Angler sets fly rod state record for channel cat
Posted by : June 1, 2013| On :
ATHENS–When Bryan Smith of Athens isn’t assisting the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center (TFFC) visitors catch fish, he does some fishing of his own.
The TFFC volunteer took advantage of some free time to go fly-fishing May 24 and snagged a catfish weighing 20.8 pounds and measuring 35.5 inches long, setting a new state record for the heaviest channel catfish caught on a fly rod.
“Fly-fishing is my passion, and nothing could have been greater than what happened that day,” Smith said.
After being photographed, the fish was released back into the TFFC casting pond, qualifying it for state and TFFC catch-and-release records. In addition, the fish is also the new TFFC casting pond water body record and Smith’s fourth Big Fish Award. Smith needs five to earn him Elite Angler status.
“I was very excited to have caught this fish. I’m an avid fly-fisherman and trying to achieve my Elite Angler Award using only my fly rods,” Smith said.
“This fish marked a stepping stone in reaching my goal. I hope this experience can show other anglers that fly-fishing can be used to take fish most people wouldn’t believe you could catch on a fly rod.”
Smith used an 8-weight G. Loomis Experience rod with an Okuma SLV 7/8 reel spooled with Scientific Angler GPX 8-weight, weight-forward Mastery Series line with a furled leader and 10-pound-test tippet.
He used a fly he tied himself, a size eight gold bead head white/purple Wooly Bugger.
“While learning to fly-fish, I have developed a special way to detect and catch catfish on a fly-rod which is very unusual,” Smith said.
“I use a method known to some fly-fishers as a dead drift, which involves a strike indicator or a shorter leader/tippet, using the fly line as the indicator, which I was using the day I caught the record fish.
“The way I catch my catfish on the fly is, I allow the fly to sink to the strike zone. Catfish feed a lot on falling prey, particularly minnows and shad from schooling fish such as white and largemouth bass. Sometimes these schooling fish will eat so much they will begin to regurgitate their prey, and it falls. As it falls catfish will pick it up. That is what I re-create.”
Smith caught his record fish shortly after 9 a.m. on his first or second cast.
“I saw the fly line jump and immediately set the hook with a fast strip,” he recalled.
“The fly probably hadn’t sunk 12 inches when the catfish picked it up. Once I set the hook the catfish swirled and began digging down. I adjusted my drag, knowing I had just hooked into a great catfish! He immediately began running and was attempting to go into deeper water. I tightened my drag more to create the most resistance I could.”
Smith battled the fish for about 20 minutes before it tired, allowing Smith to reel it in.
“I would have never believed, when I first started fly-fishing, that I would land the state record channel catfish,” Smith said.
“Honestly, I would have never believed I would’ve caught a channel catfish on a fly rod at all. I hope this will help others become interested in learning to fly-fish and catch record-size fish,” Smith added.
For more information on Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s fish records and awards, go to www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/.