Lackluster Return Yields Plenty of Fun

It has been a tough couple of weeks to find time for fishing. Spring is always a busy season for me – of course all my activities have to pick up right at the heart of fishing season – but alas, baseball and school won’t be put on hold because the stripers are running and the mayflies hatching. I’m usually able to sneak out here-and-there between events, but I’ve had less free time than usual so far this year (and I’m sure this trend will continue as I continue to take on more responsibilities).

So, when I had a free Sunday, I jumped at the chance to do some fishing, despite the oppressive heat predicted. I planned on making my entrance back into the sport by catching striped bass on the fly in a tidal river. I figured I’d catch a few fish – likely dominated by schoolies, but perhaps with a 25″+ fish thrown in there – snap a few photos, and have plenty of material for a quality blog post.

In the days leading up to Sunday, I squeezed in some fly and leader tying when I could, preparing for what I hoped would be a successful trip. I was especially pleased with one of the poppers I tied, and knew it would be irresistible to the stripers.

While this fly looked clean at the time, I was hoping it would get chewed by stripers.

When Sunday finally rolled around, I was rigged up and ready to go before I even brushed my teeth. The spot I’d be fishing was new to me, but that didn’t hurt my confidence. I was sure I’d be walking away from the trip with a blog post practically already written.

But unfortunately, that confidence didn’t amount to much. After thirty minutes of fruitlessly fishing the popper, I switched to an entirely different tactic and threw a heavily weighted clouser minnow on a sink-tip. After another thirty minutes, I switched again to a spinning rod and a spook. Surely, if not a striper, this would at least yield a smallmouth.

It took another thirty minutes without so much as a bite to finally call it quits. I might have stuck around for a little longer if the other people around me had been catching fish, but even they had blanked. Without even seeing any signs of fish, I was pretty confident that I wasn’t making the wrong decision by throwing in the towel.

With the morning gone and temperatures on the rise, where was I to go to get some content for a blog post? The warmwater pond near my house quickly came to mind, and despite the heat, I knew the fish would be active.

With a small, weightless rubber legs nymph rigged up on my five-weight, I was on the trail to the water without wasting a second. Luckily, it didn’t take long before I was on fish, no matter the fact that they were dwarfed by the stripers I had hoped to catch. Even though a scummy, yellowish-green pollen cloud covered the pond’s surface, I was still able to sight fish most of the bass and bluegill I caught. I’d watch for shadows moving beneath the film, then set the hook once I saw the flash of a fish opening its mouth. Sometimes I’d spot light-colored saucers dug out of the silt bottom, telltale signs of sunfish beds, and if I made an accurate enough cast, a fat and sassy bluegill was almost guaranteed.

This bluegill, like many of the ones I caught, was larger than my hand.

I’m usually able to tell whether I’ve hooked a sunfish versus a bass because sunfish use their sail-shaped bodies to dig to the side while bass work more vertically. Today, there was another factor that made it even easier to distinguish the two species: whether it was because the bluegill were hopped up on hormones from spawning or they were just feeling particularly spunky in the warm water, they fought significantly harder than the bass.

By the end of the short trip, I had caught more fish than I could count. While my fly looked like a shell of its former self, the heat hadn’t affected me nearly as bad as I’d expected, thanks in large part to a gentle breeze.

This disheveled nymph was the ticket for warm-weather sunfish and bass.

While it was certainly a nice day, which typically brings some crowds to the park during the summer, I wasn’t expecting quite so many people to be there as there were because of the heat. Nevertheless, nobody got in my way, and one family even stopped to check out what I was doing. While they awkwardly stood there, waiting for me to hook a fish, I desperately worked my fly, hoping I wouldn’t disappoint. Thankfully, it was a matter of seconds before a small bass took the offering and came to hand, and the family was excited at the opportunity to hold the creature.

A family was thrilled at the chance to see this fish.

It’s times like these, when others express the same level of enthusiasm and curiosity at these fascinating beings of the natural world as I do, that make me appreciate how lucky I am to interact with them as frequently as I do. Even though there was a short break in my fishing excursions, I jumped right back on the saddle, although it wasn’t the grandiose return I envisioned. And to be able to pass on my enjoyment of the sport with others made it all worth it – I just hope I won’t see them at any of my honey holes in the near future.

Expect next week’s blog post to be slightly late; I’ll be in Maine for the weekend, and won’t get a chance to do any writing until the week.

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