Yesterday, I was on Lake St. Clair—just outside of Detroit and Windsor, Ontario—and it was cold, rainy, and windy with water temperatures in the high 40s. If someone had asked me last week if this would be a good time to fly fish for bass, I would have said, “Don’t waste your time.” Luckily, I am with JP DeRose, tournament bass angler and famous TV host and a guy who can drive a bass boat in the wind at about 60 mph in 20 knot winds and keep me laughing. But besides shaking my teeth loose, he is teaching me a lot of fascinating stuff about cold water bass fishing, which I promise you now is very effective on a fly rod.
JP is making a new TV show for the World Fishing Network called “Breaking Boundaries,” in which anglers with different types of gear compare notes on their methods on the fishery that is home water to one of them. So I am the one learning the most: Where to find bass in colder water (shallows and rock piles, look for bait concentrations, look for clear water), how fast to retrieve, what sizes and colors work best. I am using our new $159 Encounter Outfit, and despite tough conditions the rod is performing like a champ. It even does well throwing a 200-grain depth charge into the wind. (I am using the 8-weight model.)
JP has gotten me into some really nice smallmouths and largemouths, but the most memorable thing was a big surprise to both of us. Since Lake St. Clair connects Lakes Superior and Michigan to Lake Erie, and all of these lakes are superb producers of lake-run steelhead, I asked if any steelhead ran through the lake.
“Nope, never see or heard of one in here,” he said.
So after about 30 minutes of fishing for smallmouths, I threw my Woolly Bugger into slightly deeper water, probably about six feet. Something bright hit the fly and jumped, and it sure didn’t look like any smallmouth I had ever seen. We were all struck dumb when I landed a bright chrome 12-pound steelhead. Crazy. The film crew, JP, and I all had a good laugh about that one.
And by the way, the Encounter rod handled that big steelhead just fine.
Today, I am teaching JP to fly fish, and he is going to show me how to skip a jig underhanded on a baitcasting rod, something I have always wanted to do. Stay tuned. . .