By the time the kiddies are sporting their ghoulish duds on for an evening of tricks and treats I’m grasping at straws for the remainder of open water. The cold air may be slowly invading our turf, but there’s still plenty of warmwater flowing and fish to be caught. Beyond my aforementioned Muskie chasing tendencies, I also target big bass in the fall. While there are Largemouth a plenty in the city lakes, the Smallies evacuate my neighborhood creek for greener pastures, so I ‘m forced to look elsewhere. My usual haunts are north of Minneapolis often times on the main channel of the Mississippi or in the Rum River. The Rum is the artery that connects “world famous” Mille Lacs to the Upper Mississippi, and the whole lot of the water is some of the best Smallmouth turf on the planet. Mille Lacs tends to get more pub for it’s Walleye fishing, but for my money it’s one of the best places to chase big Smallies and mash knee knocking monster Muskies. A few of my DTA cohorts and I have been chatting about the merits of the Rum, but have been unable to hookup for an outing. Between work and “nursing duties” there has been little time for angling endeavors over the last few weeks. Jack’s post op recovery has felt a little like having a newborn baby back in the house, and I thank my lucky stars that isn’t the case. By the time Friday rolled around I was practically foaming at the mouth to escape for a few hours. I arose at a god awful hour to put in a good chunk of work before blasting off on an impromptu excursion.
I can’t quite explain why I enjoy fishing in cold, damp conditions, but mother nature was certainly dishing it out this morning. I was well aware of the dichotomy that this presented. The cold front, combined with A.M. fishing, would not present me the best opportunity for a strong bite. But that mattered little as I was freely floating downstream escaping the of the doldrums of daily life. As I arrived at the boat ramp I was greeted with low water levels and half a dozen other participants eagerly seeking what the lazy river had to offer.
There have been a few rounds of vise time in preparation for fall duties. I tied a handful of obese Sloppy Joes in a chartreuse baitfish coloration and a few long-n-skinny Clousers. A hefty dose of lead wraps were added to these flies in an attempt to get these them to dredge deep pools. I added an extra split and still wasn’t satisfied with the results. The bite was far from fast and furious, but I had a few average fish inhale them nonetheless including this dink.
As the morning wore on I covered a lot of water in search of the motherlode. In fall you hope for the dream scenario where schools of big Smallies stack up in spots often times no larger than a Volkswagon Squareback. I couldn’t seem to put the pieces of the puzzle together. I’d pick up a fish off of a promising looking spot, and sometimes a second. But never a third and nothing resembling the big boys I was after. I exchanged pleasantries with a few other boats on the river, and concluded that I wasn’t alone in my lukewarm assessment of the situation. The guys throwing and trolling cranks weren’t faring any better then the boys working the obvious spots with live bait. This was a classic junk fishing situation where the fish were biting on everything and nothing in particular, and no one had landed a toad. Many of the bites were what I call a “dirty dishrag.” You don’t feel any semblance of a typical bite, just pressure that is similar to being fouled with weeds. The only difference is that these “weeds” have a bad attitude when you set the hook.
I persevered through alternating periods of drizzle and gray skies that ultimately gave way to tiny crevasses of sun. The slight warmup from the chilly overnight lows was welcome respite and emboldened my hopes of a big bite.
The low flows and slow current made reading the water a bit more challenging task than your usual trout stream. I managed a few fish from obvious current breaks at logjams and deep holes scoured out at corner bends. One corner in particular peaked my curiosity. It didn’t have as good of depth or a distinct channel like some of the others, but the current seemed to be ripping by a with a bit more gusto. With an abundance of woody cover, a good edge seam and solid eddies, I worked it like a part-time job. On my first drift I managed a small fish, quickly followed by a second. He followed my fly to the surface, snatching it right next to the boat. It was the only aggressive behavior I saw all day. I couldn’t manage another fish, but vowed to return on my way out. When I arrived back at the spot an hour later I made a few casts to the same area, to no avail. A few minutes later downstream my cast to the seam was rudely greeted with the thud I had been seeking. I immediately recognized this as a fish of worthy proportions. There’s really no mistaking the tug of Micropterus dolomieu. Pound for pound it’s one of the hardest fighters in these parts. I don’t recall if I’ve offered up my in-depth analysis of the fighting characteristics of bass before? You see, comparing the toughness of Largemouth vs. Smallmouth is like Andre the Giant vs. Hulk Hogan. Andre the Giant (Largemouth) grows to massively fat proportions and has supreme big boy strength due size and girth, though not particularly athletic. Hulk Hogan (Smallmouth) on the other hand is built like a brick shithouse, and cut with the ripped physique that must come from a steroid needle in the ass. It’s no mystery to the discriminating wrestling fan that Hulk always has the last laugh.
Still buzzing from the big bronzeback, I opted to hit a few spots close to the boat ramp to finish the session. While probing a nice looking laydown with a Clouser I hooked into what I briefly believed was a monster Smallie. I soon came to the realization that it was indeed a big
bonefish, I mean carp. Actually it was a Greater Redhorse. The beast was hooked on the outside of it’s nasty set of lips. For some reason I’ve always thought bottom feeders mouths look disgusting, but the Redhorse has no smell or slime and is actually a beautiful looking fish. It remains to be seen whether this fish was flossed or legitimately hit my fly. Either way it was an exciting way to finish the day.
This outing would ultimately serve as the counterpoint to my last “fishing heaven” blog entry. Gone are the days of the suicidal blitzkrieg. The fishing universe was right again. The casts, the concentration, the deciphering was all in play. An honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. But you have to ask yourself this question, was it a Trick or a Treat?