Sunday, July 9, 2017

A Rusty Outing

A Rusty Outing

 The MoJo fly rod flexed above me and I waited to feel the weight of the rod load. With a forward forearm motion I pointed the rod tip to the target area and the foam frog popper came within air-born sight heading towards the commotion along the bank. 

 During the past 3 weeks we’ve been packing boxes and unpacking boxes on the move to a new place to live. I haven’t fished going on three weeks and was finally going to take a day off of moving stuff and find a place to fish. One of my best friends gave me a call and he too hadn’t wet a line in some time and was looking to come up to the Allegheny National Forest to spend some time fishing and catching up on activities and life being we haven’t seen each other for some time.
 The downpours early in the week clouded the rivers and even were heavy enough to raise and discolor the small mountain streams that flowed through the forest. Our only chance of fishing was to hit the bass swamp that is tucked away back in the forest. Not fishing for bass in sometime I told Rusty what kind of lures he probably would need. He never got the knack for fly fishing so he’d be using his Ugly Stick spinning rod. Of course I was to use my MoJo Bass fly rod and with three boxes of poppers and a few streamers would be all I needed.
 The morning opened with clear skies and looked to be a great day to wet a line. When we got to the parking area in the forest we unloaded the Kayaks out of the back of my truck and loaded them with our gear. I strapped my kayak to my improvised kayak hauler and was ready to roll down the lane to our put in. Rusty, on the other hand, didn’t have a dolly to help getting it to the swamp. It would be about a 30 minute journey down the grassy lane that leads to the water. He loaded up his and we proceeded to travel on the vehicle lane, and tall grass, that leads to the water. It is mostly a flat trail with plenty of bends and no big hills or knolls to speak of. My cart rolled somewhat easily down the high grassy lane while Rusty drug his Kayak over the wet grass. We paused occasionally under the shade of the trees to keep from sweating too much and take rest breaks as the morning was warming quickly.
 Within vision of the swamp it looked peaceful and inviting to any bass fishermen alive. There was a kayak hauler already standing aside the lane and in the distance we could see at least one watercraft upon the water. I unstrapped the kayak from the dolly because it’s been easier just to pull the kayak down to the water over the bumpy uneven field than to try to roll it down.
 When we reached the water I noticed the water level was higher than I had seen it. The entry point was back from the normal level in which I usually put in.
 Looking out over the pond like swamp the surface water laid like a slightly wrinkled bed sheet. The outcropping of the weathered tree trunks stood tall in the distance as they have weathered many a storms and years gone by. The young lily pads sat upon the surface, not yet in bloom, stretching out from the banks and in shallower areas upon the water. The clean air that surrounded up was a mixture of fresh pines with summertime aromas of the many kinds of forest hardwoods. The huge puffy clouds moved slowly under the bluest sky like Macy’s Parade animated floats. On occasion the clouds would cover up the hot sunrays that seamed to laser down upon us and casting shadows over the mirror like water. In the distance we could see a couple of Osprey, high on one of the outcropping of tree trunks, guarding their nest of young ones.

 After stringing up the fly rod, and sitting a couple fly boxes in the open pockets of the kayak, I pushed the yak in the water and started to paddle my way to the open water. Rusty wasn’t too far behind after setting up his rod with a floating frog imitation.
 I started casting my poppers along the lily pads out from the banks in the more open and deeper water. Rusty, on the other hand, worked his way along the banks. Because of the high water there was about two or three feet of open water, minus a few blades of grass, between the lily pads and bank. We watched birds flutter and land along the grassy bank side but other than that there wasn’t much sign of wildlife. A few geese could be heard in the distance and a few crows cawed the morning sun rise. The osprey screeched occasionally as if in warning to us intruders of the swamp.
 About an hour went by without any hook ups. I caught some commotion along the bank as subtle waves rolled upon the water. Slowly I paddled within the lily outgrowth within casting distance. The MoJo fly rod flexed above me and I waited to feel the weight of the rod load. With a forward forearm motion I pointed the rod tip to the target area and the foam frog popper came within air-born sight heading towards the commotion along the bank. The popper fell between a few blades of grass sprouting upward out of the water. In an instant the water erupted around my disappearing offering. I yanked back the rod with force and the line tightened. Water boiled just out from the bank as the bass struggled with the piercing hook. The lily pad vines were thin and getting him to the side of the kayak wasn’t much of a vine twisting struggle. The 7’ 11” fly rod bent heavy as I lipped the bass and landed it.
 We split up after that and fished our way around the swamp for hours before catching up within talking distance of each other. I had caught one more small bass and missed one more take I was sure was a bass. Other than that a few bluegills would suck on the feather legs of my poppers and take them under far a split second. The hooks were too large to fit in their mouths but I’d still yank for a hook set occasionally. The popper would catapult out of the water and whip behind me free from any takers. Rusty mentioned he had a few bass that followed the lures he was using but wouldn’t commit in taking it. Though we weren’t doing much catching it was enjoyable being out in nature. The peace and quiet was relaxing away from the congestion of everyday life.
 Leaving Rusty again I figured on trying to lure some activity around the outcropping of tree trunks that were scattered in the more open water. Time and again I would cast a popper near the stumps and gurgle it back towards me. At times blue gill would grab at the feathered legs of the frog imitation and sink it momentarily. Other times the gills might hit the popper hard enough to cause a bubbling but it wasn’t hard enough to think it a bass. When a bass did hit the popper, even a small one, an audible splash and gulp would be heard.
 The wind started to pick up and the water surfaced roughened because of it. To keep the kayak from drifting away I would tie up to one of the stumps. When I was in the lily pads the wind was so strong it was still able to move the kayak. After about a half hour I got tired of fighting the wind and kayaked to look for Rusty in the calmer water away from the harsh wind.
I caught up with Rusty back a channel away from the more open water. He had already caught a couple of nice bass so I paddled my kayak in some tall grass and weeds to the left of the channel. This gave my right casting arm freedom of the weeds for a good back cast. I sat and watched Rusty quick wrist the spinning rod sending the froglike floating jig towards the pool of water up the channel aways. The silicone legs that were strung out behind the frog withered behind as the frog shot threw the air. The big lure plopped upon the pool and Rusty would begin his retrieve. We watched as the water erupted like the aftermath of a cannon ball plunge. I watched as the Ugly Stick flexed like a limp stick being swung by a small child.
 Now it was my turn.
 As I false cast, my homemade popper, I let line out calculating the distance to the pool. The popper landed shy of where I wanted it to land but I started to gurgle it back towards me anyway. Only about a couple of yards in front of us a bass rose and gulped at the gurgle and I yanked the MoJo rod back with hook setting force. The rod bowed and flexed as the small bass scooted around like a chicken trying to catch a flying moth. 

  Rusty and I took turns casting in the pool. He tried different lures, above and below the surface, as did I with my colored poppers and streamers.

 My foam popper landed just shy of the falling waters of the beaver dam. Two strips towards me and the audible sound of the take overcame the sound of the falling water. I quickly yanked back the long length of line and the struggle at the end put a smile on my face. I tightened my grip on the stogie I now held between my lips and raised the rod for the skirmish. I could tell this bass was a bit larger by the weight and he stirred the water in bigger swirls than the last. Within a few yards of the kayak he raised his big mouth to the surface and shook his head causing water to spray up and outwards above the surface. He turned below and started towards the weedy bank just in front of the kayak. I held the rod towards the center of the channel with tightness on the fly line. He swam towards the center of the channel and from there I was able to get him to the kayak safely.
 I’m not sure how long we spent there casting lures and poppers into the pool. When the bite quit we sat and talked about the good times and memories we shared in the past. The old days at Rays Hot Spot and how we’d close the place down and in the morning find ourselves parked along a trout stream ready to catch some trout. We brought back memories of our times at bike week in Daytona Beach. Listening to Rusty’s turkey hunting adventures the past years gave me some insight on things I should try during my own turkey hunting outings.
 We recalled the hunting experience in Maine where Rusty was the only one in the lodge that took a deer. It was only a five point but had a nice rack and was at least twice the length of the bear someone else had hanging on the lodge pole. At dinner you would have thought we had some kind of a contagious disease as other hunters looked at us as if we knew some secrete they didn’t. Afterwards groups of hunters were willing to trade their hunting areas as they felt there own hunt was void of game.
 Than there was the suspicion we received at the Canadian border were we had to pull over while the Canadian border patrol was going to search my van. Not sure what occurred when Tommy went into discuss the situation with ‘The Man’ but when he reentered our room he said “Let’s go” and we followed with no more ado.
 And how can we forget the surprise we got at the strip club we visited. It was way back off the beaten path. There were a few vehicles outside when we pulled in. The eldest guy of our group decided it was ok to touch one of the strippers in the inappropriate places. I mean she was shaking them at him and he decided to polish them. He didn’t mean any harm and was more naïve of the situation by his attempt and gestures. She stepped back and Rusty and I thought us group of 5 was all going to get thrown out when the bouncer started to come towards us. I suppose seeing the unawareness of our oldest member of the group and the harmless naïve gesture, the bouncer let him off with a calm warning. We laughed about it all the way back to the lodge and than some.

 We noticed a gulping rise along the grassy side of the pool. I was the first to cast an offering and he rose and inhaled the popper like his first frog dinner of the evening. The water erupted on the take and I was hanging on with another tight line attached to an angry hungry bass.  Just before I got him to the kayak the hook slipped out when he dodged into the weeds.
 Rusty already had on a rubber worm rigged up and threw it into the pool. On the retrieve I watched the line raise from the water as he raised the rod for the hook set. He was reeling the bass towards us when somehow it too released itself from the hook.
 Not getting any more rises on a floating popper I knotted on a brown bass bugger and cast it out into the pool of deeper water. Just after the bugger sank below the surface the line pulled enough I knew something grabbed it on the way down. I pulled back the slack line while pulling back on the rod.
  Rusty cast out the rubber worm again and hooked into one last bass before the pool went dead again. Not getting any more to rise or take anything underneath we decided to call it quits, besides, my stogie was down to the nub. We figured all the bass in the pool had sore lips and some even might have been pierced twice. We turned the kayaks around and followed the narrow channel back into the big pond like open water. While we were kayaking through the lily pads I caught a glimpse of an unnatural wave against the right bank between the lily pads and a few rocks. I stopped the kayak and picked up the fly rod. I figured I’d have one chance at the bass. I didn’t think it knew we were there as there was quite a distance between us and the bank. We weren’t paddling fast and the lily pads held back any water commotion caused by paddling.
 I made a few false casts to the side, letting line out, as to not cast over the feeding fish. With a soft loop in the air my frog imitation plopped just to the right where I seen the fish feeding. As I was trying to straighten the line and pull in the slack the water bulged and in an instant the popper disappeared with an audible gulp. I yanked back the rod, seen the line tighten and felt the resistance on the other end. The water bulged again and with a ferocious head shake of a surfacing bass the popper exited its mouth and into the air. I had lost my last cast at a bass.

 Back on the lane I strapped the kayak to my homemade cart. Rusty had already begun pulling his yak up the lane upon the high grass knowing I’d catch up to him being I had wheels under mine. A couple of times the handle rope broke while Rusty was pulling the kayak. In the meantime I’d pass him and stop a ways up further while he mended to rope handle. I’d walk back and help him carry his kayak up further before going back to mine.

 After we got the kayaks in the soft grass behind the truck I opened the truck doors to let the insides cool off under the hot sun. I reached in the cooler and pulled out a couple of cans of beer which was a relief after the long haul.  

 After loading the yaks in the back of the truck a decision had to be made. Do we go back to my place and prepare a meal or stop at the Kelly for wings and beer. It was a pretty quick decision!

 It was a good time out on the water with a friend I haven’t seen for awhile. We had lots to catch up on and it was fun bringing back some long time memories that brought smiles to our faces.

As they say, “It’s not all about the fishing!”


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