Sometimes the best fishing is close to home
While I originally had a new step-by-step slated for this week’s post, I thought I’d change it up and share some photos/insights from my recent angling experiences close to home.
Cold Weather Blues
Overall, fishing has been slow as of late. Cold (25-35 F) nights have slowed the bite to a crawl. And, for a handful of weeks, I found myself spending more time at the fly bench than on the water. In the few instances I did head out, I may have been better served staying in.
In total, I’ve tallied a single Skipjack Herring on public waters since Jake’s visit mid-January. And while those I fished with occasionally fared better, the majority of days afield were likely better saved for warmer months.
That said, the last few weeks have not been a total loss as my backyard test pond has done well to fill the fishing void.
I first wrote about fishing the neighborhood pond in my Top 10 Moments of 2020 post. The water, less than 100 feet from my backdoor, featured prominently in my step-by-step posts as many “proof of concept” shots were taken just beyond my back gate. Small 1-2 lbs bass were plentiful as were bluegill, and a mere five minutes was often all it took to prove out a pattern.
The 2020 lockdown seemed to take a toll, however, and by 2021 those bass numbers seemed largely depleted as a result of the added angling pressure. While the sunfish were still present, I tallied only a handful of small bass during the entire calendar year.
Admittedly, I can’t fault others for doing the same thing I was doing to fill my free time, but it appeared that the resident bass population would need time to recover from the sudden spike in mishandling and harvest. At no more than four to five acres in size, it wouldn’t take much to ruin such a closed system.
There are Still Flies to be Tested
Disappointing as my 2021 experiences were on the pond, it still remains the closest open water. So…as new flies come off the vice (and new rods are added to the collection), I undoubtedly find my way there. Such was the case on a Sunday afternoon in late January when I wandered out back to test a new batch of Deceivers and the new intermediate line that I had ordered for my 9wt.
The flies were larger (5+” long, and tied on 4/0 hooks) than most I tie and, along the rod and line, were intended for the tiger musky I hoped to encounter later in the spring. Still…you never know, and I jokingly told my wife to unsilence her phone in case I needed assistance. After all, the neighborhood “old timers” each have a story about the 8-10 lbs bass that got away.
Thankfully she took me seriously as a heavy thump deep in the channel had me commanding Siri to “Call Maedbh” only a few minutes later. The battle that followed was shorter than anticipated as the 9wt handled the big bass with ease, and I was sliding down the collapsing bank to lip my prize by the time my wife arrived with the net.
Though not the 8-10 lbs bass of neighborhood legend, this fish was over 20″ in length and every bit of 5 lbs. By far my largest to date, I was somewhat in shock as we snapped a quick photo.
Sending the fish on its way, I regretted not getting more accurate measurements . After all, it had been ages since I caught any bass in the pond. Let alone one of this quality.
So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance
Given the lack of quality fishing elsewhere as of late, it should come as no surprise that I found myself back on the pond a few days later. While I had written off my experience Sunday as a one-off event, I had time to burn and convinced myself that a little casting practice with the new line couldn’t hurt. Thirty fishless minutes later, I had largely reaffirmed those beliefs when a bass of similar size to the prior fish narrowly missed my deceiver along the shore.
Though an additional 15 minutes produced no further strikes, I was now convinced that I had stumbled onto something.
Weather and Waiting
Weather, work and other less productive waters kept me away from the pond during the 10-days that followed. And while it remained on my mind, conditions and availability never seemed to coincide. When they finally did this past Sunday, however, I was eager to find out if the previous pattern still held.
Venturing down the bank a few hundred yards, I came to spot where a large willow had fallen during Hurricane Ida. Too large to remove, the tree had been left where it fell and now provided much needed structure in an otherwise flat canal.
Casting to the upwind side of the fall, it took only half a dozen casts before a small, stout bass came to hand. A far cry from my prior catch, it was still notably thicker than similar sized fish I had taken from the pond in the past. While perhaps not discernible in the picture to the left, it was enough to make me wonder if the over harvest of smaller bass in 2020 might have actually been beneficial.
When the 2+ lb fish that followed showed similar girth, I was fairly convinced. The bass were no where near as numerous as pre-lockdown, but those that remained had benefited from the decline in resource competition. A third fish in the 3-4 lbs range made a brief head shaking appearance shortly thereafter, and I called it a day content with my results.
One More Time!
Wrapping up at the office early Monday afternoon, I found myself once again wandering the pond with my 9wt in hand. It was colder and windy this afternoon, but I couldn’t turn down the prospect of testing the waters one more time.
It didn’t take long with two young bass taking the 4/0 deceiver on my first two casts. Two cast later, and I found myself hooked into a 4 lb fish. Unable to land it from my starting position, I foolishly attempted to walk the fish to a shallower sloping stretch of bank. A few head shakes, and a quick release later, and I was back on the hunt.
My count continued to climb over the next few casts, and I quickly found myself tangling with another large fish. Learning from past mistakes, I slid down the steep bank to retrieve this second lunker. Calling my wife once again for assistance with the photo, we snapped some quick pics and sent the girthy 20″ beast back to the depths. Having now landed my second fish pushing the 5lbs mark in two weeks, I was elated.
Continuing on my count quickly rose to 10 including another fish in the 4 lbs class that threw my hook along the bank. After 45 minutes, I decided to call it a day and hung up 9wt.
Best to let these fish rest…at least til the coming weekend.