Good fishing continued into the afternoon and for me average fish size went up, which was awesome. I still caught smaller ones, so numbers didn’t drop, but larger ones were sprinkled in more frequently. I captured a story in three pictures below of Dad setting the hook on a fish, lifting it out of the water, and then a long distance show off.
Not all the water was fishy though. There were some long, flat riffle stretches that didn’t yield many fish. The fish we did catch in those places tended to be smaller. Just like the rivers I fish in Louisiana for spotted bass, you really wanted to target anywhere there was deeper water. Around boulders, around timber, undercut banks, where tributaries dumped in, and definitely in deeper runs and seams. Places you typically find fish, it wasn’t too hard to find them. There weren’t any long, deep, slow pools in this section of river either.
We fished our way up to a crossing trail and then took it back to the main trail along the river to make our way back to our campsite. I was sufficiently worn out when I made it back to the campsite. Absolutely whooped. The long, upriver wading mixed with the hike back took a lot out of me. It was so worth it though. It made the Sky Kraken from Fremont extra delicious that night. It may have been my favorite beer from the trip.
We woke up to frost on our vehicles the next morning; it was cold as hell for Southern Mississippi. We met up with fellow Red Stick Fly Fisher and blogger Chris, the Fat Fingered Fly Tyer, and came up with a plan of attack that involved fishing the deepest parts of the southern end of the lake. The wind and the bitter cold made executing that plan difficult. We fished and gave it our best in a sheltered cove, but eventually decided that wasn’t working. It was starting to look like the morning was a complete bust, which wasn’t unexpected. There was enough time to try one more spot and I had at least caught fish in the upper part of the lake yesterday so I told them that’s where I was planning to head and Chris decided to come with.
We launched our kayaks at the northern end of the lake and fought the wind, paddling across to where the river dumps in. There the trees were tall enough to protect us from the wind and the channel was pretty deep too, so if the bass were holding on the bottom we could at least target them in the deep channel. The temps were starting to increase to the point of being comfortable, but the wind was non-stop.
Things were looking up once we got in the river. It wasn’t too long after we made it to the river when I was slowly stripping a Clouser minnow with my 7wt sinking line around some standing timber and felt an eat with some solid resistance. When I strip set the line started moving and I got excited. Not long after a fish comes rocketing out of the water! It clearly wasn’t the target fish though, too long and skinny, no this wasn’t a largemouth, it was a bigass chain pickerel! It bulldogged after the jump and put up a really nice fight before I was able to slip my net under it. No points were awarded for big pickerel so I decided to let it go. Chris had mentioned I may want to keep it as it could be a state fly rod record, and I contemplated it, but in the end I let it swim.
It was a great fish that put up a great fight, a really good representative of our southern species of Esox. I was thrilled with the catch and relieved to not skunk on this tough day. A day when I thought for sure that no one was going to catch anything in this crappy weather. Just as soon as I release my fish back in the water Chris hooks into a bass. At 11″ it wasn’t the monster we were hoping for, but any bass on this day was better than none. I was happy to see our change in location had paid off and we both avoided the skunk, and now Chris was at least on the leaderboard.
The rest of our trip was pretty uneventful, I don’t know that I caught another fish. We did explore up the river a ways and found a lot of really good looking water that would probably be worth fishing at a later date, much like on my scouting trip the day before. It was eventually time to head back to the “weigh-in” and see what everyone else had caught.
Fly tying was in full swing by the time we got back and shortly after we arrived back an awards presentation was held for the big bass contest. As I suspected Chris did make it on the leaderboard as there were only two fish submitted. His 11″ bass was good enough for 2nd, while Roger Apperley turned in a 12″ bass minutes before the end of the contest. After the awards came the silent auction and then the raffle prizes. I was lucky enough to have my named called for a Fred Hannie watercolor of a largemouth bass, which now sits in my office at work.
The Sweetwater Classic was the first event I attended put on by the FFI Gulf Coast Council and I really did enjoy it. I thought they did a great job curating an event that catered to area fly fishermen. It was great spending time on and off the water with Brian and Chris, and meeting all the other folks who made the trip up to Percy Quin for the event.
I think the plan next year is for the Classic to be held in early May at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama. More details can be found on the FFI GCC site, and it already looks like it will be bigger and better than this year’s event. If you’re a fly fisher-person in the South you may want to consider making the trip and booking your lodging now.
Brian and I stayed one more night at the cabin and left the next morning to make the drive back down to Baton Rouge. Music was one of the wide variety of things we discussed and we both figured that no trip to this part of Mississippi was complete without a stop at the Lynyrd Skynyrd memorial site. There are a lot of Skynyrd songs I like, but one of my favorite fishing related lyrics from any song comes at the end of “Don’t Ask Me No Questions”
“I said don’t ask no stupid questions and I won’t send you away If you want to talk fishin, well I guess that’ll be OK”
I chuckle every time I hear it, because it’s so relatable.
After a disappointing performance by the Tigers on Saturday night, I found solace in the cool, clear waters of a Florida parish creek on Sunday afternoon. It’s been too long since I’ve made a wade trip on a creek, but yesterday was a great time for it. The weather was perfect and the water low and clear – great for the fly rod. It was reinvigorating spending some time outside alone with Mother Nature. The weather may have been too perfect though, they say that fishing is always tough on a bluebird sky, yesterday proved that theory. The idea is that the higher pressure gives the fish lockjaw – that will be my excuse as to why the fishing was so slow yesterday. I did bring two to hand and in thrilling fashion. Each bass annihilated my topwater popper on impact with the water, then tailwalked across the surface, dancing around sunken logs upon realizing they were hooked. It was an impressive show that I’m happy I got to see twice.