Saturday, July 7, 2012

Epic Smallmouth Bass Trips

What to do when the weather turns HOT?  Fish Smallmouth!!

Will Winans and I hosted two smallmouth bass trips to the Menomonee River in June- and without hype- experienced some of the better fishing and scenery found anywhere.  Honestly - I travel a fair bit, and would be hard pressed to name a better fishery or overall experience.  This place ranks alongside the storied waters found pretty much anywhere, but is a hell of a lot closer and easier to get to!

By clicking on the pictures below you will get to see what we mean!

The beauty up there is stunning- click on all pictures to see larger images!

The best part about smallmouth bass is that pound for pound, they flat out fight better than most freshwater fish and remind me more of saltwater predators!  In addition to being fairly plentiful in the midwest and 100% native- they love warm temperatures and they love to eat on top.  

Doug Mullen with a solid beauty!
Why travel that far when we have the Kankakee, the lakefront and other productive waters like the Upper Milwaukee and Fox/DuPage Rivers so close?  

The size of the fish, the utter lack of development (on certain sections of the river) or fishing pressure and the eerie beauty of that part of the world make it VERY different.

  Since 80-90% of their forage is crayfish, it's logical that they would respond to yellow poppers and 5" shad imitations.  Couldn't quite pin down Timmy (Owner of Tight Lines Fly Fishing Co. and head guide) on why that is the case, but logic dictates that everybody and apparently every fish likes to mix up the diet every once in a while! 

 Chartreuse or Yellow Boogle bugs ( a type of popper) seemed to be generally the fly of choice for our group, but Will's did pretty well on white and olive ones as well.  

We fished them like this: 20-50 foot casts toward shore or structure, an initial "pop" and then a 5-10 second dead drift.  Lift, haul, repeat.  

The smaller 14-16" fish usually crashed them- the larger 17-20" fish usually sipped them down with barely a ripple.

 I have to tell you that my absolute favorite two rods for this are the Sage 691 TCX and the Sage 790-4 One.  The 6WT TCX is a streamer/popper throwing machine- probably the most efficient rod that I have yet used!!   I prefer using the Rio Tropical Clouser Line when smallmouth fishing because the line is super stiff and that overweight head loads that TCX perfectly!   The Sage One 7 WT loads a little deeper, and is a more pleasant casting tool and fights the larger fish a bit more efficiently.  The  Rio Smallmouth Taper WF7 on the 790-4 Sage One seems magical.  Stiff enough to cast well and turn over poppers and Murdich Minnows, that is a pretty money line.

Ken Hammer with a beautifully barred smallie
Ben Kweton and guide Nate- 2 big boys with a big fish!

 Since I love to streamer fish and like to confound guides, I spent a fair bit of time throwing streamers when poppers were working especially well.  There is nothing prettier than retrieving an undulating 4 or 5 inch streamer, such as the Murdich Minnow or Umpqua Swimming Baitfish a foot below the surface and seeing smallies charge up from below and inhale the entire thing in a nanosecond.  I guess that is why I have thrown streamers during PMD hatches out west - the tug is the drug....

If I remember correctly, Timmy and Nate were telling us that a 19-20 inch smallmouth can be well north of 16 years old in that river system and weigh north of 5 lbs!  Imagine what an average fish has had to survive through to attain such a size!  This place is special- as are the fish.

Will's 20" club fish (20 1/2")

My 20" club fish (20 1/16"......)
Doug's 20" club fish  (20 1/8)

A shout out to our guides from Tight Lines Fly Fishing Co., Timmy, Nate, Hunter, Michael .  These guys are all superb, interesting and highly skilled guides.  To a man, each gets crazy excited by almost every fish, and are passionate about the waters they call home.  For them to be able to row a boat for 8 or 9 hours a day in that heat day after day, and remain as upbeat and professional as they do speaks volumes about them.

Timmy & Nate sporting cool hats!
Michael hoisting another one for Judy

Hunter shows off Ken's catch

We will have dates for our 2013 trips soon and hope that you can join us!  Below are a few more pictures!

Tight Lines!

Andy Kurkulis

Skip Gordon - big dude hold BIG fish!
Chris Santiago and Andy "double up"
The floats are breathtaking!
Tom Scorza gets it done!!
I do love streamer fishing!

Nate causes all to have box envy...

1 comment:

  1. The smallmouths are great fun. All you to do is first go here, then make some woolly buggers and fish the shallow end.