My family is off to Minnesota, and regrettably this year, I'm home alone. Wrapping up the masters degree, work, and some home projects this summer, I just couldn't make it. So while they are on the road, and will be spending time on Gull Lake, I'm mostly busy at work.
But, if you don't take some time to hit the rest button... You burn out.
So, after a busy morning, I did something I have not in to long, hit the local "major" freestone that's a heck of a trout river. Browns, and big ones. Rainbows. It's a blast for trout. It's a destination for trout. And for some reason, most people act like the many, many, little small mouth bass that live in this river are just a pain in the butt who occasionally eat their trout flies.
I dont know why. Smallies are awesome - any size!
Most of em here are 8-12". I've caught a few a smidge bigger... Almost PR'd today. I've seen a few that were probably 15-18"... but that's not what you will catch consistently for some reason. It's a really fertile river, so I'd think there would be some bigger fish... Especially since my brown trout PR on this river was a 23" fish that took a black muddler variant I created in high school.
Well, when the river bottoms out in volume come summer, and the trout seek refuge near springs or cold feeder streams, this place can be a down right blast catching these small mouths.
Today sure was!
I figured it would be good, when my first cast with a beat up little hair popper lead to a micro bass in the 6-8" range. Has to be a good omen!
I caught a few more in the 8-10" range working up from the bridge I started at, but reaching a favorite spot under the next bridge lead to some great fish.
Probably caught 15 smallies here today. Sadly, a real whopper took and while I got him to the edge of shore, while trying to grab the lip, the hook pulled and the fish swam off. Oh well, I'm going to say that fish was 15". Heck of a fish here and gave the six weight a good workout! Even pulled a little drag.
One thing that kept surprising me, was how deeply these fish were taking the popper. they were getting the whole darn thing in there mouths quite often!
I moved up stream. Caught a few at the tail of the giant pool above the bridge - you can see the tail below. The pool stretches up around the bend a bit to a rail road bridge. The left side is deep, but the right has a sand bar you can fish most of the way to the rail road bridge. It's DEEP up there, but most of the pool is in the 3-6 foot range. I think I've seen carp here, but not with the consistency that I have ever tried to target them. Pretty sure I broke off a pike here once on a streamer trout fishing, if not, it was a GIANT pickerel. Up stream and over one dam, there are some huge Pike - like 20-30# routinely caught through the ice. Pretty sure one spilled over, or came up from the CT 5-6 miles down stream - I have caught walleyes up stream from here for example... So a pike could pull the trip off too.
First bass in the big pool was a nice one, close to 12". it was quickly followed by a 10" with heron scars. I saw a heron here when I first arrived, wonder if he was the bird who stabbed at this fish!?
I was a little surprised to see a sunfish get the whole popper in it's mouth... but I was more surprised with the coloration - what an amazing belly on this fish!
After a while I'd worked the sand bar up to the rail road bridge. I saw a toad of a bass swim by, but got no takes in the deeper water. I turned to try my luck on a down tree in a shallow area behind me..
Pop goes the popper... Couple more pops, and then a nice splashy take. I bring the fish in and was amazed to see a fall fish. They are cool - but I've never caught one on a popper before! Neat surprise - they are another fish that does not get enough respect :).
The thoughts of the big bass I'd seen in the deep motivated me to take off the popper for a bit and fish a cray fish imitation. it's similar to others, but is one I came up with a couple years ago. It has caught trout on occasion, but mostly it's a bass catcher.
First cast yields a fish near 12". After that, nothing was interested. I worked back down stream and caught a few more on the cray fish... but... when fish are willing to look up... how do you keep tossing sub surface flies?
Finally back under my favorite bridge, I catch a few on the popper, and as I get set to leave, I look down and was a little startled to see this giant snapper about 2 feet away. Glad I didnt have a fish on the line hanging down there - he'd have been happy to have a feast of small mouth I'm sure!
Fun time and good stress release for sure. And all this writing was a good warm up for a school project I'm working on the rest of the night!
Dont neglect fisheries that are under estimated, or over looked. Some times, I think we get so focused on doing something a certain way, we miss out on awesome fun. It may be a little farm pond or drainage easement, a public park pond, a warm river or some other local pond... But they all can offer fun surprises.
In this case, a river that's regionally "famous" for trout, but totally neglected for warm water fish provided a ton of fun and some good double haul practice.
Get out, and have some fun!