The Braided Wing

Big Smallmouths, Small Streams

Posted May 6, 2012 Stonefly.

Big Smallmouths, Small Streams

Indiana weather, as most of the Midwest in Spring, can be pretty frustrating. The typical scenario is a beautiful, warm, sunshine-filled week, with rain setting in on Friday evening and blowing out the streams for the weekend. The first week of May was no different, with rain forecast Friday - Sunday once again. David and I decided to jump the weather and head out after work on Thursday instead. I drove straight from Chicago on Wednesday to southern Indiana and a favorite smallmouth stream. The water was still high and fairly fast after the past weekend's rains, but it was definitely starting to settle down. I hooked one smallie in about 20 minutes, and then started making plans for the following day when the water was milder. Thursday conditions were perfect for smallmouth streams. If you haven't fished stream smallies much, the optimal conditions aren't gin-clear waters (though not bad when it's hot), but off-color water following rains. Depending on how hard the rains were, I usually find the third day the best fishing. The second can be great as well if the rains were light. The smallie above came on the third day conditions, and he certainly wasn't alone. We hooked into multiple fish, four species, with smallies making up the majority of the catches. And though there were plenty of 9-10" smallies, the majority of them ranged from 14-18" in 2-3' of water. It was a 40+ fish, 3-hour effort. My favorite photo of the day was this double, with David doing his jazz hands pose to show them off:

 

 

I've been fly fishing smallies for over 20 years, and in these conditions there are multiple flies that are effective. Surface bugs with rubber legs are good, especially for the pan fish but also an occasional aggressive smallie. But nothing beats a reddish brown wooly bugger with a little flash, in about #8 or #10. I started the day with a green wooly with flash, just to see if they were ready for it yet - lots of caterpillars in the trees - but David was up 5 smallies to none very quickly. I made the switch to the brown wooly and landed two 14-16" smallies in short order. I like to experiment, but there is no debate that this brown wooly pattern is the go-to smallie pattern in the central Midwest and upper Southeast. I called a buddy while we were on the stream in Indiana, and he was standing in central Kentucky stream fly fishing for smallies at the same time. Guess what was working best for him? That's right, the brown wooly bugger with a little flash. Same conditions, same weather. Great day, and though the rains never came this weekend (figures, since I planned it around no fishing), the midweek was tremendous smallmouth fly fishing...again. We're not sharing the name of this stream, but it's one of three in Indiana that I would call blue ribbon fisheries, and the only one that you can't float. And I'd venture to guess it's the one almost no one in the state is aware of - in 4 years I've seen maybe 4-6 other people on the stream, two of whom have since moved out of state. If you're in southern Indiana and want to walk and fly fish some beautiful smallmouth water, drop us a line. For good measure, here's another photo from the day; I just can't leave 'em in the camera without posting more: