DURANGO — Mike Jacobs had my back during a float trip Sunday on the Little Maquoketa River, which is to say he came along behind me and caught all the big smallmouth bass I had missed.
While that could be perceived as an affront to my angling skill, it was not.
The main reason it happened is that Mike was kind enough to allow me first whack at all the best spots.
Even if I were as skillful as I think I am, it would still happen because Mike is actually as skillful as I think I am.
Moreover, our different styles of fishing — Mike fishes flies exclusively, while I use standard bass lures on a spinning rod — ensure that nearly every fish in the river will be exposed to one or the other of our presentations.
With a spinning rod and a crankbait or jig, I can effectively fish the faster, deeper water, while Mike, with his slow-sinking leech, crayfish and minnow imitations, combs the slower, shallower water and all the shaded nooks and pockets that can be reached only by a precision caster.
I did feel a little sheepish about the day’s best fish, an 18.5-inch smallmouth, that Mike coaxed from the shadow of a boulder I overlooked.
We were drifting through the most promising stretch of the river — a rock garden with exposed and submerged stones in fairly deep water — when I became engrossed in underwater targets and failed to notice a large boulder in swift current at the stream’s edge.
Gentleman that he is, Mike made no comment when I ignored the most obvious bass ambush site of the day. He merely tossed his leech imitation into the boulder’s downstream shadow and hung on while the irate smallmouth tore up the hole.
She was one of about 65 smallmouth we caught during our daylong float on the river with the mysterious name. You could understand, for example, how Iowa rivers like the Little Sioux, Little Cedar, Little Wapsipinicon and Little Turkey got their unimaginative names; they are all tributaries of larger like-named rivers.
But the Little Maquoketa, a direct Mississippi River tributary, has no connection with its larger namesake.
Of the 65 bass we caught, 15 were at least 15 inches long, which is good on any Iowa river, let alone a 30-mile-long stream that could have as easily been designated a creek as a river.