The smallmouth that got away

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IMG_3125We spent a long weekend up in the Thousand Islands.  It was a final “hurrah” before the start of school.  It’s always interesting to fish that region in early July, then again in late August.  Invariably, the fishing is always better early season.  The fish are in shallow water and easier to locate.  By the end of Summer, they are hanging in deeper water and more challenging to target with flies.  The water level typically drops a foot or more during that time.  Even the local sunfish, rockbass and perch population become more difficult to catch.  It’s not uncommon in late June or around the 4th of July, to observe schools of tiny bass, sunfish and rock bass from the dock.  They bully a worm the minute the bobber hits the water.  Fishing worms with my two young sons can become crazy when there are so many fish around!  Comparatively, late August is slower and there are fewer fish.  We had to work to fool a handful of perch with worms.  I also noticed that the gobies easily pick a hook clean late season, when they don’t have a chance to do that early in the year.

This extended weekend the wind blew and there were angry whitecaps racing around the bay.  I didn’t even bother to take the dingy out.  On Labor Day things finally settled and I managed two hours fly fishing.  Using a 350 grain sink tip line, I located several perch and a smallmouth.  However, it was generally slow and the weeds were plentiful.  Returning to the Island, I took my boys fishing for one last “hurrah”.

IMG_3130We managed a few tiny perch and were running low on worms.  As I was helping my younger son with a tangle, the older one declared that he had a fish.  I was in no great hurry as he is capable of reeling them in himself.  With more urgency, he exclaimed “Daddy, I have a fish.”  I glanced over my shoulder and watched him struggle to hold the rod, as his bobber moved away from him well underwater.  The drag on his kiddie rod was scratching and clacking away.  When I realized that he had a decent fish, I went over next to him.  Within seconds, there was a massive smallmouth rolling and thrashing on the surface.  The fish strained and my son strained.  My son was winning, walking backwards and dragging the fish towards shore.  Within 3′ or 4′ of the shore, the fish surged and broke the Eagle Claw #6 pre-snelled hook.  I saw the fish clearly as it lazily swam away.  My son didn’t care, but it was tough to hide my disappointment as that was a spectacular 5 lb plus smallmouth.  It was clearer larger than anything I’ve ever landed in the Thousand Islands. It ate half a worm!  We all have fish that got away.  I’m glad that my son didn’t give it a second thought.  Let’s hope that he is less haunted by losing memorable fish than his father.

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Craig Dennison

This is Craig and I host Fly Fisher's Workshop. My fly fishing experiences include plenty of travel (Montana/Florida/North Carolina/Maine) and a few years part time guiding for trout. While I primarily target trout and steelhead, I still manage to chase warm water species and enjoy chasing stripers and bluefish. I'm a 3rd generation fly fisher trying to share the passion with my two sons!

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