Wednesday, August 14, 2013


    Fishing is so seasonal and variable, even expert opinion is sometimes misleading—as wrong as that may seem.  

Due to a strong influence of weather patterns, fish spawning habits, restricting regulations, cover availability, or plain closed-mindedness on the part of the angler, many waters hold secrets, even whole species of fish, not readily discoverable by the casual angler.
    My brother discovered this truth first-hand through a local fly shop and small, weedy lake in the Piedmont.  On several occasions, this particular shop denied the existence of largemouth bass in what was made out to be a smallmouth-only impoundment.  But the lake’s green fish weren’t the only species being overlooked.
    I was pleased with my brother’s maturation as a fisherman when we bounced down a dirt road on a relatively cool summer day.  He was taking me to a spot that had held much of his attention throughout the fishing season, and that now had a ritualistic profile—common to many of my treasured locations—that he adhered to on beginning the day’s fishing.
    We parked by the regular stump, unloaded our gear, changed out of our work clothes, and followed a well-worn trail to the edge of the water.  He had learned that the most efficient way to get to the fish was to wade, and so we slipped into the refreshing water—slowly, stealthily, but bubbling with anticipation.
    Bluegill held the praises of my brother’s fish stories here, and we both appreciate well the sport these scrappy panfish provide on the long rod.  So we both selected our personally time-tested bluegill catchers, tied on, and went to work.
    It was quickly evident why these small aggressors were so hot for a fly, and why “everything seems to work!,” as my brother excitedly reported to me.  Dinner plate-sized bowls of gravel marbled the sandy shallows by the shoreline, and the sandbars protruding into the depths too were littered with craters.  The telltale surface wakes of busy fish flitting about just below the surface danced like ghosts above them.
    Upon my first step into the water, a chunky, bull-headed male, poised motionless in suspension above his precious nest, stared at me, as if he was on to my hopes of capitalizing on some of the other protective parents on the block.
    I dropped a small crystal bugger in front of his nose and hoisted him out of the water after some fine persuasion and a short fight.
    Because these guarding males, and the females that patrol the peripherals of the nesting colonies, are so painfully easy to catch, always keep in mind the nature of their weakness.  Assume that every fish that you bring to hand has a spawning responsibility they have yet to perform, and treat them likewise.  Don’t prolong the fight, leave them in the water for as long as possible, be gentle in unhooking, and careful in releasing.  It is equally as important, if you do choose to wade one of these small, shallow impoundments, that you do your duty as a responsible fisherman and avoid trampling beds, traumatizing parents, and consequently killing fish.
    After successfully landing two stocky “mamas,” plus one 12-inch largemouth, I was settled on a pattern that would catch fish.  A long cast to the drop-off on the edge of a bedding colony, a five to ten second wait, and short, jerky strips produced fish almost every execution—many over eight inches in length.
    We spoke more of the fly shop and how they had not experienced the body of water enough, if they were to claim that the ‘gills were of no real size, and the largemouth, non-existent.  I made the distinction of a pumpkinseed and a bluegill (that many don’t bother to make), and refined my brother’s identification of a largemouth bass.
    After doing so, we parted ways—my brother to a deeper cove, I to a shallow creek inlet.
    “I’ve never caught a fish over there!  I’d just skip it!”  My brother hollered to me from several yards away.
    A few casts and a fly guided precisely through the weeds yielded a handful of sunnies and a two-pound largemouth. 
    Seventy or so fish had been landed between the two of us when the sun indicated that it was time to hit the road.  Yet another overlooked jewel was added to my collection, and we had succeeded in disproving the misleading words of a locally respected resource, and realizing the danger of granting every bit of accepted information untested merit.

    The bottom line?  There is no substitute for spending investigative time on the water.  Opinions are opinions, shaped by a vast number of variables.  There is a reason that such hidden gems remain hidden.  What is lost in taking accepted truth as absolute truth is potential for great discovery. 

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