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Slow Learner

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

I headed out for a pond Saturday morning knowing that it might be a short day. We are in the middle of a heat wave. Days are hitting in the high nineties and a few over 100 - too hot for this guy to be out.

I had called and got permission to fish a pond that I have not been to for a couple of months. The land changed hands and the new owner said that I could go in but that I could not take anyone with me. In fact he told me where to find the key so that I could unlock the gate.

I got the key and went to the pond, locking the gate behind me. Unloaded the canoe and put the rest of my accumulation in the canoe. I did this in a rush as there were rise forms all over the pond. I had four fly rods with me so I could try different flies all of the time.

After one hour of casting with everything from foam poppers, to wet flies, to midges and everything else I might think of, I was still waiting for the first fish to hit. Then I did one of my normal graceful moves and dropped the back cast on the water behind me. When I stated to bring the rod forward there was weight on the rod and I had my first fish. Turned out that it was a six-inch bass. As I took this fish off the hook to release him I noticed a few fish getting closer to me. I decided to set still and see what might be going on. At that point I saw that little bass were making all of the rise forms I was seeing.

It was time to change tactics. Time to go deeper to see if the other fish were away from the surface. I tied on a fly with bead chain eyes and let it drop for about 8 seconds. I then started to retrieve it with a slow lift and drop routine. I had moved it a few times when I had a hit, but nothing when I tried to set the hook. This happened to me several times as I made more casts, sometimes two or three times on a cast. I even went down two sizes on the fly, with no better results.

I then checked the fly again and noticed that the tail marabou was about half gone. I wondered if they were just nipping at the end of the fly and that is what I was responding to. I then tried to wait longer before setting the hook. Let them hit the fly several times. What this did was to destroy the marabou tail on a few flies.

I then remembered, a problem for those of us that are getting old, that I had tied a few "special" flies. I had read that for short strikers to tie the fly on a longer hook so that the tail material was around the bend of the hook. Now I can't remember where I read that, even though I have looked for it. I had tied a few flies using a 4X long size 10 hook that I had been given a small supply of. I tied the tail material in about half way down the shank on the top and both sides of the hook. I left it off the bottom to keep the hook point a little more clear. I then tied the rest of the fly on the front part of the hook. The tail does not have quite the same action, but I hoped it would be close enough.

I cast this fly out and let it drop like the others had. I had just started to retrieve it when I felt the first tug. I set the hook and had a fish on! Brought in a crappie that was about 10 inches long. On the next cast I got a nice gill. I found that I got one fish in each area that I cast into. Casting to the same spot did not yield any more fish. By casting about ten feet from where the last cast was I had a chance at another fish. I also figured out to make shorter casts to start with and that let me connect with more fish.

I did notice that all of the fish that I caught were hooked in the lips. I did not hook any deep in the throat. This confirmed that they were hitting the very end of the fly.

I had tied a few flies with nothing but a marabou tail on a size 12 hook with a bead head covered by the marabou. After the marabou got chewed off a little I caught several fish on this.

By now it was getting warm and the wind was starting to blow. This pond sets in a little valley with hills all around. The dam is between two hills. The wind gets funneled as it blows across the pond. When the wind starts to kick up it is time to leave the pond.

As I was leaving the field where the pond is I had a truck stop and ask me who said that I could go on that land. I told him the landowner said I could. He told me to give him the key so that he could go in. I told him to deal with the landowner of that. I was returning the key to the landowner and not him. He followed me for a while and then turned off. When I told the landowner he said that is why the gate was locked. He did not want this individual on his land.

He asked how many fish I had caught. I showed him what I had. He said he had not had a meal of fresh fish in years. We found an old board, a butcher knife and I filleted a dozen for him.

He thought that I was the neatest guy on the face of the earth. Who was I to argue?

I now have to tie some more flies like the ones that worked. Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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