Saturday, May 27, 2006

I'm not lying...

A lot of folks know I fish the river a lot and they regularly ask for reports. Lately, some are then telling me that they " fished it last week and it was tough." When I give a good report, it's not unusual to see raised eyebrows and questionable expressions. Nobody's actually accused me of lying yet but if you're into reading eyes, a few of them have come close to asking the question.

I am telling the truth. But I know why they're wondering - when the Flint gets low and clear, the fishing gets tough. Well, not tough as much as different...the tactics are different, and the fish are a little different too. The techniques that were spanking `em in April don't work so well now. The deep holes are slow and almost stagnant, and shallow fish are spooking 100' away.

The good news is that the fish are still catchable - neither hot weather nor warm water shut down the shoal bass. Years ago I had an old-timer on the Flint tell me, "Son, thar's a bass under every rock in that river - all ya gotta do is get your bait down to him." While that may be a slight exaggeration, the part about being under the rock is dead on. The fish may come up to a top-water real early in the day, but after the sun gets up the fly is definitely going have to be right in front of him, down under that rock.

The long, "water-covering" casts are usually a waste of time. What's needed now are the "pocket-picking" casts and presentations. The fly that is dropped down into that crevice, or swims slowly deep down through that slot is the one that's going to get bit. Seldom can that cast be made from 25' away; often, I'm getting within a rod length or two of the pocket I'm trying to fish. Many of the casts look much more like the casts on a tiny mountain trout stream,and the drift is a "high-stick" that leads the fly the chute.

The photo at left is a spot we fished Tuesday, then yesterday I slipped off and fished it again by myself. From the bottom of the photo to the top of the little grass island is about 20' long and 6-10' wide. The dark spots are moss-covered rocks whose tops are 2"-10" under the surface; the water is about 2' deep (at the most). Tuesday, two 25' casts that hung up and created quite a commotion had blown the section. The angler wasn't really concentrating on the area very hard anyhow, but rather heading for that shade just upstream. He should have, however - yesterday I took 3 shoal bass from this run, one of them was pretty nice.

That's not to say what a good fisherman I am, but rather what a difference in approach can make. Very slowly and very quietly I had gotten in close - my first cast was just leader. It hit a 6" slot, dropped 8" and was promptly slammed by a bass that came from nowhere - I saw him eat. The second fish came on my 10th or 12th cast after I had moved up to cast from around the spot that fish #1 had come from. I had fished it almost all the way back to me, and the fly was out of sight, drifting into a horizontal ledge. I began to pick up slowly, wiggling and jiggling the rod tip in the process. The shoalie, about 2 1/2 lbs, interrupted my jiggle.

At first glance, this spot might seem an unlikely spot to hold fish. But closer examination shows a pretty good current flow (fed by the cooler, shady run upstream), plus a food-rich environment (rocks, moss, & current), and shady spots for the fish to lay up and to stay hidden from predators. The key to catching these fish was to get the fly right down in front of them. Not much way to make that happen in a spot like this one without getting almost on top of `em. The other key of course - getting on top of `em without spooking `em in the process.

We've all heard it a 1000 times - presentation makes the difference. That's certainly the case at many places on the Flint right now. And over here, getting into position is a major part of the presentation. So don't give up on the Flint (and don't think I'm telling tales) - just fish some different spots from different spots, and fish `em a little differently.


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