Fishing with Jason Schratwieser and John O’Hearn
Before I took the trip to Icast, I spent a pair of days fishing with John O’Hearn. We were originally supposed to be joined by Jason Schratwieser for both of them, but he was only able to make the first of the pair. These were to be our only real prefishing days prior to the Del Brown, and we had it in mind to only fish for permit in hopes of greasing the groove before the tournament began.
We started in a few areas, not finding anything of note at all. This made the morning basically a wash, which I could describe in detail but prefer to pass over since there was much more good stuff worth getting to that happened later. In the later morning John made a move and we found ourselves in newer water than we’d been. It didn’t take long for a fish to come within striking distance, and even though the cast wasn’t where I wanted it to land it was nearby enough for the permit to swim over and make wiggly lip-love on the little strong arm. We chased the fish with the motor as it went in to a nearby channel, and after some minutes of pulling we were able to get a hand on the tail. Jason held the fish and we both mugged for pictures that a fish John and I (especially after the tough Gold Cup documented in the last report) needed:
After this fish Jason was up, and he shortly had a great shot at a small group of fish. The fly landed just short, and while it could have worked the fish were too near by the time they saw the fly and they scuttled shyly off. Soon after this shot he had a few long range shots at fish waking on the flat that were harder than they should have been. Each time Jason would get the fly where it needed to be the need would change, and a fish would appear in another spot. Jason made a few casts that would have worked out at a slightly different time–a few moments in one direction or the other on the timeline was often all that kept things from being gobbled. As he stripped one such shot from a place that didn’t work a fish that we hadn’t seen initially found the fly and became interested, and John shouted for him to let it sit so that the fish could catch up to it. The fish inhaled it as soon as Jason let it drop, and with that we were tight to what John, having seen the whole event clearly, said was very large.
The permit took off from the flat, hard in to the nearby channel. We attempted to keep quiet by not starting the motor, which seemed like a good idea if we wanted to preserve what had become a great chance for another. Jason fought the fish until it found an obstruction, chaffing through the leader on some unknown hazard. We inspected the ragged end of nylon, confirming the sadness, and Jason began repairing his leader as I stripped out my rod for a shot.
John got us back in to position on the flat, and within minutes we saw a single fish coming up current. We got a cast off across the current and in front of the fish, covering a few of its future options, and within a few yards of the fly the fish noticed it and made a hard squirm in that direction before stopping to bite. We set the hook as the fish raced off in to the nearby channel; this time we started the motor to give chase as soon as the fish was on the reel. As this fish was smaller than Jason’s it seemed dumb to blow out the spot by starting the motor, but the only thing worse than losing one would be doubling down on our failure and we went all in to get a hand on this fish. After a few minutes John grabbed it, and we snapped a picture of our second for the day:
Jason stayed up after this, and we continued looking. We saw a few more, though as we feared starting the motor gave the fish an idea of what was going on and they slowed their roll considerably. We fished through the spot, went somewhere nearby, then returned after an hour or so to see if the targets had returned to where we’d found them. They hadn’t, and by this time the early afternoon gave John an idea to head elsewhere for a chance at a school of small fish he’d been in contact with over the last week.
Despite my intentions not to get up on the bow until Jason had caught one, it was time for a natural bow change and John handed me the rod–something I was unable to turn down.
John soon found us the group he’d seen, and after we saw a flash from one we staked and waited for them to give us another sign. A pair of fish swam on to a nearby white sand patch, and I took a cast up current of them and hoped that it would drift down towards them. I didn’t see the rest of the school rise up and wrap around our offered terminal end, though John said clearly “He ate it” and I had to do nothing except make a slow strip in to the heaviness. Sometimes, it’s great to be lucky.
The fish skittered off with its friends from school, and we elected not to start the motor in hopes that we might preserve the shot for a potential fourth fish. In a few minutes we landed this fish, bigger than we thought at about 10 pounds:
Despite our hopes that we might get a fourth, the school from which we’d pulled our third never reappeared and we kept hunting. Jason was up until he caught one, given the luck I’d enjoyed, and we made a move at the end of the day for a final look at a place John thought we might have a tail or two. One giant flapped its tail at us twice, never giving us a solid shot, before the tide petered out and we headed home. Jason took off for home, leaving me alone to fish the final day with John.
We’d initially planned that the final day of fishing was going to be an adventure towards new territory, though the great fishing we’d had meant all we needed to do was not screw up and change our approach. We stuck with largely the same program we’d been on the day before, and our first stop gave us enough to keep us there for most of the morning. Finding a group of shy tails bobbing in the calm was how we started off, though we were unable to convert any of these into a connection. We kept sniffing around, waiting for the fish to flush on to a nearby grass bank, but it took an hour or more for things to get right. Given how calm it was we decided that the best approach would be to wade before we saw a fish, and after 45 minutes we were ready to give it up after only finding a pair of fish. I started back to the boat when John saw a small group of fish tailing intermittently away from us.
I stayed in the water and headed in the other direction to follow the small group, trying to make the ground up as I went. The fish kept up their pace and forced me to work double time to close the gap. After 20 minutes I was finally able to get in to position for a shot that I summarily butchered, sending a few off the flat to some nearby deep safety. A few fish continued to tail down the bank, and I recommitted myself to distance closing once again. Frustratingly, and not unexpectedly, the small school moved with renewed purpose after one of their own had been scared off. I had to spend another 10 minutes in pursuit of the remaining pair of fish, finally getting a cast off in their direction that looked like it would work. After watching the fly drift down in line with the lead fish we were tight before the fish even made a move on the fly. I was so tired from walking for the past two hours that after setting the hook I walked back to the boat and got in, sitting briefly on the platform to rest as John poled off the flat and started the motor in some deeper water. The fish fought hard despite the hot water, and we grabbed it after a few minutes that felt tenser than they needed to. We snapped a picture of the fish:
After that we headed on, glad for the wind when we got moving. John took us nearby where we’d found the fish the day before with Jason, and it didn’t take long for him to find them again. I had two shots before the action was effectively over: the first was from a large fish that tailed hard on the fly, though I missed this one with a too-fast hook set and had to watch it swim away and hope for another shot. The second was not long thereafter, and while this fish was smaller it was no less enthusiastic and tailed hard on the fly. This time the hook set was without error, and we motored after the fish once it was on the reel. Again it took a little longer than we expected in the stagnant summer water to land this fish, but again we were able to do so without any issues and take a picture to mark our fifth in two days:
After this we were essentially playing with house money, having had some truly great fishing, and John decided to explore. We knew basically where we wanted to spend some time in the upcoming Del Brown, and at this point were worried about beating up on the fish a little too much prior to the event. We ambled around in the afternoon, finding a few shots here and there but mostly finding places at tides that we didn’t want to return to during.
When the light got low we headed home, and I got packed for Icast the following day.
I’d like to thank John for a really amazing two days of fishing, and Jason for joining us for the first. It had been too long since I’d fished with Jason, and it’s my intention that it won’t be that long again.
Up next is the Del Brown report, which will include an account of our fishing. At this point the tournament wrapped up a little over a week ago, so the results aren’t a secret, but I’m playing catch up as usual and the report will be up shortly.
Thanks for reading