Big-Little Creek Smallies

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The problem with going north to Canada and Michigan these past few weeks is that the fishing was so good that in all honesty it is tough to come home to what might at times be some pretty normal or sub-par fishing. Don’t get me wrong, I love southern Indiana, its people, it scenic value and for sure the outdoor possibilities that abound…but once you have ‘tasted’ the good life up north, the cool weather and all the great fishing, it can be difficult to get fired back up and get out there.

This past week I got a call from a new friend, John Morgan, who wanted to see if I would take him along to a creek and give him some pointers on how best to fish moving water. First off, John is a great guy, he is passionate about fly fishing and let’s be honest it doesn’t take much to get me back on some local water. We spent a few hours walking, talking, casting and just enjoying the beauty that accompanies fly fishing in moving water. As John said, “What a great way to spend a hot day”…he couldn’t have been more correct!

Two days later, after lots and lots of yard work I decided to hit one of my favorite local ‘haunts’ as the day was not just hot but quite humid…so why not spend a day casting for smallmouth and do so in cool, waist deep water. I grabbed my 3-weight rod, a lanyard full of flies, a couple of cameras and off I went as I had about four hours to spend meandering my way down one of my favorite streams before my gal Vickie would be there to pick me up.
smallmouth releaseAs I neared this little gem of a stream I could hear the water moving and knew that it would not be the usual clear, gentle stream I was used to…but that on this day it would not only be higher but it would be stained as well. A stained stream can be pretty tough at times but through the years I have figured out two things; you have to fish a fly that can be seen and on this day it would be a heavy, black wooly that I had tied with black rabbit strips…secondly, the stained water allows you to get closer to the big fish without fear of being seen and let’s be honest, the big fish are smart-to get close you need a little ‘cover’ that the off color water provides for you.
The first of a few great ‘holes’ on this stretch of water gave up a pair of smallies; one was 13 inches and the other was right at 17 inches…they tore into my black streamer like I would a hot donut…I knew that the color was right (black) and was eager to see what was in store over the next mile or so of free flowing southern Indiana water.

As I approached the next pocket of water I could see that the usual low or dry creek that flowed in from the west…it was up and roaring which would be a conveyor belt of food for any fish that chose to hold in the ‘soft’ water just off the main beam of the creek. An accurately placed cast resulted in an instant take, a strip set with my line hand and in a few seconds I was landing a beautiful 15 inch smallmouth that had an emerald sheen that was truly a sight to behold. Jeff holding smallmouth bassHole after hole, smallmouth after smallmouth I moved downstream and landed a series of big, chunky and healthy fish…fish that would be great anywhere or anyplace in America. I will admit that I know this stream well, well enough that even on a day with high water, I knew where to cast…where I had caught fish before. The last hole was nothing more than a depression that undulates down and around a gnarly conglomerate of sycamore roots. There is absolutely no room to back cast and frankly the fly I was using was too heavy to roll casts; the solution would be a bow and arrow cast. The cloudy water allowed me to get within ten feet as I pulled back my black wooly with my left hand, pointed my right hand (rod hand) directly at my target…my fly dropped directly below the roots as I began to high stick the fly down and into the ‘bowl’ that I knew was directly below…it was at that point that my green fly line jolted forward, a simple lift of my fly rod and I was into the best fish of the day. Calmly and carefully I felt my way downstream to where the water was only a foot or so deep, there in the shallows was a true trophy, an 18 inch smallmouth that would weigh somewhere between two and three pounds. I lipped the fish, raised it upwards and supported its belly with my right hand; this might not be an Upper Peninsula smallmouth, it might not have been a fish that has seen fly after fly…but on this day it was a badge of accomplishment, a fish that would end my day and leave me yearning, pining for my next trip down cool waters.


What a day to be strolling along, fly rod in hand, landing fish…and doing so all amidst nature at its finest. Hopefully reading about and watching these adventures might just motivate you to get up, get going and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.


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