Today is Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Just wade a minute

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The late Chuck Wilson lands a Smith Fork fish in the summer in 1993.

When I was a kid, they use to rib me and say I had a water mark on legs. It may have been partially true. I spent so much time wading the sloughs and bayous around Pineville, Louisiana, I probably did have a water mark. When I was not in the bateau, I was wading. I caught a lot of fish and only got snake bit once. I felt that was probably enough. I never have learned to really enjoy it.

I caught a lot of fish, mostly bass and I caught most of them on the same lure. I used an 89 cent, H&H spinner bait, yellow in color. In those days, 89 cents was a chunk of money and I hated it when I lost one of those lures. This was in the days before lures became fancy, before plastic worms or even Rapalas. We had spinner baits, River Runts and Creek Chubs, Jitterbugs and Chuggers and something called a Hawaiian Wiggler. But when I was wading, I had two H&H's-one on my line and one in my shirt pocket. Maybe I would have a Hula-popper for top water.

Things have changed but my love for wading creeks and fishing for bass has not. I just don't do it much anymore because for one thing, I am getting too dang old and mostly because I love the comfort of fishing from my boat and having everything I need at hand.

But if you want a cure for the summer doldrums and the heat, try wading. This is the perfect time of year for it. The recent rains make wading creeks productive due to new food washing in to them. But first, a couple words of warning. Make sure you have permission to be on that property. Just standing in the water is not "off" the property. You can be ticketed for trespassing. Same goes for parking your vehicle. And maybe more importantly, if you take a child with you, put a life jacket on them, even if they can swim. And I suppose I should mention, I do not recommend tying a stringer to your belt. The fish on it can attract snakes and some of them you do not want to attract. You probably won't enjoy it, either.

Not long after I moved to Tennessee, while searching for deer hunting property, I discovered Jones creek in Cheatham Co.

Most folks would overlook it. It doesn't look like the sort of creek that would hold smallmouth bass over five pounds. Neither does the Smith Fork which wanders around the hills for almost 100-miles, some of it, just outside Gordonsville. And of course, there are the creeks right here around Lebanon.

But the Smith and Jones were my two favorites. I walked a lot of wet miles wading them, especially the Jones. I used a light jon-boat a lot on the Smith. Both produced some bragging-size smallmouth as well as tons of eating-size black perch.

I was thinking a few days ago about how many places I have found good wade fishing. T

he South Fork of the Powder River provides some superb trout fishing outside Kaycee, WY. Canada is covered with great wading streams and they coexist nicely with great bear hunting. In IL both Salt and Sugar Creeks (crick if you are from there), between Lincoln and Springfield, were good fishing. Lots of good water all over. You just have to look for it then, stop and ask permission.

Now. What do you throw? Probably the very best bait you can use is a live crawfish. Second is probably a live creek minnow. If you are lazy like me, then you will use artificial lures.

Almost any in-line spinner in the right color is great. Chartreuse, brown, white and yellow are the top colors. Smaller, shallow-running crank baits like a ShadRap or A.C. Shiner are good. Floating lures like a Rapala or Baby Zara Spook are great and never overlook a small buzzbait. I prefer 1/8-ounce and I love black. The variety of worms and jigs is endless. But if I could only have one lure, it would be an in-line spinner, 1/6-ounce.

If you have a choice, you probably want to walk upstream. That allows you to cast up and retrieve the lure with the current. Fish prefer it that way. As the lure passes you, it will pause for a moment just as it stops going down and starts back upstream. Hang on. That is when a lot of the strikes come. With a buzzbait, let it pause as long as possible.

Understanding the current is everything in stream fishing. Anything that breaks up the flow is a potential ambush point for a bass and do not be put off by shallow water. Some big fish lie in less than 10-inches of water if it is moving or shaded. Look for places the current swirls or creates an eddy. Then, just take your time.

Streams are excellent places to become classrooms for kids. They can learn a lot wading a stream and not just about fishing. Take advantage of that. But again, put a life jacket on a kid. One misstep can have them in water over their heads. And hey, with these new, light and comfortable personal flotation devices, there is not much excuse for not wearing one.

So, if you don't want to get talked into mowing the yard, grab a light rod and hit the creek.

Contact the author at jsloan1944@gmail.com

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John L. Sloan, outdoors, Smith Fork Creek
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