The past few months have been absolute chaos. I got a phone call a few months back that has literally changed the course of my families life. In a whirlwind of events, we are picking up and moving to Columbia, SC. I've taken a new job at a hospital there. It means a better schedule, a 20 minute commute, and more time with my family. We have been busting it getting the house ready to sell, and sell it did. In one day. That leaves us with just a few weeks to pack and scrambling to find a new place to live. We are so excited for our new adventure. We are so blessed for the opportunity God has provided. There are lots of changes ahead for all of us. New job, new home, new church, new schools. New water. Yesterday, in light of the all of the stress, I decided at the last minute to get a jump on the latter.
After a quick exchange of texts early Saturday morning, my good friend Rich Walker and I had a plan. I walked into he garage to get my drift boat ready, and it was filled with gear bags from cleaning out closets to show the house. A stark reminder of the last weeks heroic effort just prior to our house going on the market. No matter, I set the them out, grabbed my rods off the rack, and hooked the boat to my truck. I hugged the boys and my wife and headed up the road. I checked the weather as I gassed up the truck. Zero chance of rain and a high of 85 degrees. You can't really ask for more in August in the South. Rich and I met up at the agreed upon location. We chatted a few minutes while we slid my drift boat into the bed of his truck. This would save us time later as my truck and trailer would be waiting at the take out. As we rigged a few rods, we both agreed that river was in great shape. Good flows with a deep emerald green color.
As we stood in the shallow water arranging our gear in the boat and getting ready to shove out into the current, Rich was pointed out the large school of minnows swirling around in the shallows of the sand bar. Right before our eyes a green and black torpedo rocketed from the depths and exploded into inches of water. Minnows sprayed in every direction like sailors abandoning a torpedoed war ship. Rich turned to me and said, "I'll take that as a sign." He then reached into his bag and produced a handful of baitfish patterns tied by our good friend Mike Rice. Mike is a north east striper nut, and his baitfish patterns are amazing. Shameless plug, check out all of Mikes creations HERE . Rich tied on a mostly white pattern with hints of chartreuse and blue in the body. It had a heavy epoxy head which gave it a nice slow sink. I pushed us out into the current and Rich began throwing to current seams and eddies among the rocks littered across the river. We hadn't made 50 yards and the first fish swatted the fly but missed. The next fish hammered it and broke Rich off. We laughed it off and I reached for some heavier flouro, cut his leader back and tied on some new twelve pound tippet. No more messing around. We made our way on down a stretch and I dropped the anchor below a ledge. A few more fish had struck at the fly but they just weren't committing. I handed Rich a rod with a black deer hair and rabbit sculpin pattern tied on. I hadn't even gotten the other rod stowed, and Rich was hooked up.
There's just something about smallmouth. It doesn't matter how big they are, they are all mean. Sporting glaring red eyes and black warpaint, there is no question that they are killers out for blood. The day was filled with good numbers of fish in the same size range. One fish barely budged when Rich struck hard as the sculpin drifted along a current seam. After a few seconds, the hook pulled free and we both knew it had been a much larger fish. The afternoon turned scorching hot. We stopped and bailed out of the boat into the river. Rich was propped up with a cold drink, and mostly submerged in the water. As I walked back over from fishing a nearby pool he said, "This doesn't suck." I was inclined to agree. Rich recounted stories of when his son, Ian, was younger, and how he had loved to wade the shallow pools and sight fish to cruising bass. I smiled at the though of bringing my own young boys here, and the adventures I had in store for them. Refreshed, we pressed on into the evening. The shadows were getting longer and shade had begun to fall onto the water. We had gone an hour or more without a fish. I cut the sculpin off and I tied on a big rubber legged gurgler. It was top water time. Now or never. Rich was ferrying me across a shoal when i saw a fish blast out of the water after something. I made a long cast, twitched the fly once, and the fish erupted from the water inhaling the fly.
And just like that, we were into another flurry of fish. That's why I love fly fishing so dearly, because just as in life, there's no way of knowing what'll happen next. You just have to keep the boat headed downstream, try and and avoid the big rocks, and keep casting. That's exactly what I intend to do.