I must say that I have never tried teaching an old dog new tricks; what I hear is that it is tough to do. I have always had greater success teaching those new tricks to a puppy…in fact over the years I have received a bunch of phone calls wanting me to take an older bird dog. There is no bigger flag than a bird dog that someone wants to get rid of, kind of like that gal that has a ‘great personality’? This, however, is a fishing story…seems like this past weekend I was the old dog and my new trick wound up landing me a pair of very nice smallmouth bass.
I have read that somewhere around 90 to 95% of all fish feeding takes place under the surface of the water. In moving water I think this number is closer to the 95% figure…all you have to do is take some time and watch their activity, they move and chase, but rarely do they surface. It is no secret that I am a wet fly fisherman…in any given year I fish about 99% of the time under the surface. Recently I read a nice piece on smallmouth bass and top water fishing; it was very well written and even had a great video of how to tie a simple beetle pattern that the author said really worked. It looked attractive and the simple part got me….so, I jumped on my vice and tied a black and a green bug, stuck them on my fly patch and decided that the next day out I would give this top water stuff a serious try (usually I am too impatient and if I don’t catch many fish quickly I relent).
Busy is a certain description of my time; seems like volleyball season has put a serious interruption on my days fishing. The girls and I had a car wash on Sept. 7 to buy some new equipment and upon completion I made a quick jaunt to one of my favorite streams, 3 weight rod in hand…along with a nice, new, green beetle. The first pool I came to was encouraging with several takes and a couple of smaller fish. The real test came when I hit the first good pool; I quietly snuck around and came from below at the pool (fishing upstream). I stripped off about 30 foot of line and used my knowledge of the hole to place my little green buddy just under a tree limb…then waited. A soft twitch and then another few seconds…then a pop, what happened next was this old dog’s new trick. The water exploded and up from the middle of this pool leapt a big smallie. It was doing its best tarpon impersonation, thrashing from side to side and desperately trying to spit out my bug! The suddenness of the take overcame any doubt that I might have ever had before…yes indeed; this dog had a new trick! When it was all said and done (it took a few minutes to land this big fellow), I was holding a beauty of a fish…18 inches and for sure a solid three pounder.
I took a few photos, as I always do….then quietly released this bruiser back into the pool. Could lightning actually strike twice, yes…a couple casts later a smaller 13 incher came up and swamped my bug, in fact before I left my little beetle friend fell prey to three more smallies. The part that made this particular hole so good was the fact that the water was clear and I could get a true visual on how the fish below were reacting to the bug. Each fish staged just below the beetle…and upon a twitch or pop, they exploded upward, something in their DNA told them to attack! I was watching and making careful mental notes…the fish first took notice when the fly landed upon the water, turning towards the above meal. They then became more and more interested with sporadic movement; too much movement just didn’t look realistic and they left it alone. Through the years I have noticed this many times, a sudden movement will elicit a strike.
I continued to move downstream and caught an occasional small fish…that was until I arrived at the last and best hole. I was careful to move about halfway down before stepping into the water…stripped off about 30 feet of line and made one accurate cast along a rocky ledge. I waited for what seemed like an eternity…one pop of the bug and once again…an explosion from below. Lightning had struck right there in the middle of this small creek; when it was all said and done I had yet another very nice 17 inch smallie. This fish was not happy at all about being hooked and gave me quite a tussle; up and down the pool we went before he finally relinquished.
What a great day on the water…as I walked the last ¼ mile to the truck I took the time to stop, pause and be thankful for such an awesome time upon (and in) the water. My mind was already back at the tying vice…quickly I could see that with a minor adjustment I could have a small frog pattern that would match the many smallish frogs that line the edge of the stream; either way this old dog had a new trick that might just land a few trophy fish from time to time. Such is the grandeur of nature…where and how else could a guy have so much fun for so little. Come along, grab your gear as we all head out and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.