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Posted by Don on August 17, 2008 in Angler Improvement Articles with No Comments


by Don Allphin

After a 30-year hiatus Orrin Olsen and his son Grant joined me for a day and a half of fishing on Flaming Gorge last week.  Orrin and I were friends in high school and had some great times on Strawberry in the early ‘70s.  We went our separate ways after high school and we hadn’t seen each other in person for over three decades.

It was fitting that our first reunion was to be a fishing trip, and our excitement was palpable as we traveled to Manila, Utah.  The weather was perfect, my boat functioned well, we located large fish on my finders, but we didn’t boat a single lake trout.  We had our share of hits, to be sure, but we simply couldn’t get the fish to the boat. 

For me, figuring out the specifics of a certain “bite” is one of the reasons I love to fish.  I think the challenge of conquering their eating behaviors keeps me coming back to a lake over and over again until I’ve seen the fish in all types of feeding situations.  But last week I was completely baffled.  We had one small chance at recognizing and then setting the hook after each bite.  No fish came back for seconds.  It was as if the fish had little interest in eating.  Sometimes when bass are spawning they will “nudge” or “nose” the bait but not strike.  Although the lake trout spawn is still a couple of months away, I couldn’t help thinking they were behaving in a similar manner.

Orrin’s son Grant was focused on catching a larger lake trout.  He stayed with a jigging technique for hours on end, patiently following my instructions and waiting for that one special fish – that never came. At noon, after most of the other lake trout anglers had gone to the dock for a siesta, I asked my companions if they wanted to catch a few smallmouth bass.  They both agreed and we shifted gears.  From large, heavy tubes, we switched tackle to include small topwater lures and smaller tubes.  From the instant we began searching the shorelines for active fish we began catching beautiful, healthy “smallies.”

Orrin and Grant both caught their largest smallmouth bass (over 2 pounds each) and Orrin caught his first bass on a topwater lure.  Although the lake trout where a disappointment, the smallmouth sincerely made our trip.

Sometimes shifting gears to try for another species of fish can turn a frustrating outing to a spectacular one.   We’ll try for lake trout again, I’m sure, but our reunion memories will include catching some fat, aggressive smallmouth bass.

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