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I Can't


Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

That is putting it nicely. This is a trip after I forgot the paddle. I was very careful to make sure everything was in the pickup. I even went over, in my mind, the sequence of events of taking stuff out of the pickup to get set up to get on the pond. I had everything, so I should be successful. The water temperature is dropping and the fish are starting the fall feeding binge. The fish seem to turn back on just before the ponds freeze over. I have read that this is in preparation for the spawn next spring. I just know the fish seem to be more active at this time of year.

I get out and get everything set up, including the paddle, but not the camera. I do need a check list. I get down near the shore and make the first few casts. On my second cast I have a bluegill nail the fly. No need for a hook set, just hang on and work to bring the fish in. This has the indications that it could be a very fun day. That is the only fish in the area so I get the canoe in the water. I darn near tip the canoe over in doing this. Why I do not know. I am not sure how many times I have gotten in the canoe, but this is a weird thing to have happen. I did not realize that this was the first indication of how the day would go.

I get settled down in the canoe, without it tipping over, and move out into the pond a short distance. I know that fish are very scattered in the fall in ponds, I drop the anchor and reach for a rod to cast with. In the tipping of the canoe a second problem has come up. I do not pull my lines tight when I have them on the rods. I do not want to put any kinks in the line or the leader. I am not sure if having the line tight does anything to the leader, but it is just one of those things I do.

Three of the flies had dropped out of the hook holders and the lines had tangled. Have you ever seen the birds nest on a bait casting reel that has over run? This was almost of that proportion.

I finally got it all untangled, being too darn obstinate to just cut the leaders and retie them on. I have a silver Goldie Jr, a black boa yarn leech, a popper-midge dropper combination, and a wacky worm sort of thing on the four rods. I pick up the popper-dropper rig to get into the water.

I manage to tie a wind knot between the two flies, another in the leader, and one in the fly line all at the same time. This is not a learned ability, it is inherent in the casting disability of the writer of this spiel. I spend a few minutes getting this untangled. Then I lob more than cast this out to get it into the water.

I make several casts with each of the other rods and come up with nothing more than the gathering of some salad to go with any fish I might catch. I fish them at all depths and with several different retrieves. It is time to change flies.

This is the start of the comedy of errors. Most of which probably came because of my STUPIDITY. I get in a rush to catch fish and don't always do things in the most orderly fashion.

So I have the three rods in front of me. I have pulled out a few feet of line on each and have cut the fly off of each line. I have a pair of nippers I carry with me to do this. I quit bitting them off after I thought about all the stuff that could wash into the ponds. It is also better for my teeth.

The flies are on the patch on my vest to dry, my one smart move of the day. I have two boxes open to pick flies. Why two? I am dumb at times. One would have been much better. I am getting ready to look at flies when I see the popper move. I drop everything, grab the rod and try to set the hook. I hook a very nice, long green weed. I have two boxes of flies face down in the canoe and the leaders on the rods are clobbered together.

I do cast the popper-dropper out. I am a fisherman and want something in the water. I then pick up one fly box and watch a bunch of flies drop out. I know I should make sure they are securely back in the box, but if the fish are biting I just might not get that done. I get the first box put back together and take the two flies I want out of it and lay them on the thwart of the canoe. I pick the second box up and get it put back together. I pick the fly I want out of this box and put it on the thwart where the other two flies had been. I find them on the bottom of the canoe, in the mesh of the net.

I decide that is a good place for them for a minute. I get the leaders untangled again and tie on the first fly. I lay the rod down over the thwarts of the canoe with the fly hanging down a little over the nearest thwart. This is from the extra line I had out to make it easier to change flies.

I get a fly out of the mesh in the net and tie it on the second leader. I notice the first fly is on the bottom of the canoe. I must not have tied a good knot. So I pick it up and start tying the knot again, and watch the second fly drop off the leader. I tie this fly back on and set the rod down. As I pick up the second fly I see the first fly hit the bottom of the canoe. This does not seem to be my day to tie a Duncan loop.

I decide to use the Trilene knot. It is impossible to mess that knot up. I can almost do it in my sleep. Besides that, I want to fish, not tie knots. So I tie the two flies back on and even manage to get the third one tied on. Being a little paranoid now, I make a very careful cast and start retrieving the fly. I get a strike and set the hook. I have the fish on and up near the canoe, and the fish gets off. When I bring the line in there is no fly, just a little curly-cue on the end of the line. The knot came undone! I test the other two flies and both of them come undone with almost no pressure. I check the leader material to make sure it is not brittle. It seems fine, so I try the knots again. They hold f or a little bit and then come undone again. I can't even tie knots today.

Time for drastic action. I tie a series of half-hitches to put the flies on the line. It is ugly but the flies seems to be staying on the line. I cast with all three of the flies I have put on. The only one that seems to get any interest is a white boa yarn leech. But it is just getting very light taps, at most. Most of the time it is just a different feeling to the line. So I have to be very quick to set the hook or the fish are gone.

I get about one out of five fish that I hook to the canoe. I think the others were crappie that were rolling on the fly. That thin membrane on the side of the crappie's mouth is just not enough to keep them hooked. I keep trying more things and places on the pond but I can't seem to do what the fish want.

I look at my watch and see that I have been out for almost three hours. I have some other things to do at home. I might as well get to them as I can't seem to do anything right on the pond today.

I get everything loaded and head home. I get almost all of the things put away and start to unload the canoe. As I am slicing it back the back crossbar on my canoe rack breaks. It is PVC pipe, that is affected by uv light, but why break today?

I am very careful as I fillet the dozen fish I caught. At the rate I have been going I might cut my hand off. The fillets get done and the remains buried without mishap.

It was not one of the best days I have ever had. I darn near tipped the canoe, which would have ended the trip almost before it started. I could not keep lines from tangling. I could not tie knots worth a darn. I could not hook most of the fish that hit the flies. I could not land most of the fish that I hooked. The only thing I could do well was to break the cross bar on the canoe rack.

I wonder how soon I can get out and try this again?

Hope you can get out on the water. (Without all the pratfalls.) ~ Rick

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