One evening after work, Hawgdaddy and I decided to slip off to my secret fishing spot. I had been trying to convince him to go there for quite some time now, and I think the many fish stories and pictures were enough to do so. He was worried that I might have sore mouthed all of them by now, and it was quite a possibility.
The spot is a large pond ,located in an old neighborhood, only minutes from the house. It’s what most people might call a ‘community pond’. One of my good friends from childhood had grandparents who lived in the neighborhood, and we spent many summer days there. We fished, swam, and then fished some more, with fish fries almost every weekend.
After many years, the pond has remained almost untouched becoming not only a superb fishery but also sentimental. To this day, I revisit the pond as frequently as possible, remembering the many memories which are still dear to my heart. Not to mention the excellent bass fishing and bluegill bigger than the palm of your hand.
The evening was right, a little muggy maybe, but nonetheless perfect for some bass action. As we drove up, Hawgdaddy was amazed at the size of the pond. I said, “Yes, that’s what I have been telling you, this place is great for casting a fly rod.”
As we prepared to slide into our waders, I noticed Hawgdaddy was still adorned with a tucked in polo shirt, and a pair of khaki pants. After pondering for a brief second, I asked if he was going to wade in his dress clothes. “Sure”, he said. Well, if it was good enough for him, then I was ok with it. It’s not like the fish would flock to the sexiest fisherman anyway. Well, on second thought, maybe that’s why I had done so well there.
There were only a few entry points to the water from where we parked. Two of the spots were already taken by some less than serious “recreational anglers”. At least that’s what I thought of them initially. Sometimes, carrying a fly rod makes you think you somehow are entitled to fish wherever you want. That is unless there is another fellow fly fisherman already in that spot.
There was some fresh grass growing in the southwest corner of the pond, and Hawgdaddy mentioned trying over there first. “Fine by me”, I said. He’s a guest, so I would let him have the first shot at catching a fish. I didn’t know that he would become the “Fish Whisperer” just minutes later. Let me go on record by saying it’s very impolite to catch more fish than the person who takes you, especially a secret spot!
No more than two minutes had passed when Hawgdaddy set the hook on the first fish. The bottom of the pond was layered with what felt like quicksand. I was still trying to walk out of his casting area when I heard the splashing. I quickly grabbed the camera, hanging around my neck, and took a picture of Hawgdaddy trying to get his fish out of the nearby brush.
“What are you using,” I was very surprised at the quickness of his catch.
At this point, Hawgdaddy began to go on and on about the flies he got from Richard Lee Merritt. Yes, I had seen them and thought they were very professional looking. It’s something you look at and instantly know that they will work. Next, I was waiting on him to break out some flies tied by A.K. Best. The one he snagged this bass with imitated a worm. A very good imitation I might add, seeing the results of the first cast.
“Want to try one?” he asked helpfully, although I think I sensed a touch of gloating.
“No, I know these fish will bite the poppers I tied.” I couldn’t bear to let Mr. Merritt’s worm’s catch more fish than my creation! This called for my latest popper invention. You thought I was going to describe it right? If I told you, I would have to kill you….you know how that goes.
Perhaps it was beginners luck, the sex appeal of a man wearing khakis under his waders, or the aid of Mr. Merritt, but Hawgdaddy began either landing or losing a fish on every cast. “Son of a %@#$#!!!” I was getting irritated only 10 minutes into fishing. Maybe Mr. Merritt had stumbled onto something after all. No, I will not let this happen. I will catch fish, and I will catch them on THIS fly!
On the first cast, I missed a fish. I knew it was probably a bream, but I didn’t share that with Hawgdaddy. I just let him believe it could have been the lockness monster. I heard a brief chuckle behind me as Hawgdaddy had set the hook on yet another fish. Even though I thought this was absolutely ridiculous, I turned and asked if he needed help.
“NO, I got it,” he said with a laugh.
Just minutes later, the tide began to turn. I caught my first fish just moments after Hawgdaddy released his. It was only a baby, but a bass nonetheless. I’ll take it! The next two casts, I landed bream that would have made any hungry fisherman happy.
My smile grew larger with every cast. Hawgdaddy was beginning to squirm in his waders. I finally had him just where I wanted him! I began to get bites on almost every cast, and the mere anticipation became too much for me to handle. As if I had ESP, I began to jerk right as the fish hit my fly. This translates to many unhooked fish. Patience is surely a virtue in our sport, and I didn’t have it.
“Maybe I need to tie on a popper,” Hawgdaddy said. “Maybe that’s what they want now that the sun’s almost gone.” He was looking confusedly at Mr. Merritt’s fly lying in his hand.
“You probably should since I am owning you now!” I couldn’t help but add fuel to the fire, but I knew Hawgdaddy was itching to catch a few on top anyway.
Being tired of losing these fish, I knew I needed to slow down on my jerk. Patience has never been my strong suite. The next fish hit my line, I just sit patiently letting it savor every morsel of that most excellent tied popper. After he began to digest it, I set the hook! “Finally, I wasn’t about to let this one get away”. Hawgdaddy was laughing uncontrollably as he began mimicking me, pretending he was watching the fish chew on his fly. It was quite funny I must admit.
You know those times when it is ingrained in your mind for you to retie your fly? Yes, I ignored that. The next fish, a decent size I might add, broke off my beloved creation. Good thing I tied a few of them. Of course, I only had the big poppers in that pattern now.
A few casts later, my fly was popping water a foot into the air. “I’m going after the momma fish!” I said jokingly. Next thing I know, something hit it like a freight train. I set the hook and instantly knew what a good fish I had on the other end. “I may need help”, I shouted to Hawgdaddy. “On my way”, he said all too soon.
I didn’t ask if Hawgdaddy had fallen into the water, but I heard a splash of gigantic proportions. Line was stripping off of Hawgdaddy’s reel faster than clothes off an exotic dancer performing for (former Bama coach) Mike Price. “Sorry, I can’t make it over there. I think I have a really nice one!”, he slowly followed the fish in the other direction. Hawgdaddy’s fish would have easily tipped the scales around 4 pounds or better, while mine would have easily went over three. It was a hard picture to take, but we managed. “Aren’t you glad you came out today?” I said. “I’d say it was a very good day,” he said with great satisfaction.
It wasn’t long after that I broke off another fly on a fish that would have went nearly 4 pounds. While quickly tying on another, everything went dark as a large shadow appeared over the water. My first thought was that a 747 jetliner was going to land on us, but that seemed a little far fetched. About 6 ft. from me, a Canadian Goose landed, or should I say, cannonballed into the water. Yes, it was right where I wanted to cast. I guess that was a sign for us to stop now while we were ahead.
As we fished our way back, I found myself more in thought than anything else. I find it interesting that everyday problems take a backseat to nature and fly fishing. When I strap on my waders, everything else seems to fade away. When I’m out here, all I see is the pond, distant childhood memories that come and go, and that record largemouth, lurking beneath the surface. I would say it was a good day. In all reality, I wouldn’t have cared if I caught anything. Well, that’s not entirely true, not with the way Hawgdaddy tried to show me up!