Smallmouth Bass have, over the past year become my favorite fish to catch on a fly rod.
Unfortunately Southern California is not really known for it’s Smallie destinations.
So the majority of my time is filled with Urban Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass. They’re fun, they’re, ferocious, and they’re a very interesting fish in their own right.
But, there’s just something about catching their closely related cousin on the other end of a fly line , that makes my heart beat just a little faster!
Now there are a couple Smallmouth opportunities within 2-3 hours of where I live, and when I’m in the area you had better believe that I’m taking the opportunity to fish these waters.
I recently had one such day up on Big Bear Lake.
It was hot, windy, and in the afternoon. Which aren’t really the best conditions to be fishing.
We had just missed the spawn and the fish were coming off their beds, beginning a slow decent back to the deep water that they normally reside in.
So we put on the Sinking tip Fly Line and got into our kayaks to scope out any fish that were still holding in less than 10 feet of water.
It was slim pickins with only a few in sight, so we decided to change direction for the shoreline near a small drop off.
After about 5-10 minutes, I spotted a large Bass holding at the back end of a weed line in about 7 feet of water. It was skimming the bottom with it’s tail up and nose combing the vegetation.
So I tied on a Rust Colored Weighted Bead Head size 10 Flash-A-Bugger and after two casts and a couple of nervous twitches from the fish, he turned on my fly and I set the hook!
The fight was on, and this Bronzeback wasn’t about to give up anytime soon. With 5x Tippet on, I was careful not to put too much pressure on him. I have had my line snapped by a good shake of the head by many decent sized Bass.
After about 10 minutes of my reel screaming and a few jumps that made me think I was going to loose this beautiful fish, he was in my (measuring) net, all 19 & 1/2 inches of him.
The Lip Scale weighed him in at just under 4 pounds. That right there was the largest Smallmouth Bass I had ever, and probably will ever catch!
Which is a very good Smallie considering that the lake record is just over 5 pounds.
It doesn’t get much better than that, and that’s why we call it
Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!
Okay confession time. This is my number one biggest question of all time ”Why do we ever fall back?”. I’m Just saying, let’s just spring forward for the last time and leave time alone!
I feel it coming, my one bipolar day of 2012. Saturday I’m freaking out feeling claustrophobic, and thinking Winter is never going to end .
I’m just saying, I don’t think I’m the only person that hates the fact that it’s dark by 4pm in December.
Then all of the sudden, I wake up on Sunday and it’s light until 6:30pm. That’s when I find myself thinking about packing my fishing clothes and my 5 Weight into the back seat of my truck so that I can hit the local pond as soon as the clock strikes 5pm.
Apparently this year the fish feel it too, the bite has flipped on and the Bass are showing
well. I even scoped a few starting to take up Real Estate.
You know what I’m talking about. That’s right you were thinking it too “BED FISHING”.
Only a few more weeks and the Bass will be so ticked at each other, they will want to destroy anything I put near their face.
If sight fishing for bedding Bass doesn’t get your heart beating just a little faster, you had better check your pulse.
It has to be my number one favorite time of the year to fish. I mean come on it’s not every day a PIG Female swims up 2 feet from where you’re standing while she is literally daring you to chuck a fly in her direction.
Now, I know someone is going to email me or leave a comment about how I’m the worst person in the world for fishing bedding Bass, and that I should join PETA and leave everything I own to my cats.
But come on people we’re Urban Bass Fishing mostly Park Lakes here. It’s not like this is the Golden Trout Wilderness or anything.
Now I’m not saying this as an excuse for anyone to go out and abuse these fish. If you catch one, get it back in the water right away. Especially if it’s a male so that he can get back to the fry that he’s most likely guarding.
We as Fly Fisherman have a responsibility to set the example. Don’t throw anything on the ground, treat the fish with respect so that someone else can catch it, and for goodness sake mash down your barbs!
I’m just going to put this out there. If I see someone with a bucket taking Bass or someone with a treble hook and a sinker trying to snag a 5 pounder, you will get caught.
I do know the Park Rangers very well, yes I do have them on speed dial, and yes you will get one big ticket!
So get out enjoy one of the best times of the year to fish for Bass, and let’s respect this resource so that our children’s children can be blogging about it.
Thanks to a tip from a fellow Urban Fisherman, I got to hit a new Urban Body of water this past Saturday.
I’ve learned over the last few years that if you are willing to put in the time and explore some of our local Urban waterways, you will be surprised and sometimes flat out shocked at what you find.
After about 30 minutes of walking down banks, climbing rocks, and pushing my way through stock piles of bushes I found myself at the edge of a serene little stream in the middle of Riverside County.
I may have been in the center of the city, but I felt miles away from anyone else in the world. As I explored my way down the bank, I spotted a school of Mosquito Fish, a Read Ear Slider, and a couple of beautiful White Egrets stocking the shallows for their next meal.
After stumbling on a deep hole where the water slowed around a corner, I pulled out my 3 weight, tied on a Micro Flash – a -Bugger, and cast as close up to the opposite bank as I could.
A couple of casts and no fish. I moved just a little farther down, and found another hole, and as I approached I realized I was going to have to start using a Roll Cast or I would be spending more time picking my flies out of the brush behind me than fishing.
1st Cast into this new hole and strip, strip, strip, when all of the sudden something came darting out of the shallow lunging for my fly. Out of excitement I pulled the fly right out it’s mouth. Trying to calm myself down, I got down on my knees, and cast into the same spot.
As soon as the fly hit the water “SMACK!”. I was into a small Largemouth Bass leaping into the air and fighting with all it’s might.
A small fish, but a real prize after a fight like that.
I hit a few more holes with the same results, a lot of small fish with a ferocious nature that I’d noever seen before.
As I was tying on a new fly, I realized that I could see some of the Bass swimming back and forth taking what looked like some kind of Damselfly Nymph.
While I was staring intently into the water I realized I could see a couple of fish hugging the bottom that looked just a little different. A similar profile to the Bass but a much darker color.
I cast a large Nymph into the line of one of these fish, and the strike was so quick I didn’t even see the fish take it. I set the hook and the fish took me straight into the over hanging branches.
Before I could maneuver my way out this mess, the fish was off. I tried a second time, but to no avail. I guess whatever this species was it would have to wait until next time to be caught.
As I climbed my way out of the brush and thicket, I almost stepped on what looked like a Garter Snake. I must have jumped 3 feet in the air and away from it, thinking the snake was a Rattler.
With my heart thumping in my chest I made it to the edge of the little community that I had parked in. I grabbed a seat on a bench near by, reflecting on my wonderful fishing experience while taking the rocks and dirt out of my shoes.
It just goes to show you that a little UFV always pays off. Sometime we catch fish and sometimes we don’t, but it’s the experience that matters the most.
Urban Fly Venturing, a Disease Worth Catching!
The dictionary defines a paradox as a statement or concept that contains conflicting or apparently conflicting ideas.
Now, my fishin’ buddy, Sean and I have certainly recognized, and maybe even reveled just a little bit, in the fact that urban fly fishing qualifies as a paradox.
We’re OK with the common perception that fly rods somehow just don’t work in urban waters.
We have grown accustomed to the odd looks, strange questions, or the guy who walks up to us and plants himself next to us so he can give us long-winded explanations as to why flyfishing doesn’t work – even as we are pulling in Bass and Bluegill.
We’ve gotten used to the packs of kids running up to us and staring, the dogs on retractable leashes barking and snapping at our flies, the stroller joggers observing our back casts and yelling in that protective parent way to warn us that they are behind us with a child.
We already plan on giving away wooly buggers and short pieces of tippet in a somewhat self-serving act of charity that buys us a little peace and quiet and we are always on the watch for nefarious characters in the same way that our Alaskan wilderness counterparts always keep an eye out for grizzlies.
Yet, given the realities of our work schedules, our finances, our time commitments and the alternative, i.e., flyfishing only very occasionally, we have opted to adjust to the circumstances and be urban flyfishers.
To that end, we are always looking for new ways to engage, enjoy or enhance our chosen obsession.
Sometimes, paradoxically, new ways even find us.
Consider what happened to my fishin’ buddy, Sean, recently:
A few months ago Sean made an impromptu decision to stop at a small urban pond on the way home from the office to blow off a considerable amount of steam acquired after a particularly grueling business meeting.
As he stood there, in the dark, muttering and grumbling to himself and hurling a Krystal Bugger into the inky blackness, a couple of things happened:
One, his blood pressure began to drop back into the normal range;
Two, he began to catch fish and;
Three, he experienced a heightened sense of awareness that he had not felt before while flyfishing.
Now, I’m not talking about a sense of awareness like, “Oh crap, I’m standing by myself dressed in slacks, shirt and tie in the dark in a (hopefully) deserted urban park griping out loud to myself and waving a very expensive stick in the air… and no one knows where I am.”
No, I’m talking about a “gettin’ into the zone”—that heightened sense of awareness regarding the feel of the unfurling fly line on the back cast, the heightened sense of feeling that same line slide through the guides in a smooth forward cast and even the heightened sense of hearing for the subtle plop of the fly as it lands in the dark forty feet out in front.
Yeah, in that impromptu moment, Sean discovered flyfishing at night.
And therein lies part of the paradox.
Flyfishing is all about catching fish, for sure, but it is also an art form and as such, there are elements to it that one might consider “active meditation”.
I’m not going all mystical or anything. But almost every flyfisherman I know takes a subtle pleasure watching his or her line form a perfect tight loop and then lay out on the surface of the water in a perfect, straight line.
Almost every flyfisherman I know delights in watching for that subtle dimple in the surface as a trout or a wary urban carp quietly sips the carefully presented fly.
And almost every flyfisherman I know breaks into a smile when droplets of water shower in every direction and sparkle in the sun like a million diamonds as the line tightens from a solid hook set.
So, what happens when darkness seems to render all those simple pleasures null?
Well, paradoxically, new types of awareness kick in and new pleasures with our obsession reveal themselves.
Flyfishing in the dark becomes more about feel and movement. It becomes more about perfecting skills that may have grown a little sloppy and it becomes more about appreciating familiar realms in a whole new way.
Case in point: A couple of weeks ago, Sean and I made arrangements to hit a local park where he has had pretty good luck catching Carp and Bass after dark since his epiphany about night fly fishing.
We drove to the target spot and parked under a street light about two hundred yards away from the water’s edge.
The air was mild and still so we only donned light windbreakers and the bare minimum amount of gear. I opted for a lanyard rig and Sean grabbed a small waist pack. We clipped on our nets and we both put on LED headlamps over our TU ball caps.
I choose a five-weight while Sean chose an eight-weight rig. He was clearly more optimistic then me but, then again, he had caught one of the largest Carp he had ever taken on a fly in this park after dark.
We tied on rather large, flashy buggers in the cone of light thrown off by the streetlight then headed across the wide expanse of grass.
My first impression, as we stood there waiting for our eyes to adjust to the darkness, was with the peacefulness of the situation. During the day, this park is loaded with runners and bicycle riders and kids on skateboards and an endless variety of dogs and dog-walkers. Now it was still and calm and a slight ground fog rose from the damp grass.
The water was glassy smooth and reflected the three-quarter moon, the treetops and the lights from nearby businesses. Near the edges, where the water was shallow, little wisps of mist also rose up and blurred the normally sharp concrete lip of the pond. We stood near the edge for a long time waiting and listening. Occasionally we would hear a faint splash but mostly we heard snippets of lively conversation and distant laughter bouncing out of the row of restaurants across the normally busy street.
When we decided to move. It was slowly and deliberately, almost reluctantly, as if we each did not want to break the spell of the moment. Our walking roused a mixed flock of sleeping ducks and mud hens who protested with soft quacks and grunts and moved en masse just far enough away for us to no longer be considered a threat according to some streetwise avian formula we couldn’t figure out.
Then in our usual fashion, we split to the left and the right and began fishing.
My first casts were pathetic, limp tangles of fly line. I kept misjudging the timing of my back cast.
Was I really that dependant on sight for my casting technique?
I shook my head and muttered to myself and was thankful that Sean couldn’t see the mess I had created. Then I took a deep breath and regrouped.
The words of a pilot friend of mine came to mind: “You can always count on your basic training, if you’ve been properly trained in the basics.”
So, I took a deep breath, pulled a couple of yards of line off my reel, gathered it in loose coils with my off hand, positioned my grip on the cork the way I had been taught and actually closed my eyes.
This time, when I made my cast, I could feel the rod load on the back cast, I could actually hear the line move through the air with a soft, smooth whooshing sound, I could tell that the forward cast was smooth and straight and I heard the fly land with a clean plopping sound just like an Olympic high-diver making a clean splash on a 9.9 dive.
I was in the “zone”.
With each subsequent cast, I worried less and less about technique and began to enjoy the moment more and more.
I marveled at the way the ripples of my casts made the reflection of the moon shimmer and sparkle on the water. I delighted in the peace and freedom of being alone in the moment even though we were in reality only a few hundred yards away from thousands of people. I took pleasure in “hearing” my line form a perfect tight loop on each cast. I smiled at the millions of starry diamonds that formed in the moonlight when I made a hard hook set and the droplets of water showered away from my line in every direction. And I laughed out loud each time I saw Sean’s headlamp snap on from across the pond because I knew he was playfully taunting me with a visual cue that he had landed yet another fish
And that’s when it occurred to me, in one of those great paradoxical moments, that I had to step into the dark before I could see the light as to why I love this addiction called urban flyfishin’.
Fly Fishing at night is definitely a whole new beast for me to learn to conquer. There have been knotted up leaders and a different kind of knot on the back of my head. Flies lost in astonishing numbers from trees and fish alike.
The first couple of times out felt like the most frustrating time I’ve ever spent fishing, not just fly fishing I’m talking freaking fishing in general!
I remember going home the first night, and stating to my wife just as I walked in the door “I’m never trying that again”.
Yet just a few days later, I found myself back in the dark, headlamp on, and more clothing than I needed to keep the mosquitoes away.
On the second night things started to turn around. I started feeling the fly on the back cast, and I had only hit one tree. After a couple of hookups, but no fish to net. I sat down on the bench and started to contemplate what I was doing wrong.
I started to realize that the fish were hitting a lot harder. I needed to set the hook with more authority and get the fish to the net as quick as possible.
The next night I brought my 6 weight, beefed up to a 3x tapered leader, tied on a heavier BH Flash a Bugger, and started working the fly just a little slower than usual.
One cast and I had a 2 pound Largemouth Bass on the other end of the line. So many things started flooding to my head. Why had I been sleeping every night for all these years? Was this a dream? Was I really starting to get the hang of this Urban Fly Fishing at night thing.
After dodging a couple of drunk teenagers, a homeless man sleeping on the bench, and a few hundred sleeping ducks (Apparently Urban Fly Fishing at night has just as many dangers as it daytime counterpart).
I cast out a couple more times to a new spot with no luck. Then a Thud. I stopped my fly for a split second, and all of the sudden the line started flying out of my hand. I set the hook and the fish changed direction. I started the chase running from one end of the pond to the other like a mad man (which I’m sure the drunk teenagers got a real kick out of).
After about 5 minutes. I pulled the fish to the net (at least what of him would fit). Flicked on my headlamp and could not believe my eyes. It was a 20 plus inch Bass (not hard to figure out as my net’s only 20 inches). I grabbed my phone to snap a quick pic, and pulled out the lip scale. The fish weighed in at just over 5 pounds!
This was my best Bass in a long, long, long time. I was shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t want to let go, but I remembered that I had to get this fish back in the water as soon as possible. I set him gently in, and “whack” a flip of the tail to my face and this big boy had a little retribution.
I sat there for a moment breaking down my gear, just taking it all in.
As I walked (maybe even skipped a little, wait did I just write that?) back to the Urban Fly Mobile, I was starting to enjoy this, as Dan says
“Addiction called Urban Night Fishin”!
The weather is changing, the Days are getting longer, and the Bass are starting to switch over from the Spawn.
I’ve been over to Heartwell a couple of times over the last week or so, with an hour or two to fish in between work and other commitments. From this experience I can tell you two things; the Sunsets in Southern California are amazing and the Bass are switching from the Spawn to attack mode.
The other day I strolled up from the parking lot to find a few of the regulars fishing the lake, along with a couple of guys I had never seen before. I did a quick walk around scoping for beding fish, and keeping an eye out for roaming Bluegill.
After spotting quite a few Panfish in the shallows and a few Males still guarding fry, I decided to throw a size 8 Minnow imitation with a 5x leader, since the fish are still a little skiddish from being fished so hard.
After a couple of casts I had a decent 1 1/2 Pound Male off a bed and a couple of Juvies sitting on structure.
I decide to move over to the other side of the lake and started talking to Juan (a regular Conventional Guy at the Lake), when I heard the all too familiar grunt of a Bass Guy setting the hook on a baitcaster. So we walked over to see what all the commotion was about, and the guy was hooting and hollering about being stuck on something (running back and forth trying to get his lure free).
We both noticed he was pulling in on a lot of line, and then it dawned on us that he had a Carp on the other end.
I sat there watching him as he struggled to bring the fish to the surface, realizing he was going to need my net. After about 15 minutes the mammoth beast was in the net (well only half of it would fit) and he had just caught about a 15 pound carp.
Not super long, but one of the thickest ones that I have ever seen, and with the yank of his lure he had foul hooking the fish in its fin. After a couple of glory shots the behemoth was back in the water, none the worse and I think that was the most excitement I’ve has watching a Conventional guy catch a fish!
Let me start off by saying that I do know “El Dorado” does not mean Panfish in Spanish (I was trying to be witty). But anyway I made it over to El Dorado Park Lakes the other day for my long overdue reunion with the El Do Panfish that seem to love my flies.
I don’t know what it is? I go to lakes all over So Cal (and even other states) and usually catch all kinds of Bass. Yet it seems that the ones at El Dorado just want nothing to do with me. Good thing this is UrbanFlyVentures and we don’t shy away from catching all species of fish, so I downsized and the magnets (I mean flies) started bringing in the fish.
Now I’ve caught Bluegills that were so tiny, they made me question why & how in the world they got caught on a fly bigger than their mouth. But the saucers here can be large and in charge!
The fly of the day seemed to be a size 14 Mysis Shrimp from The Trout Spot, and the fish were just falling all over it. It seemed like the fly barely even had time to hit the water before bang, and I had another fish on.
After about 2 hours I had literally pulled in about 50 fish (and 5 species at that)!
Those are the kind of days that seem to make me addicted to Urban Fly Fishing. You feel like you can walk up to any portion of the lake (it doesn’t matter what fly you have on) and catch fish all day long, until your arm hurts so bad from casting you just decide to go home.
I need days like that, especially coming out of the Winter (or as I like to call it the yearly fishing Armageddon)!
Well and wouldn’t you know it, I even stumbled across a couple of little Largemouth along the way, not big (trust me the big bass are in there) but a Bass is a Bass is a Bass!
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