Outdoors

Secret streams for smallmouth bass fishing

Wild side: Mike Jacobs finds the lower reaches of trout streams

Ray Thys of Marion photographs Mike Jacobs of Marion as he battles a smallmouth bass on his fly rod Sunday in an Eastern Iowa stream known as much for its trout as for its bass. Orlan Love/The Gazette
Ray Thys of Marion photographs Mike Jacobs of Marion as he battles a smallmouth bass on his fly rod Sunday in an Eastern Iowa stream known as much for its trout as for its bass. Orlan Love/The Gazette

Mike Jacobs’ extensive trout angling experience in an earlier life has served him well in his grown-up life as a smallmouth bass enthusiast.

Like most smallmouth anglers, Mike would prefer to fish in the state’s premier waters, the larger Mississippi River tributaries like the Turkey, Volga, Little Turkey, Upper Iowa, Maquoketa and Wapsipinicon — the bigger waters where the bigger bass live.

But when elevated water levels, as have prevailed for most of this summer, put his favorites off limits, he knows where to go: The lower reaches of many of the trout streams he once haunted are home to many willing and scrappy, if not always gigantic, smallmouth bass.

Mike took Ray Thys of Marion and me to one of his several such secret streams on Sunday, and we were relieved to find that recent rains had not rendered it unfishable.

It was higher than it usually is when Mike fishes it, and suspended silt gave the water a chalky cast — conditions that favored a clumsy spin fisherman like me who is less than adept at sneaking up on wary fish in clear, shallow water.

I have been outfished by fly anglers too many times to gainsay their methods, especially in low, transparent streams, but it was clear from the start Sunday that I, a spin fisherman with a crankbait, had the advantage.

While they carefully probed likely looking pockets with their more or less inert crayfish and leech imitations, I deployed a little crayfish imitation that dived quickly to the bottom and vibrated seductively in the current.

The fish would not leave it alone.

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As a general rule, fly anglers, with their slower and more thorough water coverage, outfish me when the fish are out of the current and harder to catch.

When they are feeding ravenously in the current as they were Sunday, I can catch more of them faster.

Of course, they fly fish not because they think it is always the most effective means to the most and biggest fish, though it sometimes is, but because their pleasure in catching any fish is doubled by the more sporting tackle and the satisfaction of catching them on a lure of their own design and manufacture.

The next time out, the ever-changing conditions may favor the fly fishers, and I will be only slightly less happy to derive most of my excitement from photographing them and their fish.

l Comments: (319) 934-3172; orlan.love@thegazette.com

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