Archive for smallmouth bass

Goals for 2016

Posted in Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , , on February 25, 2016 by stflyfisher

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
Ernest Hemingway

It’s that time to proclaim my fly fishing goals for 2016. Much as I’ve practiced in the past, the process for goal-setting starts in late November / December, when I start a review of the year and spend time thinking about where I want to go, what I want to do, who I want to be in the fly fishing world. I usually start putting some draft goals to paper in early January, mull them over through the rest of January and early February, and post them – a formal commitment – before my birthday in early March.

So here they are – my fly fishing goals for 2016:

  1. Learn more about nymph fishing.
    1. Study Joe Humphreys’ “Trout Tactics”
    2. Study George Daniel’s “Dynamic Nymphing”
  2. Learn to fly fish for muskie.
    1. Purchase rod, reel, line, leader
    2. Purchase / tie flies
    3. Study muskie fly fishing
    4. Fish for them
  3. Saltwater flyfish in Destin, FL.
  4. Continue fly tying – learn to tie 5 more patterns.
  5. Donate a box of my flies to the TU banquet.
  6. Float-fish the Susquehanna (4X)
  7. Make perfect fly casting practice a habit.
  8. Fish with friends, including at least 3 trips with new friends.
  9. Fly fish and/or attend fly fishing events 100 times this year.
  10. Learn to tie 3 new fishing knots.
  11. Fish the Salmon River – Spring, Fall, Winter.
  12. Night fish for trout.
  13. Fish marginal waters.
  14. Build my own fly rod.
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Indian Summer

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Writing with tags , , , on November 10, 2015 by stflyfisher

The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled.

Henry Adams

Indian summer is a period of unseasonably warm, dry weather that sometimes occurs in autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. The US National Weather Service defines this as weather conditions that are sunny and clear with above normal temperatures, occurring late-September to mid-November, and particularly after a killing frost. Such were the conditions when I set out on what was to be my second kayak float of one of the Southern Tier’s great warmwater rivers. I had my eye on Columbus Day weekend for a while, and as it got closer, kept hoping the predicted indian Summer conditions would hold, and that the river would remain low and clear. Thankfully, it held…

I set out early with a plan to launch from the Apalachin DEC fishing access but my pick-up plans were still a little in the air. Last year’s trip had been a float of the river from the same starting point to Hickories Park in Owego, but I had found out the hard way that those last couple of miles below where I fished were nothing but slow moving river and a tough, long, and arduous paddle. So I decided to see if I could float roughly 3 miles down to the choice fishing areas and then paddle back. There were a few places where I would need to haul my kayak around faster riffles and runs, but generally I felt it could be doable.

I fished this same stretch last year and wondered if it would be as good as my last visit. That trip brought me to totally unexplored water and absolute solitude save a few recreational kayakers. The varied water in what I refer to as the “outback” made for great fly fishing and a surprise visit from a musky that inhaled a 10″ smallmouth I had on the line and, though it was not hooked, would not let go of his meal for a good 20 minutes.

The river had been through a spate of dry weather since mid-summer and the river was showing it with flows below the 1,000 CFS mark. Low water tends to concentrate the fish a bit which is a help on such a big river but it can also make for spooky fish when the water is crystal clear and the sun bright. With that in mind I focused on fishing the northern bank on the float down, hoping the shady areas would hold some bass.

The morning was chilly and foggy but it did not take long for the rising sun to burn through. I drifted past my honey hole, about a quarter mile below the bridge, figuring I could hit it on the way back if fishing wasn’t that good below. I focused my morning efforts on some shaded downfalls that had produced some nice bass on last year’s float, but this year, no one answered my casts. Perhaps the extra skinny water was the culprit, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth for the rest of the day.

I paddled on and fished the bend in the river where weeds were prevalent adjacent to deep water and where again, last year, I had caught some nice bass. I thought for sure there would be some bass willing to play here but again, it was “no joy”.

Beyond that spot is what I now call, “the promised land”. This stretch of the river is a lot like the St. Lawrence in terms of the bedrock and boulders that make up the river bottom and shoreline. The water is deep here, yet out of nowhere, boulders and rock outcroppings loom large in the current. It is perfect smallie habitat and the home of at least one big musky. So I fished it thoroughly, and finally was rewarded for my efforts.

Love the chocolate brown coloring of this smallmouth bass.

Love the chocolate brown coloring of this smallmouth bass.

Maybe it was fly size, maybe color, but changing up to a 5″ long white deceiver I had tied for saltwater striped bass and bluefish fishing changed my fortune. Tied to a stout leader and an intermediate sink tip fly line, I cast to the shallows and stripped the fly across and through the boulders and the deep run of the river. I immediately hooked up with bass after bass, over a dozen and two of them real gems – full bodied, broad-shouldered. One of those two had a large baitfish tail protruding from its gullet, it’s belly extended noticeably. But even 12″ chunks, as I refer to them, eagerly attacked this big white streamer. And halfway through, so did a large green torpedo…

I decided to

I decided to “go big early” and fished a white deceiver, like this one, and the smallmouth loved it…

For the third time, I encountered Mr. Musky. My two previous encounters were while “bait fishing”, that is, catching a 10 – 12″ smallie on a fly and suddenly feeling it get REAL heavy. Both encounters were amazing in that the big guy on the end hung on to the “bait” for 20 minutes before finally having had enough. They were never actually hooked. This third encounter was an aggressive follow, but only as I swept the fly up and parallel to the kayak, getting ready to backcast.

Indian summer and fall splendor on the Susquehanna...

Indian summer and fall splendor on the Susquehanna…

I paddled back upriver around 2 pm and fished the shade of the southern side of the river, picking up a few nice bass and missing some more. The wind had started to blow with the warming of the day. Leaves littered the river and of course the wind blew my kayak around a bit, but I enjoyed the warmth of the afternoon and the vibrant fall colors.

I gradually worked up the river, then hit another run and riffle and got a good workout pushing my little boat home. I had passed my home pool – a favorite wading spot and the home of my largest smallmouth bass – on the way down, but on the way back I decided to fish it a bit before continuing on to the takeout. The night before I had stopped here to gauge the fishing and was smitten. I caught a large fallfish, a nice walleye, a good northern with a fat belly, and two very nice smallmouth bass. And on this afternoon, my second cast and retrieve came to an abrupt stop…

I was fast to another quality smallmouth and this bass was a fighter. Once in hand and released, I fished the rest of the pool and missed a few fish. It was beginning to get late and I still had to paddle / wade and tow my boat another quarter mile, then pack it up and head home. So I left my honey hole and towed my kayak home.

Terrific way to end a beautiful day...

Terrific way to end a beautiful day…

The drive home was as pleasant as it gets. I had enjoyed a long day on a beautiful river with not another angler in sight and enjoyed only the company of a few bald eagles, osprey, mergansers, Canada geese, and mallards.

A soft warm breeze blew through my open windows as I smoked a cigar and drove through hills painted in hues of scarlet and gold. Winter was not far off, but for now I enjoyed one last dance with summer – and a flirt with fall. Long gone were wet wading days on the river, shirt-sleeved evening slogs on late summer evenings. I felt blessed and happy for having another year of fly fishing and for having one last shot at fish before the winter snows arrived. And I could almost hear fall’s siren call to fish of all kinds – the basses, pikes, salmonoids, and trout – hastening the feed for some in advance of winter, and sending others upriver to spawn and create another life-cycle all their own.

Bob’s Most Excellent Kayak Adventure

Posted in Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized, Writing with tags , , , on October 11, 2014 by stflyfisher

Loyal readers of this blog will likely remember a post I did way back in September 2009, entitled “Kelly’s Excellent Canoe Adventure”. Kelly was a coworker who owned an old aluminum Grumman canoe and he happened to live just a short portage from the Susquehanna River in Owego. That trip was a good one for two reasons: Kelly paddled me around while I fished, a luxury to any fisherman, and 2) the fishing was very good. But since that enjoyable trip, most of my fly fishing has been afoot – wading the muddy and rocky shoals, riffles, and pools. While I’ve certainly caught a good number of smallmouth bass over the last years on the hoof, I’ve always wondered – what’s it like in the back country – could there be places where the bass are bigger and less visited by feather-throwing types?

I set the goal to get out and float the river again the following year after my first Susquehanna float. But the trip somehow eluded me. I changed jobs in 2011, lamented high water for two years and a lack of time in others. So back when the big river was still locked in ice, I developed more resolve towards this goal. And with the river flowing low and clear and the weather splendid, I found one recent weekend to be the perfect opportunity. My daughter and son were home from work and college and could assist in doing shuttle service to make sure I had the reliable kayka-conveying Subaru Outback in place for me at the boat launch in Owego. All I had to do was gear up and get in the water at the NY DEC fishing access in Apalachin.

The trip would take me down-river past a favorite honey-hole and beyond to an area along the Hiawatha Links Golf Course where google satellite imagery showed me some very bassy looking water. I had never fished this area. The call was too great to ignore and somewhat pathetic Salmon River reports just added to the appeal.

Come one Friday evening I hauled my kayak – an Old Town Loon – from its pond-side lair. I was able to get it on the roof rack and tie it down single-handed. The next morning I was off to the access, with a stop thrown in for a Sausage Egg McMuffin and hash brown. Us river rats have to eat, don’t you know!

The river was fogged in as expected with the air temps in the mid-40’s. I had my kayak ready to go at the access and met another angler getting ready to launch his river boat to fish the long pool in front of us. We talked fishing and shared stories, one of mine being the infamous meet-up with a musky covered in this blog some time ago.

The Old Town Loon ready for action...

The Old Town Loon ready for action…

I launched my kayak and fished the tail of the pool, then slid down the riffle following the tailout. In just a few minutes I pulled ashore at one of my favorite pools on the river. Most recently, bass fishing has not been as good as it normally is, but I had to at least wet a line just in case. Between wet wading and enduring the chilly morning air temps and fog, I was close to shivering after about 20 minutes and without any action, decided to get back in my kayak and enter into the unknown waters beyond.

A foggy cool morning on the Susquehanna...

A foggy morning on the Susquehanna…

As I paddled downriver, the fog began to burn off, the air temps warmed, and the colors of fall came out. With a little bit of sun poking through, I noticed the northern bank of the river was still dark with shade. A downfall piqued my interest, so I tied on an olive soft hackle bugger that I tie with a little added schmaltz (gold flash and some long rubber legs) and that has served me well this year.

This downfall caught my attention as I drifted down river, and I'm glad I fished it thoroughly...

This downfall caught my attention as I drifted down the river, and I’m glad I fished it thoroughly…

I cast upstream of the downfall and as I drifted past, stripped my fly down and across its edge. I only needed to do this twice before setting the hook on a nice fish. It immediately bolted downstream, jumped high and mighty, and I was all smallie smiles…

The result of observation, some skill, and a little luck - a beautiful Susquehanna smallmouth...

The result of observation, some skill, and a little luck – a beautiful Susquehanna smallmouth, all browned up…

The north shore of the river hosted a number of such places – areas where debris piled up during floods, downfalls, eddies – and all of them were shaded from the strong morning sun.

Another nice bass that fell to an olive soft hackle bugger...

Another nice bass that fell to an olive soft hackle bugger…

I missed a few strikes and even spooked some bass, witnessing the telltale “puff of river bottom” as I glided down the river about 20 feet off the shoreline.

I passed a few river braids on my voyage that were inviting but fishless…

I explored this river braid but did not find any fish. It re-entered the river at a big bend and deep pool.

I explored this river braid but did not find any fish. It re-entered the river at a big bend and deep pool.

And then I came to a wide riffle and a river bend where the water slowed and the bottom disappeared. A river braid re-entered the river just above the the bend, but what looked very fishy was the line of thick weeds that formed on a bar at the transition point. I fished the edge of these weeds and was soon rewarded with a take and another nice bass…

Another nice bass that liked to hang near the weeds...

Classic smallmouth camo. This bass liked to hang near the weeds…

I continued to paddle, drift and fish as I passed through the bend. In some ways it was difficult fishing as there was so much good water to explore but only so much time to fish and make the long paddle down to Owego. There was also the fall colors and a rich selection of wildlife on display, including blue herons, bitterns, mink, osprey…

Nothing better than the Susquehanna River in autumn wear...

Nothing better than the Susquehanna River in autumn wear…

After fishing the big bend, I came upon a stretch of river that was a lot more like the St Lawrence River than what I’m used to on the Susquehanna. The northern shore was rocky and in places large boulders jutted from the river. As I paddled closer, the bottom came into view, strewn with large rocks in places. Depths varied – in some places the waters were shallow – in others the bottom would fall away. After recon of a 50 yard stretch, I paddled back to the head of this stretch, rigged one of my own crayfish flies, and started casting. It didn’t take long to catch a few nice smallmouth bass, with smaller ones mixed in as well. As I suspected, this was great holding water for smallies. But it was holding water for other predators, which I soon learned.

This stretch of rocky shoreline featured just the kind of habitat smallmouth bass love, along with some bigger toothy predators...

This stretch of rocky shoreline featured just the kind of habitat smallmouth bass love, along with some bigger toothy predators…

I hooked a small bass that, as most bass do, went airborne and then bulldogged down in the 6 foot depths beneath my kayak. As this bass ran around, I saw a golden brown flash come out of nowhere and snatch my fish. My line tightened immediately, my rod bent over double and what had to be a big musky slowly towed me up-river.

I quickly realized that if I was to land this fish, I better get to the other side of the river where the slope to shore was gradual and made for easy wading. I used my free hand to slowly paddle across and downriver as the musky swam upriver. I gradually made my way to shallow water and, keeping rod high and steady pressure on the fish, beached the kayak and struggled to my feet. I then got parallel to the fish, put sideways pressure on it, and tried my best to work the fish in to me, knowing it was probably not hooked.

I could only hope the musky would hold on long enough for me to get close and grab it (carefully) under its gills. But as in my first encounter with such a fish, it was not to be. I could see the beginnings of the sink tip section of my fly line when the fish had finally had enough and released the fish. Remarkably, this bass looked virtually untouched, save one or two puncture marks. I could only surmise that the musky had fully engulfed the bass in its mouth for the bass to escape major tooth wounds. I actually released the bass and it swam away. Also amazing was the fact that my 1X tippet held up to a mouth of teeth known for line-parting effectiveness.

The luckiest bass in the world...

The luckiest bass in the world…

After leaving two great fish to fight another day, I took a moment to soak it all in, trembling a bit from a great battle. The musky had twice taken me down to my backing and bucked my fly rod with massive head shakes for over 20 minutes.

I decided then that it was time to call it quits. Sometimes it’s good to end on a high note, stopping at the end of a crescendo. This would certainly be one of those days even though I never landed “the fish of a thousand casts”. But also, as afternoon advanced into evening, it was still a long way to Owego. Effortless, so effortless, that long paddle home seemed…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Summer of no smallies…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , on September 2, 2013 by stflyfisher

It’s been a frustrating summer if you’re a smallmouth bass angler, particularly, the feather-thrower type. Aside from some great spring pre-spawn fishing and a few choice slots where the rivers were coming down and clearing, the summer has been a bust due to high water and turbidity. Generally, the climate norm for this area is high and heavy flows in Spring followed by low flows and clear water by July. in the last few years, however, the lower-than-normal levels in Spring have made for some terrific pre-spawn fishing at the cost of higher water and turbid conditions in summer.

One of a bunch of pre-spawn smallies caught on the Susquehanna...

One of a bunch of pre-spawn smallies caught on the Susquehanna…

River rats like myself have missed so many aspects of smallmouth fly angling. Among them, nymphing dead drift in the many river riffles, streamer fishing and popper fishing during the evening and early morning “blitzes’, and fishing the great white fly hatch…

Last year was also wet, but I was able to fish some of the white fly hatch...

Last year was also wet, but I was able to fish some of the white fly hatch…

As recently as 2 weeks ago, the Tioughnioga, Chenango, and even the Susquehanna were dropping and clearing. I had some success then but the murk was more than I’d like and I always wonder how that impacts fishing. The smaller rivers are usually the better choice when water levels and flows are up, and even the river braids on the Susquehanna – shallower with a few deep pools than the main river – tend to clear before the main river. Yet even as I write this the rivers are up again. I’m starting to think the fall feeding frenzy is in jeopardy of not being within reach of wading anglers…

What’s not so great for smallmouth anglers has been manna from heaven for trout anglers. The tailwaters, particularly the West Branch of the Delaware have fished well, and the high water events have brought along some great mid-season streamer fishing. In mid-June, heavy rains brought the reservoir up and washed alewives over the dam. The streamer fishing for those anglers with access to a drift boat was reportedly phenomenal.

Alewives can be washed down the tailwater rivers during high water events. Picture courtesy of Delaware River Club.

Alewives can be washed down the tailwater rivers during high water events. Picture courtesy of Delaware River Club.

I’ve done much more fly fishing on the West Branch this year, thanks to all of the rain. Once the smallie rivers get down and fishable, I typically give trout fishing a rest. But this year I was very thankful for a great tailwater so close by.

Yours truly with a nice West Branch rainbow...

Yours truly with a nice West Branch rainbow…

And the abundance of cold water also blessed the trout themselves. While nymphing, I caught quite a few small browns and rainbows. Anglers might not be pleased to catch small fish, but I was grateful to see such a sign that the trout are prospering…

So, global warming, climate change? Will this go on over future years? Is it the “new norm”? I suppose the only thing anglers can do is apply the Marine Corp mantra to their fishing…

Adapt, Improvise, and Overcome

 

Standing where you should be fishing.

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on June 9, 2012 by stflyfisher

None other than smallmouth bass guru, Harry Murray, has echoed these words regarding the reaction many anglers have upon seeing stream or river; that being to head straight to fishy looking spots, spooking good fish in the process. The complete saying – that most anglers stand where they should be fishing and fish where they should be standing – is always hovering over me like some divine angling angel, waiting to alight on my shoulder when I am bank-side and way too exuberant to get in the water.

And so it was that an angling angel hovered above me as I fished a streamer down a river braid of the Tioughnioga River a few weeks ago. I was approaching the junction where the braid creek joined back with the river. The angel showed itself, not in some whisper above my shoulder, but in the form of a fish. As I approached the junction, my eyes were on a broad riffle that looked oh-so-fishy. What my gaze missed, was the seam, where the fast current of the main river pushed against the deeper slow water of the river braid. At the point of the junction was a downfall  – beyond the downfall, the river current had built up a long thin bar of sand, silt, and cobblestone. Looking downstream to the right of the seam, the water was pure riffle; to the left of the seam, the water deepened and slowed. Along the ridge of the seam, long aquatic grass swayed in the current. It was a perfect ambush site, an area of about 20 to 30 feet in length, 10 feet in width and 2 feet in depth. There’s no doubt baitfish would congregate in the aquatic grass. It’s also not a surprise that bass would find the broken water of the riffle as good cover from above and the adjacent still water as a great place to hunt when the time was right.

The current seam that I almost waded through, saved by my angling angel.

As I closed on the seam, my angling angel appeared in the form of a solitary bass blitzing baitfish, sending them leaping for their lives. The blitz ended as quickly as it started, but awakened me to the fact that I was about to violate one of Harry’s cardinal rules had I continued wading right through the seam. I stopped and cast upstream towards the downfall, then stripped my “Murray’s Wounded Minnow” streamer through the seam. On my second such retrieve, my line pulled tight and got nice and heavy. In the current I could see the golden-brown broad-side flash of a large smallmouth as it tried to head to the safety of the riffle water. The fight ended in a long-distance release, but I was pleased to start the morning off with a good fish on the hook.

Thinking this was an isolated case, I violated a second rule – to never leave fish – and waded carefully upriver and then worked a streamer down and across the riffle. As good as that water looked, I picked up plump and feisty bass, several fallfish, and in the deeper pool beyond, a small walleye, but no more quality fish like the one I had encountered at the current seam.

Eventually I crossed the river and slowly worked back upstream to the seam. I was ready to head back to my car when I saw another blitz in the same spot. I quickly moved into position and cast my streamer. I was soon tight to another quality bass, but lost this one too after a brief brawl. Could there be more? I answered that question after a few casts and this time, tied into an even larger bass, dark in color, that shook its head in the current and then proceeded to skip across the water like a flying fish on takeoff. We tussled back and forth, but soon this bass was mine. I lipped the bass and felt the solid bite-down that only truly large bass give when first brought to hand. This fish had weight and wildness in it…

On the way back to the car I stopped at a deep hole in the river braid. As I waded the shallow side of this elbow pool, I spooked what I thought might be two bass. I let the spot rest a bit and carefully walked the bank back to where I had seen the fish. Sure enough, two very nice bass swam in small circles in the shallows, but I quickly recognized these fish were on the nest. I let them alone and headed back to the car. I’d be back in time, hopefully with my angling angel in tow.

Just one last cast…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing with tags , , on September 22, 2010 by stflyfisher

We’ve all thought, said, or murmured the phrase a million times: “just one more cast”. This mantra of anglers comes at the eleventh hour of a day on the water when we know we have to get back home for myriad reasons and the fishing has not been great, but we can still feel some luck out there. So we make that last cast and most times the results are no different than the 100 casts before, but every once in a while we are pleasantly surprised…

Such was the case for me this past Sunday evening. I only had time for 2 hours for fishing, so I hit a local favorite pool on the Susquehanna River for smallmouth bass. I rigged up with a sink-tip line and 1X leader and tied on a Murray’s Dying Minnow streamer. Casting at the tail of the pool and then across the riffle adjacent to it produced 2 decent bass and some fallfish, but with the cool water and tons of baitfish about, I was hoping for the type of action I’d recently enjoyed on the Chenango River.

I experimented with different patterns of streamers and fished some other sections of the river to no avail. Before hiking back to the car I returned to the pool tail-out for one last cast and was rewarded with a solid thump – the kind that catches you off-guard and puts a “yeah!” in the air. After setting the hook, a bass thrashed to the surface. At first it felt like a smallish fish. It dove and held briefly in the current but then about-faced downstream with supercharged vigor for a fish its size. I put the fish on the reel, thinking I might have underestimated this bass. With fly rod bowed nicely, I thought, “maybe this was one of those bass that suddenly grows in size when it feels the hook?”

I applied some drag, put the brakes to the downstream charge, and steered the fish with sideways pressure out of the riffle and into a patch of slower water, but even out of the current this “bass” was acting, well, very “un-bassy”. Missing were the acrobatics, the darting and diving, and the bulldogging for deeper water. The fight was plain old “down and dirty” – almost walleye-like – and I started second-guessing what might be at the end of my line. More pressure to raise the fish met more throbbing resistance. Finally, a very long green form emerged, like a submarine surfacing for air…

Musky bait on the fly...

The fish came up, porpoised and dove again, and as it did I saw the telltale markings of a musky, and that put a “holy crap” in the air, stirred renewed enthusiasm in my heart and put prayers on my lips of “dear Jesus, if only he’ll hold”. Alas, just as fast as I thought and prayed he was gone, the heavy bend to the rod lightened, and a very tired and limp smallmouth of about 12 inches came to hand. This poor guy had taken my fly with gusto, only to be taken himself with tooth and fang. Talk about a bad day: caught on both ends, no less! I took a quick picture but the pic does not do justice to what the jaws of our local underwater version of cujo can do to scaled and muscled flesh. Barely visible in the pic is a slash mark behind the pectoral fin that sliced open the bass halfway up his side. Other tooth marks were there as well – like bullet holes in the side of Bonnie and Clyde’s getaway car. This poor guy looked like he’d been dipped into a garbage disposal.

Remarkably, the bass was still alive, so I tried to revive him in the current a good while. Before long he was shaking his head and I let him swim off, a piscatorial version of Rocky back for another round. Friends of PETA might chide me for my act of mercy, but I thought any bass that could survive such an attack deserves a chance. Of course if he did not fully regain strength, there was that musky waiting back in the pool and a bald eagle and osprey that regularly patrolled the river.

After that last cast I left the river with a new-found longing for a fly box arsenal of long leggy-looking musky flies…

This is no wooly bugger...

I thought about that new 9 foot 8 weight JP Ross rod I’ve been reserving for the upcoming Finger Lake trib runs, the heavy mono I have for a tooth-proof leader and a long-handled boat net I use in the salt. Then the lyrics of the Jimi Hendrix song, “Foxy Lady”, blasted away in my head…

“I’m coming to get you….”

Tight lines…

Mojo found…

Posted in Fishing Conditions, Fishing Reports, Smallmouth Bass Fishing, Writing with tags , , , on September 12, 2010 by stflyfisher

In “The Spy Who Shagged Me”, Austin Powers wakes up one day to discover he’s “lost his mojo”. Devastated, he goes about doing whatever he can to retrieve the magic stuff that makes him a man of extreme attraction to beautiful women world-wide.

If Austin can lose it, so can you...

I suppose anglers have their own version of losing their mojo as it relates to piscatorial pursuits. There are some fly fisherman out there who seem to bubble over with the stuff, have the masculine chin of Dudley Doright, and knowingly or not, seem to veritably rub it in no matter what they do on the water as we lesser types flail away. Most of us mortals do come up short, sometimes for brief periods – but sometimes for longer than admissible.

Such has been my case this summer. Whereas the Susquehanna has behaved itself well, the hunting has not been good. I plied my favorite pools and riffles with little to show for it. At first I considered it bad luck and then maybe poor timing. Every technique I tried, including dead drift nymphing, failed to get more than a few smallmouth wannabe’s. Ultimately I gave just gave it a rest for a while, attributing my string of poor results to the weather, which was supposedly the hottest on record (figures from the Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University show 28 cities from Washington, D.C., to Caribou, Maine, set record highs for average temperature from March through August) and one that had warmed the river to feel like a bath-tub. Beneath that official Southern Tier Flyfisher statement, however, lurked the possibility that I truly had lost my mojo…

Come September and the world once again seems to be one groovy place, baby. Two recent trips to the often-overlooked Chenango River have proved quite successful, the first a week ago in the late afternoon and another trip just yesterday.

This swift run is at the head of a long, deep, and smallmouth-infested pool...

Both trips started almost immediately with hookups on the much maligned fallfish.

Fallfish often serve as a marker species for smallmouth...

Fallfish are wrongly referred to as “chubs” by many who come across them on the river. They aggressively strike nymphs, streamers and even dry flies and while they are no smallmouth bass, the bigger ones will put a good bow in a 7 weight fly rod. The New York state record (and potential world record) fallfish, weighing in at 3 lbs., 9 ounces, was caught in our very own Susquehanna River near Owego last year.

Eventually I got into smallmouth, and the headshakes, jumps, and sheer bulldoggedness of their fight put a big smile on my face. The pool I fished was deep with good current, so I fished a sink tip line and caught many fish on a crayfish pattern, courtesy of Murray’s Fly Shop. The bass seemed to hit on just slight and occasional stripping of the fly and almost a crawl across the bottom.

Singer's Crayfish - smallies love 'em...

On my first outing the bass were very aggressive and for a while it seemed I was into a deepwater feeding frenzy. I later noticed inch-long dark brown nymphs in the mouths of some of them, a discovery which backs up the fact that smallmouth bass can be taken on big nymphs and even dry flies when the time is right.

Other patterns also produced: Murray’s Mad Tom as well as another favorite, Whitlock’s Near ‘Nuff Sculpin.

Chenango River smallmouth bass...

Yesterday’s trip produced fewer bass but bigger ones, including a real gem that I lost after a while and most likely due to a poor hook-set. A highlight of the trip was fighting a nice bass while a bigger cousin cruised alongside to see what the fuss was all about. I’d never witnessed this in any of my river fishing though I’d seen it on various televised fishing shows.

Now is the time when smallmouth start to feed aggressively. Cooler nights and the resultant lower water temps seem to signal the bass that it’s time to feed up and get their own “mojo” on…

The Chenango River, looking upstream...

Tight lines and happy hunting…