Low Water Smallmouth On Sugar Creek

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CFS is cubic feet per second and on Saturday, July 30th Frank Terkhorn and I headed north to Sugar Creek where the CFS was running at a measly 98; truth is it was the lowest flow and water level we had ever fished ‘the creek’ and I was eager to see how it would all turn out.

I dropped Frank off at the new Sugar Creek access that is south and west of Crawfordsville about 7 miles, told him I’d see him at 3pm at Deer Run and pulled away. My mind immediately shifted gears to the puzzle that was before me, not only was the water low, it was clear and that meant that on this day I would be using a new rod/system that I had just put together…it is a 7 weight that is 10 foot long and with a brand new floating line from Rio, my hope was to be able to reach out and punch my fly into distant places without being seen by the ever-spooky and intelligent smallmouth bass.

The fish and the water they inhabit will tell you what is going on and what fly will work…if you take the time to watch and look for signs. On this day I felt that the smallies would be up in the shallows, where the water would warm earlier, looking for baitfish to ‘bust’ and feed on. As I shoved off and made a few strokes with my oars I heard a splash behind me, I turned quick enough to see that indeed a fish had just smashed up against the shore…you could see the small ‘skip-jack’ minnows going in and out of the water, trying desperately to get away from the predator that was on their tail.
low water smallmouth on Sugar CreekThis sight confirmed the fly, a self-tied silver shad type in size 4, that was already tied onto ten pound tippet; I reached down and unbuttoned the fly from the first eyelet of my new Winston rod. I stripped out the first 40 feet of yellow floating line that would act to carry my fly deep into pools of water that hopefully would be lined by hungry smallmouth looking to add to their length and girth prior to the upcoming cool down. I made one accurate cast in the direction of the prior explosion and felt a tug, a quick strip set told me that I had missed a fish…without hesitation I picked up the line, gave one sharp haul on the line and placed the fly just past the point of contact. Strip, strip, strip, wait…and right on cue I felt a tug and this time successfully strip set the line; I was hooked up with not only my first fish of the day but the fist fish with my new rig. As I retrieved a chunky 13 inch smallmouth I wondered how many more fish I might land with this very rod…only time will tell but my hopes were lots of fish and even more species of fish.

It was at about that moment that I heard a ruckus behind me and turned to see about 40-50 kayakers entering the water, all at the same time and this convoy was headed directly at me. It was Saturday and like me these folks would be enjoying the day on Sugar Creek. I turned my attention back to the ‘creek’ and my mind started to scan the water ahead of me for the next likely holding spot. I picked out a piece of water that had shade over it and a boulder that stood up about a foot out of the water, truth is that this boulder wouldn’t have normally been seen but due to the low water and clarity it was there…the rock shouted at me, “big fish holding right behind me”. I made a snap roll cast, picked up my line and placed my fly just past the landing point…quickly made an upstream mend to hold the fly in place and started to lift my rod to pull the fly into what I call the ‘death-zone’, the spot where smallies lie in wait to ambush unsuspecting baitfish that happen to amble by. BANG-my left hand reacted before my mind had actually processed what just happened; I was entangled with the best fish of the day, a female that would stretch out just over 16 inches. Even in this sparse current it was work to bring in my trophy and I told myself to use the length of my new rod to apply pressure as I moved the rod horizontally over the stream…strip, strip, strip and in came the fish which I was able to lip and bring into the tube with me. What a spectacular fish, it was barred with dark green vertical stripes set on a backdrop of a lighter, almost lime green shading. Its head was rounded and as they say, “Its shoulders were broad”.


This was the second of what would be about 25 nice fish over the next four hours but the truth was that within five minutes my day had been made. I had solved the puzzle quickly and as I moved further downstream I maneuvered my fly/line into various holding areas, spots that my mind was trained to see. The ‘creek’ was good to me and even with low, clear water and a large number of spectators that were at times, up close and personal, the fishing was what I have come to expect from what I continue to deem the best stream in Indiana.

I hope you enjoyed this article and the video and, if you’re in the area, I urge you to take a trip down Sugar Creek sometime and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.

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