Last summer was challenging time to fish for smallmouth: we had the double whammy of heat and severe drought. In “Low & Slow: Summer River Smallmouth,” I talk about some of the strategies, tactics, and flies I used to find success in those truly tough conditions. You can read the article in the current (July 2021) New England issue of The Fisherman magazine.
I fished a mark on the Hous last night from 7pm to 9pm, and it was very, very slow. By the time I reached the water, there’d already been a strong caddis hatch (mottled light tan, size 16) and there were sulphur spinners in the water. A few smaller trout and smallmouth were eating bugs, but I they were in some deeper water, way out of casting range. The flow was medium and lightly stained; the water really hasn’t warmed up yet and I find the smallie fishing goes better when it does. Bugs I fished were the TeQueeley, Gurgler, Mini D&D, Wiggly, and Countermeasure. Well, I did try some nymphing, but I don’t think I got deep enough. I had a hysterical swipe at the indicator from a little fish as I was preparing to cast, but mostly I practiced presenting and conducting experiments. (I have a lot of experimenting to do this summer, and I’ll let you know at some point how it goes.)
It wasn’t until 8:30 that I connected with my first smallie, a respectable 10″ fish. Right at dark I started pounding the shallows with the Countermeasure, and I was rewarded with my first good smallmouth of the year. But that was it, leaving me alone on the river with the bugs and my cigar.
You’re now at Countermeasure Central on currentseams! Here you can watch the tying video (below); see the original post/recipe; and read the Guide Flies feature piece from On The Water magazine. In case you’re new to this pattern, the Countermeasure is a riff on several proven streamer designs (like the Zoo Cougar and Zonker). It’s loaded with bite triggers, and it’s one of my favorite smallmouth bass bugs. Oh! Big trout love it, too.
The Countermeasure, my favorite smallmouth bass bug, is the featured pattern in Tony Lolli’s “Guide Flies” column. It’s in the current (April 2020) issue of On The Water. Here’s a link to my original post on the Countermeasure. For bonus material, you’ve got a photo of the column and a pdf. Please support fishing magazines and writers by reading and subscribing. Without readers like you, we are nothing.
Another quick-hit mission to the Hous. Fished from 7:20pm-8:45pm and the action was much better than earlier in the week, if still not spectacular. This year’s weird pattern continues: instead of a building feeding frenzy with a crescendo at dark, the bulk of the bigger fish came when there was still plenty of light. No white flies yet, but I would think that will happen this weekend. Water was a little below average cfs and 78 degrees, light stain. Some decent sized bass, but no monsters — biggest were in the foot-long range, a very respectable size. Fished subsurface (TeQueely) and on top (Gurgler and Countermeasures). Did take a couple right at 8:45, but they weren’t huge.
Dolomieu the Leaper.
Don’t neglect the frog water-like shallows. This brute hit the Gurgler in a about a foot of water, right after the bug landed.
It’s the time of year when this question begins to flood my mailbox: “I’m catching a ton of little smallmouth bass. Where do I go on the Housatonic to find the bigger fish?”
There’s no single, simple answer. And it’s not just a matter of where. It’s also when. And how. Here are a few tips to help you catch the big one.
It’s 8:15pm. Do you know where your trophy Housy smallie is? My money’s on “at the business end of a Countermeasure.”
Dusk can be a magic time, but the big fish bite window is sometimes frustratingly short.
Another quick smallmouth mission Thursday night. From 5:30-7:00pm, I explored some new water near some old familiar water. It was, in a word, slow. We’re taking glacial. Maybe that’s a good segue into the weather angle — a cold front came through the night before, and in my experience that’s usually bad for bassing, striped or smallmouth. Pricked a few but only one to hand and he was small.
I had every intention of going home, but I got sucked into the dolomieu vortex and I stopped at a favorite hole. So much for the cold front theory: three bass in the 10″ class on the first four casts. Consistent action from 7:30-8:45pm, then shutdown, same as the other night. The best part was a few some-teen inch slobs in the mix, all on the Countermeasure at dusk. All of the bigger fish blitzed the fly moments after it hit the water.
Someteen inches of bronze fury. A forearm burner, this one. Savage hit — he actually took some line off the reel at hookset — and a bulldogging fight. Countermeasure. Dusk. Good stuff.
Gordo and I tried to go steelheading this spring. Really, we did. We got deluged out in April, so we re-booked for May…and got deluged out again. After running at a nominal 500cfs, Brookfield jacked the Salmon River flow up to 1.2K 48 hours before our date, effectively creating a steelhead superhighway to the lake. And just for good measure, they bumped it up to 1.7K while we slept, giving us an off-color 2.2K below Pineville. Mother Nature felt left out, so she decided to make it rain.
(Insert heavy sigh here)
So we took our lumps like men and went to plan C: try for smallmouth and pike on the lower end of the Little Salmon River. I’d never fished it, and we were so close to the lake you could see it clearly from our take out point. The pike were a no-show, but some slabby smallies saved the trip for us.
What’s a steelhead run to Pulaski without a little snow? So what if it’s freakin’ May…
Gordo got the first fish of the day, smallie that could have been measured in pounds rather than inches (19 if you’re keeping score). The kid’s a trouper, never complains even if it’s cold and wet and utterly miserable (and the steelhead trip has been ruined…again). If this is our lemonade, we’ll take it with a smile. And a shout out to Row Jimmy, our steadfast guide who’s always positive and is a man with a plan.
Dad didn’t do too poorly, either. The takes were more like stoppages than savage tugs — think, “Oops, I’ve snagged bottom.” Then the bottom pulls back. I missed one strike before I realized what it was. Once advised, I carried on with great success.
I don’t usually do this, but I’m going to share a concept/work-in-progress. What do we know? The Hous is high and it’s loaded with rusty crayfish which smallies eat. I’ve done precious little bottom bouncing with crayfish patterns, and I want to explore that. So: dumbbell eyes, inverted hook, lots of marabou = lots of motion, rusty/orange/red/brown/green colors, a little flash. We’ll see what the focus group thinks.
No name yet, not even the final materials and colors, but if I were a smallmouth, I’d chow down.