Yesterday I was invited by Brian Elwood and his brother P.J. to float the St. Croix River and fly fish for smallmouth. Going after smallies has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while now, so I quickly jumped at the chance to join them. I spooled up one of my reels with some 8 wt line for my recently acquired Limit Creek 8 wt Fly Rod and was set to go. We met at the landing at 7:00 am, dropped off my car, then headed a couple miles upstream to put the boat in.
After going the first couple hours with many takes but no fish in the boat, Brian got on the board with this smallie. He did most of his fishing on streamers using a sinking line, while I mostly used poppers and other flies near the surface on a floating line.
We fished through a small side channel where they’ve had success before, and soon I got on the board myself. I thought it was my first smallmouth on a fly, but remembered I caught a really small one in Southeast Minnesota last year while going after trout. We’ll just put an asterisk on that one since it was about 5 inches.
As we went through the side channel we could see smallies chasing baitfish right where it dumps into the main channel again, forming a nice dropoff. When we got to that spot, I made one cast with my popper, and after a few swipes from a smallie, I finally hooked him. This one was a little bigger than my first, around 12-13 inches.
We could still see the baitfish being chased around and Brian had a follow or two on his streamer, so P.J. was nice enough to row back upstream so we could get another shot at them. My first cast back into the area got me another fish. I could now see why people get so obsessed with smallie fishing!
We eventually made our way downstream and into another side channel, and Brian was able to bring a couple more fish to hand, while I lost a few myself.
What a beautiful place, minus the hundreds of kayakers.
We kept pounding the banks as we floated downstream and found another area around a couple fallen trees where the smallmouth were chasing baitfish. Brian tossed his streamer into the logs and hooked into what we thought was a pike. Nope, it was a gar! He put up quite the fight.
P.J. with the great net job.
About 20 yards downstream I hooked into another smallie. I could immediately tell he was bigger than the others I’d caught. After losing a couple earlier in the day, I stripped the fish in as quickly as possible and didn’t give him time to shake free. “Just get it in the boat,” P.J. would always say. We got him in the net and measured him at 17 inches, the biggest of the day. It was caught on the “Swingin’ D” by Mike Schultz. You can bet I’ll be tying a few of these up in the near future.
As we got closer to our takeout point we drifted by some more fallen trees where P.J. lost a big one the day before. Brian and I had cast after perfect cast into the logs, and I kept thinking (and probably even said) it would be a shame if we couldn’t pull one out of here. Right after that crossed my mind, Brian hooked into a nice fish. We got it in the boat and it measured 15 inches, his biggest of the outing. It was a great way to end the day.
We soon got to the landing to complete our day of fishing. Brian and I each ended up with 5 or 6 fish in the boat, and gave a long distance release to numerous more. I can’t thank Brian and P.J. enough for inviting me to join them, and P.J. for guiding us the whole way. P.J. guides fly fishermen in Southwest Wisconsin as well. If anyone is looking for a guide in the Westby-Viroqua Area, check out P.J.’s Guide Service!
Anyone know of a good deal on a drift boat?