Monday, April 28, 2014

4/25 - 4/26 Summer Ale , Sandals and Smallmouth

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If those three words mentioned in the same sentence don't bring a big smile to your face then you must not have endured the same long winter I just did.
With the previous holiday weekend being a washout for me as far as fishing goes , I was itching to get back out and see if my smallmouth friends had developed a better appetite with the recent warm weather. My buddy Sean must have been on the same wavelength because it didn't take long for an answer when asked if he was up for another trip.
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I took off Friday morning early and headed South again to meet up with him and Raz for a couple days of hucking streamers and drinking beer. We met up at the campground we were gonna stay at Friday night and set up the tents before loading the boat and hitting the water.
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The weather was practically summer-like this time around , sunny skies and temperatures pushing 80 degrees called for a day of wet wading in sandals and cold beverages at regular intervals.
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It didn't take us long to find some willing players and we soon had the first fish of the day in the boat.
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It was obvious to us right away that the fishing had turned the corner since we had been on the river two weeks prior , some of the smaller fish that we hadn't seen much of yet this year were actively chasing flies bigger than they were and the bigger guys were eating with a vengeance.
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It didn't take us long to figure out a pattern and before the day was even half over we were all smiles , well on our way to what both of us decided was our best smallie trip ever. That's not saying much considering both of our lack of smallmouth fishing experiences , but needless to say it was one hell of a day of fishing.
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While the fish might not have been huge , we caught good numbers of 15-17 inch fish that had some shoulders on them. Let's just say that the old 7-weight had a pretty good bend in it for a good part of the day.
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The sun was already setting over the surrounding hillsides as we pulled the boat up on the gravel at our campsite.
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By the time we made the drive back upstream to pick up the trailer and got the boat loaded it was dark-thirty , no worries though. We had a big fire going which put off enough light for digging adult beverages out of the cooler and cooking up a quick dinner , which was just about the only activity we had on our mind for the rest of the night.
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Saturday I woke up to the sound of thunder and raindrops hitting the rainfly on the tent , of course the rain wasn't predicted until the following day but who listens to weathermen anyway.
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We hung around camp for an hour or so , drinking coffee and eating a nutritious breakfast with our good friend Little Debbie. After a quick check of the radar we decided that we'd seen the worst of it and the skies should be clearing out so we headed back up to our put-in for the day. We had some time constraints to deal with today so we opted to cut the previous days float in half and fish the lower section of river.
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We'd both already decided that the weekend was a total success regardless of how todays fishing went , it's so seldom that everything holds out and you can repeat those kinds of days. Today it seemed like the fishing gods might be looking down on us though , less than a half hour into the float the sun was breaking out from behind the wall of clouds and the first smallie had decided to show up for breakfast.
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For the remainder of the morning we picked up right where we had left off the day before , the fish seemed to have altered their hideouts just a little with the mornings overcast and rain but it didn't take long to figure them out again.
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It seemed as though the fish were in varying degrees of activity on this late Spring weekend. We saw lots of beds but I would say that 90% of them were empty. The occasional bed had a fish still hanging around but they had no interest in eating and we opted to leave those fish alone and focus on locating the post-spawn fish which were more actively feeding. That decision was made much easier by the willing number of fish holding in post-spawn locations and readily munching anything that crossed their path. The previous trips issue of fish not wanting to commit was definitely not a problem this weekend , they left no question as to their intentions this time.
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Fly selection was a no-brainer for us , large double decievers and murdich minnow type patterns in baitfish colors garnered the approval of enough fish that a change never seemed necessary.
We finished out the day Saturday with pretty much the same level of success as we had on Friday , good quality smallies anxious to play waiting around every corner.
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It was around 2:30 when we pulled the boat back up onto the same gravel bar as the night before. Sunburned , a little tired and smiles on all of our faces like the cat that just ate the canary!
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/11 - 4/12 Smallmouth , Largemouth and a Nice Bonus Fish

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It's happening again , and a little earlier than it did last year as well. These first few weeks of nicer weather have got me thinking that it's time to put away the trout gear for awhile and focus on my new favorite quarry...the smallmouth bass. I know it's still early for this part of the country , as a matter of fact the below freezing temps I encountered when I woke up this morning reminded me of Winter not Spring , but I still can't shake the urge to get out on an Ozarks stream and huck streamers for smallmouth.
This past weekend I had the chance to get out on a couple of beautiful days and fish two different smallie streams , one that I've fished before and one that was totally new to me. Most of the fish I encountered were still playing hard to get but I managed to find a few willing players over the course of the weekend.
I rolled out of KC early Friday morning with the pontoon on the back of the truck , ready to spend a couple of days chasing ole Mr. Smalljaws. Due to some last minute plans that came up for a buddy I was going solo today. The plan was to float about 5 1/2 miles of river , new water to me , and see if I could find a few smallies that had finally shaken their winter inactivity for the urge to chase a big ugly fly.
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After working out the shuttle and getting dropped off at the put-in I was on the water fishing by 9:30. This particular stream was a little smaller than what I had experienced while fishing several other Ozarks smallmouth waters in the last year , but it didn't take long to find a good looking section to strip a big streamer through.
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The fly of choice was a double deciever again today and I was able to convince the first fish into eating it on only my third or fourth cast of the day.
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I was a little worried about catching a fish so quick , often times for me that seems to be the "kiss of death" and the rest of the day goes downhill from there. After missing another fish out of that same hole I started floating my way downstream , fishing any of the likely looking spots as I went. I wasn't in any hurry seeing as I had the entire day to finish out the fairly short float before I ended my day camping streamside along the river I had plans to fish on Saturday. I caught a decent little largemouth and a couple more smallies before I decided to pull over and break into the cooler for a little lunch.
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After enjoying a nice break and a tasty lunch , a cold-cut sandwich with an even colder PBR , I continued working my way downstream looking for willing players.
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It turned out to be a pretty good afternoon all things considered , I emptied the cooler of beer , caught several more decent sized smallmouth and even managed the first sunburn of the year.
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Seeing as though everyone I had talked to told me it was still a little early for successfully catching smallies on big streamers I was pretty pleased with the days results.
After loading up the pontoon I made my way down to my home for the remainder of the evening , a nice little streamside room with a view.
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After a dinner of cold fried chicken I spent the rest of the night sitting around a campfire staring up at the stars and listening to the hoot owls carrying on conversations from one side of the river to the other. My favorite way to spend an evening....
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The next morning I was up early to tear down camp and meet up with Sean and Raz for another day of floating.
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We were at the access by 7:30 and after visiting with a few buddies that happened to be in the area as well , were on the water by 8:30. I was pretty excited about the days possibilities considering my success the day before on a nearby body of water.
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Despite the warm temperatures and abundant sunshine (same M.O. as day 1) the day started off a little slow. We both caught a couple of fish on the first half of the float , including one nice largemouth that just smashed my double deciever , but it wasn't quite as good as what I had been expecting.
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About midway through the float we came upon a small backwater that was home to several pods of cruising carp and decided to kill a little time trying our luck at tempting one. Sean got a couple of follows and an eat and miss before I finally hooked up with one on a small olive sculpin pattern. I had told Sean that it would be a battle if we actually hooked one and I was right , five minutes into the fight and we were pulling anchor and rowing back upstream chasing the fish and hoping that I didn't run out of backing! After finally getting most of my line back on the reel he finally began to tire and I eased him into a net that was way too small for a fish of his size. I never do hero shots , but I broke my own rule this time simply because I couldn't get a good picture of the fish by myself.
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It took both hands to handle this beast properly. After a quick mugshot he was released gently and swam away no worse for the wear.
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After that fish I was ready for a break so I hopped behind the oars , lit up a cigar and watched my buddy fish for awhile. We had some good chases after lunch and caught several more fish but just like last weekend we had some issues with getting the fish to fully commit to eating.
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I liken it to a small child that wants to play with his food because it looks interesting but just won't take that first big bite. We finished out the day around 6:30 , both of us with newly acquired sunburns and smiles on our face. It may still be a little early to really crush it out on the smallmouth streams , but it's definitely not too early to enjoy the hell out of trying!!
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