116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
When Mike Jacobs takes you to one of his secret streams, you can count on solitude, scenery and smallmouth bass.
As expected on a secret stream, Mike of Monticello, Ray Thys of Marion and I did not see anyone else during a recent five-hour float.
We did see the spring green of newly leafed hardwoods and Dutchman’s breeches cascading down limestone outcroppings.
On a hot, sunny day we welcomed traveling shadows cast by soaring turkey vultures and thrilled to the flashing flanks of hooked smallmouth resisting arrest in preternaturally clear water.
Following a nearly rain-free April, the stream — some would call it a big creek, others a little river — was unusually low for May 2.
We could see suckers schooling in the sandy shallows, and we could see the bottom in all but the shaded, rock-strewn holes where the bass live.
The three of us caught a combined 50 bass, most of them in tree-shaded water before the overhead sun illuminated their haunts.
When three guys float down a narrow stream, someone has to go first and someone has to bring up the rear.
Theoretically the lead angler has a big advantage. Undisturbed fish are less wary than those that have seen a succession of lures, and even sneaky anglers can’t help making noise, kicking up clouds of silt and otherwise alerting fish to their presence.
Mike is proof that nice guys don’t necessarily finish last. Even though he consistently gave Ray and me first dibs on the fish, he caught his share, including the day’s largest — a 17.5-inch beauty.
He caught the big bass in water I had already fished — a circumstance that once embarrassed me before I became used to it.
Standing just downstream and alerted by Mike’s tautly bent 8.5-foot fly rod, I had an ideal vantage to watch the battle unfold and to appreciate the sporting attributes of catching a powerful, pugnacious fish on a fly rod.
Mike met the fish’s energetic strength with calm patience, letting his flexible, upraised rod tip counter the fish’s surges while he gathered on the reel the line that collected at his feet as he stripped the fly toward him before the strike.
With the loose line collected, he was then able to wind in, inch by inch, the line that he gained as the struggle continued.
Eventually, the tiring bass surfaced, and Mike gradually coaxed it to hand. Only then could we see that the tiny barbless hook of his bronze goddess, a fly he developed in 2009, had but the slimmest purchase on the lip of the bass.
One false move, one feeble attempt to hasten the outcome, and the fish of the day would not have gotten her picture taken.