Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Bass on 'Glass'

Bass on ‘Glass’

I stand on the freshly mowed field, behind the log house, looking down and across the quiet pond. My right hand gripping the full-well shaped cork handle on my 8wt Wonderod, as I capture the moment.

 A slight breeze blows across the water surface and a kaleidoscope of light reflects off the rippled water from the evening sunshine. I see the leaves of a small red Maple turning in the wind on a small island to my right. Its leaves rustle displaying their maroon underside. Scott is already casting his spinning rod lures off the dock as his son is pitching a lure beneath an overhanging shade tree along the bank.
I start to have second thoughts about the fiberglass rod and having to cast light foam poppers in and against the wind.
‘I’m sure I’ll manage, maybe putting the wind behind me’ I think to myself.

 On the small dock I string my fly rod and anxious to fish I don’t check for line abrasions or knots on my own knotted tied leader. I tie on a Fas-Snap and attach a medium size green frog popper. It takes time to master the slow fiberglass rod action but soon I get a rhythm. In time my straight outreaching casts only veer off their mark by the passing breeze.
 Wanting to get away from the rippled water and cross-wind I head down the shoreline to work my way around the pond. Nearing an island, just off shore, I stand among the bank-side weeds and cast my popper towards the island. Within two shakes of the rod tip a fish slams my popper. I heave back and my fly rod flexes than straightens above me. My popper’s gone and after checking, my tippet broken at the knot. First mistake!
 I strip off a piece of 6lb tippet from the spool and knot this to the leader. Droplets of sweat run down my forehead from the heat as my sunglasses start to fog. I continue and manage to knot another Fas-Snap to the tippet. Again I cast towards my side of the island. After two gurgles I let the popper settle. With even, smooth strips, I start to swim it towards me, stopping occasionally. A surface splash and I set the hook as the fish beneath pulls away. The rod flexes again and I feel the fishes struggle, momentarily! The rod straightens, the line goes limp, and the popper and fish mysteriously disappear. I look at the end of my tippet and the curled end tells me that I didn’t ’seat’ the knot. Mistake #2.
 I’m practically talking to myself about how I should of know better. I’m anxious and excited having only a few hours to fish and wanting to move around the pond in hopes of finding a monster bass. I wipe the sweat off my brow and clean my bifocal polarized lenses. This time I consciously thread on another Fas-Snap and after wetting the knot, pull it tight. I attach another green frog popper and take a deep breath to relax my anxiousness and pardon my mistakes. I pull an Arturo Fuente Curly Head Deluxe out of my shirt pocket and light it with my turbo, windless lighter. The fresh natural tobacco draws smooth as I watch the smoke at the end of the long barrel diminish with the passing breeze, the aroma lingers.
 With the cigar clinched between my teeth I start a relaxed back-cast. False casting twice I watch the fly line lengthen with each forward thrust. On the last forward thrust I stop the rod and the frog popper loops and plops out onto fresh water. I notice that the breeze has lifted and my popper now lays upon the smooth surface. Two gurgles and I start the swimming action; it creates a small wake behind. Wham, in quickness a fish, from below, takes the popper and I’m ready. The leader and fly line tighten, this time no break-off. The fish darts from side to side as I reel the big pumpkinseed in. I lift him out of the water and over the weeds to my feet.

 I slowly work my way around the pond to where I have more back-casting room, away from the brush that was once behind me. I let go a long cast as I feel the ‘glass‘ rod flex forward. With the help of the breeze it glides out into deeper water. The splash of the popper sprinkles water around it and creates an outward swirl; I wait for the surface to lay undisturbed again. I strip the popper in with long smooth strokes and from out of know where the back of a bass rises above the surface and inhales the moving object. I whale back the rod and feel the glass rod tip pull towards the surface commotion. The rod arcs forward, into the middle, as the struggling fish fights for freedom. I start to reel until he tugs hard enough in the opposite direction. The responsive fiberglass rod dampens the quick thrusts by the fish. I keep good tension on the rod only letting him take line out sparingly when the rod flexes with too much force. After a struggle the largemouth comes to the bank and I raise him to the grass. I lift him up, with my hand, and he opens his large mouth. I unhook the green popper with my hemostats and, after a picture, toss him back into the water.

Standing, I pull the cigar from my lips and breathe in some warm fresh air. The skanky odor of pond water, from my hand, mixes with the cigar aroma.
“This isn’t trout fishing, that’s for sure!”
I clinch the cigar between my lips and teeth and continue casting the popper out catching one more bass before moving on.

 I walk along the grassy bank and cast a few feet out from the shoreline. The frog popper falls with a plop. Instantly a fish darts from submerged shoreline pond weed and rises quickly to the frog. I set the hook on the take and within seconds he leaps out of the water to throw the hook. I see the popper dangle from the side of his mouth before he reenters with a wicked splash. A quick struggle and I lift him to shore.

 The evening sun starts its slow descent towards the horizon as I continue to hook pond fish with my popper offerings. On the other side of the pond I switch to a white woolly bugger and try for crappies. Unable to find any I do hook into a couple of big ‘gills’ and a small bass.

 Continuing around the pond I try different color poppers and a few woolly buggers. I catch one bass on a brown bugger but fail to produce any perch or crappie from the pond. The green frog popper is still the main intimidator.

 The evening cools some as the bright yellow sun drops behind green leaf trees.

It doesn’t take long for an orange glow to radiate above the now shadowy tree line where the sun had just disappeared.

 Back at the day-tripper-van I put away my gear, the odor of pond water still present on my hands from the scaly fish I held earlier. I slide a Macanudo Robust Ascot out of its cellophane clear wrapper. The Robust tobacco is stronger than the Fuente cigar I smoked earlier but I find the pond odor is stronger yet, as my fingers lift the cigar to my lips. After lighting the short cigar I enter the van and start the small 6 cylinder engine. I look over to Scott and thank him for letting me tag along with him and his son.

 I hold the cigar between my teeth, in the corner of my mouth, as I back up and turn the steering wheel to exit up through the dirt drive. Smoke from the short barrel feathers its way through the crack of the opened window, the aroma lingers within the van.

 Another successful, relaxing and entertaining evening away from the rat race of uncertainties.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Spider Webs in the Mist

Spider Webs in the Misty Morn

I greet the dawn through dreary eyes and a cup of hot tea
My senses awaken upon inhaling the crisp morning air
My skin arouses with chills, joints ache without pills
All will be forgotten with the first cast of feather and hair
Fog lies upon the silent still water
It rises in many a more turbulent place
The birds chime in, it brings a grin
to my early morn stiff bearded face
The sun beams through a foggy thick haze
Just a glow without any distinct edge
Moisture drops from leafy tree tops
and dimples below the bank side ledge
The morning mist reveals exquisite webs
upon the grass and along the iron railed bridge
I take it all in, again I grin
as a bird of prey encircles a distant ridge
Somewhere in town the world goes round
The hustle and bustle the norm
But look for me here, in serenity and fishing gear
Such a peaceable morn


Pond Popping

Pond Popping

A couple of weeks ago a fellow worker asked me if I wanted to join him and his son to fish a private pond full of bass. He said they have been catching the bass on top water lures. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. We met at a local gas station around 6:30 pm, after work, and I followed him to the private pond.
 Once there he and his son got their spinning rods and headed down to the pond while I pieced together my 7wt 9’6” fly rod. I figured if there were big bass, like he said, I didn’t want to be ill prepared. I put on my straw hat, pocketed a couple of Macanudo Robust cigars and my fanny pack filled with my poppers and bass gear.
 It was if the setting sun was sitting atop the forested tree tops as it shown down on the glassy looking waters. The pond wasn’t very big but it looked deep in areas and very inviting to fishermen, no doubt. Geese congregated at one end near a grassy island. They frolicked in the glassy water, honking and carrying on. New comers flew in while others winged their way off the water leaving riffles along the undisturbed water surface. The near side of the pond was laden with clumps of loose pond weed strung out on the water surface.
 Scott’s son had already hooked into a bass on a top water lure by the time I reached the dock Scott was fishing off of. After a few casts with a yellow slider I got snagged up on some of the pond weed as did Scott. He decided to walk to the other side of the pond and join his son while I decided to work the banks and slowly walk the pond edges.
 I missed a couple of takes but I was pretty sure they were blue gill before I hooked into my first largemouth with a gurgling frog popper. He took it on the strip in and the aggressive fight was on. The smaller bass was no match for the 7wt. rod or 3x tapered leader as I led him in and up on the bank. I was thinking about going back for a lighter rod but didn’t want to waste time piecing together another rod with only a couple of hours of daylight left.
 Casting out into the pond area I would let the frog settle upon the surface until the small swirls disappeared from the initial plop. I would then strip in two or three quick strips getting the frog to pop and gurgle. I’ll wait a second or two before swimming it towards me with long slow even strips mabe stopping once or twice.
 Nearer the bank I’ll drop the popper a few feet out from shore. Most of the time I’ll start stripping it in with swimming strips skirting it along the bank. If I miss a first strike I’ll quickly strip the popper with short hard strokes as if it were trying to get away.
 Though I didn’t catch any huge bass I did catch some fat blue gills. All in all it was a fun evening popping homemade poppers to fish in the private pond.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Smallies along the Clarion River

Smallies along the Clarion

 John and I launched the canoe for a 3.5 mile fishing expedition upon the Clarion River. From what we were able to see from the road it looked to be a good stretch of deep pools with big boulder sized rocks with back eddies. There were two stretches of unseen water through the forest that we were sure wasn’t fished much by road fishermen and we were hoping these waters were navigable by floating and not dragging.
 John was unable to catch any fish Saturday on his fly rod so he decided to arm himself with two spinning rods and Rapala’s and crank baits. My weapon of choice was my 9’ 6wt. Vapor fly rod. I brought along my woolly bugger box, home made poppers, Clouser’s and a few other streamers and crawfish ties. By the time we got the canoe launched the sun was already rising above the luscious green trees along the riverbank and mountain tops. Soft cotton looking clouds dotted the pastel aqua blue morning sky. The air still had an early morning coolness about it but there was no doubt the air would heat up during our Sunday journey.

 With the sun already spreading its shine upon most of the water we paddled across river towards the shady distant shore. Johns first mid-river cast only went about 10 yards. He mentioned something about how stiff the line was on the spool from not being used much. Nearer the shore line he casts a second time, plopping his crank bait a few yards from the shore boulders in the shadows of overhanging tree branches. Within three cranks the rod bent toward a hooked fish. Though a good fighting smallie, the heavy duty assault rod didn’t have much trouble getting it to the boat. The smallie was good size and I thought it might be our best for the day. Already the morning looked promising we commented as I lit up a long Brickhouse stogie. It would take another half hour or so before John connected with another smallmouth on a jointed craw fish Rapala.

 We fished the river slow and steady, anchoring in good water and thoroughly covering the area before drifting on. John hooked into a couple more as I struggled to get one to bite at one of my offerings. John even offered me his other spinning rod but I declined.

 We had anchored about 50 yards up from some white water rapids. A good looking run flowed along riffles that grazed big boulders on the right downriver side. I threw a long cast that placed my brown heavy bugger just shy of the boulders that extended out from a weedy grassy shore. My bugger sank before my fly line took current and began to swing the submerged bugger. I had my fly rod held high moving with the flow when I seen the extended arc in the fly line stop abruptly. I yielded back on the rod and the 7 ½ foot of 4x tapered leader straightened and I felt the hook set. The smaller smallmouth ran its course as I gathered in line and lifted him to the boat. With one smallie caught I felt a little more confidant with each cast of the fly line.

 Upon approaching the white capped water we looked the situation over as we drifted nearer. John is a Kayaker so I knew he could read water and would be a good front man. The river isn’t deep in all areas and there are plenty of under water and subsurface boulders that can be hard to pick out within the white water riffles. We talked it over and picked a seam where two stronger currents combined from big exposed rocks on each side of us. John pushed off of one as I steered the canoe, by using the flat of my paddle as a rudder, through and into the next turn. The canoe rocked with the cross current and choppy water as my grip tightened on the wooden handle. With instinct, we both picked out a seam to the left and paddled hard not to drift sideways onto a subsurface rock ledge. I stopped the paddle blade and dug deep into the water and the canoe slowed quickly as the front of the boat swung to the right just left past the rock ledge. John pushed off the ledge with his paddle and we combined to straighten the canoe for our next plan of action. It was a long stretch of rough white water with a slight bend in the river. We knew quick decisions were needed amidst the on coming danger.
 I seen where I wanted to be and I let the canoe drift with the current to the right. John knew what I was aiming for and as we drifted down and over I started to shift the canoe to the left and he paddled on his right and straightened the front forward. We hit the seam perfect and shot down through the gradual drop of boiling water rocking side to side as we floated. The river widened and we could see the once full white capped water was now a washboard of rambling riffles, with no doubt hidden rocks laying just below the surface. There were no obvious deep seams or visual escape from the rocky, wavy riffles before us. We both sank our blades in knowing our best plan of action. We paddled quickly getting the canoe moving at a good clip in a straight line. We hoped our speed and momentum would carry us over any shallow rock ledges and keep us from turning or getting hung up. We knew there was some danger of upsetting at the quick speed but I knew if we kept our cool and used our paddles to push off of hazards we would come out high and dry.
 The canoe rocked with the turbulent current and we skimmed over shallow flat rocks by either pushing off or shimmying our way through. In an instant we saw what looked like a small falls running off a slate ledge in front of us. There was no time to change course but to take a chance and take it straight on. As we came upon it I seen the falls wasn’t as bad as I perceived it to be. As the front of the canoe cleared the falls I leaned back on my seat to distribute my weight more evenly. John dug deep and paddled trying to keep our momentum going. I heard the flat bottom scrape and flex upon the solid rock below the thin layer of water. With quick strokes he cleared us of the ledge and I pushed away with the paddle without us getting hung up. A few more quick maneuvers in the less turbulent water brought us out onto a wide flat stretch of water and sunshine.

 We slowly fished our way down river and into another set of rough water. The main flow of fast water creased the left bank and beyond that a shallow cove appeared behind a jutting, rocky, grassy peninsula on the left. The center of the river deepened and flowed quietly and calmly as well did the far side. Just below the peninsula I dropped anchor in the slower current in order for us to cover the calm tail waters and the shallow cove. I relit my cigar as John was already casting into the cove. With a frog popper, I false cast twice while pulling line out. A quick overhand toss put the popper midstream and after a couple of short tugs, so it gurgled, it drifted with the slow current. For some reason the front of the canoe was angled towards the cove not giving John much of a chance to cast across and up river.
 As John worked the cove and water in front of him I back-cast the popper above to my left and single hauled up river a bit and the popper landed into the slow current. I watched the popper for a moment but was more concerned about the boat position. I was turned to my left looking down at the anchor when I heard ‘GALOOMP’!! The sound a fisherman knows as a fish surfaces and gulps down a popper. The louder the ‘galoomp’ the bigger the fish. This was loud enough my instincts took over and I swung the rod tip to my left with hook setting force. Simultaneously John and I turned towards the sound. I’m not sure what John’s first reaction was but I seen the willow colored fly line angled down and away into the deep water. I knew I had him as my rod tip was bowed and line was stripping up off the canoe deck, through my fingers and rod eyes and in a tight line into the water. The fish stayed deep and pulled line out as my reel started to click like a Tommy gun. We started to laugh at the startling commotion. I got the fish turned downriver but was careful of my 6lb tippet. He headed toward us briefly but again took off across the river and he again peeled off line. I was anxious to get him to the surface for a look see but I kept as calm as possible and played him deep. John looked on and we both tried to get a visual. I tossed John the net and he was ready when I gave him the word. I could feel the fish tiring with shorter runs and faster retreats. About ten yards from the boat he surfaced enough that we seen his deep yellow-green body and dark splotches. I tried to force him towards us but he resisted and had enough energy to dive again briefly. I forced him back up and guided him towards John with the long 9’ rod. He scooped him up and we were all smiles!

 A little later on in the afternoon we were more into drift fishing covering more water as we were tiring out. On a drift nearer the far bank of overgrown trees and boulder strewn shoreline, John tossed a crawdad jointed lure into the slow cove of water. Within two cranks I heard him holler and looked up to see the spinning rod flexing deeply as he leaned back to fight the fish. John played the fish, letting it take off in short runs, before heaving back on the rod. The solid smallie was John’s biggest of the day.

 We caught a few more just before we called it quits and paddled to the sandy dirt bank. We hauled the canoe up towards the road and put the gear in the back of John’s truck before driving up the road to my van. After getting the canoe on the van we returned to our campsite and John loaded his kayak in the back of his truck. We bid each other farewell and he drove off towards home.

 Later on in the evening I had some help in breaking camp. After they left I reached into my cedar humidor and took out a Rocky Patel Reserve. Kevin says these are great cigars so I figure I’d end the day with this smoke. I stood on the bank of the quiet river and lit the brown Corojo tobacco wrapped cigar.
‘Not bad’ I thought as I took in my first draw.
I hopped into the van and started on my way.

 I turned left at the stop sign and drove south on rte. 899. As I crossed over the Clarion River I drove slowly upon the bridge and glanced over the short cement walls. My eyes scanned the flat calm water surface for one last rise. It happens every time!