Smallmouth Bass Guru Touts Sugar Creek as Top Fishing Destination

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Smallmouth Bass expert, Tim Holschlag travels the world in search of bronzebacks.

Smallmouth Bass expert, Tim Holschlag travels the world in search of bronzebacks.

If you don’t recognize the name Tim Holschlag, he is a professional smallmouth bass fisherman. I know that may sound like an oxymoron, “professional smallmouth bass fisherman,” but he makes his living fishing for and communicating about smallmouth bass. After fishing one of my favorite smallmouth waters with Holschlag, it was easy to see why he is considered one of the best in the business.

Holschlag is the author of the books “River Smallmouth Fishing” and “Smallmouth Fly Fishing.” He’s published hundreds of magazines articles on the subject, has produced a DVD titled “Stream Smallmouth Fishing,” commercially ties smallmouth flies, hosts on-stream smallmouth fishing schools and guides smallmouth fishing trips. If that doesn’t qualify someone as a professional smallmouth fisherman, I don’t know what could.

Upon my invitation, I learned Holschlag had fished this secret little creek before, many years ago. I was pleased when he said looked forward to returning, and further professed admiration of the creek’s scenery and fishing. The water had left an indelible mark on his memory.

Fishing with an authority of any species is an incredible opportunity. Tactics you thought were correct can be improved and new lessons are sure to be learned. Methods that somewhat work for you are proven trivial by an expert.

“Go ahead and take that off,” Holschlag said, pointing at my Clouser Minnow. “Slow, slow, slow. That’s how we have to fish them today. If we’re going to catch fish today, we have to be on the bottom of the deepest holes to float a fly right in front of their faces.”

With that I was introduced to the Holschlag “Float-and-Fly” method. In his book, “Smallmouth Fly Fishing,” Tim describes the technique, “Its essence is simply suspending a fly below a strike indicator buoyant enough to support the fly, and moving the fly extremely slow.”

He rigged me up and we got to it. I laid a cast out next to a large boulder at the head of a long eddy and started to strip it back in.

“No, no, no,” Tim said. “Just let it float. If you do anymore than occasionally twitch the fly, you’re going to pull it off the bottom, out of the strike the zone.”

Again from his book, “Precise depth control and the ability to work the fly extremely slowly are the key components of the float-and-fly concept. When the fish are suspended at specific depths, when they are sluggish and holding tight to the bottom or even when you want to fish subsurface in very shallow water, being able to keep your fly at an exact depth comes in mighty handy. This is possible with a fly suspended directly below a large indicator.”

I’ll admit the float-and-fly method wasn’t too exciting. It reminded me of jigging for walleyes with my grandpa in Minnesota years ago. As a kid, the torture of sitting in the boat raising and lowering my rod tip for hours made me want to crawl out of my skin. I prefer action, ripping streamers and hopping poppers, but you can’t argue with positive results. Tim caught fish during a time when most might not.

During our outing Tim pointed out spots along the creek that would be prime to target at different times of the year. He pointed out seems, boulders, back channels and bluffs like a kid pointing out a wish list in a toy aisle; left side, right side, down a ways, behind us. In spending only a day with Tim Holschlag, it’s apparent he not only understands smallmouth bass, but truly loves the species and the waters in which they swim.

See you down the trail…

Brandon Butler



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