Green Fish

I went to Otter Creek Thursday afternoon. This particular Otter Creek is in Meade County, Ky., and one of a handful of streams the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages as delayed harvest trout water. That means only artificial baits can be used and any trout caught between November and March must be released. It’s also a method for the state game agency to stretch its trout dollar, but that’s another story.

All the trout are stocked but they aren’t the only fish in the water, of course. There’s smallmouth bass, rock bass and others. The creek had been high and muddy but it falls out quickly and I heard from a good source that it was a little high, but “fishable.” The weather was also 58 degrees and sunny – about as good as it gets in early February.

I arrived to find that about a half dozen other people had the same idea I did. The water was a little high but nothing unmanageable. Fly rod wavers were scattered down the creek past the first bend, a distance of about 250 yards. I strung up a 3 weight (it’s a relatively small creek) then decided to shoot a few photos before I started fishing.

A guy downstream was working a nice pool. He was also standing in a patch of sunshine so I walked along the bank to shoot a few photos. His fly casting was pretty sloppy – not nearly as poor as mine; but far from perfect form. He quickly caught a fish, a short but chunky smallmouth bass. I sat the camera aside and watched. Within 20 minutes or so he’d caught four more smallmouth between missing a couple of strikes. But he seemed irritated and the more fish he caught the more irritated he became. He finally reeled up and started sloshing from the river in my direction. It suddenly dawned that he was probably mad about the camera, although I’d taken no photos. I readied myself for a rude greeting or worse. He exited the water and came straight toward me. I asked about the fishing – a typical creek side comment.

“It’s okay I guess,” he said. “Except I can’t catch a trout because of those damn green fish. You know what they are?”

I first thought this was some kind of joke then realized it wasn’t, and said, “I think they’re smallmouth bass.” Then added, “I’ve heard that this is a pretty good smallmouth stream.”

He said something unprintable about the general sporting qualities of “green fish” and huffed up the bank to his car. As soon as he left hurried for my rod and waded in to fish the hole he’d abandoned, from which, of course, I caught nothing.