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Al Agnew

A bit out of practice, I guess...

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It had been since sometime in June that I'd actually been in the solo canoe on an Ozark float trip, and it was driving me nuts.  I really planned to do my annual 3 day solo trip this week, but first the cabin we're building needed attention, and I had to be around to pick up Mary from the airport on Monday, and then I saw the latest weather forecast calling for all kinds of rain and thunderstorms.  I don't care to try a multi-day trip with that kind of forecast.  So yesterday appeared to be my only window of opportunity for the week.  A simple float on one of my favorite sections of my home river was in order.

Well, it started out okay.  I caught four bass right at the put-in.  Then in the next riffle, which almost always produces one or two fish, though often small, I got nothing but a tiny spotted bass.  The next pool has gotten progressively deeper and better looking in the last 10 years, to the point where it has produced a couple of 20 inch class smallies for me, but I fished all the way down it with nothing but a swipe from a small largemouth...until I reached the lower end, shallowing out, one more cast, probably a waste of time...and a 19.5 inch largemouth engulfed my twin spin.  The next three pools all produced nice largemouth, every one of them right at the lower end.  A pattern of sorts, but where were the smallmouth?  

The pattern was broken in the next pool, when the largemouth hit in the middle of it...and it was significantly bigger than that first one, coming completely out of the water to smash my walk the dog lure, the only good fish all day that hit the topwater.  But I don't know exactly how big because it came loose after a short tussle.  I finally caught a decent 14 inch smallmouth farther down that pool.  But the fishing had gotten really slow for the most part.  And I was having plenty of frustrations.  Tangled lures.  Leaves on the water--it was a somewhat windy day.  The wind also made canoe positioning to fish problematical, and I wasn't used to dealing with it.  Then my line somehow went completely through the split ring on my twin spin.  And shortly afterward, did it again on the belly hook of a Whopper Plopper that I was trying with little success.  I hooked a nice largemouth and it got tangled in a dangling grapevine in fast water and broke off.  I hooked another nice but not huge fish, and it somehow bent the snap I was using open and made off with my lure.  Then the line in the split ring thing happened a third time, on a spinnerbait as I reeled in another nice largemouth.  I kicked a rod overboard and had to retrieve it.  It seemed like every few minutes I was cussing to myself about something for a while.  But finally I settled down, began to fish more efficiently, and also stopped going at it like I was killing snakes and just enjoyed the river.  It was hot, the wind was still annoying, but a couple dips in the river and that wind kept me cool by evaporation for quite a while.

But the fishing seemed to remain slow.  I know this section of river so well I can almost pick the spots where I'll catch a nice fish, but those spots weren't producing well, and the smallmouth were exceedingly slow.  The fishing gets better the farther you go downstream on this float, and when I passed the halfway point I expected it to pick up, especially since the very best pool for big fish in the whole stretch was coming up.  But the doofus landowner had decided to muck up the willow-covered gravel bar at the head of this pool with a bulldozer, and had changed the upper end considerably.  I still caught the best smallmouth of the day there, a 15 incher, but it no longer looked like a big fish spot.  Farther down the pool, expecting a few good smallmouth, I was only able to muster a couple more largemouth, though one was a 17 incher.  The pool and run below that one is almost as good, but produced nothing but a couple small fish.  

So the fishing never did get really good.  In fact, I was somewhat disappointed overall with it, until I realized, with a mile to go, that I'd caught 70 bass altogether.  I caught only one more in that last mile, though, as I paddled through much of it to be at the take-out on time for Mary to pick me up.  It actually was a great day for largemouth...I caught 27 of them, and more than half were over 14 inches.  I caught 26 spotted bass, with a couple nice ones.  And 18 smallmouth.  I caught fish on the twin spin, my homemade crankbait, the HD Craw, a few on the Whopper Plopper and a few more on my homemade version of it.  So heck, it was actually a pretty darned decent day.  Maybe I was just disappointed that more of them weren't smallmouth, or that I never saw a big smallie.  

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