When I awoke, from my nap, my thigh muscles as well as my calves were sore. When I stood up I felt a weakness in my knees and there was a tinch of cigar aroma on my moustache. When I reached to open the bedroom door I felt soreness in the front of my right shoulder. I realized what from and smiled, it was well worth it.
For the past week I’ve been tying flies for bass fishing. I tied long deep fishing streamers as well as small baitfish patterns I could swim along the shoreline. I tied a few hopper patterns should the sun come out in the afternoon and of course some more poppers. My mind had been on fishing for largemouth bass on Sunday. I kept an eye on the weather. Early in the week it started out clear, than possible thunder showers and the night before the weather people said 30% chance of isolated rain. As long as there were no signs of thunder storms I was going.
I arrived at the parking area near 7:00am. I already had my 3 in 1 backpack loaded with my float tube, air pump, wading shoes, fishing gear and the like. I fitted the 9 ½ foot Clearwater 7 weight rod in the one side pocket and put a good size bottle of water in the other. I rolled my neoprene chest waders in a semi-tight bundle and attached my mid-arbor reel to the strap I used to keep the bundle tight. Looking up, there was a heavy fog just above the tree line and it looked like it might rain. Instead of my straw hat I donned the Omni-shade thin cap my eldest son gave me for Fathers Day. I went over the gear I had packed in my mind again and, satisfied, I lifted the weighty back pack to my shoulders and clipped it in place. I grabbed a couple of cigars before locking the doors and then headed down the gated trail.
Within minutes my sleeveless shirt was soaked with sweat from the humidity of the 72 degree morning. About half way, of the hour long hike, I took a break and quenched my thirst. Walking along the trail alone I kept my thoughts positive hoping to catch some big largemouth. ¾ of the way I came within vision of the so called swamp. There was a lazy haze that settled above the pond almost looking haunting in its appearance. As I was getting nearer I heard a rain shower slowly moving towards me through the trees. There was hardly any cover to keep from the down pour. I made my way beneath the tree covered forest but there was no stopping the pelting rain shower from soaking me. Now my shirt was drenched in wetness from the rain. Any sun block that I had put on, just in case the sun should shine, washed away as well did the insecticide I sprayed on before my hike. After the heavy shower died down to a sprinkle I continued on towards the dam. Within a few yards I could feel the dampness in my socks from the now wet hiking boots I was wearing. I was wet from head to toe; I wished it could have waited until I got my chest waders on.
Upon the dam work I dropped the pack and gazed over the pond. There was a dead calm, not a breeze to be had. The old gray tree trunks stood feeble looking from a distance as there mirror image reflected on the motionless still water. The haze thickens beyond as if the pond went on forever into a sea of endless water.
I actually thought that if it stayed this way it would be much better than to have the sun beating down. Out on a float tube in the middle of the pond the only shade will be the cap on my head.I changed into dry socks and put on a pair of shorts before putting on the chest waders. After pumping up the float tube, and arranging my gear in it, I carried it to the water to begin my expedition. ‘Alone on the pond, No worries, no unpleasant thoughts, just me and the fish’ I thought. Now to go and find them.
I fished deep with a streamer as I finned my way near the right shoreline. From there I tied on a frog popper and worked my way towards a small island. Casting into and around the forming lily pads I picked off a couple of small largemouth and had a couple of blue gill mouth the feathered tail. I was fishing big poppers with #2 and #4 hooks.
I made a few casts in front of me in the open water before casting among the lily pads. I directed the one cast and dropped the popper in a calm clear opening among the lily pads. The popper landed like a frog jumping from a pad to the water. I let the popper lay for only a second and than with two short quick strokes it gurgled up some water. I immediately started to swim it towards me when WHAM! The water erupted like an underwater mine went off. I yanked back and the rod bent setting the hook. I felt my arm muscles tighten as the bass fought beneath with aggressive yanks and tugs. I got him coming towards me as he stayed deep entering the lily pad’s vine like stems. I kept the rod tip high and wrist locked trying to keep him at bay. He fought through the vines and I got him swimming erratically before my tube. Not bad as I lipped him and brought him to the apron. ‘They’re getting bigger’ I thought.
In time I caught one smaller bass and missed one but I’m sure he wasn’t a biggie either. The blue gills kept me attentive as they would sink my popper occasionally by grabbing the tail feathers. The popper would sink momentarily but they weren’t heavy enough to keep the popper down for more than a second. After an hour I decided to fin my way to the other side of the pond, left of the dam. Again I tried a streamer on my way across the deeper section without even a tap.
By now the sky was brightening in areas with a mix of dark gray clouds converging from different directions. The sun still wasn’t visible as the smoky gray haze laid suspended among the cloud cover. A slight breeze started to be felt which rippled the water in the middle of the pond. The shoreline, as much as 6 feet out, still appeared glassy. When I got within casting range I switched back over to the popper and began casting near the shoreline.
This side of the pond had very little lily pad cover but a lot more half submerged branches and log debris. I slowly finned my way away from the earth dam casting in the direction towards the left bank. I caught one small bass and again a few pecks from blue gill that would sink the popper momentarily but the big hook was too enlarged for their small mouths. The whole while I had my eyes glancing further up, on a crooked branch that stuck out of the water with strands of moss hanging from it. It had the bassy look to it and I was almost sure there was one waiting.
I decided to tie on a fish looking popper with a big feather tail on it. By the time I got within casting distance to the branch it started to sprinkle as the dark clouds drew closer and threw a shadow over the pond water around me.
I false cast a couple of times to get more line out and heaved the popper into the slight breeze. The popper fell inches from the hanging moss and I hurriedly took in slack line atop the water. One gurgle and the glassy water was shattered by an underwater explosion. The bass came half out of the water within full view as he took the popper on the rise. Water flew to the sides and I quickly yanked back and set the hook on the surprised catch. He sank like a rock as the angle of line pulled the rod tip down and into the middle section. I had a fight on my hands! Within the dark shadows of the eerie cloud cover I followed his jolts moving my flexed rod towards his location. My arm muscles tightened keeping the lower section pointed up towards the sky letting the bass fight the rod. In discuss he unexpectedly exploded out of the water. His white belly towards me and gill plates flared in anger, he tried to shake free from my popper in mid air. After he plopped back into the water I gave him line not knowing what to expect next. He pulled to my right and my float tube spun towards him with his thrusts. I palmed the reel to slow him down in which he gave in sooner than what I expected. He swam towards me and I took line in through guides of the bent rod. He swayed to and fro until he seen the tube. He pulled to my left to swim around me. I had the rod held high and kept a good amount of pressure on him from behind. He tried to dive deeper but as the rod tip tilted further the force was too much and he rose within sight. I cranked in some line and had him begging for mercy as he came nearer. I lifted him to the apron, what a dandy!
I could hear the heavy rain drops falling upon the water coming towards me with a stronger breeze. A hurried picture and I released the largemouth and than I put the camera back into the zip lock baggie and into the float tube zippered pocket.
The rain shower passed quickly. I continued to fish as the sun found a break in the clouds from beyond and I felt its warmth through my soaked sleeveless shirt.
Continuing up the shoreline I hooked into another big largemouth near a snag pile of intertwined tree branches and fallen logs. Just after this fish I pulled out one of the stogies I brought along and lit up.
With a relaxing and rewarding smoke I decided to fish around the decrepit looking tree trunks that were scattered within the middle of the pond. I changed poppers often but the fish didn’t seem to want my offerings. I decided to stick with the fish looking popper and work it with a little more aggressiveness. There were patches of lily pads that had sprouted up near the far peninsula of land. Also a few patches of young lily pads were about the weathered trunks. In one such vicinity I worked the popper like I learned to work a Rapala on conventional gear years back in a lake where I first started seriously fishing for largemouth.
I cast the popper towards the distant lily pads and let it rest for a second or two. I twitched it a couple of times to a gurgle and than quickly short stripped it in in a motion like it was trying to escape danger. I watched as it gurgled and splashed about towards me. I seen the wake behind the popper just before the bass surfaced to inhale it. With a big splashing gulp he nailed it with enough force his momentum continued forward towards me. I held the line taught and reared back the rod with my other hand trying to get enough tension on the line to set the hook. The last I seen of him was when his tail fin whipped water about before he disappeared beneath the surface. At least that’s what I thought!! All of a sudden I felt the rod tip shake and than line peeled off my reel as that annoying but cheerful clicking sang out. He turned and headed straight through the small young lily pad stems. I dipped my flipper down and managed to feel some loose but heavy enough muck to keep the float tube steady. Again I kept the rod high and my line was able to clear the small lily pads without getting hung up. He fought beneath a second or two after I slowed the reel down and the rod bent towards him with more resistance. I clicked one or two heavier drag setting and grabbed the rod with both hand. It felt like he was tumbling about as I kept the rod steady and occasionally pulled against his intensions. He surfaced enough to show his face briefly than headed for the more open water. I clicked the drag looser and let him take some line on his eager swim. I kept a good bend in the rod figuring he’d soon tier out. He turned enough to show me weakness and I pulled back on the rod. As he reluctantly came towards me and I cranked in line. He surfaced with not much of a fight left and I got him to the float tube safely lipping him to the apron.
For the next couple of hours I roamed the water about only catching a couple more smaller bass. One wasn’t too bad that grabbed a frog popper along the thick lily pad cover I fished in the morning. In the afternoon the dark cloud cover cleared and the sun cast down its hot rays. The wind picked up big time and it got strenuous finning about against the wind let alone the extra force it took to cast the fly rod. I figured it was about only 1:30pm or so but the extra effort it took to keep on keep’n on wasn’t worth it. I let the wind blow me to shore as I leaned back against the air bladder head rest.
On shore it was now the process of packing it all in. I wasn’t in a hurry and took my time letting some of my clothes dry a bit more beneath the hot sun. I took one more picture of the pond before I left, a far different scenario than when I arrived.
I happen to catch a glimpse of a brown animal figure swimming amongst the uneven waves. Sure enough a beaver came out to cool off under the heat for a swim. I stooped down and watched him for awhile swimming about. He finally came to shore and started to munch on some greenery. I whistled to get his attention for a mug shot but he paid me no mind. Not wanting to disturb him I put on the pack and went on my way.
Though the pack felt heavier it wasn’t overbearing. Somewhere along the trail my packable wading shoes decided they didn’t like the way they were packed, scrunched up against the pump beneath the corded bands attached to the pack. I felt a slight bump against the back of my one leg and turned to see both wading shoes lying along the trail. I dropped the pack from my back and this time tied the laces to the corded bands. After a drink of the warm water in my bottle I decided it was a good time for a cigar.
I took out the Bahia Churchill for such the occasion. After the initial light up I tasted the seemingly cedar aged tobacco. After I put the pack back on and started heading up the trail, I was concentrating on the smoke. The Sumatra wrapper and inner tobacco gave an earthy mild taste. I thought it wasn’t a bad cigar for less than two bucks.
Back at the van I enjoyed a cold Straub green bottle as I put my gear away. It was time for some grub and there was no better place up in these parts of the ANF than a couple of cold brews and a half dozen of The Kelly Hotel wings!!!