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Part One hundred seventy-six

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Indian Summer

Jason Tinling

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA


Three glorious days. That was how the week started, three days of daytime temperatures pushing 80 and night time temperatures in the 50's. Certainly not mid-October weather.

A Little Sunfish Action

I got out first on Monday afternoon. As I pulled into the parking area by the Conestoga River I could see fish dimpling the river's surface everywhere. Something told me that sub-surface was the place to be fishing, though. I tied on a white Suspended 'Gill Buster, and began working the first big pool. I managed some interest, and a couple of small sunfish. I moved down the shore to where a feeder creek runs into the main river.

The feeder creek usually flows into the river across a 20-30 foot face, but this evening all the water was concentrated to a 3-foot-wide outflow area. The heavy current riffled out of the pool and across the weed bed before disappearing in the mix of the larger water. Fish were rising consistently in the current, and I thought I was on a trout stream. I continued to plumb the depths with the 'Gill Buster, with minor success. As I lifted the fly over the edge of the weed bed to recast, a huge boil of water rolled up beneath it. I quickly cast out again to the gap in the weeds, and let the fly settle. After it touched bottom and sat for a few seconds, I began to work it slowly towards the shore with short strips.

As the fly neared the edge of the weeds, one strip went solid, and the line began to move, strong and deliberately, towards deeper water.

"Carp?" I wondered aloud to myself.

As I lifted the rod against the moving weight, the line stopped moving away and started moving up. A 15" smallmouth broke through the surface into the air, shaking and twisting. The once light belly of the fish was now mottled with dark specks from the time spent holding to the bottom of the river. It was the best, and only, look I got of the fish, as the fly flipped out of its mouth and into the middle of the weeds, the fish returning to the water with an echoing splash. There went my reason for going sub-surface. Time to change tactics.

I rummaged through the abundance of flyboxes bursting out of the pockets of my vest. I selected a green hopper pattern, the Cahaba X. Well sized to the local hopper population, why not?

Cahaba X The first cast caught in the outgoing current, and was immediately sipped under the surface. The large pumpkinseed ran for the deeper water, cutting and curling against the flow. I worked the fish into the deeper pool at my feet, and unhooked it, sliding it gently back to the water.

Longer casts dropped with obtrusive plops into the open holes in the dying weed bed. Slow, twitching retrieves brought up large 'gills, numerous sunfish, and some healthy, acrobatic, largemouth bass up to 14". I missed more than one sunfish, pulling the fly away as the fish broke through the surface, only to watch the fish crash down with unerring accuracy into the space where the fly had just been.

As the light began to fade, I finally captured one of the bugs flying around me, assumedly what the fish were so voraciously feeding on. A small brown flying ant, about a #16. So much for matching the hatch. I got a chance to take advantage of the gorgeous weather the next two days, the fishing tapering off over each day, but staying active enough to keep me returning.

Time to retire it

I stayed with the Cahaba X all three days, and it showed the wear and tear. The only part of the fly that still floats is the back half of the rear loop of foam. I think it's time to retire it. The 40 degree weather is back today, and for the weekend, and until who knows, possibly spring. But, I'll keep safe from winter's chill by going back to the warm Indian Summer that started this week off, and remembering all the wonderful details. ~ Jason

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