…or, We’re Lucky Dogs and You’re Not, but We Wouldn’t Gloat or Anything Like That.
I didn’t know how or when, but I knew this blogging thing would eventually pay off. Pay day finally came last Friday when Insane and I were invited to fish a private pond. Actually, it was two private ponds. Eat your hearts out, covetous masses! I’m not telling the location for fear the landowner will be overrun with bluegill-hungry mobs. All I’m saying is they lie generally west of Huntsville.
Our host contacted me by email* a few weeks ago. He mentioned he had a couple of 2.5 acre ponds that he’d love to have us fish, and the only cost to us would be answering some questions about how to improve his fly casting. I downheartedly informed the gentleman that Insane and I weren’t necessarily the place to look for casting instruction – serious understatement there. The mood brightened considerably when he said to come anyway. It was decided that I would bring my collection of bamboo rods for him to try out, and he would let me give his light-as-a-feather 2 wt rod a workout.
Insane and I arrived at the farm around 8:30 (half an hour late due both to a serious misjudging of Huntsville/Decatur traffic and Insane’s dependence on caffeine). After introductions, our host loaded us onto an atv for a tour around the farm. We first circled the “Upper Pond” which was crystal clear and chock-full of bluegills gearing up for the spawn. We then circled the “Lower Pond” where the water was decidedly murkier. We were informed that it held “bigger bass.” I got twitchy. I tried not to, but the thought of big bass and bluegills just does it to me. I’m lucky I didn’t break a guide off my South Bend #47 in my rush to get rigged up. Our host and his wife left us to ourselves for a bit while they took care of some farm chores.
We decided to start on the Upper Pond, the idea being that we’d save the big fish in the Lower Pond for later. You know, delayed gratification. Plus those delicious swarms of big bluegills we’d spotted were just too much to pass up. It didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. Perhaps it’s common among folks who fly fish for trout fairly often, but I for one tend toward the idea that bluegills and bass are “easy” fish. They’ll hit “pretty much any old thing,” and it doesn’t much matter how you present it. Well, sometimes that’s the case, and sometime’s it’s not. This was one of those “not” times. The rational (and smaller) side of my brain knows from my tournament fishing days that bass in particular are often anything but “easy,” and they can even get fairly selective about what kind or color of lure they want. But the irrational (and much larger) side of my brain leaps and barks and wags its tail like a hyperactive pug at the thought, nay knowledge, that it’s about to catch monstrous bass by the bucketload.
I began with the always dependable stealth bomber hoping to tempt some bass on my way from the dam to the shallow end and its bluegills. I suffered several refusals. Reminded me rather painfully of those Slough Creek cutthroats three years prior. I switched to a small bass popper, big enough to tempt a bass but small enough to hook a big bluegill. A few fish half-heartedly swatted the fly, and I finally caught a small bass. Still, it wasn’t what I was looking for. By this time I was on the shallow end, so I tied on a foam bluegill fly. On the first cast a big bluegill nailed it, but all the others visibly spooked during the fight. They appeared to take shelter in the weeds beyond the shallow beds. I couldn’t seduce them into rising for the foam fly, so I tied on a panfish polecat and began hooking up occasionally, but it certainly wasn’t easy. I also caught a few small bass. Nothing to brag about. I even had to tie on a longer, thinner tippet to keep the fish from spooking when I cast. It was almost as infuriating as casting for trout on a spring creek. Insane fared about the same. Our host came down and joined us. He cast what appeared to be a white woolly bugger and hooked up on a few small bass and bluegill. He quickly cleared away any ideas about his needing casting instruction from us.
Then it was lunchtime. We were treated to a big pot of the best chicken soup/stew I’ve ever eaten, and the broccoli cornbread was out of this world. Our host had invited several friends, one of whom provided the culinary delights. It was a cool group of people. The conversation never lagged and was always interesting covering such topics as a noxious and quite possibly poisonous drink called Wildcat Bourbon, Jimmy Buffet, classic cars and, of course, fishing. During the meal, I was pleased to see a copy of The Curtis Creek Manifesto lying right there next to the pan of cornbread. These guys have been friends for a long time, their easy manner with each other hinting at years of collected tales. This type of situation can often result in a bit of awkwardness for the outsiders, yet not once did we feel out of place. That, my friends, is Southern Hospitality at its finest.
As good as the meal was, we tarried little in clearing out so we could hit the Lower Pond before heading home. I had high hopes for a decent bass. The murky water and cattails set me to twitching again. I tied on a bigger popper and went to work. Within 10 minutes I had spotted and worked three large bass holding near the bank, probably guarding nests. The smallest would have gone 3 lbs, the largest approached 5. Each fish rose in turn, and each rejected the popper. I did catch an over-eager male of half a pound before deciding the popper wasn’t the ticket. I tied on a crawfish/woolly bugger creation and worked a single bass for awhile. The fish finally took the fly, but in my haste I jerked the fly from its mouth. It wouldn’t strike again. Insane had even worse luck with his poppers and woolly buggers, and our host fared the same. Just before leaving I landed a large bluegill on the crawfish fly.
The temptation is to blame our poor performance on the weather (the sun was high, the sky was blue and the wind gusted stoutly), but the truth is the fish were there for the taking. You could see them with your own eyes, and many of them were eating or looking for food. Our presentations just weren’t good enough. While I don’t think anyone counted, the final tally was about a couple dozen bluegills/sunfish and a handful of small bass. Three things made the day a success despite the poor numbers: although the weather was poor for fishing the day was one of the prettiest in memory, the company was good, and those bluegill were fat as hogs and pretty as any I’ve seen.
We three made the walk back to the car telling fishing stories of more successful days, leaving invitations for future trips and breathing deeply of the clean spring air (nevermind that we breathed deeply because the hill was pretty steep). We never did get around to test-casting those bamboo rods or that 2 weight ultralight, so that’s as good a reason as any to join back up soon.
Insane and I had a most excellent time and can’t thank our hosts and their friends enough for their hospitality. Take care,
Postscript: Insane took many more photos than I did, and he will post some in a separate entry later in the week.
*Take note pond-owners – all that is needed to have Insane and I fish your pond is to simply contact us by the conveniently provided email address: tvanglerwebmaster[at]gmail[dot]com!