July marks the beginning of my favorite time of year for top water bass fishing with the fly rod. Yesterday’s trip to the Upper St. Croix River would once again prove why our warm water rivers are quickly becoming known by fly anglers as a destination to some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the country.
The day started with the normal dropping of the shuttle vehicle at the down stream landing and the launching of the boat. In the last ten years fly anglers have transitioned to western style drift boats to navigate the wide, lower water sections of our larger rivers. These boats are designed to be highly maneuverable around rocks and draw little water. The drift boat also eliminates the need for gasoline engines and the noise created by them. The power source is the strong shoulders of the helmsmen, the current of the river, and the pulling of oars. This factor alone unlocks a sense of adventure from a time long past.
After 5 pattern changes my first fish came on a large yellow popper. This top water fly was cast to bank side targets and quickly “stripped” or “popped” creating an audible bloop, bloop, bloop. The fly imitates a frog or other struggling fauna which can trigger explosive strikes....and it does. There were bass that leaped from the water and drove the fly down from above, There were bass that suctioned the fly from underneath with no discernible disruption to the waters surface, and there were bass and pike who would wake 6 feet across still water to chase down and slash at my yellow popper. I stuck with the popper the rest of the day.
We alternated between floating and wading on this day since many of the targets under the shade of trees and along bank side grasses were unreachable from the boat. This added another pleasurable twist to the day with the cool waters of the St. Croix providing comfort to us from the heat of the day. There are few thing that I enjoy more when it comes to fly fishing than the ability to hunt and stalk from my hind legs. Wade fishing is total immersion and focus becomes hypersensitive.
When the boat landing came into view we were all tired and happy.....As it should be.