The Leaf River narrows so the water flows over just one end of a log jam and into a pool of deeper water. The flow is wide enough for a canoe to pass without problem, and Harold Turner guides the canoe to the shallow side of the bend where it rests in the eddy current below the log jam.

Baiting the bream hook he had affixed to a fly-line tippet, he threaded a large grasshopper onto the hook and stripped line from the reel with gentle pulls.

Two pumps, and the hopper landed 3 yards above the rapid flow. Stripping line into the canoe Harold kept slack out of the line as he could. The grasshopper entered the rapids and disappeared, the line goes taught, the rod doubled and the fight was on.

"Picture perfect," he said softly as a 2-pound spotted bass came to the net. "This time of year there is nothing better than a good grasshopper to guarantee a bite. There are hundreds of places such as this along the river. Each one will be holding fish.

"You just never know what it will be: a bass, a catfish, a bream or even a crappie."

Turner said the river is an ever-evolving natural wonder. Where there are rapids today there will be a sandbar next year. Where the river bends a deep hole is a sanctuary for fish, and where debris creates a rapid, fish will be waiting for food to come flowing through.

All the angler has to do is offer the right baits and wait.

"Where a good current creates an undercut, I like to toss a worm rigged in wacky-worm style," Turner said. "The jerky motion can be deadly on spotted bass, especially in the fall. Small crankbaits and spinnerbaits also can get the job done, but that worm is just something the fish see and recognize as food."

In the stained water of the river, a rattling, weedless bass hook works well. Worm colors to consider are crawfish and purple-fire tail.

"The beauty of a float trip is the variety of fish that can be caught," Turner said. "Every kind of sunfish there is lives in the Leaf River.

"Crappie are common, as are largemouth and spotted bass."

Jerry Stephens, a Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks fisheries biologist in Hattiesburg, said the water quality of the Leaf is considered average to above average. He indicated that a number of paddlefish, as well as sturgeon, have been spawning in the river.

He also said striped bass are in the river, as well as the possibility of Florida-strain largemouths that were introduced at the juncture of the Leaf and Chickasawhay.

"The river is full of trees, stumps and ever-changing bottom structure," Stephens said. "After the Bowie River joins the Leaf at Petal the river widens some and becomes more navigable. We urge all people using the river to wear approved PFDs at all times when on the water."

He went on to say he has caught most species of catfish, including flatheads, blues, channels and yellow cats, as well.

Sturgeon also migrate this far inland to spawn, but seeing one is pretty rare.

Turner carries a fly rod that doubles as a bream pole. When he finds fish or wants to linger for a while at one location, he beaches his boat and wades where it is possible - which is almost everywhere.

He changes between a tapered tippet for fly fishing and a section of 6-pound mono for panfish.

Also in his arsenal are a medium-weight rod and spinning reel for bass.

"There are always gravel and sandbars adjoining deeper water," said Turner. "Where a long bar is headed by fast water, fish will be waiting. When you float over them they may spook and head for the deeper water, but soon they'll be back near the faster current.

"Beaching (your boat) allows time for them to get back. It also feels pretty good to stretch the legs after floating for a few hours."

Andy Dye, who fishes the local waters of the Leaf River and holds down a day job at Leaf River Sports, has no problem making recommendations on the baits to be used for the feisty spotted bass.

"Day-in, day-out I see what the people who are on the water are looking for," said Dye, as he pointed to a sparsely stocked section of the Booyah spinnerbait display. "The 3/16-ounce Pond Magic white spinnerbait is one of our hottest sellers. The white with the streak of red runs a close second.

"The river is loaded with bass, both largemouth and spots; we sell out of these spinners about as soon as we get them in."

Dye went on to say the river was also full of "red-bellies," a popular moniker for the green sunfish, long-eared sunfish and warmouth - all of which are bass fodder.

"The old standby Devil's Horse with the orange bottom has been a consistent topwater work horse for catching summer bass in the early morning and late afternoon," Dye said. "Crawfish plastics, rigged Texas style, are another favorite.

"There are so many gravel bars and sandbars that will drop off suddenly into deep water, and then become shallow again: A squirt of crawfish scent on critter baits is deadly on bass near these bars."

Mike King, owner of Mak's in Estabutchie is a kayaking angler who enjoys floating the Leaf from the boat ramp on Estabutchie Road to the next ramp at Highway 11. Only a few miles by road, the float requires roughly eight hours: That can be cut to six hours if anglers are brave enough to climb the bank beneath Highway 42 (Evelyn Gandy Parkway).

Scott Walters, 48, of Petal is a fly fisherman with a love and admiration for the spotted bass of the Leaf River. He is also an accomplished fly tier.

"The Leaf is a beautiful river and such a wonderful place to fly fish," Walters said. "I'm surprised more people are not using the river as a fishing destination. The spotted bass are as scrappy as any fish I've ever caught; they will rise to a fly just as trout do in a mountain stream.

"Some of the spots range from 2 to 3 pounds and put up a big fight on a fly rod."

Walters makes his own flies out of all natural material such as deer and squirrel hair. Streamers, Clouser minnows and crawfish patterns are his favorites. A wooly worm is another of his top producing patterns.

He suggests working the banks and around logs where the water is calm: Bass will be lying in wait for the current to bring a meal past them.

Walters does not yet have a Web site, but his flies are offered for sale at Leaf River Sports in Petal.

"I use all natural hair and fur to design my flies, and then I'll spend a day on the river to test them out," he said. "Matching the minnows, crawfish and insects the fish see on the river is my goal.

"The successful patterns I then tie for sale."

To talk to Scott, or purchase his hand-tied flies, email him at

Put-in and take-out points are marked on most state maps as boat ramps. Leisurely paddling and fishing will put a canoe at 1 1/2 to 2 miles per hour.

The Corps of Engineers maintains gages at Collins, Hattiesburg and McLain. A stage of 2 feet at Hattiesburg is enough to allow a comfortable float in a canoe or kayak. However, always wear tennis shoes or beach shoes when out of the boat because broken glass and sharp objects may be anywhere.

The Leaf River is one of Mississippi's last unspoiled waterways. Make plans to explore it soon.