Our winter thus far has been one that I am in love with. I know there are those of you out there that love the snow and while I don’t mind it, I certainly don’t like shoveling it or all the issues that come along with the white stuff. I also have to say that with it being warm, or at least warmer than usual, the waterways, lakes, and streams, haven’t iced over, thus allowing me to continue to fly-fish; quite frankly I have had a great few weeks. Just this past Groundhog Day I had the opportunity to walk a stretch of one of my favorite creeks. The Weather Channel told me that it was to be near 60 degrees and sunny…that was all I needed to set up a rendezvous point with Vickie; she was to pick me up at 6pm so that I could park and fish one way, downstream…but to do this on Groundhog Day was a very special treat.
I knew I had only two hours to do what would usually take me as long as four hours in the summer; when it is warm, there are fish in almost every pocket of this creek and I am a thorough fisherman and love to pull fish out of the small bathtub sized holes…thus it takes me a long time to make the run. Today would be different as I high-tailed it to the deeper holes where the fish and hopefully the big fish, would be pooled up, waiting for a meal to come floating by.
As I neared the first big hole my excitement for being out in February on a beautiful day was almost too much. I stripped out about 25 feet of line from my 5’6” TQR Cabela’s rod and made one nice cast into the middle of the pool. I could follow the yellow fly as it swung deeper into the pool; I let it settle down and started to jig it across the bottom. When the fly was within 10 feet I picked up my rod tip and accelerated the fly towards me when I saw it disappear; I snapped the rod tip upwards and felt a fish…but it was too late, I hadn’t made a connection. It was a good sign and clearly told me that the fish were looking and willing to eat.
The second hole was the best one on this stretch, long and deep…about 100 feet long and 25 or 30 feet wide, approximately 7 feet deep at its deepest point. I quietly waded into the near side and made a short cast across the pool. I could see the fly sitting on a shelf…I hopped it off and on its way down it once again disappeared. I strip set with my left hand while raising the rod tip and immediately knew I was into a very good fish. I only had about 20 feet of line out and started stripping the fish towards me when I knew by the headshakes that this wasn’t the normal 15 to 18 inch fish. The fish made a run and slashed from one side of the pool to the other and then turned right at me and it was at this point that I saw the yellow fly pop loose and float directly towards me. To say I was disappointed is an understatement…but it is better to dance and fall then never dance at all.
I moved about 10 feet down stream and tied on a new shad colored half and half fly that I tied the night before. I was interested in seeing what it looked like in the water and for sure large shad make up a big portion of the smallmouth diet…I also believe in presenting a big, slow moving meal to winter smallies. Once again I made a cross stream cast and allowed the fly to waffle its way down to the creek bottom. I made a couple hops and felt tension on the line…I snapped the rod tip up; I could feel the weight on the other end and within a few seconds could see that I had hooked another nice fish. I kept tension on the fly and decided to land the fish by hand and started moving backwards towards the shallows where I could better land the fish.
It was at this point that I knew why I tie flies, walk miles and work hard at fly fishing; the beauty of the scene and the flash of the fish combined with the weight on my small rod was a thrill that will forever be embedded within my own personal flash drive. For a 16 inch smallmouth in cool water in February this fish gave me one heck of a fight and patience ruled; I lipped the olive colored bruin, quickly measured it, took several photos and watched as it sped quickly away, back to the cool flowing water, hopefully he and I will have yet another connection, possibly on another cool Groundhogs Day, one where I truly Enjoyed the Great Outdoors.
Click here to view a video collage of photos from this adventure entitled … Southern Indiana – Ground Hog Day smallmouths