“Come Fly With Me, Let’s Fly, Let’s Fly Away” … With a nod to Sinatra, come along with me for the fishing trip of a lifetime I just took. Everything lined up for a perfect 6,000-mile odyssey. Weather? Check. Flights? Check. Lodging? Check. Dining? Check. Guide? Check. Fishing for smallmouth bass?
My good friend and former colleague, Bob Berman and I fished three days with pro guide Dean Meckes. He put us onto 39 smallmouth bass. All were bigger than the biggest I had ever seen before, and included my personal best at just over 5 pounds.
His skills and experience based on a combined 25 years of tournament competition and guiding were evident from the beginning. We fished the mighty Lake Ontario, both the New York and Canadian sides of the St. Lawrence River and Chaumont Bay – the largest fresh water bay in the world! These are big dangerous waters – one misstep and sayonara. (Tell ya what – I don’t want to be in the middle of the world’s largest freshwater bay with a muffler guy who moonlights as a bass guide when the wind comes up).
But that was part of the fun. Huge 700-foot container ships in the shipping channel on the river steamed right by us in our tiny 21-foot bass boat. “Get ready, the big wake stirs up the fish to bite,” Dean said. Check. This water is the home of the famous “Thousand Islands.” I’m betting that there a thousand more submerged. That’s why in our over 50 miles of travel to and from Dean’s hot spots, he traveled on his GPS every inch. Even with 25 years of experience, Dean did not want to navigate by the seat of his pants – me neither. You ought to take this trip. Contact Dean at 315-405-1706 or visit www.deanmeckes.com. Tell him Ryan sent you. Just take a look at the five fat fish pictures here if you need convincing. You’ll love old-fashioned Clayton, New York, Dean’s home base. Bob and I ate breakfast at the Koffee Kove; I’m glad we didn’t sit at the “regulars” table. The same five old guys sat there in their own seats every day; probably not a good idea for a tenderfoot to be in one of them when they arrive.
We fished dozens of tiny little humps and bumps way out in the middle of these big waters; Dean has them dialed in on his GPS. Right from the start, we hooked big fish – I call them “5-pound class.” They ranged from just under 5 pounds to just over. A 5-pound smallie is a more willing fighter than a 10-pound largemouth – still planning to get away, even as the net dips. So, 39 fish kept us busy every day.
Our best producing lure was a Flirt by Reaction Innovations; looked like Watermelon green pumpkin to me. This little 5-inch critter was made to catch bass. It tapers down from a meaty head to a skinny, wavy tail that stays horizontal in the water. It was perfect rigged on our drop shot set-ups. Drop it straight down beside the boat in deep water; toss it out and drag it back in shallow water. Keep your drop shot weight in contact with the bottom. This is “Do Nothing” fishing at its best (many of you know my do-nothing tendencies – well they paid off last week). But do something when the rod loads up. These monsters don’t slash and splash, they just inhale the bait and jiggle the rod tip. Sweep the rod to the side smartly, keep it bent, take your time and lead the fish to Dean’s net when it is ready.
Guides worth the money? Yep; couple of examples: 1. Dean spotted a slight abrasion on my leader and re-tied it instantly. Most people wouldn’t ever see it; even many guides would miss it. Then if the line broke on a big fish, they’d lament, “line broke; big fish.” 2. Dean went the extra mile to give us a variety of fishing situations; we got full days of fishing action – and then some. Bob and I are going back. The New York state record smallie is 8.4 pounds. So we’ll be after one that weighs at least 8.6 to score a new record. I have confidence that the Dean/Bob/Bill Team can get it done.
Meanwhile – Back Home … Here’s a digest of the local action passed on to me by loyal field scouts and the Hot Sheet.
*Lake Hennessey – one source said he saw several 5-pound bass “cruising” through the water. The bite here continues to extend the best year on Hennessey that I know of in 38 years of living here.
*Not much news from Berryessa or Napa River. Tell me what’s going on.
*Clear Lake – Fred LeDrew and I will be fishing it with pro guide Bob Myskey on the 12th and 13th. Tuesday, Bob’s two clients caught 30 fish – including 10 keeper-size topping out at 5 pounds.
*Local Fly Fishing – Fly guide Richard Loft (nvflyguides.com or 294-4738) updated me on Putah Creek. He had Chad and Erin from Nebraska on the water for a full day this week. Erin caught a dandy 17-inch rainbow on one of Richard’s special #18 midges. That topped a good day of 11 strikes with 6 brought to the net.
*While the rockfish and ling cod bite are still wide open at Bodega Bay, and salmon not so much, there is great anticipation for the Nov. 7 start of the recreational Dungeness crab season. Add in the possible return of the giant Humboldt squid to stoke the fire. Better book your trips now to be sure you have enough crab for your traditional Christmas and New Year’s bashes.
*Bay fishing for both seven gill and leopard sharks is a solid bet for action without getting seasick and kids love shark hunting. Call Captain Craig Hanson on the Argo at Fisherman’s Wharf, 415-361-7757.
*On the Delta, early-week wind kept many boats at home even though there is a striper bite and an emerging sturgeon bite. Randy Pringle, the fishing instructor, said that largemouth bass action can come on the surface lures or flipping rocks and sparse weeds.
*Sacramento River Chinook salmon action has finally improved in the Red Bluff area. Time to go get your share. St. Helena angler Ron McGowan fished with river guide Kevin Brock too late for my deadline.