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Great Fishing --- But Not Catching --- in the Appalachians

Photos by Robert Montgomery

The Dead Dog Pool was just that --- dead. But Secret Garden surrendered a feisty little smallmouth bass, giving us hope that the second day of float fishing would be better than the first.

It was better, but not much.

Fishing two great Appalachian rivers during the prime of the spring season should have yielded good numbers of hefty smallmouths for my friend John and me. But for whatever the reason, they just wouldn’t bite. Floating with guide Judson Conway, we managed just 4 fish on the first day and 14 on the second, with no bass longer than 12 inches and most in the 8- to 10-inch range.

No, not a great trip for catching bass, but it was a great fishing trip nevertheless.

The weather was pleasant, the scenery spectacular, and the companionship first-class. Both John and I enjoyed ourselves immensely, and I suspect that Judson did as well--- except for when the anchor hung under a rock ledge and he was forced to strip down and jump overboard in a vain attempt to free it. He finally resorted to cutting the rope.

The truth is that trips such as this are more common for most of us than those in which we catch big numbers of big fish. Most are somewhere in between. One of the reasons that I wrote Why We Fish was to explore how fishing is about so much more than what we bring to the boat.

On the first day, we fished the “Swine” River, a fishery that Judson prefers not to publicize by its real name because his clients catch so many large bass there during April and May. Starting in June, it typically becomes too shallow and warm to be productive. For the fish to be so uncooperative so early in May surprised both Judson and John, who have fished together for years.

During the 13 years that he has been guiding there, Judson said, he has yet to see another guide on the river. On our all-day float, we saw only one other angler, who was wading.

On the second day, we switched to the Nolichucky, a scenic stream for white-water rafting that rises in the mountains of North Carolina and then flows into eastern Tennessee, right through Davy Crockett country. We caught a couple of fish early and then a dozen after our shore lunch.

By the way, Judson, who has guided in Chile, the Florida Keys, and much of the West, is one of the best that I’ve seen at fixing a fast and tasty hot lunch. We enjoyed tuna steaks on the first day and crab cakes on the second.

We saw a few more people the second day, including “sirens” sunbathing on the rocks just below some rapids. But only one person was fishing. Most were riding kayaks or rafts down this fast-flowing stream that offers a variety of great smallmouth habitat, including deep pools, rocky shorelines, and backwash pockets in and below the rapids.

The big fish are there, as well as in the “Swine.” I have no doubt of it, and, if I did, Judson had plenty of photos to show me of hefty smallies caught by his clients recently in those waters.

My best guess is that the big smallmouths in both rivers were experiencing brief postspawn doldrums during the days we floated them. But who really knows? It’s not really that important.

Sometimes you catch them and sometimes you don’t. And catching is only one small part of what makes a great fishing trip. 


Yogi Knows Fishing

“You can observe a lot just by watching.” Yogi Berra

“Smoked carp tastes just as good as smoked salmon when you ain’t got no smoked salmon.” Patrick F. McManus

Why We Fish--- Reel Wisdom from Reel Fishermen

“Creeps and idiots cannot conceal themselves for long on a fishing trip.” John Gierach

“If fishing is interfering with your business, give up your business.” Sparse Grey Hackle

Better Bass Fishing: Secrets from the Headwaters by a Bassmaster Senior Writer

“There will be days when the fishing is better than one’s most optimistic forecast, others when it is far worse. Either is a gain over just staying home.” Roderick Haig-Brown


Texas Angler Catches Record-Size Guadalupe Bass

 Marcos de Jesus, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

A Guadalupe bass with broad shoulders “appears to qualify as a new state record and world record in several categories,” according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD).

While floating the Colorado River below Austin on Feb. 1, Bryan Townsend caught the 3.71-pound fish on a crawfish-pattern fly and a 7-weight fly rod. That should supplant the 3.69 caught in 1983 at Lake Travis.

Generally, 2 pounds is considered large for a Guadalupe, a river species unique to the clear, fast-flowing rivers of central Texas. Townsend’s fish, though, was a chunk, with a girth almost equal to its length (17.25 inches), but DNA testing confirmed that it was a pure Guadalupe.

Because that section of the river has yielded quite a few large Guadalupe-like fish in recent years, TPWD’s Marcos DeJesus decided to do a little research.

“So far as we can conclude, they seem to be pure Guadalupes,” he said.

“The Colorado River below Austin, from Longhorn Dam to La Grange, has been a special bass fishery for many years,” DeJesus continued. “Productive waters and excellent habitat have helped support a healthy black bass population composed of largemouth bass and Guadalupe bass.

“Recently, with reduced pulses due to drought, aquatic vegetation exploded all over this river segment. Flood events in October flushed a lot of it downstream, making it easier to fish.”

Townsend caught the big Guadalupe while fishing with guide Shea McClanahan, who immediately recognized its world-record potential. He phoned a friend who helped coordinate a meeting on the river with DeJesus, who brought an ice chest and an aerator.

“Our clients are 99.9 percent catch-and-release,” McClanahan said. “I don’t even have a stringer. We don’t kill fish.”

The biologist measured and weighed the fish, as well as took photos and a fin clip for genetic testing. They then took the bass to Cabela’s in Buda, the closest place with a certified scale.

Afterward, Townsend donated the fish to TPWD for live display at the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center, where it can be seen in the theater’s dive tank.

“It was just an awesome day on the water, and getting the record was a true group effort,” Townsend said. “Guadalupe bass are such an incredible fish, and I’ve just fallen in love with that river. It’s all worked out wonderfully.”

According to TPWD, the angler will submit applications based on the fish’s weight for water body, state, and world records. He also will apply for records based on length and tackle used for state catch-and-release, fly-fishing; and world record catch-and-release, fly-fishing.

Designated the official state fish of Texas in 1989, the Guadalupe is found only in the Lone Star State, with its range including the San Antonio River, the Guadalupe River above Gonzales, the Colorado, and portions of the Brazos River drainage. Generally green in color, it doesn’t have the vertical bars typical to smallmouth bass and its jaw doesn’t extend beyond the eyes, as in largemouths. Also, its color reaches much lower on its body than in spotted bass.

(This article appeared originally in B.A.S.S. Times.)



Weigh in on Florida's Proposed Changes in Bass Regulations

If you fish for bass in Florida, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants your input regarding a change being considered for the five-bass daily bag limit.

The statewide bag limit of five would not be altered, but each angler would be allowed to keep up to five bass of less than 16 inches each or four less than 16 and one more than 16.

“Limited exceptions for specific fisheries that have special needs or opportunities would still be possible, such as high-profile, catch-and-release fisheries that need such a management approach, or even a few more liberal regulations where bass may be overabundant,” FWC said. “Those would be limited exceptions and generally associated with fish management areas.

“In addition, it is important to note that there is no intent to alter the simple Bass Tournament Exemption Permit process.”

Go here to take the survey.

“The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) takes public opinions very seriously,” said Tom Champeau, director of the Division of Freshwater Fisheries Management. “Combined with the best science and case studies that we have to go on, public input helps us strive for optimal sustained use of these popular and valuable fish.”

As someone who fishes Florida waters as often as I can and knows the biologists at FWC, I respect the job that they do and hope that you will help with this.


An Angler Does Not Forget . . . 

“The angler forgets most of the fish he catches, but he does not forget the streams and lakes in which they are caught.” Charles K. Fox

“I used to like fishing because I thought it had some larger significance. Now I like fishing because it’s the one thing I can think of that probably doesn’t.” John Gierach

“No life is so happy and so pleasant as the life of the well-govern’d angler.” Izaak Walton

Why We Fish --- Reel Wisdom from Real Fishermen

“There is only one theory about angling in which I have perfect confidence, and this is that the two words, least appropriate to any statement, about it, are the words “always” and “never.” Lord Edward Grey

“Most of the world is covered by water. A fisherman’s job is simple: Pick out the best parts.” Charles Waterman