It’s been unseasonably cold around here lately, a lot more like fall than the middle of summer. It’s not that I’m averse to fishing in the cold (searching for posts that mention “cold” on this blog will return a lot of results) but freezing at the end of July just seems wrong.
It wasn’t so bad on Thursday evening; I went out and did some exploring after work. The green mini parked along some country road, its driver lost somewhere in the woods and water nearby; that’s an image that repeats itself a few days a week.

My destination was a small creek, but when I hiked down to the water I saw a nice looking set of riffles in the main river and decided to fish it. I couldn’t believe I didn’t get any hits; it was very fishy water.
Sometimes I wonder if spinning gear would be a better choice. If only I could cast 1/16oz jigs and #12 soft hackle flies on the same rig…
The rocky riffles defeated me, so I waded up the creek. Suddenly I heard somebody coming, so I quickly and quietly waded into a culvert. I didn’t know if they were the property owner coming to get me off their property; I didn’t exactly hide but I didn’t announce my presence either.

I was examining the skinny water when I heard the sounds of somebody splashing through the water coming toward me, through the culvert. It was another fisherman, wearing neoprene waders but without a rod. I must have had a perplexed look on my face, because he said “Oh, I’m just checking my minnow trap.”
As he splashed upstream past me, it occured to me this water probably wouldn’t give up any fish. He checked his trap, found one “crawdad,” and then headed back to the main river. He said there were creek chubs a quarter mile upstream, but that was the only fish he’d seen there.
I headed upstream, trying to get past the water he’d waded through, but the stream got narrower and narrower. I was almost certainly on private property now, and I thought I heard people in the woods. It was pretty but I decided to leave.
My next stop was much more successful: I pulled 4 smallies and 1 rock bass out of a familiar set of riffles. One smallmouth in particular put a very nice bend in my rod. I was sure it was a monster, maybe even another redhorse.
Turns out, it was just a smallie. A nice smallie that took a very small fly.

Smallmouth bass are such great fish. As much as I love catching other fish, they might be my favorite. They’re not terribly difficult to catch, they’ll hit most anything, and they put up a great fight. One of these days I’ll have to cook one up– under legal conditions of course– and see if they’re as great on the grill as they are in the water.
I saw flashes of redhorse in the water, but I wasn’t able to generate any interest in my flies. I vowed to tie some backstabbers when I got home.

•••

Saturday morning I woke up early to either record some saxophone tracks for a film score of a friend or go fishing. I checked my email and didn’t see any files, so I hit the road. I was headed to one of my favorite places; a top-secret spring-fed stream in a classified location. I knew I’d have an hour to fish before I had to leave to help my brother-in-law move; once I got there I quickly suited up and disappeared into the woods.

I’d fished this stream a few times and could usually see the fish. I knew that if I fished downstream, I’d spook them. I also knew there were only a few places where they stacked up, and the best one was impossible to fish from upstream.

So I bushwhacked through the woods, and was surprised how open it was inside; they seemed so dense from the road.

Soon I was downstream of my quarry. I assembled my rod, tied on a lightly weighted red and brown wooly bugger, and quietly slid into the shallow water. The combination of a 60 degree air temperature and 40 degree water was shockingly cold.

The sun was rising through the trees, and its rays played through the fog and hit the water in a beautiful way. I tried to capture it on film, but the pictures are no substitute for being there.

As carefully and quietly as I could, I used whatever method necessary to get my fly into the calm water upstream. I could sort of cast, if I was careful to avoid the branches all around me; even better was lightly roll-casting.

I let my fly slowly sink into the water before I stripped it back. I knew from watching these fish in the past that a heavily-weighted or bead-head fly plopping into the water would send them scurrying; I tied this fly specifically for this spot. It hit the water with a small smack and sank quietly.

Pretty soon I had a fish on! A very small creek chub. I didn’t know there were creek chubs in there, but was happy to brush off the skunk. A fish is a fish in my book.

In the clear water I saw many more small fish chasing my fly, apparently oblivious to my wading boots and green waders motionless in the water.

A few casts later and I felt something– the tiniest take- and suddenly had a fish on. I knew what it was. My goal that morning was to catch a brook trout, and somehow I managed to do it!
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What a pretty fish. Someday it would be cool to catch a much larger brookie, but for now I’m happy catching these little ones. In my experience on this stream, a 7-incher like that one is a fairly good fish.
Trying a different tactic, I tied on a foam hopper. As soon as the fly hit the water after an uncharacteristically good cast, the surface erupted with a huge splash as a fish either missed or refused my fly. I swore and cast again, but didn’t get a second chance.
It’s nice to know there are fish where I think there are fish, even if I can’t catch them.

Once again I was in a culvert. I knew there were fish feeding throughout, but I didn’t get any to take my flies. The water was up a few inches and slightly stained due to the recent rain; I’ll use that as my excuse.
When it was time I emerged from the water, hopped in my car, and turned up the foot heater. My numb toes didn’t get warm until hours later.


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