After winter blasted one last dump a few weeks ago, I’ve kinda given up on snowboarding for 2012. Better luck next year Old Man Winter. I truly am rooting for you, since I do work in a ski shop and all.
The weather has been a little wild this March though with record high temperatures and winds that make it difficult to toss the fly out there. On one of those windy days, I was feeling like getting out and doing some fishing, but not like driving out to the Provo so I decided to try one of Salt Lake City’s local canyons. I had fished Big Cottonwood last year, but wanted to go somewhere dog friendly to give the girlfriend some rest and relaxation while I was out. Therefore, I decided to check out good old Millcreek Canyon.
Although I found some success on a size 16 parachute adams and a size 18 zebra midge and it was fun to catch fish close to home the following day I decided to venture out into the wild.
I’m not used to nymphing such small streams, but after fishing a couple of hours with minimal success using a stimulator with a dropper, I decided to test my luck with some nymphs. The pheasant tail is my go to, so I tied that one on with a zebra midge in tail.
Although the fishing was pretty decent that day, the highlight of this trip was Bandito getting into a scuffle with a river otter. Without going into details, Bandito lost and the otter ran to the river biting my pooch and slapping him with his tail.
Taking advantage of the near 70-degree highs that we experienced on Saturday, the Moose Knuckle crew headed out to a legendary lake in Sussex County. We were expecting to catch a few Sunfish, maybe a Crappie and at best a juvenile Bass. What came to pass was a Panfish Slay Ride not witnessed since early in the fall of last year.
The neighbors graciously allowed us to borrow one of the 12-foot Aluminum hull rowboats dry-docked along the shore. We brought our own electric trolling motor, a necessity if you want to fish and not row yourself to exhaustion.
Mark was spin fishing primarily with a two inch Rapala Floater; I of course, commenced throwing my Mohair Leech. We put in around 1:00 PM with blue skies and the bright sun overhead. As one would expect, our shadows spread far and wide, disclosing our approach early to the sluggish fish.
Besides a few Crappies nailed right at the put in, we messed around for a while attempting to comprehend the underwater ecosystem. Whilst conducting our exploration of the lake, Mark and I landed around ten Sunfish each. Then it dawned on us, fish are cold blooded, the water is chilly and the sun is hot. We motored straight back to the shallow, swampy, and most importantly warm flat-water section of the lake.
Head to the Flats
Here as we navigated the partially submerged stumps and the militant Swan, Mark landed his largest Bass of the year; that is until he caught the next three after that. Myself refusing to admit defeat to the Rapala Floater, switched to a Muddler Minnow. This quick fly change was rewarded with a few more Sunfish. At this point, I was intent on catching one of these Bass I pulled out of my arsenal an old standby, the Black Hale-Bopp Leech.
Just as I switched flies again, Mark landed another Bass! Consumed, with a feeling of pressure, an intense biological demand to get my fly in the water; I cast out to the shallows as far as my Sage VXP 4 weight rod could go and hooked right into a log.
I attempted to free my hook from the “log” but it started moving back and forth like a tractor through the algae. There was a Bass at the other end of the line! At this point, it should be noted that when a Bass swallows a leech dangled on a 4-weight rod quite a contest arises. After a few minutes, out popped the most haggard Bass I have ever seen. He had a cataract in one eye; the scars of herring attacks on his back and sandpaper like skin. Needless to say a fish is a fish.
Fishing is turning on much earlier than last year. The mild winter, in the majority of the lower 48 states, was lenient on fish. This being said, waters are still not at their optimal range for active feeding activity. Bass and Panfish will be caught in the warmer, shallow and flat areas of a lake or pond. Attempt a retrieve at varied speed, on the fly I found that two six inch strips followed by a short waiting period was triggering a strike. Bass seemed to strike during the active retrieve while the Sunfish attacked when the fly stopped. Do not be afraid to experiment and vary the speed of retrieve.