Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Oct 21, 2013

I pulled into the lakes public access lane and drove passed the boat and trailer parking area, pausing out of surprise when I noticed there was not a single vehicle parked. Realizing that the mid-August heat can often drive fishermen away I expected to see at least a few early-birds such as myself on the water. From the looks of things however, there was not a single boat on the lake yet. My surprise was added to shortly thereafter upon finding even the lower parking area vacant as well. Could it be that I actually had the entire lake to myself? As a stood at my tailgate rigging my gear with a full view of three fourths of the lake I could not find a soul. The way I saw it, either I was the luckiest fisherman in the county on this morning, or the rest of the folks already knew that recent fishing on this water stunk. I figured that optimism would be the best bet until proven otherwise.

Tying on a modest-sized deer hair popper of the Fruit Cocktail genre, I headed for the windward side of the lake where the high bank shielded the water. My target was the algae mats and calm coves formed along the curving bank. On approach the usual fleeing wakes of juvenile bluegills gave way to my presence. I was looking at a small 6 foot opening in the nearest algae mat and my 6 weight floating line was already airborne. The little popper landed with a splat in the middle of the opening, and I watched as the resulting rings grew, and then dissipated as they spread further from my offering. With no strike appearing right away I gave the popper a short 2 inch twitch-retrieve. It was immediately slammed by a large open mouth, followed by a tail slap of defiance as if it was saying "Take that!" Elated by an early strike I was in my glory, as the 3 pound fish put on a strong showing before coming to hand. It was a nice fat-bellied fish to open the morning. Figuring it was just a lucky teaser to a morning of casting and searching; I accepted things willingly and moved down the bank towards a next opening. However, that was not to be the case. What I found was nearly a quarter mile of fish after fish, with hardly a cast failing to at least producing a strike. They were all 2 to 3 pound fish, and all hit like they had never seen a fly or lure before in their lives. Not quite the norm for this water from my past experiences. It was as-if they were all finning just under the algae, looking up in anticipation knowing that I was getting closer to their location.

At one point I stopped to look around. What I saw was a single elderly couple. The wife was walking their small white miniature dog along the sunny park side of the lake. The husband was sitting on a bench looking in my direction. Nothing else; no boats, no bank fishermen were to be found. Grateful for the solitude and quiet water I went back to business and proceeded along as before, searching out open pockets of algae and raising fish. The entire morning was exactly what I needed. I was in search of a day with no struggles or schedule, where I could unwind and hopefully catch a fish or two on the fly rod. It did not let me down. A long summer of projects and family events had absorbed most of my summer. Yet in a single morning, a single fish had erased all of that as I had gripped that first wet, green lip.

I reached the end of my wind-shielded cove and paused to look around once again, finding there was virtually no change. The section of lake in front of me held no refuge from the wind or any cover of algae. It would be a bit different approach for covering this water, most likely requiring a streamer of some sorts and some double-hauling towards deeper water. I chose to turn around. I was satisfied. My walk back was more a recollection of the fish I had just landed and released than anything else. The ever-changing algae still had some of the same openings in them, but new ones had formed as others had closed. I wondered if the bass had enjoyed the morning as well. It sure seemed like they had. They had hit with a complete lack of abandon like a Lab that has not chased a tennis ball in far too long, wanting only to drop the ball at your feet with tail wagging in anticipation of the next throw. Maybe they had needed this morning as much as I had?

Nearing my truck, I approached the couple now sitting on the bench together. He greeted me with a "Good morning", and I waved and returned the greeting as their dog moved over to my boot for the expected scratching behind the ears.

"You did quite well this morning" he observed. "It's been a few weeks since we've even seen a fisherman here in the morning. It was nice to watch."

"I had the lake to myself" I acknowledged, as I looked around once more.  "And the fish cooperated to do the rest."

"Maybe they were just tired of waiting?" he said with a wink and a small grin.

I laughed, but had to agree. "You're probably right. They did seem more than willing." And with that we exchanges pleasantries in hopes of a good day coming and parted ways. Back at the truck de-rigging, I had a strong feeling the gentleman was right. I think we were both tired of waiting.

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