Saturday, June 23, 2012

Raw thumb and fishing for squirrels

My thumb is raw, I slipped in a bunch of goose poop almost falling on my butt, and I lost 3 flies.   Some people would see this is as a bad thing but I am grinnin ear to ear.   

Work and school have had me pretty down lately.  So I got up this AM right before the sun peeked over the houses, grabbed my trusty March Brown 5wt and headed out back to see if the bass were up yet.   I have a retention pond out back, it’s a big neighborhood pond and I am fortunate to live on the biggest one in our subdivision.  It has a nice moderate drop off on the sides, the deepest my kayak depth finder has found was 12 feet and it has a nice big submerged island in the middle.  It makes a nice big flat for the fish to feed and bed on.  I have carefully staked out mallard and wood duck decoys that mark the edge of the island where it starts to drop off and I have caught 7 different species of fish in the pond.  I like it a lot.  

This morning I was throwing a green gurgler with a little red hackle and some green rubber legs in about a size 1.  Bloooop….Bloooop….Blooooop… WHOOOOOSH!!!!  I love seeing a top water bite.  It has been a while since my pond fish have reacted to a gurgler.  About two years ago I whooped these fish rather badly over the summer on gurglers and this is the first time they have eaten them again in two years.  Well, it’s back on and I am having a blast.  

There is a spot along the bank, right behind my house and I always see bass running this part of the bank chasing bream or shiners.  I decided I’d start there and work my way around the pond.  As I stripped line off my reel a large boil and splash erupted to me left right at the spot.  Yep, the bass are awake and hungry.  I took my time getting my line off and managed at my feet and began my false cast.  My March Brown fly rod loves to eat line.  In only three false casts I had about forty feet of line out and a nice tight loop.  I dropped the fly about two feet off the bank and let it sit for just a second and started stripping it in letting it make its namesake sound.  I casted a second time to about the same spot only a little further out.  Plop.  Bloooop….Bloooop.. BAM!  Fish on!  He wasn’t a giant but he ate my fly and that always makes me happy.  I stripped him in and grabbed his lip.  Right in the corner of the mouth was my fly.  A quick flick of the Willy Joe Hemo-cuts and the fly was loose. 

 I tossed him back and checked my leader and moved down the bank.  A little further down is a spot on the island that has a really steep drop-off and the bass love to hang out there.  A fly thrown up on the island flat and dragged off the edge usually gets eaten.  I had about 5 big blow-ups on my fly before the line came tight and I had the fish on.  The sun was just peeking up and the reflection on the glass calm water was shattered but a nice little two-pound bass.  As he cleared the water and shook the water flew off like diamonds and he was back under running again.  As he neared the bank he went deep and got into the grass.  The fight stopped.  I stood there waiting to feel a tug or head shake but it was just dead weight.  Uh oh, this isn’t good.  I pulled up slowly and felt a little tug back so I figured I still had him.  Then just as I thought I had him out of the grass and would be able to drag him in, “tink” goes the line and I only have a leader.  Fly #1 gone.  I tie my own flies so this isn’t a big deal, but it was the last one of that size I had left.   I am actually writing this and looking at my vise knowing as soon as I have this done its back to tying for a while.  

I tied on a bigger fly of the same color and pattern and as I worked  my way around to another spot that usually has a big one hanging out in it, I caught about six more smaller fish in the one-two pound range.  I arrived at the spot where I usually see the biggun.  Two or three casts later there was a blow-up on my fly and I had another fish on.  This one could barely fit the fly in his mouth but he was jumpin and shakin like he was a 12-pounder!  I stripped him in and took the fly out and let him swim back.  A few casts later another blow up on my fly.  It was a big whoosh and this one was from a grown fish.  My line came tight and as he started to pull line back, “tink”… my fly was gone.  Mr. Bass now has a nice piercing and some lip jewelry.  That gave me quite a rush.  That fish was, ( now remember the fisherman’s rules for lost/not seen fish apply here), at least 40 pounds and had giant sharp teeth with glowing red eyes and a harpoon sticking out of his side!!  But really it was a good solid fish and I have caught 6-7 lb bass in this pond before.  I tied on my last green gurgler and started casting.  In the past I have actually caught the fish that has broken me off a few casts later and gotten my fly back so I gave it a shot.  This fly was a little more special since it had a rattle in it.  I dropped it on the drop off, bloop, bloop, BAM!  Another solid fish in the three-pound range but he was wearing no lip jewelry.  A couple more fish in the one-pound range and I figured that big one was at home admiring my fly stuck I his lip and posting pictures of it on his FaceBook page. 

 I moved along and worked over another spot.  After about 6 casts I decided that squirrels were on the target list and since I mis-judged the tree behind me my fly launched itself into the topmost branches, ya know the ones that don’t bend far enough down to get your fly back, yep that one.  As I tried to get my fly back the leader popped about 4 inches from my connection.  I only had a small spool of tippet, not really a good choice for replacing an entire leader, with me so I had to call it a morning.  I rolled up my line and headed into the house.   

As I sit here now my dog is snoring at my feet and the house is quiet.  The perfect time to tie flies for this evening’s adventure…

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Salt on my Gills again

I finally got salt water on my gills this morning and I feel like a new man.  I met up with my buddy Gifford and we hit the water right before sunrise.  Armed with Mt. Dew, my trusty March Brown fly rod and a fistful of flies we ran up the Wando River in search of tail.  The air was chilly and the wind didn’t help much, (this is June in SC right?), but we weren’t running far.   The sound of the motor running us up the river was music to my ears, the smell of salt water and pluff mud was a joy to my nose, the tiny bit of spray made my skin tingle,  and seeing the sun just peeking itself over the trees and reflecting off the water was a visual joy.  I had been assaulted on all fronts of my senses and I was near over load.  It has been far, far, far too long since I have been able to get out like this.  I miss it dearly. 
As we neared out target creek we slowed and started looking for the tell-tale spots that would hold fish.  Small, shallow grass flats that flood with water and have tiny feeder creeks running in and out of them.  This is where the redfish come on and off the flat and the more access/exit points the better.  Redfish like to have avenues to make a quick exit.  We motored down the creek, Gifford at the helm of his East Cape Fury, expertly navigating the tiny creeks twists and turns.  He powered down and we rolled into a grass edge that slowed us down and it got really quiet.  We just stood there looking at the water, taking it all in, looking for signs of fish.  To me it felt like an hour but it was just a few seconds.  Gifford climbed up on the poling platform and I pulled my fly rod from its tube under the gunnels.  As we poled along we talked about fish and the weather and tried to figure out why the tides have been so wonky and higher than predicted lately.  We scanned the flat back and forth and the first fish showed itself.   A quick flip of the tail and it was gone.   That’s when my hands started shaking and my heart sped up to 100mph.   We worked our way around the back side of the flat and saw a few more.  Then we saw one that was grubbin hard in the back of the flat in a small pocket.  It didn’t look like a giant but it was a tailing redfish and we moved into striking range. 
I pulled fly line off my reel and it coiled at my feet, my eyes never leaving the fish.   I began my false cast and let the line shoot.  It was a little long and too far ahead.  I double hauled the line and dropped it closer and it his path.  The fish kept tailing on the line we hoped and my fly was stuck a little high in the water.  Gifford’s expert advice rang in my ears, although he was whispering, “Strip, strip!.... Small Strip”…  Tunnel vision had set in and everything sounded like I had my head in a tin can, time slowed down and for a moment EVERYTHING was just perfect.   I let the fly settle a little and then the silence was shattered with a huge rush of water and what I can only describe as the sound of a very big toilet being flushed, as the fish made its move.  I froze.  The mantra, “Keep Calm and don’t trout set” was blaring in my head as I tried to figure out if the fish spooked or if he ate my fly.  Just as I heard Gifford say, “He ate it!!!” I felt the fly line slipping through my fingers.  My heart skipped a beat and I grabbed the line, pulled back hard and swept my rod low and to the right.  The fish exploded and started his run.  Line screamed off the deck, through my fingers, the fish came tight on the reel and the drag began its beautiful song.   As the song played and the fish ran for heavier grass we booth started grinning ear to ear.  Somewhere in the distance I heard “Keep ‘em tight” and I realized it was Gifford only 15 feet behind me.  I was in my own world and it was a trip I have not made in a long time. 
I started taking line back and the fish would run again.  Back and forth we played until I thought he was tired enough and ready to have that hook removed so he could swim away.  I reached for the fly line to land him and that’s when he saw the boat.  He did not like the boat.  He did not like the boat in any way and decided the best avenue for escape was directly under it.  As I danced around the bow trying to get my rod under the boat and keep pressure on the fish Gifford hopped back onto the platform and turned the boat around.  After a few more runs to the deep grass I finally got hold of the line and pulled him in.  As I hoisted him out of the water he began to drum.  Then it hit both of us that this fish was much bigger than we thought he was.  As I looked at the fish, and waited for my tunnel vision to dissipate, Gifford got out his camera and I realized, not only had I landed my first Redfish on the fly of 2012, this was the biggest Redfish I have ever landed on the fly.  We took pictures of the fish from a few angles.   I laid down on the boat to release him.  I put him in the water with a hand on his tail and under his belly, and he just laid there.   Tickled him a little and he twitched a little bit.  It took a minute or two before he realized I was going to let him go and when this realization hit him he gave a good kick of his tail and was gone, swimming off strong to fight another day. 

As I checked my leader with my trembling hands we started poling around looking for another one.  We saw several more tails waving in the grass and got a shot at a few but the wind blew us too close and they spooked or I would drop a shot over them and the line would spook them off.  We moved to another area and found a lot of laid up fish, floating in the grass just hanging out.  We tried to get a fly in front of them but the water was gin clear and the fish were really spooky.   After moving to the last spot we poled through some great looking water but saw nothing.  No Redfish, no bait just a good sized blue crab scurrying towards a grass clump.  The morning had passed us by and Gifford had to get to work so we called it a day and headed back in.  All in all it was a banner day.  Just getting back on the water was awesome, landing a personal best Redfish on the fly was the topping on the cake.   Days like today make me really appreciate how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place.  Good Friends, Fly rods and Redfish.  Life on the fly.