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F or a change of scenery this week, we headed west to meet some friends and float Sinnemahoning Creek near Driftwood. Similar in size to the lower and middle stretches of Pine Creek, Sinnemahoning offers a relaxing float with a mix of deep holes, nice runs and a few shallow rapids. More importantly, its full of smallmouth bass.

Continued heat and dropping water levels had me concerned that our few mile float would be a few miles of wet hiking, but our friends, Josh and Katie, assured us that water levels would be fine. I was skeptical, especially after looking at the USGS gauges online. Sure enough, we arrived to find the water just high enough to paddle through most of the float.

Staring into crystal clear water plays an optical illusion on the mind. What appeared merely ankle deep and laden with unnavigable rocks turned out to be a fun day of kayak fishing. Passing over each section, we could see schools of smallmouth, suckers and even one big catfish.

We fished a variety of baits through the course of the afternoon. Most of the action came on Whopper Ploppers in a size 90. Loon (black), bone and a shad looking colors all produced fish. Action I consider to be more important than color, but in clear water and bright conditions, natural-colored baits always produce best.

Subsurface, we caught fish on squarebill crankbaits, ned rigs and various jerkbaits. Again, natural patterns worked best. Throughout the river, crawfish peeked out from under the rocks. Imitating these with blue craw, gold and brown shades, was key to catching fish.

I find it particularly interesting that even in bright summer sun, smallmouth were plentiful in both shallow water and deep holes. However, the most aggressive fish held in fast-moving runs. In slower water, the bass were extra skittish and constantly on the move, presumably to avoid being eaten by the eagles and ospreys. In the faster water, smallies let their guard down and hid behind boulders and sticks that blocked the current, aggressively attacking baits that swam or floated through their area.

These same principles can be applied to our local rivers as well. Pine Creek, Tioga River and Cowanesque River are all great smallmouth fisheries and are under similar conditions right now. Tie on a natural-colored bait and fish the faster runs to find the most aggressive fish. Good luck out there.

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Don can be reached at 570-724-5138.