Gravel twitches under your feet as the current rushes around your calves. Crayfish scamper out of your way, quickly hidden by the contrail of silt that marks your path. Perhaps you’ll hear the startled gawk of a blue heron and the whoosh of its great wings.
Few people really know the pleasure of nature until they immerse themselves in it. This is why generations of anglers have headed to creeks in the spring to wade.
Kentucky Derby weekend traditionally marks the start of the wading season. Frost has come and gone, water levels are stabilizing, and fish are hungry and on the move. In some cases, big fish have moved up from a nearby river or lake, providing the best opportunity of the year to catch a trophy in small water.
Think mobility when creek wading. Leave the big tacklebox at home and pare down your baits to just a handful that you can carry in your pockets or a small bag. A tub of night crawlers and some hooks and sinkers can provide an enjoyable day’s fishing.
Where to start? Riffles are like underwater conveyor belts of food. Fish hide in the deeper, slack water adjacent to riffles, waiting for minnows or crayfish to drift past. If the riffle is more than knee-deep, fish may hide along current-blocking rocks on the bottom, looking up for the next meal.
Try tossing a night crawler with some weight pinched on the line above it at the start of the riffle. Let it drift naturally with the current until the line straightens out behind you. Repeat. Try the same technique with a plastic 3-inch grub rigged on a 1/8-ounce jighead. Black, white, and pumpkinseed are the best colors. Next, lengthen your cast until you hit the seam where the slack water meets the fast water. Be ready for an instant bite. Keep working this slack water area until you’ve covered it all.
Creek wading is also a great family activity. Even if the fishing isn’t so great, young hands love the challenge of trying to catch those scampering crayfish.
Have you always wanted to know about hunting, fishing, and the outdoors but were afraid to ask? Join us for a Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekend May 21-23 at Audubon State Park near Henderson. Learn the basics of bird identification, fishing, hiking, archery, and more. Call (800) 858-1549 weekdays for more information.