Float and Fly, Failure on the Forebay

The Float and Fly technique emerged in the mid-90s, credited to Charlie and Eddie Nuckol, primarily for targeting smallmouth bass in the cold waters of Eastern Tennessee. Over time, it has gained traction, particularly in Northern California lakes, as an effective method for catching spotted bass, with anglers like Ryan Williams contributing significantly to its refinement and success in bass tournaments.

Considering its success, I’ve pondered its potential effectiveness for targeting largemouth bass (LMB) and stripers in San Luis Reservoir and the Oneill Forebay during the chilly months of January and February. The key, I believe, lies in locating suspended fish. Having previously had success with still, slightly jigged flies at depth, I speculated that Float and Fly might offer a solution to the winter fishing lull. However, recent adverse weather conditions, including limited visibility due to muddy runoff caused by last weeks atmospheric river, dampened my optimism for the day.  Undeterred, I set up a rig with two flies—a black jig at 8 ft and a white jig at 10 ft—and targeted depths of 10-12 ft along the shoreline near the launch area. Despite seeing plenty of fish, none were suspended, which may have contributed to the lack of bites. I shifted to spots where I’ve previously spotted suspended fish, such as near the powerplant and the tires by the water tower, but still had no luck. After persisting until noon without a single bite, I decided to relocate to the Big Lake for the remainder of the day.

Upon reaching the Big Lake around 12:30, I noticed many boats returning with some impressive limit catches of stripers, predominantly trolling at 40 feet depth near the launch. While scouting for schools, I found only single fish at 40 ft depths but no substantial concentrations to entice me to fish there. Despite challenging wind conditions, I made my way to the Bay of Pigs, hoping to replicate a successful day I had with Dan last Friday.

Upon arrival, I encountered another flyfisherman already fishing the area, so I navigated around him and searched the deeper waters outside. Locating fast-moving schools,  I did my best to intercept them, although they seemed less aggressive than they were last Friday.  Nonetheless, employing short, sharp retrieves and very long pauses,  I managed to hook a few. Moving along the dam rocks, I continued to pick up fish, albeit at a slower pace. By 2:00, I had landed several fish in and around the Bay of Pigs, but with the wind intensifying, I decided to check the pumps near the racks, although they were not operational.

Utilizing livescope, I observed large stripers suspended around 50 feet off the structure, making them difficult targets for the Float and Fly technique. After exploring the causeway and dam, I picked up another fish near the corner, then worked my way along the dam face towards Monument. This stretch offered respite from the wind and proved fruitful, as I encountered several schools of fish close to the rocks. Notably, one of the caught fish contained a crawdad, while another appeared empty, indicating varied feeding behavior.

Despite the challenging  winter conditions in the 53-degree water, it was a satisfying day of fishing.  The experience reinforced my belief in the correlation between bait availability and fish activity levels. Looking ahead, I’m eager to return to the lake for a full day, particularly as winter fishing seems to align closely with Solunar charts, with peak activity observed in the morning, contrasting with my efforts in the forebay earlier in the day.

As tomorrow marks the Super Bowl, I hope not to dwell too much on the game’s outcome and instead look forward to hitting the lake on Monday, weather permitting, for another opportunity at some rewarding fishing.

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