It started at lunchtime. I was just going to go out
and grab something to eat at my desk. The usual 'MO' for
a workday. But something nibbled at my brain. Gotta go
down and take a look at the river. Just a peek. I'm
sure it'll still be messy, I can go grab my food and
get back to work.
The section of the Conestoga that I can fish from work
has been something of an anomaly this year. Because of
the way the run in this section is laid out, it has a
tendency to stay muddy or stained well after the rest
of the river is cleared. This year, the river's been
stained since the start of spring. In 3 summers fishing
it, I've never seen it that long stained or as overgrown
with vegetation as it has been this year. Yesterday,
of course, all that changed.
The water was mostly clear for the first time in a long
time. I played around with the fish over lunch break,
caught a few aggressive redbreasted sunfish and rock bass.
Gotta come back after work.
Work wrapped up and it was down to the water. I started
up at the upper pool, near the spillway and fish ladder.
A few sunfish and smaller than fingerling smallmouth on
the #12 Marabou Miss. I worked down the shore to the
feeder creek at Deer Run. The influx of water here keeps
the pool in front of the mouth clean and clear, but just
beyond the pool, weed growth blocks out any reasonable
chance of fishing a fly. On the bottom end of the pool,
there's a break in the weeds about a foot wide. A
properly laid out cast can be guided through the channel
of weeds, often rewardingly.
My first cast into the gap got smacked by a sunfish as the
fly splashed into the water. I missed the fish, and began
a slow retrieve. The fly swam along, unmolested, to the
near edge of the weeds. As I began to lift the fly up
to recast, a flash of green and gold, and the rod bent
towards the weeds. The fish dug into the weeds, and
polite, persistent pressure kept bringing it out, to
shoot off and find purchase in another clump of growth.
I finally lifted fish and weeds into the clearer pool
in front of me, and a small bass shot out of the weed
clump, diving toward the rock edges in front of me.
I lipped the fish, about 9 inches, carrying the weight
of a fish half again it's length. Football doesn't
just describe Sunday sports and tuna to me, anymore.
Several aggressive sunfish and another, smaller bass
come out of the weeds to play. I work further down
the shore. Casting in here is almost non-existent.
The bank is overgrown with trees and large weeds, and
three feet behind the bank is a concrete wall going
up the 10 feet to the road above. Casting is either
done parallel to the shore line, or tall steeple casts
where the overgrowth behind permits. The weed growth
isn't as bad down here, as the current tends to keep
the rocky bottom a little cleaner than above.
I roll cast out towards a clump of weed and three fish
shoot through the water, the first there inhaling the
fly. I tighten up and the fish rockets through the
, cutting circles and figure-8's in the water, and I
smile in recognition. Bluegill. Two casts to the
weeds yield up the other two bluegill that had chased
the first cast. Casts parallel to the shore yield
several smaller redbreast sunfish and smallish rock
bass. Rock bass (aka redeye, goggle eye, etc.) have
a reputation in this area as being good for one strong
run, and then they turn into a wet dishrag. I've found
this to be the case in late spring, but not so much in
the summer. I tend to catch larger rock bass in late
spring than I do in summer, so I'm wondering if it's
something about the size of the fish, or maybe the
I work back up to the weed patch that yielded the earlier
bluegill and see a couple of more iridescent tails weaving
through the water. I flip out to a break in the submerged
weeds, just off the point of an overhanging willow tree.
The fly plops into the water, and a small speeder comes
out of the weeds and grabs the fly. As I tighten up to
set the hook, I see a large shape moving towards where
the fly first came down. I guide the hooked 'gill
quickly downstream and let it dance through the water,
away from the tree. After unhooking the fish, I flip
out to the tree again, and as the fly settles, the big
shape comes out again. I see the fly disappear, and
lift the rod. Nothing. The fly bounces off the bottom
and begins to settle again. I lift it out of the water
and flip it tighter to the tree. The fly falls slowly,
and suddenly, is gone in a copper flash. I tighten
up again, and the water explodes. The big bull 'gill
throws the shallow water into turmoil as he rips out
to the deeper water. He's quickly out of my hands
and on the reel, the click singing a short, sweet song.
There's something about river fish, an added strength
and stubbornness that makes them such a treat to catch.
When you combine that "river fish" mentality with the
stubborn, bulldog attitude of a bluegill, it's a perfect
combination. At 30 feet offshore, the 'gill is
bulldogging for the bottom, turning and twisting
against the pressure of the line. I work him in
towards shore, and after a couple of panicked blasts
out of the shallow water, coax him to hand. The
45-mile-an-hour traffic above me goes unheard.
I'm past my hour that I allotted myself when I got
on the water. That never happens ;-). ~ Jason