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Part One hundred seventy-two

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These are the Days . . .

By Jason Tinling, Lancaster, PA

Yesterday was one of those days . . . more specifically, yesterday evening was one of those times. The days that keep us coming back for more.

It was one of those weekends, the ones that seems to be as busy, if not more busy, than the week at work. Sunday afternoon rolled around, and the afternoon's forecasted rains had been pushed off into the late evening. At 5:30, we had finished dinner, and I was off for a chance to relax on the water.

I arrived at the pond around 6 pm rigging up with one of the two flies that I wanted to give a "test run." One was a Marabou Miss, the other a Cat's Whisker, tied with chartreuse ice chenille. I had never fished either fly but had heard good things about them. I am tying up the Whiskers for a swap, and tied up the Miss as a test run. I tied on the #12 Marabou Miss, on a short leader, to keep the fly up in the water column. After a couple of casts, I had the retrieve down that the fish wanted, and they were more than willing to cooperate.

I had a couple of "firsts" while fishing the Marabou Miss. One first was a tail walking bluegill. I've had 'gills come up tight on a line at speed and come out of the water, but this fish came up on a slack line, launching himself into the air and shaking his head. There's a grace and power that is seen when a bass launches itself out of the water, turning and shaking. Neither trait was overwhelmingly evident in the same performance of the 'gill. The other first really caught me off guard. I had noticed an occasional plume of mud as I walked down the bank, where something was coming out of the weeds on the bottom and heading under the cover of the shoreline growth. I had assumed it was frogs nestled in the mud who were headed for better cover at my approach. I found out otherwise, however, when I flipped a sizable bluegill back into the water after releasing it from the hook. Apparently the splash of impact frightened a similarly sized bluegill that had been holding under the shoreline weeds, and the terror caused the fish to launch himself up out of the weeds to beach himself at my feet. Weird.

I cast out as the rain began to fall, no thunder, so I stood my ground. The drops were big, but sporadic, and soon gave way to clearer skies. Thankfully, the falling rain took most of the previously gusting wind with it, and left the pond flat, a mix of browns and greens.

Convinced in the fish catching ability of the Miss, I switched over to the Cat's Whisker and enjoyed similarly wonderful success. A sharp strip, followed by a pause as the fly settled in the water column. The tremor of heartbeat as the slack suddenly straightens, losing its memorized curve and sending small ripples of water from the sides of the line. Fish after fish came to hand, and I realized that I hadn't made more than 2 or 3 casts that hadn't resulted in a strike. I finally lost the Cat's Whisker to a snag in the lily pads and switched over to a Foam/Flash wasp. I continued to produce numbers of fish, all over the size range. I caught a much better size class of fish on the streamers, but there's something about that boil of water behind your flyline, the brief glimpse of color as the fish turns, that's so much fun. I lost my best fish on the wasp however, a brutish bluegill known only by the deep copper flash of his first turn and two solid, surging runs. His third run was accompanied by the heartbreaking loss of tension that comes with a lost fly and fish. His smaller relatives continued to entertain, and I was happy to bear witness to their spirit, aggression and stubbornness.

What is it about bluegill? A friend and I decided that bluegill were regression therapy for the common person. A return to childhood, as so many of us got our first fish, our first fishing experiences, fishing bluegill out of a small pond on a farm, in a park, wherever. Bluegill are a return to a simpler, less hectic time, where hours are measured in numbers of worms used and the rise and fall of the sun. They're the dog days of summer spent sitting on a dock with bare feet dangling in the water. They're doughballs, corn and red worms and as well as mayflies, caddis and streamers. They're the common denominator.

How good was the fishing last night? I fished no more than a hundred feet of shoreline for two hours. I threw no more than a half dozen casts that went without strikes. And I smiled the whole time.

As 8 o'clock came and went, the darkness began to overtake the pond. I made the "last cast," caught the last fish, and broke down my gear. As I walked up the bank to the parking area, late season fireflies arose from the grass, lighting my path. It's no wonder I keep coming back, with days like these. ~ Jason

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