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21 August 2005
Shiawassee River Fishing Report [August 20 2005]

Whitefly hatch on the Shiawassee summer '04B and I decided to reward ourselves for a day of house- and yardwork with an evening of smallmouth bass fishing on the Shiawassee River nearby. We were especially looking forward to the whitefly (Ephoron leukon) hatch, which has been absolutely spectacular on this river in the past. These pictures were taken last year, near the end of August. That night, the whitefly hatch was amazing; they filled the air over the river for some time. When it really got going, there was no way to compete. Our flies were quickly outnumbered and the probability that a hungry fish would strike our flies, instead of the thousands of naturals on the water, diminished to almost zero.

Is that ...do I see ... is that what I think it is?!?Last night however, we did not enjoy quite this level of hatching bugs. There was a reasonably good hatch with some actively feeding fish, but nothing like the density pictured. The river is clear and quite low, which is normal for this time of year, but it's currently even below its typical flows. Early in the evening, we fished streamers and big, leggy surface flies with only minimal success. At about dusk, there was a brief grey drake (Siphlonurus) hatch, but without much in the way of surface feeding to go with it.

Whiteflies started appearing just after dark settled in. We appreciated the full moon and clear skies; wading was easier and we didn't really need headlamps except for tying on flies until well after 9:00. We were surprised at the low frequency of surface feeding in response to the whiteflies. There was not the level of activity that we're accustomed to observing on this river. We tied on some whitefly patterns - I chose a white Wulff, B chose a new white ant pattern she invented this week. Her white ant is basically a Power Ant, but tied with a white body and wing and a light hackle. I had no luck with my white wulff until it became soggy and I started fishing it on a very slow and gentle swing, keeping tension at all times. After I switched to this tactic, I detected very subtle takes on at least every other cast. I started catching a lot of smallies and the occasional rock bass. I never caught a bass larger than 11", but I caught lots without moving up- or downstream. B enjoyed moderate success with her ant, but not quite what I achieved with the Wulff.

The fish I caught were extremely subtle taking my fly. I was surprised at this. In fact, I focused so intently on feeling them, that I was afraid I'd mistake my own pulse in my fingers for strikes. The subsurface and subtle nature of the strikes makes me think that there was probably a whole lot of feeding going on, it just wasn't breaking the surface like we expected based on previous outings.

Preliminary experimental conclusions: Swing the whitefly, don't dead drift
Number of leech encounters: 0! Yay!
Wildlife sightings: A few flycatchers, a bittern, lots of dragon- and damselflies
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: B+

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