Monday, August 22, 2011

Shellcrackers on the Fly in Southern Maryland

Shellcracker on a brown mini-hopper
I really do love southern Maryland.  It reminds me of my home in Southeastern Virginia more than anywhere else I've been, including the Eastern Shore. And I guess it's not a shock.  Point Lookout in southern Maryland is almost as far south as Richmond, Virginia.

As the crow flies, it's less than 100 miles from my high school, and yet a 170 mile drive that takes a solid three hours. Anyone who grew up on the coast or in the mountains knows this feeling.  You may be able to see where you'd wish to be.  But you can't get there. 'Member that 1984 REM song "Can't Get There From Here?"  Yup. That.

I found myself this far south for a number of reasons, but then also found myself with some nearly useless downtime in the middle of the day. I had a cold and it had just rained EIGHT INCHES, and the air temps were still in the upper 80s with full sun....... so I was not dying to go fishing or kayaking or anything, really.   So I convinced myself that I would go scout out some new spots and wait for my daily duties to resume.

If you know me, you know that I can't "scout" a spot without at least three fishing rods.  It's an affliction, I tell you.  SERENITY NOW.   After some fubar activity with a new UL spinning reel, I grabbed my 5wt Cabela's TQR fly rod and headed down the St. Mary's River on foot.  The banks were long and shallow, and the bottom was sand and gravel, which was a nice change.  That led to another nice change:
How sad -  I can't even remember the last time I fished in bare feet

There were some nice bass hunting the shoreline but they were seriously spooky.  I mostly saw them darting out of structure and back to deep water, from a distance.  Sunfish were feeding on the surface quite a bit, and so without knowing anything about what prey items were actually living in the river, I just tied on a #14 ladybug and let 'er rip.

The TQR rod - at 6'0" - is designed for these kinds of scenarios - overhanging limbs and stalking around downed trees in the water.  Traditional casting with such a short fly rod is a tricky game, and I twisted up my fly line a few times standing out over open shoals.  However, the rod excels on roll casts, which is 90% of what I was doing.  Unfortunately, there was almost no moving current in the river, so I spent a lot of time just stripping line to create some movement on the surface.  After a few minutes, I started catching redear sunfish (shellcrackers).  Some were tiny, some were mature 6-7 inchers....not giants, though.

I tried a few other flies as I worked different sections of the river - bumblebees, black ants, hi-viz ants, and poppers, and struggled mightily.  Between the dead current and the mid-day summer conditions, it was unremarkable.  But again, it was about scouting.  I finally started hooking up again on a #10 brown mini-hopper. A few solid looks from big bass, but no takers.  I'll blame the rain, and all the bait that had been washed into the river.  Yeah, that's the ticket.

That's not to say that other folks didn't have the same idea.  This guy had SIX surf rods with bells attached, and dual bottom rigs with hunks of bait.  I moved around inland of him, making the assumption that he had caught and kept every fish over 5 inches in the area.

Then I had to deal with this jerk. This European hornet walked right over to my tackle bag and crawled right in.  Then he crawled all over my tackle inserts.   Super aggressive!  When I was a kid, we had them in a rotten tree on the northwest side of our house.

Finally, he stomped off elsewhere.  Homey was definitely looking for a fight, and I was in no mood to give it to him.  After awhile, I noticed that the sun was on the move.  Time to load up and get to my next appointment.   Still, a great way to spend a long lunch!

Nice spot for a lunchbreak, right?


Unknown said...

Looks like fun Swamp!

e.m.b. said...

Right! Great post...I really enjoyed the read. And I love barefeet, although I rarely fish in them either....sad....

tugboatdude said...

you need a pair of line clippers for Christmas.You left two inches of line on that fly.Just messing with you,I'm jealous you're fishing and I'm at work

Mark said...

I haven't gotten the latest Cabela's Fly Fishing catalog - but the TQR isn't listed on their website, that I could find. Is it still being made, or is it discontinued? What line weight is it?

I'm intrigued, as I"m building a very short fly rod myself - it'll be 5'6" when completed, throwing a #5 or 6 line.

Beauty shellcrackers BTW. Very pretty fish.

Kirk Mantay said...

Mark, look up "tight quarters rod" on the website. They have it available with a cabelas reel (what I got), a redington, and a ross (what I shoulda got).

All are on sale and all have $5 shipping.

It has its strengths and weaknesses. After all it's a $150 6 foot fly rod. I don't want to write a review of it until I catch a 2lb+ fish on it.

Kirk Mantay said...

Thanks for the notes, Trey & Erin.

Oh and T - my clippers literally broke (fell apart and went in the drink) as I was putting on a new fly to start this very adventure. And my hands were too sweaty and sun-lotiony to do it with one hand and a knife. SLICE.

nate.mckenzie.aouc said...

You just can't beat those Betts Bream Getter sponge spiders on a medium weight flyrod for good fun (and GOOD eatin').

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