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Abandon Canoe

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa

Publisher's Note: This article was written in June, of 2003.

I went out on my usual Saturday morning fishing expedition. When I got to the pond, new to me, there was a slight breeze and the water was a little discolored from the rain we have received lately. Unloaded the canoe and got everything ready to go.

Started going around the pond and was catching a random fish here and there. Some fish were shallow and some were fairly deep. I kept moving slowly along to see if I could figure out a pattern that would work well and the method to use it.

I had been fishing for about twenty minutes when the wind came up suddenly and forcibly. There was a steady wind of about 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph. The canoe started to rock, as I had the anchor down, and the waves came close to coming into the canoe. I pulled the anchor up fast and headed for the shore. This is no place for someone who swims like a rock.

I loaded the canoe onto the truck and put some of the other stuff in the truck. I was not sure that I wanted to head home this quickly. I could see that on the far side of the pond the wind was not as strong in one area where it had to come over the trees. These trees are about thirty feet back from the edge of the pond.

I headed for this spot with a fly rod in hand. There is a little flat with about three feet of water that goes out about eight feet and then it drops into about eight feet of water. I thought if I could get flies out near the breakline I might catch some more fish. I had to turn so I was at a 45-degree angle to the pond and do sidearm cast so I did not feed the "Tree Gods" my flies.

On my third cast I had a fish hit. As I was bringing it in, I kept feeling more jolts on the line. I could not figure out what was going on. As I got it close, I could see other fish hitting the side of the bluegill that I had on. When I got it in, I saw that there was a leech attached to the gills of the fish I had not seen many leeches in this pond but I was ready for it.

I tied on a black leech pattern that is simple to tie and works for me. I use a size 6 or 8 hook (Aberdeen) and wrap the thread down the shank. I tie a marabou feather on with a little of the tip past the bend. I then wrap the feather up the hook. I palmer the thread over the marabou feather to help support it and keep it contained a little. I usually put a very small black bead head on these. I have them in black, brown and red.

I cast this fly out and let it drop a little way and then started a small strip pause retrieve.

The fly had moved about two feet when I had a solid hit. The fish hit it going away and the hook was set and the rod bent before I knew what was happening. It was a huge bluegill. It measured 12.5 inches long and had a huge girth. She was full of eggs, so I admired for a few seconds and released her back into the pond.

Next cast I got a bluegill about ten inches long. I was catching a fish on about every other cast. One of the casts got out farther than I had wanted it to go, the fun of casting in the wind. As I started to retrieve, I saw the line twitch and set the hook. I had a nice crappie on. This fish fought harder and longer than I have had crappie fight before.

Being a crappie nut, I cast out about the same place. The fly was still dropping when I saw the line twitch again. It was a carbon copy crappie. I guess that this second one put the rest of the school down for a while.

I moved down the shore a little ways and tried this again. I would get gills near the shore and crappie when I cast farther out. I figured out that I could get five or six bluegills and two or three crappie before I needed to move. The commotion they made in coming in seemed to turn the other fish off.

I had been fishing for about an hour when the land owner showed up to check his cattle that were on the other side of the fence. He wanted to know what I was catching. When I showed him, he was happy to see some fish coming out. He told me to take a lot because he was not ever finding any small fish. He has watched the gills come up and strip the nests of eggs, of the bass that are in the pond. He told me that this pond had not been fished for at least five years.

I told him that I would be happy to help with this problem. He told me that neither he nor his wife would be home later but where they had a key to the house. I was to go ahead and go into the house and leave the fish for them. I always take fish to the land owner if I fish in their ponds. He told me there would be mutiny if his wife did not get fish for supper.

I am excited to get back to this pond when I can spend more time in the canoe. Total for the days was 38 bluegill and 25 crappie that I took home. I released some large gills and all the bass I caught.

Hope you can get out of the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

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