Housy Mini-Report 9/18/19: Like buttah

I intended to fish the Hous for smallmouth, but I didn’t like the cold front that came through the day before. So to hedge my bets, I began in the TMA in hopes of some Salmo action. A brilliant day for fishing! 70 degrees, sun and clouds, crisp autumn-like air. Water 191cfs. Started with a streamer in a popular hole, and had a couple small bumps. Then I noticed some risers, and tied on a white fly soft hackle.  “The Wrong Fly Presented Correctly” Part 1: the fish were on Tiny BWO emergers, but I didn’t have anything close to that in my box. So I went with a swung soft hackle just below the surface. Bang!

Like buttah, a gorgeous mid-teens brown that’s been in the river for a while (look at those pecs). I love how nature finds a way despite low flows and scorching summer temps. 

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Downstream in the TMA I discovered a pod of smutting trout in a placid pool. Again, on tiny BWO emergers and again, only the size 10 soft hackle (and 8-pound test tippet to boot) at my disposal. “The Wrong Fly Presented Correctly” Part 2: the answer again was yes.

Wrapped up the trip with some new smallmouth water recon. Very sexy water, but as I feared the cold front put the kibosh on the action. Not to worry. It’s going to be warm this weekend…and there’s always next year.

 

Housy Smallie Mini Report: Two Points

I fished within the TMA yesterday from 7pm-8:45pm and it’s an easy outing to sum up:

  1. The fishing stunk. I found very few bass that wanted to play. The dusk bite reeked even worse, with only a few small fish showing themselves, and even they were keyed on insects. They wanted nothing to do with my bigger flies.
  2. I fell in. Soaking wet, water cascading down your leg, squishy walk out — you know the drill. On the positive side, if you are going to immerse yourself while fishing, doing it on a piss-stinking hot day in 76 degree water isn’t all that horrible. And my cigar remained dry. Little victories, people. Little victories.

No. Not yesterday.

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Housy Smallmouth Report 7/31/18: The July Blizzard

More photo shooting yesterday afternoon, then fishing from 6pm-9pm. Visited two honey holes in the TMA. The first was the bomb — it’s footprint is probably smaller than the size of the average house — but when it’s on, it’s on. It’s got subsurface structure, current, and frog water. Good for six bass, one the evening’s best, about two pounds, on the TeQueely. The second was a bit of a drag, with far less action and none of the larger fish I expected. The bass didn’t start showing themselves until well after 8pm, and then it was mostly smaller fish. I’m learning that with these higher than usual midsummer flows that the bass are far more spread out than usual. Still, I caught countless smallies on subsurface and topwater streamers, wet flies, and dries.

As I walked out, I was inundated by white flies. The bass may like to eat them, but I can tell you from unfortunate experience that they don’t taste very good.

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Head shot of a slab smallie. A forearm burner, this one.

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Once they get over a foot long, you’ve got a battle on your hands, especially in flows near 500cfs. Handsome fish.

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Housy Smallmouth Report 7/30/18: Zen and the White Fly

There’s an old zen saying I recently made up that goes like this: “The second white fly cannot come until the first.” Well, the first, second, third, and beyond are here. More on that in a minute.

I spent most of yesterday afternoon banging around the river shooting for my upcoming feature in Eastern Fly Fishing. Evening found me ensconced in a pool that proved to be a challenging wade at 600+ cfs. We had some difficulty, but despite a good-near-soaking stumble, we made it through.

So. At this height the bass were more spread out and definitely not as surface happy as they were last week. I did most of my business from 6:00pm-7:45pm on a TeQueely. The Gurgler was largely ignored. Saw my first white fly at 8:00pm, and although they weren’t thick the hatch built up some steam. As usual, the bass moved into the shallows and frog water as it got progressively darker. They were feeding on the surface (which was also littered with sulphur spinners) but they weren’t keyed solely on the insects. I know this because I did boffo box office with a Countermeasure from first cast to take out at 8:55pm.

Lost in all this white fly madness (sure, it’s fun!) is the black caddis. Size 16, and they were out in force. And I think the smallies like them as much as the white flies. Fish a Black Magic top dropper over an August White on point, and see which the bass prefer. Smallmouth always tell the truth.

That’ll put a good bend in the old five-weight.

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Housy smallmouth mini-report (late)

I fished the Housy the other night from 6pm-8:30pm. Virgin waters for me, below the TMA: some pocket water that dumped into a long boulders-on-the-bottom run, shoulder deep in the middle ringed with frog water. Action: underwhelming. Hatches: underwhelming (mostly tan and black caddis). So it goes, but I did catch fish and I had the place all to myself.

I took the usual assortment of late afternoon dinks. Pre-hatch swung wets produced very little interest (not surprising given the weak evening rise) and all the action came on the Black Magic top dropper. The smallmouth bite window was torturously brief: 8:00pm-8:15pm, then shutdown. I had switched over to a grey and chartreuse Gurgler, and my best fish of the evening came on that fly. Toward dark I did get the largest bluegill I’ve ever landed, but that’s really not why I was there.

Nearly a foot long, this dude whacked the Gurgler upon landing, then hunted it down about ten feet across a current seam. Almost put a burn in my rod hand forearm.

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Housy Smallmouth Report 8/10/17: Questions 67 & 68

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. 

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Housy Smallmouth Report 8/9/17: No big deal

I’m a creature of habit, and that includes fishing. So every once in a while I need to force myself to switch things up, get out of my comfort zone, and try something different. That’s how I found myself last night in what’s probably the most popular pool on the river.

My evening began way above the covered bridge in some snotty rapids. One 6-incher on the TeQueely and done. I moved downriver to reconnoiter some new water. Didn’t like the looks of it, so I headed to my beat for the evening.

I hadn’t fished this run in a few decades. There’s a lot to like about it: substantial riffles that dump into a long pool, good current, ringed by both deep and shallow frog water. It’s fishy as hell.

Alas, it was infested with dinks. Even after it became difficult to see the fly, I was still hauling in pipsqueaks. OK, I was fishing on the wrong side of the river. But I didn’t see many of those telltale big fish bulges. On the positive end, I did boffo pre-hatch business with a Black Magic North Country spider dropper and a white fly soft hackle on point. They loved the flies on the dangle, rod tip raised, with a very slow or hand-twist retrieve. I had a few doubles, but mostly the bass were keyed on one fly or the other. I was intrigued that I would get several bass on the black — consecutively — then 2-3 bass on the white. (You may have heard this before, but droppers are the quickest way to find out what the fish want.)

Finally, you’ll want to know about the white flies. The answer was no. Very weak hatch, maybe a 2 out of 10. This pool is upriver from where I’ve been fishing, so I can’t make an intelligent scientific comparison other than to say it sucked. Black caddis were out again.

Good to meet everyone last night, and thanks as always for sharing the water.

Black Magic was featured in the color plates of Robert Smith’s book The North Country Fly. It works as well on eastern freestone river smallies as it does on English chalk stream browns. Black Pearsall’s silk, peacock herl, black hen.

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