MFFC Smallmouth Trip May 19 to 21

I Joined the Michigan Fly Fishing Club's Annual Small Mouth Trip up to Michigan's Thumb.  This is the last weekend before it is open to keep Bass.  Many bays, harbors and flats where bass stage or spawn.  For 3 days, I chose a 3 Tributaries. 

  •  Quanicassee River flowing into southern Saginaw Bay for Large Mouth Bass and Pike. 
  • A northern Thumb River that can have a great run near the mouth or far upstream in spawning gravel.
  • A smaller stream where the fishing at the mouth is within an upstream kayak paddle to bass staging or spawning in remote scenic riffles and runs
The most fun was fishing small poppers in shallow water right against the shore.  You could frequently see the wakes as they came.  You had to finesse it with the right mix of pauses, twitches or pops to get the hit..

    On the lower Quanicassee river I got 23 largemouth from 14 to 18 inches using 3/0 but mostly 2/0 Marabou Banger poppers in Chartreusse or White.  I got some fish fishing the pockets in the weeds in dead end channels.  It was fun was fishing the shallow open water on the edges of a large tributary channel. Frequently a second cast to a missed strike could hit again and hook up.

    The northern natural river was not producing smallmout for me in a tributary channel, the lower river channel or the river mouth pond area where I have caught fish before.  At the narrows at the beach, the wind tide currents were alternating in and out and I got some fish very quickly on flashy White Clousers.  When that went cold I hooked 2 each on A Chartreuse & Black Clouser and an Olive Goby tied on 1/32 ounce #4 jig head.  I was stuck at 10 fish when 3 spin guys came down to the opposite bank 40 feet across.  They tipped their jigs with minnows.

    Using a lead eye Clouser I found it challenging to make a good presentations deep enough in the changing current conditions.  I only got 3 more while they got 11.  One gut got 9 of those, in part by fishing the minnow on a bare hook with no weight at all.  After they left, I tried a Natural Brown Bucktail Clouser with Black Pearl Flashabou.  Like the other fly changes, it quickly got one more fish but they kept hitting.  They were hitting with a jolting strikes like I have never seen before.  I finished with 34 bass total, shown is the 30th.  Credit  the fly pattern but it was now late afternoon, the water was warmer and I think more fish moved into the narrows.

    On the smaller steam I tried in town near the mouth, nothing there.  Further upstream, in a weedy dead end channel I quickly got 3 on a 2/0 White Marabou Banger.  I was also getting refusals.

    I put on a little 1/0 White Marabou Banger. Bass were hitting in the shallow open pockets near shore or up against the steel sea wall on the other side.  I saw the wakes as the bass rushed or hit the popper without getting it in their mouth.  It was like they were territorial and just trying to drive it away.  If tempted a third time then they would eat it and get hooked.  I got 16 total most on a smaller 1/0 short shank White Marabou Banger. 


    Three of those were Largemouth back in toward the shallow end of this channel.  Further back, it was too shallow for anything but Bluegills.  There my little popper got blasted by a good sized pike that rushed it from 8 feet away.  I did not set the hook, 5 seconds later I tighten up a bit and he still had the fly.  A few seconds later it popped back up to the surface unharmed.  Fishing my Way back out I got some rematches with fish that didn't get hooked on the way in.

    On the long paddle upstream, I spooked some fish in good looking water.  I hugged the right bank so as to not disturb the pools.  I turned around to fish downstream, drifting or anchoring the kayak 10 feet off that same bank. Now my right side was over open water where I could false cast and change of direction on the forward cast to get the fly close to the opposite bank.  I had some hits on the little 1/0 White Banger but only landed two.  Long cast and lots of finesse with long pauses were necessary.  Three pops or twitches were the limit, then retrieve half the line to make another long cast.  It was not working well. 

    I switched  to a White-Pearl Banjo Minnow, fishing it quickly with short sharp rips that got some jolting hits. 

    When I saw a wake behind the shallow running fly, I stopped an pushed the rod towards the fish to try for a couple of seconds of slack.  The fish would always be on when I tightened up a few seconds later.  I also would pause for slack on every retrieve about 40 feet out and that would get hit occasionally.  This sleek fly cast like a dream, got hit enthusiastically and covered water quickly.  By the time it was getting dark, I had taken 24 fish on the Banjo Minnow. 


    Again, I think a fresh run of fish must have come up behind me.  On the exhilarating speed demon paddle downstream, there was a wall of bass wakes racing ahead of me all the way back to the wider, deeper still water.

    The Banjo Minnow is tied on a #2 short shank straight eye hook.  A plastic dome eye is glued to the front of the fly and is angled downward to make a foil that causes the fly to dart randomly left, right, down or up with each short sharp strip. On the short pause between strips the falling fly would rotate from whatever orientation it had to turn hook up.

    • Hook     #2 Eagle Claw 254N, short shank,  Bend the front 3/16 inch down abut 15 degrees in toward the hook point
    •  Body Thread     210 Denier UV Yellow Danville's Flat Waxed Nylon
    •  Tail       White Marabou about 1.5 inches long tied partly down the bend
    • Body      White-Pearl Estaz or similar, trim this short on top.
    • Head Thread      210 Denier Fire Orange base to glue the dome eye to
    • Eye       7/16 inch chartreuse plastic dome eye




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