Friday, July 01, 2011

Smallmouth on the Fly

I admit I lay in bed not sleeping (I don't sleep well in hotels) at the end of day one I briefly considered changing the name of the blog to Smallmouth on the Fly. Yes, I was that enamored with our day one encounter with these bulldog like fish. I had caught smallies before, but never as many large fish in such a unique setting. And you have to admit, they are beautiful fish.

Mostly though, that evening's wild smallmouth bite was like throwing a drowning man a life preserver. Wendy and I drove to the flats absolutely BRIMMING with confidence. Armed with last years experience and a sudden and gracious nod from a local who pinpointed places he had seen carp only days before our arrival, we knew we would find the fish. And we did, but as many have said before, you cannot underestimate the importance of direct sunlight when fly fishing for carp. And we had no sun (I cheated, the first pic is from the last day...sue me.)

That would be our windshield wipers in full on frantic mode. I took that pic as the day ended, but it threatened all day. Still, we saw carp. We walked an amazing flat and saw good numbers of fish but 99 percent were onto us...Wendy Berrell, consummate pro that he is stuck the one carp that didn't know we were there (plus a nice smallmouth blind casting to a dock). So we walked, and drove, and looked and toward the end of the day it had begun to feel like our last trip...a lot of walking and looking. But then it happened.

We slipped around a sharp point, zero visibility and both of our thoughts drifting towards calling it and leaving to go watch the NBA draft (honestly, I think we both were waiting for the other guy to throw in the towel first) when I kicked up a smallie right at my feet. I threw a long cast down the bank and blindly stripped the fly back...whack! Fish legendary OR gear angler Ex-Bass Guide would say as soon as releasing the fish..."nice long cast, retrieve...and whack!" Another smallie on the fly.

For the next couple of hours, under an increasingly dark and dreary sky we absolutely hammered the smallmouth bass. Most were in the 15 inch range but at least 6 or 7 were 17 inches or better. When the shadows were right we could actually see the fish and cast right to them, but many were caught on blind casts. We stripped the flies fast, we stripped them slow, we stopped and started and sometimes we just let the flies sit and would pick up the fish when the line moved. The water was full of bass, and they liked our flies.

Bass are fun, especially in such numbers. They don't run and are not as big or powerful as carp, but they bulldog, deep, tug hard and occasionally leap like a rainbow. We had a blast wailing away like tourney pros, hooting and hollering and rejoicing at finding some great fishing on lake MI.

I laid there that night and thought about dropping the carp thing for the next day...we spent some time talking about it. The forecast remained bleak for sun loving carp fisherman, and the bass were fun. And easy. No doubt in my mind we could have kept fishing for bass and slayed them for four days. But then I thought about those huge gravel flats, and big, dark shapes cruising. I though about large, meaty flies and long, blistering runs into my backing. When I woke up, it was raining. We hustled to the car through the rain, glaring at the dark sky and with barely a word drove north to explore a well known carp flat. Once again we were brimming with confidence despite a dark and rainy sky...bass were forgotten (or at least put aside) and we were back on the hunt for carp.

And this time, it paid off.


Auglaize Fly Shop said...

Awesome fish!

Feather Chucker said...

I hate you. If it's not rediculous carp you are catching it's monster smallmouth.

John Montana said...

I got a kick out of the smallies for sure. Never caught them in numbers or size like that...but Wendy was the smallie whisperer...he crushed them.

testflycarpin said...

That one with the stripes on its face is crazy! Besides looking huge I have never seen one with such a cool pronounced pattern on its face.

Wendy Berrell said...

I appreciated how much you liked those smallies. Kind of a surprise but overall made for an exciting day one save.

John Montana said...

The smallies were awesome. Very intriguing to see them like that. Anything I can sight fish to is alright by me!

Cut-Throat said...

Were you on the Michigan side or Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan?

John Montana said...

WI side...would love to fish the mi side sometime.

Cut-Throat said...


I have the Wisconsin side for Carp for 8 years. Mostly on the Door Peninsula. Send me an e-mail if you want to exchange some info.