I had been watching the USGS water gauge from Crawfordsville all week long, anticipating (and hoping) that by Saturday, May 21st it would continue to slowly fall; the last time Frank and I were at Sugar Creek, it was running above 2,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) which made for nothing short of a miserable day as the water was both brown and flowing way too quickly to do any good with a fly rod. Friday night rolled around and the gauge read 467cfs and had indeed fallen all week long. A quick peak at the weather for Crawfordsville and it was obvious that maybe, just maybe…Frank and I would be hitting the stream in perfect condition.
As we drove north on 231 we were both rubber necking at the various streams along the way to see if the water appeared to be ‘fishable’; the entire route looked good and each mile we traveled I began to get more and more excited. Fishing Sugar Creek is special, the beauty alone makes it a stream to be on at each and every chance you get…but knowing that it had rained just a bit over night would mean just a tad of a stain on the water, that fact would put it over the top as I knew this could be one of the those days to remember.
I dropped Frank and his blue tube off at the new Sugar Creek access point about 7 miles southwest of Crawfordsville and made my own way to the Jim Davis Bridge where I quickly readied my new Creek Company Voyager HD and shoved off on my way westward. We had agreed on six hours which would mean plenty of time to work the water…I hadn’t even gotten out of sight of the bridge when I caught my first smallie. A cast across to the south side of the stream and a few strips of a silver shad fly I had tied the night before…left me stripping in the first fish of the day. Two casts later and bang, another small but feisty smallmouth was brought to hand. I didn’t know it then but this was precursor to one of the most epic days I’d ever have on water.
Just on around the bend came my first real focal point as the creek takes a long bend to the north and then quickly does a 90 degree back south…as this water pours over and washes out a basin, the smallmouth stack up here looking for an easy and quick meal. I was casting my 6-weight with a type one Rio, sink tip line and all I had to do was cast across the fast water, into the slack portion, then make one or two upstream mends…and wait. The fish did the rest; I caught three nice 12 inchers in succession as I slowly and methodically picked apart the frothy and gurgling water that always seemed to be home to a bundle of fish.
Another ¼ mile downstream and the creek would separate…where the two come back together forms an area that can be fished by standing in the seam, between the smaller and larger portions. By making a cast both left and right-the water and gravity begin to pull at the line and fly offering up a presentation that is just too much to be passed up. One after the other I picked off 12 and 13 inch smallies until I decided it was time to switch flies and go bigger, in search of bigger fish…I like to go with larger flies for larger fish, that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t continue to catch the smaller ones, but usually helps in locating and finding the big boys that are looking for the upgrade to an XL meal.
I had come to one of my very favorite spots of water, anywhere or any place…the creek takes a sweeping right hand bend and from the hills above, have fallen several very big boulders. The water sweeps through these ancient rocks and presents a perfect spot for big predators to hide, lurk and wait for their prey to nervously swim by. I like to paddle my Voyager over, climb aboard and swing my fly ignorantly by in hopes of landing a trophy…in the next 15 minutes I landed 6 smallmouth, the smallest was 15 inches, it was sandwiched by a 20 and 19 inch bronze bomber. Six smallies in approximately 30 casts…and all 2-4 pounds in weight. Epic, for sure, I just had to grin and enjoy the moment for it isn’t always like this.
I left the rocks, looked down at my watch, it was 3:15pm; I had 45 minutes to be at Deers Mill and meet Frank…and I wasn’t even halfway down my stretch of water. No complaints as I had caught well over 30 smallmouth in my 5 hours on the water…so, I packed up my rod, put my back towards the west and started rowing. I started reminiscing about some of the other ‘epic’ days that I had been blessed with while outside in nature…and before I could even clear all of these thoughts me and my blue tube were taking the last sweeping curve, as I turned the boat and looked downstream I could see Frank standing on top of the bridge. Another day whereby Mother-Nature served up some of its finest and believe me-this epic day…it won’t soon be forgotten as I was able to Enjoy the Great Outdoors.
NOTE: Responding to several requests for me to demonstrate how to tie the Sugar Creek Minnow that I use, here’s a link to the “how to” fly tying video.