When the holidays come around, I lock up my cabin in the snowy mountains of the Eastern Sierra’s and take a trip to the warmer climate of Southern California where I grew up. The holidays are always a special time for me to visit family and overeat Mom’s home-cooking. But aside from all the great food and family get togethers, this trip is also a chance for some epic winter bass fishing with my brother, JD Blackamore.
At a young age we both began fishing in Southern California, and my first fish on the fly rod was a Largemouth Bass when I was 10 years old. As you can imagine, I have a very nostalgic passion for chasing bass on the fly. My brother still resides in our hometown and has the bass bite dialed in, as he’s become an accomplished conventional bass angler. Our two opposing styles create good competition, but with that, each style can learn and benefit from one another.
JD informs me that jerk baits have been producing in the early morning hours, so I tie up a few streamers which closely resembles my brother’s conventional lure. In the fly world, it’s quite difficult to replicate the erratic movement and noise created by jerk baits, so I must adapt my streamers to what these bass are keying on; smaller fleeing baitfish.
It’s tradition for us to hit the water on Christmas Eve morning, and before sunrise, we set out to do just that. A thick blanket of fog greets us on the lake and provides an eerie backdrop. The shoreline is dominated with overgrown brush and trees, making casting difficult for my 9 foot long fly rod. Just out of sight, I hear JD swing on a fish and I walk over to see the catch. He mentions where the fish are located in the water column and how fast his retrieve was, notable intel. I now focus on my retrieve, varying speeds with pauses and quick rips, and soon my line goes tight! I quickly strip-set and feel the heavy head-shakes on the end of my line! My fly rod is at full bend as I finesse the fish to the bank!
We each landed a few more fish to close out the day, but my brother ultimately edged me out in the “totals” column. It’s not often I get to fish next to a conventional angler, and each time I do, I try to walk away with a new idea or technique to apply in my own fly game.
There are obvious advantages and disadvantages between the two styles of fishing. 22 years into this sport and I’m still learning new techniques to outsmart fish with a fly, especially bass. It’s been quite a learning curve, but through the years I’ve come to enjoy the intricate challenges of fly fishing. It’s important to never lose your optimism and curiosity of what might lurk beyond the following bank. Your next cast could change everything.
Returning to my home waters and taking time to relive childhood experiences that initially got the rod and reel into my hand is quite meaningful. Time spent on the water is always a very wholesome experience and to be able to share that experience with my brother, along with some laughs and a few cold beers, is the way to keep the tradition alive.
Article from Seth Blackamore, you can follow along with Seth on Instagram at @seth.blackamore.
Photos from Seth’s brother JD Blackamore @jdblackamore.