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30 May 2005
Shiawassee River Fishing Report [May 30 2005]
To spey, or not to spey...

B and I closed out our Memorial Day weekend with an afternoon wading warm water for smallmouth bass. I think we both feel a little depressed that tomorrow we're back to work again. We've had a good 6 days of relaxation, fishing and gardening. I'd have chosen to have caught more fish than I did, but I really can't complain about how we passed the time.

This afternoon, we had hoped to catch up with our friend J for a half-day of smallmouth fishing on the Shiawassee River. Given my recent string of poor fishing outings, I can't believe I agreed to go. I'm kinda glad J decided not to join us - we discovered 2 of our regular, favorite river sections absolutely choked with aquatic plants - more vegetation than the peak levels we've typically observed during the lowest flows of the year in August or so. The water levels are below average for this time of year, but I can't imagine that the low flow alone is causing this much underwater plant growth. I suspect a nutrient issue.

I started out with my 12'6" spey rod. I'd been looking forward to using it, but after fishing just a short section of river, it was clear that the spey was not the best choice on this day. Long streamer swings and lots of floating and rooted weeds do not make a pleasant combination. I spending more time removing plants from my line and fly than I did casting and fishing. Back to the car to switch to my single-hander Lamiglas 6-weight. During this time, B had caught one or two little smallies on white/tan streamers, I was working on another near-skunk on similarly colored streamers...dang.

By the time I returned, B had worked her way pretty far downstream. After an hour or so, I caught up to her. She had added another little smallie to her total, but did not report anything much. We fished one last deep section, then fished our way back upstream. In addition to the increased plant growth, many of our standard holes and runs were very different than last year. Quite a bit of 'furniture rearranging' went on this winter...

We fished our way back up to our access point, changing streamer colors to darker choices. We chatted with a large batch of canoers and fishermen putting in. They all agreed that the river was way too weedy for this time of year. They all figured it was the lack of rainfall at the cause. At the car, we stopped for a few minutes to watch the bird life over the river. There were kingbirds, quite a few tree swallows and some flycatchers performing aerial maneuvers to catch supper. We even watched a red-winged blackbird try his hand at flycatching - he was a tad clutzy.

At that point, we decided to drive upstream and check the river's condition at a city park, another of our regular accesses. The park is located in town, just downstream from a city water treatment facility. At the park, the river did not look any more appealing. The plant growth was similar to the first site and the water had a noticeable 'film' on the surface. We decided to 'hold our noses' and fish a short stretch. Within just a few minutes, I had a couple of strikes and landed a little smallie on a zoo cougar. Shortly after that I caught a nice 12-13" smallie. Whew, the skunk was off... B also caught a couple of fish at the park. We checked each fish over for indications of ill-health - they were all in spectacular shape.

We put away the waders but decided to stop at another access point, upstream from the water treatment plant. At this site, the vegetation appeared to be much less vigorous, but still more prevalent than we'd expect to see at this time of year. Perhaps we're a little over-concerned about the river's water quality, but I think it's worth a call or two to the local DNR/DEQ or NRCS office to find out what we were wading in today...

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