For anyone that knows me they know I absolutely love the Trout Nymphing game. I love tying the flies, love watching the sighter in a tight line rig, love watching the indicator on a indy rig, I lust plain love nymphing! Over the years my Trout game has revolved around the nymph, it still does and that will probably never change. That being said, every once in a while I get a hankering to throw streamers for Trout. It is not that I am against it, I actually quite enjoy throwing streamers, I always seem to gravitate to the nymph when talking about Trout.
We had quite a bit of rain through the week and all of our rivers were running high. my good friend and Norvise ambassador Ed "One Boot" Hays sent me a text on Friday afternoon, you all know the text, the kind that two fishing buddies send to each other. Few words, but the message is loud and clear ""Killing it on the FF section" That was it, but that was enough, I knew exactly where he was and I knew I would be throwing streamers on Sunday morning.
The Axiom II X;
When I first cast the Axiom II X at the Virginia Fly Fishing and Wine festival back in January Nick Conklin of TFO told me I was going to like it. He was right, When I first cast Tyler's A2X 8 weight in October I said "I see a LOT of iridescent blue in my future. When I saw that TFO was offering this rod in a 5 weight with a fighting butt I know this was going to be my first purchase. Originally, this was to be my new Hickory Shad set up. Paired with a BVK sealed drag reel and a Outbound Short F / I line this was going to be some bad mojo for Shad this spring. Well, COVID-19 took care of our Shad season and I was itching to get this set up out on the water. Sunday was my day.
I went to my tried and true streamer set up. as mentioned I already had a Outbound Short intermediate line on there, to that I looped to looped a 1.5' piece of T11, a 3' piece of 3X and my all time favorite streamer, Kelly Gallops Zoo Cougar.
When we first hit the water I was surprised at how easy the Axiom 2 X could handle the weight of the rig. Not that this was a ton of weight, it just didn't feel like I was throwing a sink tip at all, it barley feat like I was throwing an intermediate line. As mentioned Ed was with me, he too was throwing the A2X five weight.
Now, I would much prefer to fish over wild fish. Today scheduling and family commitments would prevent us from making the day trip to our favorite wild fish river, we would have to stay closer to home and beat up on some stockers. Now to be clear I said I would "prefer" to fish over wild fish, I have no problem catching stocked fish. "They have fins" as the boys down south always say, I agree, so we were on the water early Sunday morning rigged and ready to go.
It didn't take long, we had fished down about 100 yards of river and I saw Ed come tight to a fat Rainbow. The formula was simple, pound the cut banks from the far side, strip, strip, pause. Let the rig do its thing and settle the fly down in the slot. Strip, strip, pause, repeat. Take a few steps down, bomb the far cut bank, strip, strip, pause, repeat. Every once in a while, on the pause BANG! I love the violence of a streamer take.
We had been fishing for a while, not setting the world on fire, but catching a few fish. I was as interested in working the rod as well as catching fish. I was impressed with the accuracy I could obtain with the weighted head, I was really impressed with how well the rod could handle a inverted loop cast, a cast you must have in your bag of tricks if you are going to wade and streamer fish. I had a few of the Bugger type flies pictured above sent to me by mu buddy Tony Muncy of Muncy designs. These things looked cool and I wanted to see how they looked in the water. Three casts in I was hooked to a solid rainbow. Ed took this picture just as I netted the fish.
These leech type buggers worked very well, so much so that I contacted Tony today and placed an order for 3 dozen, Then I bought every color of dubbing he uses to make the body of these that the company makes. Yup, they looked that good!
All in all it was a great morning on the water, we got into some fish, I got to try out a new rig that I am VERY happy with (Ed loves his as well) and we had a good time. In the end, isn't that what it is all about?
Till next time.
Tyler and I had the pleasure of fishing with central Pennsylvania's premier Smallmouth guides, Brian Shumaker. Brian is the owner of Susquehanna River Guides and has spent the past 30 years floating the rivers in and around west central PA including the fabled Susquehanna and Juniata rivers. Brian has become a good friend over the years so we jumped at the chance to spend a day on the water with him.
We did the 2 hour ride from our place to the meeting spot in record time where we then followed Brian with his Hyde drift boat in tow to the um, well, we will say...boat ramp. We were on a smaller piece of water Brain can only float in his hard hull during the Spring. later in the year there is simply not enough water to get down this particular river. Getting the boat in the water was interesting, but we got it down the bank and we were soon on our way.
Smallmouth are my favorite fish, they are beautiful, hard fighting and are tailor made for fly fishing. We spent the day pounding the banks and back eddies with streamers and slowly stripping them back. "Stripping them back" is really a bit of a misnomer, really we were just letting the flies hang and swing a bit and just keeping the line tight as the boat drifted down river. This is a cool technique as once you "get" it you can literally hold the fly in one spot for an extended amount of time to entice a big ole' bronze back to come up from the deeper water and smash it.
We started off a little slow, typical with spring time smallmouth fishing as the water was still a bit on the cool side at 52 degrees. When the sun got up and the water warmed so did the fishing. As soon as he stepped up on to the front casting position Brian was tight to a solid smallmouth. Literally it was on his first or 2nd cast!
nThis was not a guided trip, it was what we call a "row and go" meaning three guys are in the boat, 2 guys fishing and 1 rowing the boat. We would switch positions so every got to fish and every one would row. If rowing a drift boat is not something you do every day you will soon appreciate the skill of an accomplished oarsman. It is not as easy as a good rower makes it look...just ask Tyler. I really think you should spend some time on the oars if you can, it will give you a better appreciation of how everyone needs to work together for the boat to be successful. Tyler was picking it up toward the end, I am very excited for our Smith Fly raft to be completed so we can start floating some of our local (and not so local) rivers this summer.
On his second stint on the bow Tyler stuck a good fish followed by an even better smallie.
Tyler and I were fishing some of TFO's new gear, mainly the Axiom 2 X rods and the new BVK sealed drag reels. As mentioned smallmouth are my favorite fish to fish for, coincidentally we spend a lot of time chasing them each year. For years my go to set up has always been a 7 weight. We throw some pretty big flies when chasing smallies; Game changers, O'Neill's Controlled Chaos, O'Neill's Hovercraft, weighted crayfish patterns and the like. For me a 6 weight just doesn't have the muscle needed to punch these bigger, wind resistant flies through the air. It is not uncommon for us to be on the water all day and honestly an 8 weight was just too heavy to cast for 10 hours straight, that is why I prefer a 7 weight. Until now.
During one of my turns in the back of the boat I looked down in the rod holder and low and behold there was Tyler's Brand new A2X 8 weight. Will, I am not one to let a new rod to go to waste so I figured I would break it in for him. As mentioned earlier I am a huge fan of a 7 weight. That being said, if you get a little more than I light breeze the shortcoming of the 7 weight quickly comes to light, especially if you are trying to punch 60' casts with big flies. This was the first time I really got to spend with the A2X 8 weight. The first thing you notice is the overall weight of the rod. If you didn't know any better you would swear it you were holding a 6 weight. Load it up to cast and it is quite apparent what you are holding. Paired with an aggressive, weight forward shooting head this stick is an absolute rocket. It is light in the hand, you can cast it all day and it has plenty of punch to drive a big, articulated fly through the air with ease. It is a bit early to say it is my new favorite, but it will be a staple in my quiver for sure.
Several hours later and sever rotations on the oars we were at the take out. We had had a fantastic day with several Smallmouth landed along with a bonus Walleye, my first ever.
If you are looking for a fantastic central Pennsylvania Smallmouth experience Give my buddy Brian a call or check out his Facebook HERE. You will be glad you did. Till next time...
Tight lines, Tim