Smallmouth Report 6/24/21: Not warmed up yet

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.

Not too shabby, just about two pounds, and a worthy opponent on a five-weight. I have only the utmost respect for the power and doggedness of these creatures. They just don’t want to come to net.

The Countermeasure Fly Tying Video

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.

More film and video news: Farmington River Dry Flies and SBS Countermeasure

I mentioned earlier this week that the short film Striper Moon — A Legacy will soon be available on Amazon Prime. I’ve been busy with some video projects as well. On Wednesday, we shot home interview and fly tying footage for director Matthew Vinick’s film on Farmington River dry fly fishing. We covered stuff from hatches to our day on the river to the Survivor Strain program, and I also tied up a classic Catskills Light Cahill dry. I’ve seen a rough cut of my segment, and it doesn’t suck! I’m very excited to be involved with this project.

The title of the film is Summer on the Farmington. Matthew Vinick and John Kosmaczewski are partners on the project. Here’s a low-res still, taken from video, of me doing battle with a high-teens Survivor Strain brown. That’ll put a bend in the old cane pole.

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Last but not least, I recently shot footage for a step-by-step video on the Countermeasure. Just gotta edit and do voiceover. Coming soon!

Why I love topwater smallmouth

It’s been a tough year for smallmouth in terms of size and numbers, but I’m finding enough topwater action to keep me stoked. I’ll present a more detailed report on my summer adventures in the next few weeks, but for now this picture says it all. I’ve been getting a lot of action on Jack Gartside’s  Gurgler and my Countermeasures bug.

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Rose = Vitreus. Oh, + Smallmouth

Like clockwork, the first rose bloom in my garden means the Vitreus are popping. Funny thing: I went last night not to the Farmington, but to the Housatonic. (All this warm, humid weather had my smallmouth juices running.) Sure enough, there was a substantial hatch of Light Cahills. When we left the river at 8:30pm, there were clouds of spinners overhead. The fish surely ate well after dark. To the fishing: a little slow, but a few smallmouth were brought to hand on deerhair head topwater flies. My first smallie of the year came on a Countermeasure. That seems right.

My Grenada hybrid tea is usually the first out of the gate, and the Light Cahills were out in force. My Housy spies tell me that the spawning beds have cleared, and that the smallie action is picking up. I think a couple more weeks of warm weather would help. And of course there’s the Farmington…hmmm…decisions, decisions.

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Steve Culton’s Countermeasure featured in On The Water’s “Guide Flies”

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.

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Big Tailwater Brown on the Countermeasure

The Countermeasure strikes again, this time on a fat tailwater truttasaurus. Look at the fins on that beast of a buck! Many thanks to currentseams follower Ken for sharing his success. You can read more about the Countermeasure pattern here.

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Housy Smallie Mini Report 7/31/19: No falling in, no white flies

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.

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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.

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Secrets to Catching Bigger Smallmouth on the Housatonic

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.”

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– Fish near deep(er) water access. Big smallmouth like the cover and security that deep water provides. Picture them hanging out on the bottom of a deep hole during peak daylight. They didn’t get to be big by accident.
– Your chances of catching a big smallmouth bass increase exponentially as the day transitions into night. There will come a point where the bite will shut down, which is usually about the time you can no longer see your fly.
– Target shallows in low light, particularly shallows near deep water. Like many predators, big bass will move onto flats as twilight builds. They’re feeding with confidence under the cover of darkness. Last week as I was walking out of the river at 8:45pm, I nearly stepped on a monster smallie that was cruising in about a foot of water.
– Take the road less traveled. There are often rich rewards awaiting those willing to walk. If you were a big smallmouth, where would you be? Finding the answer to that question is half the fun.
– Cull the pipsqueaks with bigger flies. Four inches is a good cutoff point. Some of the little guys may want to fight outside their weight class, but often can’t get the hook in their mouth.
– Land your fly with a splat! For example, when I’m fishing a Countermeasure, I like to give it a noisy landing on soft water. Big bass will frequently crash the fly moments after it hits.
– This goes without saying: put in your time. The more you fish, the more chances you’ll have to hook up with a big one.

Dusk can be a magic time, but the big fish bite window is sometimes frustratingly short. 

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Friday Farmy/Hous Mini-Report: Cold and Hot and Not Much in Between

On Friday I guided Mark on a Farmy-Hous doubleheader. While the air was sweltering, the Farmy was pleasantly cool — and the fishing downright cold. We were nymphing, and in two high-probability runs we could only manage to stick one fish. In fact, we shared the water with close to a dozen anglers at various times between 12:30 and 3:30, and we saw only one other fish caught. Hatch activity was slow to non-existent. Feh. Off to the Hous.

Which didn’t fish much better — at first — and was a totally disgusting sweat lodge into the bargain. First spot in the TMA: blank. Second spot: a few customers. Third spot: Really? Nothing? OK, nothing until 8:15, then the switch was thrown, but even then we weren’t exactly lighting it up. Nonetheless, a strong finish to a tough day, and Mark did a great job of working through it.

Yeah, man. That’s what we like to see. The Countermeasures pattern did its usual reliable work at dusk, particularly in frog water and along the edges. Before dark, we had our best action in the “hot” water: bubbling, gurgling oxygenated flows like this.

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