Whip Finish


Ralph Long - Aug 16, 2017

A longtime friend and avid fly fisherman recently asked, as I was showing him pictures of some recent warm water fish, “With all of the trout fishing near you, why do you spend so much time on local ponds?” I paused for a moment, trying to give him an honest and thoughtful answer I figured he would understand. But, in the end, I shrugged with a smile and replied, “I like it.” In return I received a nodding head as any friend and fellow fisherman instantly recognizes as “I don’t get it, but if you like it, cool.” Yet, somehow, I felt I had missed a chance; I blew an opportunity to express myself adequately and it bugged me.

A short time later I found myself on a local pond in my tube contemplating the question again. The incident stuck with me. Like those times when you are asked a question of value but are caught off-guard….Now’s your moment! But you fail only to answer “Sure.” The looks received in response tell you instantly, “You’re an idiot”. You know you either wasted a “one-liner”, or much more had been expected of you specifically. But it’s gone….the moment is past….and you missed it. No going back. And while no real harm has been done, it bugs you because you could have nailed it. You could have been “that guy”, but instead, you’re an idiot. And so I kicked along through the lily pads casually searching out likely openings for my bass bug. Paying attention but basically wandering along through the water, when a sizable boil engulfed my fly. Setting the hook, I wonder if I missed it. But there it is the line is dancing ever so slightly. Stripping it in I am face-to-face with a 6 inch largemouth bass with a size 2 Deer hair bass bug smartly impaled in its jaw. The fly was easily 2/3rds its entire length! Laughing out loud I said to it as I released it, “Not quite what you expected, was it buddy?”

After that fish, I caught three or four “pounders” and then nothing else. Knowing the fish were there, I switched to a Gurgling Frog pattern. It is a foam Gurgler/frog pattern tied on a size 2 stinger hook as well. On my first cast I caught a lily pad, and after the disturbance of freeing my fly I kicked down another 20 feet and found another target. When the fly hit the water, a fish aggressively rolled over it almost instantly. I lifted the rod to a heavy fish, but knew at once by the circular jig it was dancing around the lily pad stalks that it was a panfish. Bringing it to hand, proved me right. It was a thick bull bluegill in splendid spawning colors and even eleven inches long. But again what caught my eye was the fact that he had completely swallowed the entire fly. Popping the size 2 hook out with my forceps, I was amazed. I had to use effort to pull the fly back through its mouth! What possessed this 11inch fish to attack something larger than the opening of its mouth? And obviously with zero inspection or hesitation! That fish knew the second my fly hit the water, it was dinner.

And then it hit me. That is what draws me to warm water so often. Being an addict of surface fishing through the summer, the aggressiveness is unmatched. The fish take a bass bug like it is the last meal on earth. Multiply that by the fact that you never know what exactly is going to take your fly, be it a bass, bluegill, crappie or chain pickerel…..and you have something unmatched by a trout stream. Don’t get me wrong, trout fishing has a hold on my fishing world, and that will never change, but a rise in the lily pads to a bass bug often has me stuck in the driveway deciding which way to point my truck. And each time I am finning my tube as the sun gets low, the frogs kick into a full concert and I see a boil large enough to move 10 feet of lily pads! Well…..that’s why.


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