Sunday, November 30, 2008

Oh, What a Difference a Day Makes: 11/30/08 Winter Wade

Woke up to snow on the ground, gray skies, and a slight drizzle. Highs were forcasted around 36-38 F. Jumped in the car and went about 100 miles east of the river I was on yesterday. Plan was to hit holes I caught fish in during the summer and hope there would be some winter fish in them. Water is super low. I hit the deeper holes and scouted through everything else, noticing boulders I had taken fish off of before as well as undercut banks that were held in place by the rocky terrain and sycamore roots.

Didn't take long. I was fishing the Float and Fly. The bait was down about 2' and I couldn't see any movement on the bottom even though I could see down 4' or more. The float dunked. A nicely colored 13" smallmouth came to hand. I tossed to a different part of the eddy over and over again biding my time until something sunk the float again. A 12" Smallie came home. Grinned. Fish were out and about. It looked about 2.5-3' deep in this eddy and I swear I could see the bottom and yet two fish had materialized on my fly jig. Started downstream and heard gunshots so I headed back up, pausing to catch another pretty yellow smallmouth 13" long.

I headed above the hole and fished a large, deep, rock filled hole. Tried the 'other' side of this hole. On my first cast, I got distracted. My float drifted down the slow current close to the rocky bank in front. Dunk. A nice fight and a lightweight 16"er came to hand:

This would be the pattern: toss float and fly, look away for a while. The float would be gone. I finally picked up that they didn't want any action imparted. I caught two dinks and decided to do a normal summer wade, looking for signs of holding fish that would give away the presense of smallmouth bass.

This 14"er must have hit almost on the drop on a long cast. I looked away for a moment the float was gone. It was a pretty color so I took a pic despite the black flecks.

Got another 14-15" at the next riffle again as I was daydreaming. Another dink on the next cast.

Mike and I had waded this section last year and had hit a hole not far away from where I now was. We had success with Gunfish 95 that day at a hole above. Made the trek to the general area. My float sunk after waht seemed like eternity and a large powerful fish went for the laydown downstream. Turned him just in time, boy was he fat! Went 17".

A couple drifts later another fish came out of the same general area measured 16".

After a few more fruitless drifts, I turned back and hit some of the previous spots on the left nabbing two more 12" fish and losing a fish on the fight.

4 hours 13 SMB (17, 2 16", 2 14-15")

Saturday, November 29, 2008

11/29/08 Not much action

Currently in the mood to catch some bigger fish as the year closes out. The last three year's winters always seem to produce some large smallmouth bass. To end 2008 with a bang, I set out to hit one of the better hawg stretches I know of. Weather was nice, sunny and low 40's. Water ended up still being crystal clear and very low. I could see down 6,7,8 feet when the sun shined right. It was very informative. I could see boulders I didn't know where there as well as killer dropoffs and ledges. This area is a wide stretch with plenty of water and a high cliff with trees that overlooks the creek. The shade from the cliff and lack of current had allowed most of the creek to lightly freeze over. Right where I wanted to fish!

I tried to float and fly everywhere there was open water. Got the sense that my efforts were a waste of time. I didn't see any fish in that large pool. I finally drove up a few holes and walked upstream to fish. Finally, found open water, the key was how high the eastern cliff was. No eastern cliff- no ice. Got to some riprap and finally found some fish. Carp and Channel Catfish with a couple smallies mixed in. The fish were a good 6-7' down. I adjusted my leader and promptly got ignored. It became fun picking out fish with my polarized lenses under huge rocks and boulders. I saw a large drum looked to be hibernating. 2 Large channel cats in 6-10 lbs range in an eddy appeared to asleep even when I dropped down rocks near them. Few smallmouth sightings, but many carp, suckers, and especially catfish. Somewhat active within a small area.

Walked up another run and found schools of fish in another area I was unaware of the contours of. 1 smallmouth out of all the fish I spied on. Again more cats then bass. Were the smallmouth hiding? I walked up another large pool, this time the cliff was on the side the sun sets on and was largely free of any ice. When I found more dark shapes moving, they again ignored my Float and Fly. I switched to a tube.

There were a couple smallies huddling together next to a medium rock. One turned out to be another drum. I pulled my tube slowly to the bass that appeared 15" laying on the bottom against that rock. Then the fish's head exploded into a red mist! Just kidding. When the tube finally got within a couple feet I inched it very slowly towards my target. Letting it sit for as long as 30 seconds with no movement. The retrieve had taken close to 5 minutes at this point. The bass's gills flared and my tube was gone. I set the hook hard and felt the hook bite home! I pulled him away from his rock and that bass was both surprised and larger than it looked in the water. Not much of a fight, but a lot of satisfaction. Ended up being my only fish and bite of the day. Measured a bump above 18".

Later, I walked up on a couple smallies wedged under a ledge. Fish were hiding today. Weather was good enough. We need some rain bigtime, water is too darned clear!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

2007 Pics and content added

I added a bunchload of old fishing reports from 2007 and early 2008. Enjoy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pre Winter Winter Smallmouth Basses

Had to take care of some stuff so I took they day off. Was hoping the sun would have fish active enough to hit the fly. Fingers crossed on frozen creeks with such low water.

Feeder creeks looked ok on the drive over. Water was crystal clear and low.

Walked up quietly on some riprap and saw some carp around a rocky hole. This time of year, fish are packed in those areas, so I knew some smallmouth would be nearby. Spotted several 14-15"ers but they wouldn't have any of the fly.

Tossed up ahead and waited as a large fish approached and appeared to eyeball my float really close. Tilt, the float budged! He had the fly. A short fight with a lot of headshaking and I beached the fish. It was a nice one bright gold with olive splotches, a huge mouth, head, and a huge tail. Measured at a bit over 18" on the tail pinch. It's been since October 11th since I caught a fish that hit 18". Slowed down the yearly goal to get 50. An above average December can still get me there

I moved to the next large hole the one I was heading for. Half the hole was frozen over :mellow: . I was able to get two consecutive chunky 13-14"ers right on the edge of the ice near current in about 4' of water. Fish must have spooked after that so I moved to the next few holes, but they were frozen too. I stopped at the middle one and smashed the ice and shoved it downstream hoping the fish would be back when I returned. Next portion of stream was beaver dammed and frozen. When I came back, nothing doing. It has worked before though. Water was probably too clear.

I killed an hour and a half catching nothing then went downstream and found two more nice chunky bass 14-15" on consecutive casts, in the same general area I killed them on the 15th. Fished under a bridge and my first cast brought about a float dunk and a 11' commando style smallie. Finally finished up on the way back up with a 10" dink on the walk back.

We really need some rain and a warm up or there won't be much fishing this winter. Low water is freezing quicker than flowing flow. The great thing is you can see every fish when the sun is out. They are still really spooky, but it is cool to see them out and about. It's a great time to explore new wintering holes even if you don't catch any bass, you can locate them and that can build the winter confidence. Confidence catches fish as surely as anything.

4 hours 7 SMB (18) mostly nice fish.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Hibernating Turtle

What do turtles do when it gets cold? This guy was smack dab in the middle of the stream about 2.5' deep.

Low water in the creeks froze up all the eddies. No fish. Saw plenty under the thin ice. Water was far too clear. We need rain or snow.

Moscow Covered Bridge and Flatrock River Devastation

Before June 2008 Tornado:


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stream Float and Fly 101

Being both post 101 and an excellent article by Matt Doddridge on stream Float and Fly fishing.

FnF Article

Sunday, November 16, 2008

11/16/08 Getting colder but Smallies still on.

That time of year is here. Cold. And I love it. Each of the last two winters I ventured out onto the rivers and creeks to catch winter Smallmouth Bass. I generally hit large wintering holes on fairly populated stretches. Sometimes the results are surprising.

34F today. Bundled up in underarmour and fleece I was toasty as I hit the water about 2pm today it was overcast, windy and the weather was again low and clear with the recent rains showing little to no impact.

I fished bolders and crevaces with a tube, patiently hopping them close to hidey holes. 7 times today a fish emerged from a boulder or crack to engulf my tube. Often it was after a really long wait. Always in the slow side of the stream.

When it got close to dark, I got a couple on Lucky Craft Pointer 100, including the largest of the day 16"

2.5 hours 9 SMB 12-16"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

11/15/08 Attempted Float and Fly

I hit the water today with the intention of seeing some floats dunk. The last couple days had seen steady drizzle, and a cold front was coming in with temps dropping towards night. Grabbed the float and fly rod along with my box of jerkbaits and headed off for some late fall action. The temps were in the low 40's and the air got colder after the rain cleared up.

I arrived at a winter hole I knew held fish this time of year. Started out working a spinnerbait and jerkbaits. No luck until I started drifting a weightless 5" Superfluke. It proved to be the ticket, the bait fluttered down slowly. I got 6 in that winter hole in 3 hours including a couple 15-16". No sniff on the Float and Fly.

Was pretty much happy and ready to head out when I decided to investigate upstream. Found more fish at the top of a riffle in a large rip-rap filled eddie. After 3 12-13" and missing a bunch of dinks, I turned around.

I saw a fish spook out of the shallows in a pool I had walked through without fishing before. On my first cast, the line jumped. I whiffed. Hmmm. In the next 30 minutes, I got bit on nearly every cast landing 8 fish from 13-16.5"s. These fish were supposed to be down in that wintering hole. Guess the water being so low enabled them to stay longer. I did also spot a series of undercut banks for them to dissappear under should they need protection.

Headed back down and nabbed another 15" and 16" on the Superfluke, before heading home. Lots of good medium sized fish, no real dinks in the bunch. They were pretty much smashing the bait. There was no telling how big of a monster would appear on the other end. For 45 degree water, this was a feeding frenzy.

This was a lot of fun. Smallie fishing had gotten into a rut in the creeks for me. The change in temps and weather provided a very nice change from chucking topwaters.

5 hours 19 SMB(16.5, 2 16", 4 15-15.75")

Sunday, November 9, 2008

INSA accomplishments

Part of the reason for this blog is to record what happens each year. Fishing stuff can be so hard to remember. My memory is going a little south and I do get out to fish more than most, so it helps keep track.

Some of the things Indiana Smallmouth Alliance has done this year.

We launched our own forum as a means to promote smallmouth conservation in Indiana, helped out with the White River Cleanup in Muncie, IN, Completed a flood damage survey of Big Walnut Creek for Putnam county, placed special DNR regulation signs on Blue River and Sugar Creek, helped teach kids to fish at the DNR pond at the State Fair, increased our membership almost 100%, Cleaned up section of Deer Creek, ran a kayak rigging session as well as a buzzbait pour.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hunting Indiana for Huge Brown Smallmouth Bass

Indiana has more to offer than meets the eye when it comes to river fishing. Dozens of rivers and creeks that stretch the length and width of the Hoosier state. Like fine wines they all have their sweet, savory, sour, and sometimes intoxicating qualities.

If an angler starts to sample in the smallmouth bass fishing throughout the state, he may find many many opportunities to sample that ferocious bronze bass of river and stream, the smallmouth bass! Why fish for smallmouth? Their aggressiveness and fight are legendary as their finickiness. Smashing large topwater lures with reckless aggression one day, shunning the tinniest offering the next. Therein lies the sport in the hunt. One day reaction time is called for, the next endurance, patience, always testing the angler's observation skills, timing, presentation skills, and even luck.

We have Smallmouth in most all Indiana ditches, creeks, and rivers. Few know it takes a smallmouth 10-12 years to reach 20" length. Unfortunately, smallmouth bass rarely live long enough to grow so large. Floods, angler harvest, loss of habitat, disease, and pollution are all impediments to fish survival. Such fish are one in 500 or 1000 depending on the body of water and should be treated as too rare a treasure to be caught just once.

In growing so large, these fish have obviously developed a system of avoiding us! Clear water smallmouth bass can be very spooky. Long gone as anglers footsteps approach, unlikely to bite. When water is clear and skies are sunny, often the larger bass feed at dusk, dawn, or at nighttime. Most anglers dare not wade a creek at dark, but that is often when the monster comes out to feed on unwary shad or roaming crayfish. When their lateral line can sense the vibrations of injured prey and the moon's light outlines food's dying struggles. Likewise, another time to land large river bass is when the river water level is up and the fish are pushed out of their cover by fast currents, or seek bait fish clinging to micro eddies along the shore for an easy snack.

These large fish survive, often right under our very noses, clinging under an undercut rootwad, wedged under a rock, in tangles of the largest logjams. These hiding places allow the fish to survive from year to year and often totally avoid the novice angler. That is just where an angler must go to catch them down in the dankest, snaggiest, darkest lure trap to pull out the larger fish.

Water conservation groups such as Friends of Sugar Creek and the Indiana Smallmouth Alliance need your help to keep Indiana's streams clean and healthy. Indiana's number #1 pollutant is silt. Silt fills in the hiding places for invertebrates and fishes severly cutting back the potential to hold life. Often the culprit are eroded banks where tree and plant buffer strips have been removed by land owners. Deeper holes start to fill in after floods depriving fish places to hide from predators.

How can we help? Practicing catch and release of riverine basses, educating about good land practices near our waterways, reporting poachers, donating time and money to help preserve our streams for future generations.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday night wade for creek smallmouth bass

In Indiana the second half of this year we have had very little rainfall. The polar opposite of the record floods of the century we got early this year. For basically the last two or three months the fishing has been a crazy dusk bite.

This pattern has gotten worse and more predictable the last month and a half. The algae has died off and the water is very clear in many of the creeks while we've had few cloudy days. Beaver dams and leaves are everywhere making the fishing challenging. To top it off, all but the last couple hours of the day have proven fruitful. I have observed this pattern on a dozen different creeks, thrown finesse as well as topwaters, jerkbaits and cranks.

Fish are clearly hiding during the day. They find some undercut banks, wedge under a rock, tunnel under some leaves, etc. They aren't in play to my frustration catching numbers of bigger fish.

I again found this pattern on Sunday. Hitting the water from 3pm to 6pm, I had nary a strike until I walked up on a logjammed area and started dropping a tube down in the cracks, missing a couple of fish. For some reason, I tried a white shad double willow spinnerbait. Throwing to the back of some push water adjacent to a lay down I got bit twice and failed to hookup on a nice fish. Third cast was a charm. I couldn't believe that same fish would strike three times at the spinnerbait!

The bass was 16.5" and rather slim, but a beautiful dark brown.

Many of the 'fishier' looking pools had too many floating leaves to fish, so I bypassed them and moved deeper into the jungle. Picking up a couple of dinks. I hit a spot where a large logjam used to lay, only to find a smaller laydown with leaves piled up along the front of it. SWULP! Spinnerbait hit the water, started it, THUMP! That would be a good one. The fish was bulldogging me and pulling drag towards the brush. I finally turned it and it made another great run. It felt huge. After a few moments I got the bass in and was shocked to see a bloated, fat 17" Smallmouth Bass, that looked every bit spring pregnant!

Managed a couple more hits, landing one 11" fish. It became to dark to go on, so I headed back.

6 fish in the last hour or less of the wade. None in the first two hours.

Sometimes I think it's not a hunger thing- the fish don't turn on and off. Maybe, just maybe, they are out of play under unfishable cover, cowering from predators.

Fun to catch fish on a spinnerbait basically ripping and pausing it. The bait is an achilles heel of mine.