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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A nice cat on a lure

I caught this shovelhead today at 1pm. Yep right in the middle of a blazing 90 degree day. And the weird part was I lost another at least as big ten minutes later. Plus three decent sized smallmouth. So here's the scoop. They were all in like two or three feet of water. Two or three very fast feet of water in a sluice like four feet across and twenty feet long. . There was no way you could stand up in it as fast as it was going. My guess is the fast water had plenty of oxygen and food and the hot weather has their metabolism revved up. But who knows? It's all part of the mystery that keeps us going back. I tried most of the night a couple days ago to catch a shovelhead and couldn't catch one with dynamite then go out under a blazing mid day sun today and hook two. As Forrest Gump say's It's like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get...

Monday, August 25, 2014

The late shift...

It was late. I was going to have to hustle to get where I needed to be by dark. I quickly unloaded the yak and drug it to the waters edge. Threw in a couple rods, tackle and a bit of food and shoved off. It was now obvious I was too late but it was a quiet stretch of river I knew well so I set off upstream. It was beautiful watching night fall on the river. A nighthawk zoomed up and down the river picking insects out of the darkening sky. It was the first of several cool birds I'd see on this trip. Unfortunately like the others I saw it while paddling with the camera stowed away. Soon I was paddling in darkness, listening to the night sounds along the river. This is something I'm going to have to do more of, it was a great experience.
 The fishing at night was slow. Real slow. I was surprised after all the heat we have had. I managed one smallmouth and one stripey fish. I'd missed the river at night though and it was nice to be out there listening to the water and watching bats hunt against the sky.

Towards daylight though Things began to pick up. First I caught a channel and a couple saugeye on a grub. Then a few small bass,

As the sky brightened the smallmouth began to bite better. I caught most on a coyote hair jig in very fast water.

Once the sun was up things slowed again and I think the last bass hit about 9:30 even though I fished till 11. I slipped the yak back in the river and began to float downstream to the truck. The first cool bird I saw was a green heron. It flushed as soon as it spied me and flew away. Green heron's are brothers to fishermen. They drop tiny twigs or insects on the water's surface to lure in fish! I've never seen this only read about it but it's on my bucket list of wildlife behavior to see someday. The next bird was a real treat. Downstream I could see a cormorant. Yep the dinosaur looking fishing bird so hated by Lake Eire anglers. This guy swam ahead of the yak for a long time then turned and swam up within thirty feet or so giving me the best look I've ever had at one before spooking and splattering across the water in their clumsy take-off run. It was a great trip.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The lengths we will go to...

New Zealands's Stuff magazine reports that a spurned New Zealand woman sold the secret locations to her ex-boyfriend's favorite fishing spots online, netting $3,000, which she then spent on herself.

One of the things that the internet age has brought us is a brand new sport: spot hacking. I know I spend half the winter at it when the weather is just too bad to go out and actually fish. I can think of a few great successes. Once a few years ago a fellow posted a photo of himself and a 20 inch smallmouth bass. In the background was a nondescript photo of a section of riverbank with nothing notable in the background. Nothing that is except for a electrical tower and a set of wires crossing the river. And under his name he had posted his hometown, a Chris from Columbus sort of throw away tag line.. So I first brought that up on Google maps. Now his town wasn't on a river but it was five or six miles away from a good smallmouth river. So I then zoomed in on the river about ten miles downstream. Really tight, as close as Google would let me zoom. And then began crawling the mouse slowly upstream. A few minutes later Voila! Towers and wires crossing the river. The next day I drove out to test my theory. I parked the truck, grabbed my rod and headed over the bank to the river. And there he was, standing there fishing his hotspot! Sometimes it's just that easy.

Sometimes it's harder of course. You have to match bits of different photos and try to name unnamed features. Tying to match a piece of smokestack sticking above the trees with photos of power plants in the area you find on Google images. Or take tiny snipits of text from two or three different posts and add them together. It can become a sport all unto it's own. And I'm not alone, I know at least six or seven guys that I know personally that practice the art to varying degrees. And of course these are the guys you have to watch out for. Never con a con man as the saying goes and never trust these fellows fishing reports. Oh they caught those big fish for sure. That's a thing of honor.  But where they said or implied? Probably not. If I say what river I caught it in then it was that river. After all my favorite two rivers are well over a hundred miles long each so I don't have to worry about that. But give you details? Never. And every photo is checked for landmarks in the background before it's posted. Not everyone does this. I have a friend who last year posted some dandy fish he caught mid winter. But the river he said online was an hours drive from the river he caught them in...Caveat Emptor

And todays electronic fishing world has brought us the photoshopped trophy pic. You've seen them, the ones where the background is all blurred or just painted over with a layer of white. Sometimes it's even done in an artful manner. I once went fishing early one morning with a good friend. It was a picture perfect morning, mist rising, the sun just kissing the treetops. And he caught a huge fish, a trophy bass. Well back at home on the computer in the background of the photo was an obvious landmark. Anyone that lived within a dozen miles would know instantly where we were. A little bit of photoshopped mist and it became a calendar quality shot. Minus the landmark of course.

Then there is the opposite of the paranoid fishing zealot. The guy that makes us all cringe with fear when he posts. The fishing neophyte that lucked out and hit a good spot on a good day and managed to catch a few quality fish. Now he doesn't do that very often so he has to share his good fortune with the world. "Yeah you park behind Larry's used appliances and follow the path to the river. It's a super spot!" And he's just posted it on a website that gets thousands of views every week. My biggest fear in life is one of these jokers is going to unwittingly stumble on one of my most secret spots. It's enough to keep you up nights and make you shudder on a warm day. If you want the guys who are good fishermen to think your a good fisherman for God's sake don't go posting directions to where you caught that hawg.

The best use a serious fisherman can make of the internet though is to find spots on his own. Google maps and sites like it have made it possible to look at more water in a day sitting at home than you could in a lifetime on your feet. My favorite site is  Here besides the usual map and satellite views you can also get a topo map. I'd hate to add up all the time I've spent doing this. If it's in southwestern Ohio and it's flowing water I've looked at it at least once. Some spots dozens of times before I finally go there in person. So you zoom in close and begin slowly working your way up the river, noting the rock bars, the riffles, the bend pools. Now of course maybe only half of these will pan out in the real world. At least at first till you gain some experience at this sort of thing. But even half is way better than just going out blind. After all the old saying 90% of the fish are in 10% of the water is gospel truth.

But then it possible to turn that on it's head too. Me, I'd rather catch one 19 or 20 inch smallmouth than a hundred smaller ones. It's what I live for. I'm not after the 90%.  And let's face it, a really big 20 inch smallmouth is something like one tenth of one percent of the total population in a river around here. It takes well over a decade, sometimes more like two for a fish to grow to that size. So back we go to those mapping sites. Now, instead of obvious classic spots I'm looking for that out of the way not so obvious spot that might hold just a few fish. But hey look, it's away from any good spot to park so there's little pressure. And it's not so fishy that some guy on a float trip is going to beach his yak or canoe and get out and fish. It's pretty ordinary except that it gives the few fish there that magical thing they can't get anywhere else. Time.

All of this also takes time as well. Lot's of it. You can spend a lifetime developing a library of tried and true hotspots. And an even bigger list of hoped for hotspots you just haven't tried yet. But will. Just as soon as you get time.  But to quote one of my favorite writers:

"Angling is extremely time consuming. That's sort of the whole point." - Thomas McGuane

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

20 inch Little Miami River smallmouth

So I got off work and it's raining cats and dogs. So I head home instead of to that one river where I've been catching fish lately. I get home and guess what? It hasn't rained a drop. So I head out to that other river that's closer to my house. For a week or so I've been thinking about how this place on this river has the same thing going on as this other place on this other river.
Which is to say fast relatively deep water rushing over a bunch of big rocks. My father and grandfather used to fish here years ago for channel catfish for that very same reason. Current and rocks. So I start off throwing what Ive been catching fish on. The infamous smoke metalflake grub. And I fish the heck out of it. Then thump and a pretty smallmouth jumps and spits out my grub. Ok this place has potential. And so I fish...................maybe an hour with no strikes. I begin to experiment with my favorite soft plastics. A chartreuse metalflake grub, A motoroil with red flake grub. Then a river rock swimbait, Then a curly shad. No dice. I'm feeling the curly shad is too buoyant and not getting down in the fast water even with a quarter ounce head. Rather than retie I bite about a half inch off the curly shad. Now I have no idea if that had anything to do with it or it was just in the right place at the right time but Wham! The drags purring nicely. Then the fish rolls up. It's funny but every now and again you get a glimpse of a fish and know what it is. Well it was obvious this was a fish in 20 inch class. So I'm pretty nervous. But no drama no problems I lip it and measure it. 20.25! It was skinny though, I think the smallie I caught last week weighed more even though it was at least an inch shorter. But I could care less. I've caught at least one 20 for four years in a row but every time it's been in September and October. I was pretty positive the streak was going to end this year. We are moving (closer to my favorite spot ) and it's looking like maybe that will be in September or October. In the middle of big smallmouth time. I try real hard not to be a keep score kind of fisherman. Most trips I can only give you a general number of fish caught. I lose count on purpose because it's not about how many or how big. But I've got to admit that deep down the streak means an awful lot to me. So I'm pretty thrilled with this fish..

Thursday, July 24, 2014


Some things you keep to yourself. Halcyon is one of those places. You will never get a shot up or down the river. Just blue sky or maybe a bit of foliage. It's really more of a spot than a place really. A writhing seam of current too swift to stand up in normal flows. You don't wade, or fish upstream or downstream. Instead you stand on the bank and make short casts as the seam runs by from right to left. So under that swift water is a bed of rocks anywhere from fist sized up to two or three feet across. Over top of these stones runs chest deep water. Very fast water. The fish are stuck to the boulders and I think are mostly unfished. The trick is to use stuff you would never use for stream smallmouth to get down to the fish. I pretty much stick to 3/8 ounce jigheads and would rather throw 1/2 ouncers than 1/4's here. You make a 30 foot cast slightly upstream wait for about two seconds then tighten up to the jig and let it sweep down without reeling till it is below you. Then crank it in and repeat. After a while you develop a kind of feel for what your jig is doing. That is after you lose a few zillion jigheads. What you want is your jig floating downstream with your grub or swimbait working in the fast current and sweeping just above that rocky bottom. So all a smallie has to do is move a few inches out of it's pocket to take it. These fish are some of the highlights of the last two evenings fishing. When your on a bit of a run you have to ride it and see where it takes you sometimes...

Friday, July 18, 2014

wild and wet

So it's cloudy, cool, raining on and off softly. Perfect weather to catch some smallmouth. Or so I thought. Well fast forward three hours. I'm wet, really wet. Starting to feel a bit cold. And how many strikes have I had? Exactly zero. But I did land a smallmouth. I hook a line. I begin to pull it in hand over hand to get it out of the river and it begins to pull back. It's an 11 or 12 inch smallmouth with a tube halfway down it's throat and 35 feet of line trailing behind it. It looked and acted in great shape when I released it.
So anyways I've thrown minnow plugs, crankbaits, swimbaits, grubs, skirted jigs, pretty much the whole kitchen sink at them and Zippo. Nada. It's getting along towards evening and there is this one last hole. It's about a cast and a half across and twice that long. And the current roars in and roars out. And just for good measure there is all kinds of concrete rubble and boulders in it. I mean who couldn't catch a smallmouth in a place like that on an evening like this? Me. So sometimes when smallmouth have lockjaw I've found I can still catch a few by throwing as close as I can to big boulders in fast current. Even better is bouncing my lure off them. So I tried that. A few casts in and I throw right up against this big chunk of concrete rubble. My swimbait sinks a second or two then Thump! I set the hook and it's no smallmouth. I've got a medium action rod and 8lb pound test. Both of which are right at the breaking point as line slowly but powerfully pulls off the reel. This fish just slowly circles the hole as my rod is bent into a c shape. My arm is really starting to get tired. The fish then swims upstream thru the boulders into the run. I'm wading in like waist deep trying to clear the rock as it just slowly kind of goes wherever it wants. And then circles. My arm is really tired now. Then the fish swims back upstream to where the water is pouring over a slab of concrete that's acting like a 6 foot long lowhead in the riffle. Well it swims right up under it!. I guess like a lowhead the water going over had carved out a hole. So there I am with my line going right up under this big slab in the middle of a rushing deep run. And I can feel the fish just kind of throbbing on the line. So I wade closer and it's getting deeper. And closer and now I'm like mid chest. I'm on tiptoes inching towards this rock the rod up over my head and fast approaching neck deep. When it swims back out and begins to circle around me. I try to wallow out between it and the rock but it's too deep. It starts back up there and I remember reading a story about a guy fighting a giant trout that said you pull in the direction you don't want the fish to go so it will pull the other way. So I put the rod over as far as I can towards the rock and pull the fish towards the rock. Sure enough the fish lumbers away downstream towards the main hole. I follow as best I can. Now the problem is that below this hole is like 100 yards of six inch deep riffle. If the fish gives up and goes down the riffle there is no way I'll be able to keep it on. And the fish (and me) is looking tired. But we are both in the middle of this pool and no where to land the fish. Finally it's pretty whipped and right there. I grab it's jaw in waist deep water. Which of course gives it new life and me less skin on my hand but I hold on and wade ashore. After a few pics I find a quiet backwater to release it in. It lays there wore out but working it's gills and looking okay. After all it's a shovelhead and tough as nails so it will make it. Me I'm not so sure about. I set down half out of the water like two feet from the fish. After a minute or two it slowly swims back into the pool. I set a while longer. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Back in Action...

Wow what a beautiful day. I'd take about 300 days a year of this weather! And I got the stitches our of my cut hand. So I did what anybody would have done and went from doctors office to the river. The river was a bit off color but a great level. I caught my fish on a chartreuse metalflake grub and a chartreuse with a black back curly shad. In three hours I only caught five fish but they were really nice on average. I fished a swift riffle that didn't have much of a hole below it, maybe chest deep. The hole was more of a long deep run as the current was pretty fast in it. I caught three or four smallmouth right up against the riffle among some jumbled up big rocks and two saugeye which were down in the swiftest part of the run. Both saugs were like twins and right at the Fish Ohio qualifying length of 21 inches. Two of the smallies were nice one a bit over 16 and one 17+. I also lost a nice fish right in the same place I caught the two better smb's but I never saw it. The other SMB's were pretty small. All in all a perfect day, I'm gonna miss this