With summer's official beginning less than two weeks hence (June 21),
streams and rivers (with exceptions) are falling to normal levels and that
sets the stage for some of the most interesting fishing of the year.
Larger and mid-sized streams may remain above normal for another month
or so, but the smaller streams offer better fishing now than later in the
summer when they get too low for best angling.
Don't expect anybody--including this reporter--to put names and stretches
of the little gems out for public consumption. But the angler who wants
to find this kind of fishing will do well to look at the smaller tributaries
of his favorite river and mid-sized streams.
Understanding this requires nothing more complicated that a basic knowledge
of the habits of fish. When water levels of the larger streams and river
are above normal in the spring fish tend to turn their noses upstream.
This creates optimum numbers--not to mention great variety--of finny citizens
in the trickles.
As summer progresses and water levels get lower the larger streams
will be better bets for fishing, but even then the deeper holes of water
on small streams will hold fish.
Generally, as summer develops, you will catch larger fish in larger
rivers and streams, but this takes nothing from the angling potential of
streams that are not much wider than your fishing pole.
One of the greatest features of fishing smaller streams lies in the
fact that they are much too small to float. You have to wade them, or slip
along the banks to fish the best spots.
For this kind of fishing old everything is the order of the day--from
old tennies to trousers and shirts, your valuables stashed in the trunk
of the car.
It's work. Make no mistake about that. But the fishing proper, and
the incidental sights and sounds that are part of it, will more than pay
for the expended energy as you slither along the banks with mud from head
For many anglers--including your reporter--largemouth and smallmouth
bass are voluntary catch-and-release species, and this is good for fishing.
But numerous other species--notably rock bass and long-eared (redbelly)
sunfish--will be found in the smaller waters, perhaps even crappies or
several of the catfish species. They are all most edible.
I go two ways for fishing the smaller streams. A short (say five feet
or shorter) ultra light spinning outfit with four-pound-test line is best
for most streams. However, if there is enough room for casting, a lightweight
fly rod can be even more exciting.
Actually, a longer rod will pay big dividends when fishing small streams
because the extra length makes dabbling easier. Dabbling, in the vernacular
of a country boy, is sneaking to the most likely haunts of fish, and presenting
either bait (live or natural) or lure with only a few inches to a few feet
of line beyond the tip of the rod. For the most part, it is straight up-and-down
fishing, but pendulum-style, short flips also are used.
When I use a fly rod for this kind of fishing, my choice of reels usually
is a closed face spin-cast mill loaded with four-pound-test line. If I
am using live or natural bait, terminal tackle is no more complicated than
a small wire hook (wire can be bent off and reshaped if it hangs on under
water obstructions) and a thin strip of wrap-on sinker. However, there
is much to be said for thumbnail-size, clip-on bobbers a few inches above
the hook. With such a rig, the bait or lure can be kept near good cover
for longer periods of time.
But with, or without, the bobber, gentle movement of the bait or lure
is an important feature of technique. There are times when the slightest
nudge of a bait or lure will pull the trigger of a cautious fish. Of course,
this is true of fishing other waters.
If steep banks make it necessary to wade, fish upstream, and move cautiously.
This will keep the disturbance you create behind you, and make it possible
to get within spittin' distance of fish under good cover.