At the south side of one of my favorite ponds,
the edges of it converge into a point, an arrow
pointing the way to four-lane highways and,
later still, the marsh and the Gulf of Mexico.
Near this convergence there are reeds and cattails,
brown and withered though winter still has not
reared its head enough to really have any impact.
When I stand at the tip of the point, I can cast
to both sides easily.
To my left, on the west side of the pond, a peninsula
of thin, dense marsh grass juts from the bank like
an exclamation. Over the nearly two years I've been
fishing this pond, I have always found a fish or
Just before dusk one night, I tied on my favorite
just-before-dusk bug, the Accardo "Spook" in
black/red. Though the air has chilled, the water
still retains some heat from the sun.
The Spook landed near the marsh grass point, and
at once, the water blasts skyward as if leaping
away in terror. I feel the weight of a fish when
I snap back the rod tip, but then it is just as
suddenly gone, and the Spook flies behind me.
Cursing, the time-honored wisdom chants itself
in my head: If they feel the hook, they won't
bite again. But, I reason, perhaps he didn't
really feel it at all, just caught the body
of the popper.
I place the Spook there again, but nothing happens.
The conventional wisdom must be correct. That's
why it's called wisdom. A few jerking pops of
the Spook draw the attention of a few small
bluegill that slap at it with their tails.
Disgruntled, I reach into my pocket for a smoke,
light it, and just as I'm putting the pack back
into my pocket, the water leaps skyward again.
The rod was tucked under my arm, of course,
but it didn't matter. The fish near the marsh
grass didn't strike, it knocked the Spook into
the air. Without even a failed hookset, the
popper sailed fifteen feet away, landing within
a jumbled pile of leader and line.
Now I am irate. I gather the slack out of the
my line and cast back, but the Spook sits there,
as the ripples of its landing expanding outward,
fading like opportunity lost. I give it a few
twitches, then a healthy pop.
Kapow! I lift the rod, the tip bends over, then
like a catapult ungirdled, flips away from the
reeds, and the Spook follows, landing at my feet.
Again that little voice whispered to me: Fish won't
strike again if they feel the hook. He had to feel
the hook that time. Probably felt it the first time,
too, that's why he blasted the Spook out of the
water. He was pure-dee hacked off at it. The third
appearance of the popper resulted in a more enraged,
vengeful strike. That I missed again.
It took four bad casts to finally make it good.
Back in its spot near the point of that marsh
grass. I'm not great at false-casting even with
a tiny dry; with a big Spook at the end of the
leader, I tend to flail the water like a mad dog
until I get the fly where I want it. It's a good
thing I'm not a trout fisherman.
No way he'll bite a fourth time. Wisdom says it
can't happen. There's rules in the world, and
there's rules in fishing –
An eruption like the Tungusta Blast scared me so
badly I nearly jumped out of my boots. The rod
bent over again, line zipped through the guides –
And poof! He was gone.
It was all I could do not to throw the rod down,
run about madly, thrashing through the mud and
water, kicking at red ant hills and flailing my
fists at the heavens in fury. Four! The same
stinking fish hit four times, and I didn't
get a hook into him!
I sat down on my tackle bag to brood. Perhaps
there was a school of fish there? That was the
only explanation, but why couldn't I hook one?
I inspected the point of the Spook. It was sharp
and sound. Grumbling about wisdom, I cast to the
east side of the pond until I got enough line out,
then moved the Spook over to the marsh grass again.
With a gentle slurp, so gentle I almost didn't
see it, the Spook slid away below the surface.
Only a few small swirls marked its vanishing.
I struck the fish like there was no tomorrow.
This time, the rod bent, and stayed bent. The
fish took off for the grass, but I put pressure
on him, and he panicked, moving toward the center
of the pond now, taking my line with him. That
was fine, go boy, go! All the while I'm thinking
to myself, "Fifth time! Fifth stinking time!"
We danced for a few minutes, until finally, he
breeched the surface of the pond and I saw the
bass wasn't near as large as I thought he would
be. Perhaps three pounds? Surely no more. But
this bass had the heart of a lion.
When I lipped him out of the water at last,
he writhed in what I am sure was not fear,
but rage. If he had teeth, I probably would
have lost my thumb. The Spook had found its
mark in bone, and it took forceps to remove
I held the bass up under the rapidly fading
sun, and said, "I hope that was as much fun
for you as it was for me," then laid him back
into the water. Leisurely, as if nothing
extraordinary had just happened, he twisted
away, back to his spot in the marsh grass. Just
to make sure, I cast to the same place several
times, and received no hits. There was only
that one fish there. One really arrogant,
There's a lot of room for time-honored wisdom.
It doesn't become wisdom for no reason. But
there's times when laws don't work. Four times
that fish hit before I hooked him, and on the
fifth time, he just took it slowly down like
a debutante sipping tea from fine china.
Time-honored wisdom sometimes must fall to
the wayside in lieu of the mood of the prey.
I broke down my rod in the last moments of
daylight. There were bullfrogs croaking in a
chorus of deep hollows, echoes from the depths
of caverns. With the tube safely in my backpack,
I walked slowly along the eastern edge of the
pond. Frogs jumped away startled by my passing,
and with each splash of escape, its comrades
croaked more loudly, as if raising the alarm.
Off toward the center of the pond, fish were
rising, but the light was too dim for me to
make out more than subtle expansions of silver,
like gently sprinkled fairy dust on polished
glass. I probably could have caught a few more
by feel and hearing, but my day had already been
made by one arrogant, ill-tempered bass and the
determination to not let wisdom stand in the way
of trying. ~ Roger