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Fishing Speed for Wading


JeffD
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Let's say you have 4 hours to fish and far too many miles of river to possibly wade in that time. One question I face is how fast I should be fishing.

One extreme is to exhaustively fish each and every promising cubic inch of water, leaving no stone unturned. Another extreme is to set out walking, possibly throwing a buzzbait or spinner, and only stop to fight a fish. Each time I go out, I'm faced with deciding just where in the middle of these two extremes I should be. I think the answer depends on your objective. Some objectives I pursue, though not simultaneously, are as follows:

 

1. catch as many fish as possible

2. optimize the chance of landing a real lunker-say an 18-20 incher

3. explore some new stretch of a river

4. maximize enjoyment

5. get a cardio workout.

 

It makes sense to go very fast if you are pursuing either #3 and #5, and this is when Brendan's (an old blog article of his) "Power March" with a buzzbait can make some sense. I'm mostly interested in #4, which is usually a compromise between the first three objectives. The aim is to catch several fish, hopefully some large ones, possibly explore some new water and learn something about smallie fishing that will make you better the next trip. However, knowing this doesn't entirely solve the problem.

 

I recently started using a snap, following the advice of a frequent fishing partner, Phil Fiscella. This has helped define the pace, because I can alternate between slow and fast in my lure selection. My current system, which is always evolving, is to keep a steady pace through poor and marginal water, throwing a fast moving bait that makes sense for the conditions. Upon approaching a nice pool, logjam, or other interesting feature, I'll fan cast with a topwater, spinner, or crankbait, and then slow down to thoroughly dissect the area with a tube jig. One issue is deciding which features are interesting enough to merit such a thorough dissection.

 

Well, there are so many variables involved in making fishing decisions that this can never be solved. Nevertheless, I'd be interested in knowing what others think about finding the right pace, either when wading or fishing from a kayak or canoe.

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I remember fishing from Oswego Route 34 Bridge down to Orchard Rd. which if my memory serves me right is about three mile and do that in about 4-5 hours and that was working the areas over pretty good. Then again in some areas that have a lot of cover to work you may only wade about 1-1/2 miles in 4-5 hours. I think it depends on the area your fishing and the fish holding cover you have.

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Well, I don't know if being a fly fisherman plays a role in this, but I much prefer fishing downstream. Unless I arrive at the water's edge & see obvious surface action going on, I'll tye on a streamer like a Clouser Minnow or wooly bugger and cast quartering downstream to obvious holding structure or currents. This lets me use the current to sweep the fly cross-current & keep all slack out of the line so any strike is immediately felt. Usually, it becomes apparent in the first 30 minutes to an hour whether the fishing is going to be fast or slow. If it is good fishing (certainly NOT this year!) I will spend quite a bit of time covering a certain area. If it is on the slow side, I'll make a couple casts then take 2-3 steps downstream and make a couple more casts. Generally, it is cast, cast, 3 steps down, cast, cast, 3 steps down, and so on. I can cover quite a bit of water that way and maximize the potential for catching fish. Then, when I'm ready to turn around, I'll tie on a damsel nymph, hex nymph, or crayfish pattern under an indicator and fish my way back upstream.

 

Saturday on the Salt Fork I did the opposite. Phil & Rodger went downstream, Gary & I went upstream. Fish were rising in the morning so I fished a crease fly on the surface, then, after going about 1/2 - 3/4 mile, turned around and fished downstream with a streamer.

 

If limited on time, I'll walk while I cast in order to cover as much water as possible. If I hit a spot where there appears to be a large holding of fish, I'll stop & fish it until the action slows, then I'm back on my way. I like a good workout. One of the reasons I took up flyfishing was because I didn't like to sit still!

 

I guess my priorities would be:

 

1) Cover as much water as possible.

2) Maximize catch potential (numbers of fish).

3) Enjoy just being on the water.

 

When fishing is slow, I enjoy turning over rocks & seeing what kind of insect life is in the stream. You can tell a lot about the health of a river by it's insect life. Saturday, Gary noticed me spending quite a bit of time turning over rocks and such, and asked me about it. I explained the water quality/bug population thing. My finding on the Salt Fork was it probably has some water quality issues. The only bug life I witnessed were a few mayfly nymphs under the rocks. No hellgramites, no caddis flies, no stoneflies, no crayfish. Hmmmmm.....

 

On the North Vermillion at Mathiesen Park I've found mayflies, a huge amount of caddis flies, crayfish, damsel flies, hellgramites, and the sure-fire telltale sign of good water, stonefly nymphs.

 

Needless to say, I can have a good time whether I'm catching fish or not......but I MUCH prefer catching fish!!!

 

Brian

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Guest airbornemike

I look for "players" and quickly move through inactive areas. Fly fishing, I go with the "top down bottom up" approach. I'll swing and strip surface bugs and streamers down stream, turn around and bounce craw patterns and other weight forward flies up stream. There are times I find fish get picky and wont touch a stripped or swung offering but will readily attack a pattern bounced down stream, with the current, with a little action imparted.

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I try to be diverse in my fishing style depending on the situation. Situation being time of year, body of water, and water conditions. My objectives usually center around #1 and #4. I dont' worry too much about targeting just trophies unless I'm fishing up north in waters that are well known to produce trophies. I'd like to explore some new water but I know of more good spots than I have time to fish.

 

Some rivers have long rocky shorlines or flats with structure that looks all about the same and fish are scattered. Those areas call for search lures that cover lots of water fast. Other rivers have long runs of shallow unproductive water with a few prime holes spaced between dead areas. This calls for run and gun speed wading until you get to the prime spots. Fish those until you go a few casts without a bite and move on. There may be other times in late fall where I may sit in one or 2 spots fishing live bait very slowly for 4 hours. Sometimes the honey hole will be very small and close doesn't count. A spot on the spot so to speak. If you hit it right you don't have to move and can catch fish steadily for hours.

 

I think it pays to be flexible. Know your body of water, understand the conditions and maximize your opportunities with the right approach.

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Jeff,

 

It is a lot of work sorting out your 5 reasons to fish. 4 and 5 have no place in the discussion. There is stuff in tubes for 4, and machines you can buy for 5. Since 3 is a means to the end, that leaves 1 or 2. I pick #2. If one wants a sport where counting is critical, one should take up golf-the four-letter sport.

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Thanks for the many excellent and thoughtful replies. There are so many decisions we make when fishing and determining your velocity down the course of a river as a function of time and position is surely related to the outcome. Mike, I'm not sure what your handicap is, but you should be aware that the objective in golf is to keep your score as LOW as possible, quite the opposite of fishing. Strive for some triple bogeys in your next smallmouth outing and you might stand a better chance at one of those lunkers you've decided are the objective.

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I'm built for comfort not for speed. It's not the speed you actually wade at but how you fish that matters. I start very aggressive and let the fish decide what the proper tempo is.

 

I prefer cherry picking to straining but can do either.

 

Generally when I fish with Phil, I expect to be challenged mentally as his type of water and experiences are different than mine. It makes for very interesting fishing and conversation.

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Thanks for the thoughts Norm. Phil is certainly interesting to fish with and I've learned quite a bit from him since our first trip in February. I'm looking forward to mastering winter smallmouth fishing that several of you folks do with some success, and it would be fun to have you down to fish with us this winter. It's unbearable to think of smallmouth fishing as a 9-month activity, and I aim to conquer December, January and February. I've been trying to cover quite a bit of river, keeping an eye out for spots that should be productive and accessible in the winter.

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Jeff,

 

I intend to get down there. Just remenber to tell your wife that you are dedicated and not crazy when fishing in the winter. They don't believe us but it sounds a lot better.

 

The fish are already cold and wet.

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For me it's all about #2.Achieve that & you'll achieve #4.Dinks are just time passers keeping you interested until at least a 16" comes along.Fortunately rivers like the Dupe/Fox have good #s of big bass.The Kank too though it seems to have a much higher % of small bass. There's a stretch of nursery water on the Dupe where you can get big #s that I discovered a cupl years ago when I caught about 3 dozen in not many more casts than that. Went there only once last year and not even this year.

As for strategy I agree with Eric.Keep moving to hopefully find active fish.I don't spend much time in one spot trying this fly than that fly than still another hoping to entice reluctant fish.If I know from past experience that a spot is particularly good I may switch from a bassbug for a cupl casts with a streamer or the reverse but typically I just keep moving figuring if I got no action after a few casts it's because nobody's home or is entirely negative.Preferring to wade than float one of my most productive fishing tools is my car to carhop from one known good area to another.

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#4 for me. Maximize enjoyment. If it isn't about enjoyment, I would rather do something else that is.

 

I am into endurance sports I had to laugh at #5. To get a good "cardio" workout. I fish to recover from those.

:-)

 

I started smallie fishing partially because of the tremendous fight but more because they live in nice places- like the Kankakee, the Mazon, Quetico, Sylvania etc.

If you gave me my choice to hammer a ton of fish or two catcha few in a beautiful place like those listed- Without hesitation I would chose the later.

 

Also the reason I like to do stuff like plantings and clean ups.

 

I'm not as serious about this as I used to be. But i think I enjoy it now more than ever. Since i stopped turning into work.

 

If I catch a couple of fish I'm happy. A big one here and there is a plus. I have to admit- even in the days i was serious as cancer about this- never really did much better than that.

yes a great day here and there and a couple of years were pretty darn good for bigger smallies. but I typically walked away happy if I caught 5 or 6 fish in the 12-14" range.

 

Speed is dictated by how lazy I am that day. I'm usually pretty energetic and move around a lot but on occasion I'll just stand around and zone out. Usually tend to cover a lot of water. In either case it what I do is decided 100% by what I feel like doing. Not big on high fast water. And I really like crystal clear water.

 

I usually fish alone, because I'm so damn busy that it's a spur of the moment thing and usually I only have a couple of hours at best.

 

interesting that someone mentioned turning rocks. I do that too. and I'm not beyond using the wee beasties for bait.

drifting live bait is uber-fun. So many guys snub their noses at it. Thats okay more helgies for me.

 

Given my choice though- I like to catch 'em on flies or topwaters- with my own deer hair bugs being hands down #1 fave.

I don't even feel bad when they get mangled. I'll tie more next winter. I don't usually fish with store bought flies, just ones tied by me or my freinds.

 

And...the beauty of flycasting is if the fishing sucks, you are working on your cast.

 

Thanks for the topic Jeff.

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"The ancients wrote of the three ages of man,

I propose to write of the three ages of the fisherman.

 

When he wants to catch all the fish he can.

When he strives to catch the largest fish.

When he studies to catch the most difficult fish he can find,

requiring the greatest skill and most refined tackle,

caring more for the sport than the fish."

 

Edward R. Hewitt "A Trout And Salmon Fisherman For Seventy-Five Years"

 

Lotta fish, big fish, challenging fish-pick one.

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My approach depends upon the water that I am fishing, the current conditions, and how much time I have available for the day. If I have the time, I have no problems with getting some exercise. The "exercise" that I get fishing is more of an endurance thing than an aerobic sprint.

 

If I am wade fishing new water, my approach is to cover water and fish for active fish. If I happen upon a good spot for the conditions (such as a deep eddy or pool in October), I will slow down and fish the spot thoroughly if I have time. I might also walk through such a spot after I fish it if that is possible to determine the depth and bottom structure so I will really know how good the spot's potential might be the time that I fish it.

 

If I am wade fishing a section of river that I am familiar with, my approach is usually different. In familiar water, I tend to concentrate on spots where I think that the larger fish hang out. In warmer conditions where the fish could be anywhere, I will search cast but my objective is to target certain spots. In pools and eddies that I know could hold multiple fish, I sometimes use less aggressive lures or flies because sometimes a loud popper might catch one active fish, but it could also put the other fish in the pool down. In rivers where the fish holding spots can be far apart (like the Kish in the spring or the fall), I want to avoid spooking the fish in the good spots. Of course, sometimes a more aggressive approach is what it takes to get the fish to hit so a popper or a spinner is the ticket.

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"The ancients wrote of the three ages of man,

I propose to write of the three ages of the fisherman.

 

When he wants to catch all the fish he can.

When he strives to catch the largest fish.

When he studies to catch the most difficult fish he can find,

requiring the greatest skill and most refined tackle,

caring more for the sport than the fish."

 

Edward R. Hewitt "A Trout And Salmon Fisherman For Seventy-Five Years"

 

Lotta fish, big fish, challenging fish-pick one.

After those comes trying different techniques and/or locations just to see what works or not just for the sake of learning. Kinda moving that way a little right now.

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The only thing I'll add that hasn't been said is a good fisherman will watch his anxiousness building like a good hitter in baseball- too much adrenaline can be a bad thing. Leading to fishing too fast, spooking fish, or overlooking good spots.

 

It's easy to fish too fast. Can you hold back your energy and urge to run and gun? Make sure they aren't hitting flukes or tubes worked slowly?

 

Can you read the signs when bass are telling you to chuck and duck with something loud?

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