We've been having some hot weather the past few days but no rain so the river should be more settled. Thought I would try for another evening go on the ole 'Miss'. Thinking that the best way to catch a larger fish would be to bring my 3wt rather than the 5/6 wt Switch I've been using this year. Worked really well. This was the second fish I caught right away. With the lighter gear, it took a bit longer to get in but that is what it is all about. SM do a lot more acrobatics than LM. In a way, they are the most exciting fish we have around here. In any given stretch of water, if you have some faster moving stuff, that is where they will be. I cast into the 'seam' with a dry line and a cone head fly. Pretty good action for two hours fishing 22 minutes from home! Lots of smaller fish caught on the dry fly in the rapids.
Time for local waters. It is too hot to go for trout, not that there are many around to be caught this year. There is a widening of the Mississippi River which is about 20 minutes from home so it is easy to load the tube for some evening fishing. A couple of hours before sunset is the best time. It is also a good idea not to go on the weekend because the place is popular and everything with fins gets scattered. I got about five SM like this one and a variety of 'others' some on the dry fly. My favorite bass fly as described in earlier posts is my first go-to fly. But after I lost it in a nearby tree, I put on one of my 'failed trout flies', an 'orange something or other' which caught just as well. No need to use anything other than a dry line as the fish are in the shallows. The bass, this night, were near the faster moving water.
Shall I go or shall I stay? That is what faced me on Friday. A planned trip was cancelled and it had not started raining as forecasted. I decided on a local trip on the Mississippi which requires some paddling. This fine fellow was caught under an inflatable along the way. I have caught a SMB this size before at exactly this same spot so I am assuming it is the same one. Bass will stake out a territory such as a dock and keep everyone else away, its owner's too, if it could. Of course it started to rain (after having waited all morning), but when I got to the faster moving water, all was forgiven. I was catching SMB regularly. I was seeing some caddis and mayflies coming off and put on a white phentex humpy. A very large SMB jumped into the air and was gone almost as soon. I figured well over 20". Later on, I had a Red Rabbit on (red body, white rabbit strip along the top). This was a trout fly originally but I was seldom using it, so it ended up in the Bass Box (where most of my failed trout flies end up, bass being less discerning than trout). I thought a log had caught the fly and was heading downstream but no, a few very heavy head shakes and the line whizzing out of my reel told me otherwise. In 20 years of fishing the Mississippi, this is the first time for a "whizzer", at least as far as I can remember. Snapped off!! How many times do I have to learn this??!! I had noticed my 3X tippet was a bit crinkled and I did not change it. The tippet spool is also getting a bit aged. Big fish fishermen write that you should be throwing out tippet and leader material after one or two years. Being the trout bums that most of us are, we like to spend our money on gas rather than throwing out what seems to be good line. But if you do, you may just pay the price. At least I have the knowledge that 'Grand Dad' is out there, ready to be caught again.
Fishing the big M again last evening at a spot well known to OFS members. This time we were in our tubes but the best fishing was at the foot of the rapids which means we could have waded and done just as well. Fishing wasn't as good as recent trips here by my partner. It could have had something to do with a short rain we had the previous day. I have noted over the years that the Mississippi doesn't fish as well after a rain and sometimes needs a few days to "clean" out. It could be the effluent from the cow pastures which border the river or the unmentionables coming from towns and houses along the way. Or someone could have been there before us and scared them off or worse. I got this 20 inch SM with my favorite fly, the MM (which my readers should know all about by now). It turned out to be the only fly that worked consistently. Nothing was coming to the surface even though there was a Hex hatch later in the evening. My partner got an 18 incher in the bay that I just had left. This is my largest SM of the year. They are certainly more fun than LM although this guy didn't do much dancing.
Fishing the M again but this time it takes a bit of a paddle to get to the 'good spot'. On the way, one passes what might seem ideal bass territory: nice weed cover, overhanging branches, submerged logs, you name it. On a lake, one would spend the day casting into such. The only trouble is, SM bass don't like it. Nothing, it seems is there (and I can't even blame the dastardly Bass Tournaments). SM like moving water. Maybe if these waters contained more LM bass, I wouldn't have to work so hard to get some good fishing. The evening before I had to paddle about 1 km to get to some shallows with faster water and missed out on a (at least) three pounder. It was on long enough for me to get a good look. Got a few 12 inchers. Six fish in 2 hours of ain't bad and almost half that time was spend paddling. I was using my new 3wt Sharkskin line. Man does it fly! But it is a bit noisy as it rubs against the steel. 10 ft leader with Brown Coney Leech: copper wire body, rabbit strip.
I started off at 1PM so I have the time to get twice as far to an even better spot. (BTW, there is no way, I'm telling you where this spot is) After an hour of slugging away in my Sportspal canoe, I'm finally there and I can't keep them off. It is a fish a cast but a good headwind keeps pushing me around as any canoeist will tell you, wind is the enemy......not great for casting either. After losing my net fish inside twice, I managed to get this picture. So I decided to get out of the wind and wade. I put on my wading boots but since is so shallow I keep my pants on. Of course, my foot gets caught in the gunnel and I fall into the water. Little did I know that the cell was in my pocket, so to date I have lost two cellphones to falling in water. Even after all these years, I still haven't learned to take the time to do things properly (and I had my trunks). But the fishing made up for it.
I've often said that fishing in waters close to home is the best. If it is less than 15 minutes from home, you can go often and with short notice to the rest of the family. For me that is the Mississippi River at Blakeney. Often the fisihing isn't as good as further afield but the idea that one can have supper and for no reason other than the constant inherant desire to fish as much as you possibly can, you annnounce, "I think I'll go fishing". I had to paddle almost an hour before I got my first bite but it was a 16 inch SM. I thought that with the warm weather that they might be deeper and so I started off with my #3 sink and slowly went along with twitches. Also some casts to shore. But that was not to be successful. I don't think with bass that your fly is all that important. Being at the right depth is most important and presentation is second. I eventually saw some action on the surface and they weren't small fish. I quickly switched over to dry and put on a foam popper which I had just made the evening before and voila, I had the only fish of the evening. It was time to head back. I was satisfied! Next time I will run past the unproductive water and go to where I have caught before. In evening fishing you don't have time to waste.
I was fishing a "secret" place on the Mississippi near Carleton Place and caught a lot of these "suckers". They are now becoming a much more common fish to catch. They aren't bad to catch as they are growing bigger each year and unlike my concept of suckers, they will go after dry flies! The river from Appleton to Carleton Place is very easy wading. The rock profile is fairly flat and great for newbies and old guys. The small bass hide in the cracks coming up for drifting goodies. When you find a good location, it is a "fish a cast". Use light rods in the 3 wt range and you are in for a good evening of fishing.
I've had several comments via email concerning this post. They are called Fallfish and are part of the Minnow Family. Apparently, on the east coast they get up to two pounds! I would be sorry to see them take over from the bass in our river but I think I could adapt to two pounders!
This picture is not from Appleton but I couldn't resist posting it. The Mississippi River is down about a foot from normal for this time of year. Let's hope for rain. Being a former Vancouverite, I never thought I would hear myself wishing that!
Appleton on the Mississippi is a popular place. Most of the guys with motor boats will zoom downstream to who knows where. I just fish around the launch in either my canoe or float tube. This time I had my canoe as the bloom is up along with the weeds. Lots of pan fish of all kinds and the odd SM. Best fishing is in the evening.
There are also some wading possibilities above the dam but I don't see people there anymore. "The Old Trout" (you have to be an old timer to know who that is) told me years ago there were a lot of very large bass below and above the rapids. I think there is only perch and the occasional small bass in there now but always worth trying. Great looking water! And easy to wade.
A couple of days ago I was elsewhere on the Mississippi and got my first walleye of the year as well as losing a fair sized bass of some kind. It is strange to me that all the good looking bass water along the Mississippi isn't just filled with bass. There are not than many fishers. Without any hatch, my go to fly is the Mississippi Maiden. Basically a cone head, with palmered plastic green chenile body and a brown or olive maribou tail. A good trick to get the chenile to "behave" is to dip it in hot water and then shape it sloping back.
Weather was just right so I made a quick desicion to head over to the closest fishing. I had only an hour or so available. What am I doing? It is 2PM. I usually don't fish until the evening, especially on a sunny day. As I arrived, I met three fishermen on one of the two best spots with lines in the water. They were obviously bait fishing. Asked how it was going. Only tiny sunfish! I waded over to the "other spot" and proceeded to haul in fish after fish with each cast. I didn't look over to see their jaws dropping. Reasonable sized Rock Bass, White Fish/ Suckers. Flyfishing Rules! I used an intermediate line with cone head flies. Over at the main part of the river, I used the intermediate line again to get down a bit and got larger fish. In the evening, I almost always use dry lines with various flies depending on what might be floating around. Goes to show that you can have a good time anytime on this river, at least in faster moving water.
I often fish near a spot on the Mississippi River a seven minute drive from home. I've always maintained that the "best" fishing is that which is closest to home. "Close" is the key word here. I usually catch "fall fish" here but this OOS SM was caught on the Mississippi Maiden, a fly developed by a local flyfisher gal. It was in fast moving water so he/she was not spawning.
Yesterday, I was invited by a friend to tour the river near Carleton Place in his motor boat. You need a motorized unit to fish this area. I learned first hand that you have find the fish. The area is enormous and we spent most of the day looking only to find them where we started out from. We were fishing for Blue Gill. a most tasty pan fish in abundance (if you can find them).
Of course, when you are fishing where some fish are in season and some out, you are going to catch some that are out. We got into a few SM Bass and they were mostly in the 12-14 inch range, but I did get one about 16 inches. The rule is that you are to move on, that is, assuming someone of authority is watching. They are still on the spawning beds. With the zebra muscles in abundance it is easy to see the spawning beds. I learned that you can tell the Bass beds from the sunfish (Pumpkinseed and Blue Gill) as the sunfish ones are in clumps. They scrape away the plants to create a roughly circular gravel area 16 inches in diameter. When you do find the clump of fish then it is a fish or two a cast. Grant is trying to get me hooked on pan fish eating, so he filleted some for me to try. Will let you know how they taste. This is a very sustainable fishery, at least it is now with the new regulations in place. We almost lost it with Yankees taking them out by the thousands. Best fly were foam flies, although I did quite well with that Mississippi Maiden and a brown CH Rabbit Leech.