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Tough Luck Smallmouth

We executed a three team assault on a regional tributary of the Mississippi yesterday on July 31. We’ve been smitten with high water for the second year in a row in the Midwest and rivers have been clearing and fishable for only the last three weeks.

Bruce Miller Smallmouth - Minnesota

Bruce Miller – 20″ Smallmouth on a Hopper.

The river we fished is quite rocky and fast moving. The stern canoeist must concentrate on positioning the entire length of, what is generally a 4 – 5 hour float. This river has roads that cross it every five miles or so making it perfect for multiple sections to be fished by several boats simultaneously.

All three (two men per canoe) teams fished a different section on this relative small river that allows one to periodically hit either bank depending on the target water.

This was a highly technical and well organized (by yours truly :=) maneuver that required canoe drop-off and car placement, like a military exercise, to ensure everyone had the correct vehicle awaiting them upon take-out.

Everyone caught a few fish early in the trip and experienced slow fishing as the day unfolded. We generally fish in the afternoon on most Minnesota rivers. We find fish in varied moods early in the afternoon and often taking top water later in the day.

Let’s put it this way, the most exciting thing I saw was a pair of young lady tubers in bikinis – one was built for power and the other for speed.

When starting out on a river float, I always start with a popper. My thinking is: If they’ll hit top water right away, why not find out right away, so as to enjoy top water action the entire trip. If they don’t go topside early on, I’ll either go to a streamer of hopper pattern.

Yesterday was one of those “head scratchers” with the weather perfect, hoppers all over the banks, and relatively clear water. I’m beginning to question the relative health of the fishery, since this little river used to be dynamite and has drifted into obscurity over the last 6 – 7 years with very little fishing pressure.

The only patterns that worked with any consistency yesterday were smaller hopper patterns and small hopper poppers. We threw streamers, poppers, and variants. Small terrestrials was about the only thing that worked. ​

The didn’t want the larger ​Mega Hopper Poppers, but instead took #6 sized Big Trout hoppers and smaller hopper poppers found in the ​FlyBass Big Trout/Bass Hopper Assortment.

When the smallmouth fishing gets tough, ALWAYS pull out the foam hoppers either dead drift or lightly impart some subtle action – it may be your only chance at moderate success when the going gets tough!


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