My white ghost - Giant Freshwater Drum [Archive] - Fly Fishing Forum

: My white ghost - Giant Freshwater Drum

07-16-2009, 02:25 PM
The high pressure system finally moved in as the sun was getting low in the sky. Surface chop dampened with the stabilized pressure and soon the lush green shoreline foliage and blue and white sky reflected off the mirror-like water surface. Motoring across the open water I could see the flats clearly from a half mile out contrasting the dark deep water that surrounded the north side of the island. I cut the engine and dropped the electric trolling motor. Everything was silent.

Despite the calm conditions, crystal clear water, and light colored bottom there wasn't a fish in site... At least none that I could see. The sun got lower and lower and my concentration more and more focused. It was almost "magic hour!" The last light of the day when we can still see thru the waters surface but the bottom is mostly dark. All of a sudden there was a "White Ghost", a big one, maybe near 20lbs streaking out from under the boat and slipping into the depths. Ahead of my drift were two more ghosts, smaller, still impressive; but, also moving away. A brief moment of interest in my offering before turning and slipping into the depths.

My mind became focused and everything else I knew was erased. All but the fly rod in my hand, the 10' of fluorocarbon leader, and the flight at the end. I knew I was at the right place at the right time and this was my best chance to complete the puzzle and land my first targeted freshwater drum on the fly.

The drum are mostly nocturnal creatures and begin to feed on crustaceans and other critters in the failing light. What's magic about this time of night is that the pale color of the drum contrasts the dark bedrock flats of our northern oligotropic lakes. Before this time the white ghost is in deeper water and practically invisible as they sit on the gravel/sand bottom. A little later and we are blind to their presence despite how shallow they come up the bedrock ledges and onto the flats. Blind casting has no place for drum as their bite is subtle and difficult to detect with out the sense of sight. Unless you are a lucky person which I am not.

There are two fish! One is tailing! Cast now... Perfect... Its right in front of the fishes face... twitch... twitch... he's moving towards the fly... don't move it... Did he take it? No... twitch... twitch... he's got it... set the hook... damn spit it out! Where did he go? As the light failed and white ghosts turned black they dissappeared again into the darkness. The magic hour was over.

I still haven't caught my my white ghost on the fly. But, the venture was not wasted as I learned a few more pieces of the puzzle. Next time I'll catch my ghost!

07-16-2009, 08:32 PM
Awesome write up :cool: . I've done a lot of carp fishing so I can picture exactly what you are describing (well, the carp version anyway). Sounds like these guys are a bit more challenging, especially with the limited window of opportunity. You seem to have all the pieces of the puzzle -- it's just a matter of putting them together during the time alloted :hihi: . I'm sure you'll get your ghost soon enough!

So . . . what were you using for a fly?


07-17-2009, 10:11 AM
So . . . what were you using for a fly?


Predominantly been using short 2"clousers Size 1-2 in tan, orange, or olive and think one limitation is getting the fly down FAST! Wooly buggers are another top choice but haven't had a good opportunity to really try them out (usually I see two or three fish an outing, not 20-30 like the other night).

Like redfish, black drum, and other relatives they seem to be spooked by the unnatural sinking fly thru the water column. Unlike their saltwater cousins its hard to predict the direction they are heading so leading them wasn't very effective. Need to drop it right in from of them... I think...

I'm convinced the fly is the final piece of the puzzle and will be spending my free time this weekend on the vise. In my scuba diving experiences on the lake I've only seen feeding drum on a handful of occasions (I don't like night diving) and the fish were too far away to get an accurate look at what they were eating... I'm thinking heavy sz 4-6 buggers, damsels, and crayfish patterns modeled around some traditional flats pattern designs will do the trick.

I'm also going to bring something for a make shift sighting platform in hopes that I can put some casting distance between me and the ghosts... Stay tuned!

07-21-2009, 09:37 PM
Bait guys catch them on worms and sometimes minnows. Not sure how they fight, though they don't have a big rep. I followed one around for about 10 minutes tonight. I was in a canoe not intending or ready to fish. The fish (10-15#) was in about 7' of very clear flat calm water, moving fairly quickly and hugging the bottom. Getting enough lead distance to get the fly down yet still having him in sight would have been very challenging. Long light leader with small sparse tungsten-head something sounds right.
Interesting challenge.

07-22-2009, 11:31 PM
You live in drum central! The shores/islands of the inland sea are dense w/ them.

Keep me posted as you see others... Do you recall what time you saw this isolated fish? I'd guess it was between 6:30-7:30pm. And, how spooky was the fish as you followed it around?

I caught a few when I was younger on bait and a couple on jigs around Burton Island and Kill Kare Point... never sight casting, always a random surprise on windy overcast low pressure days (lower light?). They are brutes and know how to use their broad body shape... I don't recall screaming runs but then I caught mostly 15-20"ers on med-heavy bass/pike tackle. I think a 10-20lber would probably give us a long look at our backing on a 6-8wt rod.

07-16-2010, 05:27 PM
I caught a decent one on a 5-weight while blind-casting a weighted nymph for panfish, just relaxing. It fought like a small submarine and I imagined I must have hooked a carp or a big channel cat. :whoa:

I'm at the southern tip of the lake where it's too muddy for sight fishing, but your quest sounds grand. The locals down here call the freshwater drum "sheephead." I just did a little reading about them and was surprised to find they can live to over 70 years of age.

The Wikipedia article also refers to their "succulent flesh." The one I caught wasn't actually in the lake, but in the lower reaches of the Metawee River before it empties into the Champlain Barge Canal and then Lake Champlain. The fish looked healthy, clean and bright, so I decided to bring it home and cook it as an gastronomic experiment. I distinctly remember thinking it was the only fresh fish I had ever cooked that I didn't like. At all. :o

Good fishing,