Streamer Love-fest 2017 Part 1
Often, the first go at something never quite seems to go smoothly. It’s kinda like that first time your dad let go of the bike when you went for that first unassisted ride. Im not gonna lie, I crashed hard my first time on the bike, but eventually I figured it out and the rest is history. Fishing trips can sometimes go the same way, even though a great deal of planning often goes into the mix. Plans can fall flat on their face, or let me rephrase that, expectations can fall flat on their face.
I learned a long time ago to never put expectations on a fishing trip, simply expect the worse and hope for the best but always have an open mind and be willing to adapt to whatever mother nature throws at you. This has been my mantra of sorts for the better part of two decades now, and more often than not, I head home with a smile on my face with the results no matter how many fish I tangle with.
First thing first however, I have to settle you into my trip before the trip. See, I flew into Florida on Tuesday, and was picked up at the airport by my brother from another mother Mike Schmidt. This was my first time visiting him in his new digs, so it was standard procedure for him to show me around briefly; hit the best deli locale, suck down a solid beer and then go fishing (go figure).
After we grabbed our food for the day and charged our batteries on a nice ale, we ventured over to meet a guide buddy of his who was awaiting our arrival at the dock to go pole around some flats in search of Redfish (tough life I know). After choking down our lunch at the dock, we set off and were quickly poling around a nice long flat in the inter coastal waterway.
Never having fished for Reds, I had no idea of what I was up against, but in short order we managed to locate some Redfish tailing, some cruising and I had some shots at some quality fish. By days end I had been blown up by own good red, and got a solid eat from another that gave me a solid 20-30 second fight before straightening out the hook. Despite equipment failure, I was more than happy with what I got to experience on a “bonus day” in some new water to me.
That night we had a great dinner at a very fine Italian restaurant, then capped our night off with a solid four fingers of Bourbon with Mike’s neighbor before we settled in for the night to prepare for our sixteen hour trek to Arkansas. 4 AM was gonna come up quick and we needed our rest.
I must be getting wiser with age, as I am fairly certain my head hit the pillow at 9:30 that night and the dreaded alarm wasn't as bad as anticipated. We splashed our faces with water, grabbed our gear and mustered into the Schmidt-mobile for our trek to the land of the unicorn brown. Every 200 miles we made a rest stop for gas, some food and a stretch. By the time we pulled into Cotter the interior of Mike’s ride was nothing short of a cornucopia of odors, the ones that stuck were cigars and ass and when we greeted our host, Steve Dally of Dally’s Ozark Flyfisher that night, he chuckled at my recollection. After throwing down some beers at our hosts place, we headed to our riverside cabin for the night and called it a day. A 6:45 AM pickup was gonna come early, so we decided to rack out and save the early morning wake up to gather our gear and hit the water with Steve.
Day 1 Float
Steve picked us up bright and early and we made our trek to the launch. They were slated to run a small window of water for the day starting right at 7 AM for roughly 3 hours and then drop things back to minimum flow. The idea was to ride the wave and hopefully fool some fish into chasing down our streamers. Things started off relatively slow but Mike and I managed to get a few chasers before I boated the first fish of the day. Nothing crazy in size, but a very respectable handful of buttery brown that smashed a 7 inch Masked Avenger.
The float continued with some smaller sized fish coming to hand before things started to wane a bit. The people controlling the dam only ran a good push of water for about an hour before they cut the flow in half and then backed it entirely down by the third hour. Steve took a look in one of my boxes that I had opened at the time I decided to make a switch and hinted that one of those Ice Picks in some shade of olive might be a wise choice. I never turn my head up at anyone with local knowledge of a fishery that I am not familiar with and kindly put on an olive over white articulated Ice pick that taped out at just shy of the six inch mark.
As we rounded a corner and switched our casting position from the banks to a mid river gravel bar and tail out I felt a thump. I stopped my retrieve abruptly and as soon as I stripped again I was freight trained by a solid fish that immediately went into a gator roll. It was a very solid fish, and it appeared rather girthy. A sideways turn and a couple more rolls and it was apparent this was a solid fish. Within fifteen seconds time or less, the fish was in the net and our first fish in the range we were after was in the bag.
After a series of photos and high fives we sent the brute home and let her go, and we still had ample time left in our day to hopefully duplicate the same but this time on Mikes line. We pushed on and hit some likely lies, a few turns and a couple of smaller fish later we found ourselves in another tail out in a respectable amount of water. As Steve positioned the boat in a likely line, I threw my first cast and let the line split the water column.
On the very first strip I was stopped dead in my tracks by another good fish which immediately started to dig for the bottom and head shake like I just ruined its day. In short order the brown was in the bag and although not as girthy as the last good fish, it was a little bit longer.
I’m not gonna lie, although I was psyched to have landed those two browns, I was feeling my fishing partners pain as he was still looking to connect with a fish over twenty inches. You see, the suspense was even harder to take as Mike was on his fourth trip to the White still waiting to eclipse that magic mark and here I am, first time on the water stuffing two fish north of that number. I know we've all been on either side of that story with friends and can totally relate to the situation at hand; needless to say, I was pulling hard for Mike as our trip was coming to an end very shortly.
We continued to work our line and came up to a very target rich environment. What I am referring to is an area of water that had a plethora of structure that would serve as a great ambush point for a solid brown. As we crested the top of riffle and made our way into a field of boulders some of which were larger than a small sedan it happened. Next thing I hear as I look into the water was a serious splash, and a toilet flush around Mikes fly as he came tight to a solid fish.
Mike landed the fish in short order and the mood quickly changed to elation and relief as we all celebrated that fish. After several pictures and laughs were shared, Mike released the fish back into the drink and we gave our last crack at the roughly 300 yards of bank we had left before our day ended.
Steve got the boat back in a nice line and we began to start back at our craft, casting and working our flies through likely lies until it happened again. Within a hundred feet of Mikes fish, Mike was tight to another solid fish. YESSS!!! We quickly netted Mikes fish, headed to the shore and repeated our job of shooting pictures and exchanging high fives. Once we released that fish, we hit a little more water before calling it a day.
We capped off the first day with a great gathering at Co-owner Jim Dugan’s house where many of the weekends attendees gathered for a few hours of fine food, drink and socializing together. While at the gathering, we spoke with Chad Johnson about the following days game plan. Chad felt we needed to switch up our game plan and opted for a slightly later start on a section of water a little lower in the system. So as the gathering wound down, we headed for the cabin and got a good nights rest to prepare for the second round of fun on the white...
To be continued.........