Well, sort of...
Opening Day has come and gone here in Pennsylvania. It is a
day of ritual, a time of tradition passed down from father to
son for generations back. It's also often a mad scramble for
the stream bank at 8 am, people fishing elbow to elbow, shoulder
I just don't get it. Born and raised in Southern California,
my trout fishing experience was limited to stocked trout in
man-made reservoirs. Trout season? Whenever they wanted to
bite was trout season on the fields of my youth. My Opening
Day weekend was devoted to yard work, tilling up the back yard
and seeding the grass, repairing the fence, assorted other
household tasks that hadn't found their own way to being done.
Sunday afternoon was soon upon me, and the weather was a
wonderful 70 plus, a light breeze, and the smell of spring
in the air. I definitely had to do *some* fishing.
I also had a new rod to christen, a lovely plum colored 4 wt
that had been built up from the blank over the winter. I put
the rod tube in the back of the truck, put the reel on the
bench seat beside me, and headed out. Opening day Sunday
is definitely better than "true" opening day, but trout
weren't on the agenda. I headed out to a favorite small
pond, hoping the fair weather found the bass and bluegill
up and active.
As I pulled into the parking lot, a co-worker was getting off
the water, loading gear and neighborhood kids into the back of
his car. We talked briefly, as I showed off the new toy.
"We did decent, a few nice bass, tons of bluegill. Tommy hooked
'Fred' - damn near lost his outfit. Told him not to take his eye
off the rod. Luckily, the reel caught in a rock, and he busted
Fred is a bass that inhabits this pond, pushing double digits in
poundage, and well into them for length and probably girth. I
say probably, because no one's landed the fish yet. Another
co-worker has had Fred on the line a half dozen times. And no
matter how long he plays, or how hard he works, the fish always
finds its way loose.
I hooked into Fred about a month ago. A chilly day was quickly
taking over what had been a warm weekend. The water was the eerie
clear of winter, when the floating vegetable and animal life that
usually clouds the water have all died or gone into hibernation.
I had seen the dark shadow drifting slowly in the depths. I laid
out the weighted white woolly bugger about 3 yards ahead. I watched
the white form sink into the water. I didn't see it disappear. It
just did. It was there, and then it wasn't.
I knew what had grabbed the fly and the adrenaline went into overdrive.
The first big fish of the season. I felt the weight, for the briefest
of moments. Then the 4# test parted. The water swirled and roiled
as the fish fled the scene. I stood staring, dumbfounded.
I wasn't looking for Fred today though. Just some relaxation,
and a chance to play with the new rod. I tossed a Skip's Predator
about the surface of the pond, to no result. A few disinterested
inspections, but nothing of intent. I saw a small, light colored
mayfly break free of the surface and streak towards the sky. I
trimmed the predator loose and tied an a white foam Comparadun.
The first cast got sipped off the surface, and a hand sized bluegill
surged against the rod. Slashing, cutting and circling, the fish
danced and I followed, reveling in each surge, each vibration that
tremored up the line, through the rod, and into me. The first fish
was unhooked and lowered back to the water. As I slid the fish into
the water, I suddenly realized how easily and effortlessly I had been
casting, beyond conscious consideration. I'm not a great caster,
hardly even a fair one, but I had worked half the shoreline on
auto-pilot, and the rod had behaved admirably.
As the 'gills grew tired of the Comparadun, I switched over to a
small white bugger, time to see how this rod does working a small
streamer. I lay the fly out over the water, and a quick strip
just at or below the water's surface drew slashing, ambushing
strikes from the 12-15" bass. The vigor of spring was in these
fish and they leapt from the water, heads and bodies shaking,
emerald and gold, glimmering in the sun. Fish from just under
a pound to one pushing 3 pounds. One cast down the shoreline
brought a large head to the surface, pushing both water and fly,
before disappearing again into the depths. It wasn't Fred, but
it was nice.
Finally, the incoming storm front began to blow the wind hard
across the surface. I switched over to my go-to bluegill fly
this year, a seed bead soft hackle. The casts that managed
to find the breaks in the gusting wind were rewarded with strong
takes and stronger runs, as slab bluegill made a meal of the
Opening day? I could live with opening days like these.