When Kyle Zempel from Black Earth Angling Co suggested that we take his recently tricked out jet sled to a new stretch of the big river in search of smallmouth, I said, "Yes" and figured I'd work out the scheduling with my wife later.
It's interesting (to me at least) that it was this stretch of river that prompted my first boat purchase and a deeper appreciation for smallmouth bass. I was invited on a similar trip close to 10 years ago by my friend JK, also know as Bacon. The trip down the river in his jon boat opened my eyes to a whole new world of fly fishing.
As I drove to the launch I got a dizzying dose of déjà vu...
Kyle pulled in a few minutes after my arrival and not only brought his boat and a cooler full of iced goodies but he was kind enough to bring along his associate Mark Pavlovich.
I like meeting new fly fishers and Mark was no exception. It was only a few minutes after the launch and a short boat ride upstream before I saw that Mark was no newbie with the long rod. He sent long beautiful casts into likely seams and it occurred to me that if the fish were around we were likely to have a fine evening.
Kyle has been guiding on the big river for a few years and he has coined a phrase for the savage surface oriented attacks that smallmouth mount against baitfish...he calls it "The Crash".
"The Crash" seems a little like a slick marketing term that would sell guided fishing trips if printed on a glossy brochure...until you see it in person.
The word "Crash" defines the phenomenon perfectly.
I could go on and on about the fishing but I'd suggest, if you are interested, you give Kyle a call and let him show it to you first-hand.
My thanks to Kyle and Mark for letting an old beardless guy join them for an incredible evening.
We rolled into the in-laws this afternoon. I was running though the Independence Day weekend itinerary with my brother-in-law and it was decided that tonight would be the only shot at hex'n for walleyes. Normally we miss dinner and hit the lake early, sunburn in the heat of evening sunset and wait for the mosquitoes to drop in.
Tonight, dinner was on the table at 7:30. We dined on walleye (what else??) potatoes and salad.
By 8:00 we were on the road and we were sliding the canoe into the lake at 8:35.
Perfectly still, calm, perfect.
I've found that certain flies tied with bead-chain eyes and intended for Bahamian bonefish work as a passable Hexagenia emerger imitation in Northern Minnesota.
A passable 3/4 pound fish agreed with me and swallowed my fly shortly after the sun dropped below the horizon.
Though I have done this many times before, the wait for the hatch is always a little nerve-wracking. It always happens a little later than I remember and there are times when it doesn't happen at all. Tonight, as if on cue, the sky darkened as the thrum of mosquitoes signaled the end of the comfort and the start of the show.
The first hex popped and stalled on the surface. The second came a few minutes after. Then it became a forgone conclusion as big bugs popped and struggled to unfold their wings and take flight.
There is a moment in fishing a hatch, especially an after dark hatch like the hex, when you have to commit to the dry fly. After the second small splashy rise in the failing light, I snapped on my headlamp and replaced the bonefish fly with a spentwing spinner, or as I was a hoping the fish would consider it, a crippled emerger.
We spent the next 45 minutes getting small rises to our offerings but didn't hear any big gulpers. We one hand paddled the canoe toward the most likely splashes but the eaters didn't seem to be around. We opted for a change of location which is always the last ditch effort while fishing a hatch that might last an hour.
We finally heard a good feeder to the southeast and paddled toward it...it came up once, then twice. In what is probably best described as location through sonar, we triangulated its position until the moon betrayed the rise form. I dropped the spinner close and waited 3 beats before the next gulp took my fly down with it. I set and felt the throb and deep bend of a decent fish...
...but just for an instant, before the line went slack.
The 476th mosquito bit my unexposed skin, above my buff and below my hat.