Friday, August 12, 2016

How often?

One of the many 4UR veterans who are now still working in the industry or on the water is my good friend Drew.  Drew is a Wisconsin native who now guides for the Tight Lines outfit, a group of great Midwest boys who are fishy as hell and super keen on their smallmouths.

I had the good fortune to join Drew and a colleague for a spell in Pembine, Wisconsin, where the Tight Lines crew lives for the summer season.  The owner of the shop, Tim, falls into the description above and was especially excited for me to experience the great fishery they have at their doorstep.  I arrived late on a Wednesday to find the beer and whiskey flowing.  With an early wake-up approaching fast, several times we all contemplated the beds that awaited us.  Tim has a particularly good line of peer pressure that whisks away most reservations about another round, another story, another anything:  How often?  How often do I find myself in northeast Wisconsin with two of my best buds?  How often do I get to smallmouth fish on the Menominee with two of my best buds?  How often can I have one more beer in Wisconsin with two of my best buds? 

Not very often, is the answer to those questions.  I encourage you to employ such a quiz when confronted with decisions over one more beer or staying up a little later.  If the answer is 'pretty often', maybe you can find a way to phrase the question to get the answer you desire.

The mighty Menominee.
My prior experience with the smallmouth bass was largely in a couple ponds in the Camden-Rockport area, where Lefty Steele and I kept a canoe stashed in the woods when we were working at Maine Sport.  We found the fish agreeable to popper presentations there.  July in Wisconsin is topwater season for the smallies, and our bugs consisted of mostly the same, plus a local pattern known as Ol' Mr. Wiggly.  It's a quick tie that I plan to experiment for other species.  Perhaps you'll do the same.

So we were to float various sections of the Menominee in Drew's Clacka.  On the first day, ten minutes in, Drew pointed out a particular spot below a dam where a back-eddy turned into a downstream flow.  I made my cast with a yellow popper and this fish ate it immediately:

19.5" to start the trip.  Great!
Same fish as above.  Looks bigger here, eh?
Different fish than above, but just a bit downstream.  Twenty minutes into the trip.

I forgot how much fun smallies are.  They pull like hell, corking out 8-weights, eat topwater bugs like the dickens and love that warm water.  For a summertime fish, they're pretty rad.  I'm looking into my smallmouth locals out here.

Top.  Water.
Mahoney Thumbs-Up of Approval.

More.  Top.  Water.

Ate it good.
One last story.  We had pretty damn good fishing, but like any place you go, it'll slow down from time to time.  From what I've gathered, the gear and bait guys can really clean up on this river.  Case in point, on our final morning, while waiting on Drew to finish running the shuttle, I watched as a party barge (the river is pretty wide and slow) made its way up the middle of the river and then cut its engine directly in front of the boat launch.  Now I've heard of 'take-out fish', but rarely do I hear of boat launches being a fishing spot that one might target, or seek out.  Nevertheless, the captain of this vessel thought it to be a fine spot.
As the boat coasted to a stop mid-river, the captain grabbed the anchor and tossed it into the river: KABOOM!  The anchor splashed down, causing quite a ruckus, I thought.  I watched as the man then proceeded to remove his shirt, pull a beer out of his cooler, grab his fishing pole and head to the stern where he took a seat on a waiting chair.  He let fly his bait/lure and began a retrieve.  A moment later and he had one on!  Damn!  I guess that does work!  It would take us an hour and a half to get our first that day.
The big lake.

Cheers!  How often?!


Thursday, April 14, 2016


Twelve months. 

That's how long I've waited to be here again.  To stand on the platform, look into these waters and see them:  tarpon.

You will find them in a handful of different types of water and types of ways.  No matter how the shots come, they're all awesome, but the laid-up tarpon is especially exciting.  You'll sometimes stare for hours at a time at brown-green water; you'll stare so long it seems like you've forgotten what to look for, or what they look like.  Then, all of a sudden, there's one.  From afar, they're light-brown-tannish against the murky, backcountry Everglades water.  You inch closer and closer and slowly the shape appears.  Then it's glowing at you.  You can barely make out its head and its tail, but you know which is which.  It's just sitting there. 

It can be a battle just to find one, but when you do, another battle begins; this time with yourself.  Present the fly properly.  Drop it two feet in front of the fish's nose.  Maybe a hair across it too.  Not too hard. 

In a basketball game, when you shoot a foul shot, you have ten seconds.  You do your routine, and shoot.  Mine goes like this:  line up my right foot with the nail, hold the ball in my left hand, look at the front of the rim, and breath.  Two dribbles, then look again at the rim.  Breath twice.  Shoot.

The time from spotting a laid-up fish to making your shot can be a minute or less than ten seconds, but the procedure is somewhat similar in that there's a definite success or failure.  The fish eats (you make the shot), or it doesn't (you miss the shot). 

Two times today I was blessed with the quintessential laid-up tarpon shot.  Two times today I was polled closer and closer while I stared at the glowing fish, just sitting there.  I know where I want the fly to go (the ball to go through the rim), I can see it landing there (the ball hits nothing but net).  I know what I want the fish to do, I've watched them do it before.  Two times today I watched as my cast landed feet away from where I wanted it to.  Two times today I watched as the glowing tarpon disappeared before my eyes, never to be seen again.  Blown shot.  Brick.  Fail.

When you land the fly where you want it, this is what it looks like: