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Feast and Famine

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
I went out the Friday before Labor Day day to a new pond. It is rare that this gentleman allows anyone into his pond. I had found his cattle out a month before and not only contacted him but helped him get them back in. He called and asked if I would like to try one of his ponds.

I got the key Friday night and went out about 7:30 am. This is later than normal but my wife was going to Tulsa to see her sister and I wanted to spend a little time with her. I got everything loaded into the canoe and looked at the pond. It is almost rectangular with a little bay on the west side near the dam. There are a few weed beds around the pond, where the water is shallower.

I made my first cast near one of the weed bed edges. The fly had dropped about 2 feet when I saw the line move and set the hook. I knew immediately that I was into a large fish. I paddled the canoe out into the middle of the pond and the fish followed me. It took 35 minutes but I had a 22-inch channel cat on a 3 wt. Great fun and the fish is still in the pond.

I had on a small black marabou leech and on the other rod had a tandem rig of a popping bug and a midge. I would cast with the leech and caught several fish. I then tried the tandem rig and caught more fish from the same area, mostly on the midge.

I moved around the pond just because I was curious about the pond and was catching fish on almost every cast. The tandem rig worked very well in the weeds where there was any opening.

I could drop the popping bug in the opening, with a decent cast, and then let the midge drop. More than one time I had a gill take the midge and then another would hit the foam popping bug.

I used the marabou leech and some other flies for gills, but the tandem rig was almost magic that day.

I also tied into a few small bass, but they were very thin. I decided to move out into the pond and see if there were fish in the deeper water. I cast out the tandem rig first, just to experiment. The water was fairly clear and I could see the gills coming up to look at the fly. I was only casting about 10 feet so I could watch what was going on. I think they came up to look at the popping bug and when they got closer they saw the midge. I think that when they saw the midge they went for it. I did not see the fish stop but they would swim right up and take the midge.

I changed the other rod to a tandem rig with a different colored midge and tried them side by side. The color did not seem to make much difference,the fish just swam up and took them. I changed one rod to a midge with a hackle to use as a dry fly in the surface. I caught a few fish, but not nearly the same number as with the tandem rig.

I made another change and tied two hackle-less midges in tandem and cast this out and let it sink. The flies had dropped a little when I saw the fish come up and take the flies. Two 5 to 6 inch gills on a 3 wt is a ball. I did not do this very many times as it was a royal pain to get the first hook out of the fish. These small midges are hard to see in the fish's mouth and with the other fish moving around even harder to get a hold of. I make sure to have my forceps with me.

I had been having so much fun that I had not noticed how many fish I had caught. When it started getting hard to put fish in the basket, I knew that I had a bunch. I knew that it was time to quit and head home. I would be cleaning fish for a long time.

After I loaded everything and headed out I went to the landowners home. He wanted the key returned to him after I got done fishing. He also wanted to know if I had caught any fish in the pond. When I pulled in, he came out and I showed him the fish. He told me that he wished the gills were bigger as he did not like to mess with the smaller fish. He also wished that he had some big bass to catch.

I spent some time talking to him about what it would take for that to happen. I told him that a lot of gills would have to come out to leave more food for the remaining fish and that the large bass would have to be left in. He decided that he would think about what I said and might do it.

He did ask me to wait for a few minutes and he went back and checked the pond where I had fished. He came back and told me that they only way he knew I had been in the pond was my tire tracks across the grass. He had expected to find some trash or gates not fully closed. I told him that was not my method of operation. He then invited me to come back and fish the pond again.

When I got home, I found that I had more than 300 gills in the basket. I did not know the basket would hold that many. Took a long time to get them all processed, but they made some good eating.

Sunday it rained and that surely changed things. I got to another pond on Monday morning and tried everything and caught four bass that were about 6 inches long. The ponds were muddy and it was hard to see anything. I guess that made up for the great time I had on Saturday.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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