OK, it really doesn’t matter if you call them crayfish, crawdads, crawfish, mudbugs or yabbies (Australia) what does matter is that they are basically all the same creature. Sure there are some size variations and certainly color variations…but the basics are the same…oh, and the smallmouths love them! Earlier this summer I was in Missouri and fishing the Niangua River in central Missouri. I had reached a deep portion of the river and had to navigate the depths by moving close to the brush and trees that lined this portion of the river. As I carefully moved past a giant Sycamore tree who’s roots were exposed to the river…I noticed a mass movement just under the water and atop the roots; there before me was not one crayfish, not a few crayfish, but hundreds of tan crayfish. It was a sight to behold and I extensively studied the bugs as I usually do, not just for their color, but size, shape and any other factor that would help me better tie a realistic crayfish fly pattern.
Crawdads are simply a steady and basic food element for a good many freshwater fish…especially for smallies, it just seems like a crawdad will fire them up more so than any other pattern. As it turns out I spend a good amount of time tying and perfecting my patterns so that they look anatomically correct but more important…so that they swim and catch fish like they should. Such was the case on Saturday night, August 10; I had watched a video and had yet another improvement for my creation…15 minutes later I finished up what I thought would look delectable.
Sunday has a usual flow for me; church early on and then back home to do a few chores…followed by some type of fishing and on August 12 it happened to be that Jonas pulled in as I was finishing up chores. I told him to grab his fly gear and come along; in a matter of 30 minutes we were carefully walking down one of my favorite creeks in pursuit of smallies.
I did some quick explaining to Jonas to stay behind me, move carefully and keep as low as possible because the very skinny water conditions meant the fish would be easy to spook. He agreed that filming was his desire on the day, so we crept along…and I poked my crayfish creation into nook and cranny trying to draw large carnivorous fish out of their lair for a taste.
I knew it was going to be a great day when we reached the first hole and at the moment my fly hit the water a 14 inch smallie exploded on the bug; a few seconds after releasing that one I was once again hitched up with yet another solid fish. I won’t actually say that we were fishing…it would be better to describe this as hunting for fish because stealth and accuracy of the cast became all too important.
By the time we reached the first big hole I told Jonas where to sit and then directed him to go ahead and get the camera going…I stripped off a few feet and made an accurate cast against a large rock, then quickly stripped my crayfish away from the rock. It only took about a half a second and I knew I had hooked a good fish; a few quick and powerful line strips and I lipped a nice 14 inch bass. Quick on and off and once again told Jonas to fire up the camera that I usually caught a nice fish just off the next rock outcropping. I gave a few strips and then began to raise my rod tip when once again I felt the pressure of a fish…this time it didn’t feel like the usual tug; the bend of my rod quickly gave me the clue that I was into a better than usual fish. It is at this point that often fishermen get excited, panic a bit and do something out of the ordinary and lose a fish. I would have to admit that a few years back I lost my share of bigger fish due to carelessness and a case of buck fever. Not too often anymore and not on this day…a little patience and a few powerful strips of the line and I lipped a 20.5 inch smallmouth! It was a delight to land this fish, have a few photos taken with it…but more of a delight to then reach down and quietly release it back into the creek. This fish might well be 20 years old, a senior citizen so to speak and I am hopeful that one day, in the future, I or one of my boys might once again fool this old timer into hitting our fly.
To say it was a great day would be an understatement…to catch a passel of fish, a few of which were true trophies and to do so with Jonas along was a special day that I won’t soon forget. If you would like to watch the video of this fishing trip, click on the post entitled “Little Creeks and Big Smallies”.
As we neared our vehicle, Jonas was excited to reflect not just about the many fish I had caught that day…but the deer, coyote, turkeys and various other critters we had seen along our 3 hour walk. I couldn’t have agreed more; it was a special day in nature, one we shared together while Enjoying the Great Outdoors.