Archived Story

The joys of flyfishing

Published 7:24pm Friday, May 30, 2014

There’s something about water and casting a fly rod and the potential for a big bass to explode under – or over – a big yellow cork popping bug that makes me forget about everything else.
This is the best time of year to flyfish for bass. Last Sunday, I woke before dawn and took my fishing kayak out to Russell Pond.
When I got there the sun was still well below the horizon, though it was light enough to see. Fog was coming off the surface in thin wisps that rose up and faded a few feet above the water’s surface.
Frogs were creaking and croaking, a few songbirds were already at work. I hauled my kayak out of the truck bed, slid it down the steep blue-gray gravel and grass roadway that serves as a boat ramp – if it was any more primitive it would just be a hillside – and started paddling out into the warm water as quietly as possible.
A big explosion in the grass let me know the bass were prowling, and when I came around a point a Great Blue Heron protested with a gravelly squawk, then lifted up into the air and flew away and then came back and made pass high over me, checking out the fishing competition.
The fishing was good, not great, and I landed a 1-pounder and then a nice 4-pounder that pulled my kayak around 180 degrees as I fought him.
The hook barely caught the inside of his large, white mouth, and when I got my left thumb and the inside of my forefinger around his bottom lip, the popping bug fell out.
I gave him a kiss on the head for luck and sent him back in the dark water, where I watched him sit still for a moment before making a hard, fast turn and disappearing under my kayak.
About 30 minutes later, after scores of casts and not another bite, I let the slight breeze push me up against the water weeds near the shoreline and I made a long, straight cast parallel to the shoreline. My big yellow cork fly landed with a plop about three feet off of the weeds.
I let the bug sit there on the dark surface, its rubber legs twitching and its feather tail pulsing in the water, until the circles smoothed. And then I did what I always do – I pointed my rod directly at the bug and gave a sharp tug on my flyline. There was an immediate reaction on the bug 50 feet away: a big clear bubble of water shot up in front of the lure’s cupped mouth and a deep-throated “bloop” sound crossed the lake. I waited for the surface to flatten out again and gave the line another tug.
I was so focused on keeping my line tight; on waiting, on trying to imagine what was underwater looking up, there wasn’t any room left in my mind for another thought. I was completely into the game.
And then I had a fishing thought, “That’s a lot of motion. I bet most baits would make tiny little movements instead of big splashes.” And I this time after the circles flattened out, I made the tiniest tugs possible on my line, moving the popping bug an inch at a time about every second, creating a small, jerky wake out in front of those weeds.
I was studying the movement; trying to imagine what it would look like from underwater while traveling over a bass when I saw the shoreline weeds lean out toward my bug and a the surface of the lake bulged as something big underwater shot out of the weeds.
A shot of adrenaline swept over me as a very big bronze-green head broke out the wave and slammed down onto my yellow cork fly.
I pulled up and back on my flyrod and felt the hard, solid, shaking resistance as the largemouth clamped down on the lure. And then I felt the bass open his mouth.
And the fly popped free, the hook point never touching bass flesh.
I sat for a long time in my kayak, hyperventilating, staring up into the sky, and found myself biting on my left wrist to keep from disturbing the quiet, showing the bass how to get his teeth into it.
And then I found myself laughing, all alone at 7:30 on a beautiful Sunday morning, filled with the joy that is fishing … and not necessarily catching.
Boone is publisher of The Outlook.