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Interesting day

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Mary agreed to pick me up at the end of a float on one of my two favorite stretches of the river today, and I didn't even look at the weather forecast, just got up a 6 AM, loaded the solo canoe and gear, and took off for the river.  Beautiful morning, little or no wind, warm but comfortable, the river was surprisingly clear--close to 5 feet visibility--and flowing well.  I figured at least some smallmouth would be on beds, so I didn't even bring a rod for fishing anything slow on the bottom.  I had my usual topwater rod with a walk the dog topwater on it, my spinnerbait rod with twin spin, crankbait rod with homemade crankbait, a stiffer rod for fishing Superflukes, and one more rod for trying various things.  I started out trying the homemade Whopper Plopper type lure I'd made; this would be its first trial.  

Near the end of the first pool, using the WP prototype, I caught my first fish, and it was a good one, an 18.5 inch largemouth.  Hey, my lure works.  However, I was noticing it wanted to roll over occasionally.  I fished it a bit more, but then decided it needed a bit more work.

I tried my homemade crankbait, but the water was too clear for me to have the kind of confidence I have with it when Big River is closer to its usual murkiness.  I like 4 feet or less visibility for it.  Still, I caught a couple of fish on it in the next pool, but they weren't very big--which was disappointing because that pool is a big fish spot.

Tried the twin spin, not much happening.  Tried the Superfluke, got plenty of action from 8-10 inchers, not much from anything bigger.  Put on my homemade Subwalk for a bit, got a couple on it.  Topwater wasn't working.  And that's the way things went until lunchtime.

The upper half of this stretch is decent-looking water, but never seems to be as good fishing as the lower half, so as usual, I planned to fish it a little quicker, saving time to fish the lower half more thoroughly.  And as usual, I didn't exactly follow my plan.  By noon, halfway through the float time-wise, I was only about 3.5 miles through the 10 mile float.  The problem was that the fish weren't very active but once in a while I'd see a good one, though I couldn't get them to bite.  I kept trying different retrieves on the lures I was using, experimenting with different versions of those lures as well.  And that was taking some time.  I ate a bite and then decided to paddle for a while, because the next mile was pretty poor water anyway.  I paddled along banks that I figured the bass would be spawning on, and sure enough, saw a bunch of the males on beds.  

Then I got into better water at about the 4.5 mile mark, and that's when I started throwing a new walk the dog topwater that I'd bought last winter.  It's a little smaller than a Sammy 100 but has three small treble hooks, and those hooks are wicked sharp.  And that's when the fish turned on.  It took me more than two hours to fish the next 3/4th mile because I was catching fish on what seemed to be every other cast.  They weren't very big, most of them 10-12 inchers, nearly all smallmouth.  

One other reason it took me so long to cover that little stretch was that halfway through it, I hooked a decent fish, and when it jumped and threw the lure near the canoe, that 3 treble hook lure came back and hit me right in the belly.  Yep, through my thin shirt and one hook buried past the barb in my belly.  I'd already been a little scared of that lure with all those little needle hooks trying to lip bass, and I had a feeling something like this would happen.  I dug out the side cutters and cut the split ring holding the hook to the lure, got out my knife and cut the other two trebles out of my shirt, then had to carve up my shirt around the buried hook to get the shirt away from it.  Then I got my little length of fly line out of my pouch clipped to the tackle box and got ready to do the string trick to get the hook out.  Yep, I'm prepared for this eventuality these days.  Looped the line around the bend of the hook, pressed on the eye pushing it toward the buried barb, took a deep breath, and jerked hard and sharply on the fly line.  Plink.  Hook disappeared.  Mission accomplished.  I replaced the treble and split ring from another lure in my box, but then I decided to take a lesson from the experience, and bent the barbs down on all three trebles.  

By the time I finished that little stretch, which ends at a spot where I can take out if necessary, the wind had suddenly come up.  And did it come up!  Suddenly there were 30 or more mile per hour winds blowing me around, and dumping vast amounts of the little flower things off the trees.  The river quickly got almost completely covered with that gunk.  And pollen.  My eyes were watering, I was sneezing and coughing and my nose was running, as my late aunt used to say, "like a sugar-tree".  And it was well after 3 PM, and I still had nearly five miles to go, the better five miles of this float.  I obviously wasn't going to be able to fish it the way I wanted, because Mary wanted to pick me up no later than 6 PM.  I was frustrated by the pollen and stuff coming off the trees, not to mention that wind.  So I called Mary and asked her if she could leave now and pick me up at the intermediate access.  She said she'd leave right away, but it would take well over a half hour to get there.  Which gave me time to drift downstream another quarter mile in order to fish one of my favorite pools.  So far, the action had nearly all been smaller fish, but at the head of that pool, I made a cast over a limb a foot above the water, and a big largemouth took the lure as it dangled on the surface.  No way I was getting that fish.  Luckily, the hooks came out when it shook its head.  A few casts later, a big smallmouth hit the lure twice, failing to stay hooked the second time.  Not sure how big, but probably over 18 inches.  Next cast, another nice smallie hit, and I got that one--17 inches.  I caught a couple more in that pool, and then paddled back up to where I had to drag the canoe up to the road.  Mary showed up a few minutes after I got there.

So I ended up doing half the float I'd planned, the half that wasn't as good, and caught 76 bass; 14 largemouth, 19 spotted bass, and 43 smallmouth.   Would the fish have kept hitting like that through the rest of the float?  Was that last little flurry the start of the bigger fish getting active?  Had I finished the float I'd planned, I would have almost surely caught well over 100 bass, and maybe some bigger ones.  Who knows?  But it was nice to be able to avoid fishing in that wind and slop, and Mary was happy that it wasn't too late when she had to pick me up.   


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Al, your numbers (and writing) are humbling. Well done.

I rue the day I have to do the string trick on a solo float. I’ve been close a few times, but never past the barb. 

PS -  what’s a guy gotta do to get some paddle-measure pics out of a day like that!? lol. 

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I was surprised at how clear the water was the other day when I was on the upper part I was on.  Especially after the river being up a little bit a few days before that.  Unfortunately that stretch must not have been as popular with the bass as your stretch was as I didn't see or get bit by as many as you did.

-- Jim

If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there'd be a shortage of fishing poles. -- Doug Larson

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