It is late fall. The weather has shifted and we are back to having cloudy, rainy days. Our drought is broken, but the weather hasn't been really good and sunny for fishing for warmwater species. I had been working too much -- I swear it! I had to get out of my office and out to my other office -- the water. We have had gray weather on and off for weeks. Yes, we all need the rain, but we're getting this gloomy weather, and not much RAIN! Weather not withstanding, I thought I'd see what might transpire. The objects of this trip - sunfish: bluegills, shellcrackers, redbreasts, and possibly a bass or two.

Since I was on the lake in cool conditions under dreary, late winter overcast skies, I pondered whether this sort of weather serves to deter many fly fishers from going out in these conditions. I saw only two other boats that day. Too bad!

What effect does this overcast, cool weather have on the sunfishes? Probably you will find differing opinions, but there may be a surprise! Some fly fishers won't go because its is too wet or cool. Some believe that bright sun is the engine that activates the food chain and gets the fish activated as well. Some will say without the bright sun bass will be busier hunting for food. All of these responses can be correct.

On this particular day, I found that regardless of conditions three of my Byrdisms certainly were true: (1) You'll catch many more fish in the water (2) you will catch many more fish when you are fishing, than when you aren't fishing! (3) Any time you can go is the best time to go fishing. (Sounds like Yogi doesn't it?) IT IS TRUE!

In that spirit I launched my boat, and prepared to see what the fish thought about all of this. They are simple, and they will tell you how they feel. So I decided to check out their moods.

First, I wanted to see if the fishes would feed on surface. This day was to be Sage day on the water. I pulled out my Sage SPL 1-weight, slipped on my Lamson Litespeed reel with Sage WF1F Quiet Taper line, and tied on one of my black water spiders. I always start with my size-14 black water spider. With this little offering tied on, I commenced to probe water in likely spots.

There are many possibilities for surface flies, but I have had such success with this fly that I always begin with it. Start with dark colors, then if that doesn't work, go lighter and lighter. Fish in one pod may prefer darker color, while fish in a pod just a few yards away make want something lighter. I carry black, light green, and brown usually tied up on different rods. Then a quick cast will tell me if color is the issue in a particular fishy spot. One of these three colors usually gets results.

I tied on my black water spider and began casting to any overhanging bush, wood in the water, anything that would offer cover and insect possibilities.

I didn't have to wait long for results!

Doesn't this well bent Sage SPL 1-weight (image left) look like it is having fun. I was.

There are many who turn up their noses at fishing for the sunfishes. Truth is, most of the ICONS of fly fishing when given the chance to fly fish for pleasure will grab an ultralight rod, poppers and spiders, and greet as many of these fish as they can.

This fat 9 ounce bluegill (below right) felt really good on my 1-weight, and got my day off to a great start.

I was really pleased to find many bluegills, redbreasts, and shellcrackers (redear sunfish) as I moved around this pond. They weren't hitting furiously but they were feeding consistently and the average fish there was nice. I felt like one of those people driving a white sandwich truck selling food to construction workers. "Hey, get your size-14 black water spiders here!" The fish lined up and ate many. I was able to exercise my 1-weight for about three hours. It was great. The trip was cool and full of pleasant surprises.

I noticed that my water spider was beginning to get soaked with water and fish slime, and was slowly sinking. I was still getting plenty of takes, so I picked up my Orvis TLS 1-weight that had a small suspending pattern tied on it, and cast to some cover on a sandy shoreline. I let it sink -- one, two, three and stripped in tiny 2 inch strips.

SMASH! The rod bent to the water and a fight was on. It felt like a 2 pound bass, but turned out to be a true 1 pound shellcracker (image left).

Fish like this shellcracker fat crappies, bluegills, redbreasts are still actively feeding on surface or near surface this time of year. They feed during the high sun period when ultraviolet rays are at their peak for the day, and as water temperatures drop, they will feed less on top and start to feed more subsurface. If you want to catch these fish on overcast fall days, be prepared to probe the surface, then follow them subsurface when they are feeding there. Keep rods rigged with surface flies and shallow subsurface flies right now, so on a moment's notice if they don't hit on surface, you can pick up a second rod and see if a subsurface fly is what the fish want.

I probed one more promising spot with my suspending fly and caught another fat sunfish, this surprise fat 4 pound bass (right) gobbled it up. I really had fun with the photo op. After catching many more fish subsurface, I switched back to my Sage 1-weight with the water spider and wrapped up my day on top.

So it went during my trip with plenty of surface action and plenty of fish feeding subsurface as well. If you doubt that there are sunfish available to you under these sunless conditions, think again. I have purposely fished in THE WORST conditions I could encounter over the past 5 years. My conclusion: You can catch fish anytime, anywhere, in about any conditions, if you really want to and have a plan.

Don't let cool, overcast, dreary weather keep you off the water. Whether you wade or fish from a boat, if you'll be there and have a good plan, you'll find fish. Where else are THEY going to be?


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