A Great Blue Heron squawked in annoyance as it took flight, prompting the sun-bathing turtles to slide from their deadfall perch into the still pond. I maneuvered my float tube into the shade of bankside willows, and the 8-weight rod sent a purple/pink size-2 Hula-Diver into the branch-infested shallows. When the splashdown ripples faded, a firm strip sent the fly a few inches under water as the Sili-Legs tail wiggled seductively. I released my line tension, and the buoyant deer hair body returned the colorful lure to the surface with the flexible legs still gyrating. The fly’s return to the surface on the third cast was greeted with a violent moss-tossing explosion. The Largemouth Bass thrashed across the surface in 3 successive leaps before plunging into the pond’s deepest water to create a head-shaking stalemate. Finally, one last attempted jump indicated the bass was spent, and I led it to hand. The 16-inch fish was the day’s best, but I captured 14 other 10- to 15-inchers. One that was suspected to be larger was long-distance released.
A 95-degree afternoon led me to a rocky, shade-shrouded stretch of river clad in shorts and wading boots. Armed with a 5-wt. rod, I knotted a size-8 Mini Minnie to 4X tippet in response to my observation of small minnows leaping from the water to escape predation. Initial presentations were ignored. Speculation that my retrieves were not deep enough to be effective forced a streamside change of reel spools from one with a floating line to one with a slow-sinking intermediate line. Once the shift was completed, the fly was cast into the submerged shadows of mid-stream boulders. After allowing the minnow replication to settle, short but quick line strips were imparted, followed by pauses to allow the fly to return to its original level. The second retrieve was interrupted by a thumping strike. A firm hookset sent a 13-inch chunk of bronze energy into a head-shaking leap that sprayed water droplets into the air. Four more frantic leaps followed a tense underwater battle before the beautiful prize came to hand. Several chunky Green Sunfish and four more smallmouths were caught and released before the call of a Barred Owl served as a reminder that darkness was near. I do love summer evenings.
A pattern of near-constant rains has sidelined numerous fishing trips and removed the option of streams from the equation. Finally, a warm, windless afternoon sent me to a favorite pond in search of surface-feeding largemouth bass. I launched a float tube accompanied by a 9-foot 8wt rod, weight forward bass taper line, a 9-foot tapered leader, and a 16-pound tippet knotted to a weedless size-2 Bully’s Diving Frog. The first cast was left perched atop a tuft of grass at the pond’s edge and was easily tugged into the water in the shade of an over-hanging willow branch. The first short strip of line caused the fly to plunge a few inches below the surface as its legs gyrated wildly. Released tension enabled it to re-surface. At that instant, a huge swirl caused the fly to lurch in the wake like a drunken surfer. When the water re-settled, I pulled the diver under again. This time, as it came back to the surface, it was met by a violent white water explosion. A firm hook set resulted in a deeply bent rod in advance of tense moments as the bass leaped, then wallowed before the battle ended in a deep tug of war. The scene was repeated until darkness demanded that I head for home.
Many describe their fascination with fishing by stating that “the tug is the drug.” Likely, most anglers agree, but shouldn’t we then ask what provides the best tug? A heavy percentage of those I’ve asked believe it is the size of the hooked fish. In other words, they think that the larger the fish, the better the fight. I beg to differ. The fight of a 10-lb. bass wouldn’t be special if a rod used to catch a 300lb Yellow Fin Tuna were used in its capture. That leads me to conclude that the rod’s size produces those “beautiful vibrations.” A recent trip to a favorite pond with an 8-ft. 2 wt. rod and a size-12 soft hackle fly box provided all the confirmation I needed. After experimenting with ever-deepening vertical drop countdowns, I had fish contact at my count of 7 in the shade of an overhanging willow branch. The first caught bluegill was only 6 inches long, but its gyrations activated others in the area. Six of the next 12 captured specimens were broad-shouldered 8-inchers that fought lengthy rod tip-bouncing battles. Each of those fights left the question of whether that fish could be landed in doubt. The tug doesn’t get any better than that. I’m sure not opposed to catching big fish. I like it as much as anyone else, but matching the rod to our target species maximizes our enjoyment of every fishing trip, and isn’t that the point?
The sun danced among fluffy white clouds as I waded into the stream. The White Bass migrating from the nearby reservoir to spawn in the river were the target, but the fishing is shared with many others. The smashing strikes and wild, bull-dogging battles of these bass annually attract many anglers. Some fished from a wide variety of watercraft. Kayaks, canoes, and fully equipped bass boats are standard. Bank stalkers occupied most exposed gravel bars, and there were even a few clad in waders like myself. Bait casters and spin fishers dominated the crowd, but another couple of fly casters could be seen downstream. I found my favorite pool, a large eddy with a submerged brush pile unoccupied, and cast an olive/copper Mini Minnie, which replicates a small sunfish, on a 3 i.p.s. (inches per second) full-sinking line. A dozen retrieves were ignored before a solid hit put a deep rod-tip bouncing bend in my 7 wt. rod as the muscular fish headed into the deepest pool then switched tactics and sought the swiftest current before encircling my position and coming to hand. It was a 14-inch female swollen with eggs, and I quickly released her. Two dozen more White Bass were captured and released without moving to another location. About a third of the catch were females. Smaller males dominate the early portion of the season, but the larger females soon join them to create this unusual circus of fishing activity.