Jun 15, 2008

There Be Fish

Generally speaking, there are fish around from March into December if the water temperature is anywhere near normal for that part of the year.  Different temperatures within that range appeal to different species and trigger different habits, feeding, spawning, migrating, etc., so fish come and go more or less on a schedule and after a while one kind of knows what to expect.  Of course, the fish may not be where you are when you want to fish, or may not be feeding or may just be stubborn or "put down" because some jerk just went through your fish with a motor boat or jet ski.   (Just what do they think you're doing with a fly rod in your hand?)  Sometimes one can see evidence of fish when they come to the surface, just a dorsal fin coasting at the rate of speed of the current, or  a swirl as it turns quickly to eat or avoid being eaten.  Here are a series of photos of evidence of fish.  In the first two there is a phenomenon afoot.   Large predatory bluefish and/or striped bass have worked from below in concert to school menhaden ("bunker"), and then pick them off at their leisure.  The bunker are swimming tight to each other like any herd does when wolves are about.  They often jump when the big critters come up from below to pounce.  Casting into the school can result in a fish accidentally snagged on your hook, not a well-taken bite, as those bunker are too worried to feed and are only aware of the immediate danger below.  When one is snagged and being brought to shore most often there will be a tremendous pull and you'll be left with half a fish or less.  It is difficult to get a fly under the school to where the big boys are but if you can, a 30 to 36+ inch fish may be your reward, as just happened twice to me last week.  (I tie flies with barbless hooks only and release my catch 99% of the time.)  If you click on and enlarge the first picture you can see where an escapee just splashed back into the water only to quickly rejoin all those little dorsal fins in that desperate school.  In picture two the dorsals and the "boil" are a little clearer (hard to get at a distance with my wee 3x zoom).   Picture three shows fish swirls as do four, five and six, the later in a fresh water lake.