The Michigan Fly Fishing Club's Smallmouth Outing is held in late May before the season opens to keep bass. Lots of chances to talk flies and fishing. Many places to target Small Mouth: rocky spawning flats, dredged harbors and lower small stream channels. I caught 7 species, tried for but caught no Salmonids, had one good numbers day, other people reported 100 fish days in a tributary I had fished years past.
I had never fished the Pigeon River and had heard the bass would hit small surface flies. I started fishing the deep channel by the pier with a big #2 Tungsten Bucktail Jiggy (White Silver, Opal and Blue), swithching to Chartreuse coincided with hooking fish. In the same area I was fishing, I saw a big Walleye taken on a spoon, a good Pike on a plug, and many small bass and pike taken on spinners from the point across the channel.
I saw a big headed bass, sluggishly move on and miss the fly in a few inches of water as I lifted it off the water to cast again. After making three 8 foot cast, I hooked an 18 inch largemouth. He fought weakly as I towed him some distance to the one place I could land him, when he shook the barbless hook.
I had not been hitting bottom so I counted down a few extra seconds and slowed down the retrieve and got a hard fighting Sheephead. I got a good Pike from the one place I could land fish and also hooked but lost some smallish smallmouth.
Later about a quarter of the way out the pier hooked a very big smallmouth that fought hard and I towed him back all the way to where I had to struggle down off the high pier onto the rip rap where I could hope to land him. He shook off while I had both hands on the necessary hand holds. The learned lesson is: Bring a long handled net top the pier.
Kayaking further up the channel I made a wrong turn up what I didn't know was an old dead end channel. Ken was up there anchored mid channel hitting big smallmouth one after another. Below him I couldn't get any thing. He was fishing on the surface casting tight to a brushy shore where the straight channel was transitioning to a shallow inside bend. He appeared to be using a white Guggler without the front popping lip.
I thought that ahead of us we had a whole river to fish. I cut in 30 yards ahead of him, first trying poppers unsuccessfully. Further up that inside bend I got hits and then fish by slowly fishing a small #1 White-Opal Foam Diver. After 2 each of Largemouth and Smallmouth, I broke of the barb because this fly tends to hook fish deep and I felt lucky to not have hooked any in the gills. I got more hits further up the shallow inside bend in spots with wood cover in the water. The water ahead was shallower, weedier, and lacked any wood cover, there were no fish there.
I came back down and fished were Ken had been and got more smallmouth bass including one around 19 inches. I got more fish downstream a bit, casting tight to the steep wooded bank. The Foam diver was silent but had more action than the Ken's fly had and I had to fish it much slower than I am sued to. The fish wanted very slow subtle retrieves, some times hitting it resting after the plop down, some times moving on the fly without hitting or seeming to hit without getting the hook. What were they feeding on in that shallow, weedy water? Very small minnows moving tight to the shore? Damsel Nymphs?
Back on the main channel the water was very deep with out any current features to attract fish. I kept paddling upstream until I found shallower water with some current where I saw some fish. I rested that and then came back down with a small #1 Marabou Banger popper. It would take fish if I fished it slow enough for the intermediate slow sinking line I was using to alow it to be dipped below the surface without any surface disturbance. A floating line and slow sinking Clousers, other light streamers, maybe a sleek floating minnow or floating insect imitations might be better. I want to come back for a rematch with better tackle and flies.
Saturday wound up being a tougher day where I found no fish in the lower Pinnebog River. Up in the Little Pinnebog tributary I felt lucky to get 2 smallish Smallmouth and a little Crappie. I did see a big Channel Cat caught in water to deep to fish flies.
I relaunched at Eagle Bay with good but deteriorating weather and got 2 Smallmouth, a Sheephead and a White Bass before wind and wave conditions got bad. I paddled and surfed back in to the beach ahead of a fierce north wind.
The first day I got a lot of fish in the dredged channel leading into a small stream, one bigger fish coming earlier from a small private dredged harbor. A #2 White, Chartreuse and Opal Jiggy or similar Clousers worked well there. A shallower running Banjo Minnow got a few fish for a change of pace. A small popper worked quickly in my usual aggressive fashion got nothing.