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  • Writer's pictureJZ

Patience is a virtue....especially in the Northeast.

This season has been a constant waiting game for anglers in the Northeast. Waiting for warm weather, rivers to clear, high water to subdue, ice out on lakes, and water temps to rise. While this stuff is an annual occurrence, it has all been prolonged by mother nature. The first week of May is usually what I would consider "prime time" fishing conditions, but not this year. Despite a slow start, I had some good luck in late April finding salmon in and around lake tributaries.

Smallmouth are currently invading the shallows and are beginning to aggressively take flies on lake drop-offs and rocky shoals. River bass are locked on the banks awaiting a meal and defending their territory before the spawn occurs. Casting heavy flies in 25 feet of water parallel to the bank is a favorite tactic for pre spawn bass. Anything with lots of rubber legs and undulating natural materials (marabou, rabbit strip, saddle hackles) will get a smallmouth's attention in the deeper water. Strikes can be subtle so be in close contact with your fly at all times.

Bass have an extremely wide range of prey, equaled only to the pike, musky, and perhaps the brown trout. Baitfish, worms, snakes, leeches, crayfish, insects, mice, ducks, perch, and other bass are all potential meals for a smallmouth, especially larger specimens. I observed a large bass eat a smaller bass I had on in the fall and managed to successfully land both the smaller, and larger cannibalistic bass. Using a fly in the 3"-6" range is ideal, but do not be afraid to throw 8"-12" fly for bass, you'll be surprised what emerges from the depths for a fly of that size. Some of the best bass I've landed have been while fishing for pike or musky using large flies and a steel leader. Big bass are not shy, use heavy tippet as they pull hard and long.

Smallmouth bass have a voracious appetite Photo: Jon Zukowski

Got mouse? A CATCH Wharf Rat gets it done. Photo: Jon Zukowski

This 19" smallmouth ate a 6" fly, can't beat it. Photo: Jon Zukowski

Smallmouth have amazing camoflouge that allows them to stalk their prey that is often found in shallow waters. Photo: Jon Zukowski

In addition to great fishing, fiddleheads have popped in the Connecticut River valley, but will only last another day or so unless you head to the most Northern reaches of VT and NH. Find a moist, low lying river (think flood plains) and look for the dark green, unfurled ferns in tight clusters. Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) are the edible ones, not cinnamon or bracken, both of which can cause illness. Be certain that you are harvesting the correct wild edible whenever you are foraging. Find a good field guide and do your research, you will be rewarded with the most flavorful green that is both free and plentiful.

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