Falling in Love With Fall Fish on the Fly.... By Mark Usyk
Standing in the water, the current pushes against me and I struggle for footing with my old Converse sneakers on the smooth and slimy rocks of the creek bed. I study the current out in front of me as it washes through the downed tree and picture the bronze colors and tiger stripe markings of the Smallmouth I’m sure must be under the ledge of the deep cutout bank just downstream from it. I make my cast, almost landing the tiny streamer in the tree limbs that hide barely below the surface, but it clears them and I brace my reflexes for the strike I feel is inevitable.
A flash from the bottom, not from under the bank, and it heads straight back to the bottom of the pool and races downstream. It takes line. It doesn’t like being bullied into coming to the top, and it pulls hard in protest and won’t show itself. It makes for the opposite side of the creek and once it realizes it’s about to become visible it turns 180 degrees and comes straight at me, hugging the darkness of the bottom. I strip in slack line in a panic. I catch only a glimpse, a hint of fish form. Now it makes for the tree and I pull up hard, the short 3wt Beaver Meadow small stream fly rod doubled over. I somehow change its mind as it turns back down stream once again.
The game is finally played out when the fish has had enough, and I laugh. “No way, that’s not what I think it is!” I’m a bit taken back by the monster of a fish I find at the end of my 6’ 6” 3wt. Large, pale gold scales. The hook stuck fast in hard gums. It’s a monster alright. A monster minnow. I’m not a picky fisherman. First and foremost, I need to be out on the water. Second, it’s always nice to catch a fish every now and then. When nothing seems to be biting, when the Trout and the Bass are M.I.A., you can almost always count on the Fall Fish, the largest of the minnow family. Small or large, they have no teeth yet eat everything, and they fight like the red headed stepchild most fishermen categorize them as. They may be a nuisance in between beautiful Trout and Bass, but I welcome them when the skunk is on. My first fish on a dry fly was a 4” Fall Fish. Likewise, one of my largest fish on the fly was also a Fall Fish. It was nearly 18” of misunderstood and under appreciated fish fury on the light weight fly rod I fished that day.
Oh, what a story it would be to have called JP that day to tell him that one of his small stream creations had been broke clean in half by a monster minnow! But in the end I was a better fisherman for having won the fight, and the rod was stowed away to fish another day. Tonight I’ll raise a beer to the fish that has given me a smile on days when nothing else would come to battle. Tonight I drink a beer to the Fall Fish! I drink to minnows!