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I decided to scout a new flow with a paddle up from a popular recreational launch. This flow is known for large bass 50 miles downstream, but would it still hold good fishing in an area mostly known for canoes and pleasure boaters?
I dropped my trusty Tripper 12 into a swift current colored red with sediment from a recent rain. I didn’t really think I would be able to get much action on topwater flies considering the lack of water clarity, but I was going to give it a shot.
The first hour of daylight was spent unsuccessfully working my popping bug aggressively in the push water above shoals and around likely looking laydown timber and rocks along the banks. With zero action in the fast water, I paddled my Tripper up to a long, slow river section that meandered alongside a steep, rock wall.

I cast my popping bug at the waterline, gave the line a downstream mend and let it sit while my boat drifted gently downstream. I began to ponder my next move when the water exploded off the rock wall and my popping bug disappeared in the maw of a huge spotted bass. I pulled the line tight with my free hand and gave the rod a hard snap, driving the hook home. An epic battle ensued and my 6wt TFO fly rod was pretzeled in a precarious bend. The strong fish burned my fingertips as it stripped line from my fingers in hard surges. Finally, the fish worked it’s way towards the boat as I gingerly collected line and she slipped into my landing net.

A 19 inch specimen is a trophy on casting gear and true prize on fly rod. After a round of photos and longing goodbye, I turned my JK downstream and began the drift back towards the launch. This time, I let a popping bug follow alongside under a carefully mended line. To my surprise a second large fish would suck down my popper. The bite surprised me as a small splash caused my yellow popper to disappear. Assuming it was a small redeye I gave the rod a gentle snap and was surprised by a huge surge on the other end and a fish that stripped line from my off hand and sprinted for a nearby logjam.

This specimen measured out only a half inch smaller than the first fish, but gave and even stronger fight. Elated, I drifted out the remainder of the float and added a few beautiful redeye to the day’s tally. This short trip was a huge success as it netted me two of my largest fly rod bass to date and it taught me a new technique for working topwater flies. It would not have been possible without my simple, lightweight JK.