Follow by Email

Thursday, February 22, 2018

photo dump

Friday, February 16, 2018

How the river actually works. Part One

.
So I'm fascinated by the processes by which a river actually works. I've been studying it a lot. Unfortunately the vast majority of things written on streamflow are written so no one (including the authors I suspect) can actually understand just what the h%$# is being said. Take for instance this sentence from a study I just read today: "Incipient accumulations of coarse particles may be perpetuated by altering the flow conditions which influence bed load transport". Or even better this one from another study: "It is further suggested that spatial differences in the near-bed turbulence field arising from incipient riffle—pool topography themselves create differences in surface sediment entrainment which enhance and maintain the sequence in a form process feedback mechanism".
Really? Really?
So anyways, here's the best I can do to explain the amazing processes at work in the river with a minimum of b%$##^%t. Rivers are basically the result of two old time everyday sayings. The first is the Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. The second is the ever popular: Sh%t rolls downhill. Let me explain...
We have an imaginary straight new river. Imaginary because well, the place is billions of years old and there are no new or straight rivers in existence. But imagining one will help you understand how it all works. Our imaginary river is flowing straight. The fastest water is right in the middle just under the surface because the bottom and sides of the river drag a bit on the earth. Well then some prehistoric muskrat builds a den in the bank that collapses, or a tree falls in the river, or a caveman digs in the bank to find flint, or well, you get the picture, something happens to mess with those perfectly straight sides. Now our flow isn't even down the stream, a bit is diverted more towards one side and less towards the other. This digs out the bank a bit on one side changing the flow even more downstream of that which changes the flow downstream even more which changes the flow downstream of that even more, which...well you get the picture. Little things add up to have big consequences, each downstream of the next.
Which is how we eventually end up with the amazingly complicated but somewhat predictable set of rules that govern how our stream flows work.
You see water is flowing down a straight section of river evenly in what we call laminar flow. Slow water dragging evenly along the bottom with faster layers above. Then this is diverted and it flows across the river and slams into the far bank. This even laminar flow hits the bank and curves under itself and then spirals downstream. Always bending under itself and spiraling down the river in what it called hellicoidal flow. It might help if you imagine a huge slinky lying in the outside curve of a bend in the river. If you could see the flow that is kinda what it would look like. And since our spiraling current is is going down the bank and across the river bottom back towards the inside of the bend with each spiral it digs out the bank even more and sweeps sediment back across the river towards the inside of the bend. This builds up a rock and sand bar on the inside of the bend called a point bar.
So our bend digs out even more as the river has to rush around this bar and the river over time just curves even more. The water then comes whooshing around the bend and runs diagonally across the river and downstream to crash into the bank down there and create the next bend and point bar on the opposite bank. So you have a series of deep bend pools and point bars alternating sides down the river. And our spiraling current straightens out between each to only hit the bank and spiral underneath itself again, spiraling clockwise on one side of the river and counter clockwise on the other. In most really good smallmouth streams the distance between these bends is roughly five to seven times the width of the stream. The channel the main flow of the river follows down the river is called the thalweg and also runs diagonally across the river from one bend across the river to the next.
So our spiraling current as it goes around the bend mostly carries smaller stuff back across the stream to build up the point bar. The big stuff dug out is just too heavy to be swept back across the bottom. Instead in times of high water or flood the water raging around the bend picks this bigger material up and carries it downstream. It then drops it roughly halfway to the next bend. As this material is dropped over time it creates a riffle. A riffle is by definition a shallow extending across a stream and most are built up this way.
Now the flooding river carries bigger material out of the pool to form the riffle which shallows the river speeding up the current which in turn sweeps away finer material that was deposited along with the larger stuff. Which brings us to a very important concept to understand as fishermen. Which is that the composition of the bottom is not even along a stream but instead has the biggest material on average at the shallowest part of the riffle tapering down in each direction to ever smaller and finer material the further we get from the riffle and the closer we get to the bend pool.
For you see our smallmouth streams have a very very complicated food chain which is many more times more complicated than that of a trout stream. Take the river I know the best, the Little Miami River(LMR). The LMR has about a dozen shiner species, a dozen darter species and all kinds of chubs, regular minnows, madtoms, and well all together just a whole heck of a lot of little fish. Why? Because over time all those little fish have adapted to use the river in different ways. Some like darters live in the cracks between the bigger rocks of the riffle, some just below a riffle, some in the pools and some in quiet backwaters and everywhere in between. The same with the rivers other life, with things like crayfish and net spinning caddisflies and hellgrammites in the rocks and others like mayflies burrowing in the soft bottom of the pool and on and on. Every different type of water in our streams has something best adapted to use it. And that something is usually bass food or at least feeds something that is bass food.
Now in a perfect (and possibly boring) world our stream would just alternate one bend after another in symmetry but thankfully our world is anything but boring and symmetrical. Instead we have things like feeder creeks, bridge abutments, different sized rocks, rocks of different hardness which create ledges, an endless list really of things that upset the pattern and change the flow going downstream a bit which in turn changes the flow downstream of that which...well we have been over all that before.
But knowing the basic blueprint the river is following lets you be on the right side of the river to fish the bends easily and lets you know where the next riffle is going to be and that you then need to cross here to set yourself up for the the next bend there, then you...Well, again it all rolls downhill.
Anyways I've rattled on enough for one night, I'll do a part 2 and possibly a part 3 some other night. There are things like lateral sort, boundary layers, current breaks and eddies which mean the world to a fisherman that we haven't touched yet. Hopefully my bad drawings help and not complicate things needlessly


Thursday, February 15, 2018

a couple cold smallmouth

Yesterday was just fishing for smallmouth. Today there was a bit of catching involved a couple times as well. Right on the edge of the hole on a curly swim fished on a light jighead. Hopefully the river doesn't blow out too bad, some sixties in the forecast for next week.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Columbus fishing expo

So here are the times and topics I'll talk about at the Expo.

Friday I'm talking at 4pm. I'll talk about how I go about locating and fishing for trophy smallmouth with a big emphasis on the location part of the puzzle.

Saturday I'm on at noon. I'm going to talk about trophy smallmouth thru the year with an emphasis on early spring

Sunday I'm on at 3pm and i'ts about things the average guy can do differently that will dramatically up the size of the smallmouth he catches.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Monday, February 5, 2018

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A fish story....

Well it's supposed to be like 13 degrees here later tonight. Hardly great smallmouth weather and I really don't have the time tonight to run out to one of my saugeye spots so I thought it would be a good idea to tell a few fish stories.

The first one is about a pretty recent fish, a smallmouth from back in early December. I've already posted the fish but the report was short and sweet. Don't tell anybody but I actually keep pretty good records of my better smallmouth catches and the five days before this trip the high temps had been 52, 52, 55, 51, and 62. And the next day the bottom was supposed to fall out. In other words absolutely perfect, classic, it just don't get any better conditions for catching big wintertime smallmouth. The barometer was 29.02 falling a little from 30.04, the wind was out of the south at ten and the river was in perfect shape and clear. I preach in every wintertime smallie seminar that you want the tail end of a warming trend and your chances like double every day it warms. But I had to work till three thirty and it gets dark early in December. So I'm waiting at the time clock ready to run as soon as it clicks over to three thirty. Then fast as I can go without getting a ticket to the river.
I have this little spot I park at. It's public land though it doesn't really look like it. Right next to this little run down house with about a half dozen even more run down sheds out back. I'm pretty sure this one really old man lives there all by himself. He's always out back rummaging around in the sheds getting old rusty sheet metal out of this one or stuffing ripped out pipes into another. I imagine the first thing they will do when he passes is call a scrap metal company to come out. Unless the neighbors steal it I guess. The old man's house is the last one before the river and all his neighbors on the other side of his house look pretty rough too. The first couple years I parked there he glared at me pretty hard when I'd park, wave, and head out to the river, anymore he just pretends he doesn't see me. I only show up in November and quit the place come spring so every year I wonder if he will still be there when I pull up for the first time. I'm beginning to think he will outlive me.
Like I said the river was low and clear. In winter clear is clearer than summertime clear because there is no algae in the water so I had six pound test on the president. Long long ago Billy Westmorland used to sell a fishing rod for jig fishing. Tennessee handles and actually fairly stiff even though he quite often used six and four pound test line. (the man caught a ten pound smallmouth on four pound test!!!!) You set the drag right and backreel when you have to and use can use a bit stiffer rod and have a bit more sensitivity. Since Billy was and is the gold standard for smallmouth fishing I grew up with that rod in my hand. It was a sad day when I finally broke it. So anyways I had six on the president and a med fast Little Miami Rod. Although I want a stiffer rod I'm not a fan of some of the pool cue stiff rods in fashion today so medium fast works perfectly for most of my fishing.
Six also lets you throw lighter jigheads as well. I go thru a whole whole bunch of jigheads in a years time so I pour my own. If you pour jigheads you know that they don't always turn out perfect. Maybe you just added lead and the pots not hot enough, maybe the molds not hot enough, maybe they just didn't turn out. I save the ones that still have a decent shape to them but aren't whole. What I end up with is a bunch of jigheads that are on a full sized hook but are light. Too often you just can't hardly find light weight jigheads on full size hooks so these work perfectly. I used what I'm guessing was around a 1/16th ounce jighead and a pearl colored ribeye paddletail swimbait. Which meant that it was really really buoyant and had to be fished extremely slowly. Which is perfect for wintertime.
The real key to wintertime smallmouth though is location. And the patience to wait for that strike that may or just as likely may not come. And really that last sentence should be followed by ten or twelve blank pages to signify how much patience is needed. Sometimes it is a lot. Luckily this night wasn't going to be one of those kind of nights.
The spot itself is a a deep hole below but to the side of a riffle. You know how most riffles have that eddy that turns back upstream right alongside the bank? Well this hole is one of those on steroids. About twenty yards long and a short cast across and maybe ten feet deep in the heart of the eddy. And most importantly out of the main flow. In fall when the river is choked with leaves this spot has a large slowly revolving lid of floating leaves on top of it. A bunch of which settle to give the hole a soft mucky bottom. But right next to the river's edge the riverbank climbs sharply at about a forty five degree angle and this bank is hard gravel and rocks.
If you grab a hold of this gnarly sycamore root you can swing yourself down the steep bank and on to this flat rock that kind of juts out overlooking the hole. And since I have a granddaughter that wanted to watch the Lion King eight million times I call it pride rock. From pride rock you can flip your jig downstream and the slowly revolving current will in about a minute sweep your jig towards you, then past you, and then finally up towards the riffle. If you throw something like a hair jig under a float or a minnow under a float it will then slowly catch the downstream flow and the whole thing will repeat itself over again.
Anymore though I'm too lazy to fish minnows under a float. Or just too soft in my old age to mess with live bait and getting my hands wet when it's cold outside. My tackle box in winter usually nowadays consists of two ziplock baggies stuffed in my jacket pocket. One that has an assortment of various sized jigheads and another with soft plastics.
So back to the story. On about the fifth float there was a soft mushy weight on the line and I set. The rod bent hard right to the cork. But in wintertime you can snag a lot of sluggish rough fish and I guess because plant food is getting hard to come by, both carp and buffalo seem more willing to eat a jig than in summer so there was no telling what was on the line. Then wooop the fish jumped. In forty two degree water the fish jumped!!! It was one heck of a big smallmouth. Big enough to do what most wintertime smallmouth don't do which is pull a bit of drag. And it seemed the longer the fish was on the bigger it got. I love watching Timmy Horton Outdoors. He will be fighting this bass and the rods bent double and he will finally get it up where he can see it and he will say in this excited almost half whisper, " oh, oh, oh, he's a giant!" Later I realized I'd done that exact same thing. The fish had come up and kind of wallowed on top shaking it's head and I'd said to the trees I guess since no one else was around... " oh, oh, oh, he's a giant!" Finally I lipped an absolute beauty that measured just past twenty and a quarter.
And then about a half an hour later lightning struck twice, this time with a nineteen and a half inch beauty. This fish fought more like a wintertime fish is supposed to dogging it slowly down deep and not on top like the big girl did. But she really thumped the jig while I only felt weight on the first fish. Go figure.
I think it's key to remember a couple points about wintertime smallmouth. Usually if the fish is in the mood to feed it will only move the few feet to where the soft bottom of the hole meets the hard edge of the bank or a gravel covered hump or even the outside edge of the hole towards the main river. It pays if you find a hole in summer that you might think might become a wintering hole to wade out there and feel around with your feet and try and determine where a smallie might position itself come cold weather. If you can find that spot on the spot in the hole you can put more drifts of your jig over fish that might be willing to feed and thus up your chances. Just remember that whole patience thing I mentioned earlier. Often in winter a bass might go a week or even several weeks without feeding though a warm spell ups your odds tremendously of finding a feeding fish. Though you just never know, last January I caught an nineteen incher when it was eight degrees out. It is fishing after all and you never can say for certain what is going to happen. You just have to put the time in and look at it like you are building up fishing karma with every skunk that will repay you later on. Well that's fish story number one, i'll try and pass on a few others while the really cold weather lasts.