I have nothing against trout, though as a bass enthusiast I never go out of my way to catch one.
Even so, over the years I have caught one or more trout in most of the streams in which I regularly pursue smallmouth bass, and in a recent rare occurrence, I broke my personal record for largest accidental Iowa trout on two successive outings.
Though smallmouth bass, a warm-water species, and trout, a cold-water species, differ in many respects, they do cohabit where cold and warm water commingle.
This occurs most frequently in the lower, warmer reaches of trout streams and in larger warm-water rivers fed by trout streams.
Earlier this year, for example, I caught a foot-long rainbow in the Maquoketa River below the Lake Delhi dam — a fish that almost certainly migrated downstream from Bailey’s Ford, where Spring Branch enters the river.
Both my recent (personal) record-breaking trout were caught in the presence of Mike Jacobs of Monticello, a fly fisherman who is adept at finding fishable small streams when rains have swollen our preferred waters.
Last month we fished the Volga River near Fayette, where a local resident told us it had been “raging” just four days earlier. With its comparatively small watershed, however, it had rapidly recovered its characteristic clarity and fallen to a level at which Mike’s kickboats glided just above the bottom in all but the rockiest riffles.
Under a midday sun in transparent water, the bass were hard to catch, but we tricked several, including an 18-incher that towed my kickboat into a log jam before I finally gained control.
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When we reached our takeout point, we beached the boats and waded just downstream to a spot where each of us on other occasions had caught big bass.
Mike gave me first shot at the classic game fish ambush site — a well-shaded mini-eddy just below a large shoreline rock jutting into the current about 30 yards downstream from a spring discharging several gallons of earth-cooled water per second.
My jig alighted exactly where I hoped it would, and lightning struck.
The strike surprised neither of us; what did was the pink streak clearly visible through the transparent water, the hallmark of a 14-inch rainbow trout which, we later concluded, had to have entered the river several miles downstream from Grannis Creek. We also concluded its presence below the spring, the coolest spot in the river, was no coincidence.
A day later Mike called to report he’d worked up a flood of perspiration catching big bass in a stream with a fishery so fragile its name can’t be spoken. The next evening he took me to the big creek/small river, which has a put-and-grow trout fishery in its spring-fed upper reaches.
We caught some bass, including a 17-incher that pulled Mike down a rock-strewn plunge pool before finally succumbing to the pressure of his fly rod.
On my last cast of the evening, my jig landed in a different plunge pool, where it was savagely struck by what I presumed to be a big smallmouth bass.
A few seconds later it went airborne, revealing the golden, spotted flanks of a 20-inch brown trout.
Though not the fish I sought, it still made my evening.