I cannot remember the last time water conditions have been this good this late in the summer. All the local rivers and streams are at a good level creating some excellent fishing opportunities in the area with little or no pressure from other angles on most waters. I had a chance to slip away the other evening for a couple hours of smallmouth bass fishing and even though the conditions were not as good as I would have liked. I knew the clear skies and clear water would make the fish spooky and challenging to catch but I could not think of a better way to spend the evening after mowing the grass.
I went to a secluded section of a local stream not far from home with my Labrador who has been feeling a bit neglected with all the attention I have been giving to my young pointer during the past few weeks as we get ready for the upcoming bird hunting season. She loves to go fishing with me and will wait patiently by my side until I catch a fish then she thinks it is her job to help me land it.
The fishing was difficult at first as I tried to find something that the fish would take; I was using my favorite minnow imitations casting to likely pockets among the boulders in the long runs and pools that make up this section of river with no luck. I got to a long pool where I could see several nice bass holding on the bottom casually feeding in the clear water.
My cast landed gently but sent the small school running for cover as the splash spooked the fish and I realized I was going to have to change tactics for these spooky fish. I tied on a small grasshopper imitation with a small nymph dropped of the back. This combination worked well for the smaller bass as I cast against the far bank beneath some tall grass on a steep bank and hooked into a few smaller fish that were used to eating hoppers that were unlucky enough to land on the water but even this smaller fly sent the larger fish scurrying for cover. Something had to work for the larger fish I could see in the pool and I was determined to catch one.
I decided to try a large hellgrammite imitation, a fly with a lot of movement that represented a substantial meal for the fish. This fly still spooked the bass when it hit the water but instead of retrieving it, I just let it sink to the bottom of the pool where I could see it on the rocks that lined the bottom of the slow water.
I had to let it sit for a minute or two but the fish would come back to investigate, when a fish would get close to it I would give it a little twitch and watched as a fish engulfed it as it fell back to the bottom. I was too slow on the first couple fish but figured out what I would have to do to if I wanted to catch a few bass.
The next fish was not so lucky, I snuck up the bank until I located another small pod of smallmouth and cast above them so the fly would sink to their level by the time it reached them. Once again, they scattered when the fly hit the water but slowly filtered back to investigate what the big black bug that disturbed their peace was. When a nice bass got within a foot or two I just barely nudged the fly causing it to crawl a couple inches along the bottom, this got the attention of the fish and he swam over to investigate. I twitched it again, the bass tipped down, and I could see him open his mouth and inhale the fly, this time I timed it right and was hooked into a hard charging smallmouth of about 14 inches. I figured out what it was going to take to catch these fish that day, they were tough but not impossible to catch.
I made another cast to a group of good fish holding behind a large boulder in the long slow pool. Same as before I let it sink to the bottom and gave it a couple twitches. But this time I got the attention of several bass and just when they got aggressive trying to intercept the bait a larger bass that I had not seen came flying out from behind the rock and nailed the fly. I guess he didn't want to be out competed for the large meal and I was hooked into an 18-inch beauty, strong and fit in the cool water he took line from the reel as he jumped repeatedly in the once calm water attempting to throw the hook.
After a minute or so, the fish succumbed to the pressure and I landed the bass while Ursa came in to lend a paw, I held the bass for the dog to inspect and after she gave it a lick, I released the fish for another day.
I caught a couple more small fish but I was happy, just figuring out the pattern for the day was gratifying and trying different tactics and presentations is part of the game, if the fish are there they can be caught it is just that some days you have to work harder to catch the ones you do. It is not always about the quantity of fish but just the experience and the fact that you were able to fool one or two quality fish that can make all the difference.