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Topwater time is now

June 17, 2007|by BILL ANDERSON

Over the past week, I was able to spend a great deal of time working along the river.

While the bad news was that most of the time did not include fishing rods, it is always nice to watch the river run by and to notice what is happening.

There were at least three different species of caddis hatching this week, along with a very small (size No. 16) white mayfly. The fish were on them - mostly smallmouths, but also big redbreast sunfish and other river fish.

The grassbeds are really beginning to form to summertime levels, and the shallow waters around the beds showed good populations of river minnows. The bass were on them as well with slashing, splashy attacks on the minnow schools.

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Add it all up, and it means it's topwater time.

Almost any fisherman will tell you that catching fish on the surface is their favorite or preferred method. Topwater fishing for most local species is at its best during the warmer months. For river smallmouths, this usually means June through September.

River smallmouths love surface lures. Best of all, you can also catch some of bigger bass on topwater lures. Some of my biggest river smallmouths came on topwater lures. One crashed a Devil's Horse lure, and the other topwater fish took a fly-rod popper. Almost all of the big topwater fish have come during mid-summer.

When fishing topwater lures for smallmouths, lure selection is probably not as important as fishing the right places and making the right presentation. Some of the most popular lures are models that have been around for decades. The classic lures include the Tiny Torpedo, Baby Torpedo and Devil's Horse. You notice that the lures feature propellers at one or both ends. Smallmouths seem to like that feature on a lure.

Fly-rod anglers can enjoy great summertime smallmouth action using basic popping bugs in sizes No. 4 and No. 6. Smaller poppers will catch you more fish, but you can go as large as you can cast for the really big smallmouths.

The presentation used is very important when fishing topwater lures. The typical approach is to cast a lure out and bring it back slowly with twitches and pops. This works a lot of the time, but if things are slow you may also want to try a fast retrieve - much like you would use when bringing back a buzzbait on top.

This is also a great time to practice your dry-fly presentation technique. The river fish are less demanding than catch-and-return trout so you can perfect your casting techniques and catch a lot of small bass. A durable dry fly, like a Wulff pattern, is a good choice for this fishing.

Surface or topwater fishing is usually at its best during the late-evening hours, but you never know.

One of the biggest river smallmouth I have ever had the pleasure of netting for a buddy crashed a Tiny Torpedo on the New River in West Virginia after we had pulled in to shore for a lunch break. According to our tackle box scales, the fish was approximately 5 pounds, 12 ounces. As I remember, it was 23 inches long and really thick. After taking some photos, Jack, my late friend, released the old river bass and called it his best fishing experience ever.

My kind of guy.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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