Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Aug 11, 2014

Turning right at the intersection my buddy quickly pointed to the curb on the right, "Right there! Jump up right there and park in the grass!" I obeyed, leaving my turn signal on and slowing down as two different people behind me made use of their horns. I waved apologetically to them in the rear-view mirror, knowing they could not possibly understand why I was suddenly slowing down to jump the curb in this particular spot.

Pulling the Xterra to a quick stop I laughed. "Where's the lake?"

My buddy laughed and pointed out his window at the tall vegetation, "Just on the other side of these" he said smiling.

I laughed out loud as we climbed out of the vehicle and turned to the back of the car. Looking around we were just off the road and over the curb, not more than 50 feet from a major 4-way intersection. It was 6 pm and at the moment all four lanes were full. As we donned our waders I could see the looks on those rush-hour faces, as they turned unknowingly while sitting at the light only to see what; two weird looking fella's in tan waders rigging up fly rods. One spectator mouthed clear-as-day out his window "What the hell?" as he looked me straight in the eyes. I smiled back at him like I was holding a big secret. He rolled down the window just as the light turned green and while laughing yelled out "GOOD LUCK!" I waved back and laughed myself. Since I too was a little caught off guard and really had no idea what to expect.

"You're going to be wading in a mud bottom through lily pads, so take it slow." He said, snapping me back into the moment. "And they are not leader shy so rig accordingly," he added. Tying on a black deer hair diving popper I gave a nod of acknowledgement in response to his guidance. "The place is full of 12" to 18" bass, slab bluegills and the occasional large pike," he added.

"Pike," I said suddenly looking up? "Ok then". He had promised me a honey hole in a place that I would never suspect and so far he was right on track.

With rods rigged we stepped down through the wall of reeds and cattails. I wish I could say that the sounds of the intersection melted away in the background. But I can't. I try to save all of my really good lying for real fish stories. So while it did get a little subdued, its presence never left us throughout the evening. As we stepped through the tall grass the lake came into view. It was perfect! In front of us was about 6 acres of lake which was two thirds covered with lily pads. As I stood looking out, the rings of rise-forms and large fish swirling were everywhere! He gave me the lay of the land as far as where we would be able to wade, then gave me the near bank and he walked around to fish one of the lily shallows. Stepping down into the mid-thigh deep water, I instantly sunk to my waist. He was right, it would be slow going. On my second cast I had a large bass swirl my popper, but all I managed to do was lip it. Moments later, a 'whoop" from across the lake made me turn to see my buddy with a bass in hand. Well, I thought to myself, he was right. Over the course of the next 2 hours I was able to miss a good number of bass, I broke off a nice fish in the lily pad stalks and landed one nice bass and a handful of bluegills. But as the sun dipped below the western tree line I began to notice the tell-tale rings of larger bluegills coming to life amongst the pads.

Knowing the bass would probably pick up as well, I clipped off the larger deer hair bug. My heart picked up a few beats as I sifted through my box and watched big swirls and Damsel flies begin their dance. I was now in my zone. I heard another "whoop" and looked up to see my buddy playing what appeared to be a nice Pike ; but I was on a mission. Tying on a size 10 Foam-Butt Caddis in black and grey I turned towards those rings. Not wanting the groups of chasing fish near the edges, I looked for the lone swirl in the small openings deeper in the lilies. My reward was one fat slab of a bluegill after another. The little 5 weight danced and I smiled larger with every fish. At one point, I paused to get a picture of a beautiful Copper-breasted male, admiring his heft and inch thick back. It was a prime example of a nice gill and a perfect ending to my night.

Climbing out of the mud and up the bank to the truck, the pace had not slowed down since pulling in. All 4 lanes in every direction were still humming along with folks oblivious to the fishing taking place, just as I had been having passed this place many times over the years. Walking up to the truck my buddy wore a smile that was all-knowing. "Nice water isn't it?" he remarked, more as a statement than a question. My smile said it all. We had just spent 3 hours in the middle of chaos, smack in the middle a major area in South Jersey. We had fished for 3 hours and caught some very nice fish, and never saw another soul even near the water. 

"What's this place called?" I asked more off-hand than anything.

He shrugged and just looked at me. "I've been fishing this place for 10 years and have no idea. "Call it Lake Somewhere." 

I agreed. "That works!" I replied. Maybe it was best that way, since once water has a given name; folks want to find out where it is. And it seems a much nicer place to fish when everybody else is driving past, wondering what those crazy guys are doing in chest waders in the middle of nowhere.

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