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Day With Joe Hyde and I Owe Iowa

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
I had a great day on Saturday with Joey Hyde. He came up to help put an anchoring system on my canoe. I can now drop anchors off the front and the back of the canoe at the same time and control both of them from the back of the canoe. If I have a second person in the canoe, they can control the front anchor from the front.

This is a system that Joe figured out and was nice enough to come up and help me get rigged up. We spent the morning getting the canoe fixed and then went out in the afternoon and did some fishing. I took him to one of the ponds that I knew had some good size gills in it.

He got out in his canoe and I went out in mine. I had also tied up a few flies for him to use. I suggested one of the flies to try and he caught a large gill on it one his first cast I think. There was a slight wind and I could tell that this anchoring system was going to work great.

We fished around the pond going different ways. I am not sure how many fish he caught but I know that I got several. I did spend a little more time playing with the back anchor, (I had another person in the front), than I did fishing. It is a nifty, neat way of holding the anchor. It will be much better than the concrete creation I had used before and many times held down with my foot on the anchor rope.

With this new system I will be able to anchor so I can cast into the wind, facing the wind. I will admit to loading everything up Sunday afternoon and going out to a pond. I deliberately went by myself so that I could put the front anchor down and see how it worked with both. I had so much fun doing that and seeing how I could set up different situations with the anchors that I did not get around to wetting a line. It was time well invested, I think, because now I know what I can do with the anchors.

The best part of the weekend though was being able to meet Joe and his friend June. They camped out at one of the local State Parks Friday evening and we went out and spent a few hours talking with them. Then being able to spend the next day with them was great.

I did check out a new pond early Saturday morning and came back with 75 fish in two hours. Some of the gills were not big, but I think with the number of bass in the pond getting some of the gills out will help the fishing a lot.

If you get a chance to meet and/ or fish with Joe Hyde, (he has articles in the Warmwater and Panfish areas), grab it with gusto. I hope to get to fish with him again.

I hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick ziegeria@grm.net

I Owe Iowa

By Joe Hyde, Lawrence, Kansas

It's a mid-August Friday afternoon and I'm leaving Liberty, MO northbound on I-35 enroute south Iowa. Objective: meet up with my fly rod panfishing hero, Rick Zieger.

With me is June Newman of Missouri, one of my wilderness-style river tripping partners. In the bed of my pickup is camping gear and food. Inside my truck cab there's fly fishing gear, canoe paddles, tools, clothes...and a pair of nylon bag soft anchors intended for Rick's canoe.

Racked above the cab is my Wenonah Rendezvous solo canoe. Months earlier, I'd outfitted this boat with the deck hardware needed to employ a 2-anchor system that holds the canoe steady in good fishing spots. Rick's Old Town Discovery 174 is just a few hours away now from getting this same system.

I'd been psyched about this Iowa trip for, oh, a little over a month. Psyched to the point I feared Rick was burned out by all the emails I'd sent him detailing various aspects of this anchoring system and my trip preparations. (A friend once said I should wear a T-shirt that warns, "Keep typewriters and computers AWAY from this man!") I hadn't exactly demonstrated to Rick that I'm a quiet person in person, and in the field I go almost dead silent when hunting or fishing or canoeing.

June and I arrived in Iowa hours earlier than I'd estimated, even after poking along at 60 mph on a 70 mph Interstate. We scouted two campgrounds then chose Nine Eagles State Park, about 10 miles east of where Rick lives. Nine Eagles is a nice park, outfitted right and beautifully maintained. After setting up my tent in the "non-electric" campground, I called Rick on my, ah, electric cell phone and left a message about where we were at, and to come on out and harass us a while if he could get loose.

Not expecting an ordinary person to drive 10 miles to a remote campsite near dusk to visit somebody he'd never met, I was surprised and pleased when Rick rolled up to Site 50 just in time to sample the channel catfish fillets June had fried up. Timing is everything when you visit campsites where June is cooking, and Rick scored a bull's-eye; as did Ann, Rick's fine wife.

May I for a moment cut away from this fishing article to say that Lamoni, IA is one of those small towns that every American ought to live in, or live nearby, for at least a year of their life. If this could happen we'd have a better nation than we have now, a nation better liked and better respected over all the world.

Entering Lamoni Friday afternoon, I stopped at a Casey's gas station/convenience store to buy some beer. As I approached the front door, a beautiful young woman carrying what looked to be a 6-month old baby, reached the door ahead of me. But instead of walking inside, she held the door open for me - even though she was holding her little baby and I was 20 feet from the door. I was almost too stunned to accept the courtesy; with all the important things young mothers have going through their minds, she held open that heavy door a good 10 seconds for someone she didn't even know. This sort of thing hasn't happened to me anywhere else. Certainly not in Lawrence, KS, where aggressive, often downright rude behavior by high school girls and Kansas University women seems to be the norm.

Then the next morning at Sentry Hardware, Deb the store operator without hesitating let Rick and me carry out to the parking lot all sorts of bolts, nuts, washers and U-bolts so that we could custom-fit Rick's canoe with the deck hardware needed to operate his 2-anchor system. Deb even loaned me her cordless drill when my drill began showing battery fatigue (caused, we suspect, by me over-charging the battery pack).

Quite a nice town, is Lamoni.

Okay. After outfitting Rick's canoe we headed back to the Ponderosa and Ann served us a feast of bluegill fillets, potato salad, home-grown cherry tomatoes and... cinnamon pickles. The cinnamon pickles were given to her by some Amish friends. Whoever invented cinnamon pickles, and everyone who's followed the recipe since, should get automatic entry to Heaven when they die. Certain foods just grab you, and those cinnamon pickles seriously grabbed me.

Did I say we ate bluegill fillets for dinner? I have no idea where they were caught, and if I did know I wouldn't tell. What I can say is that when June and I pulled into Rick's driveway that morning, he was sitting on a chair next to an out building, engrossed in some kind of manual activity, we couldn't tell what. Walking up, I discovered he was cleaning fish! He'd gone fishing early that morning, while I was still sleeping out there at Nine Eagles!

I know that "cleaning fish" doesn't conjure an impressive images in the reader's mind. Perhaps I should say that when I spied all the bluegill and bass he'd caught, it looked like somebody had dragged a seine through Chicago's Shedd Aquarium and Rick got stuck cleaning what they'd netted. I've had some bluegill hauls in my day, but Rick's fish basket contained two or three times as many fish as my best-ever trip.

An hour after Ann's bluegill dinner, Rick and June and I drove out to a privately-owned farm pond that Rick has permission to fish. June was "designated photographer," so she took the bow seat of Rick's tandem canoe. I would fish alone in my solo boat. June and Rick paddled north, heading for the pond's shallow end. They got underway ahead of me, so after launching I headed the opposite direction toward the pond dam.

This pond's water clarity and shoreline cover looked really good to me, so good that I paddled barely 20 feet beyond our pickups when suddenly I couldn't stand it anymore; I anchored so that I could give the weedline a try right there. Ground vibrations from our approaching pickups and the shoreline ruckus of two canoe launches had likely spooked every fish in this area. But I was fired up and this shoreline couldn't be dismissed. I lowered my anchors...

I'd come to Iowa pre-rigged for tandem fishing; on my leader there was a #10 flashback Hares Ear nymph with an empty tippet section tied to its hook bend. After asking Rick which of the flies he'd given me that morning might be good here, I double-clinched to the tippet a Bitch Creek pattern Rick had tweaked for bluegill. So my first presentation would be a store bought nymph I've caught many fish on, followed 12-inches later by a nymph tied by Rick.

My first cast was a short throw parallel to the weedline. I didn't seriously expect anything at this particular spot, I was basically blowing off some nervous energy. But a third of the way back in, my line quit moving. Nothing dramatic, the line just stopped. I lifted the rod tip and was into a good fish. It did nothing spectacular, but if this was a bluegill then it was staying underwater a lot longer than normal. Finally coaxing the mystery creature to the surface next to my canoe, I about had a heart attack when I looked down at the biggest bluegill I've ever hooked in my life. First cast, a very big fish, and I'm going into shock.

The only bigger 'gill I've personally seen on the hoof is one my neighbors, Doc Kunc, caught last year in a Jefferson County, KS farm pond. That sea monster bluegill pushed 1 -lb. This one I'd just caught was smaller, but still my biggest.

As one of its specie identifiers, bluegills have that little tiny mouth, right? This 'gill, you could drop a twenty-five cent piece into its mouth and the coin wouldn't touch his lips. From thumb tip to the end of my little finger my hand spans 8 -inches, and it was all I could do to grab this fish before lifting it into the boat. The photo doesn't do him justice because you can't see how thick his body is. (Note: the triangle markings on my boat are two inches apart.)

Luckily for June's prospects of getting home before September, after Big Boy all the other fish I caught were smaller. Some were not a whole lot smaller, though. Working my way along this weedline, I reached the southwest corner where the shore meets the dam. Some good fish were in that corner, too.

But nothing matched the action I enjoyed after anchoring off this southwest corner. I clipped off the entire tandem rig I'd started with and tied on another of Rick's creations - an all-black nymph with six rubber legs and a marabou tail. When I targeted a 30-ft. section of dam-face weedline, about every cast there brought a strike.

By this time, Rick had fished his way back south and was working the other end of the dam. I kept trying to find a minute where I could sit back and watch him in action, but the bluegill wouldn't cut me any slack. Rick noticed this and commented across the water that it looked like I'd found a hot spot.

Hot? The only Union break I got was a 10-minute lull after a 2-lb. largemouth bass bulled its way through the Hot Zone twice, then went ballistic and shucked my fly. That commotion spooked those trusting bluegills, but soon they were their old selves again. All I had to do was lay Rick's nymph within two feet of this weedline and a bluegill would drop the hammer on it.

I began the afternoon trying to count how many fish I caught on each fly that I tried. Somewhere before ten fish, certain pole throbbing distractions wearing fins caused me to totally lose track. This was catch-and-release fishing for me, so I finally asked myself, "Do I need this count?" Answer: No... but it was a LOT of fish.

Kansas surely has many private ponds as good as this Iowa pond. In the months to come, maybe I can locate some whose owners will let me rope up my 3-wt. St. Croix and give their bluegills the old cowboy try. Rick's flies will be there if it happens; I can tell you that. ~ Joe

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