Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bass on the Fly…what was I thinking?

If you fish in Colorado you will learn one thing at one point or another…”If you didn’t catch that fish on a fly rod, you didn’t really catch that fish.” I could throw custom made spinnerbaits and hand poured fantastic plastics landing all sorts of fish in size and species all day long only to have fly anglers remind me that I might as well have been using live bait. Recently I received a “fly rod dare vs. the same ol-same ol”. I responded and things just kind have spiraled from there.

Bigerrfish is a fly angler that I follow and occasionally comment on his blog. He does good work in both the photos and skill of his catch. One day I catch the same fish twice in one year and he “dares” me to try and catch one with a fly rod. I try to be clever and milk a nymph article out of the guy and WHAM! Next thing I know I find myself goaded into a “puff your chest out-I’m better than you” fish challenge. The dialogue went like so many conversations with a girl that I used to date. I would say, “Hey, how about a quiet night in and order some Chinese food?” Next thing you know I am forking over big bucks for nightclub dancing and dinner at Red Lobster.

My original plan was to get Don to tag along and film me while I attempt to tag a few bass with the long rod this summer. But 18 hours after driving 200 miles one-way for bass (another posts folks. I’ll try to get things caught up somehow) the last thing he wanted to do is watch me flounder with a fly rod. I am thinking that by June the bass will be slaughtering dragonflies and this would be a real hoot. Adding the fly rod to my arsenal at certain times would give me that extra element that I am looking for. However, I get back from a big trip and find Bigerrfish already starting to run with the contest landing some nice bass.

“Awwww @##$%^” I say throwing out an entire week’s worth of planning and ditch my Sunday agenda to save some face and try to keep up.

Sunday Morning…The pontooner is launched and I start setting up expectations. I set the fly rod up with a heavy beaded fly that is part woolly bugger and part nymph on a 4lb tippet that is shortened up quite a bit. This means about two, maybe even three feet was lopped off to sturdy things up. Hopefully the “bugger” would prove to be a feature creature pattern that would suit my game.

“Ok, Matt…just find the fish. Land three @#$% bass and then get on with your life.” I grumble loathing the situation that I put myself in. “On the tooner, this should be easy.”

There are no fish on the shoreline as the tooner floats across the water. This time of year I should be seeing nesting bass. These are not really the fish I want but would make a good backup plan if I struggled…but they weren’t there. My fly was a bit on the heavy side and dragging moss on every cast. I had no choice but to switch to a floating\batfish pattern in this streamer fly that I had gotten years ago for about 2 bucks. 2 bucks was a lot of money back then. More searching, more casting…nothing. In three hours I cover the lake and do not see a single fish. My thinking went into full desperation mode…almost panic.

“C’mon, Matt.” Yes, I talk to myself a lot when fishing. Taking a few deep breaths I let the early frustration dissolve from my mind. “What do you need to do?” The newfound relaxation sinks into my head and ideas start forming. “We need a new spot.”

Within minutes the tooner was loaded and on the truck. Pull into the parking area of the new spot and do a quick grab-n-go with the gear. Knowing the shorebang scene will limit me severely I start scouting for fish in the shallows.

“There’s one!” I see a big fatty female cruising the incline. “No time to set up the cast…just whip and shoot.”

I strip about 10 feet of line, check the leader and try to hurl a hail-Mary fly cast at the bass a mere 6-8 feet away…the fish took a slight turn and was moving further out. Cast, FLUB! I don’t even hit the water. The line snarled up in the weeds at my feet. I move out of the weeds, fix my mess, move down ahead of the fish and get ready for a second attempt. This time I have more room to “whip back, whip forward, whip back and present”…the fly lands a foot away from the fish. It’s a perfect yellow and white streamer with red eyes. It landed in a good spot perfectly on the water…with a billowing wad of heavy fly line right behind it. Really it was spaghetti with a streamer. The fish looked at the streamer and wondered how it would get at it through the mess. The fish swam off as I spent the next few moments increasing my cursing vocabulary by leaps and bounds.

“Ok, ‘goober’…you better try a few 10 and 2’s before we go much further.”

It was not going well. My face was getting red hot with frustration and sun. I see another fish cruising. I present and then start stripping line on a huge (for me anyway) 10-foot distance cast. The fish races for it. I hold my breath. Strip, strip, WHAM! I lift the rod tip, try to set the hook, have the fish on for maybe 2 seconds and then gone.

“Sonofa! #$%&* #$%* mudder #%^&* ducker!!!” pause for a moment “That was a big fish.” I cast out again quickly in hopes for a second strike and the streamer gets caught up in submerged tree structure. Even with the trimmed down tippet, it breaks off with one good tug. Ever just sit down on the shoreline and do nothing for a moment? These little cool down periods are lifesavers for me. The fog of sweat fades from my sunglasses and I dust myself off for another attempt.

“So help me if I lose one more fish…” My lips mutter going through my fly box of 6 or 7 flies that I never use. “Down to moths and…these POS PP’s.” (I love these things for crappie but they are not a respectable fly or bass.) @#$%^ me, this isn’t going well.”

Now I reach the north side of the lake and it’s fairly mossy. I see two fish circling in the moss about a foot or two from shore. The area has some brush that I can hide on while I flip the fly ahead of the moss with a quick roll cast. I watch the fly drop and sun sparkle off the metal blades as the sun hits. BOOM! A fish races out of the moss and tags the fly hard.

The cheated tippet will only hold about 6 or 8 pounds of pressure. Not enough to horse the head of a big fish like this on a dead run. All I can do is put tension on the line (I didn’t have any stripped out at the moment which was really nice) and pull the fish towards me when he stops running. The fish ran twice and I swore the whole time. This dance is far too delicate for my tastes. When it stopped for a moment in the water trying to shake off the fly, I gave the rod tip one lift and walked it back to shore quickly. This is where it gets strange. After hundreds upon hundreds of bass pictures…I forget everything and focus on getting quality shots of the bass with the fly in his mouth. The result is some of the worst fish pictures that I have ever taken. These pictures almost sicken me, as they offer no real quality to the fish. Clearly a case of “out of my game”.

(Above: First horrible pic. This is an awesome bass, +18’er and maybe 4lbs. I am so wrapped up in trying to maneuver the 9-foot rod in the brush to get a shot on time delay. FAIL!)

(Above: Same fish, second shot. This fish shows a bit of damage on the left side.)

(Above: This shot may be worth something because it has a fly rod in it. If this photo showed say a 250-dollar St. Croix spin rod and a 200-dollar Quantum reel...this shot would be worthless!!!.)

Catching one fish is a huge boost of confidence and fuel to keep me going. I still have a lot of lake to cover so things are looking up. Maybe I can nail two more fish quickly and forget all of this stumbling and fumbling. At least by now I am actually getting the casts out and stripping just right to get the blades spinning and twinkling in the sun. I am also putting the pieces of the puzzle together. On this lake I have fish in a certain behavior. I merely need to find the ones in cover close to shore and “plink” them out.

I see another fish holding close to cover surrounded by trees. Normally I would flip a jig at the base of the structure and have the fish out quickly. Reaching this spot by shore with the long rod at all would be difficult as there is only a slight gap in the branches in front of me but no window for even a roll cast behind me. My only chance to get this fish is to wade in. This I do and cast at the second fish. WHAM! The fish hits it on the third twinkle of the blade and I lift the rod. Wow…I actually set the hook! My heart stops as I grip the line on the pole and pull the head away from the structure and towards me. The fish is halfway to me and decided to run deep. I let go of the line and here my fly reel drag sing. My brain is struggling with what to do this whole time. My instincts want to clamp down hard and land this fish but my caution steps in and just lets the fish run. As soon as the fish burns out the first main surge it runs into the shoreline moss. That would have been a good play if I weren’t standing there with my hand ready for some bass lip grabbing.

I wade back out of the water at the edge of the tree line and fumble with the photo-op. If this is the first time viewing my blog…please review earlier posts. This is terrible compared to most of my shots.

(Above: This picture is a bit doctored, as I had to remove a lot of moss from the face to show the fly. You can barely #$%^& see the blade. This is another beautiful fish.)

I added the video for this one and even that is pretty lame. . Maybe I am off on this but shouldn’t that fly rod be a few feet shorter?

Video of second fish

Ok so here is where the whole day gets ugly and part of the reason I am writing this post fueled by sheer anger and frustration. I see a monster bass lurking in the wood structure. I flub a few casts and then finally get the PP Fly in the money zone. Sink, small strip, sink…nothing. There is very little sunlight so the twirling blade (the only redeeming quality of this fly by the way) is not spinning. Then the fly gets hooked up in some twigs.

“Oh Sweet Jeebus! Why am I even fishing with bugs!?!” I choke out in anger trying to pop the fly out with the wimp stick.

But the bass now gets interested. He sees the commotion and moves in. I relax the rod, the bug comes off the stick and out of the strike zone. I roll cast it right back where it started and it sinks slowly. Wham! The fish turned on a dime as a faint glint of sun must have hit the blade. I set the hook, mange the slack…everything is going exactly how I want it. Then SNAP! The big brute simply shook his head with force and snapped my tippet like it was tinsel on a Christmas tree. Horror, anger, confusion and disbelief jump on my psyche like two westbound train robbers on a frail hobo making his way back east. I sat down…took a deep breath before standing up once again.

Walk, walk, scout, scout. Now I am deliberately looking for nesting fish. My soul will not rest until I have landed the third bass. I have also decided at this juncture that there will be no panfish on the fly chapter of this story until much later in the summer when warmwater fly action is hot, hot, hot.

Last cove and it is guarded by a heavy tree line as well as a steep bank. With the spin gear I could search cast and cover many yards of water both horizontally and vertically. This is called search casting when all there is to see is blue water. Then I spot a shadow under a heavy log in what can only be described as a trash and moss filled cove. (hopefully I post the cleanup of that disaster soon after this) Once again I have no choice but to crawl down and wade in the muck to reach this fish with the long rod. Maybe some guys could sling a shot in there by letting out about 20-feet of line and then bending the rod back hard. I have seen guys do it on some FLV Highlights but my chances would be –135% if you factored in the 5mph wisp of a breeze. What did I do? I climbed down the bank and worked my casts parallel to the shoreline. Here things are a bit more open and I can build up some distance. After a few tries I landed a decent cast about 15 feet out (I may actually have to go back and measure that distance. If it’s 20-feet or even more, I will be stoked! Ha ha.)

Wham! No wait, that was a bump? Strip Wham! “There we go!”

Wading out I can get the vantage of less shoreline obstruction and in the case of this fish I have a lot more open water. The fish is a mere 3lb average and a lot easier to handle.

Video of third fish in rough terrain
(There was nowhere to put the camera so this is the best I could do. Even the video was a bit tough.)

“You had to throw that last line in there didn’t you, Matt.” I said walking out in dripping pants and wet shoes. “Maybe if I would have posted a pic of how dusty the fly rod was and told him that I didn’t plan on taking it to the car wash until June would have been better. Mentioning that Mattsabasser’s generally carry a total of maybe 10 or 12 flies would have set the expectations a little more realistic.

To amend any and all conceived wagers, debts or liabilities on both sides I will also complete the “wermin’ N salmon egg” article. Make no mistake this article will be 11 on the sarcastic chart and funny as hell. I intend to make this my best work yet… Deadline July 4th 2010.


Bigerrfish said...

well first of all...... Nice work man! I saw the vids too... No matter how frustrated you say you were and how mad the wimpstick made you.... I can hear it in your voice.... your having the time of your life... almost... dude, go up to 8 or 10 lb tippet those big dummies arent scared of a littl fishin line.. If this was the first time I read your blog... I would think this is the only way to catch a bass....

I do not appriciate the way you mock my fly angler attitude.. I guarantee you I choose the fly over a lure because its so much more fun! thats it F_U_N...

One more thing,, You puffed up your chest and proposed a challange to me.. turns out,, the challange was against yourself. Matt v.s fly with a bigerrfish motavator.

Glad The word Bigerrfish stuck in your head like that!!

Matt......Welcome to the power of the fly. It's not about being tough, and dragging in fish.. Its about the way that shit makes you feel when you fool em that way....

No hard feelings?

Coloradocasters said...

I sugar coated the heck out of this article. Truth be told I missed a TON of fish. Setting the hook was only half the problem...distance was killing me.

Later in the year I am going to purchase some actual flies and do this when more appropriate for myself. My flybox hasn't been updated since possibly 1985. I'll grab some extra tippet as well.

No hard feelings. There never was. I did feel like I was being poked in the chest a bit though and had to do something in attempt at saving face when I really should have just let it go. The title of your post threw me off a bit on Sunday...I have been called worse things than a Bass Turd.

Understand that I get a ton of grief from the fly brethren of CO. On some waters I have to carry a fly rod simply to avoid the threat of violence. No foolin'. Fly anglers have fought long and hard to chisel out the management and protection for certain waters so I fully understand their mentality and take the jeers, pokes and even thrown rocks in stride.

This article was the first time that I have ever really fired back at the fly crowd. It is not meant to be aimed at any one person and hopefully it is viewed as sarcasm more than an insult. Know that I have infinite respect for the fly game as well as the work you put into your blog.

I wish you good fortune and big fish in your future.

Colorado Angler said...

Matt - don't beat yourself up, Bigerrfish is one helluva an angler. He knows how to work the long rod with the best of them - bass, crappie, trout - he's got some mighty sick skills.

That was an impressive bass you landed in your clip, too.