There’s a saying that “It doesn’t rain on fish, just fishermen.”
I found that to be entirely true this weekend. I’ve never been so soaked while fishing, even counting a few times where I more or less fell in the river.
On Saturday I made a bee-line to the Thornapple River, but as soon as I saw the chocolate-milk-like water I knew it was going to be tough. I even brought my spinning rod and crankbaits, hoping that the extra movement could entice some fish.
I hopped in the car and drove to another river, one that I know is slow to muddy. When I arrived and saw the low, crystal-clear water, I knew I’d made the right choice. I grabbed my fly rod and entered the cold water.
There were fish all over the place– which was good– but there were more weeds than I’d ever seen in my life– which was bad. These weren’t just little annoying weeds, these were giant long green tentacles that constantly wrapped around my legs and my flies. The fishing was tough!
Upstream, there was activity on the surface every so often. It looked like baitfish being chased on the surface, perhaps pursued by large predators.
Whatever they were, for the most part they completely ignored my flies. I managed a couple smallies– including my first smallmouth bass on topwater, if you consider a foam hopper topwater– a shiner, and a stray bluegill that is not in the fridge.
Although I fished with streamers and other subsurface flies, it was tough to keep them out of the weeds. When I switched to topwater and high-floating muddler minnows, things got less frustrating.
That shiner put up quite a fight; it smashed into my muddler minnow as soon as it hit the water. I wondered if it had been shiners causing all the ruckus. I made a note to learn more about them.
The next day it was dark and rainy but I went out anyway.
I got back to the river– the one that wasn’t muddy– and started fishing a different stretch.
I didn’t see a single fish, didn’t feel a single fish, and probably pulled 20 pounds of weeds out of the water. As I fished the rain picked up, and soon my thin jacket was soaked through.
I got in the car and went in search of a different spot. Eventually I made my way to a bridge downstream, entered the water, and kept fishing.
By this point water was dripping down my hat like a rain gutter; my fingers were prunes, my jacket was soaked. But I was determined.
Finally, under a bridge in a deep rocky spot, I pulled a chunky little smallmouth bass out of the water. Another win for the diminutive backstabber fly.
The water in this area was even shallower, so I tied on my white spinner-bugger and fished it downstream. The current kept it near the surface and out of the weeds, and the wildly spinning blade worked its magic.
Soon I had another smallie and then a small rock bass to hand. Although everybody says to use natural colors in clear water, the all-white spinner-bugger seemed to do the trick. It’s a pain in the ass to cast, but it sure does catch fish. Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t just get long ultra-light spinning rod if I want to toss tiny spinners…
When I got back to the car I stripped off most of my soaking wet clothes, put my hat on top of the heat vent, and drove off. Now that I was in the car, the downpour stopped and the skies started to clear up.