With the opening of dove season Saturday local sportsmen are now moving into the rites of fall. The joys of an old-fashioned dove shoot are undeniable, but they serve as a mere prelude to what will follow in the coming weeks – bow season, muzzleloading season, and modern gun season for deer; squirrel season; rabbit and quail seasons.
But it should not be forgotten that autumn offers some of the finest fishing of the year.
As waters begin to cool, fish instinctively sense the coming hard times of winter and feed vigorously.
Visit any area lake and you will likely find it crowded this time of year, especially on weekends. On the other hand, on float fishing trips down area rivers using canoes (you’ll want one with a keep for maximum stability), kayaks especially designed for fishing, or shallow draft johnboats you will likely see few, if any, other fishermen.
The Catawba and Broad rivers are ideal for such activity, and a wealth of other choices exist, in both Carolinas. In the North Carolina high country streams such as the Little Tennessee, Tuckasegee, French Broad, and Toe can provide action for panfish, smallmouth bass, and in some stretches, trout. There’s always a remote chance of tangling with the so-called “fish of 10,000 casts,” the muskie.
The Catawba offers panfish aplenty, catfish, and largemouth bass. The Broad has all of these andan added bonus, smallmouth bass. Tennessee novelist Caroline Gordon once wrote that a , smallmouth bass when it first feels the bite of a hook, is like “chicken hawk and chain lightning.”
Their presence in the Broad River, and in goodly numbers, is probably the best-kept local fishing secret.
Without question the best way to get catch them is by floating. There will be places where you will probably have to get out and drag your watercraft, or you may want to beach it and do some wade fishing in promising shoal areas. But hook into a three-pound bronzeback that is four feet in the air one moment and hell-bound on a mission in another time zone the next, and you’ll understand the allure of the smallmouth.
The next four to six weeks, with water levels are at seasonal lows, fish in their fall feeding frenzy, and temperatures are still quite comfortable, are tailor-made for float fishing.
Float fishing equipment can be pretty simple. Along with your watercraft, paddles, and life jackets, take a cooler for drinks and some snacks or lunch, a tow rope for pulling a boat through shallow areas, and your fishing gear.
An ultralight spinning rod equipped with 4-, 6-, or 8-pound test monofilament; a good assortment of spinners and lure; or bait, if that is your preference will serve you quite nicely. It’s also a type of fishing well suited to fly rodding. A 6-weight or 7-weight rod, along with a selection of streamers and popping bugs, is just the ticket.
Float fishing is an alternative to traditional angling. The peace and contentment afforded by a day of drifting in a canoe, casting to shoreline pockets and likely spots in shoal areas, or probing the depths of occasion big holds, is something special. Try it and you may finda new, magical world has opened before you.