I’m dozing on the couch at 5 a.m. as Genz Man gently knocks on my door to alert me that it’s time to get going while not waking my wife or daughter. I get up and go give my wife and daughter a gentle kiss goodbye, grab my rod, wading shoes, change of clothes, fishing vest and a cooler of water and I’m on my way. As I lock my front door the realization happens that I’ll be free from all anxiety for the entire day. Genz man helps me load his car, a blue Ford Escort wagon, a true fishin’ machine in my humble opinion! We get in, discuss our wading location, and we’re off for the day.
We have about an hour and 20 minute ride to our spot, a tranquil freestone stream scarcely fished by anyone except a few local to that area. As usual, the fishing holes closest to the bridges and parking areas are hit the hardest, but if you put forth the effort and wade a ways you’ll usually find lots of action. Genz man, always the pessimist
, complains that the water will be muddy like chocolate because of the thunderstorm that hit the area the night before as my mind wanders off. I imagine casting my 4” green pumpkin tube jig up and across the stream into a four foot deep pool full of chunk rock right along the foam line. I imagine that the jig drifts oh so slowly ticking the rocks. I imagine lifting my rod tip as the jig crawls over the rocks mimicking the bronzebacks favorite food source, the crawdad. I imagine the lure hanging up on a rock and I hop the rod tip to pop the jig off the rock. As the jig frees itself I imaging feeling the tell tale tap of a chunky smallmouth inhaling the lure. I reel up as I drop the rod tip and snap hook set driving the hook home. The fish leaps several times as I finally turn it and control him toward my side of the stream…
“Kevin! Where am I supposed to turn?” yells Genz man as I snap me out of my daze with a smile on my face. “Turn left here, Bill. Go around the bend and turn right. The bridge is at the bottom of the hill. Pick up the pace, will ya? Yer drivin’ like an ol’ lady,” I reply in a ridiculous attempt to gain fishing time.
We reach the bridge and jump out of the car like little kids in a Disneyland parking lot and rush down to check the stream conditions. I knew the water clarity would be crystal clear. This particular stream drains seems to be less effected by erosion than the other streams that we fish. Of course, before I can comment on the conditions, Genz man replies, “Chocolate. We’re gonna get skunked!” When I was a kid there was a cartoon on TV titled “Gulliver’s Travels” and there was this character named “Glum”. Well, that should have been Genz man’s user name instead, because that describes him to a tee
! We rush back to the car to get ready. It’s 92 degrees and humid, but we know we’ll be cool in the stream and will make sure to bring plenty of water with us. Plus, we can always take a dip in the deep pool later on knowing that the water temperatures are about 75 degrees. We have to don our wading shoes, make sure we apply screen and bug spray to ward of those biting flies that participate in aerial races around your head, make sure we have all our lures ready in our vests, make sure we have enough water, and one final check to make sure that Genz man has his keys before we lock up the vehicle and head off in pursuit of our quarry, Micropterus dolomieui, commonly known as the smallmouth bass.
Those first few steps into the creek are a sometimes a shock to the system when wet wading as they run much cooler than the major river systems in the area. We briefly fish the pool below the bridge and each catch a small rock bass (a.k.a. red eye). “What are you starting out with Bill?” I ask. He replies, “I’m using a 4” green pumpkin ringworm. How about you”? I’m starting out with a 4” green pumpkin tube,” I reply. “Let’s move on to some better pools.” We have to cross through this deeper pool to the gravel bar on the other side and that means that we have to get balls deep. “Whoa Nelly that water is cold!” I blurt out. Genz man is cursing me, LOL. “Don’t worry Bill, this way you’ll get used to it faster.”
We’ll head upstream today. Fishing upstream has it’s advantages. Usually, you have a better chance to avoid spooking the fish because most of them are usually facing upstream into the current in ambush of any unsuspecting prey that might drift with the current into their feeding lane. Also, you avoid kicking up silt and clouding the holes that you are approaching. I know of a couple really awesome holes that I know will produce some big fat smallies for us. Genz man has never fished this spot. He’s negative, as usual, but you can tell that he’s pretty fired up. We cross over to a gravel bar and into a very shallow gravel stretch and make our way upstream to the next pool. “Bill, just around the corner is a pretty nice pool, lots of chunk rock. Wade carefully across the stream here so we can approach from that gravel bar over there. Be careful not to spook them. They hold tight to the rocks at the head of the riffles, so cast across and down and you should hook up.” Genz man takes my advice and hooks into a dark chunky smallie. The fish zips across the back of the pool taking line for a second. Genz man controls his fish and lips him, “Ah, just a twelve incher.” I correct him, “Bill, that fish is about fourteen inches, just hold your hand up and spread out your fingers. Your hands are about the same size as mine. That’s about nine inches and the fish extends at least five inches longer. Do you want a picture?” “Naw, maybe on a bigger fish, save it for later.” We each catch a couple dinky smallmouth out of that hole. I still marvel at how cool even the smaller ones look. Their coloration, the red eyes, and how aggressive they are. For their size they still fight and leap with the heart of their older generation. “Bill, let’s move on to the next hole.”
After wading through a shallow unproductive stretch, the stream is fairly straight here, and widens and deepens into a pool. There are some steep eroded banks with some fallen trees on the right, and a few rocky cliffs on the left side. The stream bed is gravel here and it’s piled up in the center so that is the shallow spot at thigh deep. The obvious deeper fish holding locations are on either side of us. I notice the current ahead of us boiling over a large boulder sized rock in the shallow stretch. Other than the shoreline cover, it’s the only object submerged that a fish could ambush, so I toss my tube just upstream and let it sink down into the current so it passes on the bottom by the rock. I feel the tell tale tap as a smallie inhales my lure, just like my dream on the ride up, and promptly set the hook. Instantly a nice smallmouth rockets out of the water and heads downstream. Meanwhile, Genz man’s last cast into the blow down on the right results in a decent fat 12” largemouth bass. I’m amazed at the power of these stream smallies as I carefully fight my fish. I love the power of bronze! Wow, good fight. I finally land him. I don’t have a scale or measuring tape handy because when you wade as far as we do you plan to get wet and you have a limited the amount of space for tackle and such. So, again, I stretch my thumb and index finger as far as it will go (about 9 inches) and hold it up against the tail. I estimate that the head extends about seven inches further and figure this bass was about sixteen inches long. Genz man scrambles for his digital camera as I prepare to release him. I notice that there are some antennae sticking out of the gullet. I use my forceps to carefully push back the tissue revealing the head of a crayfish remarkably close in color to the green pumpkin tube that I’m using. My confidence is at an all time high for the remainder of the day. What a start. Genz man takes the picture and I gently release the bass to fight another day. Small streams such as these can’t take much fishing pressure. Small stream watersheds are a fragile resource, so catch and release helps to ensure that future trips will be just as productive for smallies. We catch a few smallmouth between 8 and 12 inches, a couple red breast sunfish, and a rock bass and move to the next hole. I just love small streams!
The next stretch of about 200 yards is fairly unproductive but we do pick up a few bass here and there. There are chutes in the rapids on the right bank that dip under some undercut banks hidden in streamside root systems. Those are classic trout spots on most streams and on streams like this you could encounter a feisty smallmouth too, and that is exactly where we picked up the bass in this stretch. The middle of the stream had lots of gravel and not too many places for bass to hide, so we fished through this area fairly quickly. I remember the first time that I fished this stretch of stream. It seemed that whenever I looked ahead, the pools looked better and better. Often you’d see some bluffs or cliffs and imagine a deep hole under them only to find that it wasn’t that great. This sometimes results in wading where you should be fishing and fishing where you should be wading
. So, I’ve learned to remember those stretches the next time.
We encounter a pool around the creek bend that is deep, rocky, and separated by an island. There is good flow into the pool from both sides of the island, and off to the right is a slack water pool deep enough to hold fish but just off the main creek. The pool is roughly four feet deep at it’s deepest spot but filled with chunk rock. We plan to fish this pool thoroughly and then take a break for lunch and water. One of the things that I like to do is use a rattle in my tube jig and they are great for these deep pools. I’m not sure if it really attracts them or not, but it doesn’t seem to hurt, and it seems to me that I get more hits using the rattle than if I don’t. Both Genz man and I take up our positions on the gravel bar just downstream from the island. This is a fairly large pool with multiple feeding lanes, and both of us are in prime position to hit them. The far shoreline has plenty of tree shade, and undercut bank lined with chunk rock, and as mentioned earlier the deep slack area behind it. Genz man hooks up immediately on a chunky 14 inch smallmouth that just engulfed his plastic worm as it hit the water and gave him a decent fight. Meanwhile, I imagine before casting just where the fish will be in the feeding lanes closer to me. I figured that he was working that far bank so I’d take the deep center section. Given the depth and amount of current, that choice best suited my lure and presentation anyway. No hits for me on that cast, but before I could lift my lure out of the water to make my next cast I see ol’ Genz man next to me battling yet another bass. My next cast gave me that perfect drift right down the foam line. I could feel the lure ticking the rocks below in front of me and then I had a tap. I set the hook, but whoa, felt no weight, and my lure was gone. I blurted out an expletive under my breath. Either my knot wasn’t up to snuff or this small stream contained toothy critters that I didn’t know about. Meanwhile, Genz man was in his zone. He landed four bass in a row and lost two and not one of the ones that he landed were less than fourteen inches by the time that I re-rigged only to lose my tube to another bite off. I’m fuming now, but decide it’s time to switch tactics. I pull my spare spool of line out of my vest filled with Fireline, a tougher line but still susceptible to bite offs. I eventually pitch my tube back in there and land a three decent smallmouth between 9 and 12 inches, but certainly not the toothy thief residing in that hole. My frustration continued as I lost my next fish right at my feet, not a huge bass, but a good one. Next thing I hear is Genz man hooting and hollering downstream from me as he battles a nice chain pickerel. He landed it and I took a picture with my camera. It was about 20-22” long. Wow, I didn’t realize this stream had pickerel in it. On my next cast I caught a small pickerel, and had another bite off after that. That was if for the pickerel action on the day, but we did manage to hook a few more bass out of that pool before sitting down to eat lunch. Time had really escaped us as it was well after 2 p.m. It’s funny how hunger doesn’t affect you while you’re having such good fishing action. Already on the day we’ve combined to catch over 40 fish.Who'da thunkit? I've fished this stream for 15 years and never new chainsides were in there!
I sat on a nice flat rock and relaxed gazing downstream as a deer and her fawn crossed the creek at the riffles below about 100 yards away unaware of our presence. The sun was high overhead but the canopy of trees above us gave us plenty of shady cover while the cool stream cooled our feet. As I ate my lunch, I was entertained by the microecosystem right at my feet. Small Johnny darters fed on plankton just a few feet away from me. A school of black nosed dace and satinfin shiners darted up from the deeper pool at my left into shallow water every now and then to nibble at the hairs on my legs. A crayfish uses it’s claws to push sediment from under his rock like a tiny bulldozer. Tiny young of the year smallmouth seem to feed in packs against the grass bed to my right on small microscopic prey. They seem to impose their dominance and their place in the pecking order on the darters. One smallie no more than an inch and a half long seem to delight in tormenting the bottom dwelling darters. Every time a darter settled in his territory the smallie would shoot out and peck it on the tail. While I’m eating and watching the mini ecosystem at me feet, Genz man catches a huge rock bass in the deep hole after eating his lunch. I gulp down some water and finish my lunch quickly. Time to get back on them.
The soft plastics worked well in the next several holes. No big smallies were caught the remainder of the afternoon, but the action was steady. I noticed a drastic dropoff in the bites though as we reached our last hole. It’s time to work our way back if we are to make it back to our vehicle before dark. Genz man continues to offer his plastic worm to the fish, this time wading downstream and casting across and down. We have to pay particular attention to our silt trail and walk more carefully to not spook fish in the better pools below. The across and down presentation changes the lure drift, much higher as the current pushes it upwards. This difference can trigger strikes of more active fish as the afternoon progresses. I could opt for the same drift with my tube, but decide that a different approach is needed, something the fish haven’t seen today. So, I tie on a small 1/8 oz. chartreuse buzzbait and tip use a pumpkin/chartreuse tail ringworm as a trailer. In years past this combination on small streams has been amazing. Smallies seem to home in on that worm better than just the bright skirt for reasons that I don’t understand. I discovered it on a Maryland small stream one day when fishing just the ringworm on light line. It seemed that each time I finished my drift when I reeled the worm back fast to make another cast I’d get either a fish following it aggressively or a hit, so I went to the buzzer to call more of them in and it paid off. I was one bass short of a 100 bass day that day (with plenty of decent fish landed too), so that pattern became ingrained in my head forever. So I tossed my newly tied on buzzer at the first piece of cover near deep water that I saw and promptly drew a strike. I missed that fish, but knew that my pattern would be hot from that point on. As we waded over the pools that we already fished, I picked up chunky bass after chunky bass that were hammering my buzzbait. It was amazing how aggressive these bass were. Meanwhile, Genz man was still catching a bass here and there, but I don’t know if it was the slower presentation of the worm (not covering as much water) that caused me to catch fish at a faster rate, or if it was that the fish were much more on the prowl, or if working the top was getting the attention of the fish better than drifting the bait in front of them or what. But, it was working. After landing a dozen more bass, I urged Genz man to change up his tactics and he finally bit the bullet and did (he is stubborn
, just like me, LOL). From that point on we hammered the bass all afternoon on the buzzers. Finally, on the last hole, I caught a decent smallie, another fat 16 inch fish right in the center of a pool where the current was broken by a large rock in front of me. I tossed my buzzer in there again and had a huge hit. The bass was much bigger than I’d caught all day and it took my lure straight down under the rock. My confidence in landing hooked bass on Fireline has never been questioned in my mind. Once I drive that hook home on the hookset and feel the head shake on the other end I pretty much know that I’m going to land him. But, not this time, the fish broke my line. I couldn’t believe it. It was the only buzzer that I had with me that day. I was so ticked off
, not only because I lost that big bass but because I lost my hot bait. I had another one in the car, but it was 200 yards away and we only had about 10 minutes of daylight remaining! I reluctantly tied on a super fluke hoping that bait, normally very productive on this body of water, would produce as well as the buzzer did. The super fluke on this day was ingnored
, but across the other side of the pool a nice smallmouth that I estimated at 18 or 19 inches leaps from the water with a chartreuse buzzbait visible in it’s mouth in an attempt to throw the lure. Meanwhile, ol’ Genz man is stroking the bass on his buzzer. I’m fed up and decide to carefully wade downstream from the pool and around the other side in a hopeless attempt to find my buzzbait where the big bass jumped. I did this until dark to no avail while upstream from me Genz man is landing yet another bass. I gave up and just decided to watch him fish. The action slowed as time ran out and became dark.One of the buzzbait bass!
We had a bit of a drive home so we decided to call it quits and wade back to the car. We both had a terrific day. Lot’s of bass, plenty of wildlife, and we had it all to ourselves. The entire day is over, gone, like we were in another world altogether. We have to return to our daily grinds tomorrow. On the way home we recapped the day and it seemed to keep both of us lively for the ride home.
I’ll never forget that day, like many that I’ve had on that stream.
Where is it, you say?
It’s the stream just down the road from you! Note: this is a semi fictional story based on many true events, basically my memories and how I view my small stream smallmouth bass fishing experiences. This is NOT a fishing report, LOL, but rather just for your enjoyment, and mine when I read it over. The pictures are conveniently similar to the story though Please Practice Catch Photo and Release on Small Stream Bass