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08 July 2006
Shiawassee River fishing report [4 July 2006]

B with a very nice smallieThe 4th of July was an above-average day for us. We missed out on hot dogs and fireworks, but we did manage to spend some time on a river, fishing rods in hand. B and I and 2 good friends hit the Shiawassee River for a short kayak and canoe paddling trip with lots of stops for excellent smallmouth bass fishing. We decided to fish the same stretch that I'd fished a couple of weekends earlier with Flygirls Mandy and Jen. The river level was still well above average for this time of year, which actually makes for much improved paddling, if not good fishing. We expected that the higher-flowing and stained water would reduce our fish-catching chances, but we were glad we did not have to portage our 3 watercrafts over exposed gravel and stones they way we often do this time of year. Everything's a tradeoff isn't it?

I rigged up my 'kayaking rod' - a 6-7 weight Cabela's fly rod that, while it's a nice enough rod, it's not among my favorites. I don't worry about breaking it as much as I'd worry about damaging my Lamiglas titanium 6-weight or my 9'9" St. Croix 5-weight, my available alternatives. While paddling a canoe or kayak, long fly rods are often poking out of the boat at odd angles and are sharing the boat with paddles, tackle bags and other gear. The risk of rod damage is greater than it is on a wading trip. The boat operator has to split her attentions between navigation/paddling and rod management. Often there is not sufficient time to do both and the fly rod catches on overhead branches or gets stabbed into the bank vegetation. I like to minimize this kind of risk as much as possible, and so I've got a couple of rods that are dedicated to canoe and kayak river trips - the Cabela's 6-7 weight is the best of this category for the type of fishing I expected to do. I chose to use a sinktip line so that I could swing streamers and drift nymphs down near the bottom of the river given the higher-than-average flow. The other 3 anglers in our party all chose to apply spinning gear on this outing. It was all I could do to be seen with them.

WadingWe pushed off in the early afternoon, under a bright cloudless sky, and immediately shared a big deep bend with two swimming Husky dogs. I don't think anyone caught anything here.

We floated downstream lazily, stopping at every deeper, boulder- and ledge-bottomed pool. There are lots of such stretches on this short float. B and my two friends caught a good number of smallies on plastic baits fished deeply. We didn't catch any monsters, but we did catch a lot. The biggest fish was a 14-15-incher caught by B and pictured above. All the smallies caught were beautiful - speckled greenish-bronze and smoothly unblemished. I don't think any of us used any surface baits, figuring that the reduced water clarity would limit their effectiveness. I definitely had less success with my fly rod than the others did with spinning rods. I caught maybe 6 or 7 fish on the day with the largest one around 12-12.5".

Fleece quotient: -2
Lost flies: 3 or 4
Wildlife sightings: bank and cliff swallows, belted kingfishers, cedar waxwings, a muskrat, carp, great blue herons
Air temperature: 85 oF max
Fly gear v. spinning gear controversy: advantage spinning gear
Water temperature: ~ 70 oF
Injury report: no leeches, no injuries.
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nope.
Enjoyment grade for the trip: A-

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