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Fly fishing on the Detroit River
Muskie for bragging, white bass for fun


05/26/07 D'Arcy Egan Plain Dealer Columnist [email protected] 216-999-5158

Rockwood, Mich.- Fishing guide Brian Meszaros scanned the Detroit River with binoculars as we slowly motored through the no-wake zone at Lake Erie Metropark. Flocks of terns hovering over the fast-flowing current a half-mile away caught his attention.

The birds were feasting on baitfish a school of white bass had pushed to the surface, a frenzy guaranteeing fly fishing success.

Meszaros and a friend once wanted to see just how many of the silvery, slab-sided white bass they could catch over an eight-hour fishing day. Four hours and more than 600 hook-ups later, a pair of arm-weary anglers gave up the fight.

Even small white bass have an attitude.

Shutting down the outboard motor and switching to twin electric motors to control the boat in an eight-knot current, Meszaros made the first cast. Jerry Darkes of Strongsville, Will Turek of Hudson and I were right behind. Within seconds everyone had a white bass on the line, my seven-weight fly rod in full bend with a chunky 14-inch fish.

Just about any fly would do, as long as it was white or had a little sparkle. Meszaros' Clouser minnows were a time-tested favorite. The lead barbell eyes would quickly take a fly a few feet under the water, slipping past the smaller bass and into a zone where larger ones hung out.

"A 16-inch white bass is a trophy and we'll catch a lot of those," said Meszaros, a guide on these waters for 15 years. "Even the little ones put a bend in your fly rod."

Our mission was to warm up with a morning of white bass fishing, then run up the river to catch smallmouth bass or perhaps a muskie, the latter the darling of the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair. Meszaros and his clients have successfully caught large muskies on a fly - and in surprisingly shallow water. One of his muskie and bass hot spots was a shallow bay about six miles up the Detroit River.

Looking through polarized glasses for the dark torpedo shape of a muskie, we cast our way along a shoreline. Meszaros hooked and lost a gar, then focused on a huge smallmouth bass ready to spawn on a rock-and-sand platter-sized depression in the carpet of green vegetation.

Casting a fly beyond the bass, he let it settle next to her. Ever so slowly she turned and inhaled the tantalizing creation of feathers and hook. More than 20 inches long and weighing almost six pounds, Meszaros quickly released her.

Two broad-backed muskies cruised past and were gone before we could make a cast.

"A muskie is the Holy Grail, and you have to do everything right - and get a little lucky," said Meszaros. "Smallmouth bass are the prize fighters. White bass are just pure fun, the most action you'll have with a fly rod."

The white bass were here to spawn in impressive numbers. While spawning was on the top shelf of their pea-sized brains, they were as voracious as always.
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