Monday, May 6, 2013

If That ain't Country...

  Last week a hot tip came in from a friend of mine that the hybrid striped bass were chasing shad in the evenings down at one of my favorite fishing holes.  After several texts and one phone call I felt a bit of responsibility to go down and try to catch a few so I could report back to him.  Fly fishing being my method of choice, I found myself without a suitable shad pattern with which to fish that evening.  I consulted several fellow fly fishers and decided I needed to tie some Lefty's Deceivers, a tried and true salt water pattern that has been used from coast to coast to catch all types of gamefish.  This simple pattern requires only a few materials to tie, including bucktail and most importantly saddle hackle which comes from a rooster.  After locating my tying materials I possessed everything but the hackle.  The closest fly shop with the hackle I needed is located about and hour away so I had to come up with another plan for obtaining the white hackle I needed to tie this pattern.  Fortunately we had a white rooster running around that was wearing the feathers I needed to complete my fly.  Since the camping season is upon us we needed to get rid of our loud roosters anyway, and Little Jerry would have to be the first to go.  After hunting down (not difficult) and dispatching Little Jerry I now had the feathers I needed for my flies, and some meat for the pot. 


  The next step was to turn Little Jerry, some bucktail, and a little flash into a suitable baitfish pattern that would hopefully fool a careless Hybrid into thinking it was just another shad.  Thirty minutes at the bench and I had several flies that I thought would do the trick.
    As I loaded a kayak and my rods into the truck I hoped that my work would soon pay off with the pull of a large fish on the end of my line.  I quickly arrived at my destination and was unloading my gear when a buddy of mine pulled up in his jet boat to see what I was up to.  After a quick conversation I threw my kayak in his boat and he delivered me upstream to a spot where he had seen some fish earlier in the day.  As I threw boat and gear out I noticed fish rising constantly in a shallow area just up from where I was delivered, with my curiosity being peaked I grabbed my flyrod and went to investigate.  As I quietly approached I soon realized there were hundreds of gar sitting over a shallow rocky area and they were constantly coming to the surface for a reason I could not yet understand.  As I watched the fish I realized that there was a huge mayfly hatch going on and I believe these fish were eating mayflies as they were swimming to the surface.  It is possible I am totally crazy, but this was the only explanation I could think of for this activity.   I tried in vain for 20 minutes to convince one of these gar to take my streamer, but think they really wanted a small mayfly imitation of which I had none. 
     I decided it was time to jump in the kayak and pursue my main quarry so I picked up my spinning rod with a swimming minnow and went searching for hybrids.  Fly fishing from a kayak in moving water is an activity that is somewhat difficult, so when I fish for the temperate basses, which typically school, I like to use a spinning reel to find the fish, and then switch to my fly rod once I have them dialed in.  This day I quickly hooked in to a medium sized hybrid and after fighting it for a few minutes it came off leaving me nothing but a straightened hook on my jig head.  Sadly I had just straightened the hook back up, and while I knew I would be better served to put on a new jig, laziness won out and I ultimately got what I deserved.  I drifted back through this spot with the fly rod to no avail and then grabbed the spinning rod again, this time replacing the old straightened jig.  I drifted on down and picked up a white bass on the swimmin' minnow, and re-drifted this section several more times to no avail.  The reports I had received told me that as I continued down I should start seeing some hybrids busting shad on the surface as the evening wore on.  I continued to drift and cast with my spinning gear, picking up a couple more white bass and one small hybrid, but I wasn't encountering the type of fishing I needed to totally commit to the fly rod.  As I continued to drift through the cold drizzle I had high hopes that the area I was now in was going to give me the action I was looking for.  Just as I was beginning to wonder if any fish would reveal their whereabouts the surface erupted with a shower of shad, followed by the splashes of their larger pursuers.  I quickly paddled to where I had last seen the activity grabbed my flyrod and made a long cast to this area.  My first few casts were retrieved much to fast to allow the fly to get down to the fish, so after taking a deep breath and settling down a bit I placed a cast back into the water and let my sink tip do its job for a few seconds.  Slow steady strips were suddenly interrupted by a violent yank at the end of my line.  I quickly set the hook and worked feverishly to get the fish on the reel so I could take advantage of the smooth drag of my Redington Delta reel.  As soon as I had my slack reeled up this fish let me know it was no run of the mill White Bass.  Line began singing out from the reel as the Hybrid began peeling off line in typical fashion.  The thump, thump headshake fight of a healthy hybrid is unmistakable as they dig for the depths and then run circles around the boat.  A five minute fight ensued as I was pulled around the lake in my kayak working to keep the fish from getting into the rocks, and then keeping it out from under the boat.  Eventually the fish tired and I was able to bring it to the boat.  I let out a victorious holler as my largest hybrid on fly was brought to hand.  A fat 21" hybrid was my reward for the effort I had put forth throughout the day, but the night was still young.   
    I continued to drift through the area this hybrid had been caught, but it appeared as though the school had moved on.  As I began to wonder if my luck had run out another surface eruption occurred not 30 yards from my position.  A quick cast in this direction and I was once again hooked up to a fish.  Line cleared and slack reeled up I soon realized this fish was not of the same caliber as the last one so I quickly horsed in what was a small white bass.  Disappointed I quickly released the fish, repositioned myself, and placed a cast back in the area where the school of fish was last seen.  Luckily the school had not yet moved on and my next cast was met with another vicious strike that I immediately knew was another nice fish.  This fish seemed stronger than the first big one, and I struggled to control the boat and keep the fish off the rocks while I attempted to take some video of the fight.  I soon abandoned the video idea as I knew this might be a new personal best hybrid on fly.  This fish made run after run, and while I kept him close to the boat I could not get the fish to the surface.  Several times I was able to get the start of my 4 foot leader out of the water but still could not see the fish.  After a fight which probably tired me out more than the fish I was finally able to lay eyes on what would be measured as a 23" hybrid which I would guess weighed somewhere in the 7 pound range.  

By this time I was worn out, but still wanting more.  The surface action had stopped and a few more drifts through the hot spots were left unrewarded.  By this time the dark skies were going black and I decided to paddle back up to the truck and call it a day.  I have had many rewarding fishing trips over the years, but I think this one will always stick out as one of my favorites.  I feel blessed to be able to go out and collect my own materials, put them on a hook and turn them into a fish that I will remember as a trophy.  Many people mistakenly think of fly fishing as kind of a snobby, city man's sport, but if this day's activities ain't country you can kiss my ass.