I fish all kinds of water during the course of a year from great big rivers like the Manistee and Muskegon in Michigan to small ponds and lakes like those in and around southern Indiana to spring fed streams of varying size…like many of those that I fish in Missouri, but nothing, and I mean nothing, is as special as fishing small cool waters, the small, intimate streams for smallmouth, rock bass or any other of a list of fish that usually inhabit such waters. I have found a love and fortunately get to rekindle it on a regular basis.
As the title to today’s column implies, these waters are not just small, but cool and that is indeed the key, without the hundreds of small springs that flow into these various streams, we wouldn’t have the wide variety of fish…and let’s be clear, for me, the smallmouth is at the top of the list. I have written before but no fish, inch for inch or pound for pound puts up a fight as does the small mouth. If you are a fishermen then you know that we, here in Indiana, aren’t a trout state, at all! The smallmouth is the fish that not only fills the void but leaves us satisfied with our results. If you think I am kidding, then go ahead and hook a hefty 15 inch smallie in moving water and try and land the fish on a 3-weight fly rod…your entire perspective on fishing will change.
Just recently, on a Friday night I left school with all my gear in tow and in under 30 minutes had eased my truck into a parking spot that consisted of a few feet of open room at the bend of a road. As I opened the door I could hear the subtle roar of the creek, my creek…a few minutes later I slowly stripped about 20 feet from my 3 weight rod and watched as my small, silver fly waddled its way down the water, which was not only up and moving along at a very good clip, but was about half stained from the rains that had been dumped on us in the preceding days. “Perfect, this stream is absolutely perfect”, was the only thought I had as I slowly slipped towards my fist spot, a small depression in the stream with a rock about the size of a lawnmower as its guard. I made a cross stream casts and allowed the current to pull the fly into the zone, bang, a short strip set with my left hand and my first fish of the night was struggling against me and the current.
Now this little fellow was only 8 inches long but in his mind he thought he was a giant…and with respect I wetted my hands and carefully unplugged him from my hook…zip, he was off in a flash. Two more casts and I felt a solid bump, set the hook and could immediately tell that I had caught a rock bass…as these little guys hit like a freight train but then literally go dead like a ‘dead fish’. A few casts and a couple of species, once again a reason why I love to fish these small, cool waters.
I turned the corner, there before me was the most beautiful setting…a long run with riffles, white water and a hillside that was not only covered in moss, but had clear water trickling down from the heights up above. The sun was now starting to move westerly and as its rays seeped through the surrounding hills the sun lit up all that was green and wet. It was then that I noticed something moving, something that shouldn’t be there. I focused and could see that a raccoon was facing downstream and away from me. He was about chest deep in the stream. As I moved closer I could see that he was using his front feet to gouge around and poke in and under the rocks that were strewn throughout. At one point he obviously loosened a crayfish and made a quick hop, collected his treasure…in what appeared to be one gulp he consumed the unfortunate mud-puppy. It was about at that moment that he casually turned, looked in my direction…the look on his face was priceless, he bolted up and out of the stream, moved about 50 feet and dove head first into a hole.
The next spot was one that I had caught fish at for many years; a stream enters the main branch from the left (west) and the confluence of the two, one big and the other small, is a holding point for all sizes of fish, both big and small. I had tied on a black wooly with a long tail and was making cast into the stream just above this point, by allowing the black wooly to drift freely it would appear to the fish as a hapless leech that had been washed downstream, at least that was my hope. The first drift produced a chunky little 10 inch smallie that came flying up and out of the water…”Don’t tell him he isn’t a trout”, I thought to myself. The next few drifts all worked and I caught a couple more smallmouth to go along with a few rock bass. This was indeed the perfect example of a small stream being infused with cool spring water…and as they say, “If you build it, they will come”!
I looked down at my watch, it was 5pm sharp. I told Vickie that I would be at our certain pick up spot at 5:15…so off I went. As I marched out I had to pass by a couple of very likely spots but in the back of my mind I thought that in the not too distant future I would be back to once again search the cool, clear water for our own native game fish species. What a truly special night I had and one that only cements my love of nature as I Enjoy the Great Outdoors.