Frustrated yet? It’s the tail end of summer. All the experts warn about fishing the small mountain trout streams that have probably warmed to the threshold of terminal stress for the sensitive brookies. “Fish someplace else,” they say. Where? For most of us, “someplace else” means the stocked trout water that is also terminally warm – nothing there but… bass! A quick look at the good smallmouth bass water reveals the sad truth. At this point in the season, the underwater vegetation has exploded to its maximum extent, clogging both the good fishing holes as well as any streamer you attempt to drag along the bottom. Rather than stowing your fishing gear and going bowling, continue fishing by grabbing some new, very inexpensive “flies” that are inherently weedless.
I first wrote about this simple solution on my CatchGuide.com blog back in 2008, a solution that built on an epiphany I had at Bass Pro Shops in 1999. I was still exclusively a spin fisherman back then and was wandering aimlessly through their fishing section, enjoying the small thrill of implied opportunity every row represented. Suddenly, it hit me. Plastics. What? Was this my “The Graduate” moment? Up until that point, I had fished exclusively with spinners and hard baits. A plastic worm? No patience. But, looking down the long rows at Bass Pro, I realized that most of the lures were plastic – worms, creature baits, crawfish, whatever. At that point, I loaded my cart, never looked back and started catching more fish!
In 2007, I flipped to being primarily a fly angler, and even though I was deep in the throes of adopting the most puritanical set of angling ethics, I realized that the weedless solutions for flies were just not effective in the tall and tight grass of the Rapidan, Rappahannock or Potomac. Plastics. It came back. They had to be small and light, castable and effective. I scoured the aisles on my next visit to Bass Pro and stumbled across the crappie section. Bingo! Small plastic grubs, tiny one inch long Powerbait nymphs, little floating worms – I had found the solution. I grabbed a few packets and stopped at the split shot section to pick up some bullet shaped weights to use instead of standard split shot. In short, I just downsized what I had used previously as a spin fisherman.
The technique is simple. Texas rig these small lures, put the appropriate amount of weight to match whether you are using a 6wt or 8wt line and fish them exactly like a streamer. One more vital trick. The first time I used this rig, I noticed that my leader came back twisted and kinked. The grub spins a bit in the current and wraps the line tight. The solution was to add a very small, size 20 swivel to the end of your leader. Tie the tippet to the other end, and you are in business! In fact, the small swivel worked so well that I started using one on poppers as well. Depending on the current, they can spin and cause the same problem.
When casting this rig, you need to account for the increase in weight. You may want to “hurry up and stop” faster to put more energy in the backcast and the same on the forward stroke. Don’t. Doing that will cause your line to fly fast and splat. Practice a bit to determine the right amount of effort to put into your cast – start as gently as you would using a streamer, observe the results and work up to the right amount of energy. From then on, it’s just muscle memory.
Bottom line – no need to hang up your fly rod when the mountain streams warm up. Grab a few small plastics and hit some smallmouth water! September and October are great fishing months for smallies while you wait for the fall stocking program begins again.