Monday, September 28, 2015

Swamp Bass

Swamp Bass

 The sun was still rising when I made it to the bank of the swamp. It looked like the beginning of some horror movie. Bright early sunshine and swamp lily pads lying on the surface water out from the bank. A forest of trees as far as the eyes can see without any sign of life. Even the name “Buzzard Swamp” seemed to make a good title for the movie.
 I knew it would be rough getting the kayak over the lily pads and underwater vines. I dug my paddle into the soft moss and mud beneath to get enough leverage to shimmy my way out to the open water. The paddle ridden with strands of stems and moss attaching itself with every stroke was becoming quite a mess.
 Once clear of the lily pads I rinsed off the muck on my old pair of sneakers and the paddle. I paddled out through the channel towards the main body of water before taking a break.
 A slight of a breeze was felt but not strong enough to ripple the surface water. The water surface was a dead calm except for the small waves caused by my kayak. Except for an occasional caw of a distant crow it was deathly silent. Old gray tree trunks sprouted up out of the water throughout the swamp. Entangled deadfalls lay near the banks here and there making good cover for an ambushing large mouth. I lit up my first cigar at about a quarter to 9 in the morning. I started to relax and beginning to enjoy much more of the morning after the half hour of rolling my kayak down the overgrown grassy trail through the forest to the swamp.

 I missed the first bass along a tangle of deadfalls. The bass emerged suddenly when I was swimming the popper back towards me with easy strips. I couldn’t get another to rise so I searched about for another good looking location. I had the whole place to myself so there was no hurry to get to any specific area I had found bass before.
 As I paddled the breeze picked up and brought with it a morning chill. I felt my beads of sweat on my skin turn cold, from hauling the kayak and roughing my way through the muck. The surface water, that was earlier a mirror surface and reflections had turned into printed ruffled bed sheets and distorted images.
 I let my claw hammer down, I used for an anchor, in the shallow water and stripped line out of the 7wt. fly rod to make a cast along the lily pads. Each cast was a practiced art even taken in consideration with the soft breeze. With enough applied force and timing I had the popper maneuvering through the air like a thrown marshmallow and landing on the surface water like a frog from a lily pad.
 I skipped and popped the frog imitation with a pause now and then. At first each cast I expected a strike but it took some time for a grab.

The popper fell to the edge of a peninsula of lily pads. I stripped line with short strokes and let it rest for a second. A fish shot out and up from the pads with a quick sweeping rush. I towed back on the rod handle and it felt like I got a good hook set. Right off I could feel it wasn’t a big bass but I got it to the kayak safely and that ’broke the ice’ as they say.

 The day slowly wore on and if it wasn’t for the pleasant scenery and solitude I might have left the theater. 

 Like a B horror flick there isn’t much of a plot. It drags on as you wait for some surprise and excitement. The day was going that way. It wasn’t that I expected some monster bass to chomp a chunk out of my kayak or my kayak was going to tip over and I’d be entangled in the lily pads. I was just waiting for an explosion of a bucket mouth to terrorize one of my poppers at any time.
 The wind kept up so my claw hammer anchor was only slowing the kayak down a little in the more open water. I would only get a few casts towards the lily pad before blowing out too far away or blowing smack into them. I found a calmer area on the swamp but couldn’t get a strike. I changed popper colors and shades often. Sometimes i got a blue gill to grab the trailing feather because the hook size was most likely too big to fit in their mouths. When there was an exposed stump I’d tie off to it and spend a few minutes casting about. It got to the point my best option was to get right into the lily pads and drop the anchor. It would tangle up enough in the underwater vines and moss that the wind couldn’t dislodge me. I would let enough anchor line out that would put me just at the edge and cast from there.
 It was just afternoon and I think I was on my third cigar. I came to the conclusion that nothing wanted to do with any of my shades of frog poppers. I had been changing colors and occasionally would get a blue gill to mouth the tail feathers of my brighter colors but I was after bass and refused to down size just to catch one of the gills.
 I had anchored in the lily pads and strung enough anchor line out to cast along some lily pads extending from shore. There were also a few pods of pads here and there in the shallow area within casting distance. With the wind behind me I got good distance so I stuck around the area longer than most of the other places I had visited. I watched as my popper would ride the waves like a small piece of drift wood in an ebb tide. I’d pop it now and then just for some action.

 I attached a silver and purple popper I tied up. I didn’t even have a name for it, it was just something different and wasn’t to resemble anything in particular. I cast it into a slow wind riffle of water between two lily pad groves. After popping it I let it sit and slowly drift with the wind force. The take wasn’t an explosion but a big enough gulp and water spurt that I hauled back thinking this got to be a bass. Sure enough I felt the weight of the fish as the rod flexed into the mid section. He pulled and tugged testing the rod strength as well as the drag I had set. I kept the rod out towards the open water not wanting him to take me into the lily pads. When I got him close to the kayak I reached for my net, behind me to my left, but found that the elastic cord that I had attached to a back strap wasn’t long enough to net the big bass on the right side of the kayak. I ended up tiring him out enough to get him to rise to the surface so I could lip him. My big bass and all the excitement I was waiting for ended in a matter of seconds. It felt good to land the big guy.

 After releasing him I checked the time. I had a party I was invited to so this day I had a time limit. Just like the movies, you begin to keep an eye on the clock to see when it will end and wait for the next exciting moment in the picture. I had about an hour and a half before time was up. I slowly made my way, anchoring in lily pads, casting out in front of me for another bass.

 My cast put the popper up against the edge of the lily pads that extended pretty far out from the grassy bank. I was swimming it back to me in a slow retrieve. I let it stop and set just on the other side of a few lily pads that lay upon the water in the open about 12 yards out. I tie my poppers with stiff hackle feathers behind the foam so it doesn’t add any weight or absorb water. This way when I get in this situation I can flip the rod up and the foam popper, with the stiff feathers, usually glide over the pads without getting hung up.
 “Wham”!! A bass inhaled the popper before I was able to flip it up over the pads. I was already in the motion to do so, so I just yanked a little harder and set the hook. This big boy hauled ass out into the open like a tug boat full steam ahead. With the rod flexed deep he turned and headed towards me to my left into the lily pads. I knew I was anchored too far into the lily pads that there was a good possibility I wouldn’t be able to land him if the pads were too thick. I felt the tugging and yanking as I held the rod handle up with the rod tip in a good arc. The tugging on the other end ceased but my rod was still in an arc. I tugged a few time in hopes that I could feel the fish tug back on the other end but that wasn’t the case. I was left with a mass of moss and lily pad vines.

 I took a swig of water and slowly fished my way to my exit point. I caught one smaller bass on a small frog popper before trudging my way through the muck back to land. From there I drug the kayak up through the field of grass to the lane. 

On the lane I strapped the kayak to my home made dolly and began my ½ hour journey back to the van.
 At the vehicle I opened a bottle of cooler chilled beer and quenched my thirst while I packed everything into my van. Just before leaving I lit up a Brick House Churchill for the ride home. Sure I didn’t catch many bass but it sure was a pleasant outing without any horrible encounters!

 “I’ll be back”


  1. Nothing wrong with that at all! Looks like a great little piece of water, with all of that structure I bet it holds some real bruisers.

  2. You still liking that kayak. I'm thinking about getting one.

    1. Very much. it suites my kind of fishing. for trout i like to get out and wade fish so getting in and out is quick and easy in the sit on. a longer kayak i'm sure would track better but i like this one because it's easy to manage and fits in my van without any problems. i plan on an update review when i get the time.