June 10, 2010
Today Granny and I teamed up for the annual Bass on the Fly tournament at Ririe Reservoir near Idaho Falls, Idaho. This is a really fun fly fishing only contest for smallmouth bass. I have been in all three previous contests with my regular teammate, Weldon Jones. Weldon is out of town so I was glad to bring along the wife who can certainly sling a bass bug as good as anyone.
The weather predictions were less than perfect. We expected heavy rain and strong winds. I’m sure this kept a few teams from showing up. I wouldn’t think of missing the event for weather as all anglers are on the same playing field no matter what. We actually lucked out and it was warm sunny and calm till about 11. Then, overall it was cool not cold and mostly cloudy with only a light rain shower in the afternoon. The wind became an issue at times, but I brought along a deadly lake fishing tool, my windsock, which slowed down our drifts substantially. We also took turns rowing in order to keep within casting range of the rocky banks.
The way this contest works is, each team is allowed to bring in five smallies 12” or over for the end of the day weigh in. They must be alive in and well for weigh in or weight is deducted from your score. To win, you must have the heaviest healthiest five bass. Things started off fantastic for Granny and me. Within ten casts I put a 12”er in the livewell. For those who chase smallies regularly, 12” doesn’t sound like much. But in Ririe, Idaho, the growing season for these non-natives is so short that they rarely pass the 16” mark. It is actually difficult to catch five smallies over 12” for the weigh in.
By noon Granny and I had four fish in the livewell including two that were 13”. Things were looking very good. We were fishing deep throwing my Ross 7-weight and a Rio Deep 7 line. Dredging down deep is often the recipe for catching smallies during cool temps. Smallmouth can be very fly color oriented so I change flies constantly until I find the magic bug. There was no doubt that most the bass we caught were on the streamer called the Screamer. Although we fished Screamers in black, yellow and olive, it was the badger hackled Screamer with a gold cone head in a size 4 that was best.
Fishing got tough in the afternoon because of high winds. I was saving a couple favorite spots for last where I planned to catch a few fish of size, but these places are exactly where the wind was strongest creating the biggest whitecaps. We tried our best to hit the locations but even with the windsock and oars in the water we could not fish the areas effectively.
Exploring new water is not advised in a tournament but that’s exactly what we did the last hour of the contest because the wind drove us from my usual haunts. To our disbelief, Granny and I could not get that fifth12”er even though we had the first four by noon. We ended up releasing three bass of 11½”. We had some excitement turned disappointment four times. We basically had on quality fish that three times ended up being nice cutthroats. I know many of you would love to catch three nice cuttys, but when it’s a bass competition they just don’t make me happy. Our most disappointing moment was when I fought what felt like a huge bass for several minutes down deep only to net a huge sucker that I snagged in the side. Man did he fight and man did I think we had the big fish pot. Normally I’m one of the rare anglers who loves to catch a sucker, but not today.
Weigh in took place at 4 pm. There were at least five teams that had their five bass. That knocked Granny and I out of contention immediately. Our four fish weighed 4.98 lbs and the winning team of John Gendall and Curt Hamby had at least 8lbs. Curt also caught the big fish which was over 3lbs – a trophy on Ririe Reservoir.
As expected, the 2010 Bass on Fly Tournament was great fun. Many thanks to the host and originator of the event, Kevin Brazell. Kevin is one of the few hardcore bass anglers from the Yellowstone region. The event was well organized and I look forward to next year. As for the near fishing future – the Ranch section of the Henry’s Fork opens on Tuesday June 15th.
Jeff Currier Global Fly Fishing web site