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waskeyc

Advice For Wary Stream Fish

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Yesterday, on the way home from work, I visited a local stream for a few casts. The stream level is near normal for this time of year, but the water is the clearest I remember seeing it. Areas that were over 2 feet deep had a clearly visible bottom. I also saw numerous fish mulling around, and although I’m sure they saw me, they didn’t seem spooked or frightened. The most common fish appeared to be largemouth bass, mostly 7 or 8 inches. Next most common was redbreast sunfish, 6 or 7 inches. There were also a few smallmouth, about 8 or 10 inches. Those were just the ones I saw, I know there are bigger fish in there, including smallmouth up to 3 lbs (see my avatar). I did not see any smaller baitfish, but I didn’t look that closely either.

Because the bank is so steep, there is no way to approach the stream stealthily, so I’m sure the fish were well aware of my presence, though I was wearing dull-colored clothing and the area is in total shade. The water temperature was about 64F, with drop of about 10F over the last two weeks or so. My first cast was with a 2” dark curlytail grub on a yellow 1/8oz jig head, and I got several bites. I think they were from the same fish, who was following the lure, and it looked like a good-sized sunfish. I didn’t hook him though, and all subsequent casts there was nothing more than a follow. I changed lures to a 3” shad-colored swimbait, and again, only occasional follows. I tried letting the bait sit on the bottom for several minutes, and I tried burning it back fast enough to create a wake on the surface, and nothing. These fish were seriously uninterested. I didn’t get to try any other lures, because I had to get home.

My thoughts are, besides dangling a nightcrawler on the bottom and being patient, my next lure choices would be a jerkbait, a topwater chugger, maybe another curlytail grub with a more subtle jig head color, or possibly a Texas-rigged 6” plastic worm. I have had tremendous success in the past catching sunfish on a floating fly-popper, but I’ve not caught any bass with it. Fast retrieves might be better than slow, and minimizing my visibility to the fish is probably very important. Does anyone have other suggestions for hooking these wary fish?

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I have had days like this before also. I think it's mainly the fact that they know you are there. I have fished spots like you describe, where it is hard to approach them, and have struggled to get a bite. Later will leave the area and head up-stream and will start hammering them in another more accessable area. That makes me believe that if they see you....it's done!!! Even if they don't leave the area, it's over. Sometimes they just get used to seeing us and know that we aren't there just to look and admire.

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I think it's mainly the fact that they know you are there.

As a follow-up to my original post, I have returned to the stream B) . Actually a different stream, but similar, with the same species variety and density. The difference was, today it was murky with visibility about 1 foot or less. And in 30 minutes, I landed 5 fish, including one smallmouth. I was not being particularly careful about staying out of sight either. Several of the fish took my lure right at my feet.

So the question becomes, other than long casts, which may be impossible with lots of vegetation, how do you sneak up on these fish when the water is clear?

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Try hitting it when the sun is at your back. They like the shade, so maybe when the sun is behind you they won't be facing that way to see you. I don't know for sure, but it's worth a shot. I have also walked with the current to some spots before and have had good luck. I know people say not to because you kick up dirt and stuff and it floats into the fish, but a lot of the times they didn't seem to mind. If anything it gives them reason to search for food thinking something got stirred up.

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It's fairly normal to be unable to get fish to bite when they can see you.

If you can, try approaching from downstream. If there's any current at all, the fish will be facing upstream most of the time.

You want your bait to be moving with the current.

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Pretty much all my stream caught fish are from upstream, letting an offering drift freely in the current stream. This is the most natural presentation. A float rig is great for this. This is for trout, but I assure you the concept works for bass in current as well: http://www.raventackle.com/Shotting%20Patterns.pdf

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