I hit a second stream far west of the river I was on yesterday. Unlike river A, creek B was flowing about 2.5 times as much water. River A's visibility was a nice 18" of green white icy water. Creek B water clarity was about 6" and still brownish.
So naturally, the fishing was a bit tougher. It turned out just as rewarding.
It really helps to monitor the USGS flow gauges for all the streams you fish. Educating yourself on the effects of precipitation, thaws, and ground freezes. This will help picking the right spots to fish year round. Watch those gauges like a hawk all year. Get out and see what the water clarity is like under different conditions.
Often the best time to fish in the winter is after a snow, thaw, then quick freeze. The cold temps will cut off the water supply and clear up the water much quicker than if the air stayed warm and mud poured in from the feeders. It will still be high but not flood stages. Pick the stream that matches the ideal conditions. You can use your angler knowledge of where the highest concentration of bass are on your rivers and find the wintering holes holding fish. Doing your homework when you are wading or floating in the summer. You know the spots you always catch fish! Ask yourself: How the bass survive floods in icy cold water? Where do they go when it's cold? Where would the bass go if the river rises 3'? 6'?
One of the things I enjoy most about winter smallmouth fishing is locating fish. A very rewarding 'Aha' moment. This is where an good memory, attention to detail, or a notepad are needed. You are looking for a hole with a bend or obstruction that will divert current without causing the eddy to maelstrom and force bass to spend too much energy. It has to be deep enough the bass can be unseen to predators. Cover and food are important so they have to be able to survive there too. Often the triangle at the tip of the eddy is shelter for baitfish in high water. A good wintering hole is also good spawning grounds- no wonder there are so many bass around there!
Mike was late so I fished a high bank 5' above the slack water caused by a slight bend in the creek. Took a while, but the float finally sunk, a nice smallie struggled for a bit. I heaved him up the bank and took this shot:
Yep, that's either my war face or unsettling constipation.
A half hour later I decided to SLOWLY drag a heavy black tube though the slack. The slow water area was large, this was my method of searching for bites. 1) The tube would bump bottom helping Mr.Bass's lateral line locate it. 2) The bait would stay on bottom in Mr.Bass's face. Maybe ten cast in (10 minutes) I was dragging the tube like an inch worm along the banks roots when it felt like someone flicked their finger into the Berkley Sensation I've been using. Unmistakable. Swing. Rod loads up. Big fish runs for shore roots, surfaces, crud, I am up 5', roots and thorns everywhere. All in one motion I lift Mr.Bass like a tuna on a commercial fishing ship. Now one thing about fishing high banks in winter the bass like to head shake. A lot.
The slim bass went 18.25", had been caught before, missing a piece of upper lip. Second day in a row I caught an 18" fish missing a chunk of lip 100 miles apart. At least people are releasing nice fish to fight another day.
Mike caught up with me and we hit some other pools, we caught another 3 fish from 12-15".
BT 4 SMB (18.25,16.5",15")
MC 1 SMB
The actual fishing part of Float and Fly is adjusting the float for depth, messing with the cadence of the bobbing floating and reading the speed of the eddy current. With experience one can cut to the chase on all of the above.