Maramec Park

Wintery Fishing Report . . . Smallies!

Posted by Bruce Omans on February 12th, 2011
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Warmer temps and sunny skies called me to the Trout Park seeking a cure for my cabin fever. I knew from my trip with my son Matt during our Christmas break that the spring branch is full of stupid, stocker Rainbows. This time I came to the Trout park to target winter SMALLIE’S! I wasn’t disappointed as I found that the trout park is loaded with nice Smallmouth Bass. To my delight the numbers were way up from my last trip! I guess the cold, snowy spell of weather we’ve had has called them up into the park into the spring water. It must feel like Miami Beach to them!

I made this a quick mid day trip, wanting to sight fish for these Smallies. I found my quarry to be more challenging and elusive than the stupid stocker trout, and more rewarding to catch/fight! I released many in the 16- 18 inch class with some of them being real chunks! I used the 1/8 oz. finesse jigs that we use to target winter river Smallie’s. I owe thanks to Zipstick, the winter Smallie Guru, for teaching me this pattern of hair jig. I actually used a variant of his pattern this day, using “Zonked” rabbit strips for the body and trailer material.

These Smallies weren’t easy, which made it even more fun when you’re able to either entice, or tease them into a take. Being able to sight fish these guys really improved the numbers of hooked fish, and impressed upon me just how many fish are missed when I’m on the river fishing “the water” with poor visibility. I really love being able to sight fish, putting your name on a fish, stalking it , working it, aggravating it until it finally takes! I love it when you can sit your fly in front of them catching their attention, seeing them eye over your offering. Sometimes I see them paddling their fins, and flaring their gills getting agitated, then if you give the fly the right move, mimicking for example a crawfish displaying defense mode saying watch out! I am danger! Then the Smallie pulls the trigger and says I am danger too! What a blast! Some of the takes were much more subtle, but it’s all good.

I made this trip solo, without my best fishing buddy my son Matt. So I didn’t have a photographer with me. I usually don’t like to just lay them on the bank for a pic, but since there was soft snow right at the water I took a few pics. The biggest Smallies I saw evaded me, there’s some solid 19 inch Smallie’s in there. Tomorrow, (Mon) is the last day of the C&R season sadly, and then the park will be closed for two weeks until opening day March 1. Then the crowds set in, and I will seek out other waters.

Further suggestions:

Get a good pair of polarized glasses, and hunt the fish. Recently I upgraded my fishing glasses to a pair of the Smith polarized and polarchromic Clearwater copper tint glasses. They really help, but have a hefty price tag. Be careful where and how you wade. A lot of folks I see run the big ones off without even realizing it. Just because you have waders on, doesn’t mean you have to use them. In many cases I try to stay out of the water as much as possible, and use my waders for chasing. Try to use the sun to your advantage. In my post I mentioned a mid day trip. During this time of year with the sun staying at such a low angle, the window of opportunity is shortened for best sight fishing conditions. Days with little or no wind helps.

Spending time on the water looking for fish, rather than just fishing the water is the key. Don’t just fling your offerings out there and hope for the best. Try to make your presentation correct. In some cases it’s all about the drag free drift, in other cases it’s all about the action. I normally try to find and fish for the biggest fish in the area I’m in. I try to watch my flies as much as possible, but sometimes if I temporarily lose sight of them, I might have to watch the fish’s behavior. The big ones hide sometimes in the darndest places! Like just behind a big rock, a log or root wad, in a deep cut. I’ve had some frustrating times trying to get that perfect drift to that special fish just behind that rock, get the tippet length just right, get the weight perfect, only to get hung up on the rock right in front of him loosing the whole rig. Then you just start over again, if you didn’t spook him. Some times I’ve worked on a fish for hours before everything finally falls into place. I could go on, but I think you get the picture by now, besides being a two finger button puncher makes for slow typing!

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