Friday, June 8, 2012

Billy Bass and my Charlton Heston Impressions

As many of you know, I've been working at putting Tenkara and my 2wt through their paces to determine with one comes out to be the Ultimate in Lightweight Fly Fishing.

This isn't about that. Sort of.

Gee, Scobby, don't look like
fish are in there!
I was out on my local stream last night hitting it with the 2wt. I was here the other week with the Tenkara and figured that the 2wt should have a shot at these waters too. Fair is fair.

I'm not getting into what I did, where I did it and who it was with. That would ruin the surprise. This story starts on the way back from the testing.

About halfway back there are these little drainage ponds; very long but only about 5 yards or so across. These ponds hold a decent number of bass, some that grow to lunker status. The first time I found these ponds, about 2 years ago, I saw the largest bass I've ever seen in here. Damn thing was as big as my leg! (Exaggeration, but not as much as you would think....)

These ponds also hold some of the spookiest fish I've ever seen. You walk to the bank and the panfish scatter for Christs-sake.

I didn't see any. Last time I was here there was around a dozen or so. I hoped that they weren't all fished out but seemed likely. Finally, almost to the far end of the pond, I saw a LMB lurking by the bank. I had time to kill so I decided to cast out and see it I could get a nibble. I chuckled at the idea of landing a largemouth on a size 20 dry.

Spoiler alert: he didn't take the size 20 dry.

I had a couple of flies that Brian Davis had sent me last year that he uses for warm water fishing. I tried them a handful of times but truth be told I hadn't had any luck with them to date. More truth be told, I don't fish for bass that much (grand total caught being 1) so I really don't hold that against Brian.

So I tied on one of his creations, something with foam and marabou and gave it a cast. After a couple casts I realized this bass wasn't going for anything on the top.  I still like the look of the fly, so I put a little tungsten putty on the tippet, about three inches above the fly. I plopped it into the water in front of me and gave it an experimental twitch. The tungsten kept it down but the foam kept it off the bottom about an inch and a half.


I cast. Then cast again. Each time I danced the fly by the bass I could see it watch the fly. I could see the curiosity grow. Finally it noses forward, mouth open by the fly. It closes. I pull back to set the hook, digging in my heels..... and the fly pops out of the water.

The bass does a couple circles in a very pissed manner.

Dumbass Aww, good try. You should try again. Dumbass. 

So I begin the game again. Twitch by twitch I work the fly under it's nose. Minutes pass in a sort of timeless anticipation. Twitch by twitch.

The take was gentle. So gentle I thought that it wasn't a take at all, just the bass repeating it's previous foreplay. I lifted the rod tip. Then I felt the headshake and saw it hunker down.

Bass are known for their lively fight, powerful headshakes, and aerial displays. There was none of that here. He pulled one way and I pulled the other. This slipped out of the arena of sportsman fishing and become solely a contest of wills. My steely determination to bring this fish to hand against instincts ingrained to flee at all costs.

Finally, with a heave the would move mountains, I had him at the bank. Just the tip of his head was touching the grass. I looked down and into the one visible eye of this fish. He didn't know that I would release him. He didn't know I wanted to just take a picture. He didn't know that I was testing this rod for an article. All he knew was that we were locking into battle and I was besting him.

With the final strength known to the desperate, he launched himself out of the water and gave one final shake  in defiance. And the fly popped out of his mouth.

My heart expanded, contracting the adrenaline-laced blood that was coursing in my veins. In that moment I realized that there are times when we are all given a moment; just one moment. The rookie who sees the ball pop out of the scramble just inches from the opposing end zone...... the UFC fighter who's arm pops out of the clinch to slide around his opponents neck...... that one moment to act and change everything.

My heart contracted, forcing the blood back out. And I acted.

I went after the bastard.

Rod tossed aside. Knees sliding in the mud. Chest pack digging into the bank. I grasp his tail in my left hand, my right slides along his belly. If a finger.... a thumb can find his mouth he's mine! Like an overgrown bar of soap he slips through my fingers.



On my knees in the mud. Arms wide. Head back and mouth slightly open. I look like I just found the Statue of Liberty buried in the beach. I chuckle a little, but it's not funny.

I got up and really almost kicked the rod into the pond.

But I don't. Instead I walk, astounded and at a loss at the same time. Bass, no where to be seen. Not surprising.

After a few minutes I start to pack it in slowly. Lethargically. He's long gone by now. I look to my right, about to head out, when I see a dark shape moving in the water. Then three. I look, and there's "my" bass, flanked by two of his bassy friends.

WTF.... are they going to try and beat my ass? Am I in for a Bass-kicking??If they come near the bank, I'm outta here.

They all swim around the area of our stuggle. Shortly one leaves. Soon the bass that I nearly had takes up it's former spot. With the other, much bigger bass, a few feet off.

Bodyguards? Seriously, what the hell is going on here?!

I figure if the bass is going to be stupid enough to come back, I'll be stupid enough to try again.

I gently cast and the fly lands in the water like the breath of a baby. The bass scatter.

Maybe should let them settle down a little more.

I step back from the bank and ponder my odds in a bass-fisherman-bass brawl.

Minutes pass. The bass look restive, both of them. I cast in and "my" bass backs up a little. I hold as still as during deer season with a buck staring right at me in my stand. After a time I see that the fish visibly relaxes.

So I start my twitchy dance anew.

I cast again. A third time. Right into a tree.

I do a long distance release of the tree, but it decided to keep my fly for a souvenir. I have one more Brian Davis fly, something weighted and with a lot of marabou. Colors were similar. What the hell.

I cast and cast. Anticipation made the casts seem as numerous as the stars and as fresh as the first one at the same time.

Then, finally, a take.

Now he shakes and jumps. Scrambles and fights. This is the bass fishing that I know(from watching Versus.)  I give him a little line and decide to give him room to run and tire out a little.

And now comes the oddest thing in this extremely odd trip.

The fish is swimming to my left. I keep the rod angled but with only enough pressure to keep the line tight. Suddenly the other bass comes swimming up and swims alongside the one on the line! Left, then right, then left again like siamese balls in Pong.

My weirdness-tolerance tank is now empty. I'm bringing this fish to hand or will die in the effort. I guide him to the bank right were he was before. I heave then reach. At last!!!

Fish in hand I laugh!

About frggin time!!
Then as promised, a quick pic and back into the water he went.

I held him to the rod and then measured the rod later. This bass comes in at 21". The largest bass I've ever caught on a fly rod. The second largest I've ever caught on a fly. And on a friggin 2wt!!! I beamed ear to ear all the way back to the car.

The rod and the fly
Oh, and for all my Twitter followers. The teaser/hint: the Korean symbol means Perseverance. I took Tang Soo Do for a number of years and that was one of the Tenets of the art. Without that there is no way I would have landed this bad boy. Tight lines all!

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