Friday, June 3, 2011

6/18 (or 1/3) Bass Slam Mission Accomplished: a canyoneering adventure

One third of our Bass Slam mission accomplished... I like the sound of that.

This is a brief account of what we did during our extended Memorial Day weekend trip to DeSoto State Park and Little River Canyon National Preserve.

It's probably no surprise that Kelly outfished me once again. I caught only one Bass Slam qualifying fish, while Kelly caught two. We both caught our needed Redeye Bass (Micropterus coosae), and of course Kelly's was bigger. Kelly also caught a qualifying Alabama Spotted Bass (M. henshalli) while I didn't catch a single one... not even a dink.


Kelly's Bass Slam 13.5" Alabama Spotted Bass caught on my damsel, Little River Canyon NP, AL
 

Jay's Bass Slam 10.25" Redeye Bass caught on a Bunny Butt Slider, LRCNP, AL


Kelly's Bass Slam 12.5" Redeye Bass, DeSoto State Park, AL

I should mention that Kelly's big Redeye of the trip (pictured above) ignored numerous offerings from me before she caught it. I should also mention that this fish was larger than any submitted to Bassmaster and published in their November 2010 Bass Slam article. The largest in the magazine was 11.5". Anyway, Kelly graciously let me have the first shot at it since she had already caught a qualifying Redeye. As we stood there watching the fish and tying on several different offerings, a fellow fly fisher wandered up to our pool and he quickly spotted the big female bass. Our new friend was nice enough to move on after he realized we working the pool, but before he moved on, we had a brief exchange regarding the bass in which I told him that she apparently wasn't interested in eating. After I finally gave up on trying to catch her, Kelly and I began to wade upstream through the pool. As we waded, we continued our methodical casting. Kelly caught the fish on her second or third cast... on the surface. How does she do it?

Of course, after Kelly caught the fish, I was so jealous proud of her that I made sure we let our fly fisher friend know that she caught it. He was just upstream of us at this point, and Kelly held up her fish. He immediately acknowledged what she had done. A little later when we met on the trail we let him know exactly how big she measured out.

Encountering a fellow fly fisher in DeSoto State Park is a rare occurrence. So rare that when we were gearing up in the parking area to go down to the stream, Park Superintendent Ken Thomas (who authored a nice article on fly fishing in the park) stopped his truck and talked to us when he saw that we had fly rods in our hands. He even told us where (and how) to catch the "big one." Kelly apparently pays better attention than I do.

In addition to our Bass Slam qualifiers, we caught a bunch of Green Sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus), Redbreast Sunfish (L. auritus), and a handful of non-qualifying northern Largemouth Bass (M. salmoides salmoides) during our trip. I also hooked and broke off a small Channel Catfish on a Bunny Butt Slider... which was very annoying. I saw the catfish (actually two of them) holding at the bottom of a four foot deep pool and brought the fish to the surface by slapping the slider on the water. I got a take and a two second fight before it broke off. I blame old tippet that I probably should have just thrown away. It was painful watching the catfish swim away through the crystal clear water with my slider in his mouth.

The fishing conditions during our trip were tough and the route(s) we took to find fish weren't any easier. It was hot... really hot (upper 90s), and we probably didn't get in the water as early as we should have. There was a ton of fishing pressure because it was Memorial Day weekend. The wading in the Little River Canyon is already challenging to say the least, but we really challenged ourselves on Monday by attempting to access the main river by following a tributary (Johnnie's Creek) through its own side canyon. Our "hike" toward the main river (which we never actually reached) can only be accurately described as "canyoneering." We scrambled over boulders the size of cars, pulled ourselves up onto monoliths as large as elephants, carefully descended slippery waterfalls, waded through runs that have cut their way into the overhanging wall of the canyon for millennia... and somehow we made it back out before dark without incident... a little soreness and fatigue, but no serious injuries. Here's a little scenery from Johnnie's Creek canyon...





Johnnie's Creek is known for it's whitewater kayaking qualities when the water is up a bit, but we found it to be quite a bit calmer... and it provided a nice getaway from the Memorial Day crowd that was swarming Canyon Mouth Park. After we got away from the parking area, and the big waterfall and plunge pool near the road, we saw not another soul except the fishes... and that was just fine by me.

19 comments:

  1. Great photos.
    Is that a glass rod in one of Kelly's photos?

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  2. Great post Jay. Out fished again, you may need fishing lessons!

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  3. Alan, yes it is. It's an antique Garcia that I refurbished with new guides and a new guide spacing formula. I thought Cofisher would be the first one to notice that and inquire.

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  4. Larry, are you offering to teach me?

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  5. Alan, I just realized you were probably asking about the yellow rod and not the blue reel seat that barely shows up in one of the fish pics. The yellow rod is a new 2010 model Wright & McGill Eagle Claw Featherlight. So, yes still a glass rod.

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  6. Jay, let's just say that Kelly had an excellent teacher. I'm sure Kelly would agree. I enjoyed the post(and glass). Great photos also, looks like beautiful water.

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  7. Very nice report Jay. Wait til you try out your brand new Luscious Lemon popper. You will have to beat them off with a stick! Hee hee

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  8. Awesome! Man, I have been meaning to get down there all year. Gonna have to make it happen after seeing this. Looks likes you guys had a great trip.

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  9. Cofisher, thanks for giving me a little credit... it's hard to get Kelly to admit that I may have been instrumental in her success. Beautiful, clear water means tough fishing... at least that's part of my excuse for not doing too well.

    Jeff, I got my popper in the mail today. I can't wait to beat them off with a stick... but I'll probably just use my fly rod since it will already be in my hand.

    Ty, be glad you didn't make the mistake of trying to fish the Little River on Memorial Day. We did OK, but it was obvious that the river had been pounded. We didn't see but just a few nice fish, and I imagine a bunch ended up leaving the river in coolers and buckets.

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  10. Jay
    My wife and I have been to the park and it is absolutely beautiful. Mind you it was not to the extent you and Kelly did, because we were not fishing, but it was still worth the trip---looking forward to our trip tomorrow.

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  11. Bill, I'm getting ready now. I'll be on the road in no time.

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  12. It sure looks like Johnnie's Creek Canyon rewarded you for your hard work. The most beautiful places always require a little extra effort, but are so worth it when you get there.

    Congrats to Kelly for ruling the water again. Something about her presentation must be the ticket. However, you do seem to have good success with your Bunny Butt. I am sure you are still aching over the catfish. Either way, it is something to brag about - its pretty awesome that you got him up off the deep pool to chase the fly in the first place.

    Great fish, great pics!

    -stephanie

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  13. Looks like a wonderful place to be caught fishing!

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  14. Great post...glad that you are still taking it easy on Kelly!

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  15. I will have to say that my casting and presentation are thanks to the constant critique I receive while on the water from a great teacher.

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  16. I can hear that sound of success all the way in montana through the information lines of the interwebs. well done.

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  17. Thanks, Ivan. Glad somebody is out there to hear it.

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  18. @Kelly - I am glad I am not the only one receiving that "constant critique." Like you, it is making me a better angler by the minute :)

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