Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Smallmouth

Once again, I've found myself being way too slack with my writing on this blog. I'm ashamed to say that when I logged in today, I found that I haven't had a new post on here in almost a year. I got inspired to try to resurrect this blog the other day after catching my first smallmouth of the year (2015), and when I logged into Blogger I realized that I had several posts I had written last summer that through my forgetfulness never got published. Hopefully these are still worth putting out on the Internet. This is a post I wrote at the beginning of last summer, and it leads right into what should be my next post about Wednesday's trip to the river. I hope you enjoy, and thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings.

- Joseph

One of my latest addictions in the world of fly fishing is the smallmouth bass. A few years ago, I finally took the time to check out the reports of smallmouth bass being caught in a river not too far from home. At that time I was still primarily a trout fisherman, at least when it came to using a fly rod. I did a fair amount of bass fishing, but I used conventional tackle and fished farm ponds the majority of the time. For some reason, when I decided to finally give the smallmouth a shot, I decided to take an old 6wt Mitchell fly rod I had at the house that my Dad had bought years ago from someone. At the time, this was the heaviest weight fly rod I owned, the others being 4wts and 5wts for trout fishing. I knew just enough about bass fly fishing to know that I would probably be using larger flies and poppers, and that I would appreciate the extra line weight to help me cast these larger offerings. That first trip was a success, at least in the sense that I did catch a small smallmouth, along with several redbreast sunfish. I didn't realize it at the time, but that first little bass hooked me just as much as I hooked him.

First Smallmouth of 2014
Moving forward a few years from that first small bass, I find myself taking several trips down to the river each summer to chase these bronze fighters. Along the way, I picked up a new fly rod for heavier bass flies, and learned how to tie streamers like the Clouser and Triple Threat, and also how to tie popping bugs. I watch the USGS river gauge, and start getting excited anytime I see that flows will be good for wading. I think this is only made worse by the fact that in twenty minutes or less I can be standing in the river and casting flies. The one major drawback to this river is that it is wide and deep under the best of conditions, and a few summer thunderstorms in the watershed can make wading dangerous, if not impossible, for several days after. The area we fish is quite a hike from the parking area, and I have never seen anyone else fishing or swimming down there. This is good from a fishing standpoint, but makes me nervous to attempt wading the river without someone else close by in case of an accident because there are many places that the holes are easily eight feet deep or more. This sometimes limits my trips to the river, because while I will trout fish alone, I won't fish this river alone.

Redbreast Sunfish
As the school year came to an end, I found myself thinking more and more about the river and its smallmouth bass. Finally, the Saturday after the students went home for summer, I couldn't stand it any longer. It was time to go to the river and fish. I made plans with my fishing partner and brother-in-law Trent to head out that morning and see if the river would be kind to us. We checked and rechecked the USGS gauge, and almost backed out of going because we saw the river was running at our self-imposed upper limit for wading. Eventually we both decided that we would go take a look and see if we felt comfortable fishing, mainly because neither one of us had been able to do any smallmouth fishing since last fall.

Once we arrived, the water looked clear enough to safely wade, and appeared to be dropping slightly so we decided it was worth rigging up the rods and giving it a try. We headed down the trail to our usual fishing area, a section of river divided by a series of islands. The right side of the islands (looking downstream) contains a narrower channel than the left, but this channel is composed of deeper holes and ledges, with lots of rocky structure for smallmouth to hide around. We have also fished this area enough to have an idea of where and how to wade to avoid a dunking. Some of this knowledge was earned the hard way over the last few years, but we've fished the area enough now to avoid most of the deeper spots.

River Smallmouth
Once we made it to the water, I decided to start out trying one of the poppers that I had tied, while Trent started out with a smaller popper. After several casts, I figured out that the fish wanted some action on the bug, and once I started stripping the popper vigorously I managed to catch a few redbreast sunfish, and Trent missed a strike from a nice bass on his popper. I wasn't having any luck with bass on the popper, so I switched flies to a Triple Threat, one of my favorite patterns for this river. I managed to catch three smallmouth on the streamer, and also picked up a few more redbreast sunfish. Trent went on to catch some redbreast sunfish on his popper, and all in all we declared the day a success. Summer rains have kept the river too high to wade recently, at least when we've had the opportunity to go, but when the weather and Trent's work schedule line up right, I'm sure we'll be back. Those bronze bass have a way of hooking fishermen with their fierce fight and wild jumps, and pursuing them with a fly rod is one of my favorite ways to spend a summer day.

- Joseph


  1. Hey Joe, nice to you posting again. The fishing in NW PA has been fairly slow lately, due to all the rain we've been getting. Have you been up to fish Oil Creek recently?

    1. Thanks Bob, I haven't been up to fish Oil Creek in a couple years, although I keep saying I will one of these days. We've had the opposite problem down here, we really need rain it's been a dry summer.


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