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Last Fish of the Year

Rick Zieger
By Richard Zieger, Iowa
I went to the lake over my lunch hour again on Tuesday, December 14. I know the colder temperatures are coming as the small ponds are all skimmed over with ice. There was even a little ice on the sheltered places on the main lake. Still, it is better than staying inside.

The sun was shining but the wind was blowing about 10 mph from the northwest. I decided that my best chance was to cast directly into the wind and let the fly drop as far as I could and then slowly retrieve it. This was the same place that I had caught the crappie casting left-handed. I thought they might still be in the same area. This time I was casting right handed to fight with the wind.

I would cast the fly, a Marabou Miss (see Ricks favorite crappie flies), with a bead head on it out as far as I could. I had eight feet of leader material on so I figured a 10 count would have the fly done about as far as it would go. In any case it was a good place to start retrieving the fly. I had moved the fly about 5 feet when the end of the line went under water. I sat the hook and had a crappie on the line. This fish did not fight a lot. I was able to bring it in fairly easily. When I released the fish, it moved very slowly as it headed for the deeper water.

Even to me this was a clue that I should retrieve the fly very slowly as the fish were not going to chase it. Back to the same place and doing the same thing. This time the fly was about 15 feet from shore when I saw the line tick. I had another crappie that was a carbon copy of the first one.

When I released this fish, it lay on its side right against the shore. I tried to move the fish and it did nothing. I reached down and got a hold of the fish and moved it back and forth a few times. I then pushed it toward the deeper water. This fish wobbled some before it headed toward deeper water.

I was thinking about quitting because the fish were so lethargic going back into the water. At this point a car drives up, the driver jumps out and asks if I have been catching anything. When I tell him yes, he wants to know if he can come and try in the same general area. I told him to come on if he wanted to keep them.

He came down with his bucket and rod and we went back to casting. Each of my casts took a fairly long time to retrieve as I was moving the fly so slowly. I did manage to catch 13 crappie, two bluegills and one small bass in the time that I was out. I gave everything but the bass to the other fellow. As I was leaving, he complained that he had not been able to catch anything.

I told him he was retrieving to fast and too high in the water column. He told me that if I thought he was doing it wrong then I should show him with his equipment. "The devil made me do it."

I took his rod and cast out. I let the twister tail drop for a long time and then slowly started retrieving it. It had not moved far when it felt heavy and I brought the crappie in. I told him that if he did it that way he would catch fish, but I needed to head back to work.

I think that these are the last fish of the year. The main lake is skimmed over most of the way with ice and with the cold air from Canada coming this way it will be covered with ice by next week. The small ponds are all covered and that means that I will need to wait for breakup to do any more fishing.

Hope you can get out on the water. ~ Rick

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