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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Today I'll be speaking at the Towne Mall in Middletown. I'll have a table with some books and Dvd's. Plus Vic is set up with ton's of lures. Sounds like there will be a lot of other tackle there as well. Stop by and and let's talk fishing.
Kurt Smits will be speaking at 11 and I'll talk at noon. Hope to see you there

Friday, October 27, 2017

Walls and big smallmouth

Today I'd like to talk a minute about one of my favorite structures to fish for smallmouth. It's one of my favorites because not only does it give up some trophy smallmouth bass but seemingly no one else fishes it. And that structure absolutely smooth featureless wall. What??? Smooth? Featureless? I've finally lost it this time right? Nope, let me explain. You want a wall out in current, the faster the better most times. There are more of them out there than you might think. The abutments of railroad and road bridges, walls right below lowheads, walls that lead into and out of big culverts that the creek might flow thru, walls along the front of peoples property that butts up to the river to control erosion. And on and on. There's a lot once you start looking for them. The key to finding a good one is finding a wall in current. If it seems too fast and too featureless to hold fish it's often perfect. Smallmouth, big ones in particular, like to hold in slow water right next to really fast water. They get to expend little energy but get a fast moving conveyor belt of food rushing by. And our wall provides this perfectly.
First a bit of hydraulics... As water rushes along the wall the water that is rubbing the wall is of course slowed by the friction. This layer of slower water is called the boundary layer. Lets look at a couple pictures I took of water running along a wall. In the first you can see the water that is slowed by the wall and then pulled along by the rushing current. As we continue down the wall we then see something like the second photo. In this photo the water doesn't slant downstream and join the flow like in the first photo. Instead the downstream flow of the water in the boundary layer is ripped apart by the drag of the wall on one side and the fast current on the other. The water flow then right up against the wall is now turbulent and swirling in hundreds of little vortex all spending the energy of the current and creating a tiny cushion of turbulent water that doesn't have much downstream flow or power. Here there's often just enough room for a smallmouth to tuck itself in. These are mostly one fish spots. But I'm constantly saying that the best fish takes the best spot in a river. And what could be better than tucked right in against a wall where you might have shade and certainly feel secure. And a rushing current a half an inch away streaming by carrying food. Just remember that the closer to the wall your presentation the better. Having your bait actually scraping along the wall is often the very best retrieve. So when you are out on the river or stream keep an eye out for walls, who knows one might have the right combination of flows and be your own private big fish producer...

Thursday, October 26, 2017

My Reading List..

A while back someone asked for a reading list of outdoor books, off the top of my head these are my top ten. I'm sure I'm forgetting some great ones...

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

Big Two-Hearted River by Ernest Hemingway

The Earth is Enough by Harry Middleton

Stirring the Mud by Barbara Hurd

The Longest Silence by Thomas McGuane

The Everlasting Stream by Walt Harrington

East of the Mountains by David Gutterson

Sex, Death, and Flyfishing by John Gierach

A River Runs Thru It by Norman McClean

The Thousand Mile Summer by Colin Fletcher

Monday, October 23, 2017

Basic parts of a river

Webster defines a riffle as a shallow extending across a streambed and causing broken water. That’s the first and best definition I could find for riffles in the average small river. Most definitions went off into terms like helicoidal flow and the Hjulström curve. All of which were really interesting to read about but left me knowing squat about the actual riffles. So anyways that "shallow extending across a streambed" in the case of our average river riffles are caused by an increase in a stream bed's slope or an obstruction. The stream is well oxygenated as the water flows over shallow water of 3 feet or less with a bottom of hand-sized rocks and gravel. The riffle will have a layering of material starting with the largest rocks on the top, followed by smaller stones, then gravel, pebbles, sand, and silt. Tucked into all the nooks and crannies will be debris such as fallen leaves and twigs. Riffles are by their definition shallow which allows good photosynthesis for plant growth. Many different kinds of bugs and insects live within riffles due to the healthy plant growth. In turn all kinds of small fish species such as darters and madtoms live in riffles feeding on these insects. The small rocks and stones also make great homes for crayfish. All of this makes riffles food factories for gamefish like smallmouth bass and white bass. Most riffles have a top end that includes small eddies at each corner, forming a triangle. This water is usually about 1or 2 feet deep. This front section of the riffle can be the best area to fish. As the water speeds up heading into the riffle it is smooth but flowing faster, this is the glide and can be a hotspot for smallies especially early and late in the day.
Runs are usually deeper than riffles, averaging something like 4 to 6 feet. Smallmouth will often use the run as holding as well as feeding water, making trips up into the riffle to feed as well as eating things washed down from above. Runs are just about my favorite feature in rivers to fish, especially when they are associated with another feature such as an island or sharp bend in the river. Runs in a bend with often cut deeply into the outside bend while piling up a rock and gravel bar on the inside of the bend that is perfect to fish from. One of the best ways to fish this is to cast a jig or grub upstream and across and let it sweep down and past you while keeping a tight line.
Pools are the deepest holes in the river. Pools with structure such as big rocks or logjams will hold many more fish than bare pools. Pools provide a haven for fish during the day and a safe winter home. Deep runs in bends can also be classified as a bend pool if the bend is dug out deep enough. These are often some of the best parts of the river to fish. If there is a lot of cover like wood in the water these are also shovelhead magnets, you can bet the gravel bar on the inside bend will have bass and catfish roaming it at night. Tails are at the ends of pools where the water rises up from the depth of the pool and gets channeled into a riffle or run. Usually there are large rocks within a tail that provides protection and current breaks for the bass. Having the deeper pool nearby is also some comfort to the trout as a means of escape. It seems to me that if bass are in the tail they are there to feed.
Flats are really long slow shallow pools. The bottom will consist of sand and gravel but mostly silt and muck. I find these on the whole to be the least productive part of the river. With the muckier the bottom the less productive a flat is. If there is lots of cover you might some bass feeding but I generally bypass long silt filled flats for the most part. A series of long flats really does concentrate the feeding fish at nearby riffles and runs though. Some flats will have weed beds extending into the water that will have some bass patrolling the edges.
The best tool modern anglers have when exploring the river are the new satellite mapping sites on the internet. Find your access point to the river and zoom in and follow it up and down till you find some riffles. Are their bends nearby? Maybe an island or the mouth of a tributary? If you take the time to find places where several features are located close to each other you are almost guaranteed to catch some fish. Locate such a spot that's a bit off the beaten path that you have to hike or float a ways to get to and you might just make a killing. There are lots of such spots along the rivers hundred mile length but the guys that know them aint talking.


Hit four or five spots along the river tonight. I'd fish each for a half an hour or so then head to the next. Found the smallies to be pretty cooperative and I caught three or four fish at each spot. I even stopped for a bit at a lowhead dam and caught two 14/15 inchers right in the hydraulic jump at the base of the dam. Best fish of the day was glued tight to wall under a bridge. All the fish tonight were on a green and pearl ribeye and a green grub.

Thursday, October 19, 2017


Fall is a bittersweet time for me. I tried to use another word, bittersweet seems so overused when applied to autumn. I even went so far as to look it up and try and find a synonym that worked as well. I didn't, so bittersweet it is. The definition of bittersweet is a combination of happy and sad. Exactly the expression of how I feel about fall. There is such exquisite beauty in fall. But it is the beauty of death and dying. I crunch thru the fallen leaves and realize another summer is past, gone. You only get like eighty or ninety of those in your lifetime if you’re lucky. With the passing of each I feel a twinge of guilt. Did I wring every last drop of summer that our busy lives allow out of it? In midsummer I am Huck Finn along the river. Baking catfish over the fire, wading wet, summer is a grand adventure with no end in sight. One continuous thing. Fall instead is a collection of moments. Each trip a precious jewel with every trip different, every day changing. Trips in fall feel like that last piece of your favorite cake, you savor it, eating slowly knowing soon it will all be gone. But then I find an excuse to be out again the next day, like a bear sensing the coming of winter I gorge on the next moment and then the next. I can never get enough.
Even my approach to fishing itself changes. In spring and summer I take fishing trips, going to a section of river and fishing it in its entirety, exploring each riffle, each eddy, each pool. Come fall that all changes. A days fishing becomes more like running a trapline. I might tramp thru half a mile of fallen leaves to fish one seam for an hour then drive twenty miles to stand in one spot and fish another spot for two hours. Hemmingway once said that some writers are born just to help another writer write just one sentence. I sometimes feel my whole years fishing has been just a prelude to catching just that one fish. A giant faustian bargain for that one or possibly two twenty inch smallmouth. And heaven forbid you lose a giant in October, a dukkha settles over you. What if that was the last chance, the one chance at THE fish your going to get this year? After losing a grand fish I can become a professional melancholic. Some years I feel the need to stand up in front of the group and say, "hi I'm Steve and I'm a melancholic". Then other years the mood is different. You've caught The Fish early. Possibly several and the losing of a grand fish comes with laughter instead of heartbreak. Once or twice over the years the fish gods have smiled so much and so often that my appetite is satiated. It's fall and the fishing is good and I've proven to myself whatever it is I set out to prove when I begin the yearly quest for The One. Twice now I've had years where I've landed a great fish and released it without measuring her. What does it matter if she was 19.5 or 20? Does it make the fish and the experience more rare or special? Just today a friend texted me describing the fight of a great fish. He described a jump then said "it landed like a log". What a great line. I never even asked how big it was, it didn't matter, it was obviously a grand fish. But those moments are few and very very far between for an obsessive like me. But no matter what my mood I do always try to give thanks. Not a ritualized contrived thanks but a simple and natural one, much like sitting beside a harvested deer for a moment to reflect on the hunt. I've been lucky to be blessed with more time to fish than anyone should ever have but I still try to fish with childish joy at just being able to be outside at such a glorious time. I remind myself that even in summers death, everywhere you look nature is planting the seeds of next year’s rebirth. You can see it in the antics of squirrels planting acorns, the ruttng of deer even the burrs stuck on your jeans at the end of a day. Life itself is a glorious circle. I chose to find my place it by watching the fog lift off a river at dawn, reveling in the riotous palette of autumn leaves, the sunlight reflecting like a thousand diamonds off each drop of water as a smallmouth leaps in evening sunlight. My obsession somehow grounds me, connects me back to what is true.
Right now, today, tomorrow, this week, is just about the best chance to catch The One you will have. But notice the pattern of morning frost on the leaves. How the crunch of leaves underfoot somehow makes the silence of the woods deeper. Notice the cormorants floating on the pool downstream, the steam as a deer breathes in the cold morning air across the riffle. Not only is the fishing as good as it will ever get but the whole experience of fishing is as good right now as it will ever get.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Nighttime redemption...

So tonight I was supposed to meet my brother to go over plans for the fishing event the 28th. But there was time to fish for about an hour beforehand. Beautiful spot I hadn't been to in probably six months. I caught a couple small bass on a grub then tied on a buzzbait. Big splash, no fish, but I kept reeling slow and steady. Three foot later, whack! It was a dandy that peeled a bit of drag and jumped three times. Unfortunately on the third jump, my buzzbait went one way and the smallie went the other. Fast forward three hours... I'm finishing up with Vic and heading home. It's right at dark. Hmm, I have to drive right by that spot. It looked like it would be a great place for saugfish. And this time of year is a swell time to catch saugthings, maybe I'll stop for a half hour. Five minutes in and BAM, something hammers my swimbait. But no saugeye, it turns out to be a nice smallie. An hour after dark. On October 17th. Ya just never know with fishing...

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Fished for a bit right after daylight. Best fish of the morning was right against the wall leading into the twin culverts where the road went over the creek on a clear with silver glitter grub. Fun fish, it jumped two feet straight up then came up again to tailwalk twice more.

Friday, October 13, 2017

tiger stripes

Tonight I headed to a spot I hadn't been to in a long time. But it had been eating at me for a while, thinking it would be good this time of year. The place has the fact that it is a real pain to get to going for it. You first kayak down the river for a half mile or so. That's about as far as you can go and still paddle back up to the truck, otherwise you have to float for eight miles or so to take out. From there I then take off walking/wading down the river for a half an hour or so before I reach the spot. As far as I can tell there really isn't a better way to get there. But it's worth it. Two riffles and a big bend pool with a strong upstream eddy that's thirty yards across. In other words a wintering spot with adjacent fall feeding riffle. Way upstream where you leave the kayak is where everyone goes when they are "getting away from the crowd" so that also helps to protect this spot. Fishing was pretty slow with just a couple small bass to show for all that work till this girl hit the classic clear with glitter three inch grub. A cool old fish with half of her lower tail fin missing, a scar from an old wound low on one side and a pot belly, tiger stripes and an attitude. In other words she was beautiful.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Smallie on the fly

Picking the old truck up at the garage. Uggh no time to fish. Oh yeah, there's a reason I keep a 4 piece fly rod and a small box of flies behind the seat...On an olive beadhead wooley bugger behind the only rock in the riffle big enough to hide a fish.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

recent pics

Saturday, October 7, 2017

10/6 and 10/7

The good thing about killing a deer the first time up a tree on a long weekend hunting trip is that it gives you plenty of time to do the other thing that is great this time of year, chase big smallmouth. In two feet of very very fast water on a ribeye swimbait. Three more that went 17 and a half dozen smaller bass as well. It's been a swell couple days off so far...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The big buzzbait and the big bass...

Anyone that's ever fished much with me knows that I use two baits for well over half of my smallmouth fishing. One, the one most people associate me with is a soft plastic on a jig head. I feel that a grub or a swimbait is almost never a bad choice, most of the time as good as any and the best choice quite often. I've fished one so much for so many years now that I'm pretty connected with what it's doing down there. Year round, under the widest range of conditions, for me it's my go to lure.
The other lure is in many respects the polar opposite of the jig and that's a buzzbait. The main appeal of the buzzbait is that it triggers more strikes from the very biggest smallmouth than any lure out there. If your goal is to catch a twenty inch smallmouth out of a river, all thru the heat of summer and into late fall you should be throwing a buzzbait. I try to never speak in absolutes when it comes to fishing. Just when you think you know something is a certain way, the fish will prove you wrong. But I'll repeat my one absolute.... If your goal is to catch a twenty inch smallmouth out of a river, all thru the heat of summer and into late fall you should be throwing a buzzbait. I don't know why it just works on big smallmouth. It's gotten so bad that come August and September I have to almost make myself throw something else every now and then.
The only problem with that is I have a brother in the lure business who didn't sell a buzzbait. So I've been bugging him for several years now to sell a buzzbait. "You need one with a long shank hook, long wire form, triple or quad blade, silicone skirt..." Finally he just threw it back at me. "You design a buzzbait, just the way you want it, and I'll sell it."
So I'm ordering lure parts from all over the place, trying this and that and tinkering till I got what I wanted. And here she is. A quad wing buzzbait with a huge almost clear blade that has a rivet so you can tune it to make noise or not make noise. Silicone skirt, long wire frame, long shank hook, everything I want out of a buzzbait. I've only fished it once so far, and only caught this one fish so far. But did I mention it's a big fish lure? What a beastie! She missed it the first time, I chucked it back and she hammered it and took off like I'd hooked a train. Funny but if you look at the closeup you can see her top lip is a tiny bit shorter than usual but otherwise fine. It must be genetic because I've caught three or four fish from the same area like this. If you look at the rod, I've measured it and it's 20 inches out the end of the word "series" too BTW...

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Oct 1, big girl

I made a day of it. I'm whipped. Did a little deer scouting, tree stand placement, looked at four or five places along the river, kayaked to one spot, took some photos, and fished a ribeye swimbait on a chatterbait head in another spot and caught a fish. One of only three for the day, but I'll take a three fish day anytime if one looks like this girl...