Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Fly Fishing the Hopper

 Guys, I guess you've noticed it's been a while since I posted anything on my blog. Cathey and I have been busy helping our daughter's family with their new arrival. Last Thursday Jenny gave birth to a beautiful eight-pound baby girl.  

We have kept a busy pace traveling from Jasper to Springhill Tennessee these past weeks. It was worth every mile we made to get to whole this precious little girl. Hallie Mae is 10 days old in this picture. Her brothers and sister are CRAZY about this little girl!!!

We are back home for now but will be headed back to Springhill next Sunday.  We will be staying 8 days with our daughter and children while B.T. is in California on a business trip. We're glad to be of service, especially when there is a newborn to whole and spoil. 


I have been able to make a few fishing trips last week on Smith that I wanted to share with you guys. 
This past Thursday Jeff and I fished Ryan Creek on Smith at daylight and landed some quality bass and bluegill. The bluegills were not hitting the poppers, so I tied on the hopper a fly that I haven't fished this season. The reaction to this fly was some of the most aggressive hits I have seen this year. All the big bulls taken on this trip had the hopper lodged in their throat. In other words, they were hungry for an insect in the form of a brown grasshopper. They were hitting the hopper 20 to 30 feet away from the rock walls. Moving the hopper slowly on the surface film got their attention. When you land this size bluegill using a 4 wt. you think it's a bass, the fight is that aggressive. Jeff and I agreed we could be in for one great fall fishing season!
What makes landing these big bulls so much fun to catch using the fly rod is the surge after surge they make trying to break off. There is a big difference when landing these fish spawning in shallow water as opposed to fishing for them in water depths of 20 to 30 ft. Simply put, the water depth is their friend when trying to break free. 
This was my first coppernose bluegill to ever land on Smith. Sorry I don't have a video showing the fight this fish put forth, but Jeff and I thought it was a spotted bass in the 12 to 14-inch range; to our surprise, it was this beauty!
Jeff started the morning off fishing under the lights near the many piers on the lake. We stopped at our first light at 5:30. As I moved in slow to the light we saw three quality bass feeding just under the submerged light next to the pier. It only took a couple of casts to get the attention of one of the larger bass. The fish moved slowly to the Boogle Bug popper and sucked in. After the take, the fish started heading for deep water and really didn't realize it was hooked until Jeff made contact with the fish. At that point the fish had its way with the 4 wt. Jeff was using and broke off. 
The fish you are viewing in this video is Jeff's redemption bass not as large as the one he lost but a quality largemouth. We will definitely be back fishing this light in the coming weeks hopefully with a heavier-weight fly rod. Stay tuned!

Forgot---one last note, I'm saving the trout fishing below the dam for cooler weather and the winter months---the season ends on the lake in November

Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Redworm and the Fly Rod

 Most fly fishermen will tell you they don't use live bait when fishing with a fly rod. I've never seen anyone using live bait fishing with the flyrod on the Sipsey. I have seen many individuals on the Sipsey using a spin cast fishing with redworms, corn, or crappie nibbles.  

Live bait works when artificial flies and lures will not produce. Just ask my daughter about the success of live bait fishing when she would go with me years ago and fish the many nooks on Smith for bluegill, catfish, and bass. She was more into live bait fishing than my son.

So many memories here, Jenny was a junior in high school when she landed the largest bluegill she ever caught fishing with me on Smith. She was using a cricket fishing with her 7 1/2 ft. micro-light combo. I've never been able to convert her to fly fishing. She still loves to fish the cricket for the bluegill when she has the time to go. Three children and another little girl on the way keep her occupied these days. 
At some point in one's fishing career, they usually land a fish they never forget. This was the case a couple of weeks ago when l landed this supersize Shellcraker or Redear as some would call this fish. What got the big females' attention along with the two quality size bulls was live bait. The live bait thing is something I've never tried using the fly rod on Smith. You might say that anything I try new when it comes to fishing is always a plan in advance for me and this type of fishing was no exception. First, I wanted to get as deep as possible using a sink-tip line and a tiny bb shot crimped onto my 5X tippet about 6" above the hook. I found it is best to tie a knot in the tippet 6 inches above the hook to keep the bb shot from slipping to the eye of the hook when casting a small redworm. The bigger worm was difficult to stay on the long shank hook. The long shank hook is best as opposed to the short shank because you can thread more of the worm onto the long shank hook. I found even with false casting the worm would stay in place. So, in reality, if you want to think of the live worm as a nymph you can, which gives you the feeling of fishing a soft nymph with a scent. On this particular morning, nothing was happening even a nymph fish slow wouldn't produce. The poppers never got any attention from the bass or bluegill. This time of year on Smtih the fishing is extremely slow due to the fast pull-down on the lake. Receding water on any body of water is not the ideal situation to catch fish!

Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Versatile Caddis Fly

 When one thinks of the Caddis Fly they relate it to fly fishing for trout. I have fished this fly numerous times on the Sipsey mainly using it as an indicator fly. There were times when I would get a trout to inhale the Caddis while slow drifting a nymph under it. Which was a plus because I was trying to get the trout to take a smaller nymph drifting below. I use the traditional dry-dropper combo more now on the Sipsey because of the fishing pressure. I remember previous years fishing the Sipsey I never used the dry-dropper combo. I only fished a nymph using the various strike indicator on the market. 

On my last trip to the Sipsey, which was a bust for me, no trout touched; started me thinking of using this fly to fish for the giant bluegill on Smith Lake. So two weeks ago, I gave the fly a try casting it near the rock walls in Ryan Creek.

I was impressed with how the bluegills reacted to this fly. At times they would pull it under, and other times they would explode on it. I have written in a past post about how wary these fish can be in hitting a particular color or size popper. So when they are not hitting a popper consistently, it is good to have a backup fly that will get their attention. Enter the Caddis in size ten, but I think a size eight would be better. The extra body on the size eight wouldn't require me to use as much floatant and give the fish a bigger fly to see. Simple to use just cast it using a 3wt. with a 6X tippet and wait for the take while it sits motionless on the surface. I seldom ever move it after it touches the surface. Having success with the Caddis makes me want to give the Adams and the Wulff a try!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Every Minute Counts

 Daylight and right before the sun goes down are some of the best times to land fish fishing for warm water or cold water species. I prefer the daylight hours in the summer months because there is little humidity during daylight. One still has to deal with humid conditions late in the evening before dark. 

Jeff and I found out just how pleasant the daylight hour was this past Thursday as we fished one of the floating lights near the many piers in Ryan Creek. 

This 15" Spotted Bass put a bend in Jeff's 5wt. 9ft. Redington. A slight movement of the curved-faced white Boogle popper got its attention. Jeff placed the popper at the back of the light. The bass hit the popper as Jeff moved it slowly through the lighted area under the light. The male spot didn't disappoint us it headed straight for the deep water. 
Right after Jeff landed his Spotted Bass I noticed another bass in the outer rim of the lighted area. The Bullet Boogle Bug I had tied on my 4 wt. 9 ft. Redington paired with a Gloomis 4 wt. reel was the combo I used to land this female Spotted Bass. She hit the popper as I was moving it out of the lite area. I saw the wake as she came up and inhale the popper. She immediately started taking line off the reel. At one point I thought I wasn't going to have enough line on the reel to land the fish. I never use backing on any of my fly reels but after this episode, I may rethink adding a little backing to my 4 and 5 wt. reels. Minutes went by before I got to touch this fish because most of the fight occurred under the floating pier. I thought I lost the fish because there was no movement which had me thinking she broke off and got me hung on something under the pier. As I put side pressure on what I thought was a hang-up I felt the fish coming to me and swimming slowly out from under the pier. That is when I felt I had a chance to land this fish using the drag on my Gloomis reel. She headed for the depths of the lake which was a plus for me. After numerous runs, I finally lifted her in the boat and won the day fighting a worthy opponent in the Spotted Bass! Right after landing the fish, the light turned off by the pier which made Jeff and I thankful for every minute we had to fish before the sun peaked over the trees in the east. The rest of the morning was devoted to landing a few smaller bass and of course numbers of big bull gills.
I've landed hundreds of bass and bluegill with the Boogle Bug poppers and the place I purchase these fantastic poppers is -----BreamBugs-----

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Addicted to the Gills

 I know many of you think I am obsessed with the bluegill. All the post I have published on my blog proves that statement. I never tire of landing the big bulls, especially in the super clear deep waters of Smith Lake. 

What makes landing these supersize gills special is how they attack the surface popper. An explosive hit is what one can expect from this size gill, making you think it is a spotted bass. The minute they inhale the popper they go for deep water. The fight even with a 5 wt. is awesome and even more epic using a 3 or 4 wt. In other words, you just don't jerk these fish in the boat. I lost one of the largest gills yesterday I think I have ever connected with fishing Smith using a 3wt. I saw the bluegill and knew he was huge but didn't realize how powerful the fish was until it broke my 5X tippet. Today's catch helped relieve the pain of losing that fish yesterday.

I've said many times before, but this lake has to be one of the most beautiful lakes I've ever fished. The rock wall formations are astounding, with unusual color markings. The water depth surrounding the wall in this nook is 20 to 30 ft. Even at those depths, the fish can still find the popper because of the super clear water. Any commotion on the water surface will get their attention. 
So the question I keep asking myself after all these years of fishing for this fish is---which species would I prefer to land the spotted bass or the big gills?  I will let the readers of this post answer that question!
This tree is one of the many trees that can be found on the banks of the many rock walls and nooks on this lake. I am wondering if any of you know the name of this particular tree with huge leaves and large white flowers? 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Finally a Day on the Sipsey

No heavy rains and generators running allowed me to spend some time today FISHING FOR RAINBOW TROUT on the Sipsey! I was fishing with my trusted Streamflex 9 ft. 3 wt. which is my standard fly rod when I fish here. 
I got on the water around 9 and was surprised  I was all along. In fact, I didn't see another fisherman until 10 o'clock. I made the most of that hour fishing three of my favorite holes and landing a trout in each hole. 
The two methods that got the attention of the trout today were dead drifting a nymph and the trusted dry/dropper.
The best of the morning fishing my favorite hole on the Sipsey. The hole this trout was taken from never disappoints me. Of course, the key is getting to fish it before anyone else has a chance to either hook the trout or land it. That should tell you how pressured this tailrace is!
Numerous trout this size is the main reason I fish the tailrace with a 3 wt. This trout can put a bend in a 3 wt. which in turn helps you get prepared for the bigger fish that swims in the waters here.  I am so fortunate to live 20 minutes from the only place in Alabama where one can fish for trout!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Fish--an Excellent Meat Choice

 One would assume that most all meats are a good source of protein. Beef, Pork, Chicken, Fish, and Turkey are the most common. Fish, Turkey, and Chicken are the three types of meat Cathey and I eat. I no longer eat red meat since being diagnosed with a blockage in my left descending artery some 12 years ago. 2010 was the year the blockage was discovered. The Doctors told me 40 to 50 percent blockage didn't warrant a stent. They recommended a yearly checkup and lots of exercise in the form of walking and a diet filled with fruit and vegetables. Cathey and I thought we were eating healthy at the time walking fairly regularly before this diagnosis but apparently not. As was the case with most all of us when we were younger meals were fast foods and eat-outs loaded with fats. In other words, the bad foods over the years showed up in that arteriogram done in 2010. 

My Cardiologist told me on my last visit that test studies prove now with diet and exercise blockage can be decreased if it is not severe. By the way, I am not part of that study, but I gladly accept the findings. I've come to realize as we all get older we need to be much more active. That is the key to keeping all of us on the water even into our 80s!!-----

These bluegills were landed last week using the light 2/3 weight fly rods. All were taken early in the morning on top. Excellent meat source just as the title of this blog post states. Thursday will be my first visit to the Sipsey since last year because of generation. I hope the water is at the level I can wade---wish me luck ! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Weather Past and Present

 Weather conditions have changed drastically since I was a boy growing up in Mississippi years ago. We are seeing many more tornados and hurricanes today compared to what my brother and I used to call the good old days. The good old days are for another post. With tornadoes and hurricanes come heavy rains, wind, and flooding. It seems we have four or five days of great weather then all hell breaks loose for a couple of days with tornadoes in fact, as I type this post we may be under a tornado watch tomorrow. We are in this cycle through all of Spring. 

The Sipsey Tailrace pictured here is an example of the last tornado we had here a week ago. This tornado produced some damage to homes and businesses but thankfully no deaths. After the aftermath, the areas affected must deal with the clean-up in the form of flooding and the debris left behind. The image above shows the tailrace flowing downstream at 8 ft. above normal flow. When heavy rains occur Smith Lake above the dam rises above full pool quickly and last year overflowed into the parking lot at the launch. This year we are seeing it rise again 11 ft. above full pool as I type this post. The Alabama Power Company which manages the lake has to release all the excess water so it flushes through the two generators at the base of the dam. When both generators are pumping at full force you see the results in this image. One can still trout fish using a spinning reel, but no wading using the flyrod will get results with water this high. 

So, what does a weary fly fisherman do when he can't trout fish------the images above show the answer! I fillet 14 of these pre-spawn beauties and threw back a bunch of future bull gills fishing Walker Lake yesterday. 

I have started wearing Orvis fishing gloves. I had two sunspots removed from the top of my hands in the winter months and one sun growth from the top of my head. My Dermatologist told me I needed to start protecting myself much more from the sunray when I'm on the water. 

A lot of tree pollen covered the surface of the water on the lake yesterday causing me at times to use a dark popper to get the attention of the fish. All the bluegills were scattered and not in a spawning mode. The water temps are still well below spawning activity. The 2 and 3 wt. got all the work yesterday one rigged with a popper and the other rigged with a dry fly coated with Orvis Hy-Flote. It was my first time using this product and I have to say I was impressed. It is much better than any floatant I have ever used. Simply drop the dry fly in the bottle shake and remove blow the dust off and you are ready to fish a dry fly that will float high enabling you to land at least three or four fish. It becomes waterlogged once the fish inhaled it numerous times. You can use it again once it dries then repeat the process using the Hy-Flote. 
I checked the lake level when I fished this overhang or cave last year and the lake level at the time was 497 ft. 3 feet below full pool. Today this area is covered with water resting in the trees above this rock wall. I am not a fan of fishing water this high on any lake, especially a lake as large as Smith Lake. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

It's Not About The Fish Sometimes

 The Grandchildren were having their Spring break this week which gave their Mom and them an opportunity to come and visit their Meme and Pops. Their Dad couldn't make the trip because of work. Their next trip in the summer will bring the whole family. Our Grandchildren are the center of our lives just as our children were when they were growing up.

 The fish wasn't huge but it's not always about the size fish the children landed. At their age its more about just being able to land a fish and that they did. We lost count of the hand size bluegill they got to touch. All the fish were taken on live bait in the form of juicy worms. The water was a cool 63 degrees causing the fish to hover on the bottom of the park pond.
  The city was supposed to stock Town Creek with trout in November the plan never developed. Kids would have enjoyed seeing trout feeding in the stream. Some pocket holes would attract trout in the quarter-mile stretch flowing through the park. Parks are a substitute for iPhones that most kids nowadays are addicted to, including our grandchildren. 

Monday, February 21, 2022

Remembering a Great Fly Fisherman and Friend

 I was surprised to hear of Alan's passing of "Small Streams Reflections"--my heart is broken to hear this because he was like a brother to me. I look forward every week to one of his inspiring posts concerning fly fishing, tasty meals, and colorful outdoor images. I felt he was the glue that held all of us bloggers together now, he's gone but not forgotten. 

I'm thankful I have numerous flies and streamers he tied for me and my son Jason. I did a post some months ago concerning the colorful streamers he tied for Jason's Christmas a couple of years ago. My condolences to his wife Jennette and children

This picture is hanging in Jason's house and will always whole special meaning for Jason and I

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Pairing Fly Rods With Fly Reels

 When some individuals buy a fly rod they like to pair it with a fly reel that gives them balance with the reel size, its weight, and the weight of the fly rod. When it comes to balancing a fly reel and fly rod it all depends on where you move your forefinger on the cork handle to get the reel and rod to sit in a straight horizontal position. I know a lot of you guys use this method to balance a combo you are purchasing and a lot of fly fishing shops adhere to this method.

 I tend to follow my own method which is if you like the feel of the combo then go with it. An example of what I'm talking about is my 5 wt 9 ft. Redington Trout Classic fly rod. This fly rod is the heaviest I use when fishing for the Spotted Bass on Smith Lake. As you can see in the image I have it paired with a Gloomis 3--4 wt. fly reel. The balance, lightness, and appearance I get with this 5 wt. combo suits my needs. The norm recommended by a fly shop would be a 5 wt. or even a 6 wt large arbor fly reel paired with this 5 wt. fly rod. True the balance is there and you have more fly line using a big arbor reel, but does one really need or even use that amount of fly line when landing a larger fish? I feel that large arbor reels have their place in flyfishing but pair this size reel with a 3 or 4 wt. flyrod is a little overboard. I have seen individuals fishing the Sipsey using large arbor reels with an 8 and 8 1/2 ft. 3 wt. They probably view my 9 ft. 3 wt. fly rod paired with my 3 wt. fly reel as lightweight. Pairing fly rods and fly reels in an unconventional fashion is the preference of the fly fishermen.
 In this image my 4 wt. 9 ft. Trout Classic is paired with another Gloomis 3--4 wt. fly reel. This flyrod gives me the backbone to land a larger fish if the occasion arises. My 4 wt. is my favorite of all the fly rods I use. It's not heavy and not too light, in other words, it may be the best all-around fly rod for fly fishing. I have no data to back this up but I feel fly fishermen would choose this fly rod as their best all-around fly rod. Both Gloomis fly reels are paired with my 5 and 4 wt. flyrods which are small reels compared to a large arbor reel. Both measure 2 3/4" in dia--1" width and line spool width of 3/4 inch. A 100 ft. of fly line fills both reels without the use of backing. The backing on fly reels is used mainly to fill the spool of the fly reel and not for landing a fish. In fact, if one ever reaches the backing on a fly reel when landing a fish, then they are probably going to lose the fish.
This image shows my 9 ft. 3 wt. Streamflex pair with Battenkill II reel. I like the feel and appearance of this combo. I am interested in how the color of the flyrod matches the reel. I wouldn't fish with a fly rod that has a color other than brown, maroon grey, or green. I guess one can call me old school when it comes to flyrod colors. The reel paired with the Streamflex measures 2 3/4" dia---width of reel is 7/8" and the spool width is 1/2".  There is no need for the backing because a 100 ft. of fly line fills the reel spool. The perfect match for this particular flyrod!
This is an older Battenkill I reel that Orvis no longer makes anymore. This is the first small reel I ever bought when I started to fly fish years ago. I have this reel paired with my 7 1/2 ft. Redington Trout Classic 3 wt. It's the perfect combo to fish Walker County Lake and small ponds. I would use it to fish small streams for trout if I had that luxury like some of you guys have in the Northeast. The reel measurements are 2 3/8" width---7/8" reel width and spool width is 1/2". You can see it's been used quite a bit from the dirty cork handle. 
What caused me to purchase this combo some years ago was the smaller bluegills and trout I was landing on Walker Lake and the Sipsey. Some years ago the average size trout stocked on the Sipsey was 10". So I thought the 2 and 3 wt. combos would match the catch. It's loads of fun landing smaller fish with a 2 and 3 wt. flyrod. This combo is a 7 ft. trout classic paired with the newer Battenkill I fly reel. Its measurements are 2 5/8" dia.---3/4" reel width and spool width is 3/8". I use 90 ft. of fly line to spool this reel which eliminates backing. The 2 wt and the 3wt. are great combos to start a child fly fishing. 
 I purchased this flyrod last year on eBay for 90.00 used. It is a 10 ft. 3 wt. Euro Nymphing fly rod that is extremely sensitive using one or two nymphs high-sticking. I've only used this combo a couple of times on the Sipsey last year when generators were not running. After landing a couple of trout on one outing last year, it convinced me Euro nymphing is the way to fish pressure waters like the Sipsey. I wanted to pair this flyrod with a reel that was light to compensate for the hours of drifting nymphs in pocket water and seams I would be fishing. The reel measurements are 2 3/4" dia---reel width is 1" and spool width is 5/8" wide. I spooled the Rio nymphing line on the reel and didn't use a traditional fly line. No casting involved with Euro nymphing just flipping the flies into position and drifting nymphs slow and deep!  

Monday, January 10, 2022

My Other Social Media Outlet


As most of you know winter is not a season I look forward to. Why, because trout fishing is practically none existence on the Sipsey because generators run constantly. You guys that fish the native trout streams are so lucky. No generators to contend with, only a heavy rain that might cause the stream to rise some, but is back to normal flow in a day or two. How I wish I had that type of stream to fish here. So to satisfy my lack of trout fishing I watch Utube fly fishing videos. I have established quite a few contacts interacting with guys who post some great fly fishing videos. Not only are their videos entertaining but educational as well. The following videos are some of my favorites:

Drew Looknfishy---- Drew has a blog by the same name but never publishes posts anymore on his blog because he has quite a following on Utube now. His videos feature small stream fishing out west during the late spring and summer months. 

Hardman Fishing Adventures ------This is a young guy that makes all of us seniors wish we were young again and could balance walking logs across streams and hiking miles on some of the most beautiful trout streams in the northeast.

Jensenflyfishing -----Dave and Amelia are husband and wife who fish for huge trout in Canada and Ontario -----amazing how well they get along and work together to land some colorful brook, browns, and rainbow trout!

George Daniel ---- this guy knows more about Euro Nymphing than anyone I've watched on Utube. I hope I can get to use some of his Euro techniques on the Sipsey if I ever get to fish it again.  George does most of his fly fishing in Pennysaliva's native streams.

Old Dominion Trout Bum------Cory, lives in Virginia and fishes small streams and tailraces in six different states north of him all the way to Maine. He only fishes the Euro technique and is very good at it!

And last----Scotty's Gone Walkabout----This guy takes overnight camping to another level all over Australia. He is in the process of learning how to fly fish as he hikes through the mountain terrain of Australia. 

Most of these guys post a video at least once every two weeks.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Reminisicing


As I get older I find myself reminiscing more about my childhood growing up in Choctaw County in Mississippi. My fondest memories were fishing the two streams that flowed through our property near our house. One of the streams was near our pond that we fished and swim in. My younger brother and I would walk the banks of the streams in the summer and spring looking for pocket holes that held sun perch and yellow catfish. The catfish could put a bend in our hand-made 9 and 10 ft. cane poles. We didn't realize it at the time but we were tight-lining without a cork. We seldom used a cork because the spots we were trying to fish were well hidden with brush and limbs. We would shorten our line on the cane poles at times to gently stick the end of the pole right above the surface of the hole and wait for a tug on the redworm we use as bait. We would always land our best fish using this method. Redworms were our go-to bait when fishing the creeks. Little did know at the time that the tight line method we use as young boys would be used by me to fish for trout one day. True the cane pole method wasn't as refined as the fly rod, but still is was successful. 

We would watch my Dad land bluegill and bass with the fly rod and be amazed at how far he could cast a popper. Dad used an 8 1/2 ft. Southbend fly rod paired with a Daiwa fly reel. My brother and I got to use Dad's fly rod only when he had time to give us pointers on how to cast. We found out that our cane pole could be used as a fly rod and much easier to cast. We used a monoline as long as the cane pole. We use green grasshoppers as our fly casting it as far as we could fishing the small creek that flowed into our pond. We would land small rock bass hiding near the undercut banks of the little stream. As quickly as the grasshopper vanished we would jerk the pole upward and the little fish would fly over our heads. It was always a contest to see who landed the largest little fish. We didn't realize it then but we were using a scale-down Tenkara rod. I am so glad that my brothers and I were raised to enjoy the outdoors in the form of fishing, hiking, and hunting----memories I will never forget!

As the winter months close in it gives me time to look back on this past year and wonder how I will approach the coming season. Where will I be casting my flies and poppers this next season? I hope I get to fish the Sipsey more this coming season!!!!------------Here's wishing you all a Merry Xmas and Happy New Year!

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Sink Tip Poly Leader

 

If you fish long enough you may think you've learned everything there is to know about this great sport. There is always new gear, accessories, flies, and equipment to enhance the skills or catch ratio of any fisherman. Like many of you, I am willing to try a new fishing product if it improves my chances of landing fish. The Sink-Tip Poly Leader at Orvis is one of those products I purchased some months ago but never used until this past Tuesday. This is a sink-tip leader that can be used as an extension of your floating fly line. You simply loop to loop the leader to your fly line and you are good to cast. The leader has a monocore tip which I cut off and tied in a tippet ring instead so I could change my tippet much faster instead of using various knots to attach the tippet. Once you add two feet of tippet from the tippet ring you are fishing a leader about 9 ft. I choose the intermediate sink tip leader from the four sink tip leaders they sell. This leader sinks at a rate of 1 1/2 inches per second and by adding a bead-head nymph the tippet line is sinking close to the same rate as your sink tip leader. The Orvis link will give you a detailed description of all the Sink Tip Poly Leaders they sell. 
Jeff and I ended the season Tuesday fishing Ryan Creek on Smith Lake. I checked the forecast for Tuesday mainly for rain and didn't think of checking for wind. We arrived at the lake with wind gusts 10 to 15 mph and temps in the low forties. We knew the fishing was going to be slow and we had to find rock walls out of the wind. With that in mind, we proceeded up Ryan Creek in my Tracker Boat until we located the one wall suitable to fish. I found out years ago that there are two negative factors when fishing surface flies, wind and sun. We had the wind but not the sun. We were amazed we landed a few bluegills and smaller spotted bass with the surface temps at 65 degrees. The popper action ended almost as quickly as it started when peaks of sunlight penetrated through the cloud cover. With the surface action over for the morning, I knew what I was going to try, my sink tip poly leader rigged with a bead-head wooly bugger. I had been planning this trip for a couple of weeks. I even tried the sink-tip leader rigged with the wooly bugger in a small pond where Cathey and I walked. I was impressed with how easy it was to cast using my 5 weight Redington fly rod. In other words, I was sold after landing the largest Spotted Bass on Smith Lake this year. 

This pot-bellied female took me for a ride into the depths of Ryan Creek. I had my 5 wt. rigged with a  brown tensile wooly bugger which got her attention. I was casting the bugger as close to the rock walls and at times I would hit the wall with the head of the fly. My first fish on the bugger was a small rock bass, causing me to tell Jeff that at least one fish was interested in hitting it. As we moved slowly down the wall I continue to make shoot cast letting the excess line at my feet shoot through the guides of the rod. Once the fly made contact I started using different retrieves, in the form of short jerks, slow-moving retrieves, and at times letting the bugger drop and giving it a quick jerk. The slow drop and jerk motion is the retrieve that connected with the fish. 
I can't think of a better way to end my Smith Lake fishing season for this year. I've already started planning for Spring to arrive and land some more of these fantastic fighters on the fly rod. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Survival of Stocked Trout in Tailwaters

 


I received an email the other day from one of my fly fishing buddies concerning stocked rainbow trout in the Sipsey Tailrace that we fish. The email contained a study conducted by an Auburn University student in partial fulfillment for a Degree of Masters in Science. 

Hypolimnetic discharge waters (the layer of water in a thermally stratified lake that lies below the thermocline, is noncirculating, and remains perpetually cold)  from reservoirs in the southern U.S. provides water temperatures cold enough to support Rainbow Trout fisheries in regions where they otherwise could not exist. The Sipsey Fork tailwater in Alabama provides such an opportunity and is stocked with Rainbow Trout monthly. In a recent survey, less than 25% of the Rainbow Trout stocked each month were harvested and few trout appeared to persist in the system for more than 3-4 weeks. The objective of this study was to describe post-stocking dispersal and the fate of the non-harvested Rainbow Trout. In March, June, and October 2017, and January 2018, numerous Rainbow Trout were radio-tagged and tracked to document movement patterns and to determine longevity in the tailrace. Tagged Rainbow Trout had dispersed an average of 4.1 km or 2 .54 miles with only 30% of tagged Rainbow Trout remaining alive five weeks after stocking. The extent of predation on Rainbow Trout was assessed using a bioenergetics approach. Electrofishing surveys and diet analysis of predators identified Striped Bass as the primary predators of Rainbow Trout in the Sipsey Fork. Bioenergetics simulations revealed that approximately 500 Striped Bass living continuously in the tailwater from March through October could consume all Rainbow Trout stocked each month. Knowledge regarding the dispersal and fate of stocked Rainbow Trout in this system can improve the management of the fishery.


This study proves what a lot of us who fish the tailrace have known for some time that the Striped Bass consumes a large number of the trout once they move beyond the pump station. I have never seen Striped Bass above the pump station which is where a lot of the fly fishermen wade. All the guide trips take place above the pump station. There is less than a quarter of a mile of prime trout fishing from where the trout are released to the pump station. The rest of the tailrace is much too deep to wade. I feel the deep water below the pump station is where most all the trout are consumed by Striped Bass. 1100 to 1200 pounds of trout are released in the tailrace each month which could equal to 1000 trout or below depending on the size of the trout. Consider how many trout would be left in the quarter-mile wading section if trout were released every couple of months.

I respect the findings of this study but see little chance of reversing the effects the Striped Bass have on trout that is stocked in the Sipsey. 

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Bluegill, Start to Finish


The bluegill is probably the most common warm water fish caught throughout the United States. A lot of us started fishing as youngsters fishing for the bluegill. These fish will hit almost anything that moves in the water. I remember catching this fish as a boy fishing from the bank in our pond near our house. The first fish my grandchildren landed when they started fishing was the bluegill. Any size bluegill will produce a bend in the light fishing rod. The excitement on the face of a small child landing bluegill is priceless. I know I have witnessed that excitement. 

Bluegill and Crappie are the only fish I keep to dress for table fare. Both these fish are excellent to eat if they are dressed and prepared right. I'm not a fan of the so-called tried and true method of cleaning these fish. Scraping the scales off their sides and cutting their heads off is how we prepared them for the skillet years ago. My family and I thought they were delicious to eat at the time. 

It took years for me to discover that a filleted fish has a much better taste than a fish fried whole with the skin and bones. You eliminate the fishy taste when the skin and bones are removed from the fish. I filleted my first bluegill 45 years ago one afternoon on the back porch of my school Principals house, dressing bluegill we had landed that afternoon. The first fish I filleted on my own wasn't perfect but over time I mastered the process. 

This little Rapala 8" fillet knife is all one needs to fillet bluegill and crappie. The knife needs to be razor-sharp. A dull knife will not get the job done properly!
Both these beauties were taken off the rock walls on Smith Lake using the Boogle Bug poppers this past Thursday. A meal for two can be prepared from the meat taken from 5 or 6 bluegills this size.  
I created this video some time ago explaining exactly how to fillet quality-size bluegill. The same technique can be used on the crappie as well. 

The Receipt for delicious bluegill and crappie


Take all fillets and place in a pan with water and add 3 to 4 tablespoons of salt and stir until all the salt is dissolved into the fillets---let sit overnight in the frig--the salt removes all the blood from the fillets

Remove the fillets the next day and wash all the salt off the fillets

Spray a cookie sheet with pam and coat all the fillets with cornmeal mixed with lemon pepper, salt, and black pepper

Bake all the fillets on 450 in the oven and turn the fillets over in about ten minutes and continue to bake until done. The process of baking the fillets takes about 20 minutes or less. You want the fillets to be tender and not overly baked which will make them tuff.


For those of you who like the fillets fried use a fry daddy adding Crisco, or Coconut oil to fry the fillets until they are golden brown--remove the fillets and let set on a paper towel to drain the oil 

French fries, coleslaw, and hushpuppies are all sides dishes that are delicious to eat with the fillets. Don't forget the tartar sauce and catsup---almost forgot a cold beer to top the meal off!!

Enjoy the meal!