Maryland Slime Darts
It was hard to believe I hadn't caught a pickerel on the fly in my entire life. Honestly, it had been almost 10 years since I've even tangled with one on a spinning rod. I guess the waterways I have fished most often in the last 10 years just don't hold populations of pickerel - or slime darts (as I quickly discovered is a fitting name after hooking my first last weekend).
I hit the water with my good friend Andrew - a pickerel fanatic by all accounts - in search for the sometimes elusive, but typically voracious, pickerel. This trip also served as the maiden voyage for my new canoe (seen below)!
We planned to hit two spots on the day, both known to hold good populations of pickerel (among many other species). Unfortunately, swarms of other fisherman had the same idea on this bright, warm spring day. We knew the fishing could therefore prove tough.
We did our best to get as far away from other boats and shore anglers as we could, and started working fallen trees, weed edges, and other slack areas and eddies - all features that Andrew said pickerel tend to like. He prepared me for a variety of opportunities to hook fish, and noted that sometimes they will miss the fly, follow for long distances, or even hit boat-side. Unfortunately, an hour passed without as much as a follow.
Following another slow half hour, Andrew suggested I make a fly change and handed me one of his hand tied pickerel streamers. The fly was bright yellow - with touches of white, brown, pink, and chartreuse - tied on an ultra sharp hook with bead chain for some weight. I watched on my first cast as it sunk slowly and worked side to side, with wide reaching darts. A fish would have to eat this, I thought - and that is exactly what happened!
No more than five minutes removed from the change of flies, I shot a nice cast up along a deep weed edge. The current moving along the weed edge was broken up by a small log jam just upstream. This created a slow area in the current, which aligned with the start of the thick weed mat. My cast settled down just upstream of this point.
I let the fly sink in for a few seconds and then began making slow and steady strips. That is when it happened - in an instant! Out from the weeds shot a long, slender object. It swirled once on the fly, and then just inhaled it! Andrew and I both saw the entire thing. I raised the rod tip - while giving a final, solid strip - and the fight was on.
Andrew netted my first pickerel on the fly not long after we hooked it. On a 5wt, the 17 or 18" pickerel put up a decent fight, but the eat and the hook set was by far the most rewarding. We snapped some quick pictures, unhooked the squirmy and slimy fish, and it kicked off for a solid release.
Unfortunately, I wish I had more to write about the rest of the day. Shortly after my first fish, the wind kicked up and pushed us off the water, so we were off to our second spot of the day. Sadly, the wind kicked equally as strong at our second spot, which was also crowded with a variety of boaters and other fisherman. Luckily, I did manage another pickerel at our second location. This fish hit boatside as I was reeling up slack line to make another cast. I guess you never know when it will happen!
Regardless of the slow fishing, it was a beautiful spring day well spent on the water with a good friend. I was able to cross another fly-caught species off my list, and now I understand Andrew's addiction to chasing these Maryland slime darts. Thanks, Andrew, for sharing some photos of the day with me, for showing us around, and for the awesome pickerel fly! I'm looking forward to our next trip!
If you're not following Andrew on Instagram, you should be! @suburbanflyfisher