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This was my last day to fish and I only had one fish in mind that I wanted to target while still in the Florida panhandle, the Choctaw bass. After failing to catch one on day 1 I had to go after them again. Not having confidence in catching one on the creek I camped at, and needing to drive home after I fished, I decided to start driving west on I-10 and fish for them on a different creek, somewhere closer home. One that I could wade so I didn’t have to fool with the kayak. I’ve spent plenty of time fishing from a kayak, but I’m more comfortable fly fishing from my feet. It was super chilly that morning, had to be upper 30’s, so wade fishing for bass was going to be tough. It’s always been my experience that river bass like it when the water warms up a bit and I didn’t have the luxury of waiting them out. On top of that I forgot my river shoes at home so I was wet wading in Chaco’s. For anyone that’s ever wet waded in sandals on a stream with sand and pea gravel you know that it’s miserable. I had to do it though.

I picked a creek in the Blackwater River State Forest that I remember my friend Barret talked about and found an access with a trail that ran alongside it. This was a popular recreation site and there were plenty of campers around. This was the most people I had seen the entire trip actually. There was a red clay bluff along the creek that was reminiscent of Providence Canyon in Georgia, but on a much smaller scale. I’m sure it was formed similarly, poor irrigation practices led to drastic erosion that overtime became something that was neat to look at.

The creek was beautiful, crystal clear, cold water that glowed yellow/orange in the sandy spots and transitioned to tannic and dark where there was some depth to the water. There were plenty of deep spots too. It was tricky to tell the depth in person let alone try and portray it with a cell phone camera. That never stops me from taking pics.

As was the case for most of the trip, the fishing was super slow. I was working the water too fast though. I know I was. It was cold out and I should have been methodical about working the structure, but I was worried about leaving in time so that I wouldn’t arrive home too late. I wanted to see the family that afternoon, not the next morning. It forced me to search for the most aggressive fish by covering as much water as possible. Eventually the fish cooperated and as I pulled my trusty crawfish pattern across a log I had a follow from an interested fish. The next time I pulled it by I got the bite I was looking for and brought a pretty little washed-out Choctaw bass to hand.

Goal accomplished. I fished a little bit longer, but my heart wasn’t in it, I turned around and made my way back to the truck. These fish weren’t very active anyway. I caught what I had came for and needed to drive home now.

The Florida panhandle rivers were awesome. I went over to Florida hoping to catch a bunch of different species on the fly that I had not caught yet and I was able to do that. The diversity was there, the quantity was not. With those fish I made it to 40 different species total on the year – not a bad year at all. It’s been a lot of fun taking that journey and I’ve been introduced to a lot of new friends, fish, and fisheries that I know I’ll enjoy for year’s to come. I made this trip solo, but it would have been great to enjoy it with Blake, or other fishy friends. I’ll be back. It’s not a long drive and there is so much more to explore. I’ve still yet to catch a Suwannee bass, which are found just a bit further east of the Chipola, and I need to. It’s the last American bass species out there that I haven’t targeted.

Back in October as the RSFF Jambalaya Challenge was beginning to wind down, Chris Williams and I made it out on a creek in search of shadow bass. Shadow bass are not a species you can directly target IMO, but we at least made it out somewhere that I’ve caught them before, so I figured our odds of seeing one were at least a little better there. This was the first time Chris and I had fished together and I was glad we were able to make it happen.

We got an early start that morning and had an unseasonably Fall-like chill in the air when we first stepped in the water. It was cold enough that it took a little bit of time for the fish to warm up and become active.

The first fish I came across was a blacktail shiner, a fish I had come across earlier in the year and a common catch on the creeks that I wade fish here in south Louisiana. I caught a striped shiner soon after that and unfortunately for me he came off the hook before I could get a photo. That would have been another species on the list so a bit of a bummer. Soon enough the normal targeted species began to show up as well; the longear sunfish and spotted bass.

The fishing remained pretty slow for most of the morning into the afternoon, but Chris did well to add three species to his list; striped shiner, blacktail shiner, and spotted bass and put a little distance on his Jambalaya Challenge lead.

Unfortunately we didn’t turn up any shadow bass on our trip, which was not wholly unexpected. Like I said before, they are difficult to target directly. They are always bycatch for me and I certainly don’t catch one every time I fish a creek. As my mom would say “maybe we just weren’t holding our mouth right”.

I enjoyed my day on the water with Chris and I know we will do it again soon. We still have to track down a shadow bass for him and he knows where to go to catch chain pickerel in Louisiana, which is something I’ve yet to do.