Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Bass in a 'Yak"

Bass in a “Yak”

 This year I made my annual bass pond excursion in a Kayak. I had bought a 10’ Sundolphin Journey SS already set up for fishing. I was looking around for ideas of a cart to roll this down to the pond when I came across a golf cart dolly at a consignment shop for $10.00. A little thought and not much work I made it into a dolly to roll my kayak around to far places.
 So instead of carrying a 40 to 50lb backpack for about 45 minutes filled with a float tube, pump, flippers and fly gear I now can shorten my walk and not have that heavy pack on my back.

 I arrived Saturday morning in the gravel parking area. After assembling the dolly and securing the kayak on the dolly I consciously loaded the kayak with what I needed and proceeded to roll down the lane leading to the pond through the Allegheny National Forest.
 The last few days the weather had been in the 80’s with high humidity. Today was supposed to be the same but so far the early morning was quite cool. The sky was full of white clouds as I trekked through the forest, under the canopy of trees, towards the rising sun. A cool breeze would feather through the forest carrying with it the smell of fresh pine and moss. I felt like this was going to be a relaxing outing and hopefully a few big bucket mouths.

 The kayak was a little wobbly on the way down but this first experience taught me a few things to better position the dolly under the ‘yak’.
 When the pond came into view I was relieved that it wasn’t overgrown with lily pads. From the distance it looked like a wonderful place to spend the day searching for largemouth bass.

 Once at the pond I assembled the 9’ 7 weight fly rod and knotted on a fresh frog leg popper. I folded up the dolly and it fit nicely in the back compartment. 

 It was a little struggle scooting and paddle pushing through the bank side muck and young lily pads but I got through it without having to get out of the yak. Once in the deeper channel of water, that lead to the bigger section of the pond, I was excited and anticipating a leisurely fishing adventure.
 The pond was calm with an occasional breeze that wrinkled the surface water. There were lots of areas where lily pads covered the water surface making good cover for bass to hide.

 I was kind of enjoying the scenery as I slowly paddled looking for a good place to make my first cast.

  I spotted a tangle of uprooted trees and branches just out from the bank. Small lily pads covered the surface water nearly surrounding the area of the tangle. I dropped the hammer anchor in the water just far enough out that I could reach the tangle with a long cast.
 I unhooked the frog popper from the hook keeper and let it sit on the water as I pulled line out of the reel. With a few false casts I had a good bit of line out and enough to get the popper near the cover.
 My forward cast carried the frog popper towards the structure and the popper landed with a plop just shy of a small branch that extended beyond the small lily pads. I popped it once, with a sharp yank of the fly line, and than swam it towards me with slow even strokes.
 on my next cast I held the cork grip firmly, false cast, and pointed the rod tip towards the middle of the structure. The popper shot forward and fell onto the calm water between two thick branches that rose out of the water as if it ‘Y’d’ beneath. The water exploded without warning spraying water everywhere. In surprise, yet instinctively, I reared back on the 9’ rod to set the hook. The medium action rod flexed into the middle section and I felt the forceful tugging of a hooked bass. He drove hard out to my left in deeper water with strength and determination to get free. I kept the rod skyward not wanting the get the line tangled up in any unseen obstructions beneath though the rod tip flexed downward towards the fighting bass. We tussled with each other to get the upper hand and I won out with him finally swimming toward the kayak. I scooped him up in the net and my first bass was a doozy as far as I was concerned. 

 I only had been in the water for about 45 minutes and already had a bass in the yak. The excitement and fresh air cleared away any drowsiness or slumber from my early rise. After the long haul with the kayak I felt rejuvenated. I took out my first stogie and lit it up while looking over the water before me.

 I paddled around, anchored and fished throughout the morning. I caught a few small bass and a couple of hungry bluegill and missed a few good gulps at the poppers. I stuck with top water poppers and stick baits always anticipating a strike.

 Two canoes entered the pond a couple of hours after I got there. They also roamed the pond in search of fish.
 I came across a small cove that I was getting more action than any other location on the pond. I anchored down and took my time covering the open water almost surrounded by lily pads. I worked my way patiently towards a small channel that creased between one opening in the lily pads to where the water flowed towards me.
 It had to be just after noon. When the sun was out from the clouds it felt like it was shooting hot laser beams down upon the water. Looking closely at the water surface the heat met with the cooler water temperature and distorted the surface air in an illusion of wave like vapors. The cool breeze that occasionally swept the pond was a welcome relief though it did cause some misappropriated casts. Even so some of the bass were not hampered by the heat wave.
  I was just anchored near a short jutting stump. I made a long cast to my right near the edge of the lily pad growth. There were a few strands the floated above the water between me and the growth so I knew I had to be careful to steer the frog away from getting hung up. As I was swimming the frog  just to the side of a few lily sprouts my popper disappeared into a big gulp of water. I quickly yanked back and felt the resistance. Waiting to fill the tug of a fish never came to be, yet my rod was still flexed towards the sprouts. Bringing in the heavy line I was left with a mass of vine and heavy pond moss. I couldn’t understand how I missed the big mouth.

 I was once told that after a bass takes a top water lure you should count 2 seconds before setting the hook. It sounds reasonable enough. Bass inhales its food and I suppose if you yank too soon, while its big mouth is still open, you can miss the mouth completely. Waiting a second or two might just be long enough to have the bass close its mouth and get a hook into it. I’ve been missing some grabs so I was about to try it on the next take. I’ll admit, being a trout fisherman, it isn’t easy not to set the hook quickly on the first sign of a take.

 I wasn’t directing my cast to any target in particular and let it fly to the small riffle of water that channeled into the open water before me. The cast was long and straight and the popper fell with an audible splash. A couple of sharp tugs and I was swimming the frog popper towards me. The water erupted in a boil mid swim and I consciously waited just a second before yanking a hook set. I felt the hook strike something solid and a bass tugged and fought beneath the water surface. He felt like another nice one. He swam swiftly towards the stump on my left and had enough strength to pull the line up over the stump as he cleared the stump on the other side. I held the rod high enough over the stump not to get hung up. I had no control over the bass as he than swam towards me, deep, heading under the kayak. I took my chance and reached the rod outward trying to coax him away from under the yak. He turned from under the kayak and swam back into the open water. Getting him closer to the yak he didn’t give up too easily and dove deep enough to again flexing the fly rod into the midsection. I played him a little longer before I forcefully took the initiative and got him to the net.

 After another half hour or so things slowed down that I couldn’t get a bass to rise. It was getting near 3:00pm and my body was tiring from the early morning wake up call and day activity. I slowly paddled my way, while stopping to fish now and then, towards my exit point. I hooked up three times to small bass and missed a couple of quick snapping hits I figured were bluegills. 

 Back through the shallow pond moss I was able to get to the bank without much trouble. I figured it was easier to drag the kayak up hill, upon the bumpy field grass, than trying to push the cart over the shallow gullies and holes. Once at the lane I took my time and secured the kayak on the dolly for the ‘drive’ back to the van.
 On the way back I seen somebody’s cart didn’t quite last.

 It turned out to be a good day out on the bass pond. Not a banner day or big bucket mouths but a good outing as far as I was concerned. It sure was good to have a cold beer waiting for me at the van!!


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