There were oodles of small bass, some no longer
than four inches, most less than twelve, hitting
at nearly any fly I chose to offer them.
The bream were hungry, too, after a spate of bad
weather and repeated storm fronts finally settled
out. Just playing out a few feet of line, ten feet
from my boots, strikes would startle me into a bad
At its south end, this pond makes a v-shaped
transition into a gentle, shallow slope. Even though
the undergowth along the bank here is slight, I
usually stand in the water in my knee-high mudboots
because it's easier. I can cast to each side of the
pond where it makes this apex.
While unhooking a spunky little largemouth, movement
just on the peripheral caught my attention. I looked
up, and something huge was moving through the water,
just under the surface, making an arrow-shaped wake
as it went. The angle of the light was such that I
could not see it, but the creature must have been
huge. I knew - or at least strongly suspected - there
were no alligators here. As the wake moved near shore,
it diverted back toward deeper water, then continued
a meandering, leisurely traverse of the shallow bank
to the east.
Of course, I knew it was a bass, or did I just want
it to be? No alligators here, no beavers, no nutria.
Nothing else in this pond could have left such a
swelling in its passing. The rod in my hand was a
four-weight, with decent moderate-fast action and
a healthy backbone, but even the two or three pound
fish put an uncomfortable bend to it, urging me to
coaxe them gently. Whatever was moving along that
shallow bank, startling small bream so much they
leaped nearly ashore in terror, might be more than
this little rod could handle.
I put the small bass I had just unhooked into the
water carefully, silently. Should I cast? The popper
on my tippet was one of my favorites, which the
fish in this pond seldom turn down. I was confident
in my reel's drag system, believed the rod might
just suffice if I played my cards tenderly.
Just then, the fish made a wide, sweeping turn and
its wake now spread behind as it moved toward me
again. I was still as stone. A dozen yards away,
it veered west, and just ahead of its arrowpoint,
a significant maelstrom suddenly swirled as the
fish casually, without much fanfare, slurped down
some prey. It continued a slow trek along the west
side of the pond.
Finally I made a decision: The rod's under warranty.
I played out some line, and with what was probably
the best cast a passable caster at best ever made,
sent the popper just ahead of the moving wake,
about to lay down.
Right then, a car pulled up on the road which passes
near the pond. In a frantic lurch, I snapped the line
back. It fell into a muddled pile right behind the
wake. The fish kept moving, undisturbed.
The anglers who come here, hardware casters, catch
a fair number of bass out of this pond, but I've
never seen them catch anything very large. In fact,
there are few large fish here, I believe. I have
caught only three impressive largemouth in it over
nearly two years. It is, however, one of the few
places where I regularly outfish the spinnerbaits
and plastic worms.
Two persons leaped from the car and rushed to the
far edge of the pond, casting at once. I was far
enough away, at the other end, that they could
see me but not the massive wake moving now back
east, circling, little bluegill jumping away like
raindrops splattering on glass. The fish, perhaps
sensing this new presence, kept to my end of the
I cursed fate quietly. Here I am, in the presence
of the grandpappy of what is surely a largemouth
bass, and I don't want to cast to it because I
might hook it and reveal that, in fact, this pond
is home to at least one huge fish. Of course, if
I land him, I'll release him after taking a few
photos, and the baitcasters will see this, return
later to bombard the water endlessly in search of
a prize to bring to the taxidermist and adorn their
living room wall.
What to do? I was nearly trembling with anxious
indecision, and I must have looked quite the fool
standing there, rod hanging low, looking out over
the pond, apparently right at the two new arrivals.
I retrieved my line and cast far from the wake,
which was continuing to move here and there inside
the point of the pond. Occasional slurps revealed
the fish was in fact actively feeding.
I could imagine it down there, just beyond my vision,
a behemouth of epic proportions, just meandering along,
king of all it knows. No other occupant of the pond
dared cross it. That was perhaps why it moved so
slowly, so carefully, so silently as to sneak up
on prey without spooking it. Across the pond, the
two anglers were catching small bass and putting
them back at once, which relieved me. But the
monster wake in front of me had turned now, and
was heading north.
"Come back," I whispered, not even really aware
that I was doing so. "Come back, you don't want
to go over there, come on, come back..."
When the big wake turned and sucked down a Junebug,
I realized I had not been breathing. It veered then,
off course, back along the west bank. I praised it
During the last twenty minutes of light, the bass
never ceased moving along my end of the pond, feeding
quietly. At last, when the two visitors finally packed
up and left, I was left with too little light to see
very well. There was no sense in casting, I couldn't
be sure where the wake was, though I thought I caught
the brief outline of it to the right. I broke down
my rod and packed it away, made the long walk back
along the pond's bank to the waiting truck on the
Just as I was passing the northern corner of the
pond, before entering the overgrown meadow between
it and the road, a splash behind me nearly made me
jump out of my skin.
Turning, a huge ring of ripples was expanding
outward, just a few feet from dry land. Immediately,
the shadow of a huge, finned back arched again, and
in the dimness of the fading day I thought I saw a
magnificient tail briefly surface then vanish
again. The ripples slowly faded, and the darkening
pond settled into smoothness again, save for a lone,
v-shaped wake moving off south, slowly, no need to
hurry, no need to fear anything.
"Good night, old man," I said to it softly. The big
fish always knew I was there, I realized, and it
always knew the other two fishermen were there.
Fish don't get to be that big without knowing
Back in the truck, I turned around on the road
and eased away, glimpsing just the barest sparkle
of starlight that marked the pond's existence,
out beyond the concrete. As I drove away, I was
glad I had never made that cast. ~ Roger