Winter Smallmouth

If you read the Winter Smallies On The Meramec River article you know that I was in Missouri and got a chance to catch a few winter smallmouths along with some rainbow trout. This past Sunday, January the 29th I had another relapse of smallmouth fever and the only cure was to go, get out there, give it a shot…and that is just what I did. By 2pm the air temperature was hovering around 40 degrees; I am not sure of water temp but would guess it to be in the low 40’s.

I had taken a few minutes to tie a Bob Clouser and Lefty Kreh fly called a half and half, if you want to look it up on you tube you can and I have to say seeing both of these legends sitting side by side, sharing a fly together was magical for me. Anyhow, I tied a half and half that was yellow and yellow with a pair of medium sized lead barbell eyes for some weight.

Through some experience, reading and discussing of fish behavior with those who know, I have come to the consensus that most of these small stream smallmouths will and still are feeding in the winter but have moved to the deeper holes and obviously as the water temperature falls, their activity lessens, meaning they will expend less energy to eat…they have to! While these small streams offer less cover, fewer of the deep holes, these fish will and are there, they don’t migrate great distances and in some cases they are stopped by low water conditions and man-made barriers. So the focus in winter and in these cold weather situations is on the deeper holes with some quiet water that allows these fish to ‘idle’ and save energy.

The first hole that I came to was the perfect scenario; the water was up and moving pretty quickly through the right side of the hole. To the left was the deep section and an eddy had formed; by watching the water closely it was clear that a fish could lie in the deeper portion and scour the faster water for a meal that might flow through and into its area. I was quiet as I moved in and careful to make a short cast into the faster section, allowing the fly to undulate through the fast water and then by mending my line I was able to flip the floating line across the dividing line allowing the yellow fly to settle to the bottom. The water was up and thus a stain muddied the stream enough that I couldn’t see the fly but could feel it bouncing across the bottom. On my first cast I felt a tug but wasn’t sure if it was a fish or a piece of debris. I made another cast a couple feet farther downstream…waited for the fly to cross and settle down when I felt a jab; a quick lift of the rod tip and I had hooked my first fish of the day, a 16 inch smallmouth…what a beautiful sight! I patiently stripped the fish in while backing into a shallow section, lipped the olive colored fish, took a few photos and watched as it quickly blended with the bottom sediment and became invisible as it swam off, back to its hole.

That worked well, so I stripped out a few more feet of line and made yet another cast, allowing the fly to swing and settle into the quiet water, two small hops of the fly and once again a tug meant that I had another smallmouth; this time it was a yellow colored 15 incher…a few photos and this guy was once again back, sore lip and all, into his ambush point.

The rest of the afternoon was slow until I neared the largest of the holes on this stretch of creek. I had fished all summer for a large smallie that rejected my fly so many times that I finally quit and actually walked around the hole so that I didn’t spend an hour on refusals! I made one long cast; once again allowing the fly to swing from the quick current into the deeper eddy of this pool. As the fly neared what I guessed would be a good ambush point my rod twitched and I strip set at the same time I lifted my rod and could see that there was a big flash on the other end; I had finally hooked my fish. By backing slowly up into the shallows I was able to easily land this chunky 18 inch fish that had my yellow fly locked into his the corner of his mouth. What a beautiful sight…and what an awesome afternoon I had had. Three fish in three hours on gorgeous sunny afternoon! I hope that you take a moment and drink in the glory of nature; it is one of those free things just waiting on us to enjoy…as we all Enjoy the Great Outdoors.

Click here to view a video collage of photos from this adventure entitled … Southern Indiana – 4 wt. half and half fly

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