When I’m teaching or speaking, I often tell people that I don’t have all the answers. This isn’t false modesty. I really don’t. But I do have many questions. And so it goes with the 2017 smallmouth season. So, to quote the Polish Prince, I’d like to know…
Where are the bigger fish this year? Last summer’s bronze bully bonanza stands in stark contrast to this year’s onslaught of sub-6″ fish. It’s not so much that I mind the action, but I’ve managed only one bass this summer in the foot-long class. Dusk, last year’s magic time when the double-digit inchers came out to play, has been largely pipsqueak heaven.
One theory I have is that last year’s uber-low water concentrated the fish into runs and holes that provided enough current and cover; when the dinner bell rang, the alpha fish in any given spot took charge. This year, with significantly more (and cooler) water, the bass are more spread out. Still, that doesn’t explain why I wouldn’t at least have chanced into a larger fish.
Which leads to my next question: why has the dusk-to-dark surface streamer bite been so slow? Last summer, I’d have bass hammer my deer-hair head/rabbit strip tail bugs the moment they hit the water. This year, my flies remain largely unscathed. (This may speak to the preponderance of small fish, since the bug in question is 4″ long.)
Obviously, more research is needed. I’ll be curious to see how the bite plays out in this watery laboratory for the rest of August.
Notes from last night: water at 270 cfs. I fished two runs from 6pm to 9pm. The first was TeQueely territory. Lots of action, although there is a structure-laden frog water section next to current and a deep hole that continuously, mysteriously fails to produce. I’m going to have to re-visit at dusk. White flies are just about done — in fact, there were far more sulfurs on the water last night. Also small tan caddis, and the ubiquitous black caddis. The two fly team of white fly soft hackle (I’m calling it the August White) on point and Black Magic dropper continues to shine. I’m swinging wets far more than I did last summer, mostly pre-hatch, and the bass just can’t keep away. Multiple doubles last night, and the Black Magic out-caught the August White 2:1. I’m targeting active feeders, swinging through and across current seams, but I’m doing boffo box office on the dangle with a slow hand-twist retrieve. Best fish last night, 9″, came on this last presentation (Black Magic).
From one year ago to the date. I know you’re out there. Somewhere.
Steve I have fished smallmouth here in Virginia for many years. What made the size of fish go up for me was larger flies one of my best cAmerican on a 6or 7 inch razzle dazzle. And the the Muddeciver out of Ray Bondrows book stripes and streamers Arhmond couricaine pattern ( I’m sorry I know spelled his name wrong I mean no disrespect ) maybe bigger flies will help and crawfish patterns hope this helps.
I appreciate the suggestion. My question still remains: why was I catching bigger fish on this 4-5″ fly last year, and not this year? That seems to indicate that the issue is the year/time/place, not the fly. We’ll see….
That is mysterious I think that these bigger boys might get more nocturnal in the warm months my biggest bass come earlier in the year and later in the fall maybe pick the best looking runs and fish them at night if it’s legal there. I don’t get to fish as much as I used to but when I do I just fish big streamers other than when I fish crayfish and hellgramite patterns the guys around here that catch big smallmouth during the heart of summer and into the dog days catch some monsters on jig and pigs Tim holscag has some great info out there for catching big bass with flies and lures he fish’s rivers a lot for them from what I have read maybe look up the crayfish hope presentation and give it a try hope you have great success.Jeff Givens
SteveThanks for these reports I was on the Hous tuesday to friday all this week for the hatch. as we know, smallies fight twice their size. i had ok hatches all three nights which was ok cause my white wulff didnt have lots of competition.the hatch was later and later as the wek went on- thursday – i only had 30 minutes of day light to work with but lost my two best fish of the week in the dark- as we know- that is a lot if fun.where fish- i hit the deep pools that are not right by the road. not as much pressure on the fish. also- if you want consistent bigger fish- consider leaving the TMA and be willing to walk.there are a lot of deep pools down river and up river that hold a lot of fish.i took my biggest fish of the week in the dark- #12 white wullf was all I neededTHANK YOU for posting about the Hous- it is a wonderful river. There is no tonic like the HousatonicTight LinesJohn
Thanks for sharing your experience, John.
Move way downstream of the TMA, find a narrow deep section with big boulders just below a wide section of the river, fish the bottom. Wrap a # 8 hook or a little larger with lead wire, when you think you have enough lead, add some more and tie a fly that’s between a stone and a helgramite, real fuzzy, elk hair tail, a couple turkey boits half way up and some nice short white or grey hackle up to a grey barbell or bead. Brown to light brown for colors, don’t be afraid to tie something using grey colors, dark to light. For whatever fly you fish don’t fish river water temps, fish according to what time of the year hay is being cut, smallies start to come on about three weeks after the first hay cut. The gravel on the river bottom is still too cold, compared to last year, regardless of water temps. Give it another two weeks or so and let it rip…..