If you have ever fly-fished then you know that there is a level of difficulty or skill involved. For me, I have fly-fished for so long that rarely do I encounter a situation where I am challenged; oh, occasionally a big wind will come up or the water is very clear or there are many overhead obstructions…but usually it is pretty straightforward and easy. Such was not the case recently when my friend, Frank, and I ventured out to do a little smallmouth fishing.
Fall is a beautiful time to be alive and just being out fly fishing on a gorgeous October day is special; volleyball and other things don’t always leave me with lots of extra hours. This particular Sunday, found Frank and me working our way down a stretch of water that has for years, held a good number of smallies and the occasional rock bass, sunfish, etc….
As we were walking the quarter mile to the creek we were discussing flies and how good the fishing might just be…one big topic for me is pretty simple; leaves, how many will there actually are? Leaves can really mess with a flyrodder in a number of ways. It is obvious that the line itself is lying flat upon the surface…the same surface that holds hundreds of leaves. The next step is in picking up the fly or getting it out of the water without hauling along a very un-aerodynamic leaf, when that happens you either burn off the leaf or stop and take it off by hand. Lastly, if the leaves are thick enough, the big deal becomes getting the fly into the water so that a fish can partake.
When we turned the corner and got our first look at the creek…it was obvious that this was going to be a tough day. No wind, which means the leaves are everywhere across the top of the water, combined with very clear water meant the fishing would be highly technical. We both started with chartreuse and silver streamer but it only took me a few minutes to see that there were NO fish chasing. I quickly changed to a size 8 bitch creek nymph with green legs that really showed up well in the water and made it much easier to follow the fly through the gazillion leaves.
At first I was placing the fly between leaves and then allowing it to sink naturally whereby I would then strip the fly back toward me; the problem was the fish were still not chasing and collecting the fly meant bringing a lot of leaves along. So…my next step was to place the fly in an opening amidst the leaves that was as close to cover as possible and then allow the fly to dead drift; success. I started having hits and catching fish and while they weren’t big, they were fish. I was using my Cabela’s TQR rod that is only 5’6” long and this was a nice rod for the placing of a fly in and under the overhanging limbs that lined the creek.
Frank had also changed to a small rubber legged fly and was starting to hook up as well….when I scanned ahead of us and saw a good fish surface. I cranked up the little rod and sent my fly about 35 feet forward and landed the fly on top of the boil of water…gave the fly a second or two to dead drift, then a small twitch when the fly line tightened and I knew I had hooked a better fish. I gave a couple more quick catch up strips and felt that I had securely set the hook. I continued to strip the fish and fought him through the leaves and various rocks back to my feet. It was a brilliantly copper colored smallmouth of about 15 inches…and he was not too happy about being landed. I lipped my prize and Frank took a couple photos before I loosed him back into the tannic waters of this little creek.
I would like to say that the rest of the day produced more fish of this size….but I would be just saying that as the truth is we both caught fish, none were too large. The real beauty came in being out amidst the autumn glory, sharing it with a friend, as we both tried feverishly to figure out the puzzle that was before us. I did learn that on this day, with very clear water, the fish were more attracted to a passive pattern, less movement from a bug that looks very realistic; whereas I would usually strip a streamer and find fish chasing and pursuing.
If you are a fan of fishing and fall…then now is the time; it won’t be long and ice will cover our ponds and streams making it hard to near impossible to get a fly line into the water. Call up a friend or better, grab a kid and show them the beauty of southern Indiana as we all Enjoy the Great Outdoors.