Fronts By Jackie Johnson Fronts are the fisherman's nemesis. There is no way we can really avoid them, if we want to do much fishing. We have to learn to live and cope with them, and hopefully take advantage of them, just as we do with the sometimes, persistent and relentless, restless winds. If you are lucky enough to have a river to fish, you don't really need to worry as much about passing fronts or the winds, unless it is a very large river. Rivers are usually more protected by fallen and standing timber and a higher secondary bank. Creeks that run into it, along with cliffs or bluffs, curves and deeper washed out holes, and man made structure, such as bridges and their pilings, create shaded and washed-out holes. These places collect debris such as large trees from eroded and washed-out banks during flooding. All these can be considered structure that break the winds and swifter moving waters and casts shade and shadows that affords denial or deflection of the penetrating solar light and its water-heating rays. Such as exists in the "pre-frontal" conditions of high barometric pressure of, let's say 30.00’s or above. Most larger fish avoid the light of the sun and seek the darker shadows for more reasons than one. The more concentrated the sun is on the water, the more concentrated the fish will be in the shadows or depths. River fish have learned to take every advantage of changes in their watershed fed natural bait conveyor, we call a river and they have adapted to the ever-changing conditions of high water, low water, fast water, slow and still water, deep and shallow water and flooded backwaters. The pressure on the surface is meager compared to that below the surface, as you will have noticed, if you have ever worn a pair of waders into the water or walked across the bottom of the English Channel wearing a wet suit. The pressure is so great; you have to wear a lead-weighted belt to keep from bobbing to the surface like a cork. If that condition existed at the surface, we would have to use a ‘fisherman holder,’ much like a rod-holder. Otherwise, a fish might jerk us off the bank and into Davy Jones’ locker or we might fall asleep in our fisherman's chair and float off into the thin air of the atmosphere. The forces of barometric pressure are not as great in most rivers as they are in most lakes, simply because of depth. A fish can make minor or even major adjustments to pressure, merely by changing depths. As for the changing air temperature, as in a cold front, I really cannot see that making much difference to a fish. However, in the fall, when they slip up on us, one right after another, they will gradually help lower the water temperature, turning the fish on for the "Fall Feed." However, the changing of the directions of the winds that are generated by the "front", are different and they do make a difference to fish and therein lie the secrets or clues for fishing "fronts" and their winds are one of our most important indicators. As I mentioned, "pre-frontal" conditions are those in which there are no clouds and the sun is like a huge ball of flames in the brassy sky. When the summer sun climbs across its ancient, daily path, it bestows its blessings of abundance, in the form of higher temperatures upon us and the fish. During these long, hot, "dog days" of summer, the fish have developed a feeding pattern because of this. During the hot part of the day, when the sun is between the 10:00 AM and the 5:00 PM position, the larger catfish are more likely to be found at a more comfortable, deeper, darker, cooler and more secure depth in the water column, resting. The thermal layers that exist in the column dictate this depth can and will at times. This is when the "Winds from the south, blow in the fishes mouth." If you know these daily and nightly habits and the places their habits take them, you can catch fish. Now off in the distance, usually in some western quadrant, it looks like a storm may be brewing and it is headed this way. Besides frequently monitoring The Weather Channel, our first indicator will be falling pressure while the developing "front" is usually still pretty far out. Let's say 30° F. That is what triggers the pressure-sensitive fish to begin their usual feeding habit or a re-adjustment of that habit. Fishing is all about timing and location and the dropping pressure has signaled the fish and us that these factors are changing. That is when we need to be there waiting for them. "Winds from the west, fish bite the best." As the "front" slowly closes, the winds shift to the west. This is when the fish are starting to look for something to eat. It is a possibly the change in the wind direction opens up a different avenue of approach for the drifting protein. This begins at the bottom of the food chain. Then the "domino effect" runs all the way up the chain to us. As the "front" that may or may not turn into a storm approaches, the usual southerly winds are replaced by winds from the west. These winds are the vanguard of the "front" and the stronger they become, the more energy is generated, the more protein is dislodged, and the larger the marine life that is transported and attracted by that energy becomes. The rougher the surface, the more the light is refracted and the more oxygen is generated on the surface of the water column. This is also where boat control can become a problem and at times, a danger. The closer the "front" gets, if it is a strong one, the cloudier the sky becomes, making it even darker. This is a delight to the predatory cats and the people that prey on them. All cats, even the ones in your alley, have highly developed senses of seeking out supper, even in the darkest of nights. Moreover, if these frontal conditions fall around nightfall, even the largest fish may be tempted to leave his sanctuary and pay a visit towards the shallows. "Winds from the North, fisherman go forth." If we do not arrive at the lake, until the front is almost actually upon us, all is not lost, not yet. We still have time to catch a few fish. The time line of these clockwise, wind-changing events will be governed by the size of the area the front covers and how fast it is moving. If it becomes stationary, so should we. That is when we will want to stay all night. When the wind becomes light and variable, we are actually in the "eye." This signals a beginning of the end of catching fish. Still, we may pick up a few stragglers. "Winds from the east, fish bite the least." Boy, do they ever! This is "post frontal" conditions. By this time, the larger fish have returned to the deeper part of the water column and ten foot can be considered deeper. These fish can still be considered active, but at the same time, they may also be considered, considerably full from feeding. They can still be caught, but just barely. At this time, some will not go very far for bait, if anywhere at all. At this time, they may prefer smaller bait. At this time, they will really take their time to take your bait, if they ever do. They may mouth on it occasionally, barely noticeable to us and at times, not even close to noticeable. Sometimes, after a few times, they may decide to move slowly off with it and they may not have the whole bait or the hook in their mouth when they do. If you are using treble hooks and small baits, you have a good chance of hooking them. An example would be where the cat messes with your bait occasionally until you are convinced it is only a small one and decide to stretch out on the seat of the truck and relax for a while. However, every now and then, that little "jingle" of the little bells on the end of your rod, pop's your eyes open. Finally, you notice on one little "jingle", he has pulled your rod tip over, ever so slightly and then released it. From then on, you notice, every time it "jingles", he pulls the tip over a little farther. Finally you decide you've had enough of this nonsense and the next time he pulls it over, perhaps six inches or so, you step out of the truck, pick up your rod and reel him in and he is not near as small as you had thought and he didn't fight much. Another example, using live bait, happened to me just the other night. Friday, I had almost decided to tell my Friday night fishing partner to go without me. The winds had been from the east all day and it did not look good. Later, conditions began to change. Storms were brewing to our west and moving generally to the southeast. It happens sometimes. I could see it was unlikely that we would be in the path of them but they could become close enough to maybe have an effect on our winds and perhaps even cause them to shift to the west. Well, they did not. Glenn's wife called him three times to give him weather reports while we watched the light show off in the distant west. It was far enough away that we couldn't hear any thunder and it was also far enough away to have no effect on the light, easterly winds. There were huge clouds in the west but overhead the sky was clear and the stars were bright. A couple of hours or so after dark, I got four little "jingles" on my cute little jingle-bells on my nine-foot rod, each about twenty minutes apart. I had five rods out that never jingled at all and neither did the four rods Glenn had out. Then finally, when my rod slowly bent over about three foot, I eased it out of the holder and reeled in a pretty good-sized cat, until he was about twelve foot from the bank and then he just let go. He didn't fight any, but had just let me reel him almost up to the bank. I checked my four and a half inch blue gill and he looked to me like he was good to go again, no harm done. I told Glenn, "I'm throwing back out in the same place, sometimes they'll go for it again." Glenn replied, "Yep," through the bulge of buttered popcorn in both his jaws. And he did, only I never knew it. Not until I reeled it in about an hour later. My poor perch was mangled so badly, I almost didn't recognize him. Poor thing! His once vertical, long-looking head was now horizontally flat making him look like some kind of alien, freaky fish. One gill was flared out to the side and one of his eyeballs was popped plumb out of his "elongated the other way now," head and was hanging down on his cheek. My circle hook was in his gill, instead of through his chin and nostrils. He was pale and almost colorless, as if something had sucked all the juice out of him and then soaked him in water for almost an hour. I knew a "head-flattening" Flathead had probably flattened my perch’s head. But I never even knew when it happened. I suppose he might have decided to swallow it, sometimes during the long night, but after all, I need my beauty sleep these days (or nights) and the thought of my comfortable, cozy bed was too much to resist. Fish in front of the "front" and inside the "front," for best results. After the "front" has passed fish "post front" conditions for at least three days. Unless another "front" intervenes, fish "pre-front" conditions after that, until another "front." comes along. Too many "fronts", too close together will "lock their jaws." River fish are no strangers to different changes that routinely occur in a flowing environment and they have learned to adjust quickly to them. Moving water, low or high is a natural conveyor of a smorgasbord of editable proteins for aquatic life, large and small. Lakes, on the other hand are usually more open to the winds and the weather.