Smallmouth Bass for the Seasons
As the sun disappeared behind the hill I pulled on wading shoes, assembled my fly rod and tied on a large woolly bugger. Reds, golds and browns of maples, oaks and sycamores heralded the coming of fall and winter.
Cool water swirled around my legs as I waded upstream, plying the woolly bugger around boulders that had fallen off the cliff in ages past, forming holding areas for smallmouth bass and the many species that make up the aquatic world of a stream.
I waded slowly upstream marveling at the onset of fall in the quiet stream valley. A great blue heron wading the shallows near the head of the pool speared a small sunfish and I heard quail call from their feeding area in a nearby corn field.
A smallmouth bass, mistaking my fly for a morsel, disturbed my tranquility. It wallowed briefly on the surface, then stripped line in a mad dash for the lower end of the pool and safety. The run was short-lived, however, and I landed the 12-inch smallmouth, removed the fly and released it.
As it swam off, I thought about the bass and its place in the cycles of the seasons which had brought us together. Fall, winter, spring and summer, each unique in the life of the stream, the life cycle of a smallmouth bass, and the smallmouth bass angler.
In the smallmouth's world, fall brings cooling water, a transition period between summer and winter. Activity slows and bass move from shallower environs to deeper holding areas. Feeding increases in early fall, then slows as water temperatures fall into the 40s with the beginnings of winter.
The smallmouth I'd caught came from under a downed tree in about three feet of water, surrounded by deeper water. Bass use these areas because they feel safe, and because the areas provide easy access to deep water.
Fishing Tip: Once streams begin to cool in September, fish a light spinning rod, using small crankbaits, spinners, natural bait such as crayfish or minnows, or jigs tipped with plastic baits. During the transition between summer and fall, fish around boulders and logs in two to four feet of water, which are usually found on the outside of river bends near the head or tail of the pool.
The metamorphosis continues in the world above the stream. Leaves turn brown, then fall, covering the ground and staining the water brown. Tree trunks stand naked, as winter brings