Normally when I think of fishing this time of year, I think about mayflies and where I can find abundant hatches and rising trout. However, the smallmouth bass fishing on area waters has been outstanding for catching large pre-spawn fish.
I have been trying to chase trout but with gas prices what they are, I have not been traveling much to search my favorite streams that I know have consistent hatches of mayflies. For that reason, I have been staying close to home trying to find some trout feeding on the surface on streams such as the Dry Fork, Shavers Fork and Tygart Valley Rivers that also have healthy populations of smallmouth bass.
There have been a few very good days and the mayflies and caddis flies are bringing the trout to the surface when they are present.
Unfortunately, I have not had a chance to fish very much when the insects the trout crave are on the water.
Most often when this happens, the trout are feeding on the same insects in their immature form underwater as the bugs prepare for emergence. Typically an angler can do very well fishing nymphs and wet flies. I can usually do well catching trout on nymphs as they gorge on the insects as they migrate to locations where they emerge into winged adults.
However lately, perhaps because I’m getting older or because I have not had the time to fish that I would like, I have not had the desire to fish nymphs or any other small underwater offering.
When the trout are not feeding on the surface, I have been throwing big streamers searching for big fish.
Of course, I expect to catch large trout on these big streamers; but the last few times out the smallmouth fishing has overshadowed the trout fishing by far.
The bass have been very nice size. I have landed several bass over 15 inches with a couple pushing 18 and weighing close to 3 pounds when full of eggs.
The bass have been hanging out in shallow water enjoying the sun’s warming rays looking for an easy meal while preparing to spawn. I have been finding most fish in 2 to 4 feet of water where they are feeding on minnows and beginning to hollow out nests in the gravel.
The water is still a little cold so the bass are not very aggressive yet and most fish I have caught I just sensed were on the line with no noticeable hit or tug on the line.
However, once hooked they become very aggressive and have been putting on aerial displays jumping well and making strong runs in an attempt to free themselves from the hook.
The most consistent producers for me have been minnow imitations in an olive or grey color, depending on the color of the water, presented along the bottom.
Spin fishermen should have similar luck with minnow lures fished in the same areas, and live minnows work even better.
Of course, where trout and bass occupy the same stretch of water there is always a chance to tie into a nice trout also. Although they are more tuned into eating insects at this time of year, trout, especially larger trout, will rarely pass up the opportunity to eat a nice plump minnow when it drifts by.
It is possible to catch large trout and bass from the same areas. This is what I enjoy most about fishing minnow imitations this time of year, when something takes your bait you cannot be sure it is a bass or trout until you see it.
I do love to cast dry flies to rising trout but when the fish are not cooperating it is nice to be able to throw some big stuff out there and have something big grab it whether it is a trout or a bass, it is all fun.