Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Earth Day on the Cahaba: a big fish story

The Cahaba Lilies have bloomed early in 2012.

Cahaba Lily or Shoals Spider Lily (Hymenocallis coronaria)

They are supposed to bloom from approximately Mother's Day to Father's Day. Mother Nature decided to go ahead and grace us with their presence for Earth Day this year instead.


It's the first time Kelly and I have seen these locally famous flowers named for the river that flows through the heart of the Birmingham metropolitan area. Sadly, you have to drive well outside of the city to see the lilies. Kelly and I found them in the Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge. The flowers have become a symbol of the river that is considered to be one of the most biodiverse watersheds in North America.

Maybe I'll get one of these license plates.

We weren't sure what to expect as far as the fishing was concerned, but we went to the river refuge hoping for more than just a chance to see lilies in bloom. The weather was less than ideal. It had been quite cool the night before, and the wind was ripping through the valley making fly casting a challenge to say the least.

We were not deterred. The sight of Cahaba Lilies in the distance and the hope of willing Spotted Bass called us to wade further upstream. We waded and probed every likely spot with our poppers for quite a while. By the time we reached the lilies, Kelly had landed one small Spot and I missed what I believed to be an average Green Sunfish.

I did not come here for Green Sunfish... and neither did Kelly.

The wind was becoming too ridiculous to deal with, and we began to wade and cast our way back to where we entered the water. It was nearly going to go down in history as a less than stellar day, but then... in a nice looking lie, tight to the bank, Kelly found what we were looking for...

Big bass on a Booglebug

I coached her on playing the fish, but she didn't need my help. "Keep your rod high," I said, as if she didn't know what to do... but we all know she's well past that lesson in the curriculum. Perhaps I can take at least some credit for being a good teacher, but that's little consolation when I catch nothing and she catches a truly remarkable fish.

20" Alabama Bass (Micropterus henshalli)

As usual, I was outfished by a girl,

but truthfully...

I couldn't have been any happier.

Definitely an Earth Day I'll never forget.

27 comments:

  1. Monster fish! Looks like an average day was turned to a great day pretty quick.

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    1. I would say a bad day was turned great pretty quick. Not a bad way to finish up exploring new water.

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    1. For what it is, a Spotted Bass, I think it's more impressive than the lunker she caught in Florida last year. I must admit I was/am very proud.

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  3. Jay
    That SPOT is beyond awesome!!! You guys are getting me fired up. Between moving my daughter and the cool nights my fishing has slowed. I'm planning a trip Friday on Smith, with what else Kelly's white Popper. The Lillies are something I didn't I know about on the river. Congrats to Kelly on the catch. Thanks for sharing

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    1. Bill,
      I must admit comparing the photos of your big Spot and Kelly's... and they're pretty darn close. I think yours might have been a half inch longer, but Kelly's is fatter- probably just the difference between male and female. I'll let y'all argue about who's fish was bigger if y'all want.
      Hopefully we can get together soon. Sundays are usually good days for me.

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    2. Sunday would be better than Saturday--Daylight for me the best---just let me know

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  4. Love those lilies.
    Those bass must have been a hand full on a fly rod.
    Well done.

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    1. The lilies definitely add a nice touch to the beauty of the surroundings. The bass was a handful, but Kelly handled it well.

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  5. Absolutely gorgeous Spot. I would love to hook into one someday. I saw someone mention a white popper. What was the fly she hit that one on?

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    1. Not the white popper this time, that was the big Largemouth she caught on Easter that you can see in the last post.
      This fish fell for the "Electric Damsel" blue BoogleBug Popper. I believe it was a size 6.

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  6. Beautiful...the lilies, the bass and of course Kelly. Good job Jay you are an excellent teacher.

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    1. Thanks, Howard. I think I've said it before, but Kelly is a better student than I am teacher.

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  7. Nice! Cahaba Lilies are gorgeous. Thanks for the little bits of history and links too, as always. And, I think you should definitely credit yourself as a great teacher! ;-)

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    1. Erin, thank you for the kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed the little details... I add those in just for you.

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  8. Feel free to link when you do that hybrid blog entry. I may have some more pics but I can find your email.

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  9. What a ridiculous pig of a spotted bass...or is that an Alabama spotted bass (Coosa bass)?

    http://fishweb.ifas.ufl.edu/allenlab/Popular%20Articles/Thoughts%20on%20Spotted%20Bass.pdf

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    1. TBS,
      Interesting question... one which I have pondered myself. The Alabama Bass (Micropterus henshalli) is supposed to be found in the Coosa River drainage (hence the the name "Coosa Bass"), but the Cahaba is not part of this drainage. The two drainages share a lot in common as far as species and diversity, but I don't know enough about the geologic history to comment about the likelihood that the "Spots" from both systems are related.
      I can at least give my opinion that the Cahaba Spots tend to look a bit more like the Alabama Bass that I have seen than Spots I have caught elsewhere (Tennessee River drainage and Pearl River drainage).
      I would say the jury is still out on that, but I may need to reread that paper on the Alabama Bass to see if they sampled any from the Cahaba drainage.
      Thanks for the inquiry.

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    2. Update: This is without question an Alabama Bass (Micropterus hendshalli). The species is named for the whole Alabama Rver watershed which includes the Coosa drainage mentioned above. the Cahaba is indeed part of the Alabama River system and the "Spots" are actually Alabama Bass.

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  10. Beautiful fish. lilies and all. Looks like you had a good Earth Day celebration.

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    1. Thanks, Sanders. I can't imagine a better way to spend Earth Day than enjoying some of the beauty that our little blue planet has to offer. I already do "the three 'R's" so I think I can skip the Earth Day events to actually go out and enjoy Earth. Those Earth Day festivals and celebrations that try to promote recycling, etc are for Earth amateurs.

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  11. Whoa, that is a NICE bass. I hope I can catch one like that this year.

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    1. There's a little magic in those gaudy yellow sticks. Keep fishing with yours, and I'm sure it will happen.

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  12. Hello! I moved to Birmingham from Knoxville and am anxious to try my hand at bass fishing the Cahaba. What do you think a good fly rod weight is for the bass on the Cahaba? And can you recommend any good spots to wade? Thanks!

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    1. Jamie, thanks for stopping by and welcome to B'ham.

      We have something in common, because I lived in Knoxville at one time too. If you ever waded any east TN Smallmouth streams, then I'm sure you'll do pretty well with Alabama Bass and Redeyes on the Cahaba. There are some differences, but many of the same tactics will work in both places.

      I use a 7 wt more than any other, but I find that rod weight is a lot about personal preference and fly size being used. A very large fish can be landed on a 3 wt, but I wouldn't use one to cast the flies I use to catch bass on the Cahaba. I think any rod 5 through 8 wt has it's place for bass fishing... and I could be using any of those on any given day. Most of my trips toward the end of the 2014 season were in unsuccessful pursuit of carp on the fly at the Cahaba. I caught several bass by accident... as they say, "bass blocked" ;)

      I could recommend a few spots, but try not to advertise everything I know online. I'd be happy to meet up with you for some Cahaba fly fishing. Hopefully you'll see this message before it warms up... it won't be long now!

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    2. Hi Jay. I'd love to meet up with you. I'd also really like to learn more about carp fishing the cahaba. Let's talk.

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    3. Send me an email at jay.t.eubanks@gmail.
      Looking forward to getting back on the Cahaba very soon.

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