With a few simple materials and common tools from my garage, I crafted a tackle box full of traditional and non-traditional patterns to woo weary river bass. With flies in hand, I hit a small flow with friend and flyfishing mentor Josh Tidwell. -We floated a small river known for my favorite species: huge, river-run spotted bass. I beached my Jackson Kayak “SUPerFISHal” below a rocky shoal for a rest from a stiff paddle upstream, and a chance to do some fly casting from shore.
I opened my fly box and selected a bucktail, hackle and flash Deceiver I had tied on a whim only hours earlier. The big streamer pulsated and undulated in the water like a living, breathing entity begging to be slammed by a vicious spotted bass. I worked the swift water below the shoals thoroughly, with no takers. Picking up my line, I waded up to the pushwater above the shoals and laid a nice, looping cast across the rushing water. Fast, long strips had the streamer darting and pulsing down the rocky riffle like a shad fighting for its existence.
Suddenly, the white streamer disappeared into a golden-green flash that jolted my rod and bolted upstream. I hammered the fish with a strip-set and the aerial acrobatic display was fitting my first bass on my hand-tied flies. A round of pictures was followed by the retirement of this precious, first fly; a must for all fly tiers.
Building momentum, I picked up several short fish on some Clousers of my own design. I was in the zone, standing and casting from my ultra-stable paddle board - laying my flies under overhanging branches, and drawing strikes, follows, and interest from many fish. Suddenly, my world was put on its head. I roll-casted a Clouser under an overhanging tree, and the largest spotted bass I have ever seen annihilated my fly. This fish far outclassed the 21” 5lb personal best I landed months ago on this same flow. I strip-set into a brick wall - a southbound semi that gave no ground, dove, pulled, shook her massive head… then my line suddenly went limp. She had broken off a 20lbfloro tippet and driven a dagger into my heart.
I was physically ill. There is no worse feeling in the world than seeing your dreams fade into the depths. We floated downriver as I casted and moaned and went through the motions of fishing. My companion hooked his first decent fish of the trip and I played cameraman, snapping some great pictures with my phone. After the release, I eyed his fly selection and tied on a Coyote (a Clouser with a small spinner blade) to match his flashy fly called a Rolex. Three casts later, I hooked and landed a nice 3lb class spot. She didn’t heal the wound left by the lost giant, but it surely helped and put a positive ending to a wonderful, terrible trip I will surely never forget.