Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Smallmouth on the Rio!

After being too high to fish all summer, the Rio Grande has finally dropped to a fishable level.  However, the hot weather has inhibited good trout fishing.  Knowing this, two of the guides and I headed down to the Lower river Monday to chase some of our areas lesser known game fish, the Smallmouth Bass.          
Bass will feed in much warmer water temps than trout.  They take streamers with a vengeance and pull like a freight train.  The most effective way to catch them is from a boat in which anglers can cast to the deep banks and retrieve flies trough the big basalt boulders.  While drifting, fisherman can cover much more water, without all the effort that wading requires.
The Day started off with a nice wild rainbow right below the Junction Bridge.   When floating this stretch, we keep a rod on the boat rigged up with an indicator/nymph rig.  This allows us a shot at the many trout that swim the riffles and faster currents of the Orilla Verde State Park. 
The fishing was slow the rest of the morning, and the Bass didn’t start eating till after lunch.  Once the water warmed up, Brown Wolly Buggers and Kiwi Muddlers were the hot ticket, and it wasn’t long before we had netted a dozen or so Smallies. 
Fishing a streamer deep in a large eddy, Jason hooked some kind of monster.  Unfortunately the hook came loose after 30 seconds and we never got a look at the beast.   We could only guess as to what put such a big bend in that fly rod, but speculations ran wild.  Was it a 10 pound Brown? Snagged Carp? Northern Pike?  Beaver?  Nessie?   We will never know.
That’s the great thing about floating the lower river.  There are eight different species willing to take a fly, and every cast is like a spin of the roulette wheel.    Every float trip seems to provide some surprise; big fish, little fish, shipwrecked kayakers, skinny dippers, etc…
The afternoon yielded many more fish, mostly in the 6 to 12 inch range.  In one of the last runs of the float, I cast my streamer tight to the bank where a soft edge of current was rounding a rock.  On the first strip I felt my line tighten and I set the hook.  The fight was on!   A nice 2 ½ pound Smallmouth was soon in mid-air and after several more leaps we had him in the net.   Before getting to the take-out, we would land one more in that size range.
Fishing for bass can be a great way to experience a different aspect of fly fishing, and it can be done 20 minutes from Taos!

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