|Hank Guetzlaff of Apollo Beach battles a feisty Braden River bass on fly rod.|
|Hank shows off a fine bass.|
|Hank had a hot day on the Braden River.|
Go fishing, of course.
For me, I like to put my kayak on the trailer and head for a local lake or river. My passion is to fly fish for bluegill. There's just nothing quite better than a hand-sized bluegill rising to take a popper or inhaling a nymph.
My favorites waters to fish locally include Lake Manatee, the Manatee River, Myakka River, Braden River and Webb Lake. They're relatively close and offer decent fly-rod action.
Hank Guetzlaff of Apollo Beach joined me recently for an outing on the Braden River. We met at 6:30 a.m. and launched out boats at Linger Lodge, 7205 85th Court East in Bradenton. Neither of us had fished that stretch of the Braden, so this was an adventure.
Didn't take long to find the fish. I caught and released a couple of bass and a few bluegill and stumpknocker while casting a chartreuse, No. 8 Boogle Bug (http://www.booglebug.com/html/bugs.html). Boogle Bugs are wonderful panfish and bass poppers. They're virtually indestructible and are appealing to a variety of fish.
We worked out way down the river, casting along the banks. We worked fallen trees, lily pads and grass lines. I caught 10 bass, 10 bluegill and a bunch of stumpknocker.
|A Braden River bass takes to the air.|
I don't think Hank caught as many fish, but what he lacked in quantity he more than made up for in quality. He caught at least one hand-sized bluegill among his half dozen or so. And he caught a pair of really nice bass on his 5-weight fly rod. Hank was using a No. 10 BooglePopper (electric damsel color).
"Allen Wyatt over at Andy Thornal Company (http://www.andythornal.com/) in Winter Haven told me that color works great for bass and bluegill," Hank said. "I guess he was right."
The Braden River runs 21 miles through Manatee County, emptying into the Manatee River just east of Interstate 75. The City of Bradenton built a dam in 1936 which created Ward Lake. The dam is 6 miles upstream from where the river empties into the Manatee. Ward Lake/Evers Reservoir supplies drinking water for Bradenton and Manatee County.
It's a quaint stream with very good water quality.
When I first started fishing the river, there wasn't much development. But that's changed over the years. There are several "upscale" developments east and west of I-75. It's ruined the scenery a little bit, but not badly.
Best fishing probably takes place in the lake. That's where Andy "Doc" Lee takes magnificent catches of panfish on his "micro jigs." Lee, a state forest ranger, has been known to catch bluegill up to 12 inches and some impressive speckled perch (black crappie). Lee said the west side of the lake also yields some impressive shellcracker.
I've also hear that night fishing for bass on the lake and reservoir often results in some impressive largemouth bass.
Upriver, though, it's peaceful and serene.
We noticed several areas in which bluegill bedded during the last full moon and no doubt will do so on the next full moon (this week). So, Hank and I plan to hit the Braden River again.
This is a place my buddy, Patrick O'Connor would love.
On a side note, we visited Linger Lodge for lunch. The iced tea was excellent. Ditto for the half-pound, chargrilled burgers.
The Braden River comes highly recommended if you want to cast flies for bass and bluegill. It's beautiful, close to home and has a decent population of fish.