Fly fishing the Upper Genesee River in New York

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Despite the cold temperatures, it was nice to have the sun make a brief appearance on this winter afternoon on the Upper Genesee River.

Kevin has declared this year to be “The Year of the Smallie”.  Smallmouth bass are my favorite species, so I’m all game for them to be the focus of our addiction – our drug of choice – for this year. To this, I’ve added an additional personal challenge of fly fishing.

Toward this effort, my son and I took to exploring the Upper Genesee River today in the Southern Tier of New York and made it all the way down to Allegheny County to a stretch just north of Shongo.

I knew there was purportedly trout water and smallmouth bass down this way and we gave it a try in the sub-thirty degree air temperatures.  We had some minor trouble with our rod guides icing up, but nothing too major.

No fish were caught, but at least I finally have proof that I fly fish to show on Fishgator (fly-catching might be another story), and we had a great time getting away for the afternoon. I know that I was using too heavy gear and flies that were too large, but at least I got in some practice casting.

My soon-to-be 16-year-old son has really taken to fly fishing – truth be told, he’s much better than I am…

It is great to watch my son, Alan, developing to become a skilled fly angler.

We are contemplating returning for a float and fly fish trip by kayaks sometime this Spring. I’ll try to be better prepared if we do!

This smallmouth bass actually fell for a dry fly while I was targetting trout.

2012 | The Year of the Smallmouth Bass

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Ice Fishing for Smallmouth BassGrowing up in Western New York I was surrounded by some of the finest freshwater fishing available in the United States. In particular our cold water streams and lakes and Rivers afforded tremendous opportunity to fish for native species.

When you’re a kid the sunfish becomes your prime quarry. In general it starts with your dad taking you to the local pond. He baits the hook, sets up a chair, and reads the newspaper. If you had any intrinsic fishing talent, your father wouldn’t be sitting for very long. Pumpkinseeds, bluegill and other sunfish such as the red ear would make quick work of your worm.
Depending upon where you were fishing you might end up tangling with a smallmouth bass. I recall being around 10 years old and making a trip to the 1000 Islands. After a family dinner I grabbed my Zebco rod and reel and headed for the dock by our hotel room. At that time in my life I had a limited tackle box but I remember clearly having fuzzy grubs and beetle spins. The grubs were small and I quickly got into a school of sunfish.

Then it happened.

After having switched to a beetle spin, I cast out directly in front of the dock. During the retrieve, I felt a huge hit and the Zebco almost got yanked from my hands. Fortunately I was likely using the line that came with the Zebco rod and reel. I’m willing to bet that it was 10 pound at least. So the only thing I had to do was ensure that that fish didn’t come off the hook. About a minute later my first ever smallmouth bass was on the dock. That was the very beginning of a love affair.

Now that I’m almost 40 I still like to fish for sunfish. It’s just that the bluegill isn’t my prime target any more. No, my favorite sunfish is the smallmouth bass. Native to the Mississippi River Basin, as well as the Saint Lawrence river and the Great Lakes, the smallmouth enjoys a wide geographic range.

Fishgator founder and Team Fishgator member, Kevin Webster, with a Finger Lakes smallie caught on a fly.

On average your male smallmouth bass will go around 2 pounds. Females will be slightly larger, and in Western New York they will generally max out at five or 6 pounds.

You’ll also find that the smallmouth bass will vary in color. For example in the Letchworth Gorge, the cold clear waters tends to make the smallmouth bass in there very light, and their vertical bars are often difficult to see. Whereas a smallmouth bass taken from Black Creek will be much darker and the vertical bars will stand out.

I can ramble on for paragraphs on the science of the smallmouth bass. Instead I will link to a couple of sources below in case you want to read more. Of course you can always google the smallmouth bass and do your own research for the specifics of the smallmouth bass in your region. I’m the most familiar with smallmouth bass tendencies in Western New York, Pennsylvania, and parts of the Maine.

So why make 2012 of the year of the smallmouth?

I consider it almost are returning to my roots. Of all of the game species I’ve caught I think the smallmouth bass leads in every category. From quantity to quality, and from challenge to enjoyment, the smallmouth bass and I have been involved in an epic struggle for nearly 30 years.

Winter Smallmouth BassSince getting my kayak, it’s true that I’ve been afforded the opportunity to chase many other species. Many more open waters have been made accessible, including Great Lakes tributaries, ponds and small lakes in local parks, even portions of major rivers that you can’t reach by foot. So what has happened is that I go out fishing every Saturday and I have a lot of choices. Some days I’ll chase brown trout, and some days I’ll cruise dark murky waters hunting northern pike. In essence I’ve been given the opportunity to have an affair. I’ve been given the opportunity to cheat on my one true love. The smallmouth bass.

So this year, the final year of the Mayan calendar, I shall reinvigorate my marriage. I’m going to spend a great deal of time chasing the smallmouth bass. Living where I live there’s simply too many opportunities to target them. Off the top of my head I can name four places that are legendary for smallmouth bass all within a 1 hour drive of where I sit and write this blog post.

  • Lake Erie
  • Lake Ontario
  • The Niagara River
  • The Genesee River

Each of those four bodies of water are home to some of the most aggressive, beautiful and wily smallmouth bass on the planet. And in 2012 I plan on catching, photographing and writing about each and every one. So that’s several million smallmouth bass. I’d better get started.
This is simply the first blog post of many regarding my pursuit of the smallmouth bass. While it’s obvious I’m kidding about catching them all, I do intend to spend a great deal of time this summer in targeting the smallmouth bass.

A big Smallmouth Bass

Smallmouth Bass

Most of that time I will be in my kayak, but I do intend to wade some rivers for smallmouth as well. At each and every turn I shall have my camera with me, and I hope to document this beautiful species and its habitat in Western New York.

If you have any suggestions as to where I should go to fish for smallmouth I’m all ears. Please leave a comment below (you can login with your Twitter or Facebook account) or simply tweet at me ( @freshwaterkayak ). I’d love to hear your ideas or see your pictures from this year or last.

Tight lines! And here’s to making 2012 the year of the smallmouth bass!



Smallmouth Bass Resources,1607,7-153-10364_18958-45689–,00.html