit a grub fished around a riffle. Swell day on the water.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


I was throwing one of Vic's new 5" swim grubs. Swimming it across a deep fast little cut when the fish hit. Oh It's a pretty good channel I thought. Or maybe I've foul hooked a carp. Then that gold side rolled up. There's no mistaking that color. Please don't let it get off....
I could tell by looking at the fish in the water that it was a personal best saugeye. Maybe not by weight I've caught a couple late winter fish that were a bit over 26" that were full of eggs that were fat enough to weigh as much but it was obvious this thing was long. Finally after a bit too much babying the fish I landed it. Sure enough it was a bit under 28" but postspawn skinny. I would love to find her again come next January.