Monday, June 04, 2012
A Splendid Two Hours
Everyone has it, or at least everyone should. I'm talking about that little local fishing hole which for the more blessed is a blue ribbon trout stream, but for the rest of us is probably a little pond or maybe a small stream full of a wide variety of species. My local fishing hole, not to be confused with my home water which is a completely different topic, is a little lake down the road which happens to be the water supply for a nearby municipality. That means that boats with gas engines are prohibited from using them on the lake, and it is never crowded despite the boat ramp. The bank sitters are likely to be found chunking bait under a bobber, but otherwise it is easy to find a quiet spot and catch a few fish.
For me, the beauty of the local fishing hole is precisely the fact that it is close. I can drive the three or so miles without feeling like I just spent my life's savings on gasoline. These days a road trip can unfortunately begin to feel a little like that. Since it is so close, I don't really feel the necessity weighing down on me to get in my money's worth of fishing time. Those Smokies trips often turn into fishing marathons simply because I went to so much effort to get there, never mind that I would rather be fishing there but its just too expensive to do very often lately. If most people could get past the deluge of information on the great fishing to be had in other locales, they would probably find great fishing in their own back yard with a little bit of effort and research.
That local fishing hole can have a bit of mystery to it. This is generally due to the fact that we tend to overlook what we have in the back yard for destination trips that require a $400 plane ticket and leaves us standing in "famous" water. Local fishing holes often surprise, or at least surpass expectations, but that seems to be how things work. Fly across the country to fish in Yellowstone, and every time you leave thinking that it could have been at least a little better perhaps. But catch a monster in that little out of the way fishing spot and you'll probably be bragging to anyone who will listen and not always so subtly either.
The nicest thing about the local fishing hole is that I can be there for a couple of hours but home in time to cook a good supper and maybe even mow the grass. For some reason I occasionally return from a longer trip feeling slightly guilty. After all, when you know full well that there are legitimate chores to do at home, you would have to be detached from your conscience if there wasn't at least a little twinge of guilt at so much time fishing. Of course, any good fisherman has long since figured out how overcome those twinges, but its nice to have a fishing trip that doesn't produce them in the first place. That's where the little lake down the road comes in for me.
Yesterday I almost talked myself out of fishing. The excitement level is not the same for those local spots, even when you know full well that the fishing will be good. Just about any lake I choose around here will have good to excellent fishing for bluegill, but I was not really in the mood for catching them or so I thought. Once my mind was made up I moved about with purpose but still unhurriedly. After all, when you only plan on fishing a little while what's the rush?
A brilliant thought struck me as I was scrounging around for all the right gear: why not take two rods? After all, that is what I would do on a float trip and perhaps I would even take three. It never hurts to be prepared so, just in case, I tossed in the 7 weight for the bass if they wanted to play.
Arriving at the lake, I quickly figured out that I had made two mistakes. I left home the banana bread that was going to be my mid-trip snack, and also the spool of 12 lb. fluoro that I use for tippet with streamers and other larger flies. The snack I could do without, but the fluoro was more important. Did I mention I was only three miles from home? It was way better than the time I made it halfway to the Caney Fork before realizing that I left my wading boots, and I remembered the banana bread on round two through my house.
Back at the lake, I got the usual questions and stares about the float tube. Apparently the locals here are just a little unfamiliar with the concept. When I explained to one guy that, no I didn't have a paddle but I had fins for my feet, he mumbled something and found other places to be. His confused look explained everything though. As I launched, everyone around stopped to stare as I slowly but surely kicked across the lake. Some people really don't get enough entertainment in life.
Upon reaching the other shore, I started throwing a tiny white streamer against the banks. The logic was that something that small would appeal to the bluegill but the color might still entice bass. After a short session that probably had as much to do with confidence, I switched to a bead head Simi Seal Leech in black. Immediately fish started to eat the fly.
After a couple of bluegill, I tossed the streamer rod around with a Wiggle Minnow and......nothing. Again, I didn't really properly apply the scientific method, but the small sample available suggested that a switch back to the bluegill rod might be in order.
Something about the opposite bank was calling me, so I decided to kick across and fish the shade. The few bluegill I had picked up so far were from bits of shade where trees overhung the water. A good fisherman will fish in any circumstances, so I tossed the line as far as I could and started to troll my way across. Since the lake is deep and fairly cool, I didn't expect much but one never knows.
About half way across, I felt the surge of a nice fish. In fact, it was even taking line a couple of times on my 5 weight. My first thoughts were of bass, but then the fish came to the surface and even from a distance away I could tell it was a big bluegill. It is funny how a glimpse of a fish is all it takes for you to want that one fish even though there are plenty more to be caught. I was already envisioning what the pictures might look like.
Most of the time, when you start day dreaming before landing the fish, something goes wrong, but in this case everything worked out perfectly. Soon the fish was both being roughly measured against the ruler on the stripping apron, but also photographed in a couple of different poses. Finally, almost reluctantly, I let it go.
Turning to face the new shore, I continued by catching a few more bluegill and even taking another picture or two. Later the 7 weight came out again, just long enough to catch a couple of bass. As time moved along, I drifted along the shore and enjoyed the day. The banana bread came out and the mid-afternoon snack was great. I never did need that tippet come to think of it, but the banana bread hit the spot.
As I slowly neared shore again, I could hear the little kids asking, "Mommy, what is that man doing?" Smiling I loaded all my gear into the car, and rolled back towards home. Glancing at the clock in my car, I realized that I had only been there for two hours, but in that time life had slowed down and everything was splendid. And, yes, I was back home in time to make a scrumptious supper.
Posted by David Knapp at 9:58 PM